Blue Merle Australian Shepherd: The Facts Behind the Fur

Blue merle Australian Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds in Australia. They have been bred since the early 1900’s to create a dog with a distinctive color pattern. There are many different varieties of blue merles, but they all share certain characteristics such as their coat being very long and curly (hence the name “curly tails”), having black or brown eyes, and having large ears.

The blue merle variety was originally developed from the greyhound. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when researchers noticed that there were some similarities between the two dogs that led to the development of a new type of dog. The first blue merles were produced by crossing greyhounds with dalmatians and pugs.

Since then, other breeds have been crossed with them including bulldogs, golden retrievers, shih tzus and even a few purebreds.

There are three main types of blue merle dogs:

1) The classic blue merle.

These are the most common and most well known. They come in several shades ranging from light to dark, but they tend to be lighter than other varieties due to their longer hair. Most of these dogs have white markings around their eyes and nose, which makes them look like snowflakes.

2) The red factor.

This variety is often confused with the classic variety, but it is actually a different color altogether. They have a brown coat with tan and red markings, including brownish colored eyes. The nose is typically more of a light tan than black.

3) The double factor.

Also mistakenly labeled as blue merles, these dogs have the same coloring as the red factor but have dark eyes.

Sources & references used in this article:

Retrotransposon insertion in SILV is responsible for merle patterning of the domestic dog by LA Clark, JM Wahl, CA Rees… – Proceedings of the …, 2006 – National Acad Sciences

A retrospective evaluation of congenital ocular defects in Australian Shepherd dogs in Australia by KA Munyard, CR Sherry, L Sherry – Veterinary ophthalmology, 2007 – Wiley Online Library

Inheritance of tweed, a modification of merle, in Australian shepherd dogs by DP Sponenberg, ML Lamoreux – Journal of Heredity, 1985 –

Heritable syndrome of skeletal defects in a family of Australian shepherd dogs by DP Sponenberg, AT Bowling – Journal of Heredity, 1985 –

Prevalence of deafness in dogs heterozygous or homozygous for the merle allele by DC Coile – 2009 – Barron’s Educational Series

Dogs & Puppies: Step-by-step Instructions for 25 Different Dog Breeds by GM Strain, LA Clark, JM Wahl… – Journal of veterinary …, 2009 – Wiley Online Library