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Herdcentral, here is a short article that mentions the health problems associated with homozygous (double) merle. There is recent research showing slightly increased levels of deafness in heterozygous merles also. It's true that merles are very common in Aussies and very uncommon (up til recently) in border collies.

 

Thanks for this. I have always owned ACDS and kelpies and still do, so the owning of my BC is new to me. I live in Australia and had never seen an Aussie as they are not common here, except in photos, and I had only ever seen black and white or chocolate and white border collies. The first blue merle BC I saw was when I started agility which is ruled by large numbers of BCs and I thought it was an AUSSIE!

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So, since "the beautiful merle patterns" are SO important, go ahead and make breedings that will average one defective pup out of four that you will need to kill at birth (because it a "sad task of having a cute, fuzzy puppy destroyed" versus culling at birth, which I assume is not a sad thing, not in light of producing "some extra income to make your dog self-supporting").

 

"The market must be there, and you will need to know how to market the puppies properly." The market is for flashy (read that as merle with good white markings) as it is in many breeds and species. As long as that is the case, people will breed for color and, with Aussies (and those in Border Collies and other breeds where fashion colors sell pups to those who put something other than usefulness first in their breeding programs) those who are less responsible will breed merle to merle, to be guaranteed 75% marketable pups on average out of a litter. And if you cull the defectives at birth, you will have little or no investment in non-marketable pups.

 

Go figure. This is the sort of reasoning that helps destroy a breed, instead of encouraging breeding strictly for usefulness, health, and temperment. This type of reasoning is not limited to Aussie breeders.

 

(All quotes are from the webpage linked above and are taken out of context but with obvious meaning.)

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Another way this works is for a double merle to be used for breeding purposes. When it is bred with a solid color dog, all of the puppies will be merles. So a relatively high functioning double merle lives the puppy mill life. It just seems so wrong for a coat color to justify that. Or doing a breeding and planning to kill on average 1 in 4 of the puppies. It seems clear that if a breeder seems to always have litters that are all merles or almost all merles, then he or she is likely to be doing one or the other. This seems to happen often enough in Aussies to have created a whole world of blind/deaf white Aussie rescue to deal with the double merle puppies that escaped being killed, for example Aussie Lads. It would be such a shame to see this happen for Border Collies too. No beautiful coat color is worth that.

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Eileen, no I didn't think you were dissing my pup specifically. I understand the concern and anger about what puppy mills and money hungry disreputable breeders are doing to BCs, Aussies and many other breeds. The genetic aspect of this discussion is very interesting and educational. I read the link to the Aussie Breeder's tips and the apparent emphisis on culling pups over more genetically responsible breedings was saddening.

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I too have read several articles about breeding merles to merles in the hopes of getting a pretty normal double merle dog, hopefully a male, that will always have all merle litters, no matter what it is bred too. These articles have pictures of several of these dogs that are being used extensively for breeding merle aussies and shelties. They look pretty normal, without the messed up eyes and such but probably have other internal abnormalities. Yuck! Plus all those poor double merle puppies that were destroyed in the quest for a good double merle.

 

Olivia

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The bit that made me angriest was this " That white Aussie is advertising the Australian Shepherd breed every where it goes." Um, hey. If you're so concerned about them existing, how about just not creating them? And rather than worrying about what sort of marketing message a dog sends, how about just encouraging responsible husbandry? What an irresponsible website.

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Most breeders in DK that have web sites seem to breed more for color than working ability. What are they breeding? Merles, of course. The closest I can get to a reputable breeder is a farm dog whose parents work. It isn't reputable by the American standards because they aren't competing at a high level, but they have at least enough working instinct to be a good chore dog if not more and have health standards that enable them to withstand a working life. I prefer that to supporting sport and appearance kennels that may have some herding in them but charge a fortune for their pups and really intend them for agility, dog dancing, obedience, or confirmation. I've actually seen an aussie blue merle that I really liked the looks of (not that I want him, but that I could appreciate him), but his mother is tri. Molly enjoys playing with them, so that's the best part.

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I have a merlyman but I selected him thru rescue based on his suitability to be a good partner for Tex. The fact that he is pretty is just a bonus. He is a puppymill dog from Quebec, from an outfit that bred strictly for colour. He is a deafie and not the first one from that mill.

 

A friend sent me a link to a border collie mill in Michigan. They only bred merles and their website was all about colour. I noticed lots of pups with very small eyes but there was no mention of any health probems. Scary, I told my friend to Run Away, Run Away from that mill.

 

I sometimes get comments on what a beautiful Aussie or Huskie(!) the merlyman is. No one wants to believe he's a BC and thats fine.

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Why are they not counseling breeders to only breed solids to merles, to avoid producing ANY lethals? I remember years back, hearing girl lamenting about "remember how we put the wrong puppy in the freezer?" this was in regard to a puppy who had the wrong colouring- they got the puppy out in time to save it. Apparently, that is the way to kill them. Nice. How 'bout not producing them in the first place?????

 

Oh. my. god.

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From a breeders lips to my ears, he said he will "continue to breed for merles because he can put a higher price tag on them. The black and whites are too common now."

 

That's in WI. If you are running a puppy mill it sounds right.

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Blue merle Aussies have always been very common. As another poster pointed out, this color is dominant genetically in Aussies (and from what that poster said, it sounds like this is true with BCs as well). Merle has dominance over solid and black has dominance over red, making blue merle statistically the most common color for Aussies. As far as I can tell, with Aussies, blue merles are very common and do not trace back to just a small number of family lines. It seems to me, they are also common in working Aussie lines, but I'm certainly no expert. I love the blue merle coloring, but I agree that the homozygous merles have created a huge problem for Aussies. As a result of merle to merle breeding, there are lots of deaf and/or blind Aussies in rescue. It's very sad. I think a lot of this happens with uneducated breeders, but there are also some so-called reputable, well-known Aussie breeders out there who continue to breed merles together, knowing that statistically 25% of the litter is likely to be born with these problems. I've never understood how this can still be considered acceptable by many in the Aussie community.

 

I've long wondered why merles weren't as common with border collies. Are BC working lines less inclined to include merles for some reason?

 

 

I have a BMM aussie with alot of merle x merle in his pedigree, I got him from his "breeder" for nothing because she was down sizing, she neglected to tell me he had a JV cataract- I found out when I had him CERF'd at age 7mos, and now at age 8 has major cataracts in both eyes bringing his agility career to a screaming halt for the most part. He also has dilute patches on his ears and flank, but has great confirmation. None the less he is my Riley-pupper and ever will be agility or not.

 

As for merle bc's they are becoming more popular here in the agility world, I see alot more merle bc's coming up and currently competing

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Hi,

 

A few random notes.

 

I have a blue merle. I work him on sheep. He is a 'lot of dog' so I haven't trialled him; someone with better timing and more experience could probably trial him. I wish I could trial him so that people could see a merle at trials. Meanwhile, we work at home and I keep trying. Maybe this thread is the kick in the pants that I need to work harder with him.

 

I also have a 13 month old puppy that is training really nicely; probably the nicest and most talented dog I have ever been lucky enough to work on stock. He is a black and white but his father was a blue merle, who, from what I could see on video, was a really nice working dog. My pup has a great-grandparent who was a blue merle and a well known open dog on the east coast back in the day.

 

There was a blue merle in this year's USBCHA Nursery Finals in PA. There are a few people on the east coast who trial with merles.

 

There are also a lot of red dogs in our local club (Northern California). They are all good working dogs, not selected for looks but by working ability. I'm told that there used to be several white dogs with the black heads in that club, years ago with the old-timers who didn't care what the dogs looked like. This club goes back 60 years.

 

A well-known Welsh judge told me not to worry about the color of my blue merle. He told me that one of what he termed "his best bitches" from way back was that color.

 

'Tis true that there are a lot more merles appearing that are marketed to the agility crowd.

 

--Billy

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I have been to BC trials from the east coast to the west coast, ( ISDS style) and have only seen 1 merle BC that worked and worked well. It is still being run in open, though isnt a fantastic dog, at best, only average. It was a red merle, though, not a blue. Its handler also used this dog in AKC matches in agility and herding, and professed to its multi talentedness. I only saw multi colors, and an over obedience trained push button dog.

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I have a blue merle as well, and like btrent, she doesn't trial as much not because of her lack of ability but mine. I am not a good handler by far, and I give credit for being able to be a good deal with the handicap of dealing with me. She makes nice outruns, drives, fetches, has a lot of style, and is one of the smartest bc's I have run across. She also is tough enough to work cattle, and works some ducks (not our for te) There are great dogs in all colors. Used to people thought reds were inferior, but now they have proven themselves. I think it is just going to take the colored bc's a while to proove themselves because they are not as prevalent as the black and whites, tri's, or even reds. I can see why people are concerned about the merles because you do have to be more responsible when you have one. As people have mentioned before you cannot breed two together. But people who would breed two merles together could probably breed bad litters with any color dog. But as far as other health problems go mine is healthy, she isn't def, sees fine, and has great hips. As far as someone's comment about them going back to rose whatever kennel, mine does not she is actually from reputable herding lines. Sorry to go on and on about merles I guess I just want people to know that not all of them are candy colored agility dogs, there are some stock dogs as well.

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I sometimes get comments on what a beautiful Aussie or Huskie(!) the merlyman is. No one wants to believe he's a BC and thats fine.

 

Yes - I run into that, too!! There may be a merle explosion (I, too, have noticed the sudden influx of merle puppies on the board), but the fact that purebred Border Collies can be merle has not hit the mainstream pet population yet!

 

Most sport folks go "oooooh!" when I say that he's a tri-merle Border Collie, but most every day people seem to have a hard time believing it.

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This is just a personal observation on color and stockwork – nothing scientific about it and no research – just my personal observation and thoughts.

 

The traditional black and white border collie with a white rough, white nose stripe and white tip of the tail may have been developed for visibility in the pastures. I never really thought much about this until I ran Jill, a traditionally marked black and white rough coat, in a trial where the outrun was almost 400 yards. The only way I could tell which way she was going was if I saw a black spot (her) with a smaller white spot in the middle (her tail) I knew she was going away from me. If I saw an oval black spot with white at one end (her rough) I knew she was moving side to side and I could tell which way she was headed.

 

This past weekend I ran Annie at Edgeworth (what a WONDERFUL trial). Annie is marked more like a German Shepherd – saddleback, black and tan, dark faced, with an incomplete white rough. The outrun was over 600 yards and all I could see of her was a black mark on a green field. If she wasn’t moving I had a hard time telling which way she was facing. It would seem that depending on the vegetation, a merle (blue or red) or a red dog could get lost in the colors of the field.

 

Ok… so my aging eyes aren’t seeing as well as they use to :rolleyes: and 600 yards is a little bit further than 400 yards, but I wonder if back in the day when these dogs were being developed, the dogs’ color was important for the shepherds working flocks at the great distances these dogs work everyday “over the pond”.

 

My first border collie was a blue merle, the son of a well respected, successful working blue merle. Willie was a healthy, lovely, lovely dog who had the desire to work and lived a long life. RIP, Willie.

 

Just some rambling thoughts ...

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I agree with Deb - coloured dogs, other than black, are very hard to see at a distance. Same with my pie-bald white dog - she is most difficult to see in afternoon shadows. IMO, I believe this is the primary reason shepherds have selected against colors. I also believe that sheep perceive a coloured dog differently than a predominant black one and will be provoked quicker to challenge one, thus weakerning a coloured dog over time. However, this opinion has always been open to debate.

 

Sorry for the drift. If this board is reflective of the general population of pet border collie owners, then indeed there is an increase in merle pet/sport collies. One does not see an increase in trialing ranks, other than novice, and those will be weeded out over time.

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I cannot comprehend a 600 yard outrun- seriously. Well, I can theoretically comprehend it, but wow. Are the results up, and just how did everyone do? 600 yards.... It's just a lot of ground to cover is all... and I would most definitely need a hay bale, and good binoculars

 

This is just a personal observation on color and stockwork – nothing scientific about it and no research – just my personal observation and thoughts.

 

The traditional black and white border collie with a white rough, white nose stripe and white tip of the tail may have been developed for visibility in the pastures. I never really thought much about this until I ran Jill, a traditionally marked black and white rough coat, in a trial where the outrun was almost 400 yards. The only way I could tell which way she was going was if I saw a black spot (her) with a smaller white spot in the middle (her tail) I knew she was going away from me. If I saw an oval black spot with white at one end (her rough) I knew she was moving side to side and I could tell which way she was headed.

 

This past weekend I ran Annie at Edgeworth (what a WONDERFUL trial). Annie is marked more like a German Shepherd – saddleback, black and tan, dark faced, with an incomplete white rough. The outrun was over 600 yards and all I could see of her was a black mark on a green field. If she wasn’t moving I had a hard time telling which way she was facing. It would seem that depending on the vegetation, a merle (blue or red) or a red dog could get lost in the colors of the field.

 

Ok… so my aging eyes aren’t seeing as well as they use to :rolleyes: and 600 yards is a little bit further than 400 yards, but I wonder if back in the day when these dogs were being developed, the dogs’ color was important for the shepherds working flocks at the great distances these dogs work everyday “over the pond”.

 

My first border collie was a blue merle, the son of a well respected, successful working blue merle. Willie was a healthy, lovely, lovely dog who had the desire to work and lived a long life. RIP, Willie.

 

Just some rambling thoughts ...

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See I don't think sheep are going to challenge a dog based on color. They are going to challenge a weak dog without presence. Black and white dogs get challenged as well. My black and white pup doesn't have near as much strength presence wise, instinct, or natural ability that my merle has. And she came from working lines as well. As far as being able to see them mine has a good bit of white, and she is a dark merle so from a distance she looks like a black and white dog with a big white mane and a big white fluff on the other end.

 

I ride cutting horses as well ,and this would be like saying a cow is going to try harder to get past a white horse than it would a bay horse, and that just isn't the case. They out smart a horse that is out of place, slow, or not reading them correctly. Sorry, I know this analogy probably is a little out there.

 

As far as them getting weeded out, let us hope that the people that have these merles (and all bc's for that matter), even if they got them for color or sport, will come to see the beauty in herding and take it up. That way there are even more people being educated on the fact that bc's are stock dogs. I think the more people we have who understand what bc's were bred to do the better chance we have in preserving them.

 

Also, is there this much controversy in color in other breeds? Like do Kelpie people debate over brown or black? Or Aussie people? Just wondering

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I agree with Deb - coloured dogs, other than black, are very hard to see at a distance. Same with my pie-bald white dog - she is most difficult to see in afternoon shadows. IMO, I believe this is the primary reason shepherds have selected against colors. I also believe that sheep perceive a coloured dog differently than a predominant black one and will be provoked quicker to challenge one, thus weakerning a coloured dog over time. However, this opinion has always been open to debate.

 

Sorry for the drift. If this board is reflective of the general population of pet border collie owners, then indeed there is an increase in merle pet/sport collies. One does not see an increase in trialing ranks, other than novice, and those will be weeded out over time.

 

Deb and Wendy have very good points - and I agree.

I was in the UK (England) a few years back and had the opportunity to visit with Jim and Shirley Cropper. Jim took me out to his pastures on "the hill" (a mountain by East Coast standards) and I noticed how the tall unmown grass was the exact color of my red dog. It was tough to see Jim's black dogs, and would be virtually impossible to spot a red on those hills. I would venture that a farmer/shepherd's selection DOES have something to with serviceability that way, and not just that reds and merles are poor workers or "politically incorrect". In Britain, where so much in life and sport is done in concert with "tradition", I would think breeding the "traditional" colored dogs would be in favor. I also think that selection against merle was a "safety measure" since a farmer would not have to worry about an unplanned merle-merle breeding if he didn't own one.

I noticed when in Ireland there were quite a few more merles and oddly marked/colored dogs working. The Irish have always been known for their "independent thinking". In that case maybe the dog's ability would outweigh the desire to have a "politically correct" dog.

 

The ISDS magazine had a good article a while back about merle working Border Collies, and the bloodlines/shepherds they came from. I will try to dig it out. As I recall, a shepherd named JP Burke in Wales was well known for working his merle bitches at trials in the set out/exhaust; and bred them to some top trial dogs along the way. His puppies were in high demand from those who weren't offended by the color.

 

By the way, Most of the sport-merles I see in American agility trace back to mid-Western/Western Sagebrush lines - going back to some of the founding ABCA members/breeders (Peg and Tracy Brown)- not specifically MAH, although that is where some of her "candy-color" came from as well. I'm not saying they are being bred responsibly as sheepdogs, but the few I have seen put to sheep still have remarkable innate ability. There are more and more coming from the "Astra" lines , an ISDS breeder in the UK, as well.

Laurie

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There are more and more coming from the "Astra" lines , an ISDS breeder in the UK, as well.

 

Yes, at almost an alarming rate. But hey, who wouldn't want an imported merle? Can't get much better than that, eh?

 

J

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regarding why black/white is predominent it was actually the work that made the color, not the selection for color for visibility or otherwise.

 

There was a great article years ago in the Working Sheepdog News on the general history of the use of working dog all over the world. Wherever they bred for stockwork, the black/white pattern we know as "traditional" Border Collie appeared. From the UK to the Middle East. The article would have been in the 90's, perhaps some who knows the editor can ask for a reprint.

 

I had the opportunity to have several disscusions with a Saudi prince who was a shepherd in his home country. He owned something in the neighborhood of 100,000 :rolleyes: sheep. They used dogs, which he commented looked remarkably like ours, but they were cruder workers, less trained, and less friendly.

 

It can be theorized, rather reliably in my opinion, that the black/white basic markings of this breed appeared because those colors tend to be linked to the genes for work. I am *not* saying that you have to have black/white/irish spotting pattern to have a working dog, or breeding 2 dogs that look that are great workers....I am saying that if you breed for work as you should, that particular pattern has been known to appear regularily.

 

As for lack of visibility in the other colors, thats been noted for years. I complained about it once with my, bless her sweet heart, red merle Aussie, and a rancher friend popped back "if she was doing what she was supposed to, you wouldn't need to see her!" ooops :D

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Interesting, L, my fluffy red dog has Peg Brown in his background, along with Lewis Pulfer's Dell (also red). He is a BY-bred male bred for color for the pet market but still has made a respectable worker, just by chance, no doubt. Not breed-worthy, but useful nonetheless.

 

Merles and other oddly colored dogs will be weeded out of the trialing ranks because any selection of a dog based upon any other criteria other than working ability will not past muster over time, and if properly challenged. Those who aspire to be top contenders are not swayed by color. A dog is judged on its own merits. If it happens to be colored, then so be it.

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Merles and other oddly colored dogs will be weeded out of the trialing ranks because any selection of a dog based upon any other criteria other than working ability will not past muster over time, and if properly challenged. Those who aspire to be top contenders are not swayed by color. A dog is judged on its own merits. If it happens to be colored, then so be it.

I agree. But "selection" begins in the whelping box. And if a "top contender" is selecting a pup, would he take a chance on an odd color- or stick with what he "likes". If tradition had anything to do with it, maybe some of the potentially great merles (and reds) never got a chance to prove it. By being "left over puppies" and sold to pet homes or "small farms" in the UK rather than being chosen by the "big hats" who would train and trial their dog up to its potential. Just something to think about...

I have a variety of colors, and my merle is my "go to" dog in any tough situation. She may be a bit crude and I have to raise my voice to get her attention, but her guts and determination are worth their weight in gold. She may never be a top trial dog, but she's had to put up with, compensate for, and forgive a lot of mistakes on my part; and she still wants nothing more than to work for me.

Laurie

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