English Bulldogs may be short and stocky, but they can charm you in many ways. Their adorable wrinkled face and unique coat that comes in many colors can instantly win your heart. However, one type of Bulldog truly stands out — Merle English Bulldogs.
Merle Bulldogs are not your typical solid-colored Bully. They have uniquely patterned coats that totally bring out a new look for this famous dog breed. For many owners, it feels as if they have a walking (and barking) painting.
If you want to know exactly what I’m talking about, keep scrolling! You’re in for an informative treat! Let’s get into it!
What Is a Merle English Bulldog? What Does “Merle” Mean in English Bulldogs?
In English Bulldogs, the term “merle” is used to identify Bullies with the merle pattern. Therefore, a merle English Bulldog is not a separate breed but only refers to a Bully having a distinct, speckled coat that comes in various colors. They can also have variations in terms of patching and dilution.
Usually, the merle Bulldog has a white base coat with gray markings called “blue merle.” In some cases, there can also be patches of tan or black.
Most owners describe the merle coat of an English Bulldog as a splotch painting or even a scoop of your favorite cookies and cream ice cream.
In any case, these dogs are a product of their unique gene pool that gives their eccentric but loveable appearance.
Are Merle English Bulldogs Rare?
Merle English Bulldogs are the rarest color variation of the breed. Because they are produced through selective breeding, they are not as common as other Bulldog colors.
Merle is also a result of a recessive gene, so there is a lower probability of passing on this trait to the subsequent offspring.
It just goes to show that if you buy or adopt a merle Bully, you are one of the lucky few who can own this one-of-a-kind dog.
However, regardless of their rare status, there is still a merle Bulldog variety that stands out among others. Those with white bodies and grey speckles/spots are popular among Bulldog enthusiasts.
Merle English Bulldog Appearance: What Does a Merle English Bulldog Look Like?
It’s pretty easy to distinguish a merle Bulldog from other color varieties. Their coat is covered with small gray or dark gray patches, scattered unevenly throughout their body.
Since merle is only a pattern, the dog’s coat is still a combination of a Bulldog’s standard colors such as white, fawn, chocolate, brindle, black, seal, blue, and lilac. These colors can be exhibited as piebald or tri-color.
Another notable feature of merle Bulldogs is their eyes. Due to their merle gene, these dogs will almost always have blue eyes.
In rarer cases, they can also have heterochromia like the famous David Bowie. Compared to regular Bulldogs, their nose has light pink or mottled black and pink skin instead of pure black.
Aside from these differences, a merle English Bulldog will look like your average Bully in terms of build and size.
The head is large while the muzzle is short, giving them a squished look. Their pinchable cheeks are round and always protruding sideways. Contrary to their large head, their ears are small and thin, flopping forward comically.
Their muscular bodies are covered with loose skin and hang heavily, forming thick wrinkles and folds on the face and neck area.
Merle English Bulldogs also have short and stocky legs with good muscle definition. Their thick, stubby tail can either be straight or slightly skewed.
Do you want to know what they look like as puppies? Here is a video of a black tri-colored merle Bulldog to feast your eyes on:
Merle English Bulldog Size and Weight: How Big Will a Merle Bulldog Get When Fully Grown?
A merle Bulldog will grow up to have the same height and weight as an ordinary English Bulldog. They are considered a medium-sized breed.
Typically, they stand at around 14 to 15 inches tall. Their full-grown weight falls at approximately 50 pounds for males and 40 pounds for females.
At about a year old, a merle English Bulldog will achieve its full height. However, they may continue to gain their adult weight and fill their chest size until two years old.
Putting on extra weight is common for this breed, so it’s best to provide a proper diet as early as puppyhood.
Merle English Bulldog Coat Color Genetics: What Causes Bulldogs to Have Merle Coats?
Color genetics in dogs is quite a fascinating subject. And while it can get technical, it’s worth knowing the explanation for how it affects an English Bulldog’s appearance.
The merle pattern in this breed can only be explained through the existence of the merle gene.
The merle gene produces the diluted speckled patches in a Bulldog’s solid, piebald, or tri-colored coat.
A dog can display the merle pattern with one copy of the dominant merle allele (M) and one recessive merle allele (m). This is often abbreviated as M/m.
This gene is also known only to affect eumelanin or the black pigmentation of the dog’s coat. As a result, even the Bulldog’s nose skin or eye color will be diluted. As mentioned, most merle Bulldogs have pink noses and blue eyes.
It’s also worth noting that even though they carry the same gene, not all merle Bulldogs look the same.
There are different types of merle dogs that have their unique charm and appearances. This occurrence is mainly due to the unstable and variable nature of merle genes in general.
Here are some different variations of the merle English Bulldog:
Dilute Merle English Bulldog
Dilute merle Bulldogs do not have any dark gray patches on their coats. Their coat appears to be a diluted gray color, but they are still distinguishable through their blue eyes.
Cryptic English Merle Bulldog
Some merle English Bulldogs carry the gene but do not exhibit it. This is a result of the recessive red allele or E-locus that prevents the merle gene expression.
These dogs often pass as a regular Bully in appearance, but you may notice very faint patches on some dogs. They are often called cryptic merles, phantom merles, or even ghost merles. As a carrier of the merle gene, they can still pass it to their offspring.
Marlequin English Bulldog
Merle Bulldogs can also exhibit a harlequin coat pattern. This means that a dog will have black and gray speckles on its white coat.
This results from the merle gene (M-locus) interacting with a modifier gene at the H-locus. These dogs are often referred to as Marlequins.
Double Merle English Bulldog
There are cases when a Bulldog carries two copies of the dominant merle gene (M/M). As they are called, double merle dogs have their eumelanin and phaeomelanin affected by two merle genes.
This means that they almost have an all-white coat. Breeding two merle dogs creates a rare and beautiful canine, but it can also result in some health-related issues that I will discuss later on.
Merle English Bulldog Kennel Club Recognition: Can Merle Bulldogs Be AKC Registered?
The merle pattern for the English Bulldog breed is not accepted in the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard, so it’s impossible to register your dog with them. Sadly, this means that you can’t sign them up for shows and competitions as well.
The main reason for this is because the merle pattern is not a naturally occurring color in the breed. There are also some controversies regarding health problems associated with dogs carrying this gene.
The United Kennel Club (UKC), another kennel organization in the United States, only allows the registration of piebald English Bulldogs with well-defined patches of a solid color that are symmetrically distributed.
Merle dogs do not pass this requirement because their patches appear unevenly throughout the coat.
Merle English Bulldog Temperament and Personality: Are Merle Bulldogs Good Family Dogs?
A merle English Bulldog will have the same temperament as any other Bulldog. They are sweet and gentle dogs that make wonderful family pets.
You will have no problem introducing them to the household as they also get along quite well with children.
Due to their sociable nature, merle Bulldogs always crave human attention. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are very easy-going and affectionate.
In contrast to their soft side, merle English Bullies display a sense of courage stemming from their bull-baiting history. Since they were initially bred for this purpose, they make excellent watchdogs for the family.
Owners should also be mindful of a merle Bulldog’s stubborn streak that can be a problem during training.
Early socialization and housebreaking are recommended for them to easily adjust to a home environment. If self-training becomes too challenging, enrolling them in a puppy kindergarten class is always an option.
Merle English Bulldog Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Merle Bulldogs Healthy Dogs?
The lifespan of a merle English Bulldog is around 10 to 12 years, similar to other English Bulldog colors. However, one of the main drawbacks of owning them is the increased risk of inheriting several health conditions.
Here’s a list of the common health issues that target merle English Bulldogs:
- Microphthalmia: This congenital eye condition is characterized by having one eye smaller than the other. Microphthalmia is generally caused by the abnormal development of the internal eye structure. Affected dogs usually have impaired vision that may lead to complete blindness.
- Anophthalmia: This is a very rare eye disorder wherein a dog is born without an eye or both eyes. Like microphthalmia, anophthalmia is a result of an eye anomaly during embryonic development. Merle Bulldogs with this condition will need lifetime support from their owners to adjust to their environment.
- Coloboma: When an area of a merle dog’s eye tissue fails to develop, it can result in an eye defect called coloboma. It is usually identified by a cleft of the iris at the edge of the pupil. While it can have minimal effect on your dog’s vision, it can cause discomfort when facing any direct light source.
- Deafness: Another impairment common to double merle Bulldogs is deafness. It is often associated with the degeneration of sensory nerve cells in the eyes due to the absence of melanocytes. While some are born without any sense of hearing, other double merles may gradually develop deafness in later life.
- Skin Cancer: The rate of skin cancer cases is higher in dogs with the double merle gene. Due to their lack of pigment, their skin becomes a lot more sensitive to the sun. The areas with pink skin, such as the nose and eye rims, are more susceptible to sunburn and, eventually, skin cancer.
Recent findings show that merle English Bulldogs are also prone to have complications in the heart, bones, and reproductive system. However, these claims remain to be inconclusive.
Merle English Bulldog Puppy Prices and Expenses: How Much Does a Merle Bulldog Cost?
The average cost of a merle English Bulldog puppy from a reputable breeder can fall anywhere between $4,500 and $15,000.
The final price mainly depends on the dog’s coat color and can even go above $15,000 depending on the breeder’s reputation.
For a comparison of puppy prices for different types of merle Bulldogs, refer to the table below:
|Merle Bulldog Color
|$4,500 – $5,500
|$5,500 – $6,500
|Black Tri Merle
|$7,000 – $10,000
|Blue Tri Merle
|$7,000 – $10,000
|Chocolate Tri Merle
|$8000 – $12,000
|Lilac Tri Merle
|$10,000 – $15,000
|White or Platinum Lilac Merle
|$15,000 and above
Other than the puppy price, there are other expenses you need to squeeze into your budget to make sure they can settle in their new home seamlessly.
If you want to find out the ongoing expenses and yearly cost of owning a merle Bulldog, check out this article.
Places to Find Merle English Bulldog Puppies for Sale and Adoption
Despite their rarity, merle English Bulldog puppies are not hard to acquire. Several dog breeders and rescue organizations can help you take home a healthy and well-tempered pup.
To avoid money-grabbing backyard breeders or internet scams, I’ve compiled some trusted sources for you. These breeders and rescues had their dogs undergo genetic testing so they are sure to be healthy and agile.
The breeders listed below can direct you to the top merle English Bulldog puppies:
- Planet Merle – This small breeder located in Oklahoma has been in the business of breeding merle puppies for a few years now. All of their litter is raised at home with the owner and his family so you won’t have any problem with socialization. They also came from top-quality bloodlines, ensuring good health and temperament.
- JB Bullies – As a breeder of merle English Bulldogs for 15 years, you can trust JB Bullies to provide you with the best pup you could ever have. Prince Klauz, the owner’s stud, produces blue tricolored, black tricolored, and chocolate tri-colored merle puppies.
- Rare Bulldogs – Since 1972, this breeder has been producing rare-colored Bulldogs, including lilac, blue, and chocolate with and without the merle pattern. You can choose to buy from any available litter with full breeding rights/pedigree or as a pet. They are conveniently located in Pensacola, Florida.
- Sandov’s English Bulldog – This is another AKC-registered breeder that produces lovely merle Bulldog companions. Their pups come from champion bloodlines, so you are assured that they are in the best health condition when taken home.
For more options, you can check out our top picks for English Bulldog breeders that also produce merle puppies.
Getting a merle is not a cheap endeavor. Luckily, you can own one by adopting from a rescue. The adoption fees are much lower, and you also get a healthy and beautiful dog.
The rescue centers below can help you find the merle Bulldog you’ve always dreamed of:
- Bulldog Rescue Network – This rescue is a nationwide network of volunteers dedicated to saving the English Bulldog breed. Each year, they are able to rehome around 2,000 Bullies. You can visit their website to find out if they have any merle dogs available for adoption.
- Lone Star Bulldog Club Rescue – Operating since 1948, this Dallas-based rescue is a licensed club sanctioned by AKC to rescue and rehabilitate English Bulldogs, including the rare merle Bullies. They mostly accommodate applicants living in the Northern Texas area.
- Georgia English Bulldog Rescue – This is a foster-based rescue located in Georgia that was founded in 2009. They maintain approximately 30 to 40 dogs in foster care until they find new owners. Placements are made after a two-week foster period.
If you want a rescue closer to your location, you can refer to our list of English Bulldog rescues. You can easily reach out to them through the contact details provided for each organization.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Merle Natural in Bulldogs?
Merle is not a naturally occurring gene in the Bulldog breed. They are originally bred from crossbreeding a dog carrying the merle gene and a purebred English Bulldog.
This is the main reason why several eye abnormalities and hearing ailments are detected in some merle Bulldogs.
Can You Breed a Merle Bulldog to Another Merle Bulldog?
Technically, yes. Breeding two merle dogs is possible. However, this pairing yields a puppy carrying two copies of the merle gene.
As mentioned, double merle puppies are more prone to several congenital disabilities discussed in this article. Thus, mating two merle dogs are highly frowned upon.
How to Know If Your Dog Is a Merle Bulldog?
The merle pattern can easily be detected in an English Bulldog through visual inspection.
If you see specks of gray or dark gray uneven spots on your dog’s body, then you have a merle Bulldog. They also have blue eyes and pink skin on their nose and around their eyes.
Those with hidden merle genes can be harder to distinguish. You can identify them with their blue eyes or by confirming directly with your breeder.
How Much Is a Blue Merle English Bulldog?
A blue merle English Bulldog or a blue tri-colored merle is priced between $7,000 and $10,000. They share the same price with black tri-colored merle Bulldogs. Both are more common than lilac merles.
Final Thoughts: Should You Get a Merle English Bulldog?
Merle English Bulldogs are exceptional canines due to their appearance. But the big question on whether you should get one as a pet or not depends on a huge factor — their health.
Because they carry the recessive merle gene, merle Bulldogs are predisposed to congenital disabilities that mainly affect their vision and hearing.
If you plan on getting a merle pup, make sure to refrain from getting a double merle Bully. These dogs are the most vulnerable to numerous health issues.
In the end, make sure to check in with your breeder or a rescue volunteer before buying or adopting one to prevent unwanted situations.