Skip to Content

Red Merle Border Collie: Facts, Genetics & More (With Pictures)

Red merle Border Collie walking outside

The red merle Border Collie is a unique color variant of the Border Collie breed. Aside from being smart and affectionate, red merle Border Collies have many tricks up their sleeves! 

If this is your first time hearing about these dogs, you’d be surprised to know that red merle Border Collies look straight out of a movie scene. Their coats are red with white patterns on their face, neck, and tail. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the appearance, health, and lifespan of the red merle Border Collie. Stick around if you want to learn more about this mesmerizing pooch!

What Is a Red Merle Border Collie?

Red merle Border Collie playing in the snow in winter

The red merle Border Collie is a purebred dog with unique swirl patterns of red and white. Their red merle patterns are found on their chest, neck, feet, and tail. Red merle Collies were unheard of until the last decade but they are gaining popularity in recent years. 

This trait is not only limited to their fur but also affects their eyes and nose colors. They can have blue or any shade of blue eyes, with pink noses or noses with patches of red pigmentation, which is also known as a butterfly nose. 

They may be highly sought-after and look stunning, but the merle gene comes with a price. Their health, build, and temperament should be the top priorities of Border Collie breeders. 

Breeding these puppies must be done by experts since breeding two merle Border Collies can produce double merle puppies, which are prone to countless health problems. 

Are Red Merle Border Collies Rare?

The red merle is a rare coat variant for the Border Collie. Until recently, they were not that popular. However, this changed when they were recognized by the AKC as one of the 17 standard coats of Border Collies. 

Generally, any color outside of the traditional black and white and red and white can be classified as a rare Border Collie color. This is because the vast majority of Border Collies are black and white.

This trait goes back to their origins as farm dogs. Black and white became the traditional Border Collie look, and many farmers preferred Border Collies in this color combination.

Meanwhile, red and white color combinations have become more well-known in the last decade. Red is a recessive color gene, meaning both parents must carry a copy of this gene for their offspring to have a red coat.

Genetically speaking, red is less likely to be exhibited than black since the latter is the dominant coat color. This means that there will always be more black than red dogs.

Red Merle Border Collie Appearance

Red merle Border Collie with different eye colors

Based on the AKC breed standard, Border Collies are athletic and smart-looking with a lean, agile body and a striking coat. Nonetheless, the red merle Border Collie looks like a typical Collie but with a unique color.

Unlike other color varieties, the red merle Border Collie has the red and white color as a base and the merle pattern that breaks up the base color.

Aside from their unique coat color pattern, they look like every other purebred Border Collie. They are medium-sized dogs that reach 18 to 22 inches in height and weigh between 30 and 55 pounds.

They have short ears that either fall forward or stand erect. They also come in two coat types — smooth and rough. The smooth coat is short and coarse, while the rough coat is longer and feathered.

The merle gene affects not only the coat color but also the eye color. Merles usually have lighter-colored eyes, like blue. It is also not unusual for them to exhibit two different-colored eyes.

Heterochromia is quite common in red merle Border Collies. They can have one brown eye and one blue eye. Another interesting thing about red merle Border Collies is their butterfly noses which are often pink or have red patches.

READ NEXT: Miniature Border Collie: Can You Have One as a House Pet?

Red Merle Border Collie Color Genetics

Genetics can be confusing and complicated, especially if you are new to the subject. In this section, I’ll try to make this discussion as simple as possible. 

Genetically, a dog’s coat is made from two base colors, black and red, and these color genes could either be dominant or recessive.

The dominant gene is the stronger gene and will always show up. The recessive gene can remain hidden and would only be exhibited by the offspring when paired with the same recessive gene. 

Once these two genes combine, the merle gene will dilute the dominant color, creating that distinguishable merle pattern.

To get a red merle, at least one parent should have the merle gene, and the other parent should have another dominant color gene. 

For example, a combination of merle and liver color genes will result in a Border Collie with a reddish shade with splotchy and swirly streaks. However, it isn’t rare to have just one red merle Border Collie puppy in the litter. 

Having a red merle parent doesn’t mean that all of the puppies in the litter will inherit the same color. 

There are also cryptic merles or phantom merles, another variation of a merle pattern. These dogs have plain liver or black coats with only a few noticeable patterned areas. 

It is recommended to always do genetic testing before breeding to avoid producing a double merle that is susceptible to health problems affecting their sight and hearing. 

RELATED: Border Collie Colors: All 24 Coat Colors Explained With Pictures

Do Red Merle Border Collie Puppies Change Color as They Grow?

Yes, the coat color of a red merle Border Collie puppy changes as they grow. However, this is not specific to red merles. Generally, Border Collies change color as they mature due to pigment progression

Border Collie puppies may not show their full fur colors until they reach a certain age. It may take a few months or even years for a puppy’s coat to change to its adult coat.

While most dogs change color as they age, in some cases, a sudden coat color change can indicate an underlying illness.

Just know that the color of the breed should not determine their temperament, health, and intelligence. Always make sure that you get your puppy from a responsible breeder.

Red Merle Border Collie Temperament and Personality

Red merle Border Collie playing in the snow

An affectionate dog like a red merle Border Collie is capable of forming close attachments to families. They make excellent family dogs like any other purebred Border Collie. 

Border Collies are one of the most intelligent breeds. They love to learn and are highly trainable and trustworthy. They are the happiest when they are able to accomplish a job given to them. 

As agile and energetic dogs, red merle Border Collies do well in activities that involve agility, like a game of frisbee. They are naturally playful and love doing activities with their families. 

Engaging them in sports and games that would not only stimulate them physically but also mentally would bring them so much delight. Sheepherding, flyball, and dock diving are some games that they would truly enjoy. 

These cheerful dogs have lots of energy and are ready to play with you at all times. They are the perfect backyard playmates for your kids as they enjoy running around.

They aren’t known to be aggressive, but they can get protective of their home sometimes. Although some of them are stranger-friendly, some are aloof towards new people.

Watch this video to see how a red merle Border Collie reacts when brought home for the first time:

BRINGING HOME OUR BORDER COLLIE PUPPY

READ NEXT: Male vs. Female Border Collie: Which Is Better for You?

Red Merle Border Collie Lifespan and Health Issues

With a lifespan of around 10 to 17 years, Border Collies are very healthy dogs in general. However, all breeds are prone to health concerns. 

Despite being predisposed to a higher chance of blindness, deafness, and skin cancer, red merle Collies are still considered healthy. However, there are certain genetic conditions that every Border Collie is susceptible to. 

Here are some health issues of Border Collies that you should watch out for:

  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): Every Border Collie, even red merles, is at risk of CEA. This is a congenital disease where the retinal area does not develop normally. Dogs that have this condition don’t go totally blind but have poorer visions instead. 
  • Deafness: Three types of heritable deafness are found in all Border Collies, including red merles. One is congenital sensorineural deafness, which is typically evident in puppies as early as eight to 10 weeks old. The second one strikes Collies at around two to six years old. This is called early adult-onset deafness and could occur later up to eight years old. The last one is old-age deafness. 
  • Exercise-Induced Border Collie Collapse: Also called Border Collie Collapse or BCC, is a condition where dogs appear dazed and disoriented during or after engaging in an intensive exercise. Border Collies, including red merle varieties, are usually affected by this, and it is determined to be genetic. 
  • Epilepsy: This is characterized by seizures caused by abnormal brain activity. Red merle Border Collies, like other breeds, can be affected by epilepsy. However, the cause and genetic link of this condition in this breed are still unknown.

Keep in mind that it is important to check whether the pup you are having is at risk of developing such health issues. Make sure that you are getting your red merle Border Collie from a reputable breeder to avoid getting a sickly pooch. 

RELATED: Border Collie Lifespan: How Long Do Border Collies Live?

How Much Does a Red Merle Border Collie Cost? Puppy Prices & Expenses

Because of the red merle’s rarity, a red merle Border Collie puppy from reputable breeders can cost around $1,000 to $3,500.

Aside from the price of the puppy itself, below is a list of some initial expenses you will need when caring for a red merle Border Collie:

Type of ExpenseCost
Food and Treats$80 – $100
Food and Water Bowls$10 – $30
Bed$40 – $180
Crate$50 – $370
Leashes and Collars$15 – $50
Toys$30 – $40
Grooming Essentials$40 – $160
Deworming, Flea, and Tick Medications$50 – $200
Initial Vet Visits$100 – $300
Initial Vaccine Shots$75 – $200
Neutering or Spaying$50 – $500
Dog License$10 – $20
Microchip$40 – $60
Miscellaneous Supplies$15 – $30
Total Initial Cost$605 – $2,240

You can check out our Border Collie price guide to have a better understanding of how much Border Collie puppies usually cost and what other expenses are there when getting one.

RELATED: How Much Does a Border Collie Cost? (2022 Price Guide)

Places to Find Red Merle Border Collie Puppies for Sale and Adoption

Red merle Border Collie puppy for sale and adoption

Red merle Border Collies are rare gems and might require a lot of research to successfully find one. You might need to visit several places before you take home this exceptional pup. 

The places we listed below are breeders and shelters that have been around for quite some time and are knowledgeable about Border Collies. 

Here are some reputable breeders where you could get your red merle Border Collie:

  • Rising Sun Farm – For over two decades, the Rising Sun Farm has been breeding Border Collies from champion bloodlines that excel in every venue. They breed selectively for structure, temperament, and ability. They have wonderful puppies of color, like blue merle, red, lilac, slate, tricolor, and red merle Border Collies.
  • The Broken Arrow – In Broken Arrow, they enjoy having a working relationship and genuine love with their Border Collies. They try to limit breeding dogs to only once a year. This is to ensure the quality of their pups. The Broken Arrow has a red Border Collie breeding dog that can produce red merle Border Collie puppies. 
  • Rising Star Border Collies – The Rising Star aims to breed a sound and versatile Border Collie. Their temperament and health for their entire life is their main priority. They have tons of Border Collie color variants, including red merle Border Collies. 

If the sources above don’t work for you, you may check out our list of the best Border Collie breeders.

RELATED: 10 Best Border Collie Breeders (2022): Our Top 10 Picks!

You should also check out our puppy buying guide on how you can safely buy puppies online. 

If your priority is adopting, here are some shelters and rescues where you may find a red merle Border Collie:

  • All Border Collie Rescue – This rescue started in 2008 when the owner saw a need for additional funding and foster homes for rescued Border Collies. Their goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and successfully match the Border Collies they rescued to their forever homes.
  • Border Collies in Need Inc. – This non-profit organization has been rehabilitating and placing Border Collies into suitable homes since 2007. They take in dogs from different cities, countries, rescues, and shelters. They ensure that their Border Collies are healthy and well-behaved before putting them up for adoption. 
  • Glen Highland Farm – Established in 2001, this rescue has been a safe place for over 3,000 Border Collie puppies and seniors. You might find any color variety of Border Collie, even the red merle in their roaster of dogs. 

Adoption gives rescued Border Collies a chance for a new family. If the places mentioned above don’t work for you, you can check the article in which we have picked the top 10 best Border Collie rescues.

You can also check out our ultimate adoption guide to know the process and guidelines of adoption. You can also follow some tips in our article on how to find free puppies in your area

RELATED: 10 Best Border Collie Rescues for Adoption (2022): Our Top 10 Picks!

Dog Name Ideas for Red Merle Border Collie Puppies

A unique, beautiful dog with high-energy and playful nature deserves a perfect name that sounds catchy. The first step in coming up with the perfect name is to gather lots of inspiration. 

You can narrow it down later on, but here are some names that we think would best fit your red merle Border Collie:

  • Marley
  • Beau
  • Ruby
  • Flash
  • Oliver
  • Dundee
  • Rye
  • Hemp
  • Barkley
  • Jax

You could go with a classic name or a name that’s easy to remember. You may even want to pay tribute to the breed’s color, heritage, speed, or intelligence. There is a lot to choose from.

As you search for options, save any ideas that sound interesting to you and narrow them down from there. And when you find the name for your pooch, you’ll know it’s the perfect one.

Frequently Asked Questions

Red merle Border Collie on wreckage

What Is the Rarest Border Collie Color?

Tricolored slate merles and lilac merles, red brindles, and slate sables are the rarest colors of Border Collies. These variations are a combination of rare colors with rare patterns. 

Having a puppy with a unique-looking coat is really something you could take pride in. However, it shouldn’t be your main purchasing factor. You should always make sure the breeder also pays attention to their health. 

Are Merle Border Collies More Expensive?

Usually, merles are pricier than the typical black and white Border Collie puppy. Merle is one of the most expensive coat colors of any breed. 

It is because the breeder would need to do lots of DNA checking just to find the Collie with the merle DNA and match it to a suitable partner. 

However, this still doesn’t guarantee that there would be a merle in the litter. Because of this long and tedious breeding process, merle Border Collies tend to have higher price tags.

Do Red Merle Border Collies Shed?

Red merle Border Collies shed all year round. Although their coats are considered low maintenance, brushing their coats every couple of days is still needed to remove dead hair that may scatter at home. 

However, you might find yourself dealing with fur more often during shedding seasons. Border Collies experience more hair loss during these periods and would require you to brush their coats daily. 

Final Thoughts: Is a Red Merle Border Collie the Right Dog for You?

Red merle Border Collies are just like regular Collies. They are intelligent, athletic, and affectionate, with unique coat colors. 

Their friendly nature, along with being smart and hardworking, makes them one of the best family pets across the globe. They make excellent work dogs too, no matter the fur color. 

If you’ve decided to get one for yourself, make sure to also read our guide on the topic of male vs. female Border Collies. You’ll surely pick up a few takeaways from that guide.

Did this article help you in deciding whether or not this pooch is for you? Share your insights about the red merle Border Collie in the comment section below!