Merle Pitbull: 10+ Facts You Need To Know

Pitbulls come in over 18 different colors and patterns.

For years the most common Pitbull colors were brown, black, white, fawn and brindle. But merle is actually one of the most popular colors.

Merle Pitbulls have a coat that is covered with unique swirls and blotches of color. This pattern often has dark blotches of black, red or brown on top of lighter shades of blue, liver, or tan.

This is a very popular, but rare color in pitties. It is so rare that some breeders have sold them for over $35,000! Keep reading to learn more about how they are bred, the different types and the leopard merle pitbull…

1. Merle Is Not A Breed

Merle Pitbull

It is important to know that merle pit bulls are not a separate breed.

The merle gene is a genetic mutation that is present in almost every dog breed. Some of the most popular dog breeds known to have the merle coat pattern are the miniature Australian Shepherd, Catahoula Leopard Dog and the American Pit Bull Terrier.

It is a specific coat pattern of speckles and patches of hair in different colors. These patches will appear randomly on a dog’s coat.

The merle gene creates a pattern that many people describe as blotchy or patchy. It is not uniform and will be very random from dog to dog.

In pitbulls this pattern can be gray, black, tan, brown, blue, or combinations of these colors. Combinations of colors is how you get a tri-color merle!

2. Merle Is Not An Official Color

Merle Pit bull

Pitbull is a generic label given to four dog breeds that are similar in appearance, origin and temperament. These four breeds include the:

  1. American Pitbull Terrier
  2. American Staffordshire Terrier
  3. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  4. American Bully

None of the breed standards for any of these dogs includes merle as an official color.

This means merle pitbulls are not officially recognized by the breed standards.

Regardless of their status all of them are stunning.

If you are planning to adopt a Pitbull to show in dog shows then merle would not be the color for you. If you are not interested in showing your dog then a merle pitbull can make a great family dog!

3. There Are 4 Types of Merle Pitbulls

There are four known types of merle Pitbulls:

  1. Tricolor
  2. Leopard
  3. Blue
  4. White

Tricolored merle Pitbulls have the merle pattern with tri-colored coats. They are a combination of blue merle, tan and white. This pattern does not appear all over the coat and only appears in smaller patches. The rest of the coat is tan and white.

The tricolor merle is a coat variation that occurs only in American Pit Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs. They are very rare because they have three coat colors and the merle pattern.

Leopard merle Pitbulls are actually a Pitbull mixed with the Catahoula Leopard Dog. They are not purebred. Catahoula Leopard Dogs come in various shades of merle, while Pitbulls can be red, blue, white, brown, black or fawn.

The leopard merle will have a yellow-tan base coat with brown spots and sometimes white on the chest. When you mix these two breeds it is possible to get a puppy with spots from the Catahoula Leopard.

Blue merles are blue Pitbulls who have the merle gene. Their nose, paw pads and base color will be blue with the merle pattern all over their coat. It looks like they have random dark and light blue combinations. Often black spots stand out against the lighter blue-gray base.

The white merle has a white base coat with a merle pattern on top. It looks exactly like it sounds like. Their patterns create both darker and lighter hues of white so they look like they have cream or tan-colored spots and blotches all over them.

4. Purebred Merle Pitbulls Are Extremely Rare

White Merle Face

Most merle pitbull puppies are bred from a pitbull and catahoula leopard mix. Merle was a natural Pitbull color, but nowadays it is very rare to find a purebred merle puppy.

The gene in pitbulls has always naturally existed, but historically it was not popular.

Merle was often associated with health issues. Pitties were bred to be strong and fit so breeders began to selectively breed against the gene. This resulted in purebred merle pitties becoming extremely rare.

Catahoula Leopard dogs were used to in order to re-introduce the gene.

The catahoula leopard dog carries the merle gene and often passes down the gene to its puppies. Even though these dogs are mixed they surprisingly still look like Pitbulls.

5. Merle Was First Seen In The 1800s

Merle is a genetic trait that most dogs are thought to have. It is believed that the first merle Pitbulls came from the UK in the late 19th century.

When the American Pitbull Terrier was first bred in the UK in the 1800s the merle gene was an official coat pattern. It was even in the breed standard before the 1930s.

Pictures and documentation about merle pitbulls have been collected over the years by various different organizations. One of these photos was a picture of a man named John P. Colby with his red merle Pitbull in 1922.

Merle Pitbulls were involved in a lot of controversy over the years because people thought they were not purebred. This is not true.

6. Merle Pitbulls Are Different From Brindle

Brindle Pitbull
Brindle Pitbull

Merle and brindle pitbulls are still the same breed, they are just two completely different genetic mutations that have very different looks. These two coat patterns are very different.

The brindle gene causes striping on a pitbull’s coat. It looks tiger-like and is more common.

Merle genes cause random spots and patches of color on the pittie’s coat. It almost looks like paint splatter.

Brindle dogs usually have a brown base coat with black striping across their backs. The striping is usually uniform and covers the entire coat. They will usually have a white stripe going from their forehead to their noses and a solid white patch of hair on their chest and feet.

On the other hand, the merle pattern stands out because of its splotchy look. It is a spotted pattern, not striped. Merle pit bulls can be gray, black, tan, brown, blue, white, or combinations of these colors.

The easiest way to tell the difference is because of their effect on the dog’s eye color and the colors of their points (nose, eye rims, lips, and paw pads).

All brindle Pitbulls have brown eyes and points.

Merle Pitbulls can have blue, or heterochromatic eyes and points that match their base coat color.

Related: Pitbull Names: 500 Best Girl & Boy Pittie Names

7. Merle Puppies Look Like Spotted Piglets

Merle Pitbull Puppy

Merle Pitbull puppies are born with a unique coat when compared to other pitties.

Puppies will have a speckled pattern made up by splotches of different colors mixed throughout their coat. It almost makes them look like a spotted piglet, especially a white merle pup which will have a white or cream base coat with tan spotting. These dogs will usually have white coats, pink noses and blue eyes.

Merles can be easily recognized because of their spotted coats! Their other litter mates, if not merle, will not have the distinct spotted coat.

8. Associated Health Problems

The American Pitbull Registry says that there is no evidence to prove that merle Pitbulls have an increased risk for health problems. However there are three health problems associated with the merle gene that can affect 3% of merle Pitbulls.

Research done by the American Dog Breeders Association has found that some merle Pitbulls lack the reflective substance found in the back of their eyes. This means some can suffer from night blindness as well as other eye deformities such as clefts in the iris.

Congenital deafness is also something that merle Pitbulls can develop. The Baer Test is something vets recommend for puppies that can determine if they will have congenital diseases by the time they are six months old.

Some dogs can also be susceptible to issues from extreme sun exposure like sun burn. This is because the merle gene can sometimes restrict melanin production.

In reality most health problems seen are not any worse than the health problems seen in dogs of other breeds with merle. These health problems only seem to become severe in the case of double merle puppies, not puppies with only one merle parent.

Most merle Pitbulls are healthy. Regardless of this controversy they continue to capture the hearts of many owners. This beautiful dog has more to offer than just its looks.

9. Double Merle Puppies Will Have More Health Issues

Double merle pitties are a type of Pitbull that breeders try to avoid. The only way to get a double merle puppy is by breeding two merle parents together. The result will be a one in four chance of a double merle puppy, which is not a good thing.

Double merles are the result of bad and irresponsible breeding.

It is also known as spot x spot breeding.

In every litter that results from spot x spot breeding, there is a 25% chance that a puppy will be a double.

Responsible pitbull breeders will genetically test their dogs before breeding them to ensure they either don’t contain the merle gene or that only one parent does.

Double merle pups in most cases will be either completely blind, completely deaf or both. This is due to a lack of hair in the inner ear and congenital diseases. They are also more likely to have birth defects and shorter lifespans. Puppies can also be stillborn or die soon after birth.

The fact that double merle Pitbulls are so much more susceptible to visual and auditory health issues is what makes them unhealthy.

10. Cryptic Merle Can Be Dangerous

Merle is known to be a bit controversial within the Pitbull community because of the gene that causes it. The merle gene can affect not only a dog’s coat pattern and eye color, but also their skin and health.

It can be a very dangerous gene.

A dog can be a carrier of the gene without showing the coat pattern, this is known as the “cryptic merle.” If you breed a cryptic merle pitbull with a merle pitbull, the result will be a double merle puppy.

Unfortunately a double merle pittie is known to have many serious health issues.

For that reason many breeders test all of their dogs to avoid breeding two merle dogs together.

These puppies are more likely to have birth defects and shorter lifespans and they are at a higher risk of being born deaf and blind. Most often they are born with hearing and sight issues. It can also cause skin issues like sunburn and skin cancer.

Double merle pitbulls should not be bred and do not make a healthy dog.

11. Merle Pitbulls Can Cost $35,000

Chocolate Merle Pitbull
Merle pitbulls are rare and cost more than other Pitties.

Merle pitbull puppies can cost thousands of dollars. Their price usually falls between $2,000 and $5,000, which is more than five times the cost of regular pittie puppies.

Pedigrees can cost over $10,000 because of their bloodline. These dogs are less likely to be crossbred with a Catahoula Leopard and will have a long pedigree. There are some examples of breeders charging as much as $35,000 for the first pick from a merle litter.

Since merle pit bulls can be sold for a lot of money backyard breeders will try to breed them. Often puppy mills and backyard breeders will continuously breed pitbulls together which can result in double merles.

If you want a merle puppy you must be prepared to spend.

Adult and senior merle dogs are almost never found in rescues or shelters, so the only way to adopt one is normally as a puppy.

Puppies are very rare and hard to find. Therefore it is not uncommon to pay a lot of money and to wait for a reputable breeder. You will want to find a breeder that performs health checks on their puppies and breeding stock, especially for visual and auditory problems and double merles.

It is also not uncommon for breeders to mix Pitbulls with other dogs that have the merle gene. A common example is the leopard merle pitbull. If you do not mind a mix then this is a much more reasonable price of between $500 and $1,000 depending on the breeder.

12. They Are No Different In Size

Merle pitbulls are only different from their siblings in coat pattern. They are otherwise the same size, have the same loyal personality and love their families just the same.

Pitbulls are medium-sized dogs with strong, muscular bodies.

On average they weigh between 30 and 65 pounds and are 17 to 21 inches tall.

Pitbulls usually have ears that are perky, but flop over. Ear cropping was a common practice, but more owners now avoid it because it is inhumane and banned in most European countries.

They have a naturally long tail that thins out towards the tip of the tail. Their head should be flat with a large muzzle.

13. Merle Pitbulls Are Great Family Dogs

Merle pitbulls are beautiful colored pitties that have all the classic Pitbull traits.

They have the same affectionate disposition and goofy personality as merle does not affect a dog’s personality and traits.

Pitbulls are actually a very people-oriented and loyal breed. The make for loving family dogs.

They love children and tend to be amazing around them. They have often been referred to as “nanny dogs” because of their patient and calm demeanor around children. Unlike other dogs, they are not scared by excitable, energetic children and will happily play whatever games a child wants to.

Studies by the American Temperament Test Society have actually shown that 87% of Pitbulls pass as non-aggressive. This score is higher than breeds like Boxers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Bullmastiffs, Corgis, and several other famous breeds have scored.

They make an amazing addition to any family lucky enough to have them.


Merle Pitbulls stand out because of their unique blotchy coat which is made up of light and dark hues of either black, brown, or red. They are loved by many for their beautiful coat. This uniquely spotted coat is caused by the merle gene.

The merle gene means they are at a slightly higher risk for skin, hearing and sight issues. But a reputable breeder can help reduce these issues.

Merle pitbulls keep the classic pitbull personality and are loving, caring, and an amazing family dog.

Unfortunately they will cost more than most types of pitbulls because of their unique color. It is not uncommon for a family to pay between $2,000 and $5,000, but pedigree can drive up their price to over $10,000.

It is hard to find a purebred merle puppy. However, whether they are purebred or mixed there is no doubt they will wiggle their way into your heart.

If you are looking for a beautiful, attentive dog who is a big softie and can afford the hefty price tag, then the merle pit bull is the dog for you. Are you ready to adopt one?


  1. Thank you so much for all the information that you provided. I now have three Merle pitbulls and I have some interesting colors. I have a silver merle female, which is the mother of a silver merle. A male and a golden merle female, their father is a blue nose pitbull.


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