Turner's Lucha, a blue eyed red merle APBT puppy.
Here are some commonly asked questions or comments I have received over the years about merle APBTs & my answers to them. I hope they will help you. Q or C is for the question or comment posed to me & A is my answer to that question or comment. Here goes!
C: Purebred APBTs don't come in merle.
A: This is a common fallacy. Purebred APBTs come in all colors, to include merle. The ADBA & the UKC - the oldest institutions for purebred registered APBTs - considered merle APBTs purebred for over 100 years. As of this writing, all APBT registeries (to include the ADBA) still consider them purebred. Of all the kennel clubs in the United States - both all breed & APBT specific, the UKC is the only one who questions their purity.
C: The UKC says they banned merles because they are mixed.
A: The UKC's stance is based on an article by Scott Dowd PhD., a man who has only scratched the very surface of merle genetics. Some of the things he says are indeed correct, but he never touched on other aspects concerning merle in the APBT, such as misidentification, mutation & he gave only a glancing mention of cryptic merles at best. As a result I take his opinion with a grain of salt, since it is obvious he stopped his research once he found the results what HE wanted to find, instead of investigating the entire subject thoroughly.
HOWEVER ... (aren't there always one of those?) while there are merle APBTs who are indeed purebred, there are some people who do have merle APBT mixes. The Madison dogs to include his foundation bitch Boham's Venom are mixed as well merles from Wildstreak Kennels & Hogs, Dogs & Lace to name a few. Sadly, Mr. Madison peddled his questionably bred merles heavily, so there are a lot of people out there selling these merle "pit bulls" (or what they call pit bulls anyway). That is why it is of utmost importance to do your homework before you buy!
Q: The ADBA says they banned merles because they are unhealthy. Aren't they?
A: Well, yes & no.
There are 2 types of merles. One is called heterozygous merle & they are the result of a merle bred to a non-merle. Heterozygous merles are also called normal merles or clean merles & are just as healthy as almost any other color.
The other type of merle is called homozygous merles. Homozygous merles are also called pure merles, double merles, dirty merles, semi-lethal merles or lethal whites & they are the result of a merle being bred to another merle. Double merles can be quite unhealthy & can be affected with defects as mild as sterility or severe as being born without eyes!
So merle when bred properly are pretty much as healthy as any other color. Merle when bred improperly are not. But this could be said just about any color. Improper breeding practices regardless of color can produce unhealthy animals.
The ADBA began an investigation on a breeder around 2004. This was done because he had been breeding merle x merle litters ("experiments" he called them) thus producing some defective double merles. He then sold some of these "experiments" to ignorant buyers, as well as incorporated some into his own bloodline producing what is called a "dirty" bloodline (a dirty bloodline is one that contains merle x merle breeding anywhere in the pedigree). When those who bought defective dogs called him back after their dogs began showing problems, he refused to make good on several of the dogs, one time even going so far as to tell someone to never call him again & hanging up on them!
But again - this was not the fault of merle being "unhealthy" but rather the fault of a breeder purposely using improper breeding practices to cash in on a fad. He thought breeding merle x merle would yield more merle pups for him to sell (it doesn't) & his plan backfired on him. All he ended up doing was producing unhealthy double merles.
This has phenomenon already happened to blue dogs. So many people were/are trying to cash in on the "blue dog" fad that the one healthy blues are now riddled with all kinds of defects ranging as from allergies to a predisposition to cancer. So are these defects the fault of the blue color? No. It's the fault of unethical breeders!
But back to the question - a lot of people called me complaining that merles from this man were defective & that the he would not make good on them. All I could tell them was to report him to the ADBA since there was nothing I could do to help them. About 2 weeks after I referred one of many people to the ADBA, the ADBA incorporated their merle policy! They started an investigation on that breeder in which the ADBA found that the pedigree on this man's foundation merle, Boham's Venom, was not correct. As a result, the papers on any merle bred down from Venom was revoked.
A lot of people who own Venom bred merles think this was some kind of conspiracy to get rid of merle dogs, but this is not the case. It was found that Venom - who was a black nosed dog - was *supposedly* out of 2 red/rednosed parents. Since the trait that produces the red/rednose coloration is recessive, it is considered a genetic impossibility for a black nosed dog to come from 2 red/rednoses. But just to make sure, the ADBA contacted her breeder, Mr. Boham to interview him on the matter of Venom. They wanted to get the facts on the dog straight from the the horse's mouth so to say, but strangely, Mr. Boham refused to return any of the ADBA's calls.
After their investigation was concluded the ADBA voided the papers on Venom & any dog bred down from Venom, the majority of which happened to be merle. But according to the letter the ADBA sent owners of Venom bred dogs, the voiding of papers was due to the hung papers on Venom. Health issues concerning voiding the papers on merles was not mentioned as a reason until later.
The issue of health was only brought up to validate the reason for not registering future merles. After all, not all merles have hung papers, so they couldn't use hung pedigrees as a reason to void the papers on all the merles registered with the ADBA. But if all merles were banned, then no defective Venom bred merles could be snuck into the gene pool via paper hanging. So the issue of banning merles due to health issues came into play.
Another points to ponder - the ADBA ONLY voided papers on Venom merles. Any merle registered prior to 2005 that does NOT have Venom in their pedigrees still has full & active privileges with the ADBA & their offspring can still be ADBA registered, provided the pup itself is not merle. For example, if I breed my merle male to my black female & get 3 merle pups & 3 black pups, the ADBA will still register the black pups even though the sire is a merle dog. If merle as a whole is so unhealthy, don't you think they would have voided ALL the papers on ALL merles & refused to register ANY offspring from ANY merle? But this is not the case. Only the defective Venom bred merles had papers that were completely void. So that tells me health issues was just a convenient ruse to hide behind.
Furthermore, if health was really the issue, why haven't they banned black dogs since the color black has a defect directly associated with it called Black Hair Follecular Dyplasia? Or white dogs or white headed dogs white & white headed dogs are more prone to deafness? What about big dogs since big dogs are three times more likely than small or medium dogs to have hip dysplasia? Or blues & blue fawns since both colors have a genetic defect called Color Dilution Alopecia directly associated with them?
Truly, when you add it all up & look at it from all angles, the health of merles as a whole does not seem to be true factor in why merles were banned. Now double merles or dogs bred down from double merles CAN be unhealthy. But a properly bred merle is usually as healthy as a dog of almost any other color.
Q: If the Venom bred merles are the problem, why does the ADBA refuse to register any merles at all?
A: As previously mentioned, this was likely done to discourage paper-hanging. If other merles were allowed to remain, then a person could continue to breed defective Venom bred dogs & hang papers from another merle line on the pups. If this were done, the defective Venom dogs would continue to infect the ADBA's gene pool. By refusing to register ANY more merles the ADBA solves this problem. It's not fair; but it's easy, simple & accomplishes the goal.
C: Merle had to be banned to discourage bad breeding.
A: Not true. If a breeder is breeding double merles or merles from a dirty line it's simple - don't buy from them. Once their customer base dries up they will get out of merles or breed correctly with quality animals. Sadly however in this "instant gratification" society we live in, the majority of buyers will not go their homework concerning a breeder (to include merle breeders) & end up buying from bad breeders. This was how Mr. Madison was able to sell so many defective pups. It all comes down to the buyer. What folks forget is the buyer has all the power here. A breeder cannot sell you junk unless YOU let them. Do your homework, stay away from bad breeders & the bad breeders (of any color or type of dog) will eventually disappear.
Q: Why haven't we seen merle before now?
A: We have. But it wasn't common. I was told by a dogman over a decade ago that merles were often culled because it was considered defective. But again - this had more to do with the breeder than with merle itself. Dogmen of old didn't know anything about coat color genetics - all they knew was if it was game they bred it. So of course they didn't know breeding merle x merle was going to result in defects. If they got a good merle dog they did what most dogmen do - they linebred & inbred on that dog. As such, merles were likely bred to other merles, producing defective double merles. They may not have known anything about coat color genetics, but it didn't take them long to connect the lethal/semi-lethal defects of double merles to those "spotted" dogs & it became practice for many of those "spotted" dogs (merles) to be culled at birth.
Merle is dominant to non-merle & it was never a widespead color any way, so it only took a few generations for merle to be culled to virtually nothing in the breed. Merle was preserved by the few specimens that survived as novelties, as well as via cryptic merles. Like blue, merle was eventually "discovered" by color-minded money motivated breeder who mass produced the color to cash in on this "new" rare color. Because of his mass breeding & mass sales, the once rare merle exploded back on the scene & what was once a little seen color is now seen on every street corner.
Then there are what are called "cryptic" merles - merles hidden in plain sight. These are merles who are genetically merle, but look non-merle. Merle acts strongly on dark colors (black, chocolate, seal). But if merle is acting on a light colored coat (yellow, cream, sable & clear red) merle acts weakly, if at all. As a result, it can be little seen, if it is seen at all. These dogs are called cryptic merles, phantom merles or ghost merles. Because of this, on certain color dogs geneticists are of the opinion that the only way to tell if a dog is truly merle or not is by DNA testing, because they are finding coat color identification to be so unreliable!
C: Merle & blue eyes are faults & no one should breed for it.
A: It all depends on which kennel club you show through. What might be a fault in one club can be accepted in another. In ADBA, the merle pattern is a fault, but it does not mention blue eyes being a fault unless the eye color is connected with albinism. UKC meanwhile faults both the merle pattern & blue eyes. NKC faults merle, blue eyes AND any shade of blue! So should we all stop breeding blue dogs now because blue is a specific fault in the NKC? I'm willing to bet most people will say no! Only 3 kennel clubs have faulted merle, those being ADBA, UKC & NKC. However all other kennel clubs - to include those run by true, real deal dogmen like TL Williams & Carl Mims accept both merle & blue eyes.
Q: Can merle be carried?
A: NO. Merle is an incomplete dominant & can NOT be carried. The only way you can get a merle out of a non-merle is by spontanious mutation, which is exceedingly rare. If you have a merle out of two non-merle parents, it is much more likely that one of the parents is a cryptic merle or the dog has hung papers.
I hope these answer your questions. I will add more to this Q & A as I get more questions.
Turner's Cody III, a bi-eyed blue merle APBT