Introduction To The Blue Merle Australian Shepherd

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

The blue merle Australian Shepherd is a very popular variation of the breed. It has appeared so often in pop culture that it has become the look that most people automatically associate with Australian Shepherds. That popularity has resulted in a stronger market for blue merles, which has in turn driven up prices for pups and adult dogs alike.

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So, what exactly is blue merle? Contrary to popular opinion, it is not actually a color but rather, a pattern. A merle is flecking or speckling, usually of silver or gray appearance on a black background. The overall effect of the merle is to give a very silver-gray or even blue appearance, hence the name blue merle. With the shades of gray and sizes of the speckles varying, it can make for a wide range of looks within the blue merle category.

Australian Shepherds come in two main colors; black and red. "Blue" is a misnomer. The blue merle is actually a black Aussie with the merle pattern. You can find out more about different color and pattern variations here.

About The Blue Merle Australian Shepherd - Photo: Blue Merle Australian Shepherd with a tennis ball.

_filippocasali_ / stock.adobe.com

Along with the speckling, the blue merle Australian Shepherd can also have white markings on the face, chest, legs and underbelly and copper points on the face and legs. Like all Aussies, the blue merle can have solid colored eyes but they may also have eyes that are marbled or flecked with other colors. Blue eyes are more common among merles than other coat patterns, and merles may also have one blue eye and one brown eye, adding to their unique look.

There is more to the merle pattern than simple cosmetics though. There may also be serious genetic concerns that require breeders to exercise particular caution. While it is generally safe to breed a merle with another pattern (ie. solid, bi, or tri), breeding two merles can be particularly dangerous as it results in a homozygous merle wherein the puppy inherits the merle pattern from both parents.

Genetically, this affects more than just the appearance of the coat and lowers pigment levels during development of the puppy. This lack of pigmentation, particularly around the eyes and ears, can lead to blindness and deafness or both.

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd Popularity

The beautiful appearance of the blue merle Australian Shepherd has made it extremely popular not only among consumers but also in Hollywood. From movies and TV to commercials and print ads, it's hard to miss these bright, intelligent, and eager dogs. It's not surprising that the blue merle is such a commercial success as the unique pattern and coloration definitely makes these dogs camera friendly.

The rise in popularity of the blue merle is reflected in the pricing. While Australian Shepherd pups from reputable breeders can easily be $750–$1000 or more, prices for blue merles can be considerably more.

The higher asking price has done little to take away from the merle's popularity, though, with customers continuing to clamor for this particular look. While it is important to always deal with a reputable breeder when buying any pup, it is particularly vital if you are considering a blue merle so that you can avoid any potential health risks.

Of course, coat color and pattern does not affect the personality of a dog, so the blue merle Australian Shepherd will have the same basic traits that any Aussie does. They are bright, energetic, eager to please and willing to learn and will be loyal and tireless workers, whether on a ranch, farm or at home.

It's no wonder why the beautiful look of the blue merle Australian Shepherd has become so popular; it is hard to miss and as anyone who's welcomed one into their family one can attest, they are impossible to forget!

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The blue merle Australian Shepherd is a very popular variation of this dog breed. The Aussie has brains, beauty, and personality which has earned them a place in popular culture and our hearts. #australianshepherd #bluemerle #merle #aussielovers

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