Red Merle Border Collie: 7 Mesmerizing Facts You Need to Know
Of all the approved coat colors and patterns in the Border Collie breed standard, the red merle border collie is arguably one of the most vibrantly beautiful and visually striking. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about the red merle Border Collie’s distinct appearance, the genetics behind this coloration, considerations around temperament and abilities, potential health risks and appropriate screening, and tips for finding a reputable breeder producing quality red merle specimens.
While aesthetically eye-catching, the red merle coat color is also linked to some specific considerations when it comes to responsible health testing. This coloration requires breeders to take additional precautions to ensure the best possible odds of producing puppies free of defects. Along with admiring their beauty, it’s important for prospective owners to understand the intricacies of identifying breeders ethically breeding these flashy herders.
The Unique Appearance of the Red Merle Border Collie
While called “red” merle, the red merle border collie are not actually a solid red coat color. Rather, red merle refers to a base coat shade of red, copper, cinnamon, or mahogany paired with variable irregular patches of black spotting and white merling. It is the blend of this vibrant base red hue with mottled spots of black and white that creates the dazzling and dramatic “freckled” merle patterns.
No two red merle Border Collies will look exactly alike, as the merle gene results in random patterns and placement of black and white spotting. The intensity and shade of the red base coat can range from a very light creamy peach to a deep burnt mahogany, while the degree of merling patches present runs the gamut from sparse tiny dots to a heavily mottled appearance. Other points of possible difference include the specific facial markings, eye color, nose pigment, paw color, and variations in the black spotting.
One key characteristic of most red merles is a genetic tendency toward heterochromia, where one or both eyes are a bright vivid blue color. Bi-eyed red merles with one blue eye and one non-blue eye are also commonly seen. While visually striking, ethical breeders need to take care when producing merle-on-merle breedings to avoid producing puppies with an increased risk for vision deficiencies linked to inherited double merle genetics.
Overall the red merle coat pattern produces uniquely beautiful Border Collies with dramatically captivating and lively multi-colored, densely freckled fur. The vibrancy and variation of the red base and mottled spotting is mesmerizing. However, responsible breeders must fully understand the intricacies of the genetics behind producing this coloration in order to thoughtfully breed for both visual appeal and physical health.
The Genetic Basis Behind the Red Merle Border Collie
In the Border Collie breed, there are two main gene loci which through interaction are responsible for producing the vibrant red merle coat color. The E locus controls whether black or red/copper shading will be expressed. While the M locus dictates whether or not merling, a marbled speckled effect, will appear in the coat.
The recessive e allele on the E locus allows for full expression of red pigment dilution on the dog’s coat. For red coloration to show rather than the default black, a Border Collie must inherit a copy of this e allele from both parents. With even one copy of the dominant E allele from either parent, black coat color will be expressed instead.
The dominant M allele on the separate M locus is the mutation responsible for merling, which creates mottled spotting. Only one copy of this M allele is required from either parent for the merling effect to visibly manifest. However, the inheritance of two M alleles is strongly linked to serious vision issues and blindness, and referred to as a “double merle”. For this reason, intentionally breeding two merle-patterned Border Collies together is considered unethical due to risks of defective vision or hearing.
By inheriting recessive e alleles from both parents, plus at least one dominant M allele from either parent, Border Collies will develop the vibrant red merle coat pattern expressing both e and M genetic influences. Responsible professional breeders strive to balance producing beautiful dogs with breeding carefully to maximize health.
Assessing the Temperament of the Red Merle Border Collie
All properly bred Border Collies, regardless of specific coat color genetics, should possess the baseline breed temperament standard and working ability traits prioritized in this intrepid herding breed. While anecdotally some owners feel red merle Border Collies exhibit slightly softer subdued temperaments, there is no scientific evidence that personality traits are directly linked to or influenced by coat color genetics.
Reputable breeders make every effort to place equal importance upon thoroughly evaluating temperament, working instincts, intelligence, bid-ability, focus, drive, and stamina during their breeding selection process, for both merle and non-merle breeding prospects. No one flashy physical attribute like an unusual coat color pattern should ever take precedence over breeding ideal working specimens demonstrating all vital hallmark Border Collie traits.
A red merle Border Collie from health-focused and preservation-minded breeding lines should be just as focused, intense, responsive to training, velcro-like with their people, energetic and innately obsessive about controlling movement as any other well-bred Border Collie, regardless of coat specifics. The particulars of their coloring and markings do not inherently change the underlying breed character and abilities that make Border Collies so uniquely suited for performance events and work requiring intelligent intensity. Seek merles from proven versatile working stock rather than primarily show lines.
Special Health Considerations With the Red Merle Coat Pattern
Due to the influence of recessive genes potentially carried in their heritable backgrounds, red merle Border Collies require additional health screening beyond what is standard for the breed to allow for completely ethical breeding. Conscientious merle breeders complete all testing recommended for any Border Collie, as well as several extra tests specifically relevant to merle dogs:
- Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) hip and elbow radiographs to screen for dysplasia or joint malformation. This helps minimize the risk of mobility issues and early arthritis.
- Annual eye exam performed by a board-certified canine ophthalmologist to check for Collie Eye Anomaly, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and other potentially inherited vision issues.
- DNA tests for non-merle specific genetic conditions like Multidrug Sensitivity and Epilepsy.
- BAER testing to screen hearing, as merle dogs are at an increased risk for congenital deafness. Missing pigment allows sound to escape the inner ear.
- Testing to identify ifdogs carry the undesirable dilute gene “d” which dilutes pigment and predisposes to skin problems.
Breeding two merle-patterned Border Collies together is always ill-advised, as doubling up on the merle gene often results in excessive white spotting on coat which is linked to impaired vision, blindness, and deafness. Such dogs should be neutered or spayed.
While a visually captivating pattern, professional red merle breeders must complete more comprehensive testing before breeding decisions are made to maximize the odds of producing physically and mentally sound puppies. Only dogs who pass all recommended screening should ever be bred.
Tips for Finding a Quality Red Merle Border Collie Breeder
As a relatively rare and highly desired coloration, red merle Border Collie puppies will often command a higher price tag, averaging between $1000 to over $2000 per puppy. Their desirability makes being extra selective and scrutinizing breeder practices more important than ever.
Characteristics to look for when evaluating breeders of red merle Border Collies include:
- Ongoing participation in canine sports, events and trials to prove their dogs are more than just a pretty face. Titling dogs in activities like agility, obedience, rally, flyball, sheep herding trials, and other venues demonstrates a commitment to assessing and developing ability.
- Performing and providing documentation of all recommended breed health tests on sires, dams, and any puppies prior to sale, including tests for issues like Collie Eye, hip and elbow health, MDR1, BAER hearing, and additional DNA tests.
- Transparently sharing upfront evidence of health testing for both breeding dogs and litters, rather than only providing proof upon request. Reputable breeders openly stand behind their breeding practices.
- Registering all breeding dogs and litters with a respected breed club like the American Border Collie Association to showcase their dedication to breed preservation.
- Willingness to take back dogs they have bred at any point in the dog’s life if original owners can no longer care for them. This reduces risk of their dogs ever ending up in shelters.
It’s imperative to avoid breeders appearing to prioritize producing puppies of popular rare colors over factors like health, conformation and working abilities. The moment outward appearance trumps functional integrity in breeding selection processes, overall Border Collie welfare suffers. Seek merle breeders who aim to produce the total dog inside and out.
Finding a breeder carefully working to better the breed through their thoughtful breeding of structurally and mentally sound red merle Border Collies takes time and patience. Reputable preservation-focused breeders specializing in merles may only produce occasional litters with limited puppy availability. Prepare for a wait to find the ideal temperament and bloodlines.
FAQ’s – Common Red Merle Border Collie Questions
Do red merle Border Collies have different personalities compared to other colors?
There is no evidence that coat color or pattern inherently changes key Border Collie temperament traits or working abilities in merles. All color variations should exhibit the characteristic intelligence, trainability, focus, work ethic, and energy so prized in properly bred working Border Collies when responsibly bred. Seek accomplished merle breeders proven through competitive herding and dog sports over show alone.
Are red merle Border Collies rare?
Among the general pet Border Collie population, red merles are not particularly uncommon. But within the serious working and sporting Border Collie community, they are still relatively rare, as their flashy coats must never take precedence over ability, health, and adherence to breed standards. Merles can occur naturally in approximately 25% of well-planned Border Collie litters when one parent carries the dominant M merle gene.
Why are red merle Border Collies more expensive?
On average red merle Border Collie puppies will range from $1000 to over $2000 or more, largely driven by high demand for their unique flashy appearance. However, coloration and markings alone should never affect pricing in a thoughtfully bred Border Collie litter – factors like proven working abilities, health testing, pedigree, breeder reputation and overall breeding ethics should be the primary determinants.
Do all red merle Border Collies have blue eyes?
No, but bright blue or partially blue eyes are common in red merles. Red merles will often have bold vivid blue eyes, bi-colored eyes with one blue and one brown, or occasionally may have non-merled brown eyes. Solid blue eyes can indicate higher white spotting on the coat, which raises concerns about linked vision issues like deafness or blindness. Reputable breeders avoid this by not breeding merle-on-merle. Required eye exams screen for any defects.
Are red merle Border Collies less healthy than other colors?
When properly bred after thorough health testing of lineage from merle and non-merle stock, red merle Border Collies themselves are no more likely to have health issues than any other color. However, irresponsible breeding without the proper testing can potentially lead to problems like deafness, blindness, skin cancer, and osteoarthritis. The red merle color itself does not cause defects – only poor breeding practices do.
What exactly is the difference between a red merle vs sable coat?
While both require inheritance of the recessive e gene for full expression of red/copper coat pigment, a red merle Border Collie will have a marbled coat with large irregular patches of black, white and red. Sable coated Border Collies have black-tipped hairs over a lighter red base, without the dramatic white spotting. Sables lack the merling mutation on the M locus. Red merles carry influences from both the E locus and the Merle causing M locus.
The Strong Allure of the Red Merle Border Collie
It’s very easy to become enamored by the unique beauty of a red merle Border Collie, with their vivid, rich colors swirled together in an eye-catching freckled tapestry. However, this appeal should never override the absolute necessity of seeking out a pup bred first and foremost for structural and mental soundness, health, and adherence to breed ability standards above all else.
If your primary goal is a stellar companion or competition dog from proven high-achieving versatile working bloodlines that also happens to exhibit this beautifully unique coloration, starting your puppy search by seeking out only the most accomplished and dedicated breeders of red merles can reward you with truly the best of both worlds. Never settle for substandard breeding practices just to own this particular rare coloration. Outward beauty should always take a distant backseat to working ability and genetic health in the Border Collie breed.
By taking the time to connect only with breeders who exhibit a real dedication to fully health testing their breeding stock, thoughtfully planning each litter, and provenly developing their dogs’ abilities, you can delight in finding and raising both a visually stunning red merle and functionally and structurally exceptional Border Collie optimally suited for canine sports, herding work, or being your attentive companion. By aiming for breeders focused on overall quality first, you stack the deck in favor of winding up with a total package dog.