Merle French Bulldog: Unraveling the Mystery Behind Their Unique Coat

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Merle French Bulldog

Are you a Frenchie lover searching for the perfect furry companion? 

Look no further than the Merle French Bulldog

These adorable pups have taken the world by storm with their stunning and unique coat color pattern that sets them apart. 

Sure, they may come with a few challenges, but the joy they bring into our lives is immeasurable. 

I’ve spent days searching and speaking to knowledgeable people to understand what makes the Merle French Bulldog so unique!

Join me as we explore the captivating world of Merle French Bulldogs and discover all its secrets.

In this article, we will study the genetics behind their intriguing pattern. I will also show you some cute pictures of the different variations. We will also talk about their price and specific health issues they may face, and much more!

What is a Merle French Bulldog?

It’s a unique and rare-colored Frenchie that sports an eye-catching coat pattern. Random patches of a darker pigment on top of lighter patches of the same color characterize the Merle pattern. 

Also, it’s important to note that the Merle pattern is not a color but a unique coat pattern found in many dog breeds.

This artistic arrangement of colors happens due to a specific gene that affects not only their coat but also their eye color and skin pigment.

Now, you might be wondering how these adorable little creatures come to be. Well, the Merle French Bulldog is created through selective breeding, which means breeders handpick specific dogs to get this unique color pattern. 

So, it’s safe to say Merle Frenchies are pretty special!

And guess what? They come in different varieties too! For example, there’s the Blue Merle Frenchie, which boasts a Merle coat pattern with a blue-gray base color. 

But let me share some insider information with you – while the French Bulldog breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1898, the Merle variation didn’t make the cut. 

According to the breed standard, the Merle French Bulldog is disqualified from being considered a proper French Bulldog

But between you and me, I think that just makes them even more fascinating and lovable!

What Makes Merle French Bulldog Merle?

Ah, the mystery of the Merle French Bulldog finally unfolds! 

I’ve uncovered the science behind this unique coat pattern, and I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve found. 

As this section is quite technical, I have added a quick summary at the end, so if you are here just to see cute pictures of Merle French Bulldogs, feel free to skip this section 😉

Still here? Great!

Before starting, let me give you some definitions of some scientific words I will use in this section.

  • Genotype: It’s like a recipe book that tells how the Frenchie will look and act.
  • Gene: A gene is like a set of instructions or a recipe in the recipe book (genotype) that tells your body how to make a specific protein, which can affect the physical and behavioral traits that make up the phenotype
  • Phenotype: A phenotype is a final dish made from one recipe (gene). It’s what you can see and observe about a Frenchie, like their hair color, eye color…
  • Allele: An allele is like a different version of a recipe (gene) in the recipe book (genotype) that can affect how the final dish (phenotype) turns out.
  • Locus: A locus is like an address or a specific location on a chromosome where a particular gene or genetic marker is located, kind of like a specific page number in a recipe book (genotype).

I hope you like my analogy with the recipe book, which will help you understand the rest of this section.

Understanding the Merle DNA 

It all begins with genetics, my friends, more precisely, in the M Locus, where is located the SILV gene. 

The SILV gene is a gene that provides instructions to the dog’s body to make a protein called premelanosome protein (PMEL), which is involved in the process of producing pigments in the skin, hair, and eyes.

A particular type of DNA causes the Merle mutation called a SINE (Short Interspersed Element) insertion on the SILV gene

This insertion affects how cells produce pigment in certain areas of the fur, resulting in a diluted color pattern with lighter areas mixed with areas of full pigmentation. 

Think of it like a bug that lives inside a plant and changes how it grows.

SINE Insertion in the SILV Gene
Simple representation of the SINE insertion in the SILV Gene

The longer the length of the tail, the more significant the effect on the dog’s coat. 

In order to determine the allele inherited by the dog, you need to measure the tail of the SINE.

The different alleles’ names linked to the Merle pattern are: 

Mccryptic merle (length 200-230) and Mc+cryptic merle plus (length 231-246)

Maatypical merle (length 247-254) and Ma+atypical merle plus (length 255-264)

Mstandard merle (length 265-268)

Mhharlequin merle (length 269-280)

The plus sign means there will be a slight difference in their phenotype but not enough to class them in another allele category. 

To understand the whole picture, we should not forget the m- non-Merle allele, which represents the absence of the Merle allele.

Each dog’s genotype will comprise two inherited alleles from both parents—one from the dam and one from the sir.

The Merle gene is an “incomplete dominant,” meaning that one allele does not entirely dominate another. 

Instead, depending on which two alleles are inherited in the individual dog, it creates an intermediate expression or an utterly distinct pattern

There are 28 different allele combinations possible, and that’s why 2 Merle French Bulldogs will never have the exact same patterns.

In this little infographic, you can understand how genes are passed on to their offspring in the case of a breeding between a non-Merle and a Standard Merle  French Bulldogs

Punnett square Merle French Bulldog
Punnett square Merle French Bulldog


Before closing this section, I thought mentioning a phenomenon called Mosaicism linked to the Merle gene was important.

The Merle gene can sometimes change during a dog’s development, which means that it can become a mosaic. 

Mosaicism means that some of the dog’s cells have a different genetic makeup than the rest of its cells. 

When tested, the dog may have three or four different results for the M locus gene.

However, only two of these alleles can be passed down to their puppies, and it’s only possible to know which ones once the dog has been bred

I hope I didn’t lose you there 😅 if yes, I wrote below a quick summary of things you should know about the Merle DNA.

If not, and you want to know more, I recommend you visit the website of Mary Langevin, who is probably the most knowledgeable person on this topic and the main source I used for this section.

Merle French Bulldog DNA: Quick Summary

  • The Merle pattern in French Bulldogs is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for producing pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes.
  • The bigger the size of the gene responsible for this mutation, the more significant the impact on the dog’s coat
  • There are six Merle and one non-Merle alleles – Mc, Mc+, Ma, Ma+, M, Mh, and m.
  • There are 28 combinations possible, each creating a wide range in Merle patterning.
Merle French Bulldog DNA & Phenotype
Merle French Bulldog DNA & Phenotype

Don’t you love how genetics can create such diverse and captivating coat patterns? 

I know I do! So, now you know the secrets of what makes a Merle French Bulldog truly “Merle,” it’s time to look at what they look like in real life.

What Are The Different Variations of Merle French Bulldog?

I don’t own a Merle French Bulldog; however, I can’t help but gush about their unique color variations. In this section, I’ll introduce you to some of the magnificent patterns and shades of Merle Frenchies, so get ready to be dazzled! 

Blue Merle

I have to start with the ever-alluring Blue Merle. With their stunning blue-gray coats and mesmerizing eye colors ranging from bright blue to dark brown, blue merle Frenchies are indeed a sight to behold.

Lilac Merle

My favorite, the Lilac Merle, has a breathtaking mix of light blue and soft purple hues. Their rare beauty makes them stand out in the Frenchie world. 

Black Merle

The mysterious Black Merle is the epitome of sophistication. Their coats have black, gray, and white patterns that give them a certain regal air that you won’t find in other shades. 

Pied Merle

Next, say hello to the playful Pied Merle! Their coat is a fun mixture of both solid-colored and merle-colored patches. With their creative patterns, they’re like works of art on four legs! 

Fluffy Merle

Let me introduce you to the Fluffy Merle, a rare gem among Frenchies. Imagine your favorite Merle French Bulldog with a long, flowing coat. Voilà! The Fluffy Merle! 

Fawn Merle

The Fawn Merle is the sunshine of the bunch, with its warm shades of brown, tan, and white. They’re perfect for anyone who loves earth tones and a more subtle sense of beauty. 

Chocolate Merle

Last but certainly not least is the Chocolate Merle. This delightful Frenchie comes with a tasty blend of colors reminiscent of delicious chocolate treats. 

What are the Health Concerns of Merle Frenchie?

As a fellow enthusiast, I can’t help admiring the unique appearance of Merle Frenchies. 

However, their beauty comes with a few concerns related to their health. 

In this section, I’ll discuss common health issues affecting these cuties and Merle-specific health problems. 

Let’s keep our furry friends in the best shape possible!

Common Health Issues

Merle Frenchies, just like other French Bulldogs, may face a few common health challenges. 

Their adorable smushed face, called brachycephalic, can sometimes cause breathing difficulties. 

But don’t worry! Regular check-ups and proper weight management can help our little friends stay healthy.

Another concern for all Frenchies is hip dysplasia, a condition that might lead to discomfort and pain. 

To address this problem, it’s essential to provide our pets with adequate exercise while avoiding excessive jumping or climbing that could strain their joints.

There are, obviously, other health issues impacting French Bulldogs.

However, I won’t address them all here as it’s not the goal of this article, but please know that they exist, and that’s why choosing a responsible breeder can help you to overcome most of these issues.

Merle Specific Health Issues

Now, when it comes to Merle-specific health issues, things get a little more complicated. 

The Merle gene may cause various problems involving their eyes and ears. 

For instance, our elegant little pals may experience unilateral or bilateral vision and/or hearing impairments.

This is due to the pigmentation patterns resulting from the Merle gene, which triggers abnormal pigment deletion in their coat and irises.

Don’t be alarmed, as this is where proper breeding practices and genetic knowledge come in. 

You probably have seen on other websites that breeding a Merle with another Merle is terrible as you will get a “Double Merle,” and “Double Merle” are prone to all sorts of issues.

Well, while this statement has probably done more good than bad among breeders who followed this rule, it is not entirely accurate and much more complex than that, as you can see in this chart below:

As you can see, this goes far beyond the Double Merle concept, and responsible breeders should consider this when breeding healthy Merle French Bulldogs puppies.

How Much Is a Merle French Bulldog Puppy Worth?

Oh boy, let me tell you about the price of a Merle French Bulldog

These puppies are a rare and unique variation of the famous French Bulldog breed, and their price tags reflect that. 

When I first discovered their cost, my wallet nearly gasped for air.

The traditional French Bulldog will average you back between $2,000 and $5,000. 

But prepare to shell out a pretty penny for those seeking a Merle French Bulldog Puppy. 

These particular pups can start at $5,000 and go upwards, depending on their rarity and specific coat pattern. 

Some rarest Merle Frenchies have even been known to fetch prices close to $30,000! 

Now that’s a pricey pooch.

So, why does the cost of a Merle French Bulldog soar above the rest? 

Well, Standard French Bulldogs are already expensive due to various reasons such as:

  • Popularity: Number 1 Breed in the US in 2022!
  • The difficulty of Breeding: They require C-Section and Artificial insemination
  • Breeder reputation & practice: Reputable breeders spend a lot of time and money to ensure the quality and health of their pups

If you add to that the complexity and rarity of the genetics of our dear Merle Frenchie, you will likely understand why they cost more!

The Merle French Bulldog is not your average-priced dog, but their unique coat and lovable personality make them worth every penny. 

So, if you’re considering adding one of these precious pups to your family, start saving up now and prepare to feel the love only a Merle French Bulldog can give.

Why Are Merle French Bulldogs So Controversial?

Allow me to tell you a little secret. 

Not all colors and patterns are met with open arms regarding our little Merle French Bulldog – a stunning pup that’s found itself at the heart of some doggy drama.

First and foremost, the fundamental issue with Merle French Bulldogs is that the Merle gene is not naturally present in purebred Frenchies. 

Nobody knows where it’s coming from; some speculate that it is from the Chihuahua, but nothing can be proven.

We know that the Merle mutation really happened only once in the history of the domestic dog.

Interestingly the American Kennel Club recognizes the Merle color in some breeds but not in French Bulldogs.

How is that possible? 

When the rules for the breed were closed in 1898, there was no Merle in the breed pool, or it was not detected at that time; hence the color was not listed as part of the official colors. 

Does that mean the color was introduced later by cross-breeding with another breed that carries the merle gene? Maybe! Maybe not! 

What we are sure of, though, is that cross-breeding happened at some time, but nobody knows when exactly.

And given the known health issues impacting the Merle pattern in all the different breeds, AKC has still not recognized the color since it was introduced or appeared in the French Bulldog breed.

I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed knowing this. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m a sucker for a cute dog, Merle or not. 

But the fact remains that breeders ignoring the genetics of Merle Frenchies increase the risk of severe health issues in their offspring, including vision and hearing problems. 

As someone who cherishes the well-being of our four-legged friends, it’s difficult to support breeding practices that knowingly introduce these risks.

Hopefully, like, I was stating for the Blue French Bulldog, the advance in genetic knowledge might open the door to accepting the Merle Frenchie as an official color for French Bulldogs.

There you have it, folks. The tale of the Merle Frenchie is filled with love, drama, and a dash of science – just like a good episode of my favorite TV show. 

But one thing’s for sure: no matter the coat; we can all agree that French Bulldogs are some of the most delightful companions one could hope for.

Merle French Bulldog: The Essentials

Now that you’ve read the article, you might be tickled by the unique appearance of these Merle Frenchies. I’d like to share a quick recap of the essentials, and don’t worry; we’ll keep it fun and light-hearted.

The Merle pattern in French Bulldogs is caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for producing pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes. Those mesmerizing eyes and intriguing coat patterns really make these Frenchies stand out in a crowd!

But before you sprint to the nearest breeder, bear in mind that Merle French Bulldog puppies can be quite an investment. They can cost between $5,000 and $30,000. Phew! That could buy a whole lot of dog treats, right?

So, if the enchanting Merle French Bulldog has captured your heart, make sure to do your due diligence before picking a breeder. I know these special pups are hard to resist, but ensuring they come from a reputable source will benefit you and the fluffball.

With great beauty comes great responsibility, so be prepared to provide extra care for these special pups. They may face potential health issues, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll be head over heels for your Frenchie, and they’ll be worth every penny.

If you still need to decide which Frenchie color to choose, why not look at my article on all the different French Bulldog colors available

Remember, whatever color you fall for, one thing’s for sure: life with a French Bulldog will be full of joy, laughter, and delightful snuggles. 

Happy Frenchie hunting!

Special Thanks: I wanted to give a special thanks to Sanni for her invaluable guidance and assistance in helping me write this article. She went above and beyond to ensure I had all the right resources and information to make it the best possible. If you’re a French Bulldog lover like me, I highly recommend following her on Instagram, where she shares a wealth of amazing resources and information about these wonderful dogs

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Merle French Bulldog?

A Merle French Bulldog is a French Bulldog with a unique coat pattern that features patches of diluted color.

How is the Merle Pattern created in French Bulldogs?

The Merle pattern is created by a mutation in the gene that produces pigments in the skin, hair, and eyes.
The mutation called SINE insertion in the SILV gene dilutes the base coat color and creates patches of lighter color.

Are Merle French Bulldogs purebred?

No, they are not purebred however DNA tests may not be able to detect ancestry beyond a few generations, so while a Merle French Bulldog may not be recognized as purebred by a kennel club, it is still a French Bulldog genetically.

What are the health risks associated with the Merle gene in French Bulldogs?

Some Merle genes are associated with an increased risk of hearing and vision problems.

How can you care For a Merle French Bulldog to minimize Health Risks?

To care for a Merle French Bulldog, it is essential to work with a reputable breeder familiar with Merle French Bulldogs’ specific genetics.

Are Merle French Bulldogs more expensive than regular French Bulldogs?

Yes, Merle French Bulldogs are more expensive than regular French Bulldogs due to their unique coat pattern and complexity of breeding.

Can you breed two Merle French Bulldogs together?

Breeding two visual Merle French Bulldogs together can increase their offspring’s risk of severe health issues, so it is generally not recommended. However, it is possible to safely breed two genetically Merle French Bulldogs, depending on their genotype.

What should you look for in a reputable breeder of Merle French Bulldogs?

A reputable breeder of Merle French Bulldogs should be able to provide health & genetic screening information and should prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs.

Photo of author


Alexandre is the owner of French Bulldogs Lovers. He has always been passionate about dogs and more recently about French Bulldogs since he became the proud daddy of Lola, his little Frenchie princess!

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