Merle Great Dane Guide: Everything You Need To Know

The Great Dane has seven coat color patterns which include Black, Fawn, Harlequin, Brindle, Blue, Mantle, and Merle.

In this article, we will go into more detail on the Merle Great Dane, what they are, their health, personality, color variations, and their cost.

A Merle Great Dane is a coat color and pattern variation of the Great Dane. On appearance, the base coat is a pale to dark grey which is covered with dark marks. The dark marks are distributed all over the body and vary in shape and size,

The Merle coat color is a result of the merle gene which is also present in other dog breeds which includes Border Collies, American Bullies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, Welsh Corgis, and other breeds.

merle great dane

Can a Merle Great Dane be AKC registered?

Yes, the Merle Great Dane can be AKC registered. Since 1st of January 2019, the American Kennel Council (AKC) recognizes and accepts the Merle Great Dane as one of the Great Dane breed’s standard colors and which can also compete in the American Kennel Club’s conformation shows. 

What Makes A Merle Great Dane? : Merle Great Dane Genetics

The Merle Great Dane comes from the breeding of two Harlequin Great Danes. A puppy litter from this breeding produces 1-2 Merle puppies. 

Merle Great Dane puppies can also be produced from the breeding of a Harlequin Great Dane and a Mantle Great Dane.

Eight genes are associated with the coat color characteristics of a Great Dane. The merle gene is among these genes and is responsible for the merle coat color and eye color of a Great Dane when it is dominant or expressed.

A Great Dane puppy inherits two-color gene copies, one from each of his/her parents. The Merle Great Dane puppy comes from the combination of a merle gene (M) and a non-merle gene (m). 

This is referred to as heterozygous (Mm) from the acquisition of two different gene alleles, that is, one non-merle gene and one dominant merle gene (M). The puppy presents with a merle coat color pattern because of the presence of a dominant “M” allele and a negative “m” allele which is represented as “Mm”.

If a Great Dane puppy gets two copies of the dominant merle gene (M), this is referred to as homozygous (MM) or a double merle Great Dane.

A puppy can also acquire two non-merle genes (mm), one from each of its parents. They will carry these two copies of the non-merle genes and will not appear to be merle.

In addition to the coat color characteristics, the merle gene also contributes to eye color. Merle Great Danes usually have blue eyes, sometimes one blue eye, one brown eye, or two brown eyes.

What is a Double Merle Great Dane?

A Double Merle Great Dane occurs when two Great Danes with dominant merle genes (M) are bred. This presents a 25% chance of occurrence of puppies that will be homozygous for merle (MM) or commonly referred to as double merle. 

The puppies are homozygous which means inheritance of the same allele (M) from both parents. 

Double merles have partial or completely white coat colors with blue or pale blue eyes. 

They face a lot of health issues which includes eye and ear impairments.

Due to the health concerns of merle to merle breeding, this kind of breeding is not recommended.

Breeders use genetic testing before breeding to avoid the production of double merle Great Danes.

Merle Great Dane Colors

The Merle Great Dane coat color comes in different color pattern variations depending on the merle gene’s length which gives variations in the coat color intensity and pattern.

The merle color pattern consisting of a dark grey base coat with dark markings is the standard merle coat pattern. 

The gene that produces merle coat color is used as the standard gene length with which other merle genes that produce the different coat variations are compared. 

These merle coat color patterns variations include:

Blue merle Great Dane (dilute merle).  Compared to the standard merle gene, the blue merle has a shorter merle gene. The blue merle’s coat has a subtle grey base coat covered with black or blue markings. 

Learn all about the blue merle here: What is a Blue Merle Great Dane? 

Brindle merle Great Dane is also produced from a short merle gene which produces a coat color pattern that is a combination of the Merle and Brindle pattern. The coat pattern is marked by multi-colored stripes in brown, black, red, and grey from the brindle coat.

Chocolate Merle Great Dane has a tan to brown base coat that is covered with red or chocolate irregular. They are similar to Fawn Merle Great Danes.

Fawn Merle Great Dane has a tan or brown base coat with merle spots all over the body. The spots may appear to be black but they are merle. 

Mantle Merle Great Dane’s base coat is a white base coat with grey or silver spots all over the body.

Merlequin Great Danes have a white base coat, covered with irregular merle spots and black markings. They are sometimes mistaken to be Harlequin Great Danes because of the slight similarity. This merle coat color is not accepted in the American Kennel Club conformation shows.

Cryptic merle (phantom merle) comes from a shorter merle gene but shorter than the blue merle’s gene. The coat color is a subtle grey base coat with black markings whose appearance can be mistaken as one solid color but it still has a merle pattern. 

The Merle coat color descriptions and illustrations that the AKC conformation championships allow can be found here.

Merle Great Dane Size

Are merle Great Danes smaller? No, Merle Great Danes are not smaller compared to the other Great Dane color variants. The Merle Great Dane’s coat color does not affect their size or growth as a Great Dane dog. They grow to the standard average size of the breed.

This is a height of 32 to 34 inches for an adult male Merle Great Dane while the female Merle Great Dane reaches 28 to 32 inches tall.

The male Merle Great Dane weighs 120 – 200 pounds while the female dog is between 100 – 130 pounds. 

Merle Great Dane Temperament

The Merle Great Dane’s Temperament is similar to the Great Dane breed’s temperament. The coat color does not cause personality differences compared to the Great Dane breed characteristics.

Generally, Great Danes are gentle, affectionate, people-oriented, friendly, sweet-natured, loyal, and protective dogs.

Their size might be intimidating but they love being around people and are very friendly. Hence the name ‘Gentle Giants’. 

 The Merle Great Dane has these personality traits. 

Their temperament is also shaped by training, socialization, good care, and nurturing. 

Merle Great Dane Health Issues

Sadly, the merle Great Dane is susceptible to certain health issues because of its coat color.  

Research studies have shown that the merle coat color is related to its health status. 

The merle gene has been linked to causing eye and ear deformities, leading to partial or complete blindness or deafness. The gene is also linked to sun sensitivity and skin cancer.

This does not mean that Merle Great Danes are unhealthy and all suffer from these health conditions. They are healthy Great Danes. 

Although Merle Great Danes are susceptible to these health issues, they do not necessarily develop them.

Double Merle Great Danes (MM) are the dogs that are more likely to have these health issues compared to single Merle Great Danes (Mm). This is why merle to merle Great Dane breeding is avoided due to health issues that they will have.

Double Merle Great Dane puppies also have a lower chance of survival in a litter and are more sickly compared to single merle Great Danes.

Read more on this: Do Merle Great Danes have more health problems?

In addition to these gene-specific health issues, the merle Great Dane is also susceptible to the Great Dane breed’s common health problems which include: 

  • Hip dysplasia

  • Dilated cardiomyopathy

  • Wobblers syndrome

  • Bloat

  • Cancer

Also although a Merle Great Dane is susceptible to these common Great Dane health problems, they do not develop all of these ailments.

The understanding of the possible diseases helps one to know how to care for a Great Dane to keep them healthy as well as avoid buying sickly puppies from puppy mills due to unethical breeding practices.

A Merle Great Dane life expectancy is 7 to 10 years and some may live longer up to 12 years.

Are Merle Great Danes rare?

Merle Great Danes are not rare because they can be produced from two Harlequin Great Dane breeding or Harlequin and Mantle Great Dane breeding. Some Merle Great Dane variations such as the blue merle can be less common compared to a solid merle or other merle variations in a puppy litter. 

Some breeders can charge more for a merle Great Dane or other merle coat color variations by labeling them as rare, however, you should not pay more. 

Always buy your Merle Great Dane puppy from a reputable breeder to ensure you get a fair price based on the average Great Dane price. 

So what does the Merle Great Dane cost?

The average cost of a Merle Great Dane is between $1000 and $2500 which also depends on the breeder and their location.

A reputable breeder will provide a puppy’s health history, including all tests and screens for different health conditions.

This ensures that your purchase is a healthy merle Great Dane puppy that was properly bred.


The Great Dane has different coat colors that are all unique. The Merle Great Dane is one of these colors which also comes in different variations. 

Understanding more about the Merle Great Dane helps you to better care for them and what to expect based on their personality, health status, and what they need to be healthy.

Overall, they are friendly and affectionate Great Danes, the only difference being their distinct coat color.

Finally, when considering buying a Merle Great Dane, always ensure to buy your puppy from a reputable breeder to avoid buying a sick puppy due to unethical breeding practices and to also purchase at a good price.

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