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Merle Great Dane: Breed Info

Merle Great Dane: Breed Info

You probably already heard about the Great Dane. They are the largest dog breed in the world. However, that doesn’t have to worry you — they are basically gentle giants. These dogs are friendly, sweet, goofy, and affectionate. But what makes the Merle Great Dane stand out?

So, the Great Dane comes in many color variations: Fawn, Brindle, Black, Harlequin, Mantle, Blue, and Merle are the seven standard colors recognized by the Great Dane Club of America. The Merle Great Dane is often confused with the Harlequin Great Dane by people who are unfamiliar with this dog breed.

While you’re already here, you can read more about Great Dane mixes:

Merle Great Dane – What to know

So what does ‘Merle’ even mean? If you never heard of a Merle dog before, you might not be sure what to expect. Merle is not actually a color, but instead a pattern. They usually have a light coat with dark grey spots or splotches all over it.

Merle coats are visible in a number of different dog breeds, such as Australian Shepherds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Welsh Corgis, American Bullys, and others!

So, merle can also refer to a different color palette. They can have a color combination of grey, blue, white, or black coats.

However, a base grey color is the standard marking of a Merle Great Dane.

So, the easiest way to differentiate Merle Great Danes from Harlequins is that Harlequin Great Danes have a white base coat with black spots. Interestingly enough, Merles are often produced from Harlequin litters.

But, how are Great Danes bred? The answer is — on accident. As silly as that sounds, Merle Great Danes are most commonly produced while breeding Harlequin Great Danes.
The only genetic difference between these two is a gene that creates the grey base color in Merles.

Blue Merle Great Dane

So, while breeding two Harlequin Great Danes, litters end up having one or two Merle pups as well. The same can be expected when breeding a Harlequin and a Mantle Great Dane.

At one point in history, breeders actually tried to eliminate the Merle gene. They were selecting their breeding choices with the goal to eliminate these adorable dogs and their adorable coats. But luckily, they weren’t successful at this!

Color variations

The Merle Great Dane comes in a number of different colors and coat patterns. While the base grey color with black spots is the most common one — other combinations are possible too. So let’s list them, shall we?

Merlequins have a white base coat, with irregular merle or grey spots and splotches. They are often mistaken as Harlequins, depending on the color combination.

Brindle Merles have a more distinct pattern, as it is a combination of the traditional Brindle and Merle pattern. The Brindle pattern is marked by multi-colored stripes.

Mantle Merles have a white base coat, similar to Mantle Great Danes. However, the Mantle Merles have silver or grey spots all over.

The Blue Merle Great Dane is not literally blue. They have a very light grey base coat that is often described as being silver. On top of that, they have spots and splotches of a darker grey color with blue undertones.

Fawn Merles have a brown or tan base coat with merle or grey spots all over it. Do not confuse them with Fawn Harlequins. They have a white base coat with tan spots.

Chocolate Merles are pretty similar to Fawn Merles. They have chocolate-colored spots all over their coat.

The White Great Dane is produced when the dog has two merle-genes, one from each parent. These dogs are all white, with an occasional spot of a different color. This is the rarest coloring of a Great Dane, and their nose and ears are usually pink.


Like we already said — Great Danes are gentle giants. They are soft, sweet and friendly dogs. Even though they may look a bit intimidating due to their size, that’s actually not the case at all. They are very affectionate and love to play around or just spend time with children. They are very loyal and want to please their owners.

Even though they are the largest dog breed in the world, Great Danes believe that they are lap dogs. So prepare yourself for being squeezed.

They are great around strangers as well! These are sociable and all-around very friendly dogs. They will greet your visitors, but also protect you if they feel the need to.

Danes also love being lazy and just relaxing with their family. But, even though the Great Dane sounds like the perfect dog for everyone. They aren’t.

Now, the main reason for this is their size. They really need a lot of space. So, a big house and a big yard. They aren’t really the outdoor type. Great Danes prefer being inside and cuddling with their family.

Health of the Merle Great Dane

As beautiful as these gentle giants are, they are prone to certain diseases. Unfortunately, a Merle Great Danes is very likely to have a number of health problems including congenital deafness.

But, in addition to that, they may experience other health issues as well, such as:

  1. Cardiac diseases
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Bone cancer
  4. Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  5. Hip Dysplasia
  6. Bloat

But, deafness is definitely on top of that list! So, the lifespan of a Great Dane is unfortunately quite short too. They live between 7 and 10 years.

Double merle

When talking about Merle Great Danes we have to mention the term “double merle“. Double Merles are a result of bad breeding practices, most commonly known as spot x spot breeding. For Great Danes this could be Harlequin x Merle, Harlequin x Harlequin, Merle x Merle, any Quin x Quin and any Quin x Merle breeding.

Breeders will do that in order to get a Merle coat pattern. But the issue with that is that double Merle dogs have many health problems. The most common are hearing and vision impairments and in some cases complete blindness and deafness.

So, this is why it’s important to buy your Great Dane from reputable and trustworthy Great Dane breeders. Make sure the person you buy your dog from has all the needed documentation, especially proof that the puppy got all the needed vaccines and health check-ups.

Some of the dog breeds that carry the Merle Gene include:​

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • American PitBull Terriers
  • American Staffordshire Terriers
  • Australian Shepherds
  • Beauceron
  • Bergers des Pyrenees
  • Border Collies
  • Cardigan Welsh Corgis
  • Catahoula Leopard Dogs
  • Chihuahuas
  • Collies
  • Dachshunds
  • German Collies
  • Great Danes
  • Hungarian Mudi
  • Mixes/Designer Breeds
  • Norwegian Hounds
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Pomeranians
  • Shetland Sheepdogs
My name is Katy and I am 27. I love to travel and you would be surprised how good I am at karaoke. 🙂 Passionate dog lover and a "mother" to a beautiful toy puddle named Zara. I work as a volunteer in a local shelter and I am a veterinary assistant helping our four-legged friends every day.