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How often does someone get a chance to see a red merle Border Collie?

In my book, they stand right next to the definition of beauty. A close-up photo of red merle Collies will show you all the beauty of this dog breed, and you’ll be stunned… trust me.

Sadly, we’re used to the fact that beauty always comes with a price.

Do red merles have a price to pay? Are they carriers of some health conditions? Is it too hard to find one?

Keep on reading and I’ll answer all your doubts about these Collies, the merle gene, and tell you whether you should or shouldn’t get one!

What’s So Special? The Red Merle Border Collie Explained

red Border Collie sitting on grassred Border Collie sitting on grass

A Border Collie with a red merle coat is a purebred Border Collie like any other, but with a lovely twist. The unique coat color of these dogs makes them truly one-of-a-kind pups.

Believe it or not, Collies fashioning this coat color weren’t popular at all. Their popularity began rising some ten years ago. It’s still growing, and we can finally say that red merle Collies are getting what they deserve: fame and all the love in the world.

Still, the first red merles date back to the 1940s, when the first ones appeared in Scotland. The coat color was off the radar for a long time.

We’re all used to seeing black and white Border Collies. It’s sort of a signature coat color for this dog breed. But, red merle is an official color, too, even though some breeds exclude merle dogs from their official line up.

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According to the official Kennel Club (the AKC), the official Border Collie colors are as follows:





blue merle



white and black

sable merle

white and red

red merle

white and blue merle

white and blue

white ticked

white and red merle


saddleback sable

Seal, slate, slate merle, and white and slate are not officially recognized.

Now that we have listed all the different colors of Border Collies, why don’t we discuss one of the prettiest, and one of the rarest of them all: the red merle Border Collie!

Appearance: How Good Looking Are These Collies?

red Border Collie running outsidered Border Collie running outside

Very good looking!

Red merle Border Collies are Collies fashioning a swirly pattern of two color combinations: red and white. This patterning can be found on the dog’s chest, feet, tail, and neck.

As you can see, the dog’s coat isn’t completely covered in this unique shade. There’s a base color (white), and the pattern comes over it.

However, red merles aren’t only merles in terms of their coat color. The merle gene is present in other parts of the dog’s body, usually in its blue eyes, and pink nose with red markings. Merle color genes are lovely, but they’re complicated to understand. We’ll get to them soon.

These Border Collies don’t differentiate from other Border Collies in terms of their size. They follow the same Border Collie chart for growth. The only difference is the color. They’re all dogs weighing up to 55 pounds, and standing tall at 18 to 22 inches at the withers.

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The coat type is double, so Border Collies will shed, unfortunately. Their coat can either be coarse or as soft as feathers.

In order to get this type of Collie, both parent dogs will need to carry the same recessive gene, and red is a recessive color. It’s a bit tricky to breed these pups, especially since recessive genes can be linked to some health problems.

Generally speaking, all colors are considered rare in this dog breed, with the exception of black and red, with white. This means lilac Border Collies, tricolor Borders, blue merle Border Collies, lilac merle Borders, brindle Collies, and red merle Border Collies, among others, will always be listed as rare colors by breeders.

Genetics 101: Decoding The Merle Gene

As I mentioned earlier, the merle pattern is pretty complicated, and it may cause lots of issues for our canine friends. Merle Border Collie puppies aren’t the only ones at risk. Other dog breeds, i.e., Golden Retrievers and Australian Shepherds can be carriers.

Still, breeds like German Shepherds don’t carry it.

The merle gene is the gene that dilutes the dominant coat color and creates the merle pattern.

You see, dogs like Border Collies sport two base colors – black and red. These colors may come up as either dominant or recessive. Black usually presents the dominant color, so red dogs will always be the minority.

To get a red merle Border Collie, only one side of the family should carry the merle gene, while the other should have the dominant color – red, in this case. The end result of mixing these two would be a puppy with a red and white base covered in patches of merle pattern.

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The eyes of these dogs are usually blue, as I mentioned earlier, but it’s not uncommon for them to have heterochromia (or differently colored eyes).

The genes game is truly twisted. Don’t be surprised if you see only one of the red merles within one litter. There could be others, too, but their merle gene won’t be visible.

We call such puppies phantoms (or cryptic merles). They may have only one tiny patch of merle, but they’ll still be classified as merle pups.

The most important thing about dogs with merle genes is to test them regularly. Also, the breeder must pay extra attention not to breed two merle dogs together, especially if there’s no visible merle gene.

You’d get a double merle puppy… something that no one wants because they’re susceptible to numerous health complications, i.e., deafness.

Pigment Progression: The Possibility With These Collies

Border Collies sitting on grassBorder Collies sitting on grass

It’s quite common for different dog breeds to change coat colors as they grow. This process happens because of pigmentation progression. However, the color change from darker to lighter isn’t that common with these Collies.

I mean… it can happen, but most often, it doesn’t.

This is just a quick heads-up for you if you’re thinking of getting a red merle Border Collie.

I usually advise people not to buy puppies for their coat color because it might change, but rather for their temperament and soundness. You can easily get this Collie and you don’t have to risk anything.

Chances for the color change are pretty low.

So, focus rather on getting the puppy with the finest health status and the sweetest temperament.

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Is The Red Merle Color Linked To Any Health Issue?

The Border Collie dog breed doesn’t usually suffer from any major health issue.

They’re herding dogs, also belonging to the category of working dogs. Their high-energy drive doesn’t allow them to lay around and do nothing, which means they’re quite fit. Serving as a sheepdog for many years really left an impact on these dogs.

But, even though they’re fit, Border Collies are still prone to some health issues.

The biggest problem for Collies is definitely Collie Eye Anomaly. This condition strikes all Collies, including our dog of the day.

Other conditions you should worry about are epilepsy, deafness, dysplasia, and Border Collie Collapse.

Since red merle is an official color that is recognized by the AKC, you don’t have to worry about any special condition linked only to this specific color. Red merle Border Collie puppies are completely up to their breed standard, and they don’t have a proneness to certain illnesses, unlike other Collies.

However, I do have to warn you to only buy red merle puppies from a trusted source in order to avoid getting a double merle dog. We all know how problematic double merles can get.

Squandering Or Not: Let’s Talk Money!

close shot of red Border Collieclose shot of red Border Collie

This is a rare coat option, so you can definitely expect a special price for red merle Border Collie dogs.

For starters, red merles aren’t easy to find, especially if you’re looking for a premium breeder (which you should be).

No matter if you’re looking for a family pet or a show dog, chances are you’ll need a nice, big budget for this Border Collie.

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Usually, these dogs go for $1,000 to $3,000 and more. Given the fact that they’re difficult to produce, the price is reasonable. It takes a lot of time and patience, as well as nurturing to raise a pawfect red merle Border Collie!

Final Words

People usually wonder if they should get a red merle Border Collie. They’re used to seeing black and white dogs, or red dogs with white markings. But, merle… they usually run away from it.

I see no reason why you shouldn’t get this color option. They’re exactly like any other Border Collie! They’re energetic, sweet, good with kids, love water games, chilling at the end of a hard day, and showing affection!

All in all, red merle Border Collies are terrific buddies, and you’ll see that once you get your own unique red merle puppy!

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By Andy Marcus

Hello, my name is Andy Marcus, and I am a passionate dog lover and enthusiast. For me, there is nothing quite like the joy and love that a furry friend can bring into our lives. I have spent years studying and learning about dogs, and have made it my mission to share my knowledge and expertise with others through my website. Through my website, I aim to provide comprehensive information and resources for dog owners and enthusiasts. Whether it's training tips, health and nutrition advice, or insights into dog behavior, I strive to create a platform that is accessible and useful to everyone who loves dogs.

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