About Merle Cockers 


In thelate 1980's, a dog was bred to two cocker females and produced "merle"cockers.Now whether this dog was merle or the 2 females were merle wasanyone's guess.
Theowner of these 2 females registered the merle offspring to their sire asa cocker named Rusty Butch.. 

Becausethere was no DNA testing back then and no internet to ádvertise"these rare merles" on, they were quietly bred and sold  around theUSA for about 25 years.
ALLmerle cockers have been traced to one of these 2 breedings. Anyone elsewho claims their merles do not,  is a case of fudged papers....:-)

It wasn'tpopular until recently when the internet came into play and demand forthe unusual and/or the chance for higher prices 
encouragedsomebreeders to breed merle cockers.
Manymerle cockers now have champion pedigrees behind them and some are verynice quality.
Thereare still many that are not....

Roansand Merles ARE NOT the Same Thing

The AmericanSpaniel Club has not allowed this pattern to be listed as a legitimatecocker color/pattern because they feel it is not a spaniel color, nor sofar,
canit be traced back farther than the breedings which took place in the 1980's.Although this has been over 25 years, and rule of thumb, if a pedigreebreeds true for 5 generations, 
it ISconsidered pure-bred.
Therehave been rumours of other breeds introduced to this breed over it's inception,but the merle issue is the most volatile.
Becauseof this, right now, the AKC cannot allow merle breeders and owners to registertheir merle as a merle and in the past have strongly encouraged them toregister them as roan;
whichthey are NOT
Formore info on Roan, please visit my page (RoanCockers)

It isnot that merle owners are fraudulently misrepresenting their cockers byregistering them as another color, it's that AKC only has a list of acceptablecolors that ASC has given them. 
Unfortunately,it's not just the merle that cannot be correctly registered; there areother colors as well, which ARE acceptable colors that can be shown; 
butASC forgot to list these with AKC and these dogs colors and patterns alsocannot be registered correctly either.
suchas blue, blue and white and brown roan & tan as well as sable is notlisted correctly since it is a pattern and not a color as it is currentlylisted.

How Did the Merle Gene inCockers Come About?

Mostof us had come to the conclusion that this was an impure breeding thathappened many years ago, but recently, it has come to light that thereis a possiblity that merle COULD 
havebeen in the lines and mutated as scientists have found that all dogs carrythe merle gene, although in most breeds it is an unactivated gene: m (non-merle).
Somehave postulated that perhaps the m (non-merle) gene mutated into the M(merle) gene along the way, and this could possibly  be how the patternemerged in cockers; and because it was a mutation, 
it wouldhappen in just 1 dog, such as what happened in the 1980's.
Theyhave also proven that the M gene can also mutate back to the m (nonmerle)gene as well..

Therehave been several of us who have worked and researched diligently overthe past several years on the merle issue and have spoken with many ofthe old merle breeders as well as the new.
Therehave been many ideas and opinions shared on how the pattern came aboutin the cocker; many feel it was just an impure breeding that took placemore than 20+ yearsago.
Somefeel that since sable, white, buff and roan can often hide the merle pattern,this color could have been passed down for many generations before this,and there may have been a possibility
thatthis could have always been with the breed, although there has been nomention of it, so far.

Manyyears ago, a lot of show breeders when attempting to breed for a certaincolor, often would "bucket" any pup that had a coat color that was undesirable. 
Of course,this would not have been mentioned, as the breeder would not have wantedother breeders to know that particular color or pattern was in their lines. 

Therehave been some old black and white photos found in old cocker books thathave cockers that surprisingly appear to resemble the merle pattern, includingvery light colored eyes.
Of course,the dilute gene is a part of the cocker makeup, and a true dilute genecan also lighten the color of a dogs' eyes all the way to blue as well.
Butthis doesn't mean it carries the merle pattern. To confuse us more, merlealso causes dilution.

Becausecolor genetics were not well understood many years ago, many breeders mostlikely wouldn't have thought much about having a merle cocker, or somethingunusual;
especiallysince the cocker can come in so many different colors and markings as itis.

Merlerecently has been discovered to be found on the SILV gene which causesthe silvering in mice (and all dogs). 
Theyhave also stated that this is an ANCIENT gene. Since most if all, caninescame from basicly the same dogs, then it appears that they mean that themerle gene is present in all dogs.

TheLethal Gene Associated with Merle

Manyhave been hysterical over the merle gene carrying a lethal gene. 
Thelethal gene does not appear unless 2 merles are bred together.
Thenthere is also a chance the offspring will not all be afflicted.

Dogsproduced from 1 merle parent aren't any unhealthier, generally than anyother color. 
Theoffspring that are NOT merle from a merle parent are the same as any otherdog. 
Theydo notcarrythe lethal gene because they are NOT merle. 
Merleis NOT recessive, which means it cannot be carried hidden through generationsand then appear. 
Oneof the parents has to be merle in order to produce merle.
If oneof the parents are not merle, then there is NO merle. Period. The lethalgene is carried with the merle pattern ONLY.

Again-ifthe dog is not merle then there is NO LETHAL GENE.
Thelethal gene associated with the merle pattern is safe UNLESS it is doubledup with another merle .
It takes2 merle parents to produce the lethal gene.

Buying and Breeding Merles

Makesure the breeder you acquire your merle from is informed about merles.
Thebest way to breed merle is to breed to non-merle. Do not breed merle tobuff or sable or roan, as they can hide the merle pattern. (The idea isto produce the visible merle pattern, right?)
If youhave a dog out of a merle parent that you plan to breed, and you are notsure if it is a merle or not, then be safe and breed the dog to a non merledog. 
If nomerles appears in the resulting litter, then the dog is not merle.

Thereis now a merle test to see if your dog is merle. This can be found at:Genmark 
*UPDATE:Genmark has stopped the merle test because it is not accurate in ANY ofthe breeds
IDEXXcompany has now purchased the test and was offering it but now has sincestopped on Cockers as well, since results are not accurate.

Breedingmerle cockers is not for the uninformed, it is best to learn genetics andstudy dogs and their lines.
Thereare many merle cocker breeders who breed poor quality cockers in an attemptto make a fast buck, there are also others who 
breedvery lovely merle cockers who fit todays standand in type and function,the only thing unacceptable is the merle pattern.. 
Althoughthe American Spaniel Club is up in arms, there are many show breeders todaywho quietly own and/or breed merle cockers.
Merle,if bred responsibly, are often very pretty with unusual colors and markings,and can be as healthy or healthier, in some cases, as any other cocker. 
Manyother breeds have merle as part of their standard and have been breedingthem safely and successfully for hundreds of years. 
Learnfrom them. It applies to all.

For moreinformation on merle cockers and to read about the uproar from all sidesof the issue, please visit my 
websitethat I and a few others have put together.
MerleCockers-Fact or Fiction

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