Where Did Merle Come From?

The question of where merle came from in Poodles begs the question of where Poodles originated. There are two schools of thought on the former question- and some very heated debate - but the truth is that one knows for sure. Some believe that the gene was added in the last few decades but there is simply no evidence to back that theory. We do know that it is not at all uncommon to change up a bred by adding something in. So is it possible that merle was added. Sure, it is possible. 


However, most genetic experts will tell you that the M locus exists in each and every breed. And we know that every single dog has a common ancestor. Therefore, it makes sense that in the ancestry of every dog there is merle. 


We know that merle is not always obvious. It is a dominant gene, therefore not carried. However, a dog can be DNA merle and no visibly show it. It was once thought that only light colored dogs (cream, apricot, red) hid merle. It is now understood that darker dogs can also be DNA merle and not physically display it. There is no reason not to think that it could have been passed down through the line and not noticed. 






We also know that is has historically been common and acceptable practice to cull a pup that wasn’t “perfect breed standard”. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that merle could have snuck through unnoticed in lighter colors as well as darker dogs who didn’t display the pattern. And the dogs that did demonstrate the pattern were killed. 


The same people who think merle was added reject the possibility that brindle and phantom were added. But again, there is no long historical evidence that brindle and phantom was in the breed when the poodle book was closed. Brindle could have come from the Dutch Shepherd.  Phantom could have come from the Doberman Pincher. 


And merle could have come from the Hungarian Mudi (closely related to the Puli and Pumi), which is said to have been one of the breeds responsible for the development of the Poodle. 


Written in Mudi – ‘An Old and Rare Herding Breed from Hungary’

Ria Hörter states (June, 2010) that, “... the early history of the Mudi is more or less the same as those of the Pumi and the Puli.” https://caninechronicle.com/dog-show-history/remembering-our-past%E2%80%8E/mudi-an-old-and-rare-herding-breed-from-hungary/.   And the Mudi commonly come in merle. https://hongaarseherdershonden.nl/mudi/?lang=en. 


As does the Pumi http://old.eaap.orgPrevious_Annual_Meetings/2009Barcelona/Papers/07_Rozsa-Varszegi.pdf

and Barbet



Purebreds were inbred and line bred for many generations from dogs with desired traits to come up with what we now call a purebred.  We know that the expectation for various breeds have changed over the years. It also varies from country to county and continent to continent. And people have added outside blood into the breeds to get what they want. 


It is also a fact that IF (which seem unlikely) something were added to get the merle pattern decades back, that after 4-5 generation if the poodle is bred back to the poodle it should DNA test as 100% poodle. Like phantom and brindle, they are patterns, that though they cannot show in AKC, they can and are now honestly registered. 


What we want to be careful about in all of the debate is to not diminish the quality of the Poodle to its color alone for they are so much more. Poodles carry themselves like stars. It’s like they know they belong in the ring. Perhaps that is why color is so important to a lot of people. Poodles are stunningly beautiful. But it esthetics. 


And there is so much more to a Poodle than color and/or pattern.  They are playful, animated, humorous, intelligent, highly trainable, athletic, sensitive, social, intuitive, elegant, agile, graceful, trainable, people pleasing, sensibly protective, and peace seeking etc... 


Colors can be fun but the reason to get a Poodle goes far beyond esthetics.There is so much more to the qualities of a Poodle. Colors and patterns are simply, “icing on the cake.”