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ADBA Merle Color Pattern Policy

By May 16, 2016December 8th, 2016ADBA Position Statements

About The ADBA

Merle Color Pattern Policy


The merle gene has existed in the history of ADBA registered dogs, but breeders who used the dogs for their historic ‘genetic task’, found there were genetic flaws with dogs that have this color pattern. These dogs were culled, and not used as breeding stock. The ADBA recognized the fact that dogs with this merle color pattern were present in the breed, but they were not identified as ‘merle’. Most breeders described this color pattern as spotted, mottled or incorrectly as brindle. In 2001, with the development of ADBA’s“ACCEPTED TERMS TO DESCRIBE COLORS”, the term ‘merle’ was added to more correctly identify this color pattern.

Because of the popularity of the breed and loss of ‘genetic task’, we have noticed a trend to develop innovations within the breed for marketing purposes. We are finding that the once rare ‘merle’ color pattern is being sought after and bred for. We feel that this can be detrimental to the soundness of the breed as a whole in the light of current research which links the merle color pattern genetically with health defects.

It has been rumored that irresponsible breeders striving to create a new designer color ‘to market’, have gone so far as to cross other breeds into their American Pit Bull Terriers to produce the merle color pattern in their lines. Because of this, the merle color pattern, which was once rare because of genetic health flaws that are associated with this gene, are showing up in our breed.

It is every breeder’s responsibility to breed animals that reflect breed type and soundness of health and structure. It would be irresponsible to breed to a dog that does not possess these essential attributes. Because of the history of our breed as being a peformance dog, the American Pit Bull Terrier has developed into one of the soundest of dog breeds. This is due to the fact that dogs with genetic flaws could not perform their ‘genetic task’ except with great handicap. We must at all costs, maintain the breed’s stable temperment, and be diligent in our selection of brood stock. This will insure that future owners of the American Pit Bull Terrier have a dog with minimal genetic health problems, so the future enjoyment of this breed will be insured.

The American Dog Breeders Association Inc. is committed to the betterment of the breed and the promotion of the positive aspects of the American Pit Bull Terrier. Because this is our pledge to owners and breeders of ADBA registered dogs, we have no recourse but to close registration privileges to American Pit Bull Terriers identified as having the merle color pattern. As of February 21, 2005 single registration of dogs with the merle color pattern will no longer be accepted. The registration status of merle dogs already in the studbook will not be affected. We will be conducting an investigation into the pedigrees of dogs described as merle in our registry to find where in the dog’s parentage this color pattern came from or if the color pattern has been incorrectly identified. Any questions arising from these investigations will be handled on an individual basis. The registration of merle puppies in a litter from ADBA registered dogs with the breeding date after February 21, 2005 will no longer be accepted. Litter registration of non affected pups from registered dogs containing the merle color pattern can continue to be registered, as the merle gene being dominant will always be expressed and can be identified. It is our recommendation that all merle pups born in a litter should be spayed or neutered and placed in pet homes only. Full disclosure of the potential health problems that can result in these dogs, should be made to their pet owners.

The purpose of the conformation shows is the selections of quality brood stock. Conformation judges are selected for their knowledge and years of experience in judging breed type, correct temperment and physical soundness in the breed. In the past, dogs of all colors were considered equal in the show ring. With the information that we now have concerning the genetic issues with dogs possessing the merle gene, we will be instructing conformation judges to consider the merle color pattern a serious fault, in the category of ‘Over All Appearance’.

With this position and new information to the fancy, we know responsible breeders will take every measure to rid this genetic flaw from our breed’s gene pool.

For More Information about merle Click Here