Why Rare Colored and Merle Bulldogs?

There has been an ongoing controversy regarding the intentional breeding of the “rare colored” and merle English Bulldogs. You may be asking why?

I began breeding Bulldogs in 2006 and can’t imagine a better breed. They are everything I want in a breed. I have always preferred red brindle when it comes to color, but that is my preference. We all have them.

When the rare colors began emerging I was horrified. It wasn’t that I disliked the black and black tri Bulldogs that I was beginning to see. Some of them we stunningly gorgeous dogs. But, in my mind, they were not purebred Bulldogs. To get the beautiful black and tan the breeder must have out crossed to a Rottweiler, Doberman, etc… These dogs were being sold at a premium and weren’t even purebred! It was horrible! The breed was being diluted and the buyers were being conned. I was morally offended.

It took me awhile to decide to become rational. In 2016 I finally decided that I was going to look into these “rare colors” and began researching. I quickly realized that I had been wrong. Maybe not entirely, but I found that there are, indeed, ethical breeders who put years and untold funds into genetic research.

This is what I found:

The black and tan, or black tri, had always been in the Bulldogs DNA. Always. However, somewhere along the line it was decided that black and black tris were “undesirable”. So, a preference. I have read that since they are “undesirable” when a puppy was born with these colors they were spayed or neutered and sold to pet homes. Now, looking at this from a genetic standpoint, if there were no 100% purebred black or black tri English Bulldogs reproducing that the color would soon disappear. And it did, for the most part. Occasionally, an “undesirable” puppy would still come into the world, but it became more and more unusual. It became a rare occurrence.

In more recent Bulldog history some breeders decided that they actually liked the look of black and tan on a Bulldog. They began breeding for it. And doing research into how to increase the production of these Bulldogs that they preferred. In their research they found that there were other colors hidden even deeper in the Bulldog genetics.

By nearly eliminating the black gene from the gene pool, blue, chocolate and lilac were nearly eradicated. Blue is derived from selectively breeding two black Bulldogs which carry varying other colors in their DNA. Once blue was pulled back up into the gene pool, further research showed that from the blue chocolate could be derived. From the chocolate came the lilac.

Once the colors of the dogs began to appear something else happened. Merles. I thought surely, these had to have been outcrossed. Merles?! Merle has also always been there. Why didn’t we see it? Because it doesn’t show in red or white dogs. Red is the dominant gene in red and yellow coated dogs. It had been there the whole time, only hidden.

I learned that these were all genes that already existed in the Bulldog. Through selective, knowledgeable and intentional breeding as well as years of work the colors that are considered “fad colors” were saved from being extinguished because they were considered “unfashionable” decades ago.

In my research, two other animals came to mind. Arabian horses and Saanan goats. There are no black Arabian horses. They were considered to be bad luck. If one was born it was immediately killed. The black gene was eliminated from the gene pool. Something similar occurred with the Saanans. Saanans are supposed to be white. Occasionally one would be born that had colored spots. The herd owner would be embarrassed to have such a kid in their flock as it would appear that their herd was not purebred. Like the Arabians, the kid would be killed at birth. But something different happened in this case. A group of Saanan owners got together and realized that these colored goats were purebred Saanan, just with color. A genetic anomaly, probably much like the colored Bulldogs. They decided that, rather than killing otherwise perfectly healthy kids, that they should introduce a sub-breed. The Sable Saanan.

During my research I came to the conclusion that rather than these “rare colored” Bulldogs being outcrossed abominations to the breed, they were in fact carriers of endangered genetics and should be cherished and bred for if only to keep them in existence.

Am I saying that all the rare colored Bulldogs are purebred? Absolutely not! There are likely those out there who, lacking morals and/or the funds to legitimately produce the rare colors are outcrossing to accomplish something similar. There are also whose who have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon looking for a big payday. Between these two types of breeders you will find dogs of lesser quality and likely lesser health.

I am still looking into the fascinating aspects of these things and as my knowledge becomes deeper I will update this article. If I have misunderstood the nuances, I will correct these as well. In the meantime, I will do my part to preserve the rare colors by producing beautiful, quality rare colored, 100% purebred English Bulldogs.

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