Beagles come in many different hound colors.  The typical hound colors and color patterns are of the colors/patterns of the Foxhound breeds.   In the last few years I have received pictures from owners and prospective owners of a new color pattern in beagles that has never been known to exist.  This new color pattern is being sometimes called "Norwegian blue", "Russian blue" and "leopard" beagles.   merleThey are actually an incorrect description of what appears to be a merle (dapple) patterned Beagle.  The dapple gene or "merle" gene has never been known or documented to exist in the Beagle color genetic pattern.  All of the genetic references do not list this color pattern as being one identified in the Beagle breed.  I have not had ONE beagle breeder in any other country, state they had seen a merle patterned beagle nor is this color pattern acceptable in any foreign registry. Repeat--Merle is not listed as an registration color pattern option with AKC or any other registry internationally.

The facts I have found in researching this "new" color pattern.
NO reputable breed club recognizes merle and has "merle" as a color pattern option. (if anyone knows of one please forward website and information to me) Also, spotted is different than merle!
NO research has shown merle to be found in beagles.
Many genetics labs directly say merle is not in beagles and should not be tested for it.
The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs by Clarence Little (grandfather of color coat genetics) p 129 research of 149 litters....All beagles recorded so far have been free of the merle gene.
The New Beagle by Judy and Anton Musladin MDs and Ada Lueke p.211--Merle-has not been observed in beagle.
"American Beagling" by G.G. Black, copyright 1949 (showing that merle was an unacceptable color in beagles going quite far back), page 222 when discussing the beagle standard:
"The specification for color, "any true hound color," tells the novice little, at best. By far the most popular standard color combination is the conventional black blanket trimmed with rich red-tan, with white running gear, throat, and underparts. The blanket may, however, be all red or tan, tan trimming may be replaced by fawn or lemon and all white areas may be ticked with either blue or tan."

These reputable testing labs do not include beagles in listing of breeds with merle
Breeds With the Merle Allele
The merle allele only occurs in a small selection of dog breeds. These include: Australian Shepherd, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Norwegian Dunker, Border Collie, Hungarian Mudi, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie (Rough and Smooth), Shetland Sheepdog, Dachshund (known as dapple), Beauceron (known as harlequin), Bergamasco, Pyrenean Shepherd and Great Dane
Merle is a coat pattern found in Australian Shepherds, Collies, Shelties, and a number of other dog breeds. Testing Is Relevant for the Following Breeds: American Cocker Spaniel , Australian Shepherd , Border collie , Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Chihuahua , Dachshund , Old English Sheepdog (Bobtail), English Bulldog, French Bulldog, Great Dane, Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie), Rough Collie, Smooth Collie, Pomeranian, Pyrenean Shepherd, Bobtail, American Staffordshire Terrier, Hungarian Mudi, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Norwegian Dunker, Beauceron, Bergamasco.
Breeds appropriate for testing: American Bully, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Australian Shepherd, Beauceron, Bergamasco, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Catahoula Leopard Dog, Chihuahua, Cockapoo, Cocker Spaniel (American), Collie, Dachshund, Dunker, French Bulldog, Great Dane, Koolie, Mudi, Old English Sheepdog, Pomeranian, Pyrenean Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Crossbred IMHO and with support from many other dedicated breeders from many countries..... The fact is that merle is a color pattern that has been introduced into the beagle breed by various untold means or reasons but it should not be promoted, prized, or bred for by guardians of our breed.

Many of the "merle " patterned beagles are being registered as blues. Blue white and tan with spots, blue tan and white with spots, blue tan and white with ticking or blue white and tan with ticking.  This is an incorrect color registration as they are not blues, but actually merles.  The "blue" color pattern does exist in beagles.  It is actually a recessive gene being expressed as they dilution of the black gene.  Blue beagles will have lighter colored eyes, a dark slate colored nose and a lighter color to their tan markings.  The pictures I have been sent of these blue beagles show a beagle with dark eyes, black noses and darkdappleadults pigment.  Many ads have stated that they are AKC registered, but some prospective owners were not given actual litter registration papers but were told that the papers were on their way to or from AKC.  One owner provided me with names of sire and dam and registration numbers, but AKC did not have any litter registration being processed for those animals.  This meant the papers were false and worthless. If anyone reading this does have an AKC registered Beagle that has this color pattern, I would love to get a copy of the AKC registration papers.  I asked AKC to initiate a genetic study of their backgrounds as this color pattern alone indicates a mix breeding at some point in the lineage. I have several quotes from hunting forums where beagles have been cross bred with dachshunds and catahoula leopard dogs to produce this pattern.merle

One owner, specifically said that these beagles were rare, and from Norway.  This owner implied that unless I was familiar with the Norwegian beagles;  I would not have adequate information concerning this new color.  I did contact breeders internationally as well as judges that Judge in Europe.  None had ever seen or ever heard of a Norwegian blue.  That includes a Norwegian breeder of over 20 years experience.  Her comment upon seeing pictures of this color of beagle was that it had to be a mixed breed and that pattern did not exist in Norway.  There is a totally separate breed that is recognized in Norway that is named, the Norwegian Dunker that does have a dapple marking.  This breed is very rare and is thought to have been developed by crossing with another breed. This is a separate breed, not a beagle and is not recognized by AKC.face

It is an accepted theory that these beagles do have some other breed in them, possibly two to three generations back that introduced this new color pattern.  It could have been totally accidental, or it could been done on purpose, that is the unknown factor.  The bottom line is that you should not spend large amounts of money for this new rare color beagle as it is probably actually a mix breed. 
The merle genetic pattern is a dominant pattern, which means one of the parents has to have a merle pattern.
You cannot breed two tri color beagles and get a merle. This gene could not have remained "hidden" for generations. So IF this gene had been in the beagle genetic pool we would have seen alot of the merle colored beagles for many decades.

It is my personal opinion that dedicated, educated, and responsible beagle breeders that are true guardians of the breed would not breed nor promote this new color pattern.

There are a number of significant health problems associated with the merle gene. Specifically, deafness, blindness and death are documented.   Breeding two merles can actually express lethal health problems.

Here is detailed information of some of the health problems noted in research.

"In a study of several merle breeds, merles with one copy of the M allele had a rate of 2.7 percent deaf in one ear and 0.9 percent deaf in both ears; double-merles had a rate of 10 percent deaf in one ear and 15 percent deaf in both ears. Interestingly, the rate in merle Catahoulas (5.9 percent) was lower than that in other breeds (for example, 9.4 percent in merle Australian Shepherds), and especially lower in double-merle Catahoulas (10.3 percent) compared to other double-merles (55.7 percent in Aussies and 85.6 percent in all other breeds combined). The lower incidence in Catahoulas may reflect the smaller amount of white Catahoula double-merles tend to have. Again, nobody knows why. Blue-eyed merles have no higher incidence of deafness than brown-eyed merles.

The merle allele like a couple other dilution factors when expressed in a homozygous state is correlated to psychological, neurological, and usually immunological issues. Here I will mention a few of the issues. The first are eye development problems that are superficial in nature affecting appearance such as heterochromia iridis (A difference of color between the iris of one eye and the other), thus a dog with one brown and one blue eye has heterochromia iridis. Note that this defect is not necessarily or always indicative of having the merle gene because it can also be found in dogs with extreme piebald or double blue dilution for example. In addition to superficial indicators there are also major effects such as absence of tapetum lucidum. Tapetum lucidum is a reflective substance that lines the back of the dogs eyes. This reflective structure acts like a mirror and reflects light back through the retina, like a satellite dish giving the retina two chances to catch the light. Dogs that lack tapetum licidum have night blindness or reduced ability to see in low light. Another defect is lack of retinal pigment and microphthalmia. Microopthalmia (smaller than normal eye) is described as dogs having prominent third eyelids and seemingly small eyes which appear recessed in the eye socket (enophthalmos). Another problem known as coloboma is actually a physical cleft in a portion of the eye, particularly the iris . In addition to the eyes which are a key indicator of neurological defects, there is also evidence for effects on the ears that result in reduction in auditory sensitivity or complete deafness because the merle color locus exerts epistatic effects on ear development. Excessive white or dilution in a dog of any color can be a warning sign of potential hearing problems. If there is no pigment in the inner ear the dog will be deaf; white ears are more likely to lack inner ear pigment.

Many double merle dogs are so defective that they do not survive to birth. (estimates are as high as 50% mortality in utero). Those that survive are the ones with "just minor" defects...minor enough to handicap rather than kill.

The Hannover Veterinary School in Germany conducted studies on Dapple (merle) Dachshunds. Their studies demonstrated eye problems, sperm imperfections, and hearing impairment. These problems were found in homozygous merles, and also heterozygous merles. Hearing faults, ranging from slight hardness of hearing to complete deafness, occurred in 54.6% of homozygous merles and 36.8% of heterozygous merles. As a result of these studies, in 1986 it was suggested that FCI restrict the breeding of merles on welfare grounds.

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