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Merle Pug: Facts, Origin, & History (With Pictures)

Written by: Beth Crane

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

Black and grey Merle pug puppy with one blue

Merle Pug: Facts, Origin, & History (With Pictures)

Pugs are excitable, cheeky companions that are famed around the world for their unique appearance. They are popular in all their main colors, including black, tan, and fawn, but there have been Pug breeders that have started introducing merle coloring into the breed. Merle Pugs are rare, and how a pug gains its merle coloring is interesting and complex. In this article, we’ll explore how Merle Pugs came to be and what owning one looks like; read on to discover all there is to know about the mischievous dogs.

Breed Overview


10–13 inches


14–18 pounds


13–15 years


Black, tan, brown, grey

Suitable for:

Families looking for a loyal companion, those knowledgeable about brachycephalic breeds and their health needs


Loving, bright, curious, mischievous

Merle Pug Breed Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


The Earliest Records of Merle Pugs in History

Pugs were first bred and honed into perfect companion dogs around 400 BC, making them one of the oldest breeds of dogs in the world. They were first bred in China, and the flat-face dogs were the chair warmers and close companions of Chinese royalty and the elite. Everyone in the upper circle of society, from Tibetan Monks in their temples to Emperors in their Palaces, the Pug was so revered that they had guards and servants of their own!

The Pug was then picked up by Dutch traders entranced by their princely wrinkles, which resemble “王, “the Chinese symbol for “prince,” and transported them over to Holland and England.

Then, the breed was refined and resided with British celebrities and royalty. In 1740, the Freemasons formed the secret “Order of the Pug” club due to their love of the breed and as an homage to the Pug’s loyalty. Finally, in the 19th century, the Pug made its way to America, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1885.

Merle pug puppy with one blue eye
Image By: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock

How Merle Pugs Gained Popularity

Pugs were always bred to be the ultimate companion dogs right from the beginning. They were immediately popular when the breed first emerged in China, and their lovable faces made them a curiosity to the traders who shipped them to Europe. The Pug began to take off in England when the monarchy adopted the breed, with Queen Victoria owning several and passing them down the family line.

In the US, the breed was slow to gain popularity. However, with the founding of the Pug Dog Club of America in 1931, the Pug has slowly crept up the ranks.

Formal Recognition of Merle Pugs

Pugs as a breed were first recognized in 1885 by the American Kennel Club, and the Kennel Club (UK) followed in 1918. However, only the following colors were accepted by each club:

  • Black
  • Fawn
  • Apricot
  • Silver

Merle is not a recognized color in any of the major kennel clubs because it does not occur naturally in the breed as it does for others (like the Cardigan Corgi).

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Top 4 Unique Facts About the Merle Pug

1. Merle Coloring is Genetic

For a dog to be the dappled pattern we call merle, it must inherit two “merle” genes. The merle gene is semi-dominant, meaning only one must be inherited from a parent to produce a merle coloring.

2. Merle Pugs Can Have Health Issues

If a dog is a merle, there is a small chance it may inherit some health issues. For example, in most merle dogs, the chance of deafness is increased by around 1%. However, if a dog is a “double merle” or inherits a merle gene from both parents, it will have a significantly higher chance of being fully deaf. In addition, double Merle Pugs can also be born with eyes much smaller than normal (called microphthalmia), which can leave the dogs blind. These health issues are why breeding merle dogs is a controversial topic, and kennel clubs will never register a double merle dog.

Merle Pug puppy with one partially blue eye looking at the camera
Image By: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock

3. Merle Coloring is Rare

Because of the genetics involved in breeding Merle Pugs, they’re rare. Because you can’t breed a merle to a merle, only some of a litter of Pugs from a merle and a “normal” color will be merle themselves. Pugs also often have trouble giving birth, so the number of puppies could be less than those of another breed.

4. Merle Pugs are not Pure Bred

Because Merle is not a pattern that’s naturally seen in Pugs, all merle pugs will not be purebred. Instead, merle has to be bred in from a breed that can pass on the merle gene, and two purebred Pugs will not be able to produce a merle puppy.

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Does a Merle Pug Make a Good Pet?

Merle Pugs can make loyal, loving, and carefree pets to the right owner, as long as the owner is aware of and able to deal with some of the potential illnesses they can have. Merle is a beautiful patterning, but it can cause deafness in some dogs and even blindness in “ double merle dogs.”

If your Merle Pug was bred responsibly, these problems are less likely to occur. Pugs have other well-documented health issues due to having flat faces, including breathing and eye problems. However, owners knowledgeable about what the breed needs regarding care and exercise can have a fun-loving and loyal companion in the Merle Pug.

Blue eyed merle pug puppy
Image By: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock



The Merle Pug is an anomaly in the dog world since the breed does not usually carry the patterning. Merle is a genetically inherited trait that must be bred into Pug lines from other breeds that can pass the gene on naturally. If they are bred responsibly, merle dogs often live normal and happy lives without health issues. Regardless of the controversy surrounding them, Merle Pugs make excellent pets for responsible, caring owners.

Featured Image Credit: Virginia Blount, Shutterstock

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