SHCA's Policy Statement on Merle Siberian Huskies
The Board of Directors of the Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc. recognizes that the Breed Standard for Siberian Huskies states “All colors from black to pure white are allowed.  A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds.”  However it is our strong belief that “merle” markings (and the genetic health issues that are associated with the merle gene) are not genetically possible in the purebred Siberian Husky gene pool.  Therefore, it is our belief that a Siberian Husky exhibiting merle patterning is the result of impure breeding.  As such, the Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc strongly discourages anyone from purchasing or breeding a merle Siberian Husky.
(For more information, see article, below.)   


The Board of Directors of the Siberian Husky Club of America has approved the following descriptions of those colors and shades most frequently encountered within the breed. While slight deviations from these descriptions will be normal, recognizing that no two Siberian Huskies will be exactly the same color in every respect, it is desired by the Board that fanciers will attempt to adopt these guidelines when describing or registering their Siberians. It is the hope of the Board that greater uniformity of descriptions will result from adherence to these guidelines.

BLACK AND WHITE

Shades

Jet Black
Guard coat is solid black, the individual guard hair is monochrome (not banded) black from root to tip. Single white guard hairs appear occasionally. The undercoat is black or more frequently dark grey. The jet black coat is frequently accompanied by great depth of black pigment on pads and roof of mouth.

Black
Guard hairs are banded with some amount of white near roots. Single white guard hairs appear more frequently. Undercoat may be lighter than is seen in the jet black coat while some buff-colored hairs may be found in the lower stifle and in the vicinity of the ears. The dog gives the impression of having a black and white coat but without the depth of pigmentation found in the jet black and white coat.

Dilute Black
Guard hairs are banded with the whitish cast extending substantially from the root and tipped with black. Undercoat has a whitish cast. Dog appears to be black on head and along spine while shorter guard coat along flanks produces a silver effect.

GRAY AND WHITE

Shades

Silver Gray
Guard hair is banded with various tones of white and minimal black tipping. The undercoat is of a whitish cast. The effect produced is a silver shade of gray on head, back, and flanks, with only minimal darkening along spine.

Gray
The guard hair is banded with cream and/or buff tones near the root with black tipping. The light undercoat is toned to give the dog a yellowish-gray cast.

Wolf Gray
The guard hair is banded with buff tones near the root with black tipping. The cream tones of the undercoat combine to give the dog a brownish-gray cast.

RED AND WHITE

Always associated with liver points (nose, lips, and eye rims) and complete absence of black hairs. Light, medium, and dark may be specified, determined by the amount of solid color banding on guard.

SABLE AND WHITE

The guard hair is banded with a reddish cast near the root with black tipping. Undercoat is reddish-copper. Always accompanied by black points; this color gives the dog a reddish cast and is not to be confused with wolf gray.

AGOUTI AND WHITE

The guard hair is banded with black near the root and at the tip with a yellow or beige band at the center of the hair. Undercoat is very dark. Defined as the "wild color," it is most frequently seen in wild rodents.

SOLID WHITE

The guard hair appears to be either monochrome (not banded) or banded with pale cream tinges at the root of an otherwise white hair. An occasional black guard hair may appear. The undercoat is solid white. This coat color results from either an extreme piebald factor or an extreme dilution factor and may, as a result, be accompanied by either black or liver points.


SHCA’s Policy Statement on Merle Siberian Huskies

Merle patterning occurs in many breeds naturally, such as in Collies, Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattles Dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, etc., and in others it has been introduced, such as in the Chihuahua so why the concern now over merle Siberians? With the advent of the internet, widespread dissemination of information, both correct and incorrect is now possible. It has come to the SHCA’s attention that there are several websites that are advertising merle Siberian Huskies. Some of these dogs may be listed as merles while others are incorrectly listed as piebalds, but their photos show them clearly as merles. To help protect our breed from a serious health concern associated with the merle gene and to protect the unknowing public who may want to purchase a “rare colored” Siberian the SHCA has adopted a policy statement about merle Siberian Huskies.

What exactly is merle? Merle refers to the pattern in the coat not the color – it is a pattern gene, as is the piebald gene, NOT a color gene. The effect of the merle gene is to alter the base coat color causing lighter patches resulting in a speckled or mottled appearance (or pattern) to the base coat color. It may also affect the dark pigment of the eyes, paw pads and nose and it may occur with any color. The merle gene is NOT a dilution gene (which dilutes the entire base coat color as is the case of fawn or blue Dobermans).

How is the merle gene inherited?  Merle is dominant to non-merle (i.e. solid base coat). Dominant genes, signified by a capital letters, mask the effect of recessive genes, signified by lowercase letters. Merle is signified by a capital M and non-merle by a lowercase m. A merle dog only needs one merle gene (because it is dominant) to exhibit the merle pattern. “Genetically” it would be written as Mm. A non-merle dog would carry no merle genes and thus would “genetically” be mm. The major problems occur when two merle, Mm, dogs are bred together.

The merle gene can produce some very striking patterns so why does the Siberian Husky Club of America not want the merle gene introduced into our breed? First, from the vast photographic history of the breed there is no evidence that merle purebred Siberian Huskies existed or exist. Since the merle gene is dominant it could not have been “hidden” for all these years. By understanding these facts it is obvious that merle Siberians could only be produced by impure breeding, whether intentional or not. Second the genes that are involved in determining pigmentation and coloring also have significant effects on the development of eyesight and hearing. Dogs with just one merle gene do not seem to have major problems in this regard - but there is some evidence that even these dogs may be affected but just to a lesser degree that may be difficult to determine without specialized testing - but when two merle dogs are bred together there is a 25% chance that they will produce a double merle dog (“lethal white” or “double dilutes” are misnomers) – a dog that has two copies of the merle gene. The health consequences of double merle puppies vary from mild to severe and will not be apparent until the puppies are two weeks of age or older. Some puppies may be born deaf, some born blind and some born deaf and blind. Vision problems cover a wide variety of problems up to and including total blindness, small eyes or missing eyes altogether. Other eye conditions seen include eccentric pupils (also known as “dropped” pupil), underdevelopment (hypoplasia) of the iris so it is not able to function properly (often these dogs will squint in bright sunlight), and irregularly shaped (“starburst”) pupils. Other eye disorders are also possible. These health concerns may necessitate the need to euthanize a 2 week old or older, puppy.  The severity of these health issues CANNOT be predicted ahead of time!

So why not make merle a disqualification? Making changes to the breed standard is a lengthy and complicated process and making changes to the standard to make merle a disqualification would only prevent these dogs from being shown in the breed ring - they could still be registered and still compete in companion and performance events and most importantly they would still be able to be used for breeding (the white German Shepherd is an example of this – but please note there are no health issues associated with the white Shepherds).

So why not test for impure breeding? AKC DNA programs can only confirm the parents, and possibly grandparents, of an individual dog.  If it is found that the sire or dam could not have been one of the parents of the particular offspring that is all that can be determined – it CANNOT determine what breed the true sire or dam might have been. This is especially true if the cross happened back in the 3rd or 4th generation.  At least one DNA breed test lab’s (HealthGene) own disclosure statement states that the canine breed ID test is “not designed for use as a purebred or paternity verification test” and “it is not an established legal tool.” So at this time DNA testing is not sensitive enough to be used to verify impure breeding and to determine what breed might have been used for the breeding.

Due to the above concerns of impure breeding and the potential for serious health concerns when breeding merle dogs the SHCA has adopted the following policy statement:

The Board of Directors of the Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc. recognizes that the Breed Standard for Siberian Huskies states “All colors from black to pure white are allowed.  A variety of markings on the head is common, including many striking patterns not found in other breeds.”  However it is our strong belief that “merle” markings (and the genetic health issues that are associated with the merle gene) are not genetically possible in the purebred Siberian Husky gene pool.  Therefore, it is our belief that a Siberian Husky exhibiting merle patterning is the result of impure breeding.  As such, the Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc strongly discourages anyone from purchasing or breeding a merle Siberian Husky.  

Policy Statement Adopted by the SHCA Board of Directors, 04/2011.


Last update of this page: 07/2011.

© 1996-2011 Siberian Husky Club of America, Inc., All rights reserved


 Coat Color Identification Guidelines & Statement on "Merle" Patterning in Siberians