Monday, March 19, 2012

Really "Nutty" About Merles ? ?

The first time I saw a blue merle Collie was at a horse show in Bucks County, PA.  With the bravado of a teenage boy, I asked the people if they planned it or if it was an accident.

Interestingly the first champion I finished, which was co-owned with my mother, was the blue Ch. Windsong Dealer's Choice.  He was bred by Ginnie Benderly and a double grandson of Ch. Gaylord's Mr. Scalawag (a CC of A winner) being by Ch. Cherrivale Darn Minute out of a blue Scalawag bitch.  He probably would have finished more quickly, but I was a young, inexperienced dinosaur back then!

At the CC of A at Rochester, NY in 1976 I won with the blue merle, Ch. Gingeor's Indelibly Blue, in what was to be my last dog show weekend.  All this will let you understand that I do not have a prejudice against blue merle Collies.  "Hair" as Ch. Indelibly Blue was known, was the first blue to win the CC of A in years and may have been the first American bred blue to do so.

Blues were a somewhat rare commodity when I got started in Collies.  Mrs. Browning of Tokalon had a line of blues and Mrs. Illch's Bellhaven had success with some as well.  Edith Levine of Glen Knolls and several others showed some blues, but sable and tris were the big winners as a rule and stayed that way for years.

There were blues out west as well.  Glen Twiford, Billy Ashenbrenner, and Hilda Richebauch all showed some blue merles with success.  Hilda offered the Blue Banner Trophy to promote more interest in the color.  During those years, however, the sables and tris were, for the most part, the dogs who won and consequently were used for breeding.  People like Steve Field (Parader) or Fred, Madge, and, later, Oren Kem (Lodestone) did not keep blues at all.  For one thing the public (like the teenage dinosaur) didn't think they looked like Collies and there was also concern in some quarters of the affect of dilute genes on the health of the breed.

For years the Collie standard described whites as being marked with sable or tri, because of the problem of sorting blue marked whites (perfectly sound) from the double-dilute blues which often had hearing and/or vision problems.  The same concern may exist today over sable-merles being bred to other merles (either blue or sable) resulting in serious health issues. Collie rescue groups sometimes get these sad dogs when people no longer wish to put up with the problem.

In the Collie standard under color it plainly states that there is no preference between sable, tri, blue merle or white.  It also says that under white-sable, tri and blue shall be preferred as markings, but doesn't mention any other choices.  So why suddenly do we have a yearning for blue merles?  Why do we want them badly enough to breed to a blind dog (in a breed trying to overcome vision problems) so we can get a whole litter of blues?  Do some folks fail to realize that our goal should be to produce litters of quality starting with good health and good temperament not color-coordinated puppies?

I suspect that blues appeal to show going folks because they need less makeup than sables and tris.  That may be wrong, but we can breed blues without going off the deep end to do it.  Blues from a tri to blue mating can be just as lovely as from any other combination and sound as a rock health wise.  Why would anyone wish to chance sacrificing the well being of part of a litter to get a certain color when our standard says there's no preference?  Perhaps what we really need are more good tricolors who are so useful.  Besides being used in breeding blues the tri can also intensify the color of your sables thus saving on makeup.

If you think I'm on a crusade against blues or out to get someone, guess again.  My days as a breeder ended long ago so I have no puppies to sell or studs to promote.  My need for speaking engagements is long since passed.  Having turned down several good judging assignments recently there's nothing to motivate me there either.

My motivation is really quite simple.  I love the Collie and have for over sixty years.  If I can do anything to benefit this breed and cause people to think carefully about how they approach breeding, showing, or any aspect of the dog game, it's my pleasure to do so.  
Think About It!


  1. Excellent! Thank you for saying what many think...but do not have the courage to speak up.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to challenge those who are still breeding to think about their actions and the collie as we know and love them.