Colours expected in an ethically bred litter.
If you read the Great Dane Standard, there are 6 official colours (we use the UK Standard). These colours are the ones people can show and what they breed for. They are:
- Black (solid black dog with very little white allowed on toes and chest)
- Blue (solid grey dog with very little white allowed on toes and chest)
- Fawn (golden dog with black mask on face)
- Brindle (golden dog with black mask and tiger-like stipes on body)
- Harlequin (white dog with torn black patches or torn blue patches)
- Mantle (black dog with white muzzle, neck, chest, legs and tail tip)
These are the show colours. They are, however, not the only colours that can arise from ethical breeding. In harlequin breeding another colour will be produced, Merle. This is a lovely mottled grey base with torn black or blue patches on it. Many people believe there are health issues related to a merle. This is not true. Not any more than with any of the other colours.
Merle is an ethical colour, a true colour of the Great Dane. Without it there can be no harlequin, since a harlequin is merely a merle with an added (H) gene that “bleaches” the mottled grey white to make the white background of the harlequin. In other words, if merle carries health defects, then so does harlequin.
The problem is not the colour merle. The trouble is the double merle. These dogs have sensory defects (blindness and deafness). Therefore ethical breeders refrain from breeding two harlequins or two merles or a harlequin and merle. All of the above will result in a portion of the litter being double merles. They are usually very white or white with merle patches on them.
In a blue harlequin litter there could also be blue mantles as mantle is part and parcel of the harlequin breeding colour package. The merles from that litter could be lighter grey with torn blue patches.