Great Danes are one of the most eye-catching dog breeds. Standing over 30 inches tall and often weighing more than 100 pounds, their massive size is enough to turn heads on its own. But Great Danes also come in a variety of exotic colors and patterns that make them even more unique. One of the rarest and most striking Great Dane colors is lilac merle.
What is a lilac merle Great Dane?
A lilac merle Great Dane has a pale gray or “lilac” base coat with black patches or spots, giving them an intriguing mottled appearance. The merle gene causes random dilution of pigment in the coat, resulting in the patchy coloring.
In addition to their distinctive coats, lilac merle Danes often have striking blue or amber eyes. The merle gene can affect eye coloration and cause heterochromia iridis – two different colored eyes.
How rare are lilac merle Great Danes?
Lilac merle is very rare, even among Great Danes. The exact frequency is unknown, but this color and pattern is uncommon compared to more standard Dane colors like fawn, brindle, black, or harlequin.
To produce a lilac merle puppy, both parents must carry the recessive dilute gene (d/d) as well as the dominant merle gene (M/). Because two uncommon genes need to be present, the odds of breeding a lilac merle litter are very low.
Reputable breeders may specifically breed toward lilac merles, but cannot guarantee results even when both parents carry the genes. Much is left up to chance. As a result, lilac merle Great Dane puppies are scarce and draw premium prices when available.
Genetics behind the lilac merle Great Dane
Let’s take a closer look at the genetics behind this rare color:
The merle gene
The merle gene (M) causes the random dilution of pigment in the coat known as the merle pattern. One copy of the dominant merle gene (M/m or M/M) is enough to produce merling.
All black-based merle Danes (blue merle, lilac merle, fawn merle, etc.) inherit a merle gene from one or both parents.
The dilute gene
The recessive dilute gene (d/d) dilutes black pigment into gray (also called blue) pigment. Danes need two copies of the dilute gene to show the dilute phenotype.
Lilac merles inherit two dilute genes – one from each parent. This dilutes the black pigment in their merle pattern into lilac or pale gray.
The merle gene can also affect eye color. Danes with the merle gene often have marbled blue or “merle” eyes. The merle gene may also cause heterochromia iridis – one brown and one blue eye.
These stunning eye colors are part of the appeal of the lilac merle Great Dane.
Risks of breeding merle Danes
Breeding merle Danes like lilac merles does come with some health risks, mainly if both parents are merle (M/M x M/M).
Dogs inheriting two copies of the merle gene are often affected by impairments such as:
- Eye defects
- Skin disorders
For this reason, intentional breeding of two merle Danes is generally avoided. Responsible breeders will breed merles only to non-merles.
Lilac merles with one copy of the merle gene (M/m) have the same health risks as any other color merle.
The genetics behind the lilac merle Dane make their existence important for the breed. Unique colors and patterns like lilac merle promote genetic diversity and reduce the spread of inherited disorders.
For this reason, reputable breeders value rare colors like lilac merle to strengthen bloodlines – as long as they are bred carefully for health.
Finding a lilac merle Great Dane puppy
For those set on adding one of these unique Danes to your home, be prepared to patiently search for reputable breeders producing lilac merles.
Expect long waitlists and higher prices for this rare color. Breeders may charge $3,000 or more for lilac merle pups.
To find a breeder, ask Great Dane groups and clubs for referrals. Visit dog shows to connect with Dane aficionados. Search sites like the AKC Marketplace for upcoming lilac merle litters.
Once you locate potential breeders, screen them thoroughly. Visit their facility, meet the parents, check health clearances, and ask lots of questions to ensure they are ethical and responsible.
Avoid breeders who seem focused only on color over health and temperament. Lilac merle color should be a bonus, not the sole breeding goal.
Caring for a lilac merle Dane
Aside from their striking looks, lilac merle Danes have the same care needs as other Danes:
- Early training and socialization
- A quality diet tailored to their growth
- Daily exercise
- Access to shade and water
- Grooming and skin care
Their shorter coats are easy maintenance. Brush weekly to remove dead hair. Clean ears and wrinkles often to prevent infections.
Lilac merle eyes, especially blue eyes, are prone to damage from UV light. Use doggy sunscreen and sunglasses during outdoor activities.
As a giant breed with rapid growth, provide nutritious meals and supplements to support bone health. Keep puppies lean to avoid orthopedic problems.
Frequently asked questions
Do all lilac merles have blue eyes?
No, blue or odd-colored eyes are common but not guaranteed in lilac merles. Some have brown or hazel eyes. Heterochromia (two different eye colors) is also possible.
Do lilac merles have health problems?
Lilac merles are prone to the same genetic conditions as other Dane colors, like cardiomyopathy, bloat, and bone cancer. Buy from breeders who screen for these conditions.
Deafness linked to the merle gene is also possible, but reputable breeding minimizes this risk.
How big do lilac merle Danes get?
Like other Great Danes, lilac merles typically reach 100 to 200 pounds. Males are larger than females. Their ideal height is around 30 to 32 inches tall at the shoulder.
Are lilac merle Danes good family dogs?
Yes, with proper training and care, lilac merles have excellent temperaments for families. They are gentle, loyal, and affectionate. Supervision is still required due to their large size.
What is the average lifespan of a lilac merle?
The average lifespan of Great Danes is only 6 to 8 years due to their susceptibility to certain cancers and other health conditions. Responsible breeding from health-tested lines can help maximize longevity.
The bottom line
Lilac merle Great Danes are one of the rarest Dane colors. Their unique coats and captivating eyes make them highly desirable, but limited genetics make them hard to produce.
Working with responsible breeders is a must to find a lilac merle Dane puppy. While expensive and hard to find, they can make marvelous additions to the right homes.
Owning any Great Dane comes with substantial health risks and care requirements. Make sure you are prepared for giant breed ownership before seeking out any rare color.
With their short lifespans, it is important for lilac merles to be bred carefully to maximize genetic health. Reputable breeders balance breeding for unique colors with breeding for soundness and longevity.