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Merle Boston Terrier: Facts, Origin & History (With Pictures)

Jeff Weishaupt

By Jeff Weishaupt

merle boston terrier

The Merle Boston Terrier is one of the liveliest dog breeds. Initially bred as fighting dogs, these terriers have evolved as the best companions for humans, especially kids1. These dogs have a strong but compact build and big, round friendly eyes. However, most Merle Boston Terriers suffer audio-visual impairment.

The Merle Boston Terrier is one of the rarest breeds of Boston Terriers. You may know these dogs as “harlequin” or “dapple” for their stylish white, black, or brindle “tuxedo” coats. But it can also be grey, lilac, or blue due to mutation. Their unique features are the square head and short muzzle.

If you want to adopt a Merle Boston Terrier, you should know its history, origin, and interesting facts to make the right choice. This guide focuses solely on this dog breed, so let’s discover everything!

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The Earliest Records of the Merle Boston Terrier in History

The history of Boston Terriers dates back to 19th-century England when blood sports were quite popular. During this time, terriers were crossed with bull breeds to create dogs proficient in fighting. The first cross was reported in the late 1860s in Liverpool between a bulldog and a white English Terrier (now extinct), producing a tough, strong dog named Judge.

Sometime later, Judge’s owner sold the dog to William O’Brien, who brought them to Boston, America. O’Brien then sold the Judge to Robert C. Hooper in 1870, who was also a Bostonian. Due to this, Judge became known as “Hooper’s Judge” in the breed’s history.

Soon, Judge became the first Boston Terrier and the ancestor of all the true Boston terriers. According to a historian, Judge was a high-stationed dog with a muscular build, weighing about 32 pounds. He had a white-striped face, dark brindle, and square head. The dog resembled the recent Boston Terrier due to its even mouth.

Judge was then bred to Burnett’s Gyp, a little white female dog owned by Massachusetts’ Edward Burnett. The dogs gave birth to Well’s Eph, and the generation continued in Boston’s American history. As far as the Merle Boston Terriers are considered, their parents must be a merle dog and a Boston Terrier. The Merle trait originates from the Silv gene1.

merle boston terrier puppy_
Image Credit: JStaley401, Shutterstock

How the Merle Boston Terrier Gained Popularity

In the early 80s and 90s, the Merle Boston Terriers were bred for violent dog fighting. They used to be bigger and sturdier than today’s Boston Terriers. In fact, these dogs were also classified as “military dogs,” with a terrier named Sgt. Stubby taking part in WWI. Stubby was the first dog stationed overseas.

However, the Boston Terriers went through selective breeding and transformed into compact, sweet dogs. They were more friendly than the aggressive and violent dogs from Judge’s era.

Despite the “Terrier” in their name, Merle Boston Terriers are now “non-sporting” dogs. They are specifically known for their affectionate nature, making Merle Boston Terriers the perfect pets. In fact, these dogs also make the best therapy companions for humans. They help their owners overcome depression and feel more lively with their energetic nature.

Formal Recognition of the Merle Boston Terrier

Merle Boston Terriers grew in numbers in Boston; hence, they started to be recognized by the city. In 1891, the Boston Terrier Club of America was established. After two years, the American Kennel Club (AKC) registered the first Boston Terrier as a unique dog breed.

Even decades later, Boston Terriers hold the same recognition and importance in their hometown. This dog breed remained the official identity of Boston University for 100 years. Not only that but they were also named the official dog of Massachusetts in the 1979’s State Legislature.

Divider 1Top 7 Unique Facts About the Merle Boston Terrier

Merle Boston Terriers make everyone fall in love with them with their unique tuxedo coat, friendly smile, and lively aura. But these dogs are much more than what meets the eye. Here are seven fun facts about Boston Terriers to help you know them better:

1. They Love Humans

These dogs are incredibly people-oriented and love to play with children and adults. They need considerable attention from their owners to stay happy.

2. They Are Super Intelligent

When training a Boston Terrier, you’ll see how quickly they learn and adapt to tricks. That’s because these dogs are super smart and intelligent.

3. They Require Lots of Playtime

Since Merle Boston Terriers are energetic dogs, they need a good amount of playtime or exercise with their owner. They love to play frisbee and walk in the neighborhood.

4. They Are Brachycephalic

Merle Boston Terriers are brachycephalic, meaning they have a broad nose, small jaw, and short coats. As a result, they are less tolerant of freezing cold temperatures and more vulnerable to overheating in hot weather.

5. They Can Be the Best Entertainers

A Merle Boston Terrier is a friendly, lively, and entertaining dog breed. If not their nature, the tuxedo coats of these dogs are enough to give off the vibe of an entertainer!

6. They Are Nicknamed Harlequin, Dapple, or American Gentleman

The dogs got the nicknames because of their stylish looks, cool tuxedo coat, gentle nature, and breeding history in the US.

7. They Have Been Presidential Dogs

Boston Terriers, especially Merle Boston Terriers, have been popular pets among many former US presidents, including Warren G. Harding and Gerald R. Ford.

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Does the Merle Boston Terrier Make a Good Pet?

Every dog breed needs proper care to stay happy and healthy. Merle Boston Terriers make the best pets because they have minimum food, shelter, and exercise requirements. When keeping these dogs as pets, you’ll find them quite energetic and alert to their environment. They need to go for a walk almost every day to stay fit.

These dogs also need proper nutrition to be fit and energetic. Therefore, it’s the responsibility of every dog owner to care for all their pet’s needs adequately. Here is what it feels like to own a Merle Boston Terrier:


The beautiful, lively eyes of Boston Terriers require special attention. You should regularly check them for irritation or inflammation. It’s better to carry saline eye drops with you and frequently flush out dust from the dog’s eyes.

You should also take your Merle Boston Terrier for regular checkups for serious eye issues, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and corneal ulcers. Boston Terriers are also vulnerable to patellar luxation, breathing difficulties, deafness, and visual impairment.

The National Breed Club recommends the following tests for Boston Terriers to ensure their optimal health:

  • Patella Evaluation
  • BAER Testing
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation


Although short, the Merle Boston Terrier’s coat does shed a little. You’d have to brush your pet weekly with a soft brush, grooming mitt, or a hound glove to remove excess hair from their body. Brushing also encourages hair growth and balances the skin oils throughout the dog’s coat.

Merle Boston Terriers require occasional bathing, except if they become really dirty in the mud. Besides, you should also trim their nails regularly, as long nails can cause difficulties with walking.


The Merle Boston Terrier’s exercise needs vary from one dog to another. Some are good with brisk walking once a day, while others need playtime daily to stay energetic.

However, these dogs don’t exercise on their own. They may just sit at a place. Remember, prolonged alone time may make Boston Terriers frustrated or stubborn. So, play with your pet and help them practice obedience exercises. You can also make your dog participate in canine sports, such as flyball, agility, and obedience, to keep it active.


Like every dog breed, the Merle Boston Terrier requires early socialization and puppy training. Introduce your puppy to different places, people, and environments to help them develop adaptability and manners. You can also include delicious dog treats in your Boston Terrier’s training.

Never be harsh with your Boston Terrier. These dogs are sensitive, so always be gentle and keep praising them.


Merle Boston Terriers happily eat high-quality dog food, no matter if it’s homemade or commercially made. But it’s recommended to consult a vet before giving anything to your dog. The professional will also suggest you the ideal diet for your pet’s age.

Some Merle Boston Terriers can become overweight, so you should check your pet’s daily calorie consumption and weight. Don’t give too many sweets to your terrier, as it can cause obesity. Always stay in touch with your vet to determine the best diet plan for your Merle Boston Terrier.

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Merle Boston Terriers are one of the rarest breeds of Boston Terriers. They have a “tuxedo” coat, round eyes, and a square head. In the early 80s and 90s, an American named William O’Brien brought a Boston Terrier, “Judge,” from England to America.

Merle Boston Terriers are happy-to-go, friendly dogs with no special requirements. Make sure to visit a vet frequently to keep your pet healthy!

Featured Image Credit: Jumpstory

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