The Revival of the Blue MerlesAccording to Thelma Gray, the pre-war merles were all good looking, short coated and typical, but they came from Miss D.F. Wylie's Geler stock exclusively.
Miss Wylie commenced to breed and exhibit Welsh Corgis in 1928. It was her fixed conviction that the Cardigan type represents the old original Welsh Corgi from the Bronant district. Bronant is a little village in the center of Cardiganshire, about seven miles from Aberystwyth, and in this remote and wild district Corgis have been bred for work for many years by generations of farmers and cottagers, their principal use being that of driving cattle and the Welsh mountain ponies. It is from this district that Miss Wylie obtained her foundation stock, which she considered to be of the purest and oldest Cardigan type.
It is said that Miss Wylie was a very wealthy lady but a recluse who never sold any puppies or let anybody use her dogs at stud making it thus very difficult to acquire a good blue merle.
After the war it appeared that Miss Wylie had lost the strain that produced the blue merles and for several years it seemed likely that the merle Cardigans had vanished for ever.
But, according to Thelma Gray (quote from the CWCA year book 1962)
"The colour suddenly cropped up again, dramatically enough, on both sides of the Atlantic. In California, a brother to sister mating (the pair being bred from solidly red and brindle stock) produced beautiful merles, much to everyone's astonishment and delight.
Shortly afterwards, in 1953, a Mr. Jones, of the Taxicar prefix, bred a litter which contained a nice red dog with one wall eye. (There was nothing very odd about this. That great Cardigan pioneer, the late Mr Griff Owen, showed a beautiful wall-eyed red bitch at the Crystal Palace in the breed's early show days*.) Mr. Jones put a tricolour bitch to his dog "Minor" and the litter contained a beautifully coloured merle dog, Samswn Bach. There is, therefore, no mystery about Samswn's antecedents, even though he was not an especially good Cardi, being rather on the leg, and small and pointed in ear. Against this he had a perfect coat and a nicely shaped, triangular head. He was the first blue merle to be shown in this country since Miss Wylie's Ch. Geler Caressa and Ch. Geler Cledwyn.
All my life I have longed for a merle Cardigan, so I decided to try to re-establish the merles. I wanted Samswn's exquisite colouring, but not his faults. The obvious step was to buy a very good tricolour bitch to mate with him, in order to follow the geneticist's rule that one should never mate reds or sables to merles if merles are sought. But at the time tricolours were very scarce, and I failed to find a good enough female to make a start. I already had some bitches of other colours, having acquired Goldie of Greenfarm (litter sister to Ch. Lisaye Rebecca of Greenfarm), a red/white, and her brindle daughter, Rozavel Cariad by Ch. Withybrook Caesar, plus Cariad's daughter by Ginger of Rode; the latter was light red/white. I put the two young bitches to Samswn, several times, and as expected, got mainly light reds, some with one or two wall eyes.
The wall-eyed bitches were mated back to their merle sire, sometimes without the desired result, but one thrilling day in September 1956, Brithwyn produced two well-marked blue merles, male and female. The dog was triumphantly registered Rozavel Blue at Last, but the bitch unfortunately died. Blue at Last is the firm foundation from which all present day merles in this country have come. Unlike Samswn he was ultra-low to ground, ideal size, perfect coat, head with large rounded ears. His mouth was not level, and he never passed on this fault, but because of it he could not be shown. He proved prepotent even to the extent of siring a good merle from a red bitch with no known merle blood - a rare occurrence - and he sired and grand-sired many winners.
Some people like one colour and some like another, and naturally there are those who do not care for merles while others think them beautiful, but it is beyond dispute that taken as a whole the merles are very typical."
Thelma Gray was very successful in breeding blue merle Cardigans and in three generations bred the three bitches:
Ch. Rozavel Blue Rosette
(Rozavel Blue At Last x Rozavel Blue Mist)
her daughter Ch. Rozavel Blue Tinsel
born 16.12.1963 (by Rozavel Trecwn Stanhope)
and granddaughter Ch. Rozavel Blue Lamp
(by Rozavel Blue Flashlight ex Rozavel Blue Tinsel).
These Cardigans were not only good coloured merles but typical Cardigans as well. From their names it is obvious that repeated merle to merle matings have taken place. In many countries this is no longer allowed because blue merle x blue merle can result in so-called "whiteleys" who can be deaf and/or blind. Blue merles may therefore only be mated to tricolour or black and white (with brindle).
Double merle (whiteley)
*) A so-called "wall eye", i.e. a blue eye in a non-merle dog, does not automatically indicate that the dog carries the merle gene. There is a type of blue eye that follows a different pattern of inheritance. It is genetically the same sort of blue eye found, e.g. in the Siberian Husky.