White German Shepherds
The white German shepherds foundation dog
The first white German Shepherd to appear on the show circuit was a dog named Greif who was shown at two shows in Hanover in 1882 and 1887. Years later Max von Stephanitz, the father of the German Shepherd Dog as a recognized breed, saw and fell in love with a German Shepherd named Hektor Linksrhein. Von Stephanitz purchased him immediately. This dog, which was then given the name Horand by von Stephanitz, became the first dog registered in the German Shepherd Dog Registry in Germany. This dog was also the grandson of Greif, carrying the white recessive gene. White German Shepherds appeared in subsequent litters, with Horand’s grandson Berno v.d.Seeweise registered as the first white shepherd in the German national registry. Von Stephanitz, in his well-known book on German Shepherds, decisively concluded, “The coloring of the dog has no significance whatsoever for service.”
In later years the Nazi party took over leadership of the German Shepherd registry, quickly moving to discourage all efforts to breed white German shepherds. They believed there were two major problems that resulted from continuing to breed white German Shepherds. First, they thought that the white gene was responsible for causing genetic issues within the breed. Second, they also believed that the white gene was responsible for causing a general lack of dark pigmentation in the breed, thus ‘fading’ the coat colors of the tan and black shepherds. (Later work in the field of genetics has proven that the white recessive gene causing the white coat color masks the dog’s coat color; it does not cause fading or discoloration in subsequent litters.)According to reports at that time, numerous German Shepherd puppies born with white coats were summarily slaughtered. From that point on, there are no “official” records of the existence of white German Shepherds in Germany. White puppies still show up in the breed in Germany today, as the genetic trait can be passed down by a dog with standard coloring. But since white dogs are not registered, there are no official records that they even exist.
White German shepherds in the United States
Following the American decision, in 1980 the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada requested that the Canadian Kennel Club disqualify white dogs from conformation shows. The Canadian Kennel Club refused to do this, however, and for years white German Shepherds were shown in conformation rings. In 1998, however, the Canadian Kennel Club finally banned white German Shepherds from conformation shows altogether.
In England, fanciers of the white German Shepherd took a different approach to keeping white German Shepherds in the show ring. Developing a separate breed standard, they approached the United Kennel Club with a new standard and registry for white German Shepherds. Accepted by the UKC in 1999, white German Shepherds may be shown at conformation shows as a separate breed.
Appearance of white the German shepherd
As far as appearance, white German Shepherds are typically solid white with a medium length coat, although a light cream color is also acceptable. These dogs are not albinos. Albino dogs have no pigment, giving them an almost translucent skin and pink or blue eyes; other than that, they are completely white. White German Shepherds typically have pink or black skin, with gold or brown eyes and dark noses. The recessive gene which causes the white German Shepherd’s coat color masks the dog’s normal color; a white German Shepherd can produce standard color offspring. A male should be approximately 24″-26″ tall at the shoulder, with the females 22”-24.” A typical dog should weigh between 75-85 pounds, with the female weighing 60-70 pounds.
Discrimination Continues Even Today
Today, German Shepherd breeders come down on both sides of the issue. Some believe that the white color is inconsequential: The dog is the same dog, no matter what color the coat. These breeders understand that the white recessive gene causing the coat color has not been proven to be linked to any medical problems. Other breeders still hold to the belief that the recessive gene is connected to genetic problems within the breed and still continue to cull such white German shepherds out of their breeding program.
Fans of the German Shepherd Dog can educate others about the misconceptions about the breed such as the white coat variation. Perhaps this will eventually lead to an outcry over the discrimination against white German shepherds based solely upon coat color.