Berger Blanc Suisse
White Shepherd Dog
White Swiss Shepherd Dog
White German Shepherd
White German Shepherd Dog
Weisser Schweizer Schäferhund
By Michael Handley – ©Handley 2006, 2007 - email firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to reprint
The Berger Blanc Suisse (White Swiss Shepherd) or Weisser Schweizer Schäferhund recently emerged from white coat lines of the German Shepherd Dog breed as a separately recognised breed. Currently, this breed is only recognised by the FCI or Federation Cynologique Internationale (English, World Canine Federation) and the North American UKC or United Kennel Club, but more efforts are being made by fanciers to give the breed worldwide recognition as a separate and distinct breed from the German Shepherd Dog.
Several separate breed club associations around the world advocate for the White Shepherd dog breed type. Globally, the specific White Shepherd breed type name varies slightly depending the sponsoring breed club’s country language and the naming conventions of kennel clubs that recognize the breed type.
In the United States and Canada the White Shepherd breed type is known under the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized White Shepherd breed name. The North American White Shepherd breed lines were separately developed by breeders associated with the American White Shepherd Association (AWSA) and United White Shepherd Club (UWSC) breed clubs in the United States and the White Shepherd Club of Canada (WSCC) breed club in Canada.
In most other countries worldwide, the White Shepherd breed type is known under the World Canine Federation (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) (FCI) recognized White Swiss Shepherd breed name. White Swiss Shepherd is the English translation of the FCI’s official language Berger Blanc Suisse breed name. The Swiss Kennel Club, in association with the Swiss White Shepherd (Berger Blanc International) breed club, was the first to petition FCI for recognition of the new White Shepherd breed type. FCI designated the Berger Blanc Suisse a new breed type of Swiss origin effective 01 January 2003. The Swiss White Shepherd breed line was developed in Switzerland using white coat German Shepherd dogs imported from the United States and Canada to Switzerland during the 1970’s and 1980’s.
Worldwide, regardless of the specific name recognized by a local national kennel club, the White Shepherd dog breed type is a recent and entirely separate breed specialization of its white coat German Shepherd dog ancestor.
During the last decade of the 20th century breed clubs around the world independently refined several lines of the White Shepherd breed type out of the German Shepherd dog breed gene pool. The recessive gene for white coat hair was cast in the breed gene pool by the late 19th and early 20th century breeding program that developed and expanded the German Shepherd Dog breed in Germany. It is a historical fact that a white herding dog named Greif was the Grandfather of Horand von Grafrath, the dog acknowledged as the foundation of all contemporary German Shepherd Dog bloodlines. “Der Deutsche Schaferhund In Wort Und Bild" ("The German Shepherd Dog in Words and Picture") written by the recognized father of the breed, Rittmeister (Cavalry Captain) Max von Stephanitz, in 1921 included a photo of a White German Shepherd directly descended from Horand. 
Information provided in early books on the German Shepherd Dog, such as "The Alsatian WoIf Dog" written by George Horowitz in 1923 , as well as "The German Shepherd, Its History, Development and Genetics" written by M. B. Willis in 1977, make mention of Greif and other white German herding dogs, with upright ears and a general body description that resembles modern German Shepherd Dogs, shown in Europe as early as 1882. The early 20th century German Shepherd breeding program extensively line bred and inbred "color coat" dogs that carried Greif's recessive gene for "white coats" to refine and expand the population of early German Shepherd Dogs. From the very these direct ancestors of the German Shepherd Dog forward to the German Shepherds of today, the recessive gene for white colored coats has been carried in the DNA of the breed.
White puppies, in some percentage, are born to dark colored German Shepherd parents when both the male and female partners of a mating pair carry the recessive gene for "white coats." The dark coat puppies in such litters will also carry, in some percentage, the recessive white coat gene. When only one partner of a mating pair carries the recessive white coat gene, white puppies will not present in litters, but the dark colored puppies inherit, in some percentage, the recessive white gene. When both the male and female partners of a mating pair have white coats the entire litter of puppies will have white coats.
In 1933 the parent German Shepherd breed club in German rejected white coats as a "defective" breed trait when it elected to adopt an exclusively “wolf-like” breed coloration standard. After WWII German Shepherd breed clubs in countries around the world increasingly adopted the exclusively “wolf-like” coloration breed standard of the parent German breed club. Once adopted, breed club members were required to never intentionally breed dogs that carry the recessive gene for white coats.
Because the German Shepherd dog breed club standard governs the color of German Shepherd dogs that may compete in national kennel club sponsored dog shows, such as the prestigious AKC affiliated Westminster Kennel Club dog show in the United States, white coat German Shepherd dogs were barred from such events in the United States starting in 1959, and other countries of the world through the 1990’s.
During the 1970’s, fanciers of the white coat German Shepherd dog worldwide formed their own White German Shepherd Dog breed clubs to continue to breed dogs that carry the recessive white coat gene to produce white coat puppies. White German Shepherd dog fanciers showed their dogs at small specialty dog shows, but many wanted to show their dogs at the most prestigious national and international dog show events, now open only to “standard color” German Shepherd dog owners.
By the late 1990’s a portion of white coat German Shepherd dog fanciers around the world decided to establish a new White Shepherd breed standard and petition their respective national and international kennel clubs for breed recognition, separate and independent from the German Shepherd dog breed club’s control. To populate the new breed of White Shepherd dogs, breeders around the world continually paired and repaired only white coat German Shepherd Dog sires and dams for several generations to breed what is today considered a "pure" White Shepherd breed.
When recognized as a separate and independent breed, White Shepherd dogs will be eligible to enter any and all dog show events, including the most prestigious national and international dog shows.
Each White Shepherd and White German Shepherd breed club around the world has documented a breed standard that governs the appearance and temperament of the dogs bred by breeders associated with the respective club. While the detail and format among these many breed clubs' standards vary somewhat, they all define a common appearance, transmission and temperament for their dogs. Indeed, each club's breed standard resembles the German Shepherd Dog breed standard set forth by Rittmeister Max Von Stephanitz, who founded the German Shepherd Dog breed in 1899. Breed standards of the White Swiss Shepherd Dog, White Shepherd Dog of North America, White German Shepherd Dog and German Shepherd Dog can be merged together, with only minor distinctions, to fashion a common description of conformation appearance:
General Appearance – The first impression of a White Shepherd, White Swiss Shepherd or White German Shepherd Dog is that of a strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert, full of life, keen, intelligent, and composed. It is well balanced, with harmonious development of forequarter and hindquarter. The dog is longer than tall, deep-bodied, and presents an outline of smooth curves rather than angles. It looks substantial and not spindly, giving the impression, both at rest and in motion, of muscular fitness and nimbleness without any look of clumsiness or soft living. The ideal dog is stamped with a look of quality and nobility–difficult to define, but unmistakable when present. Secondary sex characteristics are strongly marked, and every animal gives a definite impression of masculinity or femininity, according to its sex.
Proportion – The Shepherd Dog is longer than tall, with the most desirable proportion as 10 to 8 1/2. Ideal height and weight is 25 inches (63.5 cm) measured to the top of the highest point of the shoulder blade and roughly 75-85 pounds (34-39 kgms) for males, and 23 inches (58.4 cm) and about 60-70 pounds (27-32 kgms) for females. Acceptable range of height is about 1 inch (3 cm) in either direction of the ideal. A slightly larger dog is not at serious fault, providing it meets the desirable proportion of 10 to 8 1/2. The proportional length measurement is taken from the point of the prosternum or breastbone to the rear edge of the pelvis, the ischial tuberosity.
Gait – The Shepherd is a trotting dog with a smooth and flowing gait that is maintained with great strength and firmness of back. The shepherd moves powerfully, but easily, with such coordination and balance that the gait appears to the steady motion of a well-lubricated machine. Even at a walk the shepherd covers a great deal of ground with an economy of long stride on both hind legs and forelegs. In order to achieve ideal movement of this kind, there must be muscular development and ligamentation. The hindquarters deliver, through the back, a powerful forward thrust, which slightly lifts the whole animal and drives the body forward. Reaching far under, and passing the imprint left by the front foot, the back foot takes hold of the ground; then hock, stifle and upper thigh come into play and sweep back, the stroke of the hind leg finishing with the foot still close to the ground in a smooth follow-through. The feet travel close to the ground on both forward reach and backward push. The overreach of the hindquarter usually necessitates one hind foot passing outside and the other foot passing inside the track of the forefoot, and such action is not faulty unless the locomotion is crab-like with the dog's body sideways out of the normal straight line. Viewed from the front, the front legs function from shoulder joint to the pad in a straight line. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs function from the hip joint to the pad in a straight line.
Coat – The ideal dog has a weather-resistant double coat of medium length. The outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. The undercoat is short, thick and fine in texture. A slightly wavy outer coat, often of wiry texture, is permissible. The head and ears are covered with a smooth, somewhat softer and shorter hair while the hair covering the legs and paws is more harsh-textured. At the neck, the coat is slightly longer and heavier. A male may carry a thicker ruff than a female. The back of the legs has a slightly longer covering of hair and there is considerably more hair on the breeches and the underside of the tail. For the White Shepherd specialization, both somewhat shorter and longer coats are acceptable.
Color – The coat color is white as defined by the breed’s name and the ideal is pure white. Any degree of shading that ranges from a very pale cream to a light biscuit tan are not preferred, and is considered a fault for the White German Shepherd and White Shepherd specialization.
Skin Pigment – Skin color on the body is pink to dark gray/black, with gray/black being preferred, and the skin of the belly being the darker area. Pink skin is frequently seen, and though not a disqualification, is less desirable. The nose, lips and eye rims should be fully pigmented and black in color. The more dark in color of the nails, the better, although white nails do not disqualify a dog. The pads of the feet should be black.Very slight snow nose coloration is acceptable but is not preferred. Deficiency of pigment is objectionable and dogs exhibiting faded, pinkish or spotty pigmentation on nose, eye rims or lips are a serious faulted. The total lack of pigment in the above named areas, indicating possible albinism or definite albinism with blue or pink eyes, are a disqualifying fault for both white coat German Shepherds and the White Shepherd specialization.
Head – The head is noble, cleanly chiseled, strong without coarseness, but above all, not fine, and in proportion to the body. The head of the male is distinctly masculine, and that of the bitch, distinctly feminine. The muzzle is long and strong, with lips firmly fitted, and its top line is parallel to the top line of the skull. Seen from the front, the forehead is only moderately arched, and the skull slopes into the long, wedge-shaped muzzle without abrupt stop. Jaws are strongly developed.
Ears are moderately pointed, in proportion to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. A dog with cropped or hanging ears must be disqualified.
Eyes are of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible. The expression is keen, intelligent, and composed.
Teeth number 42 with 20 upper and 22 lower. Teeth are strongly developed and meet in a scissors bite in which part of the inner surface of the upper incisors meet and engage part of the outer surface of the lower incisors. An overshot jaw or a level bite is undesirable. An undershot jaw or a level bite is an undesirable fault. Complete dentition is to be preferred. Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault.
Neck – The neck is strong and muscular, clean-cut and relatively long, proportionate in size to the head, and without loose folds of skin. When the dog is at attention or excited, the head is raised and the neck carried high; otherwise, typical carriage of the head is forward rather than up, but a little higher than the top of the shoulders, particularly in motion.
Body – The whole structure of the body gives an impression of depth and solidity without bulkiness.
Chest Commences at the posternum and is well filled and carried well down between the legs. It is deep and capacious, never shallow, with ample room for lungs and heart, carried well forward, with the posternum showing ahead of the shoulder in profile.
Ribs are well sprung and long, neither barrel-shaped nor too flat, and carried down to a sternum which reaches to the elbows. Correct ribbing allows the elbows to move back freely when the dog is at a trot. Too round causes interference and throws the elbows out; too flat or short causes pinched elbows. Ribbing is carried well back so that the loin is relatively short.
Abdomen is firmly held and not paunchy. The bottom line is only moderately tucked up in the loin.
Top Line of the back is straight and very strongly developed without sag or roach. The desirable long proportion is not derived from a long back, but from overall length in relation to height, which is achieved by a length of forequarter, withers and hindquarter, as viewed from the side. The croup is long and has only a very minor and gradual slope when in the show stance.
Withers are higher than, and sloping into, a level back.
Loin viewed from the top, broad and strong. Undue length between the last rib and the thigh, when viewed from the side, is undesirable.
Forequarters – The shoulder blades are long and obliquely angled, laid on flat and not placed forward. The upper arm joins the shoulder blade at about a right angle. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled. The forelegs, viewed from all sides, are straight and the bone oval rather than round. The pasterns are strong and springy and at an angle of approximately a 24 degrees from the vertical.
Hindquarters – The whole assembly of the thigh, viewed from the side, is brood, with both upper and lower thigh well-muscled, forming as nearly as possible a right angle. The upper thigh bone parallels the shoulder blade while the lower thigh bone parallels the upper arm. The metatarsus is short, strong, tightly articulated and no dew claws should be present.
Feet – The feet are short, compact, with toes well arched, pads thick and firm, nails short and preferably dark. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. Dewclaws, if any, should be removed from the hind legs.
Tail – The tail is bushy, with the last vertebra extended at least to the hock joint. It is set smoothly into the croup and low rather than high. At rest, the tail hangs in a slight curve like a saber. A slight hook–sometimes carried to one side is faulty only to the extent that it mars general appearance. When the dog is excited or in motion, the curve may be accentuated and the tail raised, but it should never curl forward beyond the vertical line. Tails too short, or with clumpy ends due to ankylosis, are serious faults.
The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence, and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as a companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them.
The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies of character that indicate shyness must be penalized as a very serious faults, and any dog exhibiting pronounced indications of these must be excused from any dog show event.
It must be possible for a dog show judge to observe the teeth and to determine that both testicles are descended. Any dog that exhibits unprovoked aggression and attempts to bite any person, dog or other animal must be disqualified and removed from any dog show event.
The ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose.
Friedrich Sparwasser is known to have been breeding both white and wolf (sable) colored herding dogs of the same body conformation in his Frankfort kennel from the 1870's. The German Thuringia Highland herding dogs in Sparwasser's kennel had upright ears and a general body description that resembles modern German Shepherd Dogs. Sparwasser's white coat dogs are documented as showing in several German dog shows from 1882 through at least 1899. Horand von Grafrath, the foundation dog of the entire German Shepherd breed, whelped in Friedrich Sparwasser's Frankfort kennel and was originally named Hektor von Sparwasser. Horand (a.k.a. Hektor) was born the 1st of January 1895 along with litter brother Luchs von Sparwasser. Horand’s and Luchs’ maternal grandfather was a white-coat German herding dog named Greif von Sparwasser, whelped in Friedrich Sparwasser's Frankfort kennel in 1879. Stephanitz, the recognized founder of the German Shepherd breed attended the April 3, 1899 Karlesruhe Dog Exhibition, one of the largest all breed dog shows to date, in the Rhineland town of Karlesruhe. Stephanitz, accompanied by his friend Artur Meyer, saw Sparwasser's herding dog name Hektor (Linksrhein) von Sparwasser at the show and immediately realized they had found the ideal German Shepherd breed foundation dog. Stephanitz at once bought Hektor and renamed the dog Horand von Grafrath. Horand is the first entry in the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany or Der Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, or SV, Stud Book as “Horand von Grafrath, SZ-1
German Shepherd Dog breed DNA includes a recessive gene for white coats that was inherited from Greif von Sparwasser. The recessive gene for white hair was fixed in the German Shepherd Dog breed DNA by the late 19th and early 20th century German breeding program that extensively used Horand and Luchs, dogs that carried the recessive gene for white coats, to establish and expand breed population. White puppies appear in litters when both the male and female partners of a mating pair carry a recessive gene for "white coats." When only one partner of a mating pair carries a recessive gene for white coats, the recessive gene is passed on to the offspring, but white puppies will not present in the litter. Naturally, a significant percentage of German Shepherd puppies born in the early 20th century had white coats. During this early period of breed expansion some breeders viewed white German Shepherds as a natural part of the breed and cherished them, while other early German breeders, who particularly wanted the breed to have a standardize 'wolf-like' appearance, utterly rejected white coats as a "defective" breed trait and sought to prohibit white coats in the governing German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany (Der Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, the SV) breed standard.
Through the 1920’s German breeders advocating for a strict wolf-like coloration breed standard constantly increased pressure within the German club to eliminate white dogs from the breeding program. In 1933 the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany updated their breed standard to officially forbid the breeding and registration of white coat dogs or even dark coat dogs proven to have produced litters with white puppies. The Nazis so extensively employed German Shepherd Dogs in war duties during WWII that the breed was nearly extinguished in Europe at war's end. Of the few German Shepherd dogs available for breeding in post WWII East and West Germany, only the dogs thought to have no white coats in their family tree were used for breeding. The German Club has strictly enforced the “no white coats” breed standard restriction to this day.
The white coat recessive gene was pervasive in the expanding German population of dogs before and immediately after WWI when the original German Shepherd Dogs were imported to populate new breeding programs throughout the Americas. By the end of WWII the population of German Shepherds in the Americas had grown both large and healthy out of that population of breeding dogs imported from Germany before the United States entered WWI and immediately after as some U.S. soldiers returned home with the dogs. In contrast to the German club’s actions, one of the key founders of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, as well as other influential American breeders in the years from 1913 through the WWII era accepted and supported white coat German Shepherds as a natural part of the breed. The white coat recessive gene remained pervasive in the large and growing American population of dogs through WWII and into the 1950's when demand for white coat German Shepherds steadily increased in the family dog market. Even though some influential breeders of the period accepted and even admired white coat German Shepherds some other breeders did not.
After WWII a new generation of German Shepherd Dog Club of America, German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada and German Shepherd Dog Club of Australia member breeders active in dog show events increasingly advocated for the adoption the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany breed standard that strictly forbids white coats. The German Shepherd Dog Club of America and the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada ultimately adopted the “no white coat” breed standard by the mid-1960’s and then petitioned the American Kennel Club (AKC) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) to accept the standard change. The AKC accepted the restrictive German Club breed standard in 1968 and the CKC, after long deliberation with white coat German Shepherd supporters, accepted the standard change in 1998. On January 1, 1994 the Australian National Kennel Council accepted the restrictive “no white coat” breed standard change request made by the German Shepherd Dog Club of Australia.
While the AKC and CKC adopted the "no white coat" breed standard for conformation dog show events, they did not accept the "no white coat" standard change for their German Shepherd Dog breed registry business or other dog show events. As of mid-2007 the AKC and CKC continue to accept white coat German Shepherd Dogs for breed registration, as well as obedience, tracking, herding, and temperament trial show ring competitions. The other principle kennel club in North America, the United Kennel Club, fully recognizes white coat German Shepherd Dogs as part of the German Shepherd Dog breed. The United Kennel Club (UKC) fully accepts white coat German Shepherd Dogs for breed registration, as well as conformation, obedience, tracking, herding, and temperament trial show ring competitions. The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) stopped accepting white coat German Shepherd Dogs for their breed registry in 1995 and barred white coat dogs from all ANKC sanctioned dog show event.
Beginning in the late 1960’s German Shepherd Dog breeders in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, who favored white coat dogs, grouped together to form White German Shepherd breed clubs in their respective countries. The White German Shepherd Dog Club International, Inc was the first to organize in 1968 in North America (originally named The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America) to continue breeding "colored" German Shepherd Dog breed lines that carried the recessive gene for white coats. Through the club’s efforts, the AKC chose to continue to register white coat German Shepherds in their German Shepherd Dog breed registry.
Beginning in 1970 European breeders imported North American White German Shepherd dogs, some originally registered as AKC or CKC white coat German Shepherd Dogs, to start their White German Shepherd Dog breeding programs. (A few small lines of German Shepherd Dogs carrying the recessive white coat gene did manage to survive WWII in Germany and Holland. Even though these populations of dogs have not enjoyed registration by the German breed club since 1933, they can "unofficially" trace their heritage directly to the original early 20th century German population of German Shepherd Dog lines.)
In the United States a second organization named The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America (WGSDCA) was founded in January 1997. Like the WGSDCII the WGSDCA sponsors independent conformation dog shows using qualified judges to award championship points and titles to white dogs and colored dogs that carry the white-gene. Both the WGSDCII and WGSDCA organizations today continue to lobby the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and American Kennel Club for the reunification of white-coat and color-coat members of the breed under one breed standard. The recessive gene for white hair, continues to circulate in the American population of the German Shepherd Dog breed gene pool. White continues to be the second most common coat color registered in the AKC German Shepherd breed registry.
In addition to AKC, the other prominent North American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club (UKC) registers both white and color coat German Shepherd dogs in its German Shepherd Dog breed registry. White German Shepherd dogs are allowed to fully compete in all UKC events without restriction.
White German Shepherds can also show in conformation and all other events in a variety of other kennel clubs, including the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), the International All-Breed Canine Association (IABCA), the National Canine Association (NCA), and the Canine Kennel Club (CKC). The AKC continues to allow white coat German Shepherd Dogs to show in AKC obedience show ring events and compete in AKC tracking, herding, and temperament trial events.
White German Shepherd Breed Clubs also continue in Europe, Australia and Central and South America.
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s a few ‘white’ German Shepherd Dog breeders in Europe and the Americas began to continually pair and repair only white coat male and female German Shepherd dogs over several generations to create a "pure" White Shepherd breed.
These American and European “pure” breeders formed their own White Shepherd breed clubs in their respective countries beginning in 1991.
Australian breeders did not start to refine their local population of ‘white’ German Shepherd Dogs into a "pure" White Shepherd breed line until 2000. Breeders in New Zealand, South Africa and other points on the globe have already established or are currently working to establish their own "pure" White Shepherd breed lines by breeding only white coat male and female German Shepherd dogs over three or more generations in order to meet the official requirement for establishing a new breed classification.
Once these new White Shepherd breed lines are recognized by their national or international kennel club, breeders can no longer use white German Shepherd dogs, regardless of their white-to-white breeding lineage pedigree, in their breeding programs.
In Europe, the Swiss Kennel Club (SKC) recognized the White Swiss Shepherd Dog club (Berger Blanc International or BBI) and began registering its new "pure" White Swiss Shepherd Dog (Berger Blanc Suisse) breed in 1991. The White Swiss Shepherd Dog traces its origin to American AKC registered white coat German Shepherd dogs imported from the Americas to Switzerland in the early 1970's. In 2002 the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) (translation - World Canine Federation) accepted a petition from BBI and SKC to recognize the Berger Blanc Suisse dog as a new international breed. The FCI named the White Shepherd (Berger Blanc) breed 'Suisse' because the Swiss Kennel Club (SKC) was the first to register the breed separately from GSDs. The FCI does not generally acknowledge or register any of the white or colored North American breed lines registered by UKC, AKC or CKC.
One or more White Shepherd dog breed clubs have organized in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Hungary, Czech Republic, the U.K, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Holland. As of January 2007, White Shepherd clubs in several countries including Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Germany, France, Cech Rep., Slovakia, and Denmark have associated with a parent club named Berger Blanc International. In the year 2002 Berger Blanc International petitioned the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) (English translation, World Canine Federation) to recognize the White Shepherd as a new and separate breed. The FCI accepted the petition as of 01 January 2003 and now recognizes the White Shepherd breed as the "Berger Blanc Suisse" under as standard number 347.
A breed club in the United States and yet another breed club in Canada each individually developed additional "pure" White Shepherd breed lines in their respective countries from the mid to late 1990's. The American White Shepherd Association (AWSA) in the United States and the White Shepherd Club of Canada (WSCC) have each made efforts to gain breed recognition with the AKC and CKC in their respective countries for their new White Shepherd breed lines, but neither national kennel club has, as of Fall 2007, recognize these new White Shepherd breed lines.
In 1999 another club, the United White Shepherd Club (UWSC), organized as a United Kennel Club affiliate and immediately petitioned for a new UKC White Shepherd breed classification. The UKC accepted the UWSC‘s petition and in 1999 created a new and separate White Shepherd breed conformation standard and registry. The UKC then registered dogs from the United White Shepherd Club's own new White Shepherd breed line to initiate the White Shepherd new breed registry.
The UKC now recognizes both the new White Shepherd breed standard as well as the original German Shepherd Dog breed conformation standard, that continues to include white as one of the several coat color patterns of the breed.
The UKC, AKC and CKC do not generally acknowledge or register the FCI recognized white or colored breed lines. As of mid-2007, the White Swiss Shepherd Dog (Berger Blanc Suisse) breed has not appeared in the Americas.
The White German Shepherd Dog and White Shepherd history in Australia is similar the their histories in Canada. The Australian National Kennel Council listed white coats a fault in its German Shepherd Dog breed standard in 1994 and stopped registering white-coated German Shepherd Dogs in 1995. By 2000 White German Shepherd Dog breed and White Swiss Shepherd Dog breed clubs then formed in Australia. These clubs were The White German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria (WGSDCV) and The White Swiss Shepherd Dog Club of Australia Inc (WSSDCA). A new unified breed club, the United White Shepherds of Australia (UWSA), ultimately formed to unite the separate groups of Australian white dog fanciers under the same breed standard.
The White Swiss Shepherd Dog breed line, that was founded in Australia by the White Swiss Shepherd Dog Club of Australia in 2000, has not yet been recognized by The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) for its breed registry and dog show events.
The White Shepherd Dog Club of New Zealand also protects and promotes the white dog.
Diva-Lady of White Valley was the first White Swiss Shepherd registered with the Kennel Union of Southern Africa. The White Shepherd breed is quickly expanding in Southern Africa too.
The genes required to produce white coats with dark eyes, nose, foot pads, etc. occurs in the natual world as is evedent in the Arctic Wolf or Canis lupus arctos (pictured left) as well as other subspecies population of Canis lupus.
The domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a subspecies of the wolf that three modern DNA research teams now believe evolved from just a small population of wolves tamed by humans living in or near China less than 15,000 years ago. The research teams believe the DNA evidence indicates that the original population of domesticated dog then spread out of Asia to the rest of the world with human migration and along trading routes. The research team further concludes that intensive breeding by humans over the last 500 years - not different genetic origins - is responsible for the dramatic differences in appearance among modern dogs.
It is reasonable to conclude that the gentic coding for white coats, present in the wolf genome, was passed into the dog's genome during the era of original domestication.
Coat color has been one of the most often used trait selection criterion for the development of most dog breeds. In a few cases, certain colors were selected against because breeders of the age thought the colors were associated with health problems. Other colors were selected against or for because breeders felt that those colors help that breed do its job better, or more often, coat colors were selected and rejected for simple aesthetic reasons.
There are many misconceptions about white-coat German Shepherd Dogs and the gene that expresses for their coat color. One of the most quoted books on dog genetics and coat color is "The Inheritance of Coat Color in Dogs" by Clarence C. Little, first published by Comstock in 1957. Little's genetic research was based on hypothesized alleles (variation of DNA coding for a particular gene locus, or chromosomal location) with hypothesized dominance at hypothesized gene loci (plural of locus) to fit data obtained by observing and categorizing coat colors and color patterns appearing in various dogs breeds and litters. Modern genetic research now reveals that for some observed traits, or phenotypes, like coat color, the actual genetics are different from those hypothesized by Little and others.
Little (1957) hypothesized that dilution or partial albinism ce, ca and cch alleles of the so called (C) gene caused the cream and white coat color variants in domestic dogs. Locus (C), commonly referred to as the albino and paling gene, was historically used to explain the cream and white coat color variants of many species. For dogs, Little hypothesized that a possible cch (chinchilla) allele of the (C) gene pales phaeomelanin to cream, that a second possible allele ce dilutes phaeomelanin to white and a third possible allele ca causes pure albinism in homozygotes. Little's hypothesized partial albinism explanation for cream and white colored coats has been applied across most domestic dog breeds, including white coat dogs from German Shepherd breed lines, since Little first published his book.
Most genetic researchers now map the so-called (C) gene to the tyrosinase (TYR) gene because albinism has been found to be the result of various genotype mutations at this locus in mice, humans, rabbits, cattle, and cats. The TYR locus is known to encode for tyrosinase, an enzyme that ultimately leads to the formation of the two natural melanin pigments eumelanin and phaeomelanin within melanocyte cell membranes. The most frequent form of albinism results from genotype mutations at the TYR locus that cause the tyrosinase enzyme to malfunction such that eumelanin and phaeomelanin production is retarded to varying degrees or fully eliminated. The specific mutations that encode for pink-eyed albinism in the domestic dog have not yet been identified through genetic testing.
Comparative analysis of the dog genome and specific breed DNA sequences now shows that Little's hypothesized gene (C) color dilution explanation for cream and white colored coats is most likely not a relevant determinant of cream and white coats known to commonly occur in many dog breeds. Little's 1957-era partial albinism dilution explanation, as applied to explain domestic dog white and cream coat colors, can be replaced by the findings of modern genetic research.
Genetic research at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) Genetics Laboratory has, at least partially, identified the actual genetic hair color regulation mechanism behind white and cream colored coats in several breeds of the domestic dog. Research has shown that a recessive ‘e’ allele at the Extension (E) gene is at least partially responsible for cream and white coat color. (This research laboratory also searched for and has not found tyrosinase malfunction in white coat dogs common to domestic dog breeds.) The (E) gene, now identified as the Melanocortin-1 Receptor (MC1R) gene, is one of the two genes known to code for alleles that are absolutely fundamental to the formation of all German Shepherd Dog colored coat variations. When the recessive ‘e’ allele is inherited from each breeding pair parent, the e/e genotype offspring of certain breeds, including white coat dogs from German Shepherd breed lines, always have cream or white colored coats .
A genetic scientist researching the genetic coding of cream and white colored coats concludes in the cited research paper that, "Because cream (and white) dogs always have an e/e genotype at MC1R, DNA testing for an ‘e’ allele should be predictive that the dog is heterozygous for cream (and white) coat color in breeds such as Akita, Caucasian Mountain Dogs, German Shepherd Dogs, Miniature Schnauzers, and Puli."
White shepherds were unjustly blamed for color dilution or paling for the entire breed because the recessive 'e' allele of the MC1R (E) gene locus masks expression of alleles at other other gene loci that actually do code for lighter (often termed as diluted or pale) colors of silver, black and tan or liver. German breeders of the 1920's and 1930’s misinterpreted pale-colored offspring of white dogs as an undesirable “white” genetic trait. (A colored GSD breed pairing with a white GSD always produces full colored puppies because the e allele is recessive.)
White coats were listed as disqualifications in the German Shepherd Club of Germany breed standard in 1933, the American Kennel Club (AKC) German Shepherd standard in 1968, the Canadian Kennel Club German Shepherd standard in 1998, and the Australian National Kennel Council German Shepherd list (standard) in 1994, at least partially, on the argument that white coats are the result of an albinism condition that carries risks of breed color paling and genetic health defects.
Genetic research now reveals that one of the alleles that code for white coats in the German Shepherd breed is at the [MC1R] gene locus where multiple alleles code to regulate eumelanin (black/brown) pigmenting functions of each hair follicle over the entire body. The MC1R gene is fundamental to overall German Shepherd Dog breed color conformation and it is certainly unrelated to albinism.
Shepherding was a common way of life for thousands of years all across Europe, including the countryside that is today called Germany. Over countless centuries shepherds used dogs to herd their sheep throughout the day, and guard them against wolf and bear predators at night. The Roman writer Columella in the 1st century A.D. published a 35-volume essay on agriculture entitled, “The Agricultural Arts” that stated, unequivocally, the dogs that guard the sheep are white in color. The Pyrenean Mountain Sheepdog is a direct decedent of these ancient sheep dogs. Earlier in history, the Roman historian and writer, Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27 B.C.), described the guardians of the flocks as being invariably white in color. He also writes that, in his opinion, the shepherds preferred white dogs in order to be able to distinguish them from the wolves that usually attacked in the half-light of dawn or dusk.
Many descendants of the ancient shepherd's white dogs were present on 19th century German farms. In addition to the somewhat larger white guard and herding dog varieties, several varieties of medium-sized shepherding dogs were also in use on German farms. These medium-sized shepherd dogs were especially fast and agile and were particularly well suited to moving and guiding sheep herds across the countryside. Herding dogs across Germany had coat colors of brown, grey, grizzled and white, for example; the medium-sized Spitz was known to have white coats, and the larger [Schafpudel] of Germany was always white. Herding dogs from the German highland Thuringia region had upright ears, the general body size and shape of the modern German Shepherd and had either a grey-wolf or white color coat. It is, therefore, a fact that the modern German Shepherd Dog presents all of the coat colors of the breed’s founding ancestors, including white.
Across the regional landscape of 19th century German farms, Shepherds bred a wide variety of dogs to herd their sheep with no uniformity of size, color, or shape, except for what was common for their particular region. The only real interest was that herding dogs be physically and mentally sound so they could work tirelessly, competently and faithfully along side the shepherd. This was the landscape seen by Max Von Stephanitz, the recognized father of the modern German Shepherd Dog breed, in the 1880s.
As a young cavalry officer, Stephanitz’s military duties often required him to travel across the German countryside. It was common for travelers like Stephanitz to board with rural families along the way. At that time most rural German farms had at least a few head of sheep and a herding dog or two to tend them. Stephanitz became fascinated with the German herding dogs and their working capabilities. He admired all the hard working dogs, but observed some dogs had a special look and bearing about them that he especially admired.
Eventually Stephanitz became inspired with the idea that Germany should have a national herding dog that combined the work ethic of the most accomplished herding dogs with that special look and bearing he so admired. Stephanitz envisioned a German shepherding dog who was extremely intelligent, could reason and be a working companion to man. Further, the dog must be quick on his feet and well coordinated, protective, noble in appearance and bearing, trustworthy in character, physically sound in joint and muscle, and be born with an innate desire to please and obey the shepherd master. This is the German Shepherd dog that we know and love today. By 1891 Stephanitz started selecting the best herding dogs from across the German countryside for his breeding program, but Stephanitz was not alone in his passion to develop a national German Shepherding Dog.
The Phylax Society, active primarily between the years 1891-1894, was an organization of German shepherding dog fanciers that in many ways formed the foundations for the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany. The Phylax Society documented shepherding dogs of varying sizes, types and colors, including white, to have been in all areas of Germany during the late 1800’s.
Like Stephanitz, Phylax Society members were actively engaged in uniting the various sizes, types and colors of German shepherding dogs to produce a standard shepherding dog for Germany. Their focus was more on body shape and color rather than on actual utilitarian herding skills. Stephanitz corresponded with Phylax Society members and attended dog shows organized by the Society, thus adding to Stephanitz’s already knowledge of bloodlines.
The Phylax Society provides an essential prolog to the modern German Shepherd story, both white and colored. The society ultimately did not long survive because its focus was on form rather than utility and the club had no strong central figure to organize and manage Society affairs. The Phylax Society essentially evolved into the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany, under Stephanitz's leadership, as most former Phylax Society members later joined with Stephanitz.
Stephanitz had been endeavoring to develop his ideal German Shepherd dog in his own breeding kennel throughout the 1890’s when one of the largest all breed dog shows to date took place in the Rhineland town of Karlesruhe on April 3, 1899. Stephanitz, accompany by his friend Artur Meyer, attended the Karlesruhe Exhibition in his continuing search for shepherding dogs that could be added to his breeding program. Among the many shepherding dogs brought to the exhibition from a number of different German agricultural areas, Stephanitz saw his absolute ideal shepherd dog in the body of Hektor (Linksrhein) von Sparwasser, born the 1st of January 1895 along with litter brother, Luchs von Sparwasser. The breeder of Hektor and Luchs was Herr Friedrich Sparwasser of Frankfort who had been breeding herding dogs from the German highland Thuringia region for over 20 years. Stephanitz at once recognized Hektor as his ideal German Shepherd Dog that he had been striving to develop in his own ten year long breeding program. Stephanitz bought Hektor on the spot and renamed the dog Horand von Grafrath. (Hektor is sometimes referenced as Hektor Linksrhein with Linksrhein referring to the Rhine region of his kennel. Frankfort is close to the Rhine river on the Rhine’s Main tributary and is considered to be in the Rhine region.)
Stephanitz writes in his book, "Horand embodied for the enthusiasts of that time the fulfillment of their fondest dreams. He was big for that period, between 24" and 24 1/2", even for the present day a good medium size, with powerful frame, beautiful lines, and a nobly formed head. Clean and sinewy in build, the entire dog was one live wire. His character was on a par with his exterior qualities; marvelous in his obedient fidelity to his master, and above all else, the straightforward nature of a gentleman with a boundless zest for living. Although untrained in puppy hood, nevertheless obedient to the slightest nod when at this master's side; but when left to himself, the maddest rascal, the wildest ruffian and incorrigible provoker of strife. Never idle, always on the go; well disposed to harmless people, but no cringer, mad about children and always in love. What could not have been the accomplishments of such a dog if we, at that time, had only had military or police service training? His faults were the failings of his upbringing, never of his stock. He suffered from a superfluity of unemployed energy, for he was in Heaven when someone was occupied with him and was then the most tractable of dog."
On April 22, 1899, less than a month after Stephanitz purchased Hektor, who he renamed Horand von Grafrath, Stephanitz founded the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany or Der Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde, the SV, as he wrote the first entry into the new SV Stud Book – “Horand von Grafrath, SZ 1.” Thus, Horand (a.k.a. Hektor) was documented as the foundation of the German Shepherd Dog breed. Membership of the SV German Shepherd Dog Club grew quickly and soon many breeders were using Horand’s progeny, as well as Horand’s litter brother Luchs and his progeny, to expand the German Shepherd Dog breed population.
Hektor’s and Luchs' maternal grandfather was a white-coat German herding dog named Greif von Sparwasser, whelped in Friedrich Sparwasser's Frankfort kennel in 1879. George Horowitz, renowned English Judge, German Shepherd (Alsatian) columnist, author and historian documents the background of Hektor Linksrhein (a.k.a. Horand von Grafrath) in his 1923 book, “The Alsatian Wolf-Dog.” In his book Horowitz documents that the white-coat herding dog named Greif von Sparwasser, born in 1879, was presented at the 1882 and 1887 Hanover Dog Shows. Another white-coat herding dog, Greifa, showed at the 1888 Hamburg Dog Show, and a third white-coat herding dog named Greif II was presented at the 1889 Cassel Show. The Master of Hounds of Beyenrode, Baron von Knigge, who acquired Greif from the Frankfurt breeder Friedrich Sparwassar, eventually owned all three of the white-coat herding dogs Greif, Greifa and Greif II. These dogs were described as very alert, well proportioned, erect eared white herding dogs.
Breeding records show that Greif von Sparwasser was mated with female Lotte von Sparwasser who whelped a litter that included a wolf-grey colored female named Lene von Sparwasser, later registered as SZ-156. Both Greif and Lotta had the distinctive 'up right' ears and a similar body conformation that we see in the modern German Shepherd Dog breed. In Lene's mating to dog Kastor (Rüde) von Hanau, registered as SZ-153, she whelped a litter that included the wolf colored Hektor (a.k.a. Horand von Grafrath SZ-1) and his wolf colored litter brother Luchs, later registered as SZ-155. Friedrich Sparwasser obviously had both white and wolf (sable) colored herding dogs of the same body conformation in his kennel and he was pairing white and colored dogs in his breeding program. Sparwasser's herding dogs are described as originating from the German Thuringia highland region.
If Stephanitz can be called the father of the German Shepherd Dog breed, then perhaps Frankfurt breeder Friedrich Sparwasser should also be credited as a grandfather. Concurring information is provided in “The German Shepherd Dog, Its History, Development and Genetics,” written by M. B. Willis, B. Sc.Ph.D.
In Stephanitz's original book "The German Shepherd Dog in Words and Picture," printed in Germany by Anton Kamphe, Jena in 1923, he describes the background of the dog types used to develop the German Shepherd breed. Clearly, among the several dog types used in the breeding program there were two dog types of particular importance to the development of the German Shepherd Dog as we know them today: sheepdogs from the German highland Thuringia region who had erect ears and a general conformation of the modern German Shepherd dog, and sheepdogs from the Wurttemberg region which were heavier, larger-boned and had very bushy tails. Greif, Lotta, Hektor and Luchs are noted as having "Thuringian blood." Unfortunately, later revisions of Stephanitz's book eliminated much of Stephanitz's original descriptive commentary on the various dog types used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to develop the modern German Shepherd Dog breed. Information and photos of Old German Shepherds can be found in the book (in German) "Hirten und Huetehunde" by Karl Hermann Finger, Eugen Ulmer GmbH & Co., published 1988.
The genetic influence of Horand’s maternal grandfather, white-coat Greif, is significant in the breed given Horand was line-bred and inbred with his own offspring in the expansion and refinement of the new breed after 1899. Horand was bred to 35 different bitches, including his own daughters, producing 53 litters, of which, 140 progeny were registered with the SV. Horand’s litter brother Luchs was also widely bred in the same way in the expansion of the modern German Shepherd breed. Further, Horand’s offspring was inbred with Luchs' offspring, which further concentrated the DNA of these dogs. It is a statistical certainty that a large percentage of all of Horand’s and Luchs’ offspring inherited the white genetic factor that was passed to them by white-coat maternal grandfather Greif. The white genetic factor in turn was forwarded on to a percentage of all subsequent generations of the breed. In the first 15 years of pedigreed German Shepherd Dog breeding more than half the registered dogs had litters with white puppies. Many of Horand's grandsons produced white pups including Baron von der Seewies (1913) who became the first white German shepherd registered in the breed book. Of the many genetic traits that became firmly entrenched in the founding breeding program, the white-coat color gene figures prominently, even to this day.
In Stephanitz's original 776-page book, "The German Shepherd Dog in Words and Picture," he included a photograph of a celebrated White Shepherd, Berno von der Seewiese, who was a direct descendant of Horand von Grafrath, (a.k.a. Hektor) the father of the breed. Berno v.d. Seewiese, born in 1913 was in a direct line down from Horand von Grafrath through Horand’s equally famous, and some said even more handsome, son Hektor von Schwaben. In his 1921 book, Stephanitz wrote, "The coloring of the dog has no significance whatsoever for service" and "Our German Shepherd Dogs have never been bred for color, which for the working dog is a matter of quite secondary consideration. Should any fashion breeder allow himself to pursue such a senseless fad, he might be bitterly disappointed." Clearly, the founder of the breed stressed utility over appearance, however, it must be noted that in other passages in his book Stephanitz also wrote of his preference for dark colored shepherds. Stephanitz writes in his 1925 book, "Albino's, (i.e. animals without color, in other words white dogs with completely colorless skin, pale claws, flesh colored nose and reddish eyes) must be completely excluded from breeding. With dogs, however, who have been bred to white color, where the skin has retained the pigmentation, it is not a sign of paling but of breed. This, however, applies only to other breeds; for shepherd dogs, both smooth and rough haired, white is only allowed for shaggy haired ones as the descendants of the old sheep dogs bred for white."
The prime directive of Stephanitz breeding mandate was that the German Shepherd Dog breed must embody all the qualities of a working herding dog. He maintained that the beauty is in the working abilities of the dog; muscle, bone, joint, proud look and bearing, intelligence, stamina and work ethic were the primary strengths sought in the breed. To ensure this prime directive of breeding was honored Stephanitz created the Koerung, a survey, in which the dogs were thoroughly examined, judged, and deemed fit or unfit for breeding. Coat color considerations did not disqualify a dog from Stephanitz’s German Shepherd breed standard during the first twenty years of the breed club. Dogs known to carry the "white coat factor" were not, for this reason alone, excluded from the SV breed program. This is not to say white-coat puppies were happily received in all breeder's litters, even in these early formative years of the breed when the recessive gene for white coats was so well established and wide spread in the breeding pool. (Schutzhund is the modern version of Stephanitz's breeding assessment survey.)
By 1923 Stephanitz's still growing club membership numbered over 57,000 enthusiasts who grouped into factions of herdsmen, commercial breeders, and show dog devotees. Many commercial and show oriented breeders, who were less passionate about the dog's working characteristics, particularly wanted the breed to have a full wolf appearance. This, in part, is a carry over from the old Phylax Society members who joined with Stephanitz on the founding of his club in 1899. Winfred Strickland writes in her (1988 revised edition) book, “The German Shepherd Today,” that the old Phylax Society, "was based solely on its members common interest in breeding (herding) dogs to resemble wolves, presumably hoping to cash in on their high market value." Another faction opposed to the SV direction, who did not reject white as a breed color, actually broke away and operated under the DSV name until about 1928.
In his 1923 book Stephanitz recognized the esteem many held for the wolf look and wrote that breeders must not to add more “wolf blood" into his dogs because he had already developed the ideal balance of conformation and temperament. Stephanitz also wrote of SV politics in his 1923 book, “The group with the best chance of gaining the upper hand was the one which envisioned turning the breed into a working-type show dog, with at costs, erect ears and, possibly, a wolf-like appearance as well.” Even while expressing the importance of utility over appearance, Stephanitz himself expressed a personal preference for the wolf-like black and tan coloring in his 1916 and later writings. By the late 1920s SV breeders were already beginning to [cull] white-coat puppies from litters and the SV breeding program.
According to Kerrin Winter Churchill author of "Passion to Surive", (AKC Gazette, 2002, NAIA 2006), " In the 1930s members of the Nazi party were the "elite" and dominated every aspect of German society, even German Shepherd dog breeding." Many of the elite did not agree with Stephanitz that the breed should embody, first and foremost, the qualities of a working shepherd dog. The predator wolf appearance of the colored German Shepherd Dog increasingly symbolized everything German in the eyes of the Nazi Party and so, partly because Hitler also loved the breed, SV politics became an extension Nazi politics. Adolf Hitler bred German Shepherds and even after Hitler became Chancellor he would exhibit them in shows.
On January 30, 1933 President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. After the February 27, 1933 Reichstag fire, a false flag attack blamed on the communists, Adolf Hitler declared a state of emergency by forcing President Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree suspending the Weimar Constitution. The authoritarian Third Reich Nazi government quickly took control of every segment of German society.
According to Churchill, "Beginning in 1933 with dogs belonging to Jewish breeders, Hitler began seizing entire kennels. The German military made great use of dogs during WWII. Non Jews, who bred working dogs deemed valuable by the Nazis, were given ration cards to feed them. The dogs remained with their breeders, but it was understood that the Nazis could take them at anytime. In his book, “The Complete Boxer”, Milo Denlinger explains 'the Nazis muscled in on the dog fancy, as on so many other things.' In German Shepherds as well as Dobermans and Boxers, the Nazis helped themselves to thousands of dogs. In doing so, they destroyed some of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines of all three breeds. With the original breeders out of the way, Hitler-appointed officials held private kennel inspections but they weren’t knowledgeable breed people. Hard pressed to evaluate a dog, their decisions were often impulsive. Dogs that didn’t suit ideals of the Nazi mandated breed standard were shot on sight. This horror has been overlooked for years as the atrocities done to mankind in the name of the Third Reich have overshadowed all else." In 1933 the SV, under de facto Nazi control, amended its German Shepherd Dog breed standard to disqualify white coats from all club activities and breeding.
In her (1988 revised edition) book, “The German Shepherd Today,” Winfred Strickland writes, "There were many SV members who were Nazi and they tried to meddle in the affairs of the SV. They persistently used vile means to cut Stephanitz off from his life's work and when he resisted they threatened him with a concentration camp." After thirty-six years of managing the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany, he gave up and left the club in 1935. He died one year later on April 22, 1936.
By the time the Nazis party took full control of the SV in 1935 white-coated shepherds were, without question, outlawed as undesirable. SV opinion maintained the white-coat factor caused coat paling across the full range of dark coat colors.
By the end of World War II, thousands upon thousands of German Shepherd Dogs in Germany had been slaughtered, as the military confiscated any dog they could find for military service, regardless of breeding value, in the final years of the war. While the few German Shepherd Dogs that managed to survive World War II almost represent a new start for the breed in Germany, they nonetheless embodied the foundation stock established by Stephanitz's original breeding program.
White-coated puppies born in Germany after WWII were not documented and they were immediately culled out of new litters, as is true to this day. Therefore, we do not have a complete record of white-coated German Shepherd Dogs presenting in "standard-color" litters in Germany since 1935. However, sires and bitches that breed litters with one or more whites are documented in the SV Zeitung (magazine) and unregistered, when breeders report such litter presentations.
A few White German Shepherd Dogs did managed to survive the Nazis and WWII in Germany and Holland. Descendants of these lucky white-coated dogs that trace their heritage directly to the white GSDs of the early 1900s survive to this day, despite not being allowed registration by the SV.
In 1913 the German Shepherd Dog Club of America was established with the registry of Queen of Switzerland (AKC # 115006) and the adoption of Stephanitz’s breed standard. One of the founders of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and one of the earliest German Shepherd Dog breeders in America was Ann Tracy of New York. Ann Tracy's breeding program, using Stephanitz's colored German Shepherds imported from Germany, produced white-coated Shepherds almost immediately. A litter that whelped on March 27, 1917 in Tracy's kennel contained four white puppies: Stonihurst Edmund, Stonihurst Eric, Stonihurst Eadred and Stonihurst Elf. These four white German Shepherds are believed to be the first white Shepherds bred and born in the United States and are the first to be registered with the American Kennel Cub.
In the early 1920’s, H. N. Hanchett of Minnesota and Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge of New York imported additional German-bred German Shepherd Dogs, including some white-coated dogs, to the United States. Thus, the white-coated German Shepherd Dog had an early and prominent entry in North America. The beauty of these White German Shepherds became increasingly admired throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico in the years after World War I and its numbers increased as popularity of the German Shepherd Dog breed increased.
In 1920 America, just as the Strongheart (registered as Etzel v. Oeringen) and Rin-Tin-Tin silent movies were ready to exploded in popularity, the AKC registered just 2,135 shepherd dogs. From 1921 onward movies and vaudeville stage acts featuring nearly two-dozen German Shepherd stars rapidly grew in popularity. A few white German Shepherds appeared in movies during this period, but they were particular popular for vaudeville acts because their size and white coat made them highly visible on stage. Popularity of the German Shepherd dog on stage and screen quickly translated into explosive demand for German Shepherd puppies across North America. The German Shepherd became the most popular breed in North America as every little boy and girl wanted his or her own Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin dog.
By 1926 the annual number of German Shepherds registered with the AKC had increased to 21,596 and that reflects only part of the population increase for the year as not every breeder and new shepherd owner registered their dog with the AKC. The German Shepherd dog remained the most popular breed in North America for several years thereafter. The recessive gene for white coats was common in the American breeding population during this period of breeding frenzy. As with the first two decades of Shepherd breeding in Germany, more than half the litters of this population explosion presented white puppies. The famous dog bloodlines of Strongheart (Oeringen) and Rin-Tin-Tin are also known to have produced black-pigmented white-coated puppies. The Oeringen bloodline was considered one of the better lines in Germany at that time and it supplied the foundation stock for many of the more prestigious kennels in North America.
Paul Strang writes in his 1983 book, "The White German Shepherd Book" that, "During the late forties and early fifties Lloyd C. Brackett's Long Worth Kennels dominated the scene, producing more outstanding shepherds than any kennel in North America. This bloodline combined the best shepherds of the nation... From this line came solid black, Kirk of San Miguel, and many other notable dark color-coated dogs such as Morex or Ilex of Long-Worth, who each carried the white-coat gene. Here again we find the appearance of White Shepherd puppies in these popular lines was common. Many of North America's German Shepherd lines have Long-Worth bloodlines in their pedigrees. In fact, the Long-Worth bloodline is more common in American White Shepherd pedigrees than any other." It is, therefore, clear that well managed breeding programs produced high quality dark color-coated dogs side by side with dark pointed (pigmented) white-coated dogs in the same litters for generations.
Across North America, World War II did not impact the full diversity of the German Shepherd Dog gene pool. White German Shepherds were registered and shown at AKC dog shows side-by-side with their colored brothers and sisters across North America from 1917 through WWII and up to 1967.
By the late fifties and early sixties members of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America endorsed the German Club’s mandate for wolf-like coloration and mounted a campaign to make white coats a disqualifying fault in the club's breed standard. By the mid-1960’s the color white was entered as a disqualification in the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) breed conformation standard. The disqualification was then adopted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and on April 9, 1968, and white coat German Shepherd Dogs were barred from the AKC conformation show ring.
As the “standard-color” German Shepherd Dog Club of America moved to expel white coat members of the breed in the 1960’s, White German Shepherd Dog supporters formed their own clubs to protect the white-coated dog’s interests. In 1964, White German Shepherd Dog supporters in Sacramento, California formed the first White German Shepherd Dog Club to safeguard the white dogs. With the 1968 expulsion of white-coated German Shepherd Dogs from the AKC conformation dog show ring, White German Shepherd Dog supporters across the United States joined with the Sacramento club in 1969 to form the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America.
The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America adopted Stephanitz’s German Shepherd Dog breed standard, scheduled conformation dog shows for white coat dogs and organized efforts to protect the interests of white coat German Shepherd Dogs. In 1977, the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America changed its name to The White German Shepherd Dog Club International, Inc. Through the club’s efforts, the AKC chose to continue to register white coat German Shepherds in their German Shepherd Dog breed registry. The AKC also allowed white coat German Shepherd Dogs to show in AKC’s obedience show rings and compete in AKC tracking, herding, and temperament trial events.
Since 1977 other white Shepherd clubs independently formed in the United States and other countries around the world. In the United States a second organization named The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America (WGSDCA) was founded in January 1997. Like the WGSDCII the WGSDCA sponsors independent conformation dog shows using qualified judges to award championship points and titles to white dogs and colored dogs that carry the white-gene. Both clubs also promote activities including agility, obedience, tracking and various working trials.
Both the WGSDCII and WGSDCA organizations today continue to lobby the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and American Kennel Club for the reunification of white-coated and color-coated members of the breed under one breed standard. The Constitution of both white dog clubs state that the first objective of the Club shall be: to preserve the name and heritage of the white-coated German Shepherd Dog as an integral and inseparable part of the German Shepherd Dog breed. (see charters at WGSDCII and WGSDCA web sites)
The recessive gene for white hair, continues to circulate in the American population of the German Shepherd Dog breed gene pool. While many breeders strongly affiliated with the colored GSD breed clubs do take care to never breed dog pairs that both carry the recessive white gene, many "back yard" breeders do continue to produce litters that include white puppies. Colored coat puppies from mixed white and colored litters, who in some numbers carry the recessive white coat gene, are sold and often used to produce new litters. Further, color-coated sires and bitches that produce white puppies, thus proving they carry the white recessive gene, are used again and again to produce new puppy litters who then carry the white recessive gene forward. White coated puppies, therefore, continue to be reproduced in some numbers, making white the second most common coat color registered in the AKC German Shepherd breed registry. This is why the American Kennel Club continues to register white coat dogs when new white coat German Shepherd owners choose to register their dogs.
In addition to AKC, the other prominent North American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also registers white coat German Shepherd dogs in its German Shepherd Dog breed registry. The UKC is an all-breed performance-dog registry, registering dogs from all the United States and 25 other international countries. The German Shepherd Dog has always been recognized by the UKC as a breed that includes white coats as well as various colored coats.
The UKC breed standard for the German Shepherd Dog states in part, “the German Shepherd Dog comes in many colors and white. Regardless of coat color, the dog’s nose, lips, and eye rims must have dark pigment.” White-coat German Shepherd Dogs are qualified to compete equally in all 12,000 annually licensed UKC events including conformation shows, tests of herding and working ability, and other performance events in which those dogs can prove their instincts and heritage.
White German Shepherds can show in conformation events in a variety of other clubs too, including the American Rare Breed Association (ARBA), the International All-Breed Canine Association (IABCA), the National Canine Association (NCA), and the Canine Kennel Club (CKC). The WGSDCA awards championship points based on wins in many, but not all, of these clubs.
Even though the UKC fully accepts white-coated German Shepherd Dogs, many original North American supporters of a unified white/colored breed standard have determined the German Shepherd Dog Clubs and Kennel Clubs of America and Canada are on an unalterable path to discredit and eradicate the white-coated German Shepherd Dog. Many white Shepherd supporters had already given up their efforts to promote a unified white/colored breed by 1998 when the German Shepherd Dog Club of Canada finally won its 30-year campaign to have the white-coated dogs expelled from Canadian Kennel Club sanctioned Conformation Dog Shows. (Like the AKC, the CKC continues to register white Shepherds in their German Shepherd Dog breed registry and allow White German Shepherd Dogs to show in AKC’s obedience show rings and compete in AKC tracking, herding, and temperament trial events.) This disenfranchised group of White German Shepherd supporters decided the White Shepherd could find acceptance only through its own separate breed recognition and registration. Their resolve for a separate White Shepherd breed registration has only strengthened as the German Shepherd Dog Clubs of America and Canada have continued pressure on the Kennel Clubs of each country to stop registering white-coat dogs as members of German Shepherds Dog breed.
During the late 1990’s the American White Shepherd Association (AWSA) organized in the United States and the White Shepherd Club of Canada (WSCC) reorganized in Canada to advance the interests of purebred White Shepherds as a separate and distinct breed of working and herding dog. The WSCC first organized in 1971 and for twenty years worked to reunify white and colored dogs under one breed standard. Early in 1995 the WSCC abandoned its unified breed standard efforts and organized to promote the separate White Shepherd breed standard. The U.S. and Canadian clubs then petitioned the AKC and CKC to recognize the white-coated dog as a separate White Shepherd breed, but as of January 2007 neither kennel has approved the petitions. In 1999 the United White Shepherd Club (UWSC) organized as a United Kennel Club affiliate and immediately petitioned for a new UKC White Shepherd breed classification.
The UKC accepted the UWSC‘s petition and created a new and separate White Shepherd breed conformation standard and registry. The UKC now recognizes both the new White Shepherd breed standard as well as the original German Shepherd Dog breed conformation standard where white and colored dogs continue to be considered together as one breed. The UKC’s decision to register White Shepherd Dogs and White German Shepherd Dogs in separate breed registries is an acknowledgement of the two main truths articulated by breed unification and breed separation advocates: The recessive gene for white coats will continue to circulate in the colored German Shepherd Dog breed gene pool and increasing numbers of White Shepherd breeders worldwide are rapidly refining and expanding a distinct breed line of White Shepherd dogs.
Since the early 1990’s White Shepherd breeders affiliated with AWSA, WSCC and UWSC have continually paired and repaired only white-coated German Shepherd Dog sires and bitches for several generations to breed what is today considered a "pure" White Shepherd breed. Using Stephanitz’s original German Shepherd Dog standard, breeders have successfully founded a North American White Shepherd breed that closely resembles Stephanitz’s vision of an ideal Shepherd Dog, similar in conformation to German Shepherd Dog breed progenitor white-coated Greif von Sparwasser and early White German Shepherd Dog Berno v.d. Seewiese depicted in Stephanitz’s 1921 book. (Even so, it is a genetic reality that the DNA coding for German Shepherd Dog colored coats will continue to circulate in the "pure" White Shepherd breed gene pool just white coat genes continue to circulate in the colored German Shepherd Dog breed gene pool.) As with WGSDCII and WGSDCA these clubs also promote and organize conformation dog shows and advocate that associated breeders and owners participate in obedience training and working trials such as are supported by the Kennel Clubs. Schutzhund training is popular among European White Shepherd clubs, but interest in American Schutzhund is now budding among some North American White Shepherd owners.
Notably, the new White Shepherd breed has been readily adopted in many countries around the world. White German Shepherd Dogs and White Shepherd Dogs have become increasingly popular throughout Europe and other parts of the world. Many European breeders have imported North American White Shepherd dogs, some originally registered as AKC or CKC White German Shepherd Dogs, to build their own separate pure White Shepherd breeding programs. Today, European populations of the white dog, along both the White German Shepherd Dog and "separate" White Shepherd breed lines (,but increasingly along the "separate" White Shepherd breed line over successive breeding generations) have grown quite large. It must be noted too that a few small lines of white German Shepherd Dogs (still recognized by that name by the breeders and owners) remain in Germany and Holland that trace their heritage directly to the white German Shepherd Dogs of the early 1900s, even though they have not enjoyed registration by the SV since 1933.
Since June 1991, White Shepherd dogs have been registered as a separate breed with the Swiss Stud Book. Lobo White Burch, born in May 1966 and registered with the American Kennel Club, is considered the progenitor of the White Shepherd breed in Switzerland. Ms. Agathe Burch brought Lobo at the age of four years and imported him to Switzerland from America in 1970. In 1973 Lobo was bred to English registered white German Shepherd Dog, White Lilac Blinkbonny, who had been imported to Switzerland from England. Their offspring were registered with the Swiss Kennel Club (SKC) under Ms. Burch's Shangrila kennel prefix in 1973. The SKC officially recognized the White Shepherd as a separate breed name 1991 due to Ms. Burch's pioneering efforts. Kurt Kron acquired Lobo and continued breeding White Shepherd when Ms. Burch returned to America.
Now, one or more White Shepherd dog breed clubs have organized in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Czech Republic, the U.K, Slovenia, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Holland. As of January 2007, White Shepherd clubs in several countries including Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, Cech Rep., Slovakia, and Denmark have associated with a parent club named Berger Blanc International. In the year 2002 Berger Blanc International petitioned the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) (English translation, World Canine Federation) to recognize the White Shepherd as a new and separate breed. The FCI accepted the petition as of 01 January 2003 and now recognizes the White Shepherd breed as the "Berger Blanc Suisse" under as standard number 347. The FCI named the White Shepherd (Berger Blanc) breed 'Suisse' because the Swiss Kennel Club (SKC) was the first to register the breed separately from GSDs.
The White German Shepherd Dog and White Shepherd history in Australia is similar the their histories in Canada. The Australian National Kennel Council list white coats a fault in its German Shepherd Dog breed standard in 1994 and stopped registering white-coated German Shepherd Dogs in 1995. White German Shepherd Dog breed and White Swiss Shepherd Dog breed clubs in Australia include: The White German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria (WGSDCV) and The White Swiss Shepherd Dog Club of Australia Inc (WSSDCA). The latest group in Australia being United White Shepherds of Australia (UWSA, formed to bridge the divide and bring our white coated dogs under the same banner, utilising a breed standard that best represents our Australian White Shepherds. The White Shepherd Dog Club of New Zealand also protects and promotes the white dog.
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- Tilstra, Ruut. International White Shepherd Federation Historical Museum.
- Berger Blanc Suisse International
- American White Shepherd Association
- United White Shepherds of Australia
- White Swiss Shepherd Dog Club of South Africa
- White Shepherd Health & Genetics Project
- White German Shepherd Dog Club of America, Inc. (WGSDCA)
- White German Shepherd Dog Club International
- White Shepherd Club of Canada
- White Swiss Shepherd Dog Club of Australia
- International White Shepherd Federation
- OPED by Internationally Respected Show Judge, Fred Lanting
- Fellowship of White Shepherds Online Community
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