Letters from 1961 to 1973

Printed in 1961 (Dog World magazine and other publications) "The Case Against The White German Shepherd Dog" by Lloyd C Brackett Of late there has been a recrudescence of the "White" German Shepherd Dog subject. DOG WORLD magazine and THE WESTERN SHEPHERD JOURNAL, in particular, have printed letters about this controversy between the pros and the cons. So far as I know, THE GERMAN SHEPHERD DOG REVIEW has not accepted for publication any letters it may have received from the misguided fringe who are so hopelessly battling against our breed’s revised Standard, which disqualifies the so-called "whites." This is understandable and to its credit because, in contrast to DOG WORLD, for instance, which is an all-breed magazine, working for the best interests of no ONE breed exclusively, the REVIEW has that objective only. Furthermore it is the official organ of the parent body, The German Shepherd Dog Club of America, Inc., whose capable, dedicated and sincere officers and board, I feel certain, will never countenance any lowering of the breed’s Standard by again being undiscriminating with regard to colorless Shepherds. Before going into the reasons which eventually impelled us to do what should have been done long ago, i.e., include a disqualifying clause on whites in the breed Standard, I want to mention several articles previously written on the subject, so that any sufficiently interested can refer to them, especially to those which objected to the disqualification. Perhaps I should use make it clear at this point that my use of the word "us," above, was intentional, since I was a member of the Revision Committee. Also that, while I by no means approved of everything which was included in that revision and, in particular, of the often weird evaluation of faults in the supplement, I did, and do, wholeheartedly approve of disqualification of the so-called "whites." By far the best and most objectively written argument in favor of whites which has come to my attention appeared in the February 1961 issue of THE WESTERN SHEPHERD JOURNAL under the title, "The Case For the White Shepherd" by June Betsworth. The best in rebuttals I have read were Mary Coffeen’s "Answers to ‘The White Shepherd’" in the April issue of the same magazine, and William Olliff’s masterful "Which Is the More Unsightly Shepherd?" appearing in the April DOG WORLD’s Shepherd Section. While it may be the latter two writers have sufficiently covered the case for the "antis," it seems to me that further explanation is necessary relating to the PRACTICAL and UTILITARIAN reasons for disqualifying whites. As little as some of today’s novices and commercially minded German Shepherd Dog backyard breeders may know of the founders and early developers of our breed in Germany, certainly we must all admit that it would never have reached its heights, both in popularity and practicability of use, except for them. They knew what they were doing when they proscribed both the registration and the breeding use of whites, and they surely had the breed’s interests more in mind than those motivated as are today’s off-beat proponents of such animals. We might argue extensively as to the Germans’ claim that degeneration is indicated in colorless Shepherds, but that is certainly not the only factor to be considered, though it may be one of the most important. Suffice it to say that were our breed’s registry handled in America as it is in the country of its origin (by a "parent club" instead of by such an all-breed organization as our American Kennel Club), whites would be barred from registration so there could be no question of disqualification in shows. In the early days of Postum advertising, which, incidentally, was during the early days of German Shepherds’ importation to this country, we saw many Postum advertisements including the slogan, "There’s a Reason." Likewise, for disqualifying white Shepherds and, yes, for barring them from registration, could it be done in this country, there are several "reasons." I propose to explain only a few of them, in fact, just those I have read, or which, if touched upon, were wrongly interpreted. For instance, the pro-white protagonists claim the superiority of whites as leaders of the blind because of their greater visibility or as a symbol, such as is the white cane. It seems strange that this assertion should be made seemingly without inquiry to the several blind dog schools as to WHY they do not accept or use white Shepherds, although the reason would seem obvious. As one reply to this patently faulty argument has pointed out, the hypersensitive blind person wants least of all to have his affliction made noticeable. More important, perhaps, - and I acquired this knowledge through personal questioning many years ago is the matter of white hairs all over the clothing of guide dog users, as well as on those who may inadvertently brush against the dogs in heavy traffic. No amount of brushing or grooming can possibly eliminate ALL such shedding hair when a Shepherd is "throwing its coat," as owners will attest. It seems needless to point out that a blind person can neither see to brush off those so very noticeable white hairs from clothing or upholstered furniture, nor pick off those imbedded in the fabric despite the brisket of brushings. It so happens that those who, in their printed letters and articles, have tried to make out the strongest case FOR the whites have, no doubt unknowingly, presented the most plausible and REAL objections to them. This is true not only in the above example but equally so in all of the other arguments given, with the exception of the one admitting to getting hurt in the pocketbook. Than this latter, no reason could be more damaging in the eyes of true dog lovers, and most certainly it comes as a shock to sincere fanciers of the present, as well as those of us who have worked for the improvement of the breed since its first importation to this country. It is difficult for me not to castigate those imbued with such a purely mercenary motive and spirit, whose selfishness, if they had their way, would degrade our breed. In their statement that the German Shepherd Dog was first purified from a group of superior working animals by the late and great Herr Von Stephanitz and his associates, and that it should be kept to the same high standard, they are absolutely RIGHT. But perhaps we should examine the facts of their claim as to the necessity, or even the advisability, of including whites if we are to keep it a "natural" working breed. As with their reasons for the use of whites as guide dogs, just as faulty are the arguments favoring whites for those other utilitarian purposes for which Shepherds were originally used (animal herding and protection) and for which they have proved to be superior since. Suppose we skip to the self-evident problem of keeping white service dogs clean and take up briefly several functional disadvantages of the whites. In the early days, no German sheep herdsman wanted, or used, whites because of the difficulty in distinguishing sheep from dogs at a distance. In police work it is apparent that white dogs would be at a disadvantage at night, in dark alleys and streets, where their appearance would be blazoned forth to warn scoundrels and thugs of their imminent approach. Even the strongest of the proponents of the colorless Shepherds admit their ineffectuality for work with the police and the armed forces, and grant that shedding white hair is a drawback to their use as pets and companions. What, may I ask, remains for anyone to say in defense of whites when it comes to the utilitarian uses which all admit must be the final criterion for the worth of our breed? As I understand it, white cannot properly be termed a color because it is a lack of all pigment. While I have several times referred to whites as "colorless" dogs in this article, I myself have never seen a pure white German Shepherd Dog which was not an albino. Only a single person amongst the many fanciers with whom I have discussed the matter claims to have seen an adult "white" dog which did not have some buff or tan on the ears or back. Young puppies, yes, many of them. This is not to say there have not been many pure white Shepherds with dark eyes and black noses, but just that, of the thousands of German Shepherds I have judged and seen, I have never encountered one without at least a trace of color. It is indeed regrettable and reprehensible that many of those who accidentally get one white or more in a litter foist them off on an ignorant public as something rare and therefore desirable, that they often ask higher prices for them. It is heartening that the great majority of our fanciers, and all of those who are interested in, and work for, breed improvement, discard such untypical specimens. Such breeders either put whites to sleep at birth, or sell them WITHOUT registration papers, and at greatly reduced prices, to pet buyers who are not knowledgeable enough to understand their handicaps. I can do no better than to second the motion made by William Olliff in his April DOG WORLD article: "Please leave Shepherds alone and stick to another breed where the normal color is white."
White Genes - © “Sedona’s Artwork” by Kathy Partch
Quotes taken from article printed in the October 1972 GSDCA Review Why Don't We Like the White German Shepherd Dog? By Ellen Mattingly, Ph.D. "Geneticists are frequently asked by even long-term breeders of the German Shepherd Dog just what the basis is genetically for the prohibition in our Standard against the white animal, and are also told, frequently, quite vituperatively, by owners of white dogs that our disqualification of the white animal is merely another example of the senseless prejudices they find in show people. While it is not possible to speak directly for the originators of the Standard, it is possible to guess some of the serious reasons that dictated the disqualification of the white dog while other undesirable faults, as for example, long coat, are only considered serious faults." "Let us now consider what problems arise through the use of such white German Shepherd Dogs in breeding programs. The difficulty one hears mentioned most frequently is the association or linkage of solid white with hearing loss or other developmental abnormalities. The best evidence of deafness in association with white color is from studies of the blue merle series of alleles in Collies and Shelties in which the animal who is homozygous recessive for the blue merle genes will be solid white and may be deaf, etc." "In the first place, since the majority of "White German Shepherd Dogs" are in reality extreme cream dilutes, the introduction of cream dilutes alleles into a colored line will certainly begin immediately to dilute the color of the line. An example of the extremes to which color dilution problems can go is seen in Great Britain where the severe quarantine tends to limit the importation of new genes into the pool and the struggle against fading pigment is unending. One might expect that an animal who was heterozygous for a color dilution gene, i.e., one who only carried a single recessive for dilute color, would show no effect. This, unfortunately, does not seem to be true since a color dilution gene will tend to diminish color even when present in the heterozygous state, and thus we worry about such manifestations as light toenails and vanishing saddles in animals which otherwise seem to be brilliantly pigmented, and we are well advised to breed such animals with care." "I have considered in this article the chief reasons that the whites or cream dilutes would be deleterious to the German Shepherd Dog genetically; it does not take too much imagination to see that they would present some rather severe problems functionally as well. A German Shepherd Dog herding stock in a snow-covered field or herding white sheep in any weather would be somewhat less than optimally visible if he were also white; we see, in fact, that the majority of the herding breeds are brilliantly pigmented. It is of course true that German Shepherd Dogs are rarely used at the present time for herding either cattle or sheep. On the other hand, the German Shepherd Dog is used extensively for guard and sentry duty, much of which seems to be done at night, and, in this case, the white color makes for maximum visibility which would certainly be a disadvantage. Finally, the problems we face in keeping our pigmented German Shepherd Dogs presentable are magnified many times with the white dog; the White German Shepherd Dogs I know spend a lot of time in the bathtub."
The following rebuttal was sent to the GSDCA Review but was not published. It appeared in "The Shepherd's Din", Jan-Feb-March 1973. Why We Do Like the White German Shepherd By Peter Lorenz Neufeld, Ph. D. This morning (March 19, 1973) an American friend of mine sent me a copy of an article called "Why Don't We Like the White German Shepherd Dog?" by Dr. Ellen Mattingly which your magazine carried October, 1972. As one who was deeply involved in researching this variety from 1961-70 and the author of the book THE INVINCIBLE WHITE SHEPHERD I feel I can't allow this particular nonsense to go unchallenged, even though it's a belated challenge. The impression I get from reading the article is that Dr. Mattingly has simply transposed the present knowledge of mice color genetics to German Shepherds. The question that I, and I'm sure many readers, would like answered is: Exactly how much research on color genetics involving GERMAN SHEPHERDS has actually been carried on by the Zoology Department at University of Georgia?
Or is the fact Dr. Mattingly's employed there supposed to impress dark shepherd breeders and scare the daylights out of white shepherd breeders? With many thousands of white shepherd dogs in the world, and the fact they were common from the very beginning, there's no greater problem finding a good white sire than a dark one. Dr. Mattingly would like us to believe white shepherds are supposedly rare and recent phenomena. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing that somewhat recent (less than 40 years old) is PREJUDICE involving white shepherds. With a little digging she'll find it originated in Germany during the Hitler era and spread to North America from there. Many early German Shepherds were white and highly prized. Austrian-German-Prussian royalty (the Hapsburgs) prized this variety as highly as they did their white Lippizana horses which drew the royal carriages. As regards sheepherding, many early herdsmen preferred white dogs because they were easier to distinguish from the darker European wolves at night; this despite the lesser problem of distinguishing them from sheep. The earliest breeder of white German Shepherds on this continent was Anne (Tracy) Eristoff of New York. A popular judge of German Shepherds she was the main founder of the German Shepherd Club of America, her first litter in 1913 being line-bred on Luchs - the first U.S. German Shepherd Champion. Another American, Lloyld Brackett - prominent in the recent movement to bar white shepherds from dog shows in the U.S. - whose famous Longworth Kennel of Allegan, Michigan is prized as foundation stock in most dark North American German Shepherd lines, probably distributed more white German Shepherd genes on this continent than any other breeder. If Dr. Mattingly really has done unbiased research with white German Shepherds and isn't simply venting her own personal prejudices then she must have learned there are actually TWO distinct types of white genes - one which produces white hairs and dark skin (commonly called dark-point white) and one which produces white - usually murky - hairs and pink skin (commonly called albino or partial albino). Both are more recessive than dark genes. The latter, however, when bred to a dark shepherd, will usually result in offspring with coats not as dark as that of the dark parent (this gene started the "fading color" theory); not so the former. Also, except in regions with very warm winters and long hours of sunshine it's quite easy to recognize those white shepherds who carry one albino gene (have only one dark-point white gene) because during winter the dark pigment - nose, etc., - fades. It's much more difficult to detect a carrier of albino genes in dark shepherd dogs. It's quite conceivable that a greater percentage of dark shepherds are currently carrying albino genes recessively than are dark-point white shepherds. The murky "saddle" to which Dr. Mattingly refers to, is sometimes present in albino shepherds but never in pure dark-point white ones. Pure dark-point white shepherds always breed true. It is true, as Dr. Mattingly points out, the color white in sentry dogs is considered a disadvantage by some at night. The U.S.A.F. and several police forces, for example, have discontinued using white shepherds for this reason. But no one is claiming white shepherds are superior to dark shepherds in every instance; in some yes, in others not. However, many persons love the white variety which has been an integral and important part of the German Shepherd breed from the beginning (unlike solid black, for example, which is more recent). I personally like both white shepherds AND dark shepherds, have owned both varieties for many years. By all means let's eliminate albino genes. Few dark-point white shepherd breeders would argue this point; and would have much less difficulty than would dark shepherd breeders.  
Quotes taken from article printed  in the June 1960 GSDCA Review By Maureen Yentzen  "White German Shepherd Dogs have always existed in the breed, as they are mentioned in its earliest histories. They are not to be confused with albinos, as the true albino carries pink eyes and nose, of course, while many white German Shepherds Dogs have dark eyes and black noses. Nevertheless, the whites have never been considered desirable and certainly no serious breeders have ever sought deliberately to breed this color." "I have probably not seen more than a dozen whites, yet every one of them carried a much too short tail, in which the last vertebrae was some inches above the hock joint, rather than properly reaching to the back joint at least, as the Standard calls for. White German Shepherd Dogs appear in "dilute" pedigrees also, and perhaps are the causes of dilution. [snipped] We are frank to admit that we do not completely understand how whites function in German Shepherd Dogs as we have conflicting evidence on them." "I would say that a black which carries a white recessive would most likely show this by white toes and nails or a large white blaze on chest, or both. White toes with their accompanying white nails are certainly undesirable in a black, (or in any other color) and any serious breeder who wishes to be sure of maintaining pigment, whether in agouti, pattern, or self color, will discard these puppies. The fact that the white toes "disappear" by later turning silver does not alter the fact that the pup was born with white toes, and it does not alter the fact that the white toes are a fairly reliable indication of the existence of a gene for paling, for dilution, or even for a white factor. And, of course, the light nails will remain light, even though the white toes turn silver or cream." "It is only reasonable to add in the interests of truth that the great majority of "normal colored" dogs which figure in dilute pedigrees are not black and rich tans but black and silvers and black and creams. These varieties of the pattern are so very popular in some quarters that they have been bred from extensively with little attention to gradual loss of pigment in their descendants. There is a great deal of evidence to prove that they are responsible for much of the dilution and carry a recessive gene for dilution which when coupled up with the same recessive from a dog of similar coloring, produces the "blue" version of the black and tan." "We believe that many have wondered why the new Standard explicitly demands a black nose. As the blues have grey noses and the few surviving livers have brown noses, we think the reason is clear. It is the one means to bar off-colors in the show ring. If they are not allowed to be shown, they will not be bred from by serious breeders. There is no more reason to allow a German Shepherd Dog with a grey or brown nose in the ring, than to allow a white German Shepherd Dog with a black nose, in our opinion. The off-colors are due to recessive genes, and they could become so strongly entrenched in the various bloodlines that an average of 25% of every litter could be off-color."
This website was first launched in 1998 - If you have questions about the site or corrections, please mail the webmaster © Pride Webdesign 2016
next next