==> The Truth about White GSDs?
WHITE German Shepherds
Some people insist that white GSDs are not German Shepherds but instead a distinct dog breed. What do you feel?
In this Periodical:
- Are WHITES German Shepherds?
- How Common are White GSDs?
- Sources for White German Shepherds
Are WHITES German Shepherds?
The first registered German Shepherd Dog ever, Horand v. Grafrath (or before its renaming, Hektor Linksrhein) was a grandson of Greif, a white German Shepherd sire. This is why already the first registered GSD carried the gene for the white coat color.
The white coat gene is recessive, this means both parents must carry the gene for the offspring to have a white coat. And no, white German Shepherds are not albinos.
It also means that any German Shepherd Dog with a different coat color (black, tanbrown, goldbrown, whatever) may well carry this recessive gene and thus have white coat offspring (or cream-colored offspring).
So, unless the (professional or backyard) breeder knows the ancestry (or pedigree) of both the female dog (dam) and the male dog (sire), the breeder may well be surprised by the offspring! - Not only in terms of coat color, but also in terms of overall looks, size, mobility, temperament, and hereditary disorders.
Finally, the fact that the white coat is due to a recessive gene also means it can happen that part of the offspring is say white-coated and some siblings are say black-coated (although this is rare).
By the way, the breed history further proves that GSDs existed long before the first GSD was registered as such (in 1899). In fact German Shepherds existed even before the alleged breed founder, Max v. Stephanitz, was born (in 1864)!
The only reason why v. Stephanitz is credited with being the breed's founder is that:
- he founded a first club for the breed (the SV in Augsburg, Germany)
- he unified the breed's characteristics (and the breeders)
- and he widely publicised and showed the breed in dog shows (made the GSD well-known)
Find out more: Click to save vet cost, training cost, and your nerves!
As always, credit gets the one who is good at marketing his/her efforts - which is why I never got credit.
Horand v. Grafrath then sired many white pups (ie the dam carried the recessive white gene too), as well as many pups of other colors (ie the dam did not carry the recessive white gene) - which nonetheless passed on the gene for the white coat color!
This fact alone shows sufficiently that any later attempts to outlaw the white German Shepherds were frankly ludicrous.
It is like stipulating: "No German is allowed to be of Prussian lineage", or "No American is allowed to be of Irish lineage".
Per Breed Standard
As early as in 1891 v. Stephanitz wrote a first "German Shepherd Breed Standard", which established in terms of coat that GSDs have one of the following coat types:
- short coat (flat harsh short hair)
- long stock coat (flat harsh long hair)
- plush coat ('plush' soft long hair)
Note that neither this first nor v. Stephanitz' later breed standards mention an undercoat.
His first breed standard also established that GSDs have one of the following coat colors:
- red-gold ("red-yellow")
- and each of these either unicolor or patterned
When finally the first SV club-official breed standard was published in 1899, these same coat types and coat colors were adopted.
The Influence of the Nazis
However, even before the Nazis came to power in Germany, from the early 1930s onwards the Nazis started to strategically place their functionaries in practically all associations of more than a handful of people (to control them, like in all totalitarian regimes) - and the SV was no exception.
V. Stephanitz', with his ideas of a working dog (where working ability always dominated appearance), quickly fell out of favor with the Nazi functionaries (who prioritized appearance).
And, for whatever personal reasons, those Nazi functionaries simply did not like the white-colored GSD. We can only assume this was because all early German Shepherds (see Horand v. Grafrath above and Ann Tracy's on the right) still had the wolf-like facial features, and these looked more pronounced when the dog was white.
V. Stephanitz was forced to retire from the SV, and in the same year when the Nazis took over all power in Germany (1933), the Nazi functionaries in the SV swiftly deleted the color white from the breed standard!
Let me repeat this so that it really sinks in. Historically it is clear that:
V. Stephanitz died soon thereafter (in 1936), and we can only imagine his extent of bitterness over the Nazi ruling in his final years.
So from 1933 onwards, the color white was considered a fault for a German Shepherd. But even after World War II, the new (old) SV functionaries continued to put so much pressure on their international club members that in 1968 finally the German Shepherd Dog Club of America subdued too and deleted the color white from their adopted German Shepherd Dog breed standard.
Today we know that this was a huge mistake. First by the Germans, then globally by all GSD member organizations associated with the SV via the World Union of German Shepherd Dog Associations (WUSV). Whether today's SV members and functionaries have realized this mistake is not clear though. Presumably they have, but their ego forbids them to admit it.
I noticed however that since my research work for the Periodical on German Shepherd Dog Global Pedigree Differences (when I last looked at the SV website) surprisingly all photos of German Shepherds with a sacked back have disappeared from their site! See SV website.
What doesn't get into my head though is, why more than 60 years(!) after the Nazis, neither the SV in Germany nor any GSD member organizations across the globe have reversed this mistake!?
Why have they all continued with the disqualification of the white GSD? And even put in the effort to register the white GSD as a separate breed, instead of simply correcting a mistake made by the Nazis?
I've tried hard, but I can't understand that.
Per Today's Breed Standard
100 years after the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale - World Canine Organisation, Belgium) was founded, in 2011 the FCI ultimately registered the white GSD as standalone breed - under the name 'Berger Blanc Suisse' (White Swiss Shepherd). In the USA: American White Shepherd.
Note: What you can read on pseudo "knowledge" bases like wikipedia ("The Berger Blanc Suisse is a breed of dog from Switzerland") is plain wrong: As you saw above, the white German Shepherd (or "Berger Blanc Suisse") was not bred in Switzerland. In fact, white GSDs where imported into Switzerland no earlier than in the 1970s! Presumably the only reason for the name "Berger Blanc Suisse" was that the white coat color was associated with the snow-covered mountains in Switzerland.
So today, we still have it that the WHITE GSD is considered a fault by the breed standard of the SV Germany, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, the German Shepherd Schutzhund Club of Canada, the British Association for German Shepherd Dogs, the German Shepherd Dog League of Great Britain, the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia, and all others!
Time for change, isn't it?
On MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG we will certainly always consider the white GSD as much a German Shepherd as a GSD of any other coat color.
Why? See Per Breed History above.
But we cannot use the word Shepherd alone, because there's also the (very different) Australian Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, Belgian Shepherd, Picardy Shepherd, Tatra Shepherd, King Shepherd, etc.
Other than their name, I LOVE the logo of the American White Shepherd Association which you see here on the right.
So should we call the German Shepherd Dog Alsatian instead, like some people in countries of the British Commonwealth still do? - Plus some in these US states: Texas, California, Washington, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, and the New England States.
Really? 60+ years(!) after the Nazis ruled and excluded the white GSD? Still allow them to influence our modern time??
No. Then we can never get the white GSDs reunited with all other GSDs!
Unless ... we can convince the owners and breeders (and club functionaries!) of a "Berger Blanc Suisse" (White Swiss Shepherd) to change their name again?
For me (maybe because of my science background) the key is:
Thus all GSDs should be named German Shepherds - or if you want, Alsatians.
How Common are White GSDs?
Globally? 2.9% are solid white (based on our subscribers' input data). And another 7.4% have white coat elements.
So, white coat German Shepherds are certainly not rare (as in insignificant). They are meaningful!
North America: 2.7% are solid white. And another 6.8% have white coat elements.
Australia and New Zealand: NO solid white German Shepherds (based on our subscribers' input data), but 3.1% with white coat elements. Is that maybe because in Australia the sun burns too strong for white coat skin pigments? Not sure.
Asia: NO solid white GSDs (based on our subscribers' input data), but 16%(!) with white coat elements.
And now comes the surprise! In Europe: 10.3%(!) are solid white, plus another 10.3% have white coat elements. This is really significant. Every fifth GSD in Europe is partly white!
Note though that most of our subscribers in Europe are (obviously) from the english-speaking nations UK and Ireland. Although we have a Google Translate feature on all pages, the quality of the automatic translation may not be satisfactory for other readers?
Sources for White German Shepherds
At MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG we are against backyard breeding ("Don't breed or buy while shelter dogs die!"). The disastrous consequences of this greedy and irresponsible adventure you have seen in our Periodical on Spaying and Neutering.
So, if you want a white German Shepherd but don't want a white rescue GSD (why not?), then by all means get one from a reputable professional German Shepherd breeder. Our public article Best German Shepherd Breeders gives further insight how to find a reputable dog breeder.
However, specifically for white GSDs, it's probably best to then contact a White German Shepherd Dog club close to you, because they should have details about white GSDs near you. You can google this exact term, plus your town/region/state.
Here are the three key clubs in the USA that are dedicated to the White German Shepherd Dog:
==> Next edition: The Real Danger of GSDs! <==