White German Shepherds

White German Shepherds

A lot of people don't know that German shepherds come in a color other than the standard "brown with black saddle."  Many a white German shepherd has been dismissed as a shepherd/husky cross, or some other mongrel. 

But it's true: German shepherds come in white.  Despite Adolf Hitler's best efforts!

In fact, the first registered German shepherd was a white dog, a working dog named Greif.  The white coat was seen as a superior color by the sheep herders who originally brought the breed to market.  A white dog is easier to see against a grassy, hedgy background. 

Shepherds also believe that sheep are more likely to accept a white dog moving among them, since it is perceived as being more "sheep colored."  (This is the conventional wisdom, at any rate.  Just note the other white herding breeds, from the old English sheepdog to the great Pyrenees.)

The breed standard didn't specify a coat color until 1933, when the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany was brought under Hitler's control (along with the rest of Germany) when he declared a State of Emergency.  The white coat became a disqualification, presumably because it was due to a recessive gene.

(This is puzzling all around, and I can't find any reason for it.  Recessive genes aren't inherently bad, of course.  They aren't somehow less suitable or useful than dominant genes.  Furthermore, blue eyes in humans are also a recessive trait, and look how much Hitler loved those.  I guess it's futile to try and puzzle out the logic of Adolph Hitler.)

The "white German shepherd" survived in several spots, often by breeders who claimed it was its own separate breed.  This is the genesis for the White German Shepherd Club of America, as well as the "breed" the Berger Blanc Suisse, which is just a version of the white German shepherd which hails from Switzerland.

Unfortunately, the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany still has not reverted its rules to include white as a viable color.  And since most other kennel clubs look to the GSDCG as an arbiter of the breed, this has resulted in white being a disqualifying color across the world.  The Canadian Kennel Club and American Kennel Club both consider white to be disqualifying, as do many other kennel clubs.

Luckily, this hasn't stopped the white German shepherd from enjoying a long and healthy life.  White German shepherds are in fact represented often in popular culture, perhaps because their unique color makes them such an eye-catching change from the norm.

Author Neil Gaiman has two white German shepherds.  His first, Cabal, was a rescue dog he picked up off the road.  His second, Lola, was adopted through Petfinder.  (Gaiman notes that if you would like your own white German shepherd, Petfinder has loads of them looking for good homes.  And there's always breed rescue!)  Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Aniston also own white German shepherds. 

Movie versions include Bolt from the Disney movie of the same name, and Thorn, the large white dog owned by the King of the Vampires in "The Lost Boys."

Photo credit: Flickr/DogLover890