|History of the White Swiss Shepherd Dog|
|This article first featured in the National Dog online publication in February 2011 and is reproduced here with kind permission from its author: Rebecca Rendell|
The White Swiss Shepherd has a compelling
story, a complex tale spanning over a century although
considered a new breed. It’s
a breed whose very existence today can be attributed to the
tenacity of breeders and admirers from around the world, who
chose to shelter and preserve the White Coated Shepherd
throughout its turbulent past.
The breeds’ foundation begins in
|Horand was bred over daughters and granddaughters to quickly establish the traits that were so admired. This also ensured the colour genes of his ancestors, in particular his white grandfather Grieff, were stamped into the genetic code of the new German herding breed for generations to come. The White Colouration in Shepherds is a colour bequeathed from the white sheepherding dogs of the 1800’s that helped form the German Shepherd breed as we know it today.|
The white colouration is a ‘masking’ gene which is responsible for the Samoyed and yellow
The White German Shepherds fall from grace began in 1959 when the German overseeing body ‘Verein fur Deutsche Schaferhunden’ labelled the White German Shepherd an Albino, and the standard was changed to prohibit the use of dogs with more than 50% white or full white coat.
|The results where catastrophic, some countries ceased to register them altogether or made the white coat an automatic disqualification so that no offspring were eligible for registration, others countries while still papering Whites took away their show ring privileges. On a worldwide scale, the White German Shepherds were now excluded from the conformation rings with their broken coloured counterparts, although may would agree this is now a strong contributing factor to the White Swiss Shepherd retaining the conformation of the GSD’s of old.|
|Since the label of albinism had been applied in 1959, the White German Shepherd was now in mortal peril. The court of public opinion believed the white coat was defective somehow, a flawed mutation rumoured to be responsible for anything from blindness to hearing impairment as well as generally unsound. At this time there was no defence, technology such as DNA testing to scientifically refute these claims was unheard of and communication between owners and breeders of whites in different countries was non-existent. Word of the alleged taint carried quickly, generating an almost superstitious pall around the White German Shepherd that still persists today.|
culling of white dogs from the German Shepherd breeding pool
saw the White German Shepherd almost disappear completely from
the countries where they were no longer offered registration
by the Canine Control Bodies.
Devotees were unconvinced by the campaign to eliminate the
White Coated Shepherds from the German Shepherd breed, and the
first breed club specifically for the White German Shepherd
began in America in 1964 where White Shepherds could be shown
in their own speciality shows. Canada followed in 1970, and
|The White Swiss Shepherds story slowly emerges in 1967, where Mrs Agatha Burch returned to her homeland of Switzerland with her American White German Shepherd stud, Lobo of White Burch. Soon after he is joined by White Lilac of Blinkbonny from England, and they are bred under the Shangrila prefix. Their offspring began to spread throughout Europe, and the Shangrila breeding lines were intermingled with the scattered remnants of White German Shepherds still in existence, as well as other American/Canadian imports.|
|In 1989 the (translated) “White Shepherd Dog Society Switzerland” formed, bringing together both English and American registered dogs and local unregistered dogs within the one club. The White Shepherd Society became a registered organisation with the Swiss Kennel Club in 1991, allowing the dogs to be officially shown as White Shepherds throughout Switzerland. The Dutch Kennel club followed in 1993, registering the White Shepherd on a provisional register allowing them to also officially compete in dog sports and conformation. With the local lines in Holland being added to with early imports from England, Canada and America as well as dogs purchased in Germany, even before the 1991 registration with the Swiss Kennel club the White Shepherd had become a popular breed in Europe in its own right.|
Closer to home, the White Shepherd Association of Australia was formed in the year 2000, with the help and support of the Friends of White Shepherds Club in
Through the development register system many Australian bred dogs have been exported to
The Australian bred White Shepherds are unable to be registered with the ANKC at this time, except as a neutered associate. This is a shame as the Australian White Shepherds heritage is unique to the rest of the world, and able to provide a welcome contribution to the steady evolution of the International White Swiss Shepherd breed.
Regardless of any debate the Australian dogs are not valued by the general public for their pedigrees, but rather for their beauty, intelligence and versatility which has allowed them to fulfil many different roles in thousands of Australian homes. They work as family dogs, obedience dogs, agility dogs, herding Dogs and assistance dogs, their owners knowing that no amount of ribbons or trophies could ever replace the loyalty and affection that a member of the Shepherd breed has to offer.
|All photos used in this article are of Australian bred dogs. Many Thanks to Francesca Cionchetti of White Dream for providing the beautiful photo of Rosehill Duchess de Brabant (Amira) - www.whitedream.eu|