So Exactly What Is a White German Shepherd?
The White German Shepherd Dog is a German Shepherd with a white coat.
The White German Shepherd Dog Club International, Inc. constitution states the FIRST objective of the Club shall be: “To preserve the name and heritage of the White German Shepherd Dog as an integral and inseparable part of the German Shepherd Dog breed.”
For years the White German Shepherd has been misunderstood and even ostracized as a defect in the German Shepherd breed.
The History of the White German Shepherd Dog
The German Shepherd Dog started out as valued European farm animal because it was an excellent herding dog as well as being intensely loyal and obedient. Many early herdsmen preferred white coated herding dogs such as the White German Shepherd, the Great Pyrenees, the Kuvasz and the Police Tatra Mountain Dog because the white dogs blended into their flocks making it easier to spot dark European wolves.
The German Shepherd breed as a whole began in 1889 at the hands of Captain Max von Stephanitz. Stephanitz purchased Hektor Linksrhein who he renamed Horand von Grafrath. Horand von Grafrath was the first registered German Shepherd Dog and the genetic basis for the modern German Shepherds we know and love today.
A historical dog who is not as well-known as Horand von Grafrath is a white-coat German herding dog named Greif von Sparwasser. Greif von Sparwasser was whelped in Herr Friedrich Sparwasser’s Frankfort kennel in 1879. Friedrich Sparwasser breed both white and wolf (sable) colored herding dogs with upright ears and a body structure that resembles today’s modern German Shepherd Dog. Horand von Grafrath’s maternal grandfather is Greif von Sparwasser.
Captain Max von Stephanitz founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog) on April 22, 1899, and the fine tuning of breeding the German Shepherd Dog began. Line breeding and inbreeding “color coat” dogs that carried Greif’s recessive gene for “white coats” was regarded as necessary to refine and/or create the desired traits in the breed.
As the 20th century progressed, more and more attempts were made to refine the science and expand the population of the still rare breed. German Shepherds steadily became larger and included black-and-tan, solid black, black-and-red, black-and-silver, sable, bi-color, liver and white varieties.
In 1912 Anne Tracy of New York imported the first German Shepherds into the United States and white puppies immediately showed up in the first litters.
In 1917 The American Kennel Club registered the first white German Shepherds from Anne Tracy’s New York kennel.
In 1921 Max von Stephanitz published “The German Shepherd Dog,” which included a photo of a celebrated white German Shepherd dog named, Berno von der Seewiese, who was a direct descendant of Horand von Grafrath In his book, Stephanitz stated, “The coloring of the dog has no significance whatsoever for service.”
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. Coat color never disqualified a dog from Stephanitz’s German Shepherd breeding standard.
Following World War I the White German Shepherd Dogs popularity was equal to color-coated German Shepherd Dogs throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
In 1933 discrimination against the White German Shepherd began. The German Nazi party took over all aspects of German society including the breeding of the German Shepherd Dog. Many of the elite in the Nazi party did not agree with Stephanitz that the breed should embody, first and foremost, the qualities of a working shepherd dog without regard to coat color.
Hitler disliked Stephanitz, who would not join the party and submit to his breed dictates. Nazi breed overseers continuously attempted to banish the breed founder and club president Stephanitz from the Dog Club he founded. 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.
The Nazis, including Hitler, saw the white coat as an undesirable trait and further charged that the white-coated dog’s genes paled the darker coated dog’s colors. They thought the purity of the German Shepherd breed was polluted by the white-coated members. The Nazi mentality blamed flaws such as deafness, blindness, albinism, mental instability, sterility, degeneration, and loss of vigor on the White German Shepherd. Once these beliefs took root, they flourished and grew and some of these myths remain to this day.
By the end of World War II, Nazi Germany barred white German Shepherds from the conformation ring, declared White German Shepherds a disqualification in the German Shepherd breed standard, and began to cull white puppies from litters.
World War II did not affect the popularity of the White German Shepherd in America. White German Shepherds were fully accepted, registered and shown at AKC dog shows through the late 1950s.
However, the discrimination against the White German Shepherd was not exclusive to the Nazis. Many dog breeders all over the world considered white or paler appearances in dogs to be a sign of inferiority and a genetic fault.
In the late fifties and early sixties, influential members of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America endorsed the German Club’s mandate for “breed purity” and started a campaign to eliminate all dogs with the white gene from the gene pool. There was a worldwide attempt to breed the recessive white gene completely out, but this gene was a lingering legacy of their forefather, Greif von Sparwasser.
In 1959 the German Shepherd Dog Club of America (GSDCA) adopted the exclusively colored breed standard of the parent German breed club, deeming the white coat as a disqualification.
Regardless of the White German Shepherd being falsely blamed for genetic problems that existed in German Shepherd bloodlines, the White German Shepherd dog’s popularity increased during the 1960’s. This caused friction between standard German Shepherd breeders and their White German Shepherd breeding counterparts.
In 1964 White German Shepherd lovers in Sacramento, California formed the first White German Shepherd Dog Club to protect their beloved white dogs.
On April 6, 1968, the American Kennel Club accepted the revised German Shepherd Breed Standard from the German Shepherd Dog Club of America and officially barred White-coated German Shepherd Dogs from competition in the conformation show ring in the United States. However, against the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s wishes, the American Kennel Club refused to ban the White German Shepherd dog from being recognized and registered as a pure breed. AKC registered White German Shepherd Dogs can compete in AKC performance events such as obedience, tracking, herding trials, and temperament testing.
In the latter half of the 20th century, it became clear that the breed definitely had its fans, mainly in Canada and in the U.S., but also throughout the entire world. The war to get White Shepherds officially recognized began.
In 1969, White German Shepherd supporters across the country joined the Sacramento club to form The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America. The new club scheduled confirmation shows for White German Shepherds vowed to protect the interests of white-coated German Shepherds and promote and display the quality of this breed to the world.
The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America adopted Stephanitz’s German Shepherd Dog breed standard and adjusted it to allow the white coat color and formally recognize the white dog as a member of Stephanitz’s German Shepherd Dog breed.
In 1977, the White German Shepherd Dog Club of America changed its name to The White German Shepherd Dog Club International, Inc. (WGSDCII) and continues in the United States to this day under that name.
Since 1969 many other white Shepherd clubs independently formed in the United States and other countries to proudly promote and protect the White German Shepherd.
While White German Shepherd Dog Clubs continue to petition and fight for recognition, The German Shepherd Dog Club of America continues their campaign to eliminate white coated shepherds from the breed and lobbying the AKC to stop registering white coated shepherds. A newer yet similar organization to The German Shepherd Dog Club of America is The United Schutzhund Clubs of America Inc. It also disqualifies and does not recognize white-coated German Shepherds.
The White Gene
There are many myths and misconceptions about white-coated German Shepherd Dogs and the gene that carries their coat color.
German Shepherds have a recessive gene that causes the white coat color and ONLY affects the coat color. The recessive white gene acts as a mask which blocks the dog’s true color and markings and is responsible for the coat to be white.
The White German Shepherd Dog is not an albino dog. Albino creatures have NO pigment. White German Shepherds have brown, gold or dark eyes, have pink or dark skin, dark nails, a dark or black nose, a dark color on their paw pads, around their mouth and eyes.
A White German Shepherd can produce standard colored puppies and a standard colored German Shepherd can produce white puppies. Confused?
Breeding a White German Shepherd to a colored German Shepherd will produce colored puppies. BUT, if the colored German Shepherd carries the recessive white gene there is a 50/50 chance that the puppies will be white and/or colored.
Unless genetically tested, there is no way to know if a colored German Shepherd carries the recessive white gene until bred. Even then, the recessive gene may lay dormant in the colored shepherd’s lineage until one day, surprise-white puppies pop up.
In order to 100% guarantee solid white German Shepherd puppies, two White German Shepherds must be bred together.
Breeding a White German Shepherd with a colored German Shepherd will not dilute or fade the coloring of the litter. This is a myth. The white gene does not make lighter colored puppies.
The White German Shepherd does not have any special genetic disorders only caused by the color of their coat. This is another myth. On the flip side, the White German Shepherd is not genetically prone to be healthier than a regular colored German Shepherd. The known health issues that can affect the German Shepherd Dog breed has nothing to do with the color of their coat.
Through genetic research, it has been proven that White German Shepherds are not “faulty”, do not lessen the breed or dilute the breed. Many hardcore German Shepherd elitists refuse to acknowledge the scientific research and insist on promoting the many misconceptions that were started in the 1930’s.
Differentiating White Swiss Shepherds and White German Shepherds
The White Swiss Shepherd is also known as the Weisser Schweizer Schäferhund, or Berger Blanc Suisse, and is from Switzerland.
The Berger Blanc Suisse is currently not recognized by the AKC but is recognized as a breed by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in Europe.
The White Swiss Shepherd originates from the German Shepherd Dog which creates is a lot of overlap in the history and characteristics of the breed.
The size and the structure of the White Swiss Shepherd are the same as a standard German Shepherd.
The White Swiss Shepherd and the White German Shepherd are almost identical in appearance. The biggest difference between the two breeds is in their stance. White Swiss Shepherds stand more upright while White German Shepherds have more severe angulation in their stance.
The coat of the White Swiss Shepherd is slightly longer and heavier on the neck than a traditional German Shepherd. The outer coat may vary between short or long but the White Swiss Shepherd should always have a weather-resistant undercoat and the coat color is ideally as white as possible.
The disposition of the White Swiss Shepherd is generally mellower and a more gentle personality compared to a standard German Shepherd. Like a traditional shepherd, the White Swiss Shepherd is highly intelligent, loyal, athletic, and likes to work. They excel at sport work, search and rescue, therapy work or as a service dog The White Swiss Shepherd is not typically considered for police or protection work but when necessary will protect his family without hesitation.
Is a White German Shepherd Right for You?
If you are thinking about getting a German Shepherd Dog, the color of your dog just boils down to personal preference. Some people seek out White German Shepherds just as others prefer all black German Shepherds, sable shepherds, black and red shepherds, etc.
Regardless of the color of your shepherd, it is important to research all aspects of the breed to ensure you will be a good fit for this intelligent, loyal and active dog.
Click here to determine if you and your home are ready for a German Shepherd.
Click here to learn more about the many colors of the German Shepherd Dog.
Click here to find the perfect name for your new German Shepherd.
How to Find a Reputable White German Shepherd Breeder
Finding a reputable breeder is important for any dog regardless of the breed.
Breeders, who have White German Shepherd puppies show up unexpectedly in the litter, may want to just get rid of the pups and sell them at a discounted price.
Breeders who specifically breed for White German Shepherd puppies may charge more for their pups.
Start with a google search for White German Shepherds in your local area. Also search rescue sites, clubs or forums. Do you know anyone who can recommend a breeder?
If you find a breeder or a kennel, do more research. Do they have reviews or testimonials on their website, Facebook page, Yelp? Try to reach out and contact someone who has purchased one of their dogs.
To get you started, poke around The American White Shepherd Association. They have links to White German Shepherd breeders who are club members.