The colour white has always
been associated with strength, purity and with conquest. Roman
conquerors used to ride a white horse when they entered a vanquished
city. Napoleon and other would -be world rulers rode in triumph upon
We treasure the rare white
dolphins, lions and tigers etc. Sadly however, when it comes to white
German Shepherds the opposite is true.
It is time the German
Shepherd Dog Breed Standard was changed to include all coat colours, as
long as the colour is not linked to any health problem - and white
Malcolm B Willis in his book
“The German Shepherd Dog A Genetic history of the Breed”, although not
an advocate of whites, says “The colour of the G.S.D is in itself not
important and has no effect on the character of the dog or on its
fitness for work and should be a secondary consideration for that
He also says “Judges who
feel that they must end with a line-up of similarly coloured dogs are in
the wrong business. One should seek to end with a line-up of similar
type animals and colour is irrelevant.” (p36)
On page 39 he says
“The long held belief that white is
degenerate or linked to biological problems is without foundation.”
Dr Bruce Fogle, the vet and
well known author, says of White Shepherds “White Shepherds are
disqualified from the show ring in some countries and severely penalized
in others. The spurious explanation given is that white working dogs are
difficult to see on snow-covered hills, or too easy to spot as
night-time guards. Hence this colour is bypassed by most top breeders
and consequently disadvantaged. White Shepherds’ unique look, however,
gives them widespread popularity as pets.”
Max von Stephanitz himself
said “No good dog can be a bad
THE WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD BOOK
by Paul D. Strang, Stephen A. Berman, M. Eileen Hilldrup
Foreword - “ Unfortunately, as is often the
case with the good
things in life, a small minority has been very vocal in its disapproval
White Shepherds. This has led to the fear, held by some that, possibly,
White (German) Shepherd is unacceptable or that it cannot be registered
the American Kennel Club.
What nonsense! A good White German Shepherd is neither an albino
nor a degenerate. . . . . . "
WHERE DID THE WHITE (GERMAN) SHEPHERD COME FROM?
The White Shepherd originated in Germany as a colour variety of the
CAN A WHITE GERMAN SHEPHERD BE BRED WITH OTHER COLOURS OF THE GERMAN
The truth is that virtually all German Shepherd bloodlines have a
background encompassing white recessive. In fact, some of the finest
Shepherd bloodlines have, in the past, been famous for the White
1882. At the Hanover show, a white Shepherd
is exhibited. Greif is the
first documented White German Shepherd in competition
White shepherding dogs of varying sizes and types are shown to be common
all areas of Germany by the Phylax Society, an organization of German
who were interested in combining various shepherd bloodlines in order to
produce an improved breed.
Captain Max von Stephanitz, who had become interested in improving upon
older breeds of shepherds through the Phylax Society, buys Hektor
By intensive inbreeding of this dog, v. Stephanitz produced the
the German Shepherd breed.
As Hektor carried recessive white genes in his bloodlines, it was only
natural that he would pass these genes along to his descendants. Hektor,
father of the German Shepherds, is thus the father also of the White
Von Stephanitz publishes his 776 page opus on the German Shepherd. He
includes a photograph of a celebrated White Shepherd, Berno v.d.
which is a direct descendant of Hektor, the father of the breed. This
was in German; subsequent editions were translated into English.
H. N. Hanchett of Minn. MN becomes first American importer of
White German Shepherds
With increasing popularity of the White German Shepherd, friction
develops between the breeders of the White Shepherds and the Standard
German Shepherds. Genetic problems in the German Shepherd bloodlines are
blamed erroneously on the "white-coated" German Shepherd. During this
Germany begins a campaign to outlaw the white dogs.
White Shepherd fanciers are puzzled. As white sheep-guarding and herding
breeds have been known for at least 2,000 years, how could they have
become undesirable due to their coat colour?
THE ROOTS: EARLY HISTORY
The work of the Phylax Society, 1891-1894, focused attention on the fact
that there were originally a great number of different varieties of
In 1899, Von Stephanitz began his task of creating the modern German
Shepherd, using dogs that combined the bloodlines of the older
Marcus Terrentius Varro (116-27 B.C.), the Roman historian and writer,
was one of the first to eulogize the shepherds' dogs. Of particular
to us is the fact that he described the guardians of the flocks as being
invariably white in colour.
In his opinion, the shepherds preferred white dogs in order to be able
distinguish them from the wolves that usually attacked in the half-light
dawn or dusk.
Columella (1st century A.D. ) published a 35 volume treatise on
agriculture entitled, The Agricultural Arts stated, unequivocally,
that the dogs which guarded the sheep were white in colour.
Many representatives of the big white guardians described by the Roman
writers are still with us today..
Most of the little shepherd dogs come in brown, grey, or grizzled coats.
Some, for example the Puli, are known to come in a white variety. Still
another little herding breed is the Sharfpudel of Germany. . . . . . it
We see then. . . . . . Very large dogs, almost always white in colour,
which were used primarily, as protectors of the flocks.
THE ROOTS: MAX VON STEPHANITZ
The dog which fulfilled the blueprint in von
Stephanitz' mind was Hektor
Linksrhein. He purchased the dog on the spot, renaming him Horand von
As he said in his book, 'The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture',
group with the best chance of gaining the upper hand was the one which
envisioned turning the new breed into a working-type show dog with, at
costs, erect ears and, possibly, a wolf-like appearance as well." He
pointed out how they turned to the Thuringaian shepherd dog because in
variety they were most likely to get the much sought-after erect ears,
often, a wolf-grey colour.
THE ROOTS: HORAND VON GRAFRATH
Horand and Hektor are the same dog.
When the background of Horand is examined, bona fide evidence is
to the natural occurrence of white as a colour within Shepherds. White
genetic pool within the colour variations of the German Shepherd.
George Horowitz, English Judge, Alsatian Columnist, author and historian
provides a glimpse into the background of Horand. In his 1923 effort,
Alsatian Wolf-Dog, with latter editions, reports that in 1882, two
made an appearance at the Hanover Show. One was Greif, born in 1879 and
in colour. Greif was again to be exhibited at Hanover, this time in
One year later at the 1888 Hamburg show, Greifa, another white, was
exhibited. At the Cassel Show in 1889, Greif II, also a white, was
All three of the white Alsatians, Greif, Greifa and Greif II, were owned
the Master ofHounds of Beyenrode, Baron von Knigge. Almost identical
information on Greif and Greifa is provided in The German Shepherd Dog,
Its History, Development and Genetics, by M. B. Willis, B. Sc.Ph.D.
Horand von Grafrath, SZ 1, the founding father of all modern German
Shepherds, descends from Greif (white). Here then the white factor is
identified as a genetically expected colour within the breed.
The breeder of Horand, then Hektor, was Herr Friedrich Sparwasser of
Frankfort. Horand was whelped the 1st of January 1895. A litter brother,
Luch 1155, also was to be influential as a sire and carried, of course,
same genetic pool.
Schaefermaedchen von Hanau
Horand von Grafrath, SZ 1
Lene 156 (white)
Greif, the white, is the grandsire of Horand, father of the breed. The
genetic influence of a grandparent is significant, and as Horand was
line-bred and inbred, this influence would remain viable in subsequent
generations. As litter brother Luchs 155 was widely bred, his offspring
would carry the white genetic factor in their gene pools.
Horand von Grafrath, the von Stephanitz prototype for the new breed,
white genes in his bloodlines. Many of Horand's grandchildren were
white, or carried in their genetic make-up the promise of more White
Shepherds in the future.
It is obvious, then, that the White Shepherd is not a mutant. He is
as his ancestors were frequently white. And so, too, will his
For more history of the whites see: