The white German Shepherd are in great part just like the colored German shepherd, but in recent times the breeding have resulted in a difference where the white German Shepherd has become more “family-dog” oriented, whereas the colored German Shepherd is still seen as a working dog. BUT the basic features are completely the same – as it’s still the same breed.
The German Shepherds have been carefully and systematically breed in 125 years, and in the past a white German Shepherd was mainly seen as an “error”. However that have changed in the last decade. The white German Shepherd is now defined as an independent breed, and many favor this breed ahead of the “normal” colored German Shepherd.
The white German Shepherd is a breed mentioned repeatedly in literature, where it dates back to before the birth of Jesus Christ. It was first mentioned by the Roman historian, Marcus Terrentius in 116 BC, who described the dog as an excellent dog for shepherds. The tasks for herding dogs was very different from what we know today. They should, like today, keep the flock together – but its main task was to defend the flock from predators/thieves. Evidence suggests that the first German Shepherds were white, because that was preferred by shepherds since thieves and wolves couldn’t distinguish a white German Shepherd from the sheep.
The only documented effort breeding of decidedly white German Shepherds from before 1900, are from Alasce-Lorraine in Austria (the Austro-Hungarian Empire), where the powerful royal family of Habsburg thought the white German Shepherd was tailored to their white Lipizzaner horses and white gowns, which is why they started breeding the white German Shepherd. Habsburg is one of Europe’s major royal houses with holdings throughout Europe with headquarters in Switzerland. That the first documented breeding program was in Switzerland should come as no surprise, since that Switzerland today has a very prominent status in the white German Shepherd community.
The History Of The White German Shepherd
The first time a white German Shepherd was exhibited, was in a show in Hannover in 1882, where the shepherd Grief was exhibited and again in 1887 (George Horowitz, The Alsation Wolf, GB 1923). Greif was also exhibited in 1888 together with another white German shepherd, Greifa. Greif was born in Frankfurt (1879), and was paired with the bitch Lotte. They came from the tribes Thuringia and Frankonia known for their wolf-like ears and wolf-like color.
They got the bitch Lene, who was paired with a dog named Kastor, but what color Lotte had is unknown. Lene and Kastor birthed the famous dog Horand von Grafrath. You might be wondering – why is he famous? Let me explain: After an exhibit in Karlsruhe, Horand was spotted by a German Captain named Max von Stephanits who was so taken away with the dog, that he immediately bought it. Max von Stephanits wanted to create a perfect work-dog by pairing different German sheepdogs and collies, and had been involved in breeding for many years.
On April 22, 1899 Stephanitz presented Horand at a dog show in Karlsruhe. At that exact day he also formed the German Shepherd club: “Verin für Deutche Schäferhunde”. The first breed standard was presented on September 20 in the same year and the first dog registered in the new register was Horand. Horand is to this day considered to be the ancestor of all German Shepherds.
Horand is the grandson of Grief and Lotte, which means that all German Shepherds have a white German Shepherd in their generic bloodstream. Max von Stephanits wrote in 1908 in one of his countless theses, where he claimed that the color of the German Shepherd had NO INFLUENCE on the dog’ ability to work – it was nothing but “ol wife chatter”.
In 1912, Ann Tracey (from NY) imported a German Shepherd from on of the best kennels in Germany, and short after arriving in the USA the white puppies arrived. In 1917 the American Kennel Club registered the first white puppies from Tracey’s kennel, and a serious breeding program started in the United States. During the first World War, particularly the British and Americans were impressed with German Shepherds abilities, and brought home several dogs for breeding. The British changed the name to “Alsatian Sheperd” not to disturb the agreement that was based on Versailes agreement, but the name was changed again in 1930. In England – and indeed all the Commonwealth countries, the German Shepherd is today the most used working dog.
In the ’30s the Nazis started possessing more and more power in the German Shepherd Club, where German Shepherds (along with the Dobbermann) had successfully been widely used during World War 1. The Nazis wanted characteristics other than Max von Stephanits thoughts, and Max was threatened to cooperate – otherwise he would have been sent off to a concentration camp, and in 1935 he was forced to resign. Von Stephanits died the following year – the 37th anniversary of the club’s founding. His life work was in ruins (at least in Germany), and at the end of the war there were only a few German Shepherds back in Germany.
A huge smear campaign was launched against the white German Shepherd at the end of the 2nd World War. Breeders used the method “shot or drowned” to extinct the breed. It was believed that the white German Shepherd was the cause of inbred, and they caused the colored Shepherds diseases and aggressive behavior. Even well-known writers and “breed scientists” were more or less voluntarily behind the massive smear campaign against the white German Shepherd, and especially in the final phase of the war, where the need for scapegoats grew. Hitler’s very famous dog Blondi was a colored, short-haired German shepherd, which was the color and shape a dog should have. The white German Shepherd was blamed for all problems the colored German Shepherds was suffering from (aggressive behavior, diseases, light skinned) – which was the consequences of too much inbreeding.
In America and Canada the white German Shepherds developed little by little and became more and more an independent breed. The American White Shepherd “Lobo”, born 03/05/1966, is considered to be the progenitor for all white German Shepherds.
In 1968 the German Shepherd Club in America chose to disqualify a white German Shepherd simply because of the color – for the first time since the club’s establishment in 1913, where both colored and white was exhibited as equals. The reason was inspired by the prejudices from Germany, since inbreeding was also a huge issue in the US. And just like in Germany, the white German Shepherd got the blame. In protest against the prejudices against the white German Shepherd – not only in Germany but in the entire world – supporters organized the creation of the first club for white German Shepherds in 1969, Sacramento USA.
In 1970 the famous book on the white German Sepherd – The Invencible White Shepherd by Dr. Peter Neufeld was published. The book’ title was fitting for a breed who’s entire life had been an uphill battle.
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