The Alsatian, or German shepherd, is a popular breed all over the globe. Most people would recognize an Alsatian for its brown and black markings, but what some don't know is dogs of the breed can have white coats. White Alsatians are not albinos; they are the same as those who are regular-colored in every way except their snowy hue.
Early History of the Alsatian
The history of the Alsatian dates back to 1899, when Captain Max von Stephanitz started to develop the breed. Shepherds and farmers in Germany had been using dogs for herding for thousands of years. Having traveled across the country as a cavalry officer, Captain von Stephanitz had stayed with many farmers and had noted that no one dog seemed to possess all the traits necessary for herding. He believed that the perfect herding dog would be quick, intelligent, trustworthy, slow to tire, eager to please, and protective, if needed. So, he found the best shepherd dogs in the country and set about creating his new breed.
Origins of the White Alsatian
Captain von Stephanitz started his stud book for the newly created breed with a dog named Horand. Early in the creation of this breed, white Alsatian dogs began to appear. Horand must have possessed the recessive gene responsible for the white coat. Captain von Stephanitz embraced these white dogs as part of the breed. One white Alsatian named Grief was amongst a handful of dogs that he would display as examples of perfect herding dogs.
In 1912, the first Alsatians came to America, imported by Anne Tracy. She reported that white puppies were born in the first litters these dogs produced. However, it wasn't until 1917 that the American Kennel Club would register white Alsatians. The white-coated strain became increasingly popular, shown alongside their more conventionally colored counterparts. In 1964 the first White German Shepherd Dog Club was formed in Sacramento, California, for the appreciation and protection of the strain.
Before long, some people started to have problems with white Alsatians. During the 1960s, breed enthusiasts blamed the white strains for genetic problems developing within the breed. In 1968, the AKC amended its breed standard and listed a white coat as a disqualifying feature. To this day, you can't show a white Alsatian in an AKC event, although the club does do still register white-coated dogs. The White German Shepherd Dog Club of America sponsors shows in which white-coated dogs may be entered.
By Lauren Corona
About the Author
Lauren Corona has worked as a writer since 2010. She has penned articles for a range of websites and print publications, specializing in animal care, nature, music and vegan food. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and American literature, and a postgraduate diploma in print journalism.