Today, people often associate the German Shepherd Dog with being either red or tan in color. However, the White German Shepherd was once regarded as a highly prized farm animal in Germany. Due to widespread discrimination, the White German Shepherd is now rare. In Nazi Germany, the Nazis and Hitler were planning on killing all White German Shepherd dogs.
The German Shepherd Dog’s origin can be traced back to Max von Stephanitz, a former German Cavalry Captain. In 1899, he started breeding the breed from various German herding dogs. The first known registered German Shepherd dog was Horand von Grafrath. His maternal grandfather was a white-coat German herding dog named Greif von Sparwasser. Greif von Spawasser.
The white-coat German herding dog was highly regarded for its intelligence, obedience, and loyalty. Its owners also preferred this color because it made it easier to spot dark -coated European wolves. Due to its recessive gene, von Stephanitz had to extensively refine the traits of the German Shepherd Dog to bring out the ideal characteristics.
He did not consider the dog’s color to be a significant factor in its development. Instead, he focused on its traits that made it a good working dog, such as its intelligence, loyalty, stamina, and strength. In his 1921 book, von Stephanitz stated that the dog’s coloring had no significance in service.
The popularity of the German Shepherd Dog during the 20th century grew due to its white color. In 1912, the first known white German Shepherd was imported to the US. Five years later, it was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. After WWI, the white German Shepherd became more popular in the US, Canada, and Mexico.
However, in 1933, discrimination against the White GSD began. The German Nazi party rose to power and sought to take over the breeding of German Shepherds. High-ranking party members disagreed with von Stephanitz’s assertion that coat color had no effect on the quality of the dog. Moreover, Hitler reportedly disliked von Stephanitz who refused to join the party in addition to disagreeing on the breeding of GSDs.
In 1935, under mounting pressure from Nazi breeders, von Stephanitz abandoned the German Shepherd Dog Club that he founded 36 years earlier. He died the next year. With von Stephanitz gone, the Nazis banned the registration of White GSDs falsely claiming that they were prone to health problems like deafness, blindness, and mental instability which diluted the breed.
Like other prejudices under the Nazi regime, these ideas took root with the public. White GSDs were disqualified from the breed standard and breeders culled white puppies from litters.
Sadly, the unfounded prejudices against the White GSD were not exclusive to Nazi Germany. Breeders around the world, including in America, considered white and lighter coats among German Shepherds to be genetic defects and a sign of inferiority. Despite the fall of the Third Reich, the German Club maintained the Nazi idea of breed purity in GSDs and, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the idea took root in the United States. A campaign was started by members of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America to eliminate white genes from the breed and, in 1959, the club adopted the colored breed as the standard and deemed the white coat as a disqualification.
Despite the prejudice against the white German Shepherd, its popularity grew during the 1960s. In 1964, a group calling itself the White German Shepherd Dog Club was established in California. In 1968, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the white German Shepherd as a pure breed. However, it considers the dog’s coat color to be a faulty trait and bars it from participating in various competitions.
From across the country, individuals joined the White German Shepherd Club of America in 1969. In 1977, the organization changed its name to reflect the worldwide acceptance of the White German Shepherd. On April 14, 1999, Kennel Club officially recognized the White German Shepherd as a distinct breed and a direct descendant of Germany’s German Shepherd Dog.
Credits: Miguel Ortiz