Rare Breed Spotlight: White Shepherd

As intelligent and sure-footed as the German Shepherd Dog, this elegant breed has long been the subject of color controversy.


Although it has been a victim of coat-color discrimination since 1933, the White Shepherd was an integral part of the German Shepherd Dog breed from its inception.

In 1899, German cavalry officer Max von Stephanitz assumed the development of the German Shepherd Dog breed. While attending the Karlsruhe Exhibition dog show in Germany, he encountered a dog that possessed everything he envisioned in an ideal shepherd dog. Von Stephanitz bought him on the spot and changed his name from Hektor Linksrhein to Horand von Grafrath.

Horand, who became the first registered German Shepherd Dog and a foundation of the breeding program, was the grandson of a white shepherd dog named Greif. In fact, all through the early days of the German Shepherd Dog’s development, white dogs were found in the breed, and von Stephanitz himself owned several. A variety of colors appeared in the breed and von Stephanitz wrote, “A pleasing appearance is desirable, but it cannot put the dog’s working ability into question ... German Shepherd breeding is working-dog breeding or it is not German Shepherd breeding.”

Early in the 20th century, owners of dark-colored German Shepherds began a campaign to oust the white GSDs on the pretext they would cause albinism in the breed. Although this was not true, white coats became a disqualification in the standard when the breed club came under the restraint of the Nazi party in 1933 (as did all aspects of German society).

Numbers of GSDs rose following the toll that World War II took on the breed, and the standard remained unaltered. In 1959, the German Shepherd Dog Club of America followed the German standard, barring whites from conformation shows beginning in 1968. They were, however, permitted to take part in performance activities.

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Erin   Harmony, NC

1/11/2011 4:11:35 PM

We have a white Shepherd named Aspen and he has been the best! He specializes in SAR training and we have had him eight great years! Bravo White Shepherd's!

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