The White German Shepherd, sometimes referred to as just White Shepherd, is a white-coated colour variation of the German Shepherd breed. The white colour variation has been present in the breed since it’s original development in the late 1800′s by Max Von Stephanitz. Their white coats are mistakenly interpreted as a sign of albinism, but genetic analysis has proven this to be false. The white coat is in fact valid colour variation ’caused by a recessive gene. During the 1930′s, the Nazi party took control of breeding standards and practises in Germany. Under new control, white coats became grounds for disqualification and White German Shepherds were not permitted to breed. Following the Second World War, dedicated breeders sought to repopulate and rebuild the German Shepherd breed, but the existing breed standards were kept in place, and white coat variations continued to be seen as a fault.
Today, many kennel clubs around the world continue to regard the White Shepherd as a variation of the German Shepherd breed, and most do not permit White Shepherds to participate in conformation dog shows. However, the United Kennel Club in the United States has declared the White Shepherd to be a separate breed. While the recessive white coat gene is very rare, it is believed by some that the gene pool is significant enough to warrant the development and identification of White Shepherds as a separate breed. The UKC conformation standard states that a White Shepherd should be pure white in colour, although off-white, cream and light tan coloured coats can be accepted. The dog’s nose and paw-pads must remain black.
Aside from the obvious difference in colour, White Shepherds are physically identical to the German Shepherd. White Shepherds can be superb workers and make excellent shepherd dogs and guide dogs. Unfortunately, as the white coat is a recessive gene, the gene pool from which White Shepherds can be bred is limited. As with any breed that is developed for aesthetic preference over working ability, the limited gene pool can have a negative effect on the overall performance of the dog. It is because of this that a White Shepherd may not have the nerves required for work as a guard dog, or a true protection dog.