Health & Heredity Special Report:

by Tami Sue Huber**

Reprinted from Giant Steps © March-April 1994

Well, lots of interesting things have happened since my last column. I bred my bitch in November and was blessed with a litter is January.

I had everything planned so perfectly, but don't we all. I had done OFA hips and elbows, CERF for the past four years, a CH/CDX bitch working in Schutzhund, a stud chosen that is CH/SchHIII, and both parents have normal thyroid. Everything should go without a hitch and the pregnancy was totally uneventful. Live healthy pups were seen on the ultrasound at 5 weeks into the pregnancy.

The whelping began at 10:00 pm and proceeded well into the next morning. Mom was tired and the pups were vigorous. All weighed at least one pound at birth. There were 6 live and one stillborn. The big surprise came with the 3rd pup delivered. A large, perfectly formed male that was BLACK and TAN. You can imagine my surprise. This breeding was a complete outcross, and this was the last thing I expected. Then, the 5th pup, a female, was also a black and tan.

I was aware that this color gene existed in Giants, but many people were (are) totally unaware that there are any color possibilities except the approved black and pepper/salt. I called the stud owners and informed them, and then called Kit Brown to find the mode of inheritance for this color gene. My basic understanding of genetics led me to believe that the trait was completely recessive, therefore, each parent MUST carry the B/T color gene. This suspicion was confirmed via several sources.

The point of this whole article is to make the point that no matter how carefully we as breeders plan, we must always expect the unexpected. It truly is reproductive roulette. The male has a complete East German pedigree and the bitch a totally American pedigree. This goes to show us how far a buried recessive gene can pass without being expressed. To my knowledge and that of the stud owner, all ancestors to both these dogs were black. I will be writing to PSK and inquiring as to the frequency of B/T in German dogs.

I have already had some criticism circulate back to me from the show world. Some people are saying that this is a total horror. The truth of the matter is, I morally and ethically couldn't dispose of these pups before anyone found out about them. I don't

know if this happens among giant breeders, but I know that I would have created a bigger problem by covering it up and saying nothing.

The same runs true of any other genetic problem. If we bury our heads in the sand, the problem doesn't exist. This is a poor way to try to eliminate health/heredity traits that are undesirable. I guess I'd take a color fault over hip dysplasia, given the magnitude of the fault. At least these two pups aren't crippled or in pain due to their color.

All American breeders need to be aware that this B/T color, as well as all other disallowed colors, can still crop up in the dogs of today, especially if there is any degree of linebreeding being done. My bitch has some of the most common kennel names on her pedigree. Taken back 6 generations, I don't think anyone is exempt from the possibility. Names included are: Von Gestern, Alanbars, Terrestas, Ebenholtz, de la Steingasse, Arlingfires, Fancway, v Silberwald, Skansen, Tassajara, Lobachtal, Krayenrain, Sonnenschein, Halycon, v d Vogelweide. Almost all of us have some of these “old” lines behind our dogs.

The key to eliminating problems is to meet them head on. I plan to do this. I don't want this breed to go the way of other breeds whose breeders were (are) caught up in the ego and profit to do justice to the dogs that they own and breed. I invite any comments and criticism concerning the color problem. I would also like to get any feedback (can be anonymous) regarding any incidence of B/T or other colors since the change in the standard (1978?), especially if the pups were destroyed. I would like to know if this trait is expressed more frequently than anyone is letting on. I will pass on the information I receive from PSK when I get it. Anyone interested in specifics of my bitch's pedigree can call or drop me a line, although we don't know where this hidden gene came from.

**Author is now Tami Stoller


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