The North American White Miniature Schnauzer

The earliest records surrounding development of the Miniature Schnauzer in Germany come from the late 1800's. In the breed's earliest stages, several small breeds were employed in crosses to bring down the size of the well established Standard Schnauzer, with the goal of creating a duplicate in miniature.

Crossing to other breeds, such as the Affenspinscher and Miniature Pinscher had the side effect of introducing colors that were not considered acceptable to the ultimate goal - and as breeders worked towards the stabilization of the gene pool, mismarked particolors and white puppies would be removed from breeding programs. They were recognized as a step backward.

By the time the breed had crossed the Atlantic to North America, type was relatively well established. The breed standard called for a much smaller dog than the present day MS, but at all times white and particolor MS were considered unacceptable regressions. Very few dogs were successful in making the trip alive to reproduce in the days of distemper and other contagious diseases and no vaccine. The handful who did suceed in leaving descendants were primarily salt & pepper in color. A few of these dogs also carried the black & silver gene and it continued to occur in many of the known foundation kennels throughout the growth of the breed. Although black & silver was not commonly shown in the early years, when it did become more popular in the ring, pedigree analysis was always successful in tracing the origin of the color gene to the known imports who had carried the color.

The gene for black did not become established in the general population until some years afterwards - but again, all black champions are easily traced to one or more of the well known black imports.

When the breed was in its infancy, there were isolated cases of the old genes for white popping up in the first few generations. This was to be expected as the original imports derived their genetic material from the crosses I mentioned earlier.

Miniature Schnauzers were not very successful in the show ring in the early years. They seldom recorded major wins in the group, and numbers of show kennels were small. As a young breed with a limited gene pool, there would be some work needed on further refining quality and structure before major inroads could be made in the all-breed show ring.

Similarly, they were relatively rare - there were not a large number of commercial breeders and puppy millers pumping out Schnauzer puppies - the buying public had their sights set on Rin Tin Tin and Lassie at the time. Commercial exploitation would come later - after the core genetic material making up the breed - including color - had been through the sifting process of serious breeders.

In 1945 the breed saw it's first "superstar". Ch.Dorem Display was to completely supercede all previous show records and to dominate all other male lines. By 1970 it was not uncommon to find him over 500 times in the pedigree of any North American bred Miniature Schnauzer - taking back every male line to the 1940's, 9 of 10 will end in Display! Many of the others will end in his grandsire or other closely related dogs.

To further tighten the gene pool, his litter sister, Ch.Dorem Shady Lady was also the matriarch of an extremely successful female family and therefore all pedigrees will show her influence many times over as well.

Both Dorem Display and his sister carried only the genes for the color s&p. All genes for black and silver or black have been contributed by other dogs - therefore, there are very few original sources for these colors in the gene pool of the North American Miniature Schnauzer.

Which brings us to the color white.

Although one or two of those earliest imports may have carried the gene for white (which is actually a gene preventing the expression of normal color, rather than a color in itself), the liklihood that the gene could have remained undetected and survive the inbreeding pressures of the 1930's and 1940's is too remote to calculate. If it had, white would be continuing to show up in great frequency among most show lines of today. This is not the case.

The promoters of white MS like to claim that they have been merely the agents of historical preservation - that the white North Amrerican Miniature Schnauzer is due to the survival of genetic material from those earliest imports. Yet when pressed for proof, through pedigree analysis such as is possible to source the black & silver and black genes, they remain silent. And there is good reason for this.

When one examines the pedigrees of white North American Miniature Schnauzers a pattern emerges. They will claim a significant amount of their heritage from ancestors who were bred in puppy mills, by unknown individuals and backyard breeders. Further analysis often reveals that the source of the white gene will trace to an inbred white sire or dam. Such animals will often exist on both sides of the white dog's pedigree.

Why is this relevant? Every month the American Kennel Club publishes lists of individuals who have been suspended of their privilages of registration due to fraud, lack of records, cross breeding. These are often the result of investigations into puppy mills. In these establishments, several breeds are bred in mass quantities. Poodles and Minis and Westies may be running in communal dog pens. And the integrity of the registration papers they are issued, even if purebred, is suspect, due to the fact that there is a huge black market in AKC blue slips. These are the forms that are issued when a breeder registers a litter. One is issued for each puppy reported as born. An unethical breeder with unregistered or crossbred bitches will over-report the puppies from those of his registered bitches, in order to obtain blue slips for the cross-bred puppies. The motivation for this fraud is monetary - dogs with AKC registrations papers command higher prices.

In this way, crossbred dogs find their way into the purebred population, along with the colors that their westie or poodle or fox terrier parents might have contributed. Because the white and particolor genes are recessive genes, the puppies will not show the undesirable color in the first generation!

The following fictional pedigree demonstrates how a white MS might be created in a kennel with access (or accidental breedings) to West Highland White Terriers. Update - when this article was originally written, I chose the West Highland White Terrier only to demonstrate how crossbreeding can introduce a recessive colour gene that may remain hidden for several generations before inbreeding pushes it back to the surface. In actual fact, several small breeds might be utilized for this purpose, poodles being one of the most obvious. When I have more time, the article will be updated.

** indicates the dog is white - two genes are required to produce white
* indicates the dog carries white in recessive form to the color he shows

						WESTIE **
				Black ToTo*
						Black Belinda	
		White Sam**
						Black Toto*
				S&P Tina*		
						S&P Wanda
White Yipper**
						WESTIE **
				Black Toto*
						Black Belinda
		S&P Cindy*
						S&P Billy
  				S&P Topsy
						S&P Gertrude

Thus a white dog is created who is predominantly Miniature Schnauzer in breeding, but who carries West Highland White Terrier on both sides of his pedigree through Black Toto. A little inbreeding produces the white color in a dog who resembles a MS closely enough to pass scrutiny by the average pet store owner/pet buyer.

As puppy mills commonly trade breeding stock back and forth, the gene is introduced into other mills (in exchange with Fox Terrier or Poodle infused parti-colors, etc) and so the white gene becomes firmly established in that population. Commercial breeders sell to pet stores, and these form the genetic basis of the vast majority of BYB dogs. As none of these animals are bred for the show ring, the fact that they do not exhibit quality in type is irrelevant. Crossbred animals would have very great difficulty surviving in the show-breeding gene pool - they would find it difficult to win or produce offspring who could.

White Schnauzers - from Champion lines?

Does having Champions in the pedigree of a white MS ensure you have a purebred before you? Does it's general Schnauzer appearance give you guarantee that it isn't crossbred? Does the fact that the breeder is very helpful and knowledgable mean that the pedigrees can be trusted?

The answer to all of those questions is no. The following pedigree shows you why:

** indicates dog is white
* indicates dog is carrying hidden white gene
Ch. indicates dog is a champion

						Ch.S&P Boyd 
				Ch.S&P Daniel 
						Ch.S&P Betty 
		S&P Freddie*
						Ch.S&P Andy
				S&P Debbie* 	
						S&P Alice*

White George**

 						White Yipper**
				S&P Zorro*
						S&P Wendy
    		S&P Alice*
						Ch.B&S Buster
				S&P Candy
						Ch.Black Brenda	

If you study this pedigree and the colors you will notice that "Alice" is a grand-daughter of the Westie crossbred - White Yipper. The breeder can claim they have done no crossbreeding - and be completely honest in saying so. The crossbreeding was done on their behalf years earlier in the shady world the ancestors emerged from. The inclusion of a couple of Champion bred lines obtained from elsewhere is irrelevant, except to lend false credibility and value to the dog in the eyes of an uninformed buyer.

The champion dogs shown in the pedigree are not responsible for the white color. And unlike the responsible early breeders, when the white gene is being selected for, it is preserved in the Schnauzer gene pool, even though the actual crossbred dog no longers appears in the recent generations.

This example also helps to explain why responsible breeders may refuse to breed a bitch who has any trace of such ancestry. Besides the issue of the deliberate breeding for an unacceptable color, there are serious questions about the integrity of the pedigree when a large number of breeders of unknown reputation are indicated.

That not all show breeders are equally suspicious may account for the (alleged) reports of the white Schnauzer advocates of whites and particolors being born in show kennels. It takes only one or two breedings to a bitch of pet store heritage to introduce crossbred genes into the best of families.

It does not however, lend any credibility to the argument that whites are purebred and should be perpetuated as such.

(c) Catherine McMillan

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