History of the White Swiss Shepherd/Berger Blanc Suisse
The White Swiss Shepherds have a compelling and complex story spanning over 100 years, although considered a new breed. The breed's foundation begins in Germany, where a white sheepdog caught the eye of a German cavalry officer, who wanted to create a superior sheepherding dog breed. During a time where "if a dog wasn't a good worker, it wasn't a good dog", Captain Max Von Stephanitz was not concerned about the first German Shepherd, Horand Von Grafrath, having white ancestry. What was important was that Horand have the physique and temperament that epitomized an obedient and noble working dog that was capable of tireless endurance but yet strong enough to drive marauders away from the flock.
Horand was bred over daughters and granddaughters to quickly establish the traits that were so admired. This also ensured the color genes from his ancestors, in particular, his white grandfather Grieff, were stamped into the genetic code of the new German herding breed for generations to come. The white coloration in shepherds is a color bequeathed from the white sheepherding dogs of the 1800's that helped form the German Shepherd breed as we know it today.
The White German Shepherds fall from grace began in 1959, when the German overseeing body labeled them as Albino, and the standard was changed to prohibit the use of dogs with more than 50% white or full white coat. The results were catastrophic, and some countries ceased to register them altogether or made the white coat an automatic disqualification so that no offspring were eligible for registration. Other countries, while still papering Whites, took away their show ring privileges. On a worldwide scale, the White German Shepherds were not excluded from the conformation rings with their broken colored counterparts, although many would agree this is now a strong contribution factor to the White Swiss Shepherd retaining the conformation of the GSDs of old. Since the label of albinism had been applied in 1959, the White German Shepherd was not in mortal peril. The court of public opinion believed the white coat was defective somehow. A flawed mutation rumored to be responsible for anything from blindness to hearing impairment as well as generally unsound. At this time there was no defense, technology such as DNA testing to scientifically refute these claims was unheard of and communication between owners and breeders of white in different countries was non-existent. Word of the alleged taint carried quickly, generating an almost superstitious pall around the White German Shepherd that still persists today.
The culling of white dogs from the German Shepherd breeding pool saw the White German Shepherd almost disappear completely from the countries where they were no longer offered registration by the Canine Control Bodies. America and England were not as heavily affected due to registration still being maintained. Devotees were unconvinced by the campaign to eliminate the White Coated Shepherds from the German Shepherd breed, and the first breed club specifically for the White German Shepherd began in the US in 1964 where White Shepherds could be shown in their own specialty shows.
White Shite Swiss Shepherds story slowly emerges in 1967, where Agatha Burch returned to her home in Switzerland with her American White German Shepherd stud, Lobo of White Burch. Soon after he is joined by White Lilac of Blinkbonny from England, and they are bred under the Shangrila prefix. Their offspring began to spread throughout Europe, and the Shangrila breeding lines were intermingled with the scattered remnants fo White German Shepherds still in existence, as well as other American/Canadian imports. In 1989 the "White Shepherd Dog Society Switzerland" formed, bringing together both English and American registered dogs and local unregistered dogs within the one club. The White Shepherd Society became a registered organization with the Swiss Kennel Club in 1991, allowing the dogs to be officially shown as White Shepherds throughout Switzerland.
In Europe, the dogs were now commonly know as White Shepherds, until after many years of petition the FCI, provisionally recognized the White Shepherd as a new breed -- The White Swiss Shepherd. Switzerland was named the country of origin but not without controversy due to the international nature of contribution to the breed. Countries affiliated with the FCI accepted the provisionally registered White Swiss Shepherds breed, also accommodating any local unregistered White Shepherd bloodlines through the use of development registers.