Glasgowhill's Fashion Crusader
THE COLOR BARRIER
By Sandra Hamilton
Apparently, collie fanciers have been painfully color-conscious from the very beginning. The original collie, we are told, tended to be black and white or black and tan, with occasional buffs, blues, grays and assorted mixtures popping up in litters to remind breeders of early antecedents - or late experiments. As soon as the solid black or bicolor pattern was broken by white markings, however minimal, the genetic possibility of white collies existed, and as wide white collars together with heavy white trim began to be prized for their market value, predominantly white dogs became inevitable.
Old Cookie, whose parentage was such a closely guarded secret that it went to the grave with his owner, is credited with passing on the sable color, although he was by no means the only sable of his time (he was whelped in 1868). Cookie had a full white collar and the usual white trim, but his legs were ticked with brown like a spaniel's, and his grandson, Ch. Charlemagne, had brothers and sisters distinctly spaniel in appearance. Charlemagne himself threw irregular white markings and odd liver colors, in addition to siring the first registered white collie, and his littermates, Trevor, sired "The Lily", the white bitch who earned immortality as the maternal grand dam of Ch. Metchley Wonder.
After The Lily, it looked as if the white was well on the way to full acceptance, in 1887, a handsome tri-headed white, Scottish Fancier, won first place in a class of 36 at the Glamis show. Before the turn of the century, Hugh Dalziel wrote:
"I am not advocating the breeding of collies of special, peculiar or unusual colors, but white ones may possibly soon become the rage, from the fact of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the prince of Wales (afterwards Edward VII - Ed.) having each graciously accepted a white collie from those noted breeders, Messrs. J. and W. H. Charles, of Wellesbourne, Warwickshire.....their sire being Messrs. Charles' well-known dog The Squire, who, as well as their dam, is of the most fashionable pedigree. Mr. D. J. Thompson Gray, of Dundee, owns a collie all white, with the exception of a spot near the root of tail; and Mr. Witley, of Lynn, possesses two he bred that are white with the exception of the ears, which are a fawn color, and all of these are pure bred. From these facts, and as doubtless there are many other cases of white collies that have not come under my notice, it will be seen that the establishment of a strain of white collies is not impossible. Whether is is desirable to do so is, of course, a matter of opinion, but if collies are to be treated as dogs of the fancy, there can be no objection to the multiplication of varieties distinguished by colors."
Mr. Dalziel went on to strike an ominous note, however: "If there is a demand for these (ie., white collies), it is to be feared that crosses from the Spitz Dog will be palmed off on the unwary as pure bred."
This fear that the production of whites might prove harmful to the breed is an old one. Charles H. Wheeler, writing of an earlier day, noted the "the fanciful taste was fro dogs in color black and tan, with little or no white, the absence of white being a much prized feature...The erroneous belief went forth that, as regards color, the lack of white denoted purity of breed, and even at a period hardly so remote, the same misconception was prevalent in the United States. (Quoted by Grace Clark Seaman, "The History of the White Collie," The Complete Collie, 1962, p. 91).
However it happened, the "rage" for whites foreseen by Mr. Dalziel turned to revulsion, at least among serious breeders. According to J. A. McGlynn, writing in the 1950 C.C.A. Yearbook:
"The first great publicity received by the white collie came when Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, was given a white as a wedding present (July, 1995 - Ed.). this caused so great an alarm among the breeders of sables that there developed a tacit understanding between them 'always to kill the white pups' to discourage any interest their patrons might have in the whites."
Some of those objectionable whites seem to have escaped the bucket and landed instead in the United States, where progress at fist was almost as slow as in their native British Isles. Mrs. Molly Radford Ward, reminiscing about her father's Island White Collies in the August, 1971 issue of Collie Cues, wrote:
"My father, Steven Radford, developed the first all white collies in the United States, by long and patient selective breeding in the early 1900s. One great and puzzling problem was the appearance of deafness in the all white pups. This, of course, had to be bred out of the next strains." (pg. 52.)
According to Mrs. Ward, by about 1915, her father was showing his all white stock, which "won a fair number of blue ribbons." She goes on to state that the Island White Collies had the "broader brow and shorter nose of the original Scotch collies."
Breeders for the most part scorned the all-white collie, believing with Edwin L. Pickhardt that it was "impossible to get an all white collie...to carry true expression; due to the lack of facial shading which lend so much to the beauty of a collie's face." (Edwin L. Pickhardt, The Collie in America, 1924, p. 77.).
Pickhardt could also write in 1924, however, that:
"In the past ten years the white collies have made a strong bid for popular favor because of their color, and considerable improvement has been made in the type of animals of this color by breeders in this country......" (The Collie in America, p. 77.)
Just as it took a queen to stir public interest in the white across the Atlantic, so it was a president who gave the color a boost on this side of the water. Rob Roy and Prudence Prim, two all white collies from the Island White kennels of the above-mentioned Steven Radford, became the White House pets of President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge, and their widely publicized photographs served to whet the popular appetite for whites. As Mr. McGlynn said, "The Americans, being more progressive than the British, decided to supply the demand."
Americans apparently were not too careful how they achieved the supply of whites with which they proposed to meet the demand, for McGlynn continued: "Genetics was then an unproved science, and some promoter-breeder allegedly used a Samoyed cross to get the desired white coat, thus producing all-white collies." (CCA Yearbook, 1950, p. 70.)
Pickhardt, too, refers to the source of the all-white coat as the result of a "recent cross of the collie on a dog which is characteristically all white in color, in all probability the Samoyede." (The Collie in America, 1924, pp. 33-34) And the respected breeder, George D. Dodd, repeated the charge in the 1933 CCA Yearbook, introducing another possible cross that could have affected coat color:
"Today we still see in the 'mine run' of white collies, evidence of Samoyede and Borzi (sic), and in many matings we make, we must so far as possible, minimize this influence. The pioneer work has been done and there are typical whites to be had. If you must accept the 'foreign', reject the Samoyede type as more objectionable than the Borzi." (pp. 23-25.)
In 1946, Dr. McCain of Cainbrooke Collies, influential and esteemed as both breeder and judge, objected:
"The breeders and exhibitors of collies know that the allowable colors are, viz.: sable or sable and white, black, white and tans or tri-colors, blue merles and whites with no more than 20 per cent foreign color. These are the colors that we breed for and no other colors are seen in the breed.
I maintain that the present wording of the standard prejudices judges and causes them to lean toward certain markings and colors. This should not be, as all allowable colors should be judges strictly on their merits as to collie quality. The white collie has been the greatest sufferer. We can very easily understand why this is is. The evolution of the white has been slow and full of pitfalls. For a number of years the quality has been poor and most of us when we see a white, have dismissed him with hardly more than a casual glance. But in late years things have changed. The breeders of whites have come a long way and by the judicious use of good sables having the white factor, they are now producing quality whites. In some of our best litters really good whites are appearing with astonishing regularity. For this reason it behooves us to readjust our ideas and look more closely and give them all they deserve." (American Kennel Gazette.)
The offending words in the Standard were: "COLOR: Immaterial though a richly or nicely marked dog has undoubtedly a considerable amount of weight with judges. The black and tan with white frill and collar, or the still more showy sable with perfect white marking will generally win, other things being equal." Three years later, a newly revised standard gave the white collie official sanction for the first time. Consultants were Micky McGlynn, founder of the White Collie Breeders' Association (the first white collie club); Del Findley, Lochland Collies; and Mrs. Grace Clark Seaman, Kish-Ke-Kosh Collies.
The new wording, approved in 1949, red: The 'White' is predominantly white, preferably with sable or tri-color markings. Blue merle coloring is undesirable in whites."
The intent of the new and almost equally controversial clause was to prevent the confusion of the double-dilution merle with the true white collie. (The homozygous blue merle, although white in color, is not a genetically white collie and will not produce white.) It was not until recently that the wording of the standard on color was made non-discriminatory toward blue-marked whites, and with that last barrier removed, it is hoped that the breeders of quality whites will move forward into the mainstream of the fancy and that white collies will never again require a special club for their promotion or a special issue of the Bulletin devoted to them.
Those were some comments regarding the whites and how they came about in an article rewritten in 1984 by Claudia P. Schroder. I think that many good points were made but we need to bring the white collie forward to the 21st Century. The following are my comments on color and the collie.
I agree with the statement that color should not be a consideration when judging the collie. Point in case is the on going debate in the States regarding the Sable Merle, which I will not debate here. But in Canada the Sable Merle was debated, then accepted into the standard. Was this a breakthrough or a set back? I believe this was a breakthrough. We have come a long way with color coat genetics, and you just can't dismiss the evolution of the breed. With that comes a better understanding of colors and patterns. QUESTION: If a collie has 'freckles' on their legs or body, is it not purebred? This is an excellent example of ticking which is acceptable in the breed. Another example is the research regarding the 'Harlequin' pattern in blues and the Maltese color. Should we dismiss those collies with ticking, or patterns that we deem odd, just because we don't understand them?
Getting back to the white collie. Clearly any one breeding a white should know the difference between a white and a double merle. If not clear please do your research. Now that we are in the 21st Century I think that the White Collie has made such an impact that it will not be dismissed. Breeding whites is no different than breeding other colors in today's world, and just as much care should be taken when researching your matings regardless of it's color
Let's take a look at the kennels who have been producing quality whites (and this is my own opinion) for the last twenty years. The top of my list is Clarion (and even though this is my personal opinion) Judy Evans has brought the whites into the 21st Century by consistantly producing top quality white collies that just scream breed type. A lot of kennels strive to do what she has done for the white collie in America. My #2 choice is Milas (Lynn Butler) who have introduced international outcrossing with their already successful breeding program to produce outstanding breed type along with whites. Again their dogs scream breed type the same as Clarion. Number 3 on my list is Special Collies (Laura LaBounty) who is not only breeding outstanding roughs, but also smooths. It's one thing to breed outstanding white roughs but quite another to be producing outstanding white smooths. Therefore my #4 choice would have to be Bellagio collies (Jacqueline Young-Barikhan) out on the West Coast. Jackie started her breeding of white smooths with Ch. Bellagio Platinum Perfection, a beautiful sable headed white bitch.
My last two choices would have to be The Meadows (Linda Burns) and Xanadu. Although neither of these kennels are now active in breeding they both produced whites of merit. All of the aforementioned kennels are in the United States, so let's look at Canada.
Not to toot my own horn, but in the last twenty years Glasgowhill Collies is the only Canadian kennel to produce white collies of outstanding merit. I will also include Livingwater Collies (Diane Wright) in the Canadian arena.