DANELINKS.COM                                                                                                                                                                                      10.1.05 
This article was originally published in the Great Dane Reporter Nov/Dec 1979.

A BASIC APPROACH TO PURE COLOR BREEDING
by
Rose Sabetti

Now  deceased, Rose Sabetti was the first woman president of the GDCA, 1971-1973.

 
What do you think of when planning to breed a litter of Great Danes. Bloodlines? Type? Color? Some might think that bloodlines will take care of this. But No! Our breed is a very old one. Histories of the breed tell us of the great variety of color prevalent in the breed before the 1800's.
 
Harlequins of that era are described as white with spots of yellow and brown, fawn and/or brindle, liver, black, blue, red, merle and mouse gray. Some Danes had a bluish-gray back-ground with black or white spots. Fawns and brindles with white spots, blues or blacks with white or brindle spots. I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
 
In the late 1800's, German breeders found they could, by very selective breeding and ruthless culling, establish the 5 allowed colors set forth in our standard. They laid down very strict laws and rules for breeders to follow and enforced them by making mixed color breeding, or a breeding that was not approved, unregisterable. I must say I wish we could put some such teeth in our GDCA Breeders Code of Ethics.
 
But all we can do is to tell you that "Breeding or color mixing other than that set forth can be injurious to the breed in the third, fourth, and even later generations".
 
Allow me to read paragraphs of the GDCA Color Research Committee Report which appears in the 1967-1969 GDCA Yearbook. "In the 1800's, the Great Dane breeders in Germany, after much breeding and observation, found they could produce certain colors by continually breeding certain combinations, and ruthlessly culling". By the end of the century they had definitely established five colors. Fawns, Brindles, Blues, Blacks and Harlequins. They bred out white blazes, forefaces, stockings, underbodies and spotting which appeared on the fawns, brindles, blues and blacks by discarding for breeding purposes the ones which carried greater amounts of white. They separated the colors into three groups; Fawns and Brindles, Blues, Harlequins and Blacks. After much experimentation, they laid down laws for breeding the above five colors, which were rigidly enforced and adhered to. The German breeders had set a definite goal in all five colors and by the early 1900's, had succeeded in producing colors that would breed true. They found eager buyers of their stock in all parts of the world.
 
Great Danes began to make their presence known in this country in the late 1800's. More and more stock arrived from Germany and England. Color segregation was not adhered to in this country, and as a result, many odd colors appeared and were registered with the AKC. Some were even shown to their championships.
 
"The Germans continued their tight control, and as a result, their Danes continued to improve in color. Black stripes on brindle were more clearly defined, bare color was usually a light gold, and black masks were appearing on fawns and brindles, and although not required by the standard, were much appreciated. Blues carried little or no white and their Harlequins were unsurpassed".
 
There was a time when brindle and fawn breeding seemed very safely established. But now? Now we have had to set up stringent rules for our GDCA Futurity and ask for pedigrees of both sire and dam showing at least four generations of pure color breeding.
 
In 1972 the GDCA set up the Revised Breeder's Code of Ethics. Many meetings of the Color Research Committee were held to discuss the findings of the Committee. Some very well-known "old-time breeders" were asked to participate in forming the "Code".
 
At about this time we were hearing about some very odd colors that were making there appearance, and were also being placed at dog shows. The GDCA then sent letters to ALL judges of Great Danes, asking them to be more alert for the serious color faults and also for some other serious faults that were being overlooked. We quoted the Standard and the Revised Color Code of Ethics.
 
Wow! What great excitement! One would think the "Code" was something new and arbitrary. Let us take a look at the GDCA 1944 Yearbook. The chapter on "Coloration Breeding" reads....."In the fawn, the color ranges from a light biscuit through the red gold shades that can best be described as a fawn interspersed with black hairs that give it a dark, dirty appearance. In this wide variance the ONLY shade that may be considered the true fawn to be sought for in breeding is the deep golden. It further states.......
"the brindle variations from light faded silver with a few black stripes, the too dark base color that reaches the extreme in the dog that has a dark, forbidding appearance. The desired shade is the deep golden background with the strong black cross stripes.....The breed is singularly fortunate enough to have most of its color experimentation behind it".
More quotes, "through past generations of breeding it has been found that there are a few fundamental rules that MUST be observed. Never breed fawn to any other coloration than fawn or brindle. The same rules hold true for the brindle".
 
Practically a whole page is devoted to breeding coloration for harlequins. New? Arbitrary? That chapter on color was published more than 32 years ago (from time of yearbook 1944).
 
I can see no reason to introduce blacks into a fawn or brindle pedigree. I do admit that the introduction of fawns into the blacks seems to have improved that color in regards to head, etc. but, now that the blacks have improved, why not keep them that way by only breeding to the best black from black that you can find? Don't start throwing in the wrong colors, and downgrading them. Black is beautiful, why not keep it that way?
 
In 1972 I was asked to name a committee to answer a request from the AKC. A system was being developed to process litter, dog and transfer applications. Part of the system was to capture and store a dog's color by using one of several codes. They gave us a list of characteristic colors that have been recorded for the breed. We were asked to review the list and make any deletions or revisions we felt were necessary. The list of characteristic colors follows. Would you believe? .... fawn, brindle, black, harlequin, blue, black and white, black and beige, blue merle, fawn and blue, golden and brindle, golden and fawn, gray and black, white and black, harlequin and blue, merle, red, and white, tan and tan and black. Supplementary descriptors named were white markings and black mask.
 
The committee sent the following dog colors back to the AKC as requested. Fawn, brindle, black, blue, harlequin, merle, black and white. To cover anything approaching the reds and browns we suggested liver and white. Chosen descriptors, black mask, blue mask, liver mask, white markings, black markings and fawn mask. These supplementary descriptors have actually been found on pedigrees.
 
Let us hope that the colors other than the five approved in the standard will not have to be used.
 
The color research committee files are full of all sorts of odd colors with pictures that prove unhappy results of the mixed color breeding. My grandchildren use an expression that seems to describe them very well - -e-e-e-yuck!!
 
While trying to think about what I could say to you about color, I happened to look out of my kitchen window, and suddenly remembered some lovely roses that used to grow in my backyard. For the three years of my husband's illness, I had not been able to watch and trim, cut or "cull" the suckers that were occasionally coming into view. What happened? Suddenly the old common variety rose from which the "Peace" had been developed, was back. Still blooming, still a rose, but the beautifully shaded pink "Peace" was gone, because it had not been guarded and cared for. I am sure you are able to see the connection.
 
We owe the people who have served so well and long on the Color Research Committee a great deal. They have been carrying on with the enormous task first undertaken by the old breeders. These old timers cared enough to be firm in their conviction that the five colors had to be bred right, and proved it. They sacrificed much, and their reward was great and very satisfying.
 
Let us hope we never go back to the crazy "quilt" colors. Isn't it much better to be sure that we find in the litterbox what we had planned?


 

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