There is some controversy raging at the present time with regard to colour headed white Rough Collie puppies, some argue this is not a recognised colour and as such the KC should not allow registration of such puppies. I take a different view.
There are several breeds today in which unrecognised colours have been introduced in recent years, I refer to colours that have not occurred naturally within those breeds, which would suggest another breed has been recently introduced in order for those colours to make an appearance. Understandably other breeders are concerned about this, as it becomes obvious that some manipulation of pedigree has occurred. Such puppies can not really be carrying true pedigrees.
However this is not the case with colour headed white Rough collie puppies, in fact the colour has been present within the breed since it began. Colour headed white puppies, and puppies that are splashed with a higher percentage of white in the coat than would be found acceptable in the show ring, also sable merle, are naturally occurring colour patterns that can appear in litters from certain combinations of the 3 standard colours. I am writing specifically about colour headed white and heavily white factored collies. I am not writing about dilute merle, these are different thing entirely.
Colour headed whites are in fact collies with predominantly white bodies, but whose head (and often a few body patches) are one of the three recognised colours, ie: sable, tricolour, blue merle. Such collies are sometimes born from parents that do not have excessive white themselves. In America and Canada this colour is recognised, because some of the early imports from the UK were this colour pattern, and these two countries have favoured them enough to include them as a separate but acceptable colour to this day.
On the other hand, a double dilute is the result of the mating of TWO MERLE dogs. When a puppy inherits an M gene from both parents, it is a double dilute. Some double dilutes appear as solid colour such as tricolour, because the M gene is unstable, the Poly A tail can become truncated on the M allele and in so doing it appears as tricolour, this is know as cryptic merle. Such dogs can have two allele for Cryptic merle, although they are actually double dilutes, but they appear as solid coloured dogs. Only a gene test can detect such collies! The mating of two merles is no longer allowed by the UK kennel club although it is a certainty that some cryptic merles still exist within the gene pool , and I am sure these words might surprise the owners as they can go undetected to the native eye for many generations. Understanding the merle dilution requires a book of its own! Double dilute merles are more commonly white, and often defective. Some are born blind and even without eyes at all, and they are often deaf. DOUBLE MERLE DILUTE WHITES ARE NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH COLOUR HEADED WHITES. The latter (colour headed whites) are not born defective.
It is understandable that colour headed white collies would appear in the gene pool of a very old shepherding breed such as the collie. The Rough collie was bred from dogs used to care for sheep out on the lonely weather torn hills and mountainsides of Scotland, during a time period when roads were unheard of. Wolves were still around. Some of those dogs would sleep amongst the flock to protect them, and Sheep are generally unafraid of white dogs. Those dogs would be accepted by the flock, and live amongst them to protect them. The coloured head would help the shepherd to spot the dogs amongst the sheep. Hence the early breed standards wrote.
1910 BREED STANDARD
Colour & markings
are immaterial, but other points being equal, a nice showily marked dog is preferred. ALL WHITE OR RED SETTER colour is most objectionable.
As we can see, the 1910 breed standard allowed for almost any colour. it found all white objectionable so as to discourage the production of double dilute puppies (double merle) however the colour headed white is NOT an 'all white' dog.
1950 BREED STANDARD
Colour and markings are immaterial, but other points being equal, a nice showily marked dog is preferred.
By 1950 all reference to 'all whites' had been removed, possibly because breeders at that time understood the difference between double dilute whites and colour headed whites.
1969 BREED STANDARD .
Three recognised colours are sable and white, tricolour and blue merle.
SABLE: Any shade of light gold to rich mahogany or shaded sable. Light straw or cream colour is highly undesirable.
TRICOLOUR: Predominantly black with rich tan markings about the legs and head. A rusty tinge in top coat is highly undesirable.
BLUE-MERLE: Predominantly clear, silvery blue, splashed and marbled with black. Rich tan markings to be preferred, but their absence should not be counted as a fault. Large black markings, slate colour, or rusty tinge either of the top or undercoat are highly undesirable.
WHITE MARKINGS: All the above may carry the typical white Collie markings to a greater or lesser degree. The followings markings are favourable - White collar, full or part; white shirt, legs and feet; white tail tip. A blaze may be carried on muzzle or skull or both.
my notes :
For the first time ever, in 1969 the three presently recognised colours were introduced. Some have argued with me, they have told me that other colours had been penalised in the show ring, long before this change was made, and I would have to say WHY?, previously the breed standard clearly said 'colour immaterial' and to penalise certain colour patterns prior to the introduction of the three newly recognised colours in 1969 would have been going against the standard of the previous era!
Strangely enough, we now have people wanting to alter the standard yet again, they want to prevent breeding from 'unrecognised colours' within the breed, and to do this some would like to make more changes. Such people are often ill informed. In my opinion this is VERY foolish. It will only serve to reduce the gene pool further. There are far more important things to worry about, and to rid the breed of more serious problems, some of which can be found in the Kennel clubs 'breed watch', surely the larger the gene pool the better! why ban the registration of dogs based on colour, when those colours are not only naturally occuring, but were acceptable for the greater part of the breeds history! Many of these collies, whose coats are discribed as 'colour not recognised' carry some exceptionally healthy genes, and in my opinion those healthy genes are of greater importance to the breed. Such collies are 100% pedigree, these colours have not been 'introduced' in recent years, they do not carry added health risks, so why remove them from the gene pool? In FCI countries the opposite is happening. They are much more open to understanding the problem of decreasing gene pools, with several countries having recently decided to allow the mating of sable to merle, countries where such a combination was previously banned. Thank goodness the FCI have taken this attitude, and it will be a very sad day for the rough collie, if UK breeders manage to pursuade our kennel club to limit rather than expand the gene pool. I am not suggesting they be added to the breed standard as a new recognised colour..although that would actually be a more sensible move than preventing them from being bred at all!
present breed standard (2017)
Three recognised colours: Sable and white, Tricolour and Blue Merle. Sable: any shade of light gold to rich mahogany or shaded sable. Light straw or cream coloured highly undesirable. Tricolour: predominantly black with rich tan markings about legs and head. A rusty tinge in top coat highly undesirable. Blue Merle: predominantly clear, silvery blue, splashed and marbled with black. Rich tan markings preferred, but absence should not be penalised. Large black markings, slate colour, or rusty tinge either of top or undercoat are highly undesirable. All should carry typical white Collie markings to a greater or lesser degree. Following markings are favourable – white collar, full or part, white shirt, legs and feet, white tail tip. A blaze may be carried on muzzle or skull, or both. All white or predominantly white is highly undesirable.
Please note that predominantly white is not actually defined as an unrecognised colour...rather it is an undesirable colour .....and it is not the only colour that is highly undesirable either!
I have recently read comments
through facebook by some of my fellow breeders, comments suggesting that Collies presently registered as '
KC unrecognised colours' should NOT be bred from, and they point to colour headed white collies as being one of them. However predominantly white is technically one of the three recognised colours, but with a 'standard' fault, it is predominantly white ( a fault but not an unrecognised colour) ...so....who is going to police breeders to prevent them breeding from rusty coated merles and tricolours, because these are also amongst the undesirable colours ?
A recent study done by Dr Leigh Ann Clarke revealed the rough collie, world wide, is seriously lacking diversity in the immune system allele..are we as breeders here in the UK seriously wanting to throw out the baby with the bath water, arguing about naturally occurring colours to the point of wanting to prevent people breeding them?.....and in so doing, we are arguing to reduce ever further an already dangerously small gene pool ? According to the Kennel Club breed watch, we should be trying to eliminate such traits as
I see no one wishing to remove dogs with the above traits from the gene pool, and yet these traits have been reported by JUDGES...such dogs are being shown and sometimes winning, and they are certainly being bred from! Such dogs ARE unhealthy.
We here at WICANI have one bitch registered as 'colour not kc recognised' she is a sable merle, a colour that naturally occurs when we breed together sable with merle. A mating that several other European countries have recently agreed is acceptable, in view of the decreasing gene pool and a wider understanding of genetics. Her name is Wicani The Shepherdess and she is beautiful. She does not have small eyes, in fact her medium sized eyes are completely FREE of all inherited eye conditions (such incredibly healthy eyes are VERY RARE), she is not cow hocked, she has beautiful strong hocks and consequently she has strong hindquarters. She has a beautiful chin (no narrow jaw) and the correct scissor bite. She is not affected with, nor is she even carrying, any gene for Degenerative Myelopathy. She has a nice character too.
What a shame that some breeders who proclaim to be protecting the breed, would rather 'Wicani The Shepherdess' was never bred from, whilst themselves breeding from cea affected dogs, often with cow hocks and weak hindquarters, and often with nervous dispositions too !
In the photo gallery below are
1) Mrs Nadine George with her English collies showing the existence of white factored show collies in the twentieth century, these dogs are in the distant pedigrees of all UK collies!
2) our sable merle Wicani The Shepherdess. Yes..she looks sable and white to us too and in our opinion she fits the breed standard interpretation of the colour, but she is genetically merle.
3) a beautiful sable headed white puppy. Happy and healthy, her 'highly undesirable' breed standard fault (only since 1969) is that she is predominantly white, otherwise she fits the breed standard and better than many others !