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Filtering by Tag: Rant

More Shades of Grey for the Weimaraner

Craig Koshyk

When I check the stats on hits to this blog, my posts about Weimaraners consistently rank at the top of the list, especially if they deal with the breed's coat colour. This morning I received a comment on one of the posts that posed a couple of questions that I felt deserved more than just a few lines to answer. So I decided to write an entire article in reply. 

Souris-Manon. The Grandest of the Grand Old Ladies!

Here is the comment:

I just got a Weimaraner that is all white/blonde in color. He came from a litter of nine in which 4 were his color, 4 were silver and 1 was blue. The Sire was silver and the dam was blue. I performed a DNA test to confirm that he is indeed a purebred weim and the results came back as 100%! However, despite having scientific evidence backing my boys purebred status, I have all sorts of weim breeders on Facebook getting very nasty with me when I post a pic on the weim site of my boy...they claim that I have been duped and am naive to think that he is purebred and that DNA tests aren't always right. Could you please tell me exactly what occurred scientifically for my boy to be born the color he is...is it the same occurrence genetically as the piebald weims? Thanks.

And here is my long-winded reply:

Congratulations on the new pup! I am sure he is a sweet-heart and that you'll have a ton of fun with him. And welcome to the world of the Weimaraner where, as you are finding out, things tend to get a bit heated when non-standard colours are discussed.

I am not a geneticist so I cannot tell you with any degree of scientific accuracy how your boy's coat colour came to be. And I am sure that even a canine geneticist would not be able to help you without doing some pretty extensive testing of your pup and a whole bunch of its relatives. So the only option for us here is to look at the possibilities and then place odds on how likely they are to be true.


Souris-Manon and Quell each pointing a woodcock (and I missed both birds!)

Could it be a gene mutation like the one that I wrote about here?  

Maybe. 

Genes mutate all the time and clearly, Dr. Epplen's research showed that in at least one case, a de novo (new) mutation in a Weim pup did indeed result in a purebred Weimaraner with a grey and white (piebald) coat. So could it happen again? Sure, there is a one in a million (or billion or something) chance of it occurring again...in a single pup. But in 4 pups? Well that would make the odds one in a million (or billion or something) to the fourth power. In other words, about the same odds as me landing a hot date with Beyonce. So I don't think that the coat on your pup and its three siblings is related to the same kind of genetic mutation event that caused the piebald coat in Dr. Epplen's study.

Could it be due to a throwback to the old days? Does the (real) history of the Weim offer any clues about how your dog's coat colour could occur? 

Maybe.

Today, we all know that there is only one officially accepted Weimaraner colour (silver-grey) but it was not really standardized until later on. Reading the literature from the first phase of the Weim's development, from about 1880 to just before the first world war (1914), we can see that there was actually quite a bit of discussion about what the 'correct' colour for the breed should be. In the early years the most common non-standard colours discussed were white, yellow and yellow-red. For example, here is what the breed standard in 1884 said:

White markings are common in most dogs, on the chest and toes. It is however, desirable to eliminate these in breeding. Yellow burned (tan markings) dogs are to be discarded completely. 

By 1935 however, it seems that those markings were still there.

...the reddish-yellow shade on the head or legs, which nowadays occurs seldom, to be regarded as a fault; however a Weimaraner with reddish-yellow coloring should not receive more than 'good' when tested...if outstanding for hunting purposes, he should not be excluded from breeding

Clearly, genes for yellow or yellow-red where part of the genetic make-up of the Weim's coat, at least in the early days. So could your pup's coat colour be due to a one-in-a-billion chance of old, rare yellow genes suddenly aligning in it's DNA? Maybe. But I doubt it.

You see, the yellow and yellow red shades discussed in the old literature involved markings in the coat, specifically on the head and legs. Those markings are in fact still with us today. Although very, very rare, they are called "dobe" markings (as in Doberman) and they look like this:


Not my photo. This could actually
be a Doberman x Weim mix.
Used for illustration purposes only.
Your dog seems to be self-coloured (ie: the entire coat is all one colour, not 'marked' with a different colours on the head, legs and chest). So if the yellow or yellow red genes that were in the background of the Weim are responsible for your pup's coat colour, then they would have had to not only lay dormant for over a century and then, by pure luck, happen to find the right combination to appear, but they would also have to mutate in some way and go from just 'markings' to affecting the entire coat....of four pups! Is it possible? Maybe (I am not a geneticist) but I would put the odds at around a gajillion-gajillion to one.

So, if we eliminate the possibility of a mutation and of a throwback to the early days (and I think we can in both cases), what else could result in such a coat?

Occam's razor would lead us to the very real possibility that the genes responsible for your pup's coat were introduced by an external source at some point in the past. In other words, somewhere in your dog's ancestry, there is at least one non-Weim ancestor that brought in the genes for the white/blond coat your pup has.

Where, when and how could this happen? I have no idea. What I do know is there is no such thing as a 'pure' breed. All breeds have a bit of this and a bit of that in them. That is how they were created and every now and then, by accident or on purpose under the light of the moon, a bit more of this or bit more of that gets added into the mix.
AAAOOOOO!!!!!

You said that one of the parents is a blue Weim. They are handsome dogs, I've written about them here. And it is pretty well accepted nowadays that the blue coat is the result of a bit of this or that getting into the breed in the US (the most common theory is that is was from a Doberman). So we know that there is at least one source of 'outside' genetic material in your pup. As an aside, it has been estimated by the owner of the Weimaraner pedigree data base that 99.9% of Weims in the world today have the original 'blue' weim somewhere in their pedigree as well.

But could there be another source of outside genes, ones that could lead to a white/blond coat? Of course. In fact, I believe that the vast majority of all the Weims out there with non-standard colors (and even some with the standard color) are the result of something happening behind the woodshed in the past. Gene mutations like the one described by Dr. Epplen are extremely rare. Cross breeding (accidental or otherwise) is not.

But what about the pedigrees of our dogs? What about the records that show they are pure?

Dr. Epplen, the same fellow who did the DNA article on the piebald weim published another study on Weims that (among other things) looked into the accuracy of the Weimaraner pedigree information stored in Germany. The results indicated that:
Tracing patri- and matrilineages, several entries in the Weimaraner stud book cannot be reconciled with the male-only, Y chromosomal neither the female-only, mt inheritance patterns, respectively.
In other words, the pedigree record in the homeland of the breed, where there is a system with the most rigorous checks and balances and the most tightly controlled stud book on the planet is not 100% accurate. So how accurate is the pedigree information outside of Germany, in free-wheeling North America were there are far fewer rules, no breed wardens and a much stronger tradition of 'anything goes'?  Pedigrees are not perfect. Some are accurate, some less so, and some are pure fiction.

But what about the DNA breed testing results that say he is a purebred Weim? 

I am not sure what breed DNA testing service you used, but I assume it was one of the many such services that are now being sold online and through vet clinics. I don't want to go into all the details here, and it really is quite a rabbit hole to go down if you google it, so I will just link to an article written by a guy who does not pull his punches when it comes to such things, Terrierman, in which he says:
Breed DNA tests are not too different from Gypsy Fortune telling, Fortune Cookies, the I-Ching, Numerology and Tarot Card reading. 
Unfortunately, unlike DNA parentage tests which can tell you with near 100% accuracy who your pup's mother and father are, tests for breed-specific DNA markers are generally not nearly as reliable and are not really designed to determine if a dog is purebred or not. They are mainly designed to narrow down the ancestry of mixed-breed dogs and in almost all cases where purebred samples are sent in, the result are the same: yup! your dog is what you say it is.

Felix in neoprene at the Libau marsh on opening day, 1999.

Bottom line: As a guy on the sidelines who just wants everyone to have a dog that puts a smile on their his or her face, here is what I think is going on.
1. You have a very cute pup that deserves 100% of your love and devotion.
2. Anyone who says nasty things about you or your pup is not worth your time or attention.
3. The most likely explanation for your pup's white/blond coat is that genes from outside the breed were introduced into its lineage at some point in the relatively recent past. Your pup is therefore probably not a 'purebred' Weimaraner and only you can decide how much that actually matters.

Me and the Amazing Maisey.
Personally, I don't think it matters at all and I get the feeling that it will not really change the way you feel about your pup. He deserves, and I am sure he will receive, 100% of your love and devotion.

The only issue you may have in regards to his lack of 'purity' is if you feel that you were defrauded by the breeder. I have no idea where you got the pup or under what circumstances, but if you were specifically told in no uncertain terms that your pup is 100% purebred and guaranteed to be from purebred parents and grandparents etc., well then you may have grounds for a complaint. But remember, the breeder may believe that the parents are purebred because that is what the person they got them from told them...and so on down the line.

In reality, without video evidence or a written confession, it would be impossible to determine exactly how and where the outside gene event happened and who knew about it at the time. So tread very carefully in that regard. It might not be worth picking a fight with anyone at this point. The most important thing is that you now have a pup that deserves 100% of your love and devotion.

Where I would speak out and where I would have deep concerns is if you see any effort by anyone out there to launch some sort of super duper, rare, cool new white/blond colour of Weimaraner. It is not because the colour is unattractive - your pup is super cute and will be a stunning adult. And it is not because the white/blond dogs themselves are bad or undeserving of loving homes - your pup should be the light of your life. But as you are finding out, the Weim world (and the entire purebred dog world) can be an unforgiving place, and you can go insane by tilting at its windmills. So any effort to launch a new designer colour of Weim is guaranteed to end in misery for everyone involved.

Here is my advice: 
  • Love your pup. 
  • Take care of your pup. 
  • Give him the fantastic life he deserves and forget about what nasty people have to say. Your pup doesn't give a rat's ass about them, why should you?


Enjoy my blog posts? Check out my book Pointing Dogs, Volume One: The Continentals

www.dogwilling.ca










Blame the Victim

Craig Koshyk

Ah yes, the old "hunters abandoned the breed" screed. I thought it was dead and buried, but no. It seems that there are still people out there that believe the Weim sucks as a hunting dog because...wait for it....hunters abandoned it!

Yes indeed. Hunters ruined the hunting Weim. You know, just like the Gulf of Mexico...it sucks right now because all the fishermen are abandoning it!!

I've come across this blame the victim kind of thinking on several occasions. It is always the last line of defense of the non-hunting crowd who simply do not understand what a hunting dog does and why a breed's natural hunting abilities matter so much to a hunter.

So please, let's just get one thing straight about the once-great breeds of hunting dog: hunters do not abandon them. Despite their best efforts, they get washed away by massive tsunamis of piece-of-shit dogs bred to saturate the pet market. In the case of the Weim the p.o.s dogs even came dressed in freakin red riding hood costumes!

Try this: gather up a large group of very hungry and thirsty people and head down to the watering hole in your town that is always packed with hunters. You know the kind of place, it serves thick steaks, has good beer on tap, deer racks on the walls and country music on the juke box. Let's call it the "Grey Dog Tavern"

Now tell everyone in the group to go ahead and take down all the deer racks except for one (you want to keep it up as a reminder of the good old days and can dress it up with a bit of tinsel or a feather boa). Next, have them replace the beer on tap with double mocha lattes and load the juke box with Lady Gaga and/or Madonna tunes. Finally, when the whole place has been redesigned to look like a swanky hotel lobby, announce to the world that the Grey Dog Tavern is now a vegan bistro!

Ya think there'd be any hunters left in the Grey Dog Tavern? Not a chance. They would have high-tailed it down to the GSP Inn across the street or the Pudelpointer Pub around the corner where they could be with other hunters!

And if a hunter from out of town ever shows up at the Old Grey dog tavern and asks "what the hell happened to this place?" just tell him:

"Oh, hunters abandoned it! We did our best to keep them around, I mean we care deeply about 'the field'. Look, we even have a deer head on the wall right there next to the poster for the new Sex and the City Movie...have you been to see it yet? Its FABULOUS!!!

The Bottom, Bottom Line

Craig Koshyk

This just in from the good folks at Garmin:

The only Astro Canadians can enjoy right now is the one owned by a fellow named George Jetson. Seen in a recent illustration (above) Astro Jetson seems to have fallen on hard times since the show went into re-runs about 30 years ago. However, Industry Canada continues to list him as 'approved for use in Canada'.

Unfortunately for all us bird dog folks up here, the other Astro, the one made by Garmin, is NOT APPROVED FOR USE IN CANADA. The information I posted in my last update of the blog is NOT CORRECT. My source at Raytech* was mistaken. There is NO Canadian approved model or version of the Astro. Period.

I recently received word directly from Garmin (finally!) about the whole issue. In fact, they have recently updated their own site with the following statement:

Due to varying international regulations, this version of the Astro is approved for use only in the United States. The sale and unlicensed use of the Garmin Astro GPS Dog Tracking System in any form is presently prohibited by the Canadian government. According to a document published by Industry Canada dated June 2009, the MURS radio frequency used by the Astro will be permitted to be sold and operated on a license-free basis at the end of a five-year transition period (June 2014). This Industry Canada ruling may be found in its entirety at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/vwapj/sp17-ps17-eng.pdf/$FILE/sp17-ps17-eng.pdf. Parties interested in the implementation of this spectrum utilization policy or with questions should contact their local Industry Canada office.

So it looks like my very first post on the matter was the most accurate. The issue is, and always has been, one of MURS frequency licensing. In the US the band is free to use. In Canada, you need a license...at least for now.

So, if you have an Astro, feel free to use it in the U.S. But don't forget to turn it off while you are in Canada.

THAT is the bottom line (I hope!)


*It looks like Raytech has removed all mention of the Astro from their website.

Astro: The Bottom Line...FINALLY!!!

Craig Koshyk


I just got off the phone with a VERY helpful gentleman at Raytech Electronique near Montréal. He provided me with a comprehensive answer (finally!) to the Astro Situation here in Canada.

So, here goes:

You CAN use an Astro in Canada. You can even buy an Astro in Canada. BUT (and it's a big but) it has to be the Maple Leaf version of the Astro. You see, according to the fellow I spoke to at Raytech, there are TWO DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF ASTRO 220's on the market. One is for sale in the US. I call it the Mighty Stars and Stripes version ...all gung-ho, can-do with a haircut you can set your watch to. It puts out 2 big watts of sheer Yankie power. But it seems that 2 watts is way too much for us sensitive Canadians. Any Astro unit sold up here must be modified to put out a lot less power...something like 0.5 watts. I guess we like our electronic gizmos to be more in line with our mild Canadian, let-it-be and pass the doobie attitude.

After all, there is a similar situation with the Garmin Rino, a sort of GSP/Walkie Talkie unit. It is available as a 1 watt unit in the US and as a .5 watt unit in Canada. Unlike the Rino however, users cannot switch the power levels on Astros. Canadian and American Astros are hard-wired to either put out 2 watts or .5 watts. So if you travel to Canada with an American bought unit, you can't use it. And you can't just flick a switch on it to lower the power so it conforms to Canadian regulations.

BOTTOM LINE: If you want to use an ASTRO in Canada. You MUST use the lower powered unit that is sold up here and NOT the higher output unit sold in the US. The units sold in the US violate Canadian regulations. I guess they are just a bit much for the delicate radio waves we have up here on the frozen tundra. But the lower powered "Astro-Canuck" unit is good to go. And get this...it is cheaper! Raytech sells them for only only 544.44 Canadian Loonies.

Now, where's my credit card?

Astro in Canada: Are Times REALLY a'Changin?

Craig Koshyk

UPDATE: See this post regarding even more up-to-date information I've gleaned from what seems to be an excellent Canadian source.

Recently, on a gundog forum, it seems that someone has taken issue with some of the information I had posted here about the Garmin Astro in Canada. In a somewhat snarky, not-very-Canadian reply, the poster reports that he/she received information directly from Garmin International that not only is the Astro legal in Canada (I've always maintained that it is. The information I gathered only indicated that it was not approved for USE) but that there is even a Canadian company selling and shipping the unit in the Great White North! If true, that would be fantastic!!!

However, it is still not clear that all the issues I outlined in my blog have been resolved. A major on-line seller of GPS and related products in Canada, GPS central, still states on their website that:

GPS Central does not carry the Garmin Astro product. It is not available for purchase in Canada where it is illegal to sell or use it. Its unapproved frequency interferes with channels not approved for civilian use. Fines for individuals are $25,000 with possible additional confiscation of property including automobiles. Electronics retailers face penalties of $50,000 or more. See Industry Canada.

It should be noted that the line that says the astro interferes with channels not approved for civilian use is not accurate. The frequencies used by the Astro can be used by civilians if they purchase the appropriate license which is freely available to private citizens. However, GPS Central's statement is similar to what I have heard from other distributors: that they have been told they cannot sell the units in Canada. US vendors have also told me the same thing. In fact, my interest in this whole thing came about after I tried to order an Astro a few months ago from Gundog Supply in the US and they emailed to say that they could not ship it to Canada.

Another large distributor of GSP devices has stores in the US and in Canada . It is called GPS City. Their American dot com site says: Availability: Ships August 31st/09. It then goes on to say the following: Canadian Customers! Save on shipping fees, customs, duty, and PST! Buy this item from Canada's original on-line GPS store, gpscity located in Calgary, Alberta
. But when you click on the link to the Canadian dot ca site it says: This item is not available for purchase.

Even Garmin's own website states that Due to varying international regulations, this version of the Astro is approved for use only in the United States.

GPS central also provides a link to the department in charge of these things, Industry Canada. Their website states that "In general, Canadians expect to have access to the same range of electronic and wireless products and services that are available elsewhere in North America. However, making these frequencies available for these wireless consumer products often poses several challenges. One of the primary challenges is that the desired spectrum is often already in use. This means that incumbent licensees need a reasonable notification period to move to other frequencies to avoid interference to their radio services".

Now, there may very well have been some movement on the issue since I wrote my last post about the Astro. Considering that there is apparently a Canadian company selling them over the net and that a representative from Garmin has supposedly stated in an email that the unit is good to go up here, the Gov. may have recently granted approval for the Astro. As I stated in my blog, they had every intention of changing the rules governing the MURS frequencies, but not for five years:

The Department establishes the following time frame to permit MURS devices to operate in these five channels in the 150 MHz band. 1. a five-year transition period is established from the publication date of this spectrum policy, (June 1, 2009) after which the distribution and sale of MURS devices will be permitted;

So is the Astro really good to go up here? Honestly, I don't know. I certainly hope so and I will probably put an order through to the Canadian company selling them first thing in the morning. But I think I will also give Industry Canada and Garmin a call just to find out what their take on it really is...because we all know that "... it would really be appreciated that if you don't know what your (sic) talking about that you said nothing",

Isn't that right Mr. Manners?

UPDATE: See my this post regarding even more up-to-date information I've gleaned from what seems to be an excellent Canadian source.

Myth-busting the Grand Duke's Grey Ghost

Craig Koshyk

Ok, we've all read about Karl August of Sachsen-Weimar and his connection to the Weimarner right? You know, the Grand Duke, that fancy-pants European nobleman, friend of Goethe, who liked his schnapps a bit too much, and, according to most Weim histories, more or less created the grey ghost and shared the breed with his fancy-pants friends?

Ya, that guy (check out those pants!)

Ok, so tell me this: why is it that despite years of on-again, off-again research into the Duke have I been unable to find one, single, solitary piece of solid evidence that proves he even knew what a Weimaraner was, let alone created it from scratch?

Sure I've read all the stuff published by Weimaraner enthusiasts. They are nearly unanimous in their assertion that the Weim came from the court of the Grand Duke. They point to paintings that seem to show the old guy out hunting, with dogs of all kinds prancing around the game fields of his estates. Any dog in these illustrations that is short haired and lighter in colour is immediately "identified" as a Weim. And they write that "it is said that the Grand Duke..." or "according to tradition, Karl August"...yada yada yada. Yet no one provides anything more than a sort of "I heard it from a guy who knew a guy that had a friend who heard..." sort of thing.

Now, the few mentions I can find of the Grand Duke that were written by men who tried to get to the bottom of the story turn out to be completely opposite to what most people believe. Guys like Robert Herber and Dr. Kleeman, renowned experts who lived and breathed this kind of stuff, concluded that:

"the hunting activity of the Dukes of Weimar had nothing to do with the existance of the Weimaraner" (Kleeman)

and

"hunting writers of the Royal Court of Weimar never mentioned the Weimaraner, which they by all means would have done for patriotic reasons." (Herber).

Herber even goes on to say that: "I have been in touch with the Hofmarschallamt and the Hofjagdamt in Weimar, who had found nothing concerning the Weimaraner despite thorough searching through their files. The name was probably brought into existence because the Weimaraner first occurred in large numbers in Weimar and was bred there. Even Diezel says nothing about the Weimaraner in 1873. (Herber, Deutsch Waidwerk No 22, September 1, 1939)

And I too have tried, in vain, to find any mention of Weimaraners in writings about the Grand Duke by people not connected to the breed. I've poured over a couple of Duke biographies and found nada, zippo, zitch about Weimaraners in them. Recently, I noticed that there is a new biography on the market. Written by Volker Ebersbach, it seems to be mainly about the Duke's connection to Goethe. On the cover is a beautiful painting of the Duke with a longhaired brown and white dog laying beside him...definitely NOT a Weim!

So, if Karl August did have a hand in creating the Weimaraner and if he did, as some "authorities" claim strive to keep it among the nobles of Weimar, why, oh why would he have his painting done showing him with a dog that is surely NOT a Weim?

Does anyone have this book...or access to it at a local library or book shop? I would love to know if the author makes any mention of the Weimaraner in it.

And while we are at it, can anyone tell me how the dogs in this illustration of the Grand Duke, Goethe and Corena Schroeter can be mistaken for Weims?


There are plenty of other illustrations of the man, some of them feature dogs. In NONE of them, is there clear evidence that the dogs are Weimaraners.

What gives? Is the whole Grand Duke thing just wishful thinking? Is it all a bunch of hokum?

Does anyone have any information they can point me to that clearly establishes a link between the Weimaraner and the Grand Duke?

Or should we considered this myth busted and follow Christopher Hitchens's advice?

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
― Christopher Hitchens