Weimaraners are supposed to be solid gray dogs, simple as that. Right? Turns out, it’s not that simple and genetics can be so darn messy! Blue Weimaraners may have been the “red headed” step children in the past, but these days it seems we are seeing more and more piebald Weimaraners.
I don’t believe that they are cropping up more often; I believe that the ease of sharing photos these days has helped de-mystify them.
What Are Piebalds?
So what are piebalds? First of all, piebalding occurs in many dog breeds and also occurs in various animals, such as horses, cats, birds, squirrels, even snakes!
In Weimaraners, they look like German Shorthaired Pointers that are gray. The head tends to be more solid in color, and they usually have a white body with spots of color.
Where Did Piebalding Come From?
The question that always come up is, these dogs really purebred Weimaraners? Have they been cross bred? Just where in the world did this crazy pattern come from?
Are Piebald Weimaraners Cross-Bred?
On first glance, most anyone would assume cross breeding. Personally I have seen more piebalds in “field” lines than any other. Word is, it’s likely that Weimaraners have been bred to Pointers in the last 40 years. Could they be the result of more Pointer blood than Weimaraner?
Maybe. However, word of mouth says that most Pointer and Weimaraner cross bred dogs produce solid colored dogs. Genetically Pointers don’t carry the dilute gene, so the resulting cross should be a solid brown or black dog.
Another consideration is that the Weimaraner and German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) shared the stud book in the breed’s beginnings. I’ve also been told that two GSPs have been known to occasionally produce a gray spotted dog. This may mean that the GSP still “carries” the dilute gene. The dilute gene is present in ALL Weimaraners which makes it the distinctive gray color (or blue). You can read about Weimaraner color genetics here.
Since GSPs are either brown or black, it would mean that most GSPs do not carry the dilute, because BOTH parents have to have the dilute for the dilute color to be exhibited. Could it be that Weims and GSPs have been crossed more recently than the 1800’s when the stud book was shared?
Are Piebald Weimaraners Throwbacks?
Knowing that Weims and GSPs shared a stud book in the early days means that they were likely cross bred back then, so piebalding could have been introduced when the breed was being created. That means that perhaps the piebalds of today are atavistic, in other words, “throwbacks.”
An example of atavistic throwbacks in Weimaraners is the tan markings that we sometimes see in the breed. They are often called “Doberman markings” suggesting that they come from Dobermans, but this is simply not true since it’s been well-documented that Weimaraners were developed before Dobermans. The tan markings come from the hound blood used to develop the breed. It is not desirable, but “pops up” unexpectedly even today.
I personally know of several breeders that have produce a piebald from two purebred gray Weimaraners.
Weimaraner Piebald Genetics
In 2013 the Epplen lab at Ruhr University in Germany was able to test the DNA of a German bred female piebald Weimaraner from two solid gray parents.
They found that “This exceptional coat colour pattern can be attributed to a mutation in the KIT gene, emphasising the possible role of KIT in white spotting.”
By DNA they verified that the piebald’s parents were indeed the two solid gray parents as presented to them. They also found that the mutation wasn’t found in the parents, nor the solid gray littermates. (Gerding, W. M., Akkad, D. A. and Epplen, J. T. (2013), Spotted Weimaraner dog due to de novo KIT mutation. Anim Genet, 44: 605–606. doi:10.1111/age.12056)
The KIT gene is important for the development and function of certain cell types, including melanocytes which produce the pigment melanin. The MITF gene apparently works in conjunction to regulate KIT (or KIT signaling regulates MITF expression).
MITF is involved in various developmental processes, including melanocyte migration. Melanocyte migration is a fancy way of saying that coloring takes longer to develop in the womb. Delayed melanocyte migration is attributed to white spots that we see in Weimaraner, such as the commonly seen white spot on the chest.
Furthermore, there have been over 100 MITF mutations identified, and it is highly likely that piebalding we see in Weimaraners is caused by a combination of mutations.
As I said, I personally know several reputable breeders that have produced a piebald from two purebred gray Weims. I also know that in at least one case, a DNA test was run on the parents and it was proven that the parents were both gray Weimaraners as claimed.
Piebald Weimaraners Are NOT Produced Deliberately
After I first published this article, I received many messages asking where they can get a piebald Weimaraner. Piebalds are not produced deliberately. A breeder cannot predict mutations, and piebald Weimaraners are basically “genetic accidents.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with piebald Weimaraners! They are quite stunning and are definitely not typical, but they are definitely a Weimaraner though and through!
Here are a few more photos of piebalds. Note that the puppies are born with white and develop ticking over time, indicating more melanocyte migration happening after birth.
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