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.
So what are piebalds? They look like German Shorthaired Pointers that are gray. The question of course is, are they purebred?
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 idea to consider 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?
Maybe. But what about melanocyte migration? Melanocyte migration is a fancy way of saying that coloring takes longer to develop in the womb, and is attributed to white spots. So we are talking about a developmental thing here. For you genetics geeks, that’s discussed here. So maybe it has nothing to do with cross breeding at all! Hmmmm…
The last thing to consider is that maybe it’s from cross breeding that happened when the breed was being created. That means that perhaps the piebalds of today are atavistic, in other words, “throwbacks.” If a piebald Weimaraner today is exhibiting atavistic traits, one couldn’t really call a piebald cross bred any more than a solid gray Weimaraner. I personally know of several breeders that have produce a piebald from two purebred gray Weimaraners.
Enter DNA testing. 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.
But now we have a published study! 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)
What does all of this mean? Piebalds 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.