Dr Malcolm B.Willis writes
The Anatolian Shepherd (or whatever its breeders want to call it) came to Britain some decades ago with importations from Turkey where there was no kennel club and little control, if any, of breeding and pedigrees.
Most of the original imports were short coated with a fawn coat colour and a black mask. This fact encouraged many of the original breeders to want to exclude all other coat types and coat colours but this was not universally agreed.
The best part of 20 years ago I was involved with KC discussions and recently I appeared before the Breed Standards and Stud Book sub-committee to discuss this issue yet again. A decision was made but the Karabash enthusiasts are still fighting that decision as witnessed by Harry Mellor’s letter in Our Dogs/Dog World Feb 18th and a recent comment by Ken Bounden quoted by Simon Parsons in Dog World 25th February.
It is stated that the breed will breed true for fawn with a smooth coat and a black mask. All three alleles are dominant and thus, as in many breeds, recessive alternatives will crop up. If two Anatolians that are fawn with a black mask give rise to a non black mask or a long coat or a white dog that is in accordance with simple genetics and does not indicate crossbreeding or alien blood.
One may prefer one colour to another but as regards a breed standard it is illogical to exclude a colour unless it has a biological or practical disadvantage. The breed is a livestock protection (not a herding breed) and as such white is a sensible colour for protector living among the white sheep. I have seen no evidence that any of the colours seen in this breed are linked to biological flaws. Mr Bounden’s view that the Karabash is a distinct breed that breeds true is erroneous and based on flawed data. If we recognise this colour type as one breed then we have to split a minority breed that registered only 79 animals in 2003 and that is too small a population to be viable. Moreover other colours/coat types will crop up at intervals. What do we do - kill them?
Mr Bounden and Mr Mellor dismiss the geneticists’ views - so the late Roy Robinson, myself, Dr Sampson and Dr Cattanach are all wrong? As regards splitting breeds on a simple trait this is quite ill-thought out. The fact that this error has been made many times in the past does not excuse continuation of such mistakes. Originally the difference between a long coat and a smooth coat Chihuahua was one gene but by making them two breeds breeders will have widened that difference. However, when two smooths produce a long it is registered as a long coat so that the distinction of breed is ignored. Of course as two breeds we have two sets of tickets, the same thing that encouraged splitting the varieties of Belgian Shepherd and the like. Maybe we should have golden sable GSD, grey GSD, black and tan GSD, white GSD and black GSD all as separate breeds…five sets of tickets!! The idea is arrant nonsense in GSD and so it is in other breeds if we want to cling to the idea of a purebred breed.
Breeds are distinct entities based on common ancestry and there is no evidence whatsoever that the Anatolian is other than one breed. You can call it Kangal or Anatolian or what have you but it is one breed and should remain so. Mr Bounden may be right in stating that the breed in Britain is a motley crew but that is a consequence of divisions within the breeders, inadequate judging and above all a small population. It has nothing to do with coat colour but if the best dogs happened to be fawn with a black mask and their owners rejected mates that were not so coloured do not be surprised if progress is slow or retarded.
The people like Mr Mellor who have not accepted anything but what they themselves believe are fighting a battle that is genetically unsound and may be losing track of the main issue which is to improve the breed. How many of the fawn with black mask brigade are hip scoring? Mr Bounden argues that the Karabash reproduces in colour and type. That is akin to saying black Newfies breed true. Many do but some give browns and others black and whites but they are still one breed. Moreover type is a complex character involving numerous genes for which no dog in any breed will breed totally true!
The Karabash club ought to accept what has been agreed or does it wish to no longer recognise KC authority? Mr Mellor’s letter suggests that he is about ready to pull out. That will not help breed population size but it might help unity. He is wrong, however, to state that the KC do not recognise his breed. They do. They just do not accept the limitations which he and others would like to put on that breed and which are based on prejudice and inadequate understanding however many times they may have visited Turkey.