Getting the white colour accepted for the Miniature Schnauzer could well prove more difficult and will certainly be more divisive than was the case with black and silvers. With that colour it was simply a matter of indifference and not appreciating what we had, rather than any outright opposition.
Whereas the ringside comments, abusive telephone calls and letters that have already occurred and which followed a ‘white’ being placed third at the SKC in May, last year shows just how different are the feelings over the white colour and how strongly they are felt.
With their being shown and judged it is important to appreciate two points; firstly our Kennel Club, provided both parents are registered, will accept and register any colour with their progeny, so whatever the colour, whether a recognised one or not, it may be shown.
Secondly, although white is unrecognised here it does not state this in the Breed Standard, nor do we have a disqualification clause and it is entirely up to judges if and where they place a dog or bitch in the class, the only criterion is that it should be a decision and award based on merit.
Records of the breed and its early beginnings as well as references especially in English are all rather sparse, so detailed information is scarce. The ‘whites’ would appear to come through the blacks. This has always thought to have been because of a later introduction to Miniatures, rather than being a part of the breed’s original colour. The unique pepper and salt is an agouti pattern and as such I believe does not carry the white factor.
That it is a later introduction would also seem to be supported by the fact that in America where there is also concern over white becoming a recognised colour, despite the fact that it is a disqualification. The established black and black & silver show lines are all able to trace back to initial imports that carried colour genes, something ‘whites’ are not able to do. With that in mind it is as well to appreciate that the great majority of British Miniatures trace back to American blood lines and I believe without exception to Am Ch Dorem Display and his sister, Am Ch Dorem Shady Lady, two pepper and salts.
It was the pepper and salt colour that was initially concentrated on in both breeding and exhibiting and although the black & silver and black occurred in litters from the earliest days, they were not seriously bred or shown until some time later. Other colours have been mentioned in breed standards over the years.
White however, has always been considered as a degenerate colour and associated with weakness, always undesirable and always a fault or disqualification. This has been so with the Pinscher-Schnauzer Club, as well as in America and here in Britain, right from the earliest times when Schnauzers and Miniatures shared the same breed standard, excepting for the height clause.
It is also important we should not forget that the originators and earliest breeders of the Miniature wanted to emulate the Standard Schnauzer in every way, only in a smaller frame. It is therefore not unreasonable to believe pepper and salt would have been the primary colour sought. Breeders would also have been attracted to other colours that appeared through using the smaller breeds and no doubt tempted to have them accepted but they resisted temptation and stuck to the initial three colours.
I therefore feel that if we now encourage and recognise other colours, especially white which has always been undesirable, we will not only be taking a backward step but also be tampering with our breed’s inheritance as well as breaking faith with those early breeders and the reliance they would have placed on us who would follow on and continue their efforts and ideals.
The white colour controversy also throws into focus and questions the wiseness of the breed standards all being standardised back in 1985 when the disqualification and fault clauses were all deleted. This move was not welcomed by many influential breeders at the time who felt it a retrograde step and foresaw problems. Likewise, the phrase, ‘correct conformation is of more importance than colour or other purely beauty points’ which appears in the introductory paragraph of our breed standard could now prove a stumbling block and be taken as supportive for those seeking recognition for the white colour.
The phrase was actually introduced in the fifties when the breed was at a cross roads over the question of type and sturdiness verses colour and a more toyish Miniature. Over the years this original intention has often been misunderstood and quoted out of context, especially in discussions on the question of mixing the colours and could continue to do so today in relation to recognising the ‘whites’.
The phrase has served the breed and its purpose well over the years but sadly with fewer and fewer of us around now, who were privy to the reasoning behind its inclusion and able to explain the reason why this was done, it could rebound and continue to be turned against the interests of the breed in a way that its originators could not have imagined and certainly did not intend.
Looking back to the fifties, I find it hard, in fact impossible, to ignore or forget the state of the breed at that time in respect of colour and type. In those days, Pam Morrison-Bell’s first Miniature, Della, was red, my Kutie was cream and colours seen in the breed and on individual dogs varied considerably. What an improvement there has been and although we still have some way to go, colour, like type is improving and will continue to do so as long as we are careful and protective of them.
Interestingly, through the years I have only known of one litter of parti colours occur in Miniatures and these were in the fifties and from a mating of pepper & salts. All went as pets and the breeder never repeated the combination or bred from the bitch again. The sire continued to be used but never produced this colouring to any other bitch.
Staying down memory lane, I recall two litters of Standards Schnauzers having black & silvers, although they were not recognised as such and thought at the time to be extra dark pepper & salts, with the colour clearing over time. However, the colour never changed.
As far as I am aware, ‘whites’ have never occurred in Standards and this is something we should not lose sight of, especially when remembering that the aim with Miniatures has always been to have a smaller Standard Schnauzer.
Having seen the colours in competition, it has been interesting to watch the reaction of those involved with our breed. Although only a technical point it is generally felt that the pepper and salts, black and silvers and blacks all belong but the whites do not and look out of place. This is not just a matter of being used to the three recognised colours or being biased. The white colour just does not fit in.
If, as under FCI rules, the colours were separated then perhaps it might be easier to accept white, but I am not sure as having seen them separated over the years at European shows, it is difficult to see that we are one breed. It is also hard not to ignore the fact that so many FCI recognised breeds are so similar or look like poor examples of others but nevertheless have been readily accepted as pure-bred and separate breeds.
I also find myself questioning, be it somewhat reluctantly since it is easy to be misconstrued, the reasoning behind seeking a white Miniature, given that there is a choice with the three established and recognised colours. I fail to understand why, if one likes and wants a white dog, why one does not go for an established breed where white is recognised – there is certainly no lack of choice.
Likewise, I find it hard to put from my mind the reaction to my breed notes, written after attending the World Show in Helsinki, where the Russian fraternity were out in force and I mentioned in that country they had black and tan Miniatures. The response was telling, not only from here but from many parts of the world, including America and the impression I could not help but have was the interest was for making ‘a fast buck’. A sad state of affairs and something that will not make comfortable reading but I am afraid that is how it was.
The white miniature has also been likened to the brindle Basenji but I do not see a similarity. Miss Veronica Tudor-Williams, the breed’s earliest pioneer, did bring back a brindle Basenji from one of her African trips but, unlike the white miniature, I am told by breed authorities that the brindle colour in that breed can be traced back to the original African dog.
Early in this article, I mentioned that, for whatever reason, the ground swell of opinion within the breed is vehemently against accepting white as a recognised colour in the Miniature Schnauzer breed. I whole heartedly support this view as I feel we owe it to those breeders who have gone before us, to acknowledge all of the thought, care and effort they put into developing a smaller version of the Standard Schnauzer and for us to continue in the same vein until we hand over custody to the next generation of enthusiasts.
However, it will not do for us to be complacent as we often see in today’s somewhat liberal society that the views of the traditionalists do not always prevail.