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Virginia Zurflieh, editor

The times they are a’changing?

On January 26, we whelped our first litter in over four years - six puppies...50% white. Frankly, I was dismayed. Two days later, one of the colored puppies, a beautifully marked, but tiny, black brindle bitch, died. The remaining two colored puppies, a dog and a bitch, are also flashy brindles. I can’t help but contrast this litter with the first one we whelped 25 years ago - by Ch Gray Roy’s Minstrel Boy x our beloved Ch Scher-Khoun’s Tarantella. There were six puppies in that litter, too - five plain brindles and the barely flashy, future Ch Scarborough Silversmith, SOM. At that time, we were disappointed in Tarantella’s litter, too - only one possible "show prospect," and five very plain brindle puppies at a time and place when it was difficult to even give brindle boxers away!

We didn’t know how lucky we were. The only bitch in Tara’s litter, Scarborough Soliloquy, became a Dam of Merit and lived happily for 13 years as my mother’s pet and protector, and several of the plain dogs could have been shown (nice looking and no monorchids), if we hadn’t accepted as gospel the then-current "truism" that plain dogs just couldn’t win. Come to think of it, that "truism" is still equally "true" today. But as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a’changing. As we approach the year 2000, we may be just beginning to see completely plain dogs and bitches as a solution to the ethical dilemma of routinely breeding flash to flash, knowing that a percentage of the puppies are almost sure to be white, and a percentage of the whites will probably be deaf. Maybe I’m just getting old and unreasonable, since we’ve certainly whelped white puppies before, but I find that I simply can’t accept those odds with equanimity anymore, especially after our current "50/50" litter.

Of course, it’s true that the American Boxer Club has relaxed its stand on white boxers a tiny bit, with the new By-Laws and Code of Ethics approved April 19, 1994. Breeders still can’t breed, register, or sell their whites and checks, but at least we are no longer expressly forbidden to place them in pet homes. That means that the breeders who believe it is morally wrong to kill healthy puppies of any color can now find good homes for them with a clear conscience. And with more and more pet owners getting ILP numbers for their white and check dogs and competing in AKC performance events, perhaps we’ll finally reach a point at which backyard breeders won’t be able to advertise and sell "rare white boxers" for outrageous prices anymore, because the existence of not-at-all-rare white boxers will no longer be veiled in secrecy.

But whether we believe in culling or find the idea abhorrent, that still leaves us with the problem of knowing when we breed two flashy boxers that a percentage of the litter won’t even be registerable on limited registrations, and a percentage of those puppies may have a health defect - deafness - that will make them difficult to place in good, permanent, pet homes.

Dr. Bruce Cattanach (of "Bobtail" fame) has reported that there is a movement in Britain to get the UK Breed Council to acknowledge that flashy show boxers all carry the gene for white, and to accept the position that breeding flashy boxers together to produce whites is unethical. If the Breed Council were to take that position, plain boxers might at the same time be promoted for both showing and breeding in the UK (Dec. ‘98 ABC News Bulletin, p. 27).

I don’t agree that breeding flashy boxers together is unethical, but I do wish we had a wide selection of outstanding, (genetically) plain boxer dogs and bitches to choose from here in the U.S. - "solids" that, according to Dr. Cattanach, cannot produce white puppies. Unfortunately, that old "truism" - that it’s difficult or impossible to win in the showring with a plain boxer - has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Almost everyone sells their completely plain puppies (white on toes and chest only) as pets at the crack of eight weeks...and almost no serious breeder gives even the most typey and attractive ones, especially the males, a shot at a show career.

Obviously, it’s going to take a concerted effort by a number of American breeders to turn this situation around (I understand from "e-mail" friends in Norway that the situation is pretty much the same there). But I, for one, am going to start looking right now for that beautifully bred, genetically plain stud dog that will complement my flashy champion bitch...whether he’s a champion or not. If you’ve got one, I sure wish you’d advertise him, because frankly, I don’t even know where to begin.


Genetic Health
Bobtail Boxers - 3
Delta Pet
Jerry & Bear
My Life With Boxers
In Black & White
Move ABC

Editor: Virginia Zurflieh
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