While looking for a Boxer dog, you may have been warned against getting a white one. If so, it’s because white Boxer dogs have long been considered second-class members of the Boxer breed. Why?
Until 1925, white Boxer dogs had been regarded by their European breeders as the equals of their colored relatives. Boxer dogs, because of their intelligence, strength, and fearlessness, had been used during World War I as guard dogs along the German front lines.
They performed so well that, after the war, the German Boxer Club initiated an effort to have the German government recognize Boxers as police dogs. They succeeded, and in 1925, Boxers became official working police dogs for the Bavarian police force.
But there was a catch, and it doomed white Boxer dogs. Any boxer whose coat had significant white markings was too visible at night, and therefore not suitable for police work. So the Bavarian police force refused to register white Boxers dogs–those more than one-third white–as official police dogs, and from then until 2004, white Boxer dogs were excluded from registration in any of the world’s Boxer breed standards.
The Bavarian Police force’s decision to exclude white Boxer dogs from police work was a justifiable one, and it forced many breeders who were supplying Boxers as police animals to cull the white puppies from their litters, so that the others would get a larger share of the mother’s milk and attention. But the reason for the culling seems to have been lost in history.
Kennel clubs ever since have attributed their decision to exclude white boxers to a predisposition to health defects associated with the white Boxer dog. But the only health defect associated with excessive white pigmentation–in both dogs and cats–is deafness.
And among dogs, white-colored connected deafness been scientifically linked only to Dalmatians carrying an extreme piebald gene; other breeds, including Boxers, have been tarred with the same brush. The deafness occurs when insufficient inner-ear pigmentation causes auditory nerve cells to die. But the American Boxer Club never carried out its own studies on White Boxer dogs, which carry a double dose of the same gene, to determine if it affects them the same way.
The ABC, instead, forbade in its Code of Ethics the registration, sale, or placement of white Boxers. Breeders could either euthanize their White boxer dogs, or keep them. And the Code did not change until 1985, when the ABC relented and allowed White Boxer dogs to be placed, but still forbade their registration or breeding.
And, while there have been no official studies supporting the claims that white Boxer dogs are susceptible to more health problems than colored Boxers, Hawkleigh Boxers of Australia did a private survey among breeders who indicated that their white Boxer dogs actually had fewer health issues.
The white Boxer dogs, according to the breeders surveyed, did experience more deafness and sunburn, but were less likely to suffer from digestive problems, skin diseases and tumors, and spinal disorders. But the American Boxer club’s lack of interest in verifying any white Boxer dog health issues remains puzzling.
The ABC, in 2004, did relent a bit and change its Code of Ethics to let breeders offer limited AKC registration and refundable spay/neuter deposits, and to charge for medical expenses directly associated with their white Boxer puppies.
But these beautiful, intelligent, loving white Boxers, who offer all the best traits of their breed, are still a long way from overcoming the stigma unfairly given them because their police dog ancestors were too easily seen in the dark.