The black German shepherd is one of the many different coat colors and patterns that are associated with the German shepherd breed. The black German shepherd is not a separate dog breed from the German shepherd breed like the white German shepherd which is recognized as a separate dog breed by some kennel clubs.
The black coat of the German shepherd is the result of genes passed down to the pup by the parents but before we delve into the genetics of the black German shepherd we need to have a brief understanding of the German shepherd coat colors and coat patterns.
The German shepherd breed comes in wide varieties of coat colors such as: black & tan, black & silver, black & cream, black & red, blue, blue & silver, blue & cream, blue & tan, blue & red, liver, liver & cream, liver & tan, liver & red, white, sable, solid black, solid white, solid liver, solid blue etc.
The German shepherd breed also come in different coat patterns (or markings), which can be seen in how the coat color of the German shepherd dog is distributed on its body and face. Coat patterns include:
- The saddle back pattern: this is considered the classic look for the German shepherd in which the German shepherd appears to be wearing a black saddle on its back.
- Blanket back pattern: this is the same as the saddle back but it covers a much larger part of the dog’s body stretching down to the dog’s sides like a blanket.
- Bi-color pattern: in this coat pattern the dog has two coat colors; one of the colors is like an extended blanket back pattern that covers the entire body of the dog except for its lower extremities (the legs or lower parts of the legs in some case and perhaps the face) where the second color can be seen.
- Solid pattern: here the dog is just one color like the all white or all black German shepherd dog.
- Sable pattern: the dogs will have bindings of color on each of their individual hair. The hairs on the sable are tipped meaning that ends of the hairs will be black and the rest of the hair will be any color. This will result in wide range of colors in the sable pattern.
Genetics of the black German shepherd
In any complex life the genes is the fundamental material that determines the traits exhibited by that life. The traits exhibited by a pup are passed down in the genes of both parents including the solid black color of the black German shepherd.
Genes exist as a pair and each parent will contribute one of its pair to the pup to form its own pair of genes which will determines the traits of the pup in that area of the pup’s life (genotype). Not only do genes exist as a pair but dominant genes will always manifest in the pup when present (i.e. as long as one of the pair is a dominant gene) while recessive genes will only manifest if both genes that form the pair are recessive.
The black color is the default color for dogs which is also influenced by the genes. The genes that are responsible for the coat color in the GSD are the color gene and the pattern genes. The pattern genes are responsible for coat patterns in the GSDs.
Genes are responsible for the black pigment formation in the GSD but in some GSDs the black pigment formation is not allowed free expression as it is either blocked or diluted such as in the liver German shepherd and the blue German shepherd. These are usually caused by the color genes which are also recessive genes but in the case of the black German shepherd the solid black color is not due to the recessive color genes but the recessive pattern genes.
Therefore the solid black pattern gene does not affect the formation of the black pigment as it happens in the blue and liver GSDs. So the solid black pattern gene merely causes the black German shepherd to wear a solid black pattern.
Pictures of black German shepherds
Fact 1: only the double recessive solid black genes can produce solid black
Since the solid black gene is a double recessive gene, a pup must inherit the pair of the solid black recessive genes from both parents (one from each parent) in order manifest the solid black coat. Two colored GSDs (non solid black) can produce some solid black GSDs pups in their litter if one of the gene pair of both parents is a recessive solid black gene (i.e. they are carriers) but if both parents are solid black GSDs then all the pups in their litter will be solid black German shepherds.
Therefore except the German shepherd breeder knows the pedigree of the male (sire) and female (dam) dogs used in breeding, he or she may be surprise that some of the pups are solid black even though neither of the parents is a solid black GSD. In this case both parents are carriers of the recessive black gents.
Fact 2: GSD pups are born black
Except in cases where the black pigment formation is acted upon in some ways e.g. blocked, diluted or masked (as in the case of the white German shepherd), GSD pups are born black and will stay black through adulthood and sometimes with white spot on the chest or toes.
The final color of a GSD pup can only be ascertained when the outer coat has fully developed.
Fact 3: the black color has NO effect either negative or positive
According to the SV (society for German shepherd dogs and in German called: Verein für deutsche Schäferhunde) dog club in Germany which was founded by Max von Stephanitz (the German shepherd breed creator):
“The color of the GSD is independent and unimportant and has no effect on the character of the dog or on it fitness or robustness for work and should therefore be a secondary consideration.”
Of all the qualities that should be sought in a GSD, the coat color should bring up the rear while other factors such as health, gait, temperament, pedigree or bloodlines etc are much more important and these should be the paramount factors to consider when it comes to making a decision on a particular GSD.
Only when these factors have been thoroughly checked should good pigment be sought after. There are no unique health, temperament or genetic problems associated with the black German shepherd based solely on its black color.
Fact 4: the truth about the black German shepherd temperament
This is what the American kennel club (AKC) has to say about the temperament of the German shepherd dog:
“The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them. It is poised, but when the occasion demands, eager and alert; both fit and willing to serve in its capacity as companion, watchdog, blind leader, herding dog, or guardian, whichever the circumstances may demand. The dog must not be timid, shrinking behind its master or handler; it should not be nervous, looking about or upward with anxious expression or showing nervous reactions, such as tucking of tail, to strange sounds or sights. Lack of confidence under any surroundings is not typical of good character. Any of the above deficiencies in character which indicate shyness must be penalized as very serious fault”
This above quote is what you should expect from an ideal German shepherd regardless of its coat color, however in the real world it is difficult to find that ideal German shepherd because among other things the popularity of the German shepherd breed has resulted in all sort of undesirable breeding practices that has produced German shepherd dogs of unimaginable temperaments.