Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mismark Case Study: Dachshund

According to the AKC, Dachshunds come in two size varieties and three coat varieties. All of the six total types come in numerous colors and patterns. Pictured above are a red longhaired standard and a black and tan smooth miniature. Image is from Wikimedia Commons and is copyright free.
A chocolate and tan dapple Dachshund
Dachshunds are a breed that most people will recognize, even if they know them by some other name, such as "wiener dog," "dash hound," or numerous other labels. With that recognition usually comes a recollection of color as well, usually one of the two seen above, though more commonly black and tan. Despite this, the breed comes in quite a number of colors other than red and black and tan. Red, black and tan, wild boar, brindle, dapple (merle), and sable can all occur. The red seen in all of the dogs can vary from pale cream to dark red. In addition, the black can be diluted to chocolate, blue, or Isabella. Of course, not all combinations are considered acceptable, as is so often the case with breed standards, and there are additional colors that are also considered unacceptable. Here are the mismarks:

  • Improper pigment
    • In red dogs, pigment other than black is unacceptable
  • Solid colors other than red
    • May be solid black, blue, chocolate/liver, or Isabella/fawn
  • Piebald
  • A chocolate and tan piebald Dachshund
    • May occur in combination with any other color
  • Ticking
    • Only seen in piebalds
  • Dapple
    • When eye-rim pigment is lacking
  • Double dapple
    • Can only be produced by mating dapples together 

A red Dachshund with a liver nose
Clearly, when looking at what colors are and are not allowed, this breed is bred in color classes. Mainly this involves the breeding of red and black and tan. The black in black and tan may be diluted, but reds have to have black pigment. As such, breeding a chocolate, blue, or Isabella and tan, or even a black and tan carrying one of the dilutions, to a red increases the likelihood of producing a diluted red sometime in the future, depending on who is being crossed with whom. Even though there is no mention of color classes when looking at the parent club, color classes are standard practice in the dog breeding world where certain matings may lead to an unacceptable combination of colors. I have spoken of this time and time again in these case studies.

This Dachshund is solid black
I mentioned solid colored Dachshunds, which may come as a surprise to many. They do, in fact, occur, though there is some controversy surrounding the color in the breed. Some claim that the color only comes from breeders who may falsify pedigrees, and as such they may not be purebred Dachshunds. Another theory says the dogs are not truly solid black, but instead are very muddy black and tans. Others claim that breeding black and tans together generation after generation will cause the tan to disappear. The last theory does not hold up to closer examination, since countless breeds come in only black and tan and always breed true. It's highly unlikely that Dachshund tan points are inherited differently.  In any case, it does appear that recessive black may very well be present in the breed and thus the potential for solid chocolate, blue, or Isabella (as well as dapple and piebald without tan points). In addition, the color is still not acceptable according to the standard.

A brindle? double dapple Dachshund
Thanks to the presence of the merle gene in the breed, double merles can and do occur. As with every breed, double merle causes a very high likelihood of deafness, blindness, and/or other issues (up to and including a lack of eyes) occurring in the double merle individual. I am rather disheartened by the lack of recognition of this potential in the code of ethics. There is simply a mention elsewhere that double dapple is undesirable. There is absolutely nothing that would prevent a breeder from breeding two dapples together and no indication of a reprimand if the breeder produced unhealthy puppies from that breeding. In addition, there is nothing preventing mating of dapples to reds, which would likely produce cryptic merles. Cryptic merles are not known to be merles thanks to their coloring, and since the gene only affects black pigment, red dogs may very well have no signs of the merle gene. This makes it quite likely that an accidental merle-merle mating could be done, leading to a one in four chance of producing double dapples.

This Dachshund is Isabella and tan piebald
When it comes to piebald, the gene causing the color is a simple recessive and as such is likely to never be removed from the breed. Though most dogs that carry piebald will show some sign of it, usually through a prominent patch on the chest, this is not always the case. The patch may be quite small and look very much like the residual white that is very commonly seen in genetically solid dogs. White on the chest is acceptable, and as such it is quite likely that numerous dogs carry the piebald gene. Piebald isn't going to go away.

Several points on the Dachshund breed standard really don't make much sense when it comes to concerns about genetic diversity in a breed. Breeding in color classes splits a breed into chunks and narrows the number of possible pairings, isolating the breed from itself. By not allowing such combinations as liver-nosed red, this had produced a great potential for issues caused by this color class breeding. In addition, piebald has breed present in the breed for the entirety of its history. If piebald has been around throughout the breed's history, why isn't it allowed? If the breed is supposed to be the same as the badger hunter it once was, why does color even matter?


  1. I think some of the arbitrary 'mismark' labeling comes from these sources:

    1. Avoiding having their breed resemble another breed that is commonly that color
    2. Breed Standard tradition based on 19th Century ignorance of genetics
    3. Breed club clique that had a grudge against a certain color for whatever reason and successfully lobbied against it

    In recent years, arbitrary -addition- of a color to a standard has successfully been done by a minority clique manipulating club ballots (merle Pomeranians) and by a very close majority (merle Chihuahuas). Neither breed has historical basis for that color. Similarly, colors that DO have historical basis (like particolor poodles) are also deemed 'wrong' based on little more than because a clique with enough breed club authority managed to drum them out based on nothing more than their own personal biases.

    It's really kind of silly just how shallow the reasoning behind some of these breed standard decisions were.

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  3. It's all breed politics. Silliness and hate mongering. It really does amaze me as well how many people still follow the thoughts that came from the 19th century and its flawed logic.

    I don't get why merle seems to be a new fad gene, either. Why add it if it wasn't there in the first place? It makes a heck of a lot more sense to allow colors that are already occurring in the breed rather than adding in ones that clearly came from another source.

  4. Lots of people (puppy buyers included) think Merle is pretty. That's really the only plus to adding it into a breed where it never was before. It really is shallow.

  5. Terribly shallow indeed. I doubt that very many puppy buyers understand the gene, either. I've heard some people call double merles pretty as well, but that doesn't make it okay to purposefully breed one.

    1. > I've heard some people call double merles pretty as well...

      The phrase 'a beautiful corpse' comes to mind.

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