Anatolian World

AK-what?
- part I

When Westernized dog fanciers began to speak of a certain "white" dog of Turkish origins, it seemed that there was initially only one person, one that was not Turkish, that was truly 'expert' about this newly-found supposedly ancient dog. There appeared to be little native (Turkish) interest in the dog and its development abroad.

The genetics of white color in livestock guardian breeds is fascinating, and a rudimentary understanding of it is necessary to understand specific developments in the development of the 'akbash'. Regardless of color 'theory' and one's favored geneticist, the misunderstood complications involved in the genetics of white and how it is inherited present the strongest proof  for the validity of the confusion and mistrust that resulted from manipulating the white coloration to establish 'white' foundation stock. What better way to examine this point than from the breeding the dogs themselves. Being dogs, they have no political agenda, they have nothing to hide. However, thirty years later, or even later, their silent testimony may be forgotten, because they are gone now...

Early in the development of the breed, problems emerged because these dogs demonstrated that they carried a wide range of coloring factors with potential to 'throw white' or color. Genetically speaking, their white color factors ranged from extreme white spotting, chinchilla cream, diluted and/or masked fawns, and other multi-factored 'white', and any dog could carry one or several of these in their genes. The interplay of these genetic factors for variable expression of white are analogous to something similar to a 'paper, scissors, and stone' game, where each one of them can over-ride another, and yet be over-ridden themselves. Thus the genetics of white are complex, particularly in the "natural" breeds where intense breeding and culling has not occurred, thus there are more variables involved in the expression of coat color.

In certain combinations between some individuals of these dogs, underlying genetic factors revealed "undesireable" colors when incomplete dominance and other factors came into play on their litters. Due to the color standard of this breed, all that mattered in the foundation dogs, however, is that they would produce some variation of 'white'. In other 'white' livestock guarding breeds, much misunderstanding continues to prevail, but due to well supported breed standards - the inheritance of the white color is less important to the 'lay' fancier. Lay fanciers of the sheep dogs of Anatolian origins have considerably less confusion when they take the time to get a little familiar these factors. 

The founder may have taken an easy route to deal with these 'white' inconsistencies in the first 'akbash'. Simply claim that these affected dogs were not "pure" and refuse to register them. Thus, technically he had a 'breed' based on phenotype and 'luck'   - basing purity on the outward expression of a desired characteristic. If bred to other akbash dogs where certain expression of the undesireable colors could be masked, the same supposedly 'unpure' dogs produced "white".

Thus the controversy - simply because genetics was misunderstood. Some claimed that miscolored dogs didn't happen, while others said it did. It's not the intent for this page to get involved with 'he said' and 'she said' issues.

And - as far as conformation goes, it ranged, even among the so-called 'pure' ones, and it still ranges with the same expression of body type as does in the primary landrace known as the Anatolian Shepherd Dog. In fact, as many Anatolian breeders have discovered, breeding two 'white' ASDs would throw the same combinations as would be seen in a "pure" akbash litter and futher, that it's not difficult to establish a line of Anatolians which are 'white' should that be a goal.

It is no surprise that very quickly in the 'Akbash' game, broken partnerships resulted from disagreement over claims which were made about 'purity' -  based on what different combinations of dogs 'threw'. DOG WORLD and DOG FANCY (both in USA) have a number of advertisements in that era, demonstrating the infighting and disagreements. Any American library may have these magazines available or archived. How the breed's genepools would be managed became a point of contention and a number of Akbash Clubs formed and dissolved during the interim.

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