Q: Do you have maskless German Shepherds or reverse masked German Shepherds? What are maskless or reverse masked German Shepherds?
Maskless German Shepherds are a unique color variation. When most people think of a German Shepherd, they think of the traditional "black and tan with a black face". Many do not know that some German Shepherds may not have this at all! When both parents carry the maskless gene, or are maskless themselves, the puppies will not have the black muzzle commonly associated with German Shepherd Dogs. A dog can have a black mask yet may produce maskless puppies. From the Veterinary Genetic Services website:
The E locus is responsible for the black mask seen in many breeds, and more significantly, for the presence of the yellow to red coats of many dogs. The gene involved is known as MC1-R, which has at least three versions affecting the appearance of the dog, E, Em, and e. Dogs with two copies of e will be yellow, orange or red in their pigmented coat regardless of their genotype at all the other loci.
It is similar to the recessive genes which will cause the common black coloration or long coats in German Shepherds. While atypical, it does occasionally happen and while it may not be desirable to some people, others find it particularly beautiful. An example of a maskless German Shepherd would be Rin Tin Tin II or Rin Tin Tin IV.
Reverse mask German Shepherds, in addition to their lack of mask, will also have extra markings on their face under their cheeks and the bridge of their nose that make them appear particularly wolf-like. When coupled with sable (especially silver sable) coloration, you have pure German Shepherd Dogs that appear much like a wolf or wolf hybrid but have absolutely NO WOLF in them. An example of this would be London from The Littlest Hobo.
Some dogs may almost appear maskless but have just a "smudge" of color that may come and go with the seasons. This is known as a faded mask and we occasionally produce this as well.
Here is an example of color change on an adult sable dog over a period of a few months in transition from fall to spring, note the mask but also coloration on the body as well.
There are some people out there that erroneously claim that the maskless or reverse masked coloration comes from a "mix" added into the German Shepherd breed, or that it is something "new" that is recent to the breed. This is completely untrue. Without even mentioning the above reference to the Rin Tin Tins of early television fame, or the original Littlest Hobo of around the same era, many old German Shepherd books, magazines and movies depict this coloration and believe it was more common back then.
Click on the above images to enlarge. In the Gatesheath ad, you can see all three: a faded mask, a maskless dog as well as a reverse masked German Shepherd.
Many AKC German Shepherds with champion titles in the 1950s were reverse masked dogs. Posted below are three separate dogs who did well in the American show ring during that period.
Check out this interesting link to look German Shepherds in early movies. There are a few maskless and faded masks.
Here is a really AWESOME comparison! The picture on the left was taken circa 1940s, it is a photo hanging in the office of our veterinarian in Gettysburg. Pictured is his grandfather, also a veterinarian, along with his trusty German Shepherd. The photo on the right is of our Nattie. Now, even though the images are almost 80 years apart, you can see that our Nattie still has that same classic, old fashioned look! She is a reverse masked German Shepherd, something much more common back in the 1940s-1960s. She also has the thicker bone structure that the German Shepherd in the photo has, and the same noble look in her eyes. I'm sure if there was a picture of him standing we would see his straight back as well, since the angulation of the German Shepherd did not start to happen until after the 1960s.
Some dogs who have distinct facial markings such as faded masks, reverse masks, or a maskless appearance can trace back to the famous DDR dog SG Lord vom Gleisdreieck, pictured below.
Right now, the only test available is the one to test whether a dog has a black mask, will carry for maskless (yet have a mask, even if faded), or be maskless him/herself. While there are similar patterns to the reverse mask in other breeds, such a the "grizzle" in Salukis or "domino" in Afghan Hounds, at this time there is no test to determine the pattern within the German Shepherd Dog breed.
Again, while these are not commonly seen colors, it is absolutely something produced within the German Shepherd breed. Maskless dogs can appear within the entire color spectrum of the German Shepherd Dog, though in some cases it may be hidden due to a dog being solid black or solid white in coloration. The dogs pictured on this page are dogs that are owned or produced by us. We will occasionally produce these unique variations in both short and long coats in the future as some of our dogs do carry the recessive gene for maskless coloration, and others for the markings which would apply to reverse masking. Contact us about upcoming litters if you are interested in this coloration!
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