Over 40 years ago, marketing strategists, Al Ries and Jack Trout, advanced several definitions of “positioning,” strategies that companies use to build their brands and make them memorable.
The best way to be remembered, they posited, is to be first.
Xerox. Kleenex. Scotch Tape. These products became so synonymous with their function that their brand names became verbs and common nouns: “Xerox this memorandum for me, would you? “Pass me a kleenex, please.” It’s no accident they were also the firsts for what they were.
The dog world is full of firsts, and many fanciers remember “the biggies,” such as the first breed registered with the AKC (the English Setter).
Other “firsts,” not as much: The first dog in AKC history to win 100 Bests in Show (an English Setter named Ch. Rock Falls Colonel). The first breed developed in Australia to be shown and recognized by the kennel clubs of other countries (the Australian Terrier). The first herding breed to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (an Old English Sheepdog named Ch. Sir Lancelot of Barvan).
You get the idea.
A breed that the AKC recognized just two years ago as of this writing claimed a “first” when it was fully accepted: The Biewer Terrier became the first breed determined to be a bona fide purebred dog not through the traditional route of pedigree documentation, but through genetic testing.
Had there not been the tools to extract and study DNA, the Biewer might still be regarded by some as a variety of Yorkshire Terrier, and not a purebred dog created through the occurrence of a recessive piebald gene in two Yorkshire Terriers.
Mind you, there was no small amount of controversy over the issue, but the matter appeared settled after the Biewer Terrier Club of America submitted 30 different lineages for an in-depth study of the 39 chromosomes – and even a detailed gene study of some of those chromosomes. Dr. Paul Jones, a geneticist from Mars Veterinary working with the BTCA, disclosed in 2009 that researchers had developed a breed signature for the purebred Biewer Terrier by extracting DNA from the samples and running them through genetic testing equipment that looked for specific markers within the sequences. Markers told them they were looking at a wholly independent breed with a unique DNA profile, and not a variety of Yorkie. The “smoking gun,” in the view of geneticist, Phil Stinard, was the piebald spotting gene (MITF gene) on chromosome 20. You may find his opinion to be an interesting read.
In 2021, the Biewer Terrier became the first breed to be admitted into AKC utilizing such a study. It was a remarkable find, and you can read more about the Data Analysis Project here, as well look at the haplotype charts. Inasmuch as we doubt that the breed’s name will become a verb or common noun anytime soon the way “Kleenex” and “Xerox” did, the Biewer Terrier will have a forever place in purebred dog history for having been the first to gain AKC recognition the way it did.
Read more about the Biewer Terrier and the singer/actress, Margot Eskens, below: