Golden Retriever, or Something Else?

You wouldn’t be the first person to look at the photograph of this dog and make the snap judgement that it’s a Golden Retriever. Golden Retriever fanciers, of course, would know instantly that it’s not, but to the untrained eye?

The dog is, in fact, a blonde Hovawart.

There are three recognised color varieties in this breed: Black, black and gold, and blonde. They are due primarily to combinations of the mutant alleles solid black (A s), black and tan (a t) of the agouti series and the non-extension of black allele (e). The e allele is epistatic to the agouti alleles, thereby reducing the four possible phenotypes to three.

This next part is genetic speak:

Blond bred to blond will result in all puppies always being blonde.

If a black and gold Hovie is bred to a black and gold Hovie, it’ll result in puppies that are black & gold and blond. A whole litter might also be only black and gold or just blond if one parent is homozygous, the entire litter will be black & gold. If both parents are heterozygous, the litter can be mixed (the puppies are blond and black & gold, or more rarely, the entire litter is blond.

When a blond Hovawart is bred to a black & gold Hovawart, a blond Hovie is bred to a black Hovie, a black and gold Hovie is bred to a black Hovie, or a black Hovawart is bred to a black Hovawart,  the resulting puppies can be in all three colors, but it can happen in each of these different scenarios that the entire litter will be all blond, all black and gold, or all black; another possibility is the appearance of only two colors, say, only blond and black & gold, only blond and black, only black and gold and black; if one of the parents of a dark color (i.e. black or black & gold) is homozygous, then the entire litter will be dark, the puppies only black or only black and gold or black and black and gold, but not blond. When both dark parents are homozygous, the entire litter will be dark puppies. If both parents are heterozygous, colors may be every variation.

So where did the blonde come from?

Some have theorized that dogs called “Russian Yellow Retrievers” (aka Russian Trackers) were used in the creation of the Golden Retriever, a theory that was debunked when in 1952,  Dudley Majoribank’s breeding records from 1835 to 1890 were made public. Many have guessed that the same breed appeared in the ancestry of the Hovawart, plausible since Russian Trackers were around the time that the Hovawart got its start, and Kurt F. König, seen by some as the creator of the Hovawart, had a reputation for trying different dog breeds to create the Hovawart.

On the occasion that König tried to get the Hovawart recognized as a breed, the German “Reichsverband für das deutsche Hundewesen” concluded that, “The blond Hovawart can only be explained by the use of red/blond Setters in breeding.” It probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but most feel it’s the most likely explanation for the blond Hovawart since setters were also used in the creation of Golden Retrievers. It could explain a color the two breeds has in common,

Anyone interested in reading more about the genetics of Hovawart coloration should read this.

Image of a blonde Hovawart by  Vaclav Volrab

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