For a very long time in the United States, it was rare to see a white Puli. Whether this was due to old breed practices (dark Pulik were said to be historically favored because they were easier to tell apart from white sheep) or something else, we leave for others to determine, but as a coat color, white Pulik have always been around, albeit harder to find. Interestingly, “Hungarian Dog Breeds” published in 1987 suggested that the black color didn’t become common until the 1950’s after which time all other colors nearly vanished because of the dominance of black. To wit: If a homozygous black colored Puli was bred to a heterozygous Puli, black puppies always appeared in the first generation which, in part, accounts for the speed with which the black color appeared.
There is also a much rarer type of black – recessive black – that happens in but a handful of breeds, including the German Shepherd Dog, Shetland Sheepdog, Schipperke and yes, the Puli. The recessive black is believed to be on the A locus, is designated by “a,” and is usually put right at the bottom of the A locus because it’s recessive to every other A locus gene.
White Puli puppies can be born to black parents, but only if there are white genes in the ancestry; the genetics for anyone who isn’t a genetics “geek” (like us) can be hard to follow.
Back in 2005, a DNA study was conducted to learn more about Puli coat color. We learned that a dog can be black by two different genetic mechanisms. Black can be inherited as a recessive trait in dogs that have two “a” alleles at the agouti locus, but since their agouti gene isn’t operational, they can’t make red pigment. Black can also be inherited as a dominant gene by having at least one copy of the KB allele and at least one copy of the E or EM allele. According to anecdotal breeder experience, white appears to be inherited as a recessive to black. If e/e is required for white to occur in KB/-, E/- black dogs, then it would appear to be inherited as a recessive.
In the book, “Dogs of Hungary,” the authors mentioned that even a white coat can have two different types. There are “true” whites, but there are also white Pulik born with an almost creamy off-white color that becomes whiter with maturity. Still, those pups always carry hints of their original color, i.e., ear tips that are biscuit colored.
It goes without saying that this is a very big topic, which is to imply that it’s less controversial than it is complicated and involved. We encourage interested readers to visit this site to learn more about the genetics side of the topic, but for the rest of us, we can say this much as Puli owners, ourselves: If you see a really white Puli, congratulate the owner. It’s exceedingly difficult to keep a white Puli white, particularly if they are show dogs. Everything from grass stains to carpet fibers can work their way into a white Puli cord, and hours of tweezer work can lie ahead for the dog that rolled around a red blanket to relieve an itch on its back. Just saying.
Image by Kirsten Ulve appears here with her kind consent