Different types of German shepherds result from different bloodlines, as well as types not recognized by national or international breed registries. The American line tends to focus on pet and show qualities, while the European lines emphasize working canines.
American German Shepherd
The American Kennel Club breed standard for the German shepherd describes a "strong, agile, well-muscled animal, alert and full of life." That's the image most people have of the German shepherd. Male German shepherds stand between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulders, with females slightly smaller at 22 to 24 inches. The animals back is longer than he is tall. All colors are permitted, with the exception of white. The double coat should be dense and straight, although some waviness is allowed.
European German Shepherd
In Europe, the German shepherd is often referred to as the Alsatian, because Alsace was part of Germany when the breed was first developed and that is where they first became well-known.
European German shepherds tend to be smaller than their American counterparts, but with larger heads. The sloping back so common in the American line is seldom seen. Within the European lines are further divisions, based on history and country of origin. These include:
- West German show bloodlines: These dogs usually appear in the classic red with a black saddle and mask.
- West German working bloodlines: These lines are closest to the original German shepherd, developed in the late 19th century. The drive to work and the conformation to do it properly are emphasized.
- East German working bloodlines: Developed in post-war Communist East Germany, these shepherds are darker than other lines, with heavy bone structure and large heads.
- Czech working bloodlines: Another type developed during the Communist era, these German shepherds are working dogs par excellence, more intense in temperament than other lines.
White German Shepherds
Although white German shepherds can't compete in AKC conformation classes, that doesn't mean they don't exist. They can compete in United Kennel Club and other breed registry competitions. The breed standard for the American White Shepherd Association is similar to that of the AKC German shepherd with the exception of coloration, although white shepherds registered with this club are slightly larger than AKC German shepherds.
Long-Haired German Shepherds
The breed standard calls for a medium-length coat. Long-haired puppies appear in litters, since long hair derives from a recessive gene. These dogs aren't up to the breed standard and can't be shown in AKC conformation classes, but some people prefer them. Long hair is more acceptable in the European lines.
New Shepherd Breeds
Everything old is new again. As breeds evolve, changes occur that aren't to everyone's liking. The Shiloh shepherd is a revival of an older type of German shepherd, developed by using specific bloodlines. Shiloh shepherds are larger than standard German shepherds, and appear in smooth and plush-coated varieties. Most colors, including white, are acceptable, if the white dog has a black nose, eye rims and lips.
The American King shepherd is a larger version of the German shepherd, who may reach heights of up to 32 inches. The idea was to produce not only a larger German shepherd, but one without certain health and personality issues common in the breed. They appear in smooth and long-coated varieties.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.