There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world; and that is an idea whose time has come.
White Boxers - Our Opinion
A work in progress
The American Boxer Club Code of Ethics, until September 29, 2004, prohibited breeders from selling and registering white Boxers. The ABC membership approved at that time a change to the Code of Ethics, which allowed breeders the option to: provided Limited AKC Registration for white puppies; collect a refundable spay/neuter deposit for white puppies; charge for veterinary expenses directly related to a white puppy. While this is certainly a small improvement, it is still sends a message that white puppies are somehow of less quality than their colored, pet-quality littermates.
Ostensibly, the reason for this is that whites Boxer have increased health problems, compared to their colored littermates. In reality, the only health issue that is shown to be linked to the white marking pattern is deafness. (Techincally even this is not proven, as no actual studies have been done on Boxers. Extensive studies have been done on Dalmatians, and the results extrapolated to Boxers. A lack of pigmentation in the inner ear causes deafness; in Dalmatians this is linked to the extreme piebald gene, which is carried in a single dose by flashy Boxers and in a double dose by whites.) It follows, then, that aside from deafness a white Boxer has the same genetic potential for health or disease as his colored littermates. Why, then, the controversy surrounding the white Boxer?
Perhaps a bit of history is in order. From the beginning, regardless of what the extreme pro-white contingent would have you think, the first Boxers were not white, and whites were never a preferred color, they were merely tolerated. The original standard read, "White, while not sought after as a basic color, is permissible," and also "Color is of least importance, even if the basic color is white, although in animals of equal qualifications the one with the least white would be preferred." According to John Wagner in his book, The Boxer, the original German Boxer Club had a "determination to breed a dog free of all the freak, unsound characteristics of the English Bulldog." Since, also according to Wagner, the white color in Boxers appeared at the same time that there was a great influx of English dogs, including Bulldogs, on the continent, perhaps the thought was that the whites carried more of the undesirable Bulldog traits.
In the early days in Germany, the breed warden would allow breeders to only keep a certain number of puppies - in large litters, breeders had to choose which puppies would live and which would be culled. Frau Stockmann wrote, in her book My Life With Boxers, "No bitch should be allowed more than six puppies....Yes, there are bitches that seem none the worse for raising eight or nine puppies. But that is exploiting the mother....The experienced breeder first culls the weaklings. Then the mismarked next. Puppies with too much white and excessively light coats should not be kept." (This essay is not dated, but it is in the section discussing her second litter which was whelped around 1911-1912, at least before September of 1912.)
During the wars (WWI and WWII), the Stockmanns' Boxers were among the first to be used as war dogs. Between the wars, they were used as police dogs. A white coat (and even a lot of white on a colored coat) was unsuited for this work, as the dog would be too visible at night. It made sense in these circumstances to cull the white puppies, who would only take away rationed resources from those dogs who were able to be useful, both as breeding stock and as working dogs. It is prudent to remember that Phillip Stockmann and John Wagner wrote the 1938 revision of the standard that disqualified whites, although Phillip Stockmann notes in a comment in Wagner's book that "in 1925 the black and white, and in 1926 the fawn and white, and brindle and white Boxers were declared ineligible."
After the war, the stigma associated with whites continued. In 1938, the breed standard was changed to make any Boxer with white markings covering more than 1/3 of the body a disqualification. In the United States, when the American Boxer Club Breeder's Code of Ethics was created, it forbade the sale, registration, or placement of white Boxers. Breeders had to choose to either euthanize whites at birth, or keep them all. The CoE was changed in 1985, so that placements of white Boxers were allowed, although until September 2004 they still could not be sold or registered.
When the first white Doberman Pinschers appeared, the Doberman Pinscher Club of America purchased two white bitches and performed breeding trails in order to discover the cause, mode of inheritance, and health concerns connected with the white color. It was found that the white in Dobermans is a form of albinism, and there are health problems associated with the condition. All white or white-carrier Dobermans are identified in their AKC Registration number with a "Z," so that breeders know not to double up on the gene. Why the ABC never did similar studies on the health problems of white Boxers, and chose instead to perpetuate the mythologies with absolutely no proof, is unknown.
In Boxers, we know what causes the white color - the so-called "flashy" gene, and we know how to avoid doubling up on it by not breeding two flashy Boxers together. (See our Coat Color and Marking Pattern Inheritance page for details.) If the ABC feels that white Boxers truly suffer from poor health, it would be a simple matter for them to mandate that one of a breeding pair always be plain. As it is, the ABC supports the production of puppies that they will not allow to have equal status as colored pet-quality puppies, and that they claim - without substantiation - are at risk of many health problems. The logic behind this position fails us.
An independent Boxer Health Survey by Hawkleigh Boxers reveals that the only health problems that are "significantly" (my term - at least 1% more incidence) more frequent in white Boxers are deafness and sunburn. In fact, white Boxers are "significantly" less affected by skin tumors, gastrointestinal disorders, and spinal/skeletal problems. Granted, this is an unscientific survey based on anecdotal evidence - but it seems to at least indicate a need for further study. Unfortunately, the Hawkleigh survey is no longer available on-line - if it turns back up, a link will be provided here.