The German Shepherd has been a well-loved breed even before it was recognized by the AKC…
Although the German Shepherd is best known for its black & tan coat, dogs of this breed actually come in many other coat colors. Some colors are rarer than others. One of the rarest you could possibly find is the panda German Shepherd.
This article will dive into what the panda German Shepherds is, and how they come about.
What is a Panda German Shepherd?
A panda German Shepherd is one that dons a unique coat coloring wherein white markings appear in various areas of the body. Among the most common areas where these symmetrical white patterns appear are the belly, chest, collar, forehead, muzzle, belly, and tip of the tail.
Panda markings are different between individual dogs, although most are around 35% white. The rest of the coat is a standard color, like black & tan or solid black.
Some might have larger patches of white while others might have it in different areas of the body. Although not much yet is known about the panda pattern in GSDs, what’s clear is that it is the result of a genetic anomaly.
What Genetic Factors Contribute to the Panda GSD Coat?
According to the UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory, the panda marking in German Shepherds is caused by a mutation in the gene referred to as CD117 or KIT.
It is inherited as a dominant gene and only GSDs with heterozygous genotype (i.e. have a combination of normal and panda alleles) have been observed as living dogs.
What Coat Combinations Usually Breed the Panda Coloring?
Panda German Shepherds are the offspring of purebreds with coats that are considered normal (ex., black & tan, bi-color, solid black, etc.).
Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom, the first recorded panda GSD, was produced by two black-and-tan parents. Repeated breedings did not produce more pandas, but the likelihood increases when a panda is mated with a normal-coated parent.
Panda German Shepherds will pass on their genes to 50% of their offspring. Because it is a dominant gene, puppies that inherit it will don the panda coloring.
However, as is the case when genetic mutations are involved, even the right combinations won’t always result in panda offspring.
How Rare is the Panda German Shepherd?
Panda German Shepherds are possibly the rarest of all GSDs. In fact, no panda GSDs were recorded before the year 2000.
The reason why they’re so rare goes beyond the fact that their coloring is a result of a genetic anomaly. The fact that the homozygous genotype is embryonic lethal also plays a huge role in its uniqueness.
Puppies that inherit two identical versions of the gene do not develop and are terminated in utero. That’s why this genotype has not been observed in live dogs.
It is the dogs that inherit only one copy that live to display the white spotting pattern and reproduce to pass on the gene to their own litters.
Typical Attributes of the Panda GSD
The genetic mutation that causes the unique coloring of the panda German Shepherd affects only the color of the coat. It does not affect the dog’s other physical characteristics, health, or temperament. So, underneath the coat is exactly what you would expect of any other GSD.
The panda GSD typically has coarse medium-to-long hair with a dense but soft undercoat. They will shed steadily throughout the year and blow off their coats in the fall and spring.
Because they’re just like any other German Shepherd, panda GSDs also need proper training, early socialization, and firm handling. They are intelligent and energetic dogs that need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Are Panda German Shepherds Purebred?
Lewcinka’s Franka von Phenom, the first panda German Shepherd born in 2000, was part of a litter born to two purebred GSDs. This was confirmed by genetic testing. So, despite the unusual coloring, she was technically a purebred GSD.
Additionally, it is assumed that the pandas of today are somehow all from the same lineage. For as long as the panda is the offspring of two purebreds, the puppy is also purebred by default, no matter the coloring.
Does the AKC Recognize the Panda Coat Coloring?
The panda coat coloring does not appear in the American Kennel Club’s list of acceptable colors and markings for the German Shepherd breed. Furthermore, it lists white and diluted colors as serious faults.
This means the organization believes that GSDs with such white spotting are not ideal specimens of the breed. So, should a panda GSD be eligible to join conformation events, it is not likely to win simply because of its unusual coloring.
How Much is a Panda German Shepherd?
Even though the American Kennel Club considers panda German Shepherds undesirable for show, the fact that they are so rare enables breeders to command a good price for them. The good news is that most of those that are able to produce them are responsible breeders that care a lot about lineage and health.
German Shepherd puppies typically cost between $450 and $1,900. You can expect panda GSDs to be priced at the higher end of the range. Some might be even more expensive at over $2,000 each, depending on the reputation of the breeder.
Underneath the coat, the panda German Shepherd is just like any other dog of its breed. It has the same requirements for exercise, grooming, training, and care. Nevertheless, its rareness makes it a truly unique dog to have.
If you’re interested in other unique German Shepherds, learn more about other coat colors like blonde, blue, or liver. You might also be interested in learning about the dwarf German Shepherd, which is also the result of a genetic anomaly.