When Max von Stephanitz created his working breed in the 1890s, he envisioned a brave and independent dog. According to Stephanitz, looks didn’t matter! Some of the dogs Stephanitz chose to create his fledgling breed had long coats. Their genes linger even today, more than a century later.
The German Shepherd Dog Coat
American dog registries require the German shepherd dog to have a double coat with straight hair that is short on the face, legs and feet and is medium length over the rest of the body. Wiry hair and slightly wavy hair are both allowed, but soft, silky or long hair is discouraged. The short, dense undercoat provides protection against adverse weather conditions, a trait that is essential to its original role as a “flock guardian” style of herding dog.
Long-Coated German Shepherd Dogs
The long-coated version lacks the undercoat Stephanitz believed that the GSD required to do its job. This type of long coat is soft to the touch and may part along the dog’s spine. Since soft coats are often absorbent, you can imagine that being soft reduces or even eliminates its weatherproof quality. Both European and American registries have declared this coat variety to be a disqualification from the show ring.
Long-Coated Smooth German Shepherd Dogs
This coat variety is distinctly longer than the medium-length GSD coat, but does not achieve the extreme lengths of the long-coated GSD. Long-coated smooth GSDs often have their faces framed with long hair both inside and behind the ears, a frill of hair extending from behind their elbows along their underline to the front of their hind legs. They also have full, bushy tails. Unlike long-coated GSDs, long-coated smooth GSDs do have an undercoat to protect them from the weather, but it is not as substantial as in the normal smooth- or “stock”-coated GSD. In 2010, the German organization that oversees the breed, the Schaferhund-Verein, added the “Longstock hair ... with undercoat” variety of GSD to the conformation show competition standard. This change is a dramatic one for lovers of the long-coated GSD!
The Shiloh shepherd resembles the German shepherd dog and, in fact, is descended from them. Sometimes mistaken for a large GSD, the Shiloh differs from the GSD by its height and its coat. The Shiloh must stand no less than 26 inches at the shoulder for females and no less than 28 inches for males. The coat of the Shiloh shepherd can be either smooth, like the GSD coat, or “plush,” which is a longer coat not to exceed 5 inches in length.
Shiloh originator Tina Barber, a former GSD breeder, founded the Shiloh shepherd using her GSDs, the “Giant Malamute” and Wurttemberger shepherd lines. The Wurttemberger is an old style of shepherd dog, which also was used in the foundation lines of the Leonberger, another large herding dog with a longish, heavy coat. While the Shiloh and the long-coated GSD are related in many ways, they are not the same dog.
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