The story of the White Swiss Shepherd is identical to that of the German Shepherd until the recent past. These dogs were developed through a series of close breedings between the male Horand Von Grafrath and successive generations of his offspring to create a line of large, obedient, and energetic herding and guardian dogs. Horand’s lineage was extraordinarily well documented, and it is known that he carried genes for the white coat colour from one of his grandfathers. Therefore, these early German Shepherds often sported the colour to a greater or lesser degree – this was long considered a normal feature.
However, in 1959, the German Shepherd’s parent club in Germany erroneously declared every all-white dog an albino, and banned the registration and breeding of any dog with greater than 50% white markings. This belief and practice spread around much of the world prior to the introduction of DNA or other techniques that could disprove the theory. As a result, the number of white German Shepherds plummeted in many countries, with the United Kingdom and United States two of the few to continue to recognise them.
In 1967, a Swiss national named Agatha Burch began a deliberate breeding programme to select for all-white dogs, using a male named Lobo and a female named White Lilac as her first two exemplars. Initially governed by the “Swiss White German Shepherd Dog Society”, the new offshoot gained Federation Cynologique Internationale recognition as a breed in its own right under the name White Swiss Shepherd in 2011, and it was finally granted pedigree status by the UK Kennel Club in October 2017.