length moderate movement size tailset temperament

by Patrick Ormos, Phi-Vestavia Cardigans, USA

How many colors do we have in this breed? Should some be eliminated? Do all the colors exist? Is there a reason for selecting for or against certain colors?

"All shades of red, sable and brindle. Black with or without tan or brindle points. Blue merle...with or without tan or brindle points. There is no color preference...Any color other than specified and/or body color predominantly white are disqualifications." (AKC standard).

Basically this breed has three colors: black and white with tan points, red/sable, and brindle. (There are some who argue that we actually only have two colors: red/sable and tricolor, everything else is a variation of these two.) When we add the merle gene to the three basic colors we get: blue merle, red merle, brindle merle. If we add some of the dilution genes we get greyed out black pigment and a lemony red. The Dudley gene will turn black pigment to liver brown.

To the best of my knowledge, only the double merle (merle x merle) is a genetic combination which has deleterious side effects. There is some argument about the dilution genes, but I don't think anything has been clearly proven yet, I could be wrong. I do not think that any of the other color combinations (the various 'off-color' merles, the dilutes, etc.) in and of themselves carry any deleterious genes. So, why do we disqualify them?

One argument against opening up color breeding, and opening up color competition is that we will begin to have "hidden" merles. Theoretically we could breed two normal colors and discover that they are both "hidden" merles when a white and/or deaf puppy turns up in the litter.

I will not preempt Steve Gladstone's Color Genetics Committee by going into details about color genetics here. That is not the purpose of this article. Rather I want to raise questions about the colors which we accept and ask for reasons why we should disqualify the others. Similarily, the Dudley gene does not seem to have deleterious side effects. It produces the liver color which we see in Viszla's and Dobermanns. It turns black pigment to liver brown.

We rarely penalize lemon colored Cardigans, so why should we penalize any other dilutes?

The standard seems to arbitrarily penalize a whole range of colors. Europe is currently considering the banning of all blue merle breeding in all breeds because of the negative effects of the double merle gene. While this is very drastic, at least there seems to be a rationale behind the decision. Can we find a similar rationale for banning all the "off-colors"? Should we argue that we only accept the traditional colors?

Is the standard wrong? What do you think?



Return to articles overview