Silver also known as Grey German Shepherd is a Sable dog with a cream to light cream pheomelanin shade.
Silver German Shepherds are not grey-silver like the Poodle caused of the progressive greying of black eumelanin by the greying gene. Instead, this coloration is caused by the reduction of the red/yellow pheomelanin pigment intensity to lighter shades.
The intensity locus is postulated to cause the reduced pigment intensity. Intensity genes only affect the red to yellow pheomelanin pigment but do not affect the black eumelanin pigment.
Due to alternating bands of cream to almost white and black or blue pigment, these sable GSDs appear to have a grey-to-silver hue. The individual hairs are not silver or grey but the banded sable hairs give it an almost similar appearance.
However, blue-grey German Shepherds can also appear grey but not silver. This is due to the intense dilution of the black eumelanin pigment to pale blue shades that appears grey.
Are Silver German Shepherds rare?
As seen above, silver is not silver but a visual illusion. These are shaded sable or sable GSDs with light pheomelanin coat pigment. Pheomelanin is one of two pigments responsible for all possible coat colors and is red or yellow by default. Eumelanin is the other pigment and is black by default that can be altered to appear blue, liver, or isabella.
Sable dogs have banded hairs, especially concentrated on their dorsal surface (the dog’s back/saddle). The individual banded hairs alternate between eumelanin and pheomelanin pigments.
However, the intensity locus can affect the pheomelanin pigment to lighter shades ranging from cream to almost white. The genes on the intensity locus are known as the intensity genes and two copies should be present to reduce the red pigment intensity to cream.
When this happens the alternating cream and black/blue hairs give the dog an overall silver-to-grey appearance. Most silver sable German Shepherd hairs have a cream to almost white base with black or blue tips. Blue silver sables typically have blue tips.
Without hair banding, the dog would be cream to almost white (ivory white) and not appear silver.
But since two copies of the intensity gene should be present, this “silver” coloration is not as common as might be considered rare.
Geneticists can currently explain about 70% of pheomelanin intensity and thus more research and gene mapping will provide further insight in the future. It is also not known what causes the range of shades on German Shepherds with reduced pheomelanin intensity.
Color notwithstanding, German Shepherds have similar general traits and appearance. The coat color does not affect how good a dog is.
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