Tan Point

The biggest controversy within the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon/Korthals Griffon community for the past few years has not been a disease, but a color trait: The Tan Point.

Following, there are several papers, links, and additional reading that will explain the tan point trait, the history, and the implications. To sum them up: The tan point is not something that Eduard Korthals bred into his Korthals Griffon. There is history as well as data that strongly support the theory that the color trait has appeared in the breed due to outcrossing with another breed of dog. If that is so, there are without a doubt other genetic traits, not visible as tan point, that most likely include conformation, temperament, and disease genes. Anecdotal information from reliable sources indicates that diseases never before present in the Griff are now showing up, and often within specifics lines of breeding, indicating probable inheritance. Without an adequate health and genetics database, we cannot use the few numbers we now have to establish statistical significance. One important note: Do not attempt to determine if a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is a purebred by going to one of the laboratories that determines breeds of dogs when given a DNA sample. We do not mean to discredit these labs. The method for determining the breed is to match the DNA sample with breed baselines that have been established from multiple samples of dogs of specific breeds. There is not yet a baseline established from dogs that are known to be all purebred Korthals Griffons. A DNA sample that includes Cesky Fousek, or whateverother breed or breeds have been introduced into the Korthals Griffon when paired with the hybrid baseline will be erroneously determined to be a Korthals/Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. We have learned a great deal about the history of the breed since these baselines were established, and there is currently a group of people dedicated to the preservation of the breed working with one of these labs to provide a Korthals Griffon baseline.

If you are looking for a puppy, or planning to breed a dog, the most important thing you can do is to become familiar with the tan point trait, and what it means to the breed. There has been a tendency for managing the carriers of tan point in order to eliminate that from the breed (see the Breeding Better Dogs link). This strategy works well only in cases that have one genetic trait to eliminate, and is not as complicated as the introduction of an entirely different breed with multiple genes. After deciding you want a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, and there are certainly some good reasons for that, do you want to take the chance of getting a hybrid? As you will find, there are ways to avoid that. If you have questions or comments, please join our forum and let’s talk about it.

Download Colin Perry’s “When is a Korthals Griffon “NOT” a Korthals Griffon” and “What would Eduard K. Korthals say?” – HERE

The Importance of Breed History

It is no secret that I am a Griffon history buff. I believe it’s important to know the history of our breed and breed standard to understand and guide the breeding of Griffons today.

Unfortunately there are not many resources in the English language, and I’ve had to rely on using sources in French, with the help of a few bilingual Griffonniers. From these sources one can learn of the breeding strides and dilemmas that our breed’s founder, Eduard Korthals, faced in his endeavor to create the ideal versatile hunting dog.

It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate Korthals’s breeding program today, given the limitations and restrictions in many areas on the number of dogs one can keep. Korthals produced hundreds of dogs using inbreeding and linebreeding, keeping for breeding only the very few that met his stringent expectations in type and performance.

These relatively few dogs that possessed and reproduced the qualities he sought and that consistently reproduced themselves were the foundation of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed.

Within just over a decade or so of establishing his breeding program, in 1887 Korthals wrote the breed standard that was subsequently adopted by 16 Griffon breeders who shared his vision—and is, in effect, our AKC standard today.

So what are we to learn from Korthal’s experience some 125 years later? Today’s breeding dilemma for Griffons enthusiasts is how to manage those dogs that are either carriers of or exhibit tan-point genetics. According to coat-color geneticist Dr. Shiela Schmutz, of the University of Saskatchewan, tan-point coloration is a breed trait of certain sporting dogs in England, commonly found in English Setters and English Pointers, but not found in purebred Griffons.

While still scientifically inconclusive, the emergence of tan-pointed Griffons suggests a crossbreeding of some sort. When Korthal’s Griffons of the late 1800s showed great field success in various European contests and exhibitions, there were those who believed this success was only possible with an infusion of English blood, namely from the wider-ranging, faster setters and pointers.

To his detractors Korthals responded emphatically, “I declare herewith that my main concern was always to keep the breed pure, and in breeding only griffons I never added any blood of another breed. The improvement of the breed was achieved only and exclusively by selection, training, and methodical breeding.”

In his historical account of the breed, le Griffon d’arret a poil dur Korthals, Jean Castaing says, “Furthermore, as for the fiery tint, in spots or traces, it is also to be forbidden, for it also indicates a misalliance.”

Korthals denied the use of English blood in his breeding program—blood that would have produced tan points and also black, a disqualifying trait in the standard. Korthals would have culled from his breeding programs any dog that either possessed or produced these faulty traits.

We have the only Griffon gene pool left in the world that is not pervasively tainted by the tan-point gene. Tan points are not in the breed standard.

Why breed a dog or bitch that produces a substandard trait of uncertain origin or impact as of yet? Let history be our guide to the future. Korthals wouldn’t have selected for tan points.

We shouldn’t either.—Ann Allen

First published in the AKC Gazette, April 2012

Download Carol Ptak’s “Wirehaired Pointing Griffon – Breed improvement or destruction?” – HERE

Allen, Ann, The Importance of Breed History , AKC Gazette, April 2012 Perry, Colin, When is a Korthals Griffon ‘Not” A Korthals Griffon, And What Would Eduard K. Korthals Say…?, March 2012. Perry, Colin, Korthals Griffon-Understanding the French “quatr’oeille”, July 2009. Ptak, Carol, Wirehaired Pointing Griffon-Breed Improvement or Destruction? 2012.

Additional reading:

Candille, Sophie I et al. A β-Defensin Mutation Causes Black Coat Color in Domestic Dogs, 2007 Science 318: 1418-1423. Kerns, Julie A et al. Linkage and Segregation Analysis of Black and Brindle Coat Color in Domestic Dogs, 2007, Science 176: 1679-1689.

Some useful links (found on our links page): Korthals Griffon club of Great Britain Griffon Korthals Authentiques—Use Google Translate or another internet translator (unless you speak French) to access just about everything you ever want to know about the tan point.