WigWag's Diatribe Part-1

     Foremost in the Anti-Silver crusade is an individual who uses the internet handle "WigWag," which is in reference to her own Labrador Retriever kennel.  It is the positions developed by her, and subsequently posted on public internet chat forums and websites, that are then re-posted and quoted by anyone who wishes to attempt to discredit the Silver Labrador.  It could be argued that this one individual is responsible for the majority of the hatred that most people who hate Silver Labradors express against the Silver Labrador, and those who support or breed the Silver Labrador.   Certainly, the arguments commonly use against Silver Labradors are based on her statements.   As such, one looking for the truth must examine her claims with a cautious eye, careful to check all her "facts."
     She is a very studied individual, possessing a graduate degree in molecular biology and genetics.  She is routinely sought out by the LRC for opinions on topics such as the Silver Labrador.  She is a knowledgeable breeder of show-bred Labradors.  Her credentials alone have led to an almost automatic acceptance of all her statements about Silver Labradors.  Her credentials, however, come with the burden of credibility in her research.  

      Provided here is an in-depth examination of her most common claims, claims that are routinely regurgitated by anyone who wishes to take to task the purity of the Silver Labrador.  Take time to examine the topics, each claim and each rebuttal.  Seek out the source information yourself, just the facts, only then you will be able to determine if WigWag is indeed credible, or, if perhaps her claims are driven by a deeply held bias

      The collection of WigWag's claims have made several appearances over the years and at times have been altered or edited, no doubt her "facts" will likely continue to change.  Though versions of her harangues can be seen on many show breeder's websites, the Labrador Retriever Chat Board seems to have become the de facto digital home for WigWag's diatribes.

Here they are:

1. Where do silver Labradors come from?
Well that's an interesting question and although we will never know "for sure" we do have some facts in history and can thus form a very strong hypothesis. In the 70's two breeders in the midwest began breeding silver Labradors - Culo and Beavercreek. (Note: another version reads: "Through research it is believed that all silver Labradors or Labs that carry the dilution factor can be traced back to two kennels in the U.S"). They somehow stumbled upon the color in a litter of hunting Labradors from chocolate lines. They assumed the color was a mutation and began to select for it and produce more puppies. They could not breed a silver to a random chocolate and get silvers - they only got all chocolates. So they had to breed close relatives that were known to produce silvers. They bred mother to son, father to daughter, full brothers and sisters and thus produced and sold silvers. Now there are so many with a silver background that this is not necessary. Here is a link to pedigrees from about 15 years ago: http://www.geocities.com/silverlabs1/pedigrees.html
So both Culo and Beavercreek lines can be traced directly back to Kellogg kennels which has been in existence since the 20's breeding hunting Labradors and many other retrievers and pointers and guess what? Yes Weimeraners. I know of one long timer who visited back in the 60's and said that puppies and dogs were running all over the farm and record keeping was not as strict as today so it would have been very easy for dogs to mix and breed. If a chocolate Labrador bred with a Weimeraner then her resulting all chocolate puppies would look like field type Labradors and would then be registered as Labradors. Another long timer remembers ads in Gun Dog magazine from the 50's advertising "gray Labradors" from Kellogg kennels (Note: another version reads: "blue Labradors").

      Because this first claim is what she bases most of her theory of cross breeding to Weimaraners on, we must look close at her "facts" and, as such, the rebuttal is extensive. Remember, she is a self-described "researcher" and touts her graduate degree, she knows good research techniques, or at least she should, you decide.

      Culo’s Silvers showed up in the 1980's, Beavercreek’s in the 1990's, neither of them in the 70's. Beavercreek's dilutes came from Black and Chocolate lines, Culo was Chocolate and Black as well, both had yellow lines farther back. (The inserted "Note" gives a glimpse into another inaccuracy she has propagated, there are actually several unrelated lines that do not tie back to Culo or Beavercreek kennels, Husker, Lotto, Rowdy, to name a few).  So, right off, her research is suffering from, at minimum, very basic date errors, which are relatively easily obtainable and unquestionable facts…makes one wonder about the accuracy of her other more convoluted claims.
      The breeding of close family relatives. The Culo line did do this as she describes. Beavercreek was a little more careful, Aunts to nephews, grandsire to grandpup, etc. There may be a few more closely related breedings, but not like the Culo dogs. What Beavercreek did is called "line breeding" and is actually rather commonplace in the show/conformation breeding circles that breeders like WigWag frequent. The point here, is that WigWag is lumping all Silver lines together into the same breeding practice that Culo used. Culo is the only line that did this, it is the exception in Silver Lab lines, not the rule as she suggests. The website link she provides had some of the early Culo pedigrees showing the close familial breeding. It was not pretty, but it was true. Fortunately, this kind of close breeding does not occur in Silver lines anymore, nor has it for many years. The link also had a Q&A that was full of lies and half-truths; in that WigWag uses it as a source for her hypothesis, one can begin to understand why so many of her opinions are devoid of facts. Since Geocities ended hosting free websites in 2009, this site disappeared. A good researcher would check her sources, presently the link goes nowhere, calling it a reputable source would be laughable.

      Next she brings up "the Kellogg connection." Regardless if Kellogg had Weims or not (the present owner, H.E. Kellogg, has said they did not), the remainder of the post is complete speculation based on supposed hearsay from an unnamed "long timer." Contrary to what a breed fancier may presently believe, for a time, Kellogg was one of the most popular and sought after kennels for Show lines (Dual purpose) in the early to mid 1900's, their foundation Labs being European imports. It is since the mid 1900's to the present that they have bred mostly field lines (specializing in pointing labs since the Early 90's). Using WigWag's methods of "research," one could just as easily say, "All Silver Labs go back to Sandylands dogs from the UK" and be just as accurate as the Kellogg connection, since they do all go to the famed Sandylands Kennel as well (not just the Culo and Beavercrrek lines, all of them do). If you want to keep following pedigrees of the known Silver lines, they all go back to "Buccleuch Avon," considered the very "father" of the breed!  As a researcher, she knows well that in order for a claim to be even considered, she must provide the full source. Not only here, but throughout her posts, she neglects this. Without giving an accurate source to independently corroborate her claim, anyone could make up a story like that and say "that is how it is." 
      Now, she introduces the idea of a Kellogg advertisement for "gray" or "blue" Labradors (I guess she is not sure which since she has said both.) This suffers from the same unnamed source problem as above, no way to substantiate the claim made unless one can find the actual advertisement. So, let's find it, wait, what's that? Gun Dog Magazine was not in publication until 1980!  It appears that in order for WigWag's claim to be true, Gun Dog Magazine would have to have published an edition 30 years before it even existed...no wonder she is having a hard time with remembering the color. But it gets even more diabolical. Recently, WigWag was questioned about this problem in her claim, so what did she do? She went to the best "source" any researcher would use, an internet chat forum (tongue in cheek). In August 2010, many years after her initial claim of Kellogg breeding Weimaraners, she posted this inquiry: "I'm doing a bit of research and looking for anyone who may have visited Kellogg kennels a ways back (40 - 50 years ago). Did they breed Pointers and Weimeraners as well as Labradors? Thank you. http://www.retrievertraining.net/forums/showthread.php?t=58767 Her internet handle on that forum is "acandtwows" and can be verified as WigWag by some of her earlier posts, like this one: http://www.retrievertraining.net/forums/showthread.php?t=26275. Of course no one could corroborate her claim for her, the responses were that Kellogg only bred Labs. Perhaps we missed something, but didn't she already claim to have a source? Why would such a skilled researcher need something she already has? Could it be she never had it? Could it be the whole Kellogg Connection is part of a ploy to lay the blame on someone, anyone, other than the breed itself for the existence of a Silver Labrador? It should be bluntly apparent that her “sources” and “facts” should be highly questioned if she cannot even do enough research to know when a publication did or did not exist; if she gets caught red-handed in an outright lie about the very premise she bases her Weimaraner corssbreeding theory on.  After this claim was openly challenged with these facts the Gun Dog Magazine claim quickly changed to a generally-stated "a gundog magazine."  Convenient revision of history; if the facts disprove your story of many years, then it must be time to change to story.  Perhaps more telling than any part of this debate. 

      Revisiting the very first line, which she builds her argument that Silvers come from Weims, she wrote:
"Well that's an interesting question and although we will never know "for sure" we do have some facts in history and can thus form a very strong hypothesis."
So, you've seen her "facts," her resulting "very strong hypothesis," and the cover-up when the facts were disproved; even if you do not view Silver Labs favorably, you cannot deny her hypothesis is actually devoid of facts and is full of holes, to put it nicely.

      Here are some facts that we do know for sure from actual breed history that form a much stronger hypothesis.
      Other breeds that also originate from Newfoundland, and either directly descend from, or often interbred with the St. john’s Water Dog (the Labrador's progenitor) also possess the dilution gene (the Newfoundland and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever). The majority of reported outcrosses used in development of the breed also possess the dilution gene. No, the Weimaraner was not one of them, and no, the Weimaraner does not descend from the St. John’s Water Dog. It is way more likely that the dilution gene has been part of the Labrador breed since its inception and development than a Weimaraner ever being bred into it. Don't take my word for it, look into it yourself.

2. Are silvers found all over the world?
No they are not. They are only found in the United States. Early members of the Labrador breed were exported from Newfoundland to England where the breed was cultivated and truly formed and then imported by the United States. Labradors are very popular in Europe and all over the world and they have never produced silvers. It is a fact that silver originated here in the states and is further evidence of the above hypothesis.
There has never been a silver produced anywhere except the U.S. and no show and no field breeder no already associated with silvers in the U.S. has produced one over the years either. Silver breeders lie about breeders killing them at birth or that some were mentioned by Mary Roslin- Williams who talks about "gray puppies" which are blacks with a very plush coat and NOT true silvers

      It is no "Fact" that Silver Lab originated in the US.  Though indeed, the "modern" Silver Lab is from lines that became publicly available in the states. That one word, modern, negates her hypothesis and introduces the argument that they existed historically, and evidence backs this up.  There are several old pedigrees that have the dog's color listed as other colors than the common Black, Yellow, and Chocolate. Modern stud books in the USA, and in other countries, have been "cleaned up," removing the unique names that the breeders called their dogs' color. It is important to point out here that the breed standard for Labrador used to allow for "any whole color."  It must be asked of WigWag how she can prove her comment that a silver has never been produced elsewhere....was she there at each whelping to check herself?  To say "never" she would have to have that level of information.  Additionally, you must have large enough population to see a recessive gene (dilution) that is only obvious to the eye in the presence of another recessive gene (Chocolate), where neither are being selected against. There is but one country that currently has that population, both of Labs generally and of Chocolate Labs in particular, the USA. Charcoal, and especially the dilute Yellow Labs, usually go completely unnoticed, even to the trained eye in the case of the latter. There should be no wonder at all as to why the preponderance of Silver Labs in the USA; the sheer numbers, and a more excepting society allow for it.
      It is completely false and indicative of her not doing enough research to say that "no breeder not already associated with Silvers have produced them." For one, Husker that I mentioned earlier, does not tie to Culo or Beavercreek. This fact alone discredits her claim. Additionally, there are several other newer lines...and they don’t tie in either. In time these lines too will become more public, no doubt. There are even claims of show breeders producing them (though obviously never owning up to it, undoubtedly due to the stigma they have put on Silvers).  So, now she says that breeders would never kill a silver puppy if they produced it; really, how can she prove this? It is a fact that culling by euthanasia was a common practice of many breeders in the early years of the breed, some likely still use it. Culling was done to put down puppies that when born had issues the breeder could not, or would not, deal with, deformities and abnormalities (funny color included). Put yourself in the shoes of a breeder in the UK in the early or mid-1900's. You are whelping a litter and you get a grey pup. What do you do? Can you risk others in the fancy suggesting you have impure lines? Or that your stock is poor quality? The "easy" fix is to cull and keep quiet...likely what many show breeder are doing today when they produce silver...it is in their lines! Culling and keeping quiet can actually work quite well because the gene is recessive and it will more than likely be several generations before another shows up and by then its really hard to trace.
      It takes someone willing to go against the grain to come out publicly with something like an unusually colored Labrador...someone like Dean Crist of Culo Kennels, very outspoken and bold. The owners of the Beavercreek Labs have said when their first dilute pup was born the reaction was basically "oh no, we have to get rid of it" (for the basic stigma reasons mentioned above). But good reason prevailed and they kept the pup. Later they learned about Culo and that there were other dilute Labradors. The point is that they did not go right to the public with the color. It wasn’t until they learned about Culo's Labs that they did anything to perpetuate the color, even to this day they keep a low profile and understandably so, considering the wrath out their against silver breeders. 
      Finally, WigWag addresses the elephant in the room, World famous, and quintessential breed historian and author Mary Roslin-Williams' own accounts of historical "Bluish or Silver Labradors"  WigWag says they are
"blacks with a very plush coat and NOT true silvers." 
This is purely WigWag’s opinion of Mary’s words. Can she prove that what Mary described as “Grey” were actually “plush Blacks” and not the obvious "Charcoal?"  She can’t. In the end we are each left to conclude what Mary (and indeed others old time breed authors) meant. But, who uses words like grey, lead, slate, pewter, etc, to mean plain old black?  Wouldn't one simply say "Black?"  Why confuse the issue? Simply put, Mary was writing about the unusual coat colors that do show up from time to time including some we don't see today, like the "Hailstone." She writes: "There is another colour which I had heard of but never seen and that was a rumour if a bluish or silver Labrador in the old days, with a dark stripe or stripes down the back." An accurate description of an adult or litter of Silver labs if ever there was one. She later reports that she does get to see a different litter of grey pups and that as they grow, they eventually darken to black. Just what we see with some Charcoal Labs today.       
      The preceding can assuredly be argued back and forth to no end, whether the puppies Mary saw were dilute or not.  But what cannot be argued is that Mary had heard of other "bluish or silver Labradors" in "the old days." These were Labs Mary never saw, no one can interpret her statement other than for what it is, a report of Silver Labradors historically!  How historic?  Mary, a breeder from the United Kingdom (that's right, not the USA), started in the breed in the late 1930's.  For her, the "old days" are at least pre-1930, but can easily mean pre-breed recognition, possibly the 1800's. Sure, this is using the skill of deduction here, but there is much more substance therein to back it up than any claim of a Weimaraner in the wood pile. The Weim theory is grasping at straws in an attempt to discredit the veracity of authentic Silver Labradors!

3. Are silvers mutated chocolates?
No they are not. Back in the 70's coat color genetics in dogs was not fully understood. The odd silver coloring was simply assumed as being a mutated chocolate. Now we know for fact (research done by Dr. Sheila Schmutz of the University of Saskachewan - http://homepage.usask.ca/~schmutz/dilutions.html) that the silver Labrador is nothing more than a diluted chocolate. "Dilution genes" are carried by all dogs but they are found in the dominant form in most breeds including the general population of Labradors. Only through selected breeding have some breeds come to have the dilution genes "turned on" and thus in the recessive form. Weimeraners always have two recessive copies - they are liver (chocolate) dogs that are diluted.
We know also now that the dilution genes can work on black and yes yellow as well. "Charcoal" Labradors are a darker slate gray and are simply blue dogs just like any other blue dog like a blue Chow Chow. A yellow diluted is a fawn/yellow color with a sheen to the coat - silver breeders call them "Platinum".

      She gets some of this one right, as she actually has cited a pretty reputable source in Dr. Schmutz.  One thing WigWag neglects here though is to discuss that dilution can indeed be caused by a simple germline mutation at the D locus. The resulting mutated d gene would then be heritable and function just as one would expect a simple recessive as she and Dr. Schmutz correctly outline.  This would be uncommon, but not impossible. We could possibly be seeing this in some Labs, but there is no way to prove it unless one were to DNA test both sire and dam to see if they have the dilution gene heterozygously (Dd), if they do not have it (DD), yet a silver pup (dd) is produced, and parentage is proven, that would be most likely the result of a germline mutation.  Another possibility would be a loss of function of the D genes, though this mutation would not likely be heritable, but rather congenital. All the Silver Labs that have had their DNA analyzed come from parents that also have the dilution gene.   
      She does of course jump to her favorite Weim theory once again.  Basically saying since a Weim is gray due to two recessives at the d locus, and so is a Silver Lab, then they must be cross bred.  A massive oversimplification.  There are many other breeds, several of which have been intentionally bred to Labs historically that also are known to have two recessives at the d locus on occasion.  Were one to suggest that the d gene in Labs was not there in the beginning of the breed, it would be a better argument to then suggest it came from one of the known outcrosses, not some hyped up Weimaraner outcross conspiracy.  But then, if they did that, they would have to admit that a Silver Lab is every bit a Lab as their Labs.  A hard pill for most Silver hating breeders to swallow. 
      Other than erroneously suggesting the 70's again as the time the modern silver came about, her last glaring fault here is that most breeders are calling the dilute Yellow “Champagne,” not "platinum."  Some breeders call the Charcoal color "platinum," but never the dilute yellow.  Again, basic facts that she completely misrepresents; seems to be a developing pattern.

4. Why are they all fieldy looking or look like Weimeraners?
Well because they started from hunting stock and are perpetuated that way. Many of the pet bred Labradors I have seen also are houndy in appearance - long snipey muzzle, long houndy ears, lanky body, short thin coat, long curled tail. If they were gray they too would look like a Weimeraner.

      This is an interesting question, very biased in its presentation.  Were it just the first part, "Why are they all fieldy looking," it would be more objective, but she follows up with a clarification as to what she is really asking: "Why are they all...like Weimeraners?", she does not miss the opportunity to throw in her weim crossbreeding conspiracy theory.  So, let's look at some of these "fieldy," or "weimaraner," looking Silver Labs.  How about we even go back and look at a few of the first Silvers.  Surely no one will argue that these Labs are ready to enter a conformation show ring, they are, after all, from a combination of field and show lines, possessing characteristics of each, though hardly a Weimaraner.

Spook Culo

RC Dozer of Beavercreek
Lilly's Silver Husker

So, they are not Show Champions, but what the heck, let's just take a look at how they match up to the Labrador Retriever breed standard used by the AKC, and while we are at it, let's take a look at the Weimaraner breed standard too. First notice right off how these original Silver Labradors compare and contrast with the images of the typical breed specimen, very Labrador in appearance, a good start and an indication as to where we are headed.

Note: The short closely held ears of these Labs vs. the long lobular ears of the weim.
Note: The dense double coat if these Labs vs. the short, smooth and sleek coat of the weim.
Note: The heavier substance of these Labs vs. the light bone of the weim.
Note: Short-coupled body and moderately wide chest of these Labs vs. the long body and deep narrow chest of the weim.
Note: Little to no tuck up in these Labs vs. moderate tuck up in the weim. 

It goes on and on.  The only real similarity is the coat and eye color of the Silver Lab, but that is but a color, everything about these Labs is Labrador through and through.  Suggesting that a Silver Lab has Weimeraner in it, because of its gray color, is the same as claiming a red 4-wheel drive pickup is a sleek sports car just because it is red!

      Over the last couple decades there have been breeders that apparently did not care much about the conformation of their Silver Labs and therefor have, through their ignorance or neglect, bred very poor fieldy specimens of the breed.  Even then, fieldy Labs of all colors are not uncommon at all, in fact, there is a major split in the Labrador Retriever breed between field and show bred Labradors.  Here is a link to several photos of field bred Labs for you to consider.  
These individuals are brave to be posting their field Lab photo in side "stacked" profile, there is a good reason that most field-bred Labs are pictured while sitting or running, it is painful to look at these Labs form a conformation perspective...but no one questions their purity even though many are much more out of standard than any Silver Lab line.  Here is a another Lab from field trial lines that really exemplifies what a very fieldy Lab can look like.  Comparing this Lab to the breed standards, there are several characteristics that seem non-lab like, but so it is with many field labs.  On the other hand, there have been breeders that have taken the Silver Lab to a level of conformation that equals that of what show breeders are entering into the show ring on any given weekend. Here is a nice photo comparison of some of these more improved Silver Labs next to typical Weimaraners; you be the judge, to which breed standard do they belong?

The rebuttals to WigWag's claims 5-10 can be found on WigWag Part-2