It has been a decade since the arrival of the Biewer Terrier to South Africa.
The past decade was not without turmoil and sadness. So much so, that the Biewer Terrier was referred to as the “cursed breed”. Three years after the Biewer Terrier arrived in South Africa, breeders were breeding “Parti Yorkies” and the tricolour yorkies exploded. Breeders pretending to be loving pet owners bought Biewer Terriers to mate with their yorkies. Later on, not only the Biewer Terrier but other breeds were also introduced to achieve even more colours. Nowadays the Parti Yorkie or exotic yorkies, as they are also referred to, are bred by the hundreds, with breeders trying to outsmart one another when it comes to coat colour.
Having said that, I do want to mention that I was disappointed when the first Biewers arrived in South Africa in 2007. I initially thought that I was importing white Yorkshire Terriers. These white gold and black/blue dogs were not even remotely yorkies although they resembled something of a Yorkie, bearing in mind that their ancestors were Yorkshire Terriers.
There is much speculation around the globe as to the actual ancestry of the Biewer Terrier; than factual documented history by the originators of the breed.
At this stage, I contacted various people around the globe who was willing to share information on the Biewer Terrier. I was a member of the International Biewer Club (IBC), but soon realized this club was definitely not where I should be if I wanted to make a difference.
The Biewer Terrier Club of America (BTCA). Bless them! They educated the founding members of the Biewer Terrier Club of South Africa (BTCSA) on so many levels. We learned about Mars testing and breed specific testing. Science proved that the Biewer Terrier was NOT a white Yorkshire terrier.
Not knowing exactly what breeds made the Biewer Terrier, we are at a little bit of a loss. We do know that the Shih Tzu is a BIG probability. A Shih Tzu, also known as the Chrysanthemum Dog, is a medium size toy breed. The exact origins of the breed are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in Tibet. The name Shih Tzu means “little lion”, fierce and ferocious. An American composer James Mumsford, accurately describes the Shih Tzu, “... a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, (and) a dash of teddy bear.” When Biewer Terrier puppies learn to run they actually hop like bunnies. This is probably inherited from the Shih Tzu. It is too adorable to see! The description of the Shih Tzu could just as well have been that of the Biewer Terrier.
The study showed a BIG influence from the Hapso family, which includes Havanese, Tibetan terriers, and of course the Lhasa apso.The Tibetan terrier is a medium-size breed that originated in Tibet. Despite its name, it is not a member of the terrier group. The breed was given its English name by European travellers due to its resemblance to known terrier breeds. It is truly believed the breed started when the Werner and Gertrude Biewer had an oops litter with their pet Tibetan terrier and Yorkshire terrier. They like it so much Mrs Biewer decided to sell her business and move to Hunsruck and start showing and raising dogs. Also 50% of Biewer Terriers smile. That is a big Tibetan trait and adored by all owners of Biewers who smile.
Early 2000 when the rest of the world found this breed, the Germans had to fill that demand and mixed anything they could. The Shih Tzu was a big influencer from the Germans. The Lhasa apso a medium size toy breed likewise originating in Tibet, which monks used to guard the monastery grounds. The Biewer Terrier most likely inherited some personality of the Lhasa; whimsical, always up to mischief endless performing for a laugh. They believe they are the centre of the universe, have a heart of gold and bring great joy to the homes they reside in. Absolutely adore children.
When you combine all these exceptional breed traits together in one breed you need not look further than the Biewer Terrier. Back to my first paragraph; when breeders constantly breed the Biewer back to the Yorkshire terrier it can NOT be claimed that Biewers are bred or even call them Biewer Terriers, Biewer yorkies or say that they carry the Biewer gene. Up to this day, the arrogance of these breeders is beyond me.
When you scrutinize the breeds which make up the Biewer Terrier you will see some of our issues.
Most of the forefathers of the Biewer were medium size toy dogs. With selective line breeding, we were able to decrease the size of the Biewer somewhat. This was only due to demand. Today I don’t know if it was such a good thing. Biewer terriers should not be compared with Yorkies and the forever demand for the smallest of the breed. Where the accepted Breed standard calls for a weight of 3,6kg I think this ought to have been up to 5kg. Our Biewers, unfortunately, know range from as little as 1 kg. My personal favourite size for the Biewer is approximately 2-3 kg. I have never been keen on dogs weighing less than a 1 kg. Although we have had many extremely small Biewers we never deliberately bred for the exceptionally small size.
You will reminisce that the Biewer Terrier is a carrier of the Piebold gene (White), which Wikipedia explains as; a piebald or pied animal is one that has a pattern of pigmented spots on an unpigmented (white) background of hair. The spots are pigmented in shades of black and/or yellow, as determined by the genotype controlling the colour of the animal. The animal's skin underneath its coat may or may not be pigmented under the spots, but the skin in the white background is not pigmented.
Location of the pigmented spots is dependent on the migration of melanoblasts (primordial pigment cells) from the neural crest to paired bilateral locations in the skin of the early embryo. The resulting pattern appears symmetrical only if melanoblasts migrate to both locations of a pair and proliferate to the same degree in both locations. The appearance of symmetry can be obliterated if the proliferation of the melanocytes (pigment cells) within the developing spots is so great that the sizes of the spots increase to the point that some of the spots merge, leaving only small areas of the white background among the spots and at the tips of the extremities.
The grey that is sometimes visible amongst the white coat is called the ticking gene. In all probability, this gene was inherited by the Havanese. The ticking gene affects white portions of the coat. A Parti coloured dog with this gene, in addition to his colour patches, will have matching colour flecks throughout the white coat, giving it a salt and pepper appearance. The amount of ticking can vary from a little to a lot. Dogs without this gene will have a white that stays crisp and pure. In the canine world, the term for this is "Belton". The new MARS 4.0 now has the ability to test coat colour analysis. I personally do not like the ticking gene in the Biewer Terriers, but unfortunately, it is part of the Biewer Terrier. You can get two puppies from the same mother and father where only one of the pups has the ticking gene. We have attempted to breed this gene out of the Biewer terrier but as you know this can take time and an awful lot of money. Having our dogs Mars 4.0 tested is just not feasible for the South African. A single test cost approximately R1500.00 Hopefully, a big sponsor will come along!!
As far as health goes, I am happy to say that the Biewer Terrier appears to be extremely healthy dogs.
a. A sensitive gastrointestinal (GI) system has been reported. GI disorders and diseases affect a dog's stomach and intestines. When regularly given protexin this disorder is kept to the minimum.
b. Less than a handful of dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) was reported. KCS is a relatively common disease of dogs that cause decreased tear production. It is most often an immune disorder in which the components of tears are available, but production is interrupted by the dog's own immune system, resulting in dry, itchy, crusty eyes.
c. Occasionally the ear flaps may become inflamed. Just like with yeast infections, bacterial infections are mostly secondary effects of allergic reactions. They, however, can occur independently. These infections are known to be notoriously itchy and can drive the dog and the owner crazy.
d. Occasional under or overbite.
e. Cryptorchidism is a condition in which one or both testicles of a dog fail to descend into its scrotum. It is a very common birth defect.
• America has reported two or three cases of kidney stones. We have not had any kidney stones reported in South Africa.
• Liver shunts in dogs occur as a result of a birth defect (congenitally). We have not had any reports of Porto systemic shunt (PSS) or liver shunt. This is a condition where the normal flow of blood, to and through the liver, is markedly reduced or absent. Normally, blood returning from the puppy's digestive tract is routed to the liver through the portal vein. The blood flows through the liver and then exits the liver and joins the venous blood flowing back to the heart. A liver shunt is a blood vessel that connects the portal vein with the main systemic blood stream. This causes the blood to bypass the liver. Without adequate blood flow to the liver, the puppy's body cannot thrive. Liver shunt has been reported in America. We have not had any report of Liver shunt in South Africa. Please remember that the parent dogs are all tested for liver shunt.
• Patellar Luxation; a dislocated kneecap is one of the most prevalent knee joint abnormalities in dogs. The condition is common in the Yorkshire terrier; we have however not had severe Patellar Luxation amongst the Biewer Terriers.
I think the Biewer Terrier is still a developing breed and people need to be aware of what they are breeding. There is no guarantee on how your Biewer terrier will turn out. All we can guarantee is a healthy puppy free of hereditary deceases. Congenital conditions can sometimes not be picked up by a veterinarian at 6 weeks when the pups receive their first inoculation. We only had one fatal congenital disorder in the 10 years. The pup started fading at 3 months due to a congenital heart condition. We offered the owner a new puppy and we gave her a full refund. We have achieved immense progress on the Biewer Terrier since 2007, when our first Biewer Terriers arrived at Oliver Tambo Johannesburg International. I remember being frantic due to cargo personal taking their time to offload the 4/5-month-old pups.
There is still so much we do not know and probably never will. All I can say is that the Biewer Terrier is the best breed ever, having bred Yorkies for more than 20 years. Today looking back at a decade of Biewer Terrier breeding and advocating that the traits of the Biewer Terrier will disappear when Yorkshire Terriers are bred into the Biewer Terrier, I would not have changed a thing. I am happy for every authentic Biewer Terrier owner because they experience something so unique words cannot justify.
With heartfelt gratitude we thank the BTCA, Veterinary Genetics’ Laboratory at Onderstepoort, and sponsors over the years as well as KUSA (although we have had many issues with KUSA as still do) and most importantly the integral passion the founder members of the BTCSA approached the challenge of dedication to this extraordinary breed called the Biewer Terrier.
Although the colour of the Biewer terrier is an integral part of the Biewers appearance, it is not the qualifying factor when it comes to showing the Biewer. For example a tan colour on the leg or too much black or too much white, a black tail with only a white mark on the tip of the tail or the yellow Biewer Terrier referred to as “Gold dust”.
We have had a few dogs with a kink in their tail, known as a "knickschwanz" in Germany. This should not be faulted in anyway. One thing interesting is the Tibetan terrier standard actually mentions the kink in their standard.
The Breed standard as accepted around the globe makes provisions for such.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect on health & welfare of the dog. The emphasis is on the health and welfare of the Biewer Terrier.
The Biewer Terrier is the first dog in the history of dog breeding and showing to be recognized as a purebred dog due to a genetic study provided by some of the best scientists in the world. In the past meticulous records were kept and pedigree documentation.
Biewer Terrier breeders how are passionate about the breed should join the BTCSA were all the breeders are united and committed to help new breeders.
Biewer Terrier Breeders Association of South Africa
The BTCSA Policy is being revised.
Please contact Jane McCarthy Janeandgraham@whaleviews.com should you have any queries.
Dr. Cindy Harper completed her BVSc degree in 1993 and spent a year in private, small animal, practice before returning to Onderstepoort to complete her MSc degree in Veterinary Parasitology in 1998. She joined the Equine Research Centre in 1999 and became involved in horse identification systems at the time when the transition occurred from blood typing, as the horse identification and parentage testing method, to DNA typing. During the past 10 years that she has been involved in this field, she has developed a passion for veterinary genetics and particularly the application of the latest technology and test methods to meet the needs of the veterinary profession and animal breeders, to ensure that their pedigrees are sound, advise them on the effects of inbreeding and the use of selective breeding to reduce the incidence of offspring affected by genetic based diseases and breeding for specific valuable traits. Dog breeders are particularly fortunate in that the dog represents a good model for the study of human genetic conditions and the expansion of knowledge of the genetic conditions of the dog is, therefore, very rapid. Genetics now drives most other biological disciplines including vaccine production, pharmacology, immunology, parasitology and clinical medicine and is the most rapidly developing and expanding science. We are privileged to have Dr. Cindy Harper on our btcsa team who plays a major part in its application and the contribution that it can make to improve the wellbeing of animals and particularly in the Biewer Terriers in the future.
Genetic testing in South Africa
The Veterinary Genetics laboratory at the Onderstepoort Faculty of Veterinary Science (OPVGL) is responsible for the DNA profiling of the Biewer Terrier in
In case of the Biewer, the individual unique DNA profile is obtained from a blood sample or buccal swab sample of the animal. This profile or DNA fingerprint is stored in a database at the OPCVGL. All Biewer pups are tested and their pedigrees verified by comparing their DNA profiles to those of their parents that are already on the database. This ensures that registered Biewer Terriers are only from Biewer to Biewer matings, thus maintaining the integrity of the local Biewer Terrier studbook.
DNA certificates from labs belonging to ISAG, containing the profiling information of each dog, can also be exchanged between these labs internationally ensuring that the individual identity of exported dogs can be verified in the importing country. DNA samples of each dog are stored at the OPVGL and can be used in future for breed specific genetic testing, as these tests become available.
It can also be used by the OPVGL in the local development of breed specific genetic tests if any underlying genetic problems become apparent in the breed in future. A complete DNA sample set of a breed or pedigree is an extremely valuable resource for future use as technology improves and genome information of the dog increases. The Biewer Terrier, as a new breed in SA, is setting an example to other dog breeds by making use of this resource from the start.
SCIENTIFIC PROOF THAT THE BIEWER TERRIER IS A SEPARATE BREED AND THE
PARTI YORKIE CAME ABOUT VIA INTENTIONAL OR “OOPS” CROSS BREEDING
By PHIL STINARD, GENETICIST
As you know, my opinion will be based on science, but I'll try to keep it simple. And I won't base my opinion on any particular agenda or fixed point of view, because I don't own a Biewer or have any close friends who own Biewers
Okay, I've formed my opinion on whether Biewers are a separate breed from Yorkshire Terriers based on the information I currently have. It could change based on new research, so it isn't set in stone, but here it is:
Since I am a believer in the conservation of genetic resources, my recommendation is that Biewers be bred only with other Biewers in order to preserve their unique characteristics, which go beyond color, but also include behavioral differences. If you keep crossing Biewers back to Yorkshire Terriers, you are going to lose these unique characteristics, and end up with something more like a Yorkshire Terrier, but yet will never quite be a Yorkshire Terrier.
Oh dear, I don't want to create more controversy, but I think that Parti-Yorkies got their piebald gene in the same way that Biewers did--by crossing in from another breed. BUT, I have read absolutely nothing about DNA breed testing of Parti Yorkies, so I don't have as much data to go on as I do for Biewers--the evidence is much more clear in Biewers. It would be great to sequence the MITF (piebald) gene in Parti Yorkies too, just to try to get an idea of what is going on. I am willing to keep an open mind. We simply need more data.
I answered the Parti question in another post. But if Partis are testing as purebred Yorkshire Terriers, one explanation could be that they have been crossed for so many generations back to Yorkshire Terriers that traces of other breeds are being diluted out by Yorkie DNA. That's one possibility. Since I haven't seen any Parti test results with my own eyes, and since Partis have not been subjected to as much analysis by MARS as Biewers, I don't have enough information to draw any firm conclusions. Sequencing the MITF gene in Partis would help a lot in answering this question. With respect to AKC DNA testing, they only do parentage testing, not breed purity testing, and I'm certain that their parentage testing does not predate the appearance of the first Parti Yorkies. If you have any information to the contrary, let me know!
Oh, I forgot to mention that if you are getting a lot of different colored "Yorkies" (and I use the term loosely) from ONE litter, that is clearly a sign that breed standards for the Yorkshire Terrier are being ignored and flaunted, and people have been crossing Dog knows who to Dog knows what. Each color is not a separate breed--it's a sign of breeders gone wild.
I'm glad the AKC is satisfied that the Parti color can be produced in otherwise normal litters of Yorkshire Terriers, because I sure am not. Old records can be falsified, and the Parti color predates the era of DNA testing. And as I said in another post, if the trait did come from another breed and was crossed in to breed standard Yorkshire Terriers for generation after generation, eventually the sign of the evil deed is doing to disappear. In order for my curiosity to be satisfied, I would need to see a DNA breed analysis test done on as many Partis as possible, and I would like to see the MITF (piebald) gene and its upstream regulatory DNA sequenced. I'm a show-me kind of guy.
To relate to what I was talking about above, the "S" gene described in the article is the normal, functional MITF gene (found in breed standard Yorkshire Terriers), and the piebald gene is a mutant form of the MITF gene that is now known to have two unique mutations (a SINE DNA insertion, and a length polymorphism) in its regulatory region.
I've heard different stories as to which other breeds Mr. Biewer had at the time--I'm still waiting for the definitive answer to that question, because that could be the answer to where the piebald gene came from. But yes, DNA analysis could determine which breed supplied the piebald gene.
Here is another smoking gun. I was going to propose that someone cross a Biewer to a piebald Maltese to see whether the offspring would be piebald. If the offspring were piebald, that would prove that Biewers definitely carry the piebald gene. (This kind of cross is what geneticists call an allele test.) But I didn't say anything because I thought it would be unethical to ask someone to do that kind of cross. But guess what? While I was googling Biewer and Maltese, I found this ad: MORKIE German Biewer Yorkie / Maltese cross | North Port | eBay Classifieds (Kijiji) | 27676387. Someone has already done the cross, and the result is a piebald dog! Boo-yaaaa!!!!! I will attach a photo of the dog in case the ad disappears.
Just because a dog looks piebald doesn't mean that it is caused by a mutation in the piebald gene--there could be other as-yet undiscovered mutations in other genes that could cause the same appearance. I hadn't seen any proof that the Biewer coat color gene is due to a mutation in the MITF (piebald) gene. This Biewer/Maltese cross proves it to me. Maybe others have done this test, but I hadn't come across it yet. To me, the question remains, is the DNA sequence of the mutation in the piebald gene in Biewers the same as the DNA sequence of the mutation in the Maltese (and other breeds with proven piebald genes)? If so, that would prove to me that the origin of the piebald gene in Biewers is a cross of a Yorkshire Terrier with some other breed carrying a piebald gene. Genetically speaking, new mutations don't occur in the exact same place with exactly the same DNA sequence, and the piebald mutations in other breeds have a very distinctive DNA sequence. I don't care what Mr. Biewer said back in the 1980's, if the piebald gene came from some other breed that was crossed into his Yorkshire Terrier lines, then the Biewer is the result of a mixed breed dog. It wasn't necessarily Mr. Biewer who did this--it could have already been in the lines he got from England. I'm just trying to get at the truth.
Evidently, the Healthgene company knows the answer to this question, because they have a test for the piebald gene in Yorkshire Terriers and Biewers: Parti Color Yorkshire Terrier l Coat Color Test - HealthGene
I have heard about the question of whether Biewers have Irish spotting (si) or piebald spotting (sp). They are both different mutations in the same gene. I can't answer that question based on appearance, because I've seen a broad range of degree of spotting in Biewers--some look Irish, and some look more piebald. Supposedly, the piebald gives more variation in the different patterns you see, so that's why I was guessing that Biewers are piebald, but hopefully the testing company will be able to answer the question for certain.
Jumping back in to the conversation, I wasn't able to get a direct reply from HealthGene on how they test for the presence of the piebald gene in Biewers and Parti Yorkshire Terriers, but HealthGene did refer me to Dr. Schmutz's 2009 paper on MITF and white spotting in dogs, and I found the answer buried in Table 2 of that paper. Here is the link to the paper:
According to Dr. Schmutz's paper:
I don't know how I missed this article...
Here is another fascinating research paper on DNA coat color testing in dogs that specifically references the Yorkshire Terrier:
Before I read that article, I had assumed that Biewers and Partis were both carriers of the piebald allele at the MITF gene because they supposedly both traced back to Streamglen (is that true, or just a theory that both trace back to Streamglen?). Now that some Partis have tested as "e" at the E gene, I'm not so sure. Biewers are definitely piebald, but maybe some lines of what people are calling Parti are piebald and others are "e"? I don't know--more testing of Partis is needed! Have any Parti breeders here had their dog's coat color genes tested?
This historic picture of Mr. Werner Biewer holding a rather large puppy in comparison with his traditional Yorkie’s size has merit to Phil Stinard claim that Biewer Terriers and Tri Colour Yorkies are not the same breed.
This puppy does not even resemble a Yorkshire terrier puppy!
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