Article written/researched by Vivienne Peterson BA - First published Aug 2007/ Revised Feb 2010 - Copyright Protected
When I first wrote this article nearly three years ago it puzzled me why Miss Ives, considered by Mr Hicks to be the ‘facile princeps’ of the colour blue - having made it her speciality, had so little to say about the subject in her book Show Pomeranians. A mere 28 lines of text noting 9 blue Poms with a little additional information in the breeding section. My version of this book was the 4th edition revised by Mrs Thomson in 1929 following the death of Miss Ives.
After buying the 3rd edition (pub.1919) updated by Miss Ives and reading the 1st edition (1911) the mystery was solved. Regrettably no less than 150 lines of text on blue Poms was edited out in 1929.
Needless to say Miss Ives’ very important and useful information about CDA was removed!
Miss Ives wrote that blue had ‘never been very popular’ until she became involved and bred away from lines prone to coat loss ‘scarcity of coat had been a drawback to the advancement of this colour’ plus it was very difficult to keep the colour clear and produce the desirable pale blue colour – this she blamed on using popular ‘sable stud dogs’ and the trend to intermix whole colours with sables.
An article written in 1897 by May Bird for The Ladies Kennel Journal reviewed the year’s show scene. It was noted that litter brothers Squib and Cracker both suffered from ‘blue failing’.
Blue failing was a Victorian term for the condition also known as Blue Dog Disease, Blue Dog Alopecia and Blue Doberman Syndrome. Like Alopecia X this problem has different names from breed to breed. It is more commonly known as Colour Dilution Alopecia (CDA) and also is associated with the colour fawn (removed from the UK Pom Standard in 1909).
left - Here is an extract from the original article.
As you can see the condition was apparently so common that no explanation was given of ‘blue failing’ – the reader would have known what it meant. Both Squib and Cracker continued to be shown regardless of their coat loss and were also used at stud.
In Mr Hicks’ book of 1906 he mentioned that Squib and Cracker were ‘of very fine bone but rather scanty coat, especially on the back’.
Miss Leslie Williams’ book ‘A Manual of Toy Dogs’ (1919) first published in 1904 noted ‘blues, which, unless large, generally have hairless ears’. So in her opinion the problem still existed in the smaller size – regardless of what Miss Ives had to say in 1911.
Note – 6lb Cracker had a worse case of CDA than his 7¾ lb brother.
Finally Mrs Byron Hoffman the American contributor to Mrs Parkers’ book (1937 edition) said that about 1928 some Poms (including her own) produced blues but they were not shown – she does not give a reason for this.
Mrs Thomson noted (1929) ‘the colour never became popular … practically ceased to exist’. She cited breeder Mrs Stratton’s recent blue revival as uphill work and ‘ much ill-luck has been her portion’.
As a general observation German historian Strebel noted in his book ‘Der Deutschen Hund’ written in 1904 that inbreeding the blue colour leads to baldness. And on this note it is also worth mentioning that alopecia in the tiny Black & Tan Terriers often commented on by Victorian authors was usually attributed to ‘in -and- in ‘ breeding. These viewpoints may well have influenced Miss Ives’ thoughts. (See footnote on in and in breeding)
Miss Ives on the topic of CDA
Miss Ives noted Mrs Vallance was a great enthusiast of the colour.
‘Among many other blues she owned a pretty brace in Cracker and Squib, the latter the lightest blue adult we have ever seen benched. They sired a number of blues, but transmitted to their progeny a scarcity of coat on ears, back and tail – a defect they themselves possessed. Mr Harvey owned Blee, one of their descendants, a typical bitch as regards shape, colour, and style; she, too, was deficient in coat, and some of her progeny inherited the fault.’
Miss Ives goes on to say, ‘ up to this time the scarcity of coat had been a drawback to the advancement of this colour; but with the institution of Miss Ives’ kennel, and more careful breeding and buying, this fault was speedily corrected’.
(Note there is a misprint in Ives’ book she gives the date 1890 instead of 1899 as the turning point for breeding away from this issue).
Miss Ives stated blue breeders Mr Oldham and Mr Loy (as well as herself) all kept exclusively to the ‘heavily coated strain coming from Ch Black Boy, a grandson of Hizza’ – and thereby we assume avoided CDA – or at least minimised its effects.
Squib and Cracker – born 19th November 1896
by Montezuma and Niminy Piminy – both parents black in colour
So how did this strain favoured by Miss Ives differ from that of Squib and Cracker who apparently had hereditary colour dilution alopecia?
right - Mrs Valance's Blue pets - Cracker is in the middle
Surprisingly not very much - Niminy Piminy was also a paternal granddaughter of Hizza (via Nubian Prince) and evidence suggests that Niminy Piminy’s dam was possibly a gt g’daughter of Fritz and Magna the sire and dam of Hizza (therefore this association was doubled). Additionally Niminy was a Gt. Gt. granddaughter of Blue Boy (born 1884) and Ch Black Boy was Blue Boy’s grandson.
Could the problem have come from the sire of Squib and Cracker Montezuma – his sire & dam were unregistered so we have nothing to go on here.
May Bird once noted about Ch Black Boy’s grandson Ch Chocolat ‘though his tail and ruff nearly hide the fact, the coat on his back is barely an inch long’. Was he just badly out of coat at this show?
Chocolat’s litter brother Merry Boy (a black) sired several blue Poms such as Miss Ives’ famous litter brothers Blue Jacket and Blue Bertie (both 8lb in weight) noted by her to have created a sensation as a brace both’ heavily coated, perfectly sound dogs’. However they died ‘suddenly in their prime’ as did Bit of Blue, Mrs Parker’s Quicksilver and a granddaughter of Ch Boy Blue – Cantley Rona.
Ch Boy Blue, purchased by Miss Ives as a puppy from Mrs E. J. Thomas owner of Ch Black Boy, was of this same strain and as Miss Ives ‘modestly’ stated – he was perhaps the best Pomeranian ever benched!
left - A son of his Bit of Blue (born 1903), owned by Mrs Parker, was the grandfather of orange Ch Mars (1906) – although Miss Ives does not comment on Bit of Blue’s coat in a rare photo of him taken for Our Dogs newspaper in 1905 his ears have the tell-tale signs of very mild CDA – compare his ears to those of Cracker.
Descendants of Squib and Cracker
The fact they both had CDA did not prevent them being used at stud – perhaps owing to their exceptional colour. A Stud Ad (from the Ladies Kennel Journal) indicates Cracker (6lb) was ‘light pigeon blue’. May Bird thought his coat loss was the worst of the two brothers ‘ his head, legs, and back have only down upon them’. Squib (7 ¾ lb) was less affected.
Blee, already mentioned as suffering from CDA, was a daughter of Cracker. She was the dam of Prairie Rosette (sire Brown Bobs) and Prairie Blue Grey sired by Ives’ Ch Boy Blue. Miss Ives noted Blue Grey was rarely benched & was known as a sire. His progeny included Blue Star, Blue Shell, Blue Flower, Moonlight (sold for a high price to someone in Paris who lost her), Hyndburn Prince, Read Topsy, Grandpa’s Pet, Little Miss Blue etc. He was also the sire of parti-colours like Sweet Nero.
Miss Ives stated that some of Blee’s progeny ‘inherited the fault’ but does not give any examples but interestingly Miss Ives must have felt CDA could be bred out of a line as otherwise it’s doubtful she would have allowed her famous champion to breed with Blee.
Squib was the sire of – 8lb Blue Doris born in 1900 – her dam was a blue daughter of Nubian King – another grandson of Blue Boy.
Montezuma was also advertised at stud as was another brother of Squib and Cracker called Rascal. A full sister of theirs named Czarina was the dam of the orange ‘Herr Mirco’ born in 1903 – on his sire’s side he was a grandson of Grange Princess – an unshaded blue resulting from a full brother/sister mating from Miss Ives’ early stock on her dam’s side and on her sire’s side a blue son of the chocolate Aigburth Prince.
Fawn, removed from the Standard in 1909, was first noted in 1880 in the registration of Pan a daughter of the Volpino ‘Mooskie’ – imported from Florence. There is no mention of CDA with this colour in Miss Ives book. Interestingly many early so-called orange Poms were not orange - Ives said fawns and creams were frequently ‘misnamed orange’. Miss Ives noted liver-coloured nostrils & eye rims in orange Poms was a fault and the orange colour should be brilliant ‘without any suspicion of fawn about it’.
Orange descendants of blue Pomeranians
Blue Poms were closely behind some of the popular dogs in the orange colour (excluding C19th examples from Volpino ancestry) including Herr Mirco, Ch Mars and orange shaded sable Ch Dragonfly etc.
In July 2007 I contacted Dr Tosso Leeb, a geneticist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, researching the genetic causes of canine Alopecia problems. I forwarded him my information on Squib and Cracker and asked if it could be possible for CDA to exert an influence on non-dilute colours?
Here is an extract from Dr Leeb’s response –
' Regarding the blue (dilute) coat color; we tested a few of our Pomeranian samples for the dilute mutation and yes, indeed we had a few carriers of this mutation among our samples. Unfortunately, we do not have any blue or fawn Pomeranians among our samples, so we did not find any homozygotes for the dilute mutation.
It seems quite possible that the blue coat color predisposes Pomeranians to hair loss. Normally, heterozygous carriers of this mutation are supposed to have normal hair coats and are not affected by CDA. I know now of two heterozygous Dobermans that are affected by hair-loss as seen in CDA. Therefore, there seems to be a very small risk that heterozygous dogs may also eventually develop hair-loss’.
It would be of great assistance to Dr Leeb’s research if he could examine samples taken from blue or fawn Poms so I hope anyone reading this who owns a Pom of either one of these colours will contact him – especially if they have experienced CDA. Links are given at the end of this article.
Miss Ives sold all her blue Pomeranians in 1911 other than Young Blue Boy. She does not give an explanation for this extraordinary decision!
However, as this date coincides with the first publication of her book one wonders if her comments on CDA would have been made if she intended to continue keeping a blue kennel.
Throughout her lengthy chapter on blues she continually commented on coat size also how her older Poms retained their huge coats and perfect colour until old age. And many of her blue Poms (and those bred by others) were exported to America for high prices for instance – Maid of the Mist, Blue Mamie, Lulu, Blue Peggie, Blue Princess and in 1913 Mrs Carlin’s diminutive winner Eastney Blue Bird.
By the 1920s the colour was rare and by 1968 a blue was considered a ‘fluke’ and unreliable if hoping to breed on for blue offspring.
Blue is clearly a huge challenge for a breeder and notwithstanding the quest to achieve the correct pale blue colour the risk of CDA may have ultimately led to the unpopularity of the colour despite a short revival in interest from about 1895 to 1910. Mild CDA is still known to affect some (but not all) blue Poms and Kleinspitz (German Spitz Klein).
Final observation by Miss Ives
In the chapter on grooming Miss Ives noted blue Poms required closer detail ‘as regards grooming’.
‘ If there be any tendency to bareness or thinness of the coat on head, ears, back, or tail brush daily till the skin is warm. Never allow the edges of the ears to grow hard. Massage them with good Lanoline, wiping off the grease afterwards with a soft dry cloth. After doing this for a week, scrape off the scurf and dead hair that have accumulated round the edge of the ear, and wash the ear flaps in warm water, using a good soap. Never put any grease on the coat under the mistaken impression that it will grow coat. It won’t.
Should you get excema into the skin of a blue dog, you may resign yourself to shave the dog quite close, and grow a new coat after the disease is cured, for in this case the hair turns a reddish brown. There is no deceiving an experienced breeder of blues. He can tell by a glance at the coat if the dog has a skin disease or not. With no other colour, can we say the same thing; but excema literally draws the colour of the hair’.
In and In breeding – Rawdon Lee (1894) cited the case of Italian Greyhound Gowan’s Billy – 1857 – although perfect in type his stock was delicate and this was attributed to his lineage as his grandsire was also his gt grandsire, gg grandsire, ggg grandsire and ggg grandsire.
In contrast to Gowan’s Billy – assessing the 4 generations behind litter brothers Blue Jacket & B. Bertie (wh. 1897) - only 3 ancestors appear twice – Ch Black Boy being their grandsire and gg grandsire, Blue Boy a g grandsire and gg grandsire and Hizza their g grandmother & gg grandmother (Hizza is also their gggg grandmother on their dam’s side).
PEDIGREE OF SQUIB AND CRACKER - born November 1896
Sire - Montezuma, a 12lb black born in 1893. He was by the unregistered Poms called Jacko and Duskie - no further details on them at this time. Dam - Niminy Piminy a black born in 1892, bred by Mr Betts and owned by Mrs Vallance ( along with Montezuma).
The sire of Niminy Piminy was Nubian Prince born in 1897 the full brother from a later litter of the black Bayswater Swell who was used extensively at stud. Nubian Prince was a son of Nubian King born in 1887 and his dam was Huzza. Huzza ( sometimes called Hizza) was by Dutton's white dog Fritz and the black bitch Magna who was sired by Dutton's Fritz and her dam was Greta an imported bitch. Therefore Huzza's sire was also her grandsire.
The dam of Niminy Piminy was Tips also owned by Mr Betts ( the owner of Morle) . Tips was by Peter and Bredna - no other information given about their origin. I suspect that 'Peter' is actually Peterle mentioned below. Early records were compiled from handwritten information and spellings often vary. Nubian King was by Peterle and Cosy. Peterle was by Morle and Spitzer ( most likely a German import). Cosy was by Blue Boy and Frau - no further data on Frau. Blue Boy born in 1884 (according to Hicks) was by the imported dog Black Jack ( originally called Fritz) and Topsey II. Topsey II was by Nigger and Freda. Freda was imported from Germany by Mrs Monck sometime before 1878.
Morle was born in June 1879 by Mr Lender's Fritz and Mr. Wagner's Lady and was later sold to Mr Betts.
Here are the links for general information on Dr Leeb's work and two links for specific problems: