Cäsar von Gaiberg (“Tell”), born February 25, 1947, was the product of a mother - son breeding.  As with all German breedings, this breeding was approved by the German Klub, and Tell came from excellent bloodlines, bloodlines represented in dogs owned by many of the German Klub officials at the time according to the investigation conducted by the Weimaraner Club of America in its Minutes of Meeting of Board of Governors of the Weimaraner Club of America, March 8, 1950 - PDF (MOM). Captain Harry J Holt, an American stationed in Germany, purchased Tell because he felt that, “this was a dog that we should have back here in the States to be reproduced, and especially since it was inbred.” (MOM 56). Holt was a German Shorthaired Pointer fancier and breeder who helped found the German Shorthaired Pointer Club in Kansas City. He had heard about the Weimaraner while in the States, and once in Germany, he befriended Mr. Fritz Kullmer, the Secretary of the German Weimaraner Klub. It was on Kullmer’s recommendation and approval that Holt purchased Tell. Kullmer had owned a littersister to Tell’s dam who was a world champion, and Kullmer knew the bloodlines well. Tell’s mother was Int’l Ch Cilly v. Kreuzgrund, who was also the dam of Aura v. Gaiberg, one of four imported Weimaraners that constituted the foundation of American bloodlines. In the MOM, Holt notes that Kullmer “used to tell me about a great dog he had, a world champion… and this dog was mouse-gray” (53). Holt confirms that he took Kullmer’s comment to mean that both Kullmer’s world champion and Tell were the same color, mouse-gray (54).

There is conflicting documentation regarding how many puppies were in the litter.  Dr. Werner Petri's Der Weimaraner Vorstehhund notes that there was one puppy in the litter; Holt reports that there were three.  Of the two puppies available, Holt chose Tell because “I liked the way he was put together” (MOM 54). The other puppy, Bodo, was gray, but Holt chose Tell over the litterbrother because Tell had a nicer rear and Bodo was “sickle-hearted” [sickle-hocked]" Holt says, “I was originally commissioned in the horse cavalry and I have dabbled in riding and I think I understand polo ponies and jumpers and I judge a hunting dog on the conformation of a thoroughbred horse, and bad legs, bad hind legs, sickle-heart [sickle-hock], and so forth are definitely a demerit. Ears are not” (58-59).

Paul Barry who was the Chair of the May meeting gives his opinion of Tell’s conformation on page 152:

And I can say that he is lighter than I thought he was in eye, definitely. My criticism of him is that he lacks depth of muzzle… Now, in body, he has got a much better shoulder than a great number of Weimaraners… I consider that he has a good line, as I remember it. I consider that he has a reasonable amount of spring of rib. He is a trifle high in breast, though not bad, better than a lot of them. He has got straight legs, front legs, pretty good, way above the average in feet, and that his hind quarters are straight, and there is ample angulation, again better than most, and that his rear quarters are straight.

Holt was a hunter and trained and hunted over Tell before bringing him to William Olson of Minneapolis in July of 1949. Registration papers were issued along with the transfer to Olson in January 1950. Eric Kuhr, the President of the German Klub, would not have issued papers had he thought that Tell was a product of a cross-breeding, and the color indicated on Tell’s pedigree was “SGR” which stood for silver-gray (MOM 161).   He is also noted in the AKC studbook as "gray."

Oddly, shortly after the papers were issued, Kuhr seems to have changed his mind about Tell.

In late March 1950, the Germans responded to questions from the WCA. According to Leon Arpin, “I went so far as to write him [Kuhr] a letter and tell him to send me a collect cablegram to the effect, “Did you see the dog?” Second, “Can you describe the dog? Were his color and ears known to you?” And third, “Would the dog be acceptable for breeding in Germany?” (MOM 160). In response, Kuhr expressed his belief to the WCA that Tell was cross-bred, an “outlaw,” and that he should not be used for breeding (MOM 159). Why Kuhr changed his mind has never been fully explained. However, Elizabeth Wood suggests that the Germans were so eager to please the WCA and the American market for their dogs in the impoverished post-WWII era, and that “if the Germans formally rejected Cäsar von Gaiberg's registration, they rejected it only after some members of the WCA had pressured them concerning the status of the dog.”

Regardless of the Germans, after reviewing his German registration and pedigree, the AKC issued Tell’s registration papers as a purebred Weimaraner. AKC registering Tell did not put the controversy to rest, however, and the controversy grew more heated over the years.

Jack Denton Scott, in his book, The Weimaraner, offers a copy of the 1944 Weimaraner standard in which the Blue color is an accepted color. (“Color Gray (Silver, Bright, Dark, Yellow) the Dark Gray may be either ash or blue…”), but maintains that this standard was “clouded by inept translation from the original German and riddled with loopholes by the lack of foresight of the persons responsible for its acceptance” (109).

Speaking of Tell, he goes on to write, “…from the Midwest prodigious stud use of a blue-black male dog produced this off color offspring in large numbers. The stud dog himself had ears like a Dalmatian, black gums and mouth like a Chow, and was small and not shaped like a Weimaraner. Even his startling color wasn’t a true one. It was as if someone had poured a bottle of purplish-black ink over the poor beast” (131)

While the controversy over Tell and the blue coat color raged on, he gained a reputation of being an excellent police and tracking dog. An article that appeared in the New York World-Telegram and Sun on April 2, 1954 gives accolades to Tell as a “terrific trailer with a superlative nose.” Tell had acquired quite a reputation for helping the police, and “on 16 cases that we can authenticate from newspaper and police records, the dog laid the trail directly to where the missing person was found.”

Tell also started gaining a reputation for being an excellent sire. By June of 1953 he was tied 7th as top producing sire, having produced 8 bench champions (Denlinger 126). Indeed, Tell came from a well-known family line in Germany and is behind some of the most well-known and respected kennels in America (Wood, footnote 16).

So was Tell really cross-bred? Or if he was purebred, is there some other explanation for his coat color? There are three basic theories on how the Blue gene came into being in the Weimaraner: “The Doberman Cross Theory,” “Blues Always Existed Theory,” and “The Genetic Mutation Theory.”

Tell’s German papers had the following qualification noted on it:

Use for breeding permissible only if the qualifications for first or second prize under the regulation of the organization for Jugendprufing (Youth Trials) are subsequently approved. Since Cäsar von Gaiberg has a black nose, blackish tinge on his back, relatively proportionately short ears and his eye color is not pure amber, one should be careful concerning his descendents, and in doubtful cases, inform the office of the keeper of the stud book. (Carr)

Homer Carr, an early and renowned Weimaraner breeder, in his article on the Blue Weimaraner, mentions that this Youth Trial clause is not uncommonly seen in the papers of Weims imported to the United States. The second sentence describes some of Tell’s unusual characteristics, but again, there is no indication here that Tell was cross bred. However, Dr. Werner Petri’s Der Weimaraner Vorstehhund notes more information in German Klub records, a typed report by Kullmer noting Tell’s “touch of black over the entire back, hair very short, eyes not of pure amber color.” After that there were also hand-written comments doubting the reliability of Tell’s breeder, and “Verdict: Useless for breeding most likely a Doberman cross.” (qtd. in Alexander and Isabell 53). It is uncertain who hand wrote these comments.

A copy of Tell’s pedigree can be downloaded from the Blue Banshee Weimaraners website.

Since there are black Dobermans, it is certainly possible that the dominant black color could have been inherited by Tell, along with the dilute factor from both the Doberman and Weimaraner, creating the blue color. (See Genetics to read about how the coat color is inherited.) The Doberman standard calls for dark eyes. Isabell, in Weimaraner Ways, notes that Paul Barry, the WCA President in 1950, “considered Tell’s eyes darker than average but not as dark as some he had seen. He observed that Tell’s eyes dilated to an unusual degree, which gave the impression that his eyes were darker than they really were” (52). As for the short ears, the Doberman’s natural ear is shorter than the Weimaraner’s ear; however it is well accepted that the Weimaraner in its development were cross-bred to Pointers which could also account for the shorter ear, especially since Kullmer himself when asked about Tell’s short ears “suggested [it] was the result of inbreeding, adding that all Weimaraners were inbred because less than a dozen German Weimaraners had survived World War I.” (Alexander and Isabell 52).

Some may argue that the Doberman markings we see on some of today’s Weims on occasion came from the alleged Doberman cross-breeding that produced Cäsar, but this argument can easily be refuted. According to Denlinger, the German Standard ratified in Frankfurt in 1935 states "...Neither is the reddish-yellow shade on the head and legs, which nowadays occurs seldom, to be regarded as a fault; however a Weimaraner with reddish yellow coloring should not receive more than a "good" when tested for his shape. If outstanding for hunting purposes he should not be excluded from breeding.” (62). This standard was written more than 20 years before Cäsar von Gaiberg was born, and obviously the Doberman markings were occurring regularly enough to be mentioned in the standard. The Doberman markings most likely come from the Hound blood used when the breed was developed.

Elizabeth Wood contends the that Doberman cross theory is not only unsubstantiated but also “genetically unsound” because if Tell were a Doberman cross, he would carry the recessive 'at' gene which causes the tan markings, and this would mean that “his line-bred offspring would have exhibited a much higher than average occurrence of tan-points.” She continues by telling us that this has not happened with his descendents (footnote 16). In fact, Tell produced well; many of his offspring were champions and he was a top producing sire. His get constituted breeding stock for some of the most influential kennels of today. It is difficult to believe that a mongrel would produce so well, particularly in passing on the hunting qualities for which he was so well-known. Homer Carr did not care for the blue coat color but used Cäsar for his conformation and for his “intense natural hunting instinct which were badly needed to correct or eliminate serious faults widely prevalent in our American Weimaraners,” and he was very successful at it.

So then if we accept that Tell was not a Doberman cross, how could a purebred Weimaraner be so atypical in coat color?

Carr suggests that the color is merely the result of a genetic mutation. He states, “So far as is known, this blue mutation has occurred only twice in the last quarter of a century, both times in Europe. In Austria, a single blue puppy appeared in the 1940’s in a litter of silver gray parents owned by Robert Pattay, past president of the Austrian Weimaraner Club.“ The second is Cäsar von Gaiberg.

“Natural mutation rates are from 10-4 (one in ten thousand) to 10-8 (one in a hundred million)” (qtd. in Isabell 77); in other words, they are rare. However, no matter how rare, they occur enough that today we have over 150 different breed of dogs. The founders of each of these breeds took advantage of mutations by propagating them to create their desired type of dog, from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane and everything in between (The Dog Genome Project). Within many of these different breeds, we also have varieties caused by the same forces of natural mutation. Certainly it is entirely possible then that the Blue Weimaraner is a variety, caused by a mutation.

Still, many have maintained that Blues were always present in Germany, and that the future problems faced in the United States with Cäsar von Gaiberg were based on semantic differences. We know that from a genetic standpoint, the color we understand as “silver” or “gray” is actually a dilute chocolate or liver; whereas purely from a color standpoint it can be argued that Weimaraner “blue” is what most would call “gray.” With shades of blue possibly being so light as to look silver, it is entirely possible that a light blue, or a very dilute blue, may appear gray. (Please see Genetics for further explanation and to see a photo of a very light Blue Weimaraner that may be mistaken for a Gray.)

To complicate matters further, Alexander and Isabell inform us in Weimaraner Ways that“… Germans also used the term [blues] synonymously with mouse-gray” (52). In his book The Weimaraner, Scott blames poor translation for the word “blue” to have appeared in the original 1944 standard as an acceptable color (109) which seems to prove the point that these two terms were used interchangeably as indicated in Weimaraner Ways. Further, Captain Holt maintains throughout his interview with the WCA that mouse-gray is the same color as blue. Holt also asserts that there were other dogs of the same color as Cäsar and the color was not considered aberrant by the Germans because they were considered mouse-gray and within the standard.

Dr. Werner Petri's Der Weimaraner Vorstehhund, in documenting the breed's origins, mentioned several times that there was controversy over the desired color of the dogs.  "Even at that time (1899), agreement could not be reached about either description of colour or desired colour" (Petri 7) and "There are silver-gray and mousey-gray Weimaraners...and there is heated argument between opponents" (qtd. in Petri 8).

Considering color in his chapter about the breed's conformation characteristics Petri writes:

What distinguishes the Weimaraner immediately from other comparable breeds is his gray colour.  It is often difficult to decide whether a dog is silver-gray, deer-gray or mousy-gray and this depends on the lighting, background, etc.  Here, quite often the wish is the father of colour determination.  As it is just about impossible to define clearly the above mentioned colours, it might be better to leave them out entirely in the future.  However, in any case the colour of the dog must be without any doubt gray!

The confounding flip side to this is that, despite the German’s usage of the two terms, we do not see Blue Weimaraners in Germany today. Culling doesn’t address this because if Blues were all culled then how did Tell inherit the color? Could it be that only the most dilute Blues “passed” as Grays and therefore kept producing Blues, and only the darker ones were culled? This would mean that there would be dilute Blues in Germany today, but as far as this author knows, even very dilute Blues do not exist in Germany.

All we do know is that Tell was atypically dark. Perhaps the color was merely a function of unusual degree of minimal penetrance of the dilute factor, and Blue Weimaraners always existed. Certainly the Germans seem justified in being concerned enough to test this type of theory by cautioning that Tell’s offspring be watched as he was a darker dog. By his offspring we learned that, he is unlikely to be cross-bred, but there is no denying what was written in his official Klub records. Mutation is always possible so it can never be ruled out. All three theories can be well-argued.

In the end, does it really matter? The blue coat can be eliminated in one generation, and even if Tell were cross-bred, a dozen generations later, the point is moot; the percentage of crossbred blood is so miniscule that Blues would still considered purebred after so many generations.  Tell is the progenitor of the Blue Weimaraner in the United States, and his genes are behind many of today’s Weimaraners -- regardless of color. And while he will forever be in the Weimaraner history books due to the coat color controversy, he should also be respected for what he contributed to the Weimaraner breed as a whole in the United States.


© Anne Taguchi