You may have noticed from my pictures, I have a rather "different" looking coat from other Airedales. My coat is softer and woollier than most Airedales, and it gets quite curly sometimes. Instead of the standard black and tan colour, I have "charcoal" and "cream" (almost like the colour of a Wheaten Terrier). The dark part of my body extends all the way down my thighs and my ears also stay dark throughout my lifetime.
Breeders' call this type of coat "sheepcoat" and it is not the desirable coat according to the Airedale standard. However, they do and can crop up from almost any bloodline, much like the white blaze some Airedales have. Some believe it's a recessive gene, some believe it comes from the old English bloodlines, some believe it all goes back to the original breeding in which the Airedale was created from a Black and Tan Terrier and an Otterhound (Otterhound has a softer coat), and some believe it is a mutated gene of some sort. Who knows?
Jane Harvey (http://rangeairevision.com/about/jane.php), Australian breeder of over 80 champions and a well respected International Judge gives her input on the sheepcoats:
"These seem to crop up from time to time and are not the desired coat for the breed. In fact, these coats completely lack the top coat. An Airedale's coat was originally designed to come out in the claws of the digging animals he was bred to chase. So, an extension of a non-moulting coat was selected for, where the coat had to be 'tugged' before it came out. So, this feature became the Airedale's natural defence against the predators he was used to hunt. That is why it is recommended that the coat be hand stripped. The hardness of the coat was selected for as a feature of the breed. But along with the best of coats, breeders found these sheep coats cropped up from time to time. Sheep coated puppies are the prettiest and most appealing of them all! But their grooming is always time consuming and a headache."
"It is a mystery where these sheepcoats come from. I believe it is from a genetic mutation of come sort. Because a sheepcoated Airedale's coat is quite unlike any other breed's coat. I have observed that sheepcoated puppies occur in litters where the hardest of coats also appear. Airedales are not the only breed that has this type of problem -German Shepherds can produce incorrect coats - a long coated version as can Welsh Corgi's both Cardigan and Pembroke. And these breeds are certainly unrelated to Airedales!"
Am I a "beautifully mutated" Airedale??
As you can see from my previous posts, both of my parents had the correct coat for Airedales, but for some reason, at least 2 out of 8 in our litter had sheepcoats like me. Here are two pictures of my brothers. Winston, you might remember was picked up on the same day as me. He has a sheepcoat too, just like me. Harry on the other hand had the correct coat. He lives with the breeder and is an American Champion. Mum thinks they are both very handsome despite the difference in coat texture.
My brother Winston with hair like mine
My other brother Harry with the gorgeous Airedale coat
Even though the sheep coat is not the desirable coat for an Airedale, mum admits she LOVES my coat. She says it makes me look SOO cute like a stuffed teddy bear. I remember mum took me to our local carnival couple years ago to show me what a carnival was like. There were a lot of people, a lot of distractions, and a lot of food being dropped on the ground. Being the good girl that I was, I kept my eye on mum the whole time and didn't cause any trouble. I sat beside mum while she and her friends wasted their money on the carnival games. Mum wasn't very good at the dart game so we waited for her friends to finish playing. While we were waiting, a man walked by and carelessly swept his hand over my head. He took me by surprise so I stood up, and boy did he ever JUMP!! He gasped and said "OH MY GOD, I THOUGHT THAT WAS A TOY!". Apparently I sat there so still that he thought mum had won one of those "big" stuffed animal prizes from the carnival games. After he gathered himself from the initial shock, mum properly introduced us and the man couldn't stop petting me because he still couldn't believe I was "real". I of course, tolerated the petting from a complete stranger like a well balanced dog should.
Just look at my face, how can anyone not love me???
Mum says the only downside to my coat is that it brings EVERYTHING in. Sand, burrs, mud, you name it gets stuck in between my woolly hair and in the curls. So after I have been to the beach, I bring the beach home, onto mum's bed!!! You can always tell what position I was sleeping in by the shape of the sand that's left on the bed. Needless to say, mum is constantly changing sheets.
This is what mum is talking about - look at all the burrs stuck to my face....