Shiloh Shepherd History

Shiloh Shepherds are largely based on the foundation of about 20 dogs, and all Shilohs can trace their pedigree back to these founders.

The breed was founded by Tina Barber, who was born in Germany in 1947 and was a 3rd generation German Shepherd breeder.

Tina emigrated to America when she was 11, and started showing and titling German Shepherds in conformation and Schutzhund as a teenager.

As she grew older, she yearned for the larger-boned, Wurttemberg-type mountain shepherds she remembered from her childhood in Germany, and began to pivot her breeding program. Her key goals were larger bone & size, extensive health testing, and an easier-to-handle temperament.

a now-extinct German herding dog, c. 1939

To accomplish her goals, Tina began the LMX (Littermate X-Ray) program, which required hip x-rays for every dog she placed.

Her process involved littermate comparisons to track down stronger lines. E.g. If there was a litter of 10 puppies, and only 1 had bad hips, while another litter of 10 puppies had 7 bad hips, it was an indicator of the parents (pedigree) strengths/weaknesses. 

“Most people have a tendency to focus on the individual dogs they breed, without much regard to their littermates! Some breeders research the “Champions” in their pedigree, but ignore all of the other “untitled” dogs (as well as their littermates) because no data has been accumulated on them, other than name and (possible) color.”

Tina Barber

Tina believed that it was necessary to get a bigger picture of what health issues were popping up in her lines.

She was also open to the idea of outcrossing her dogs for health and genetic diversity.

Her first outcross was to a German Shepherd/Sarplaninac mix named Sabrina. Sabrina had been bred by Don Baker, who was continuing his 30-year program of breeding the Württemberg shepherd type. He called his dogs “Texas Woolys.”

Sabrina was approximately 10% Sarplaninac, 90% German Shepherd

In 1990 Tina Barber used Samson-Woo as an outcross, who was approximately 42% Alaskan Malamute, 58% German Shepherd by pedigree. He had OFA excellent hips and stood 31″ tall at the withers. He was only bred 3 times, but he is behind all modern Shilohs.

As of 2021 (30 years of the breed) Samson-Woo has been the only individual with Alaskan Malamute content.

Samson-Woo in 1990

Samson-Woo was part of Chuck Eisenmann’s breeding program in an attempt to obtain more London screen doubles.

If you aren’t familiar, London was a dog used in The Littlest Hobo TV series!

The Littlest Hobo - Wikipedia

Modern Shilohs are approximately 5% Samson-Woo by pedigree, which means that their Alaskan Malamute content is around 2-4%.

Although this may change, this shows how selective the breeding programs have been about adding new blood!

After Samson-Woo, the other notable outcrosses added by Tina Barber included:

Artus (Trillium Artus zum Soehrewald) : An Altdeutsche Schäferhund “Old German Shepherd Dog,” imported from The Netherlands. Hips were OFA Good. First used in 1999.

Orbit (Hoof Print Orbit): A White Swiss Shepherd from Hoofprint Kennels. Hips were rated Excellent. First used in 2000.

Vilk (Zdenek’s Vlcak of Zion): A Czech Vlack imported from Czechoslovakia. First used in 2005.

In 1991, Shiloh Shepherds were recognized by the American Rare Breed Association, and this was considered the official launch of Shiloh Shepherds as a separate breed.

The Shiloh Shepherd breed standard was written by Tina Barber and illustrated by Linda Shaw (author and illustrator of the famous book The Illustrated Standard for the German Shepherd Dog).

Shiloh Shepherds were briefly accepted by the UKC until Tina Barber pulled them out of it to continue development.

Today, they compete primarily in IABCA, ICKC, and breed-specific specialties with AKC/CKC guest judges.

The studbooks stayed open since the genetic pool was small, and Tina Barber was still trying to improve health, temperament, and conformation in her lines.

 “These projects “take a village” – a network of breeders that will allow their dogs to participate and help place the puppies produced, dog lovers willing to accept an outcross puppy and raise it to maturity so it can be used in the breeding program, kennel clubs who help manage the record-keeping, and geneticists and animal breeding specialists who work out the best strategies to accomplish goals efficiently and effectively as possible. These programs require careful planning, coordination, and leadership, and embarking on an outcrossing program is a commitment. But the payoffs in improving the health and welfare of dogs are huge.”

Institute of Canine Biology

In 1994, Tina Barber started to lose control of the breed.

It was starting to become apparent that although Tina had some good ideas, she often skirted her own rules.

Breeders began to split off from her registry so that they could uphold stronger standards.

Some breeders decided to bring in more German Shepherd outcrosses, while others supported the original goal of increasing genetic diversity.

Why not outcross to a GSD?

Despite the style, Shilohs Shepherds all stem from the same founding kennel. The genetic markers for Shiloh Shepherds are stable enough that they can be identified by an Embark DNA test. Example here.

We support the ISSA Shiloh Shepherd Registry. They uphold the vision of a large-boned, mountain-type shepherd with a heart of gold.  They require a wide panel of health testing, their standards are high, and they work together to make informed decisions backed by science.

The ISSA uses UC Davis and BetterBred to track genetic diversity and to identify the best breed pairings. You can read more about UC Davis’ analysis of Shilohs here.

I am proud to be a Breeder-in-Training with this responsible organization! 🧡