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Mrs. Hoyt Discusses Color of the Poodle Skin
...Taken directly from The Book of the Poodle by Anna Katherine Nicholas (Pages 294 -298).
The color of any animal's skin, whether solid, parti-colored or spotted, is not the surface effect which it appears, but is rather the result of continuous chemical prpocesses going on within the inner layers of the outer portion of the skin and subject to variations even within an individual animal.
Within the cells of animal tissue there are - among countless others - two chemical processes continuously going on: the building up of protein material and the breaking down or cellular digestion of protein material. Just as an animal's digestive system breaks a food down into component products of digestion, so also in cellular digestion are the proteins broken down into and through a large number of component parts. One of these protein parts (tyrosine), when acted upon by an acrivating agent (tyrosinase) found in some of the inner cellular strata of the skin, is converted into a pigment which produces skin colors ranging all the way from slightly shaded pink to brown and black, depending on how much of the pigment (melanin) is being produced and deposited within the cells. A slight deposition of pigment merely serves to darken the pink color of underlying skin tissue as seen through the outer laayers of skin, whereas a heavier deposition hides the underlying pink and gives a brown or even solid black appearance.
An animal inherits, according to the laws of Mendel or chance, a solid skin color or a varied color ("pattern," "Markings," etc.). However, there is a broader and more basic way of saying the same thing: any living creature is born with a vast multiplicity of chemical tendences and characteristics, some of which, for example, contribute to health, some to disposition, and some to external appearance such as color.
Since the pigment-forming (or color) reaction is common to all normal animals, let us now consider it in a little more details. the protein digestive product tyrosine is normally found in cellular metabolism in all animals (metabolism being defined as "the sum of all the physical and chemical processes by which living organized substance is produced and maintained"). The activating agent or enzyme tyrosinase is normally present in the inner cellular strata of the outer layer of skin of all animals. When tyrosinase acts upon tyrosine the pigment melanin is produced. Two internal conditions therefore obviously affect the amount of pigment formed and the rate of its production: the amounts of both substances present. Heat has been proved to accelerate this chemical reaction, and the radiation effects of sunlight also may contribute, since the pigment is deposited in increased amount in sunburn.
As well as accounting for varying degrees of darkness of the skin, including the nose, lips, and eye rims, this pigment is also present in varying amounts in the colored portion (iris) of the eye, and the concentration of its presence explains ranges of eye color from light yellow-brown to dark brown or "black."
A very interesting freak condition known as albinism is accompanied by the absence ofthis pigment or the lack in an animal or portion of an animal of the particular chemical sequence necessary to produce it. in fact, albinism has been described as "an inborn error in metabolism." Here one find the abnormal condition of skin which has no pigment whatever and therefore gives the impression of pure pinkness, whereas the absence of all pigment in the surface layers really permits one to see the actual color of the underlying tissues which carry the skin's blood supply. Hence, also, the vivid pink of eyes, eye rims, nose, and lips.
Albinism (being a systemic lack of the normally present pigment-forming reaction) often causes severe eye trouble and sometimes deafness; it is a serious weakness in any animal and a trend which should be discouraged in breeding whenever possible. it is, fortunately, a naturally recessive trait.
White animals normally occurring in nature are not albinos but have dark eyes, nose, and lips together with a skin color which, due to the presence of pigment, ranges from darker than albino pink to deeper hues, depending on the concentration of pigment. All these naturally occurring white animals have the darkest portions of their skin at points most exposed to sun and weather and least protected by cost - namely nose, lips, eye rims, and eyes.
Before proceeding to any specific type of animal, let us summarize what has already been discussed.
1. Skin color is an effect chemically produced and chemically maintained and is a function of skin cell metabolism common to all normal animals.
2. The degree of skin color depends upon the amount of pigment deposited within certain cellular skin strata.
3. The rate of pigment production varies with the amount of chamical reactants present and is also subject to variation due to heat.
4. Continuous exposure causes our normal skin to darken.
5. Albinisn, an abnormal systemic weakness accompanied by the lack of all pigment-forming processes, produces either generally or locally a completely pink skin.
6. Normal white animals are not albinos, since their skin metabolism produces varying amounts of pigment in the skin.
How does all this apply to Poodles?
It has been claimed that a white Poodle must have a "pink or pinkish skin." In fact, the question of the pink skinned versus the so-called "silver skinned" whites is a favorite old "bone," so why nnot consider it in the light of history, proven physiological facts, and the Poodle Standard of Perfection?
the most general colors mentioned in early authentic literature (to the best of the writer's knowledge) are black, liver, and pied or spotted (Gervase, 1621). Later we read and see pictures of the "jet black with white feet" (Taplin and Reinagle, 1803), and finally whites, either "pure or crossed" are mentioned (Idstone, about 1865). The dark colors were unquestionably the preponderant variations in the early days of the breed.
Where, then, did the first white feet and "pies" or spots come from? There are three possibilities which readily occur to me. there may have been a northern white strain; there were undoubtedly many "international alliances" between dark-colored Poodles and white or white-marked "foreigners" of other breeds; and there were unquestionably occasional albino freaks.
we must therefore assume that the early "spotted" and "pied" dogs had pigment-bearing skins and that the solid white lines were developed from these by more or less selective breeding. therefore, based on both normal physiology (as already described) and historical averages, we find pigment-forming characteristics in the skins of white Poodles.
Eventually, when dog breeding was taken up as a definite art or occupation, associations were formed and "Standards of Perfection" established as goals for breeders to strive for. the english Poodle Standard, from which ours from taken, to say nothing of the Poodle Standards of all leading dog-breeding countries, calls for black noses, lips, eye rims, and ark eyes in white Poodles, which again confirms the findings of historians and physiologists that normal animals have pigment-forming skin characteristics, for otherwise there could not be dark eyes and black noses, eye rims, and lips in a white dog.
As long as we cannot have black noses and dark eyes without the chemical skin reaction which forms pigment, and since history, science, and all Standards of Perfection demand these "points" in whites, we must prefer the skins of white Poodles to show pigment formation, which will of cousre be more prominent in the exposed areas. It is about as reasonable to expect to breed a Poodle having an even and unchanging pink skin without any signs of pigment elsewhere than in black nose and lips an dark eyes as to breed one with his clipping design "ready made." Whether this "color" is present in patches of darker pinkish gray or "silver," or whether it appears evenly distributed all over is as yet a matter of more or less breeding chance.
This latter even distribution of "color" in a pinkish skin is the much-discussed "silver." for while it may be sacrely darker than the albino pink under the coat, it turns a darker grayish or "silver" color where exposed.
Our Standard calls for dark eyes and black nose, lips, and eye rimes, and very wisely said nothing about the skin color elsewhere except, without referring to either skin or coat, to call for "any solid color." If this is interpreted, as it sometimes has been, to refer to skin, then anyone who knows the principles of skin coloration or has had any real experience with white animals will realize that the falsely but popularly called "silver skin" is most desirable and that the spotted skin, that is, light skin with dark spots, is far better than all pink.
The Poodle has been described as a "self colored" breed, which we assume to mean a naturally occurring color. Then why object to naturally appearing colors and color reactions in whites and apricots when it is well-known, and not condemned, that the skins of blacks, grays and browns also darken under exposure?
The Standard demands that white Poodles have black nose, lips and eye rims and dark eyes. Nature and science demand with these dark "points" a pigment-bearing skin. If we combine these two we have one of the most beautiful and spectacular animal color combinations conforming to the Standards of Poodledom, nature and science."
If there's any interest in continuing with Hoyt's discussions, I'll follow next with "Mrs. Hoye Further Discusses Color.
One day I'll count the number of typos.