Hairlessness Mutation

All photos by Marjan de Raad-Hemminga.

Even though it is not a test for a genetic disease, Deerhounds do have a new genetic test available: for the recessive mutation that causes hairlessness in our breed.

Hairless Deerhounds have occasionally been seen both in Europe and the U.S. for decades; in fact, Anastasia Noble (Ardkinglas Deerhounds), who started breeding in the 1930s, said that the first Deerhound she ever saw was hairless. Many people are familiar with the Deerhound Annual article from the early 1980s that featured some hairless Deerhounds here in the U.S.


In a large litter of Deerhounds born in The Netherlands in 2017, half were hairless and half were normal. The breeder, Marjan de Raad-Hemminga, wrote about the puppies,

Fourteen puppies were born, seven with a shining black coat and seven with a matt undercoat of a curly kind. I wasn’t alarmed in any way, as I had never heard of hairlessness in the Deerhound breed and expected that this coat would end up being thicker.

During the first four weeks, however, the little curls became straight hairs and most of it fell out. The pups became grey coloured, bald pups feeling sweaty and at that age they looked like little alien creatures.

Instead of covering it up, Marjan was very open about it, and she found loving homes for all of the puppies.

As Elaine Ostrander, Chief and Distinguished Investigator at the Cancer Genetics and Comparative Genomics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and her colleagues had done some work on hairlessness in dogs before, Richard Hawkins and Barb Heidenreich thought they might be interested in this litter. As we already had a relationship with Drs. Ostrander and Parker, we contacted them, and, indeed, they were interested. So in 2018 we went to work, got Board approval for some money to cover the shipping of the samples from Europe, and the research began.

A few months later, a group of Finnish researchers published this article.

While this identified the mutation as a simple recessive, it didn’t discuss gene expression, so in 2019 Drs. Parker, Whitaker, Harris, and Ostrander published this article.

Based on the gene on which the mutation is found—it’s the same gene that causes American Hairless Terriers to be hairless—and the experiences of those who have raised hairless puppies to maturity, these dogs do NOT have any health issues related to their hairlessness and are completely normal Deerhounds otherwise.

In the U.S., you can now test for the hairless mutation through Mars Wisdom Panel’s Optimal Selection test kit.

Remember: this is not a disease, so the mutation is listed under “Coat type.” The same goes for the results—you can find them under “Coat type.”

With simple recessive mutations, only “affected” dogs, with two copies of the mutation, are hairless. “Clear” dogs have no copies of the mutation, and “carriers” have one copy. Both clears and carriers have completely normal coats, although carriers need to be bred to clear dogs in order to be sure no hairless puppies are produced.

We do not know whether the incidence of hairlessness is the same in North America and Europe, so it’s impossible at this point to predict what the incidence will be here. We’ll learn more as more people test.

Also printed in the May/June 2020 Claymore.