Shepherd Dogs and Wolf-like Dogs
(Different types of Shepherds, new Shepherd breeds and GSD varieties, Wolf-dog hybrids and other Wolf-like dogs)

This page includes all dog breeds with a typical shepherd dog or lupine appearance, indifferently of their lineage or genetic make-up. The breeds included here are not meant to form a formal category,  but were just brought together in an attempt to host under a common denominator all shepherd dog varieties and wolf-like dogs, whether or not they are of recent wolf ancestry.

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All share some common characteristics in their morphology, trainability, and intelligence, even if they can be very different in some aspects.

German Shepherd Varieties

The most common German shepherd variety is the traditional short-haired black-and-tan. However, other color and coat varieties do exist, even if only some of them are accepted in the showring. More about the German shepherd varities >>
Local re-creations of the GSD include the Kunming dog and Belorussian Shepherd (also known as Byelorussian Ovcharka or East European Shepherd). The Kunming dog and Byelorussian Ovcharka were attempts to re-create the GSD in China and the Soviet Union, respectively.

Apart from the GSD and the Belgian shepherds (Malinois, Tervueren, Groenendael), there are also the Dutch Shepherd dog and Bohemian Shepherd (Chodsky Pes), which, if not a direct ancestor of the GSD, descended from the same ancient Continental Shepherd dogs from which the Belgian, German and Dutch shepherd dogs derive. More about the Belgian shepherds >>

Newer breeds include the Shiloh Shepherd and White German Shepherd (also known as Swiss Shepherd dog). More about the Shiloh Shepherd and White Shepherd >>

The Kunming dog has a wolf-like appearance, but with the square, leggier structure of the very early GSD. The breed was founded in the 1950's crossing 10 Beijing military "wolf dogs", likely of GSD descent, with 20 tested local dogs and 10 German Shepherd dogs from Germany.

In the 1930's GSDs were crossed with Central Asian Ovcharkas, Russian Laikas and other local breeds, to create the Belorusian (or Byelorussian) Ovcharka, with the aim to further improve the GSD's natural ability to withstand cold.
Wolf-dog Hybrids

Even though different in make-up, three established wolf-dog hybrids (the Saarloos Wolfdog, Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and Lupo Italiano) and one experimental breed, the American Tundra Shepherd, all have German Shepherd blood in their ancestry. These wolf-dog hybrids form a category of their own, exhibiting physical characteristics of both the wolf and dog in differing combinations and to varying degrees. They are often larger in size than either the wolf or dog from which they were bred, a phenomenon termed "hybrid vigor."

Note that most of these wolf-dog hybrids are in fact quarter-wolves, i.e. the first generation wolf-dog hybrids or half-wolves were back-crossed with one of the parents (often the sire) to create more domesticated and trainable quarter-wolves.

The first attempt to create a new breed by sustained wolf-dog crossing was the work of a Dutchman, called Leendert Saarloos, who started his breeding program in 1921 to create the Saarloos wolfhond. The breed was officially recognized by the Dutch Kennel Club and the FCI.

In the 1950s, subsequent, independent breeding programs led to the creation of the Czechoslovakian Wolf-dog and the American Tundra Shepherd in the US.

The first two breeds of wolf-dogs were the result of intentional crosses between German Shepherd dogs and the European wolf (Canis lupus lupus), while the American Tundra Shepherd arose from an American experiment crossing the German Shepherd with the Alaskan Tundra wolf (Canis lupus tundrarum). The latter is described as a well-built, strong-willed dog with limitless energy and of superior intelligence.

The Lupo italiano (canis lupus italicus familiaris) results from an intentional cross between a female wolf from the Latium area in Italy and a German shepherd dog. Created in 1966, the breed now counts 600 specimens. These incorruptible and courageous dogs with a strong sense of balance and outstanding olfactive sense excell as disaster search dogs. They are not available for sale and are reproduced only following strict regulations. In Italy, they are used by disaster and emergency services and assist forest guards in their duties.

In all these breeding programs the intention was to create a superdog combining the great strength, greater stamina and better senses (scent and hearing) of the wolf with the trainability of the German shepherd. The hybrid would be close enough to the primitive dog (wolf) to be free of genetic defects and diseases often seen in popular dog breeds, but sufficiently domesticated to be utilized as military or police working dogs.

Wolf-like hybrids without recent wolf ancestry

The Tamaskan and Utonagan dogs are two wolf-like crossbreeds produced to create a dog with lupine appearance, but without wolf blood.

The Utonagan is a cross between GSD, Malamute and Siberian huskies and the progeny of four rescue dogs of unknown origin.  The founders first referred to their breed as "Northern Inuit", but then changed the breed's name to Utonagan, a name taken, by Lyn Barraclough, one of the original breeders, from a Chinook tale.

A group of breeders decided to distantiate themselves from the Utonagan Society and created a new breed out of some of the former Northern Inuit and Utonagan dogs, which they crossed with Finnish, wolf-like dogs bred for sled pulling in extreme temperatures. The new breed was called the Tamaskan dog, Tamaska meaning 'Mighty Wolf' in a North American Indian language.More about the Tamaskan dog

Wolf-like, spitz-type breeds

Some of the Northern breeds (Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky), the Laika breeds of Russia (West Siberian Laika, East Siberian Laika, Karelo-Finnish and Russo-European Laika), the Scandinavian breeds (Norwegian Elkhound, Swedish Jämthund) and the original Japanese breeds (Shikoku inu, Kai inu) are also somehow wolf-like in appearance, with a conformation that is closest to that of the Northern Wolf.

Their exact origin remains uncertain, although most authorities agree that wolf blood has most likely been added, both intentionally and unintentionally, for the last 5,000 years.

However, they differ from the other wolf-like dogs on this page by their curled tail, which they carry over their back in typical spitz fashion. See also: Northern breeds, Sled dogs, Japanese dogs.

Belgian Tervueren
Belgian Malinois
German Shepherd dog
White German Shepherd
Dutch Shepherd dog
Bohemian Shepherd
Shiloh Shepherd
by Catherine Marien-de Luca
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Recommended Books
About Dog Breeds of the World: About us | History | Privacy | Copyright | Contact
The German Shepherd Dog:
A Genetic History (Hardcover)
by Malcolm B. Willis
A definitive work on the genetic history of the breed
The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture by Max von Stephanitz
The German shepherd dog in word and picture
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Black long-haired German Shepherd dog

Bohemian Shepherd
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Kunming Dog
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Lupo italiano
Saarloos Wolfhond
Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
American Tundra Shepherd
Tamaskan dog
See also:
Belgian Shepherds
Dog Heroes
War Dogs