Are German Shepherds Part Wolves? The Surprising Truth


Is my German Shepherd part wolf might sound like a weird question, but trust us… it is asked quite frequently. This is not that surprising at all. Anyone who knows what a German Shepherd dog (GSD) looks like has probably asked themself the same question.

German Shepherds might come in different colors like silver, black, etc., but their general appearance is the same. Their well-known and popular appearance tends to associate some people with them having a wolf-like appearance.

It is a known thing that a lot of domesticated dogs have a couple of similarities with wolves, but how many similarities are there?

Does the German Shepherd dog breed have a lot of similarities with wolves? We will find out throughout this article.

Is My German Shepherd Part Wolf?

german shepherd in nature

The German Shepherd dog is probably one of the dog breeds that resembles their wolf descendands the most. The question is, are they actually part wolf? Even though it would be amazing to say that they are, they are indeed not.

Their strong and wolf-like appearance is one of the reasons why German Shepherds can appear to be aggressive dogs.

A lot of domesticated dogs have descended from a gray wolf, including the German Shepherd. This means that the German Shepherd has some wolf genes, but not as much as some other dogs have, and you will be surprised when we tell you later on which dogs have more wolf DNA than a German Shepherd.

We understand that there might be some confusion since they have a lot of similarities appearance-wise when you take a glance at this dog breed.

We determined that German Shepherds are not part wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid, but if you want to know why they look like wolves, keep on reading.

What Is The Reason For German Shepherds Looking So Similar To Wolves?

german shepherd dog sniffing in the grass

The German Shepherd, as a dog breed that we all know and love, is here only because of one reason – to be more precise, because of one man. That man is Max von Stephanitz. One dog show and one specific dog is what started it all.

A dog called Hektor Linksrhein caught his eye. He believed that this dog was full of potential, and that he could make an amazing breed by using this dog. Because he fell in love with the dog, he decided to buy it.

Hektor Linksrhein was renamed to “Horand von Grafrath” when Max finally bought him. Horand was believed to be a quarter wolf. Max didn’t fall in love only with the dog’s wolf-like appearance… oh, no.

He believed that this dog would make an amazing herding dog, or to be a bit more precise, sheepdog. He was amazed by Horand’s intelligence, obedience, strength, and willingness to learn.

This all happened in 1899 in Germany where he immediately started the Society for German Shepherd dogs.

Horand von Grafrath is thought to be the first German Shepherd, and even the father of all German Shepherds. Since it was common back in that time that wolfdogs were used for crossbreeding, it is believed that Max did this as well.

Horand von Grafrath, who had wolf genes already and looked like a wolf, was crossbred with wolfdogs. Among many puppies that he created, one specific puppy that looked the most like Max intened to was named Hektor von Schwaben.

This puppy showed a lot of traits that Max was going for, and because of that, this puppy was inbred with other Horand’s puppies.

This is one of the reasons why today’s purebred German Shepherds are believed to have a wolf-like appearance. They might not be directly crossbred with wolves, but you can see that dogs that were the origins of this breed were all connected with wolves, and have the appearance of the wolf.

Once Max got the perfect look that resembles a wolf, he kept on breeding them like that for over 30 years. You can tell that they were deliberately bred to look like wolves, and it stayed that way till this day.

RELATED: The German Shepherd Coyote Mix: Everything You Need To Know

What Dog Breeds Were Used To Create A German Shepherd?

two belgian shepherd malinois and one german shepherd sitting in the grass

We saw that a special dog was used to create the breed we know today, but it did not look exactly like this back in the day. They resemble wolves even more than they do now purely because of the color they used to be.

To get the German Shepherd that we have now, some selective breeding was done. No, there is no modern-day wolf included, but there are some breeds that also look like a wolf was involved.

Here is the list of dogs that were included in creating a GSD:

– Belgian Shepherds

Wurttemberg Sheep Dog

– Swabian Service Dog

Dutch Shepherds

After some time of breeding these dogs, we got a dog that is intelligent, an amazing working dog, and an even better family dog that we now call the German Shepherd breed.

RELATED: 16 Dogs That Look Like German Shepherds (Meet The Clones)

Wolf VS German Shepherd: What Are The Differences Between The Two?

wolf in the forest

When you look at a German Shepherd, you probably think that they have many similarities with wolves. There are, at first glance, and maybe for dog owners who are not that experienced when it comes to wolves, and to be honest… who is?

When you go more into detail appearance- and personality-wise, you can see that they are actually not that similar. This is not bad because wolves are wild animals, and they have some traits that are not desirable when it comes to domestication and domesticated dogs.

We present you differences that you maybe didn’t notice before:

Height and weight. German Shepherds are smaller than wolves. They weigh around 65 to 90 lbs., and can grow around 22 to 26 inches. Wolves, on the other hand, weigh anywhere between 80 to 180 lbs., and can grow 26 to 33 inches in height.

General appearance. German Shepherds will have a smaller snout, skull, and teeth. The interesting thing is that their paws are almost two times smaller than the wolf’s paws. Their legs are shorter as well. Generally, even though GSDs are large dogs, they are a lot smaller than wolves. A German Shepherd’s eye color is mostly brown while wolves have amber and yellowish eye color.

Hunting. Hunting dog is not one of the titles that German Shepherds hold. These pooches are herding dogs, and that is the opposite of their hunting fellows. This means that they are not going to have prey that they hunt, but they keep the animals that the wolf would hunt close to them to protect them. They can have a prey drive and lure small animals, but even then they won’t hurt the animal. Wolves, on the other hand, are hunters. This is their way of survival, and they hunt in packs. Because of this, they can catch big prey.

Diet. Wolves are known for eating the meat of any animal that they hunt, which makes them carnivores. German Shepherds can eat meat as well, but it will not be their main form of daily meal… only if the owner goes for the raw meat diet, which is not that common. They will eat store-bought food and even vegetables like green beans and brussels sprouts, and fruit that their dog owner can give them from time to time.

Bite force. Wolves have a much stronger bite force. To be more precise, 1200 psi, and even more. German Shepherds have a strong bite force, but are much weaker than the wolf. Their bite force is around 239 psi.

Which Dogs Have More Wolf DNA Than The German Shepherd?

chow chow dog in forest

It is a very interesting fact that every dog breed we know today has descended from a gray wolf. Through domestication, we got dogs that went from looking like a wolf to dogs that look like Poodles, Great Danes, and Dachshunds.

You can tell that all three of these dogs are totally different from one another, but all have wolf genes. What dogs are more related to wolves? The answer might surprise you.

The first breed is the Chow Chow, and closely behind this breed comes the Japanese Akita. These two dog breeds are the first to emerge from the gray wolves, and because of that, they share the most DNA with wolves.

Here are some other breeds that have more wolf genes than a German Shepherd:

Alaskan Malamute

– Lhasa Apso

– Saluki

– Pekingese

– Basenji

– Samoyed

– Shih Tzu

– Shar-Pei

– Tibetan Terrier

We can all agree that these dogs do not look exactly like they have any connection with wolves, but it turns out they have.

Is A German Shepherd Wolf Mix A Good Family Dog?

german shepherd wolf mix in nature

German Shepherds and wolves can mate, but we assure you it is not a good idea at all to get one of these. German Shepherd Wolf pups will look cute for sure, and few of us will be able to resist them, but you need to look at the bigger picture.

There is a reason why there are almost no breeders who will breed this mix. They are certainly not the best dogs to have as family pets. They will have a more wolfy gene pool within them than the GSD one.

Socialization with these dogs is not something that you can control because they will have a lot of natural instincts that wolves have.

Rarely can things happen, and this mix can be created. If that miraculously happens to you and you are a first-time owner, you should find someone who has more experience.

All in all, we truly suggest that you don’t look more into this mixed breed because you will for sure end up giving the dog away. An even more important thing to emphasize is that they can be very dangerous.

If you want a mix that includes this breed, rather look at the German Shepherd Golden Retriever mix instead. Even though most of the mixed breeds are not approved by the AKC, they are for sure a lot safer and more of a family dog than the GSD wolf mix.

To Sum It All Up

The answer to the question, Is my German Shepherd dog part wolf?, is no! They do have some wolf genes, but every dog breed has – some even more than the German Shepherd as you could previously see.

They for sure have some similarities when you look at them when it comes to appearance, but we explained why that is so.

When you look closer, and in more detail, they are not as similar as we might think. We presented some of the differences, but generally speaking, wolves are much bigger than a German Shepherd dog.

We hope that you found out many interesting facts when it comes to these two animals, and that when it comes to mixing the two… well, stay out of it. Those canines will not be good pets even for experienced dog owners.