At some point 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, dogs and wolves diverged. Since Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, in the evolutionary grand scheme of things, 40 thousand is a drop in the bucket, and several dog breeds still resemble wolves. So which are the dogs that look like wolves? Well, we’ve given it some thought — and our top eight picks are below!
#1 Wolf-Like Dog: American Alsatian
Bred as large companion dogs, American Alsatians are wrapped in varieties of brown, black, and white fur. Shaggy with piercing yellow eyes, American Alsatians bear a striking resemblance to wolves. In fact, when movies need dogs that look like wolves, they typically call on American Alsatians.
But acting is one of the few jobs they do well. Though their line traces back to Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, and English Mastiffs — a genetic soup which includes bona fide worker dogs — breeders amplified relaxed traits. As a result, today’s American Alsatians would much prefer to spend their days lounging and frolicking with their beloved humans than laboring.
Because of their gentle natures, American Alsatians make great family and therapy dogs.
#2 Wolf-Like Dog: Northern Inuit Dogs
Northern Inuit Dogs — also known as Kugsha — were explicitly bred as wolf-looking canines for both work and companionship. Like their wild brethren, Northern Inuit Dogs have massive heads and upright, pointy ears. Their long, bushy tails, strong legs, and yellow, almond-shaped eyes also scream WOLF!
Northern Inuit Dog’s exact lineage remains a bit of a mystery, though traces of Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Samoyeds, and Siberian Huskies course through their DNA. British Timbers, Tamaskans, and Utonagans are offshoot breeds, but no major kennel club officially recognizes them.
Northern Inuit Dogs enjoy a Hollywood claim to fame: they’re the dire wolves in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
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#3 Wolf-Like Dog: Siberian Husky
When asked to list dogs that look like wolves, most people immediately shout, “Siberian Huskies!” The medium-sized canines — bred by the Chukchi people — originally hail from northern Asia. Some strains are geared towards sledding; others are built for guarding and companionship. They have erect, triangular ears and look a lot like their larger cousins, Alaskan Malamutes.
Engineered to withstand frigid temperatures, Siberian Huskies have two fur layers and long bushy tails they curl around themselves when cold. Most members of the breed are black and white — but some rare beauties sport sable and brown coats.
If you’re in the mood for a based-on-a-true-story, heartstring-plucking flick about an incredible Siberian Husky, mush over to Togo. Good dog!
#4 Wolf-Like Dog: Saarloos Wolfdog
Saarloos Wolfdogs are dead-ringers for wolves — probably because they’re a quarter lupine!
A mix between German Shepherds and Eurasian grey wolves, Saarloos Wolfdogs have large, upright, pointed ears and long thin legs.
Its original breeder, Dutchman Leendert Saarloos, wanted to revitalize canines’ primitive instincts in a German Shepherd-like dog. He believed working hounds had gotten too soft and wanted to reintroduce a bit of wolf. To that end, he mated a male German Shepherd and female wolf. Then, Saarloos paired their offspring with German Shepherds.
But the results betrayed the breeder’s vision. His brood turned out to be docile companion dogs. Today, the Dutch Kennel Club recognizes the breed, and they’re frequently touted as great for outdoorsy families.
#5 Wolf-Like Dog: Canadian Eskimo Dog / Canadian Inuit Dog
Called “qimmit” by some Inuit peoples and the Canadian Inuit Dog by the Nunavut government, Canadian Eskimo Dogs were bred for work. Medium-sized with large, triangular ears and dark, amygdaliform eyes, Canadian Eskimo Dogs exude an undeniable wolf-like aura.
Unfortunately, they’re also facing extinction. According to the last viable count, only about 300 purebreds remain.
What led to the Canadian Eskimo Dog decline? Cynophilists link the breed’s misfortune to a multi-decade culling initiative executed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Between 1950 and 1970, Canadian law enforcement officers routinely killed Canadian Eskimo Dogs. According to some estimates, 20,000 dogs lost their lives during the period.
First Nations peoples remember the campaign as a power play to hurt native communities. The RCMP insists the executions were an unfortunate but necessary measure fueled by public health concerns.
To learn more about Eskimo Dogs, known as “Eskies,” here.
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#6 Wolf-Like Dog: Alaskan Malamute
Alaskan Malamutes fall squarely into the “dogs that look like wolves” category. They’re near-identical to Siberian Huskies — except bigger and fluffier.
A cold-weather canine bred to haul snow sleds, Alaskan Malamutes can bear Arctic temperatures. But caveat emptor: all that toasty fur — which gives them a wolf-like appearance — falls out! Alaskan Malamutes shed, shed, and then shed some more.
If, however, you’re in the market for a loving, loyal, large pup — and carpets of falling fur don’t bother you — Alaskan Malamutes are a breed to explore. Get more than one if you can, though! Like wolves, Alaskan Malamutes prefer to hang in packs.
#7 Wolf-Like Dog: German Shepherd
The second most popular dog breed in the United States, German Shepherds are one of the most common wolf type dogs. They come in various colors and, like their lupine ancestors, sport double fur coats. German Shepherds big, perky ears also pay homage to their feral roots.
People are quick to accuse German Shepherds of hyper aggression, but in reality, most are simply aloof with strangers — not hostile. Individuals who join families as pups are usually loving, cuddly beings. They’re also intelligent, quick learners.
However, if they don’t feel seen and loved, German Shepherds can destructively express their frustration. So if you’re considering welcoming one into your life, make sure you can shower them with love and attention.
To learn more about German Shepherds, which shed excessively, here.
#8 Wolf-Like Dog: Swedish Vallhund
Our last pick for dogs that look like wolves is the Swedish Vallhund. Averaging about 25 pounds and 12 inches high, Swedish Vallhunds are the pipsqueaks of the wolf type dog pack. Though small, their distinctive ears, thick coat, and sturdy builds serve as testaments to their roots.
Swedish Vallhunds were Viking favorites, and the stocky breed would regularly join on longship voyages.
But people with allergies should be careful around Vallhunds. These energetic dogs shed their hearts out twice a year — and for their size, they offload a bunch of fur.
That’s our top 10 list of dogs that look like wolves. Next up: the oldest living animals currently on Earth!