Though our domesticated dog is quite far removed from its ancestor, the wolf, whose territorial nature usually precludes interbreeding, the two can mate, whether in the wild (which seldom happens) or in captivity. This hybrid is a wolfdog, and the western timber dog is a newer breed of this type.
There has been some natural mixing of species in the wild, especially between gray wolves and dogs, which are genetically similar. Evidence of admixture (mixing of previously separated genetic lines) is found in the black coats of some Eurasian and North American wolves which have been traced to the presence of dog DNA in wolves.
However, most crossbreeding has resulted from specific breeder attempts to create unique breeds. Breeders mated larger dogs with wolves (red, eastern, Ethiopian, or gray—considered to be the same species as the dog) to create a breed with some of the strength or tracking characteristics of the wolf and traits of the domesticated dog. The most notable efforts have resulted in the Czechoslovakian and Saaroloos wolfdogs.
The Czechoslovakian wolfdog, also known as the Czechoslovakian Vlcak, is a wolfdog resulting from the admingling of the Carpathian gray wolf and the German shepherd. The breed resulted from an experiment in the late 1950s and early 1960s to create a hardy animal to aid the military in monitoring border crossings in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The dog is intelligent yet somewhat unpredictable, therefore not suitable for being around children.
Hardy and durable, the Czechoslovakian wolfdog has no upper size limit; their smallest size is 24 inches at the shoulder (female) and 44 pounds (female). Males measure 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh 57 pounds. They have strong teeth and heightened senses compared to the typical domesticated dog. Its coat is silver to yellow-gray, with white masking.
The Saaroloos wolfdog has an older pedigree created in 1932 from breeding a German Shepherd with a captive Eurasian gray wolf. Leendert Saarloo then paired the female offspring back with the German Shepherd father. Originally called the European wolfdog, the name was later changed to honor the breeder. Though he was trying to breed a better working dog, the wolf qualities diminished the working attributes provided by the German shepherd. The dog is primarily a companion dog for those who spend time in a more natural setting. It, too, is not a good companion dog for children.
Unlike the Czechoslovakian wolfdog, the Saaroloos wolfdog has an upper size limit, though it is heavier on the low end. Males weigh between 79 and 90 pounds and stand 24 to 30 inches at the shoulder. Females weigh 66 to 77 pounds, standing between 23 and 28 inches tall. Their coats can come in many colors, commonly gra, but sometimes brown, red, or white.
A New Wolfdog/Hybrid: The Western Timber Dog
There have been recent efforts to gain recognition for a third wolfdog: the western timber dog. Unlike the Czechoslovakian and the Saaroloos wolfdogs, which are based solely on German shepherd/wolf combinations, the domesticated dog stock included in the lineage of the western timber dog has Alaskan Malamutes and Siberian Huskies with a dash of Samoyed. Rather than beginning the breeding with wolves, high wolf-content wolfdogs were chosen.
An association has developed standards for the breed, but all western timber dogs share common traits. The dog has a lean appearance that approximates that of the timber wolf. The western timber dog will have a thick double coat that ranges from moderate to long. Its fur will be gray, white, black, brown, or red, with a light-colored undercoat. They typically weigh between 75-95 pounds (males) and 65-85 pounds (females). Their average height has yet to be determined.
Although wolfdogs have not been accepted in all kennel clubs, breeders of the western timber dog are maintaining breeding standards and records in the hopes of gaining it recognition as the first American wolfdog in the AKC.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © mjurik/Shutterstock.com
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