What Kind of Dog Is Bolt? Breed Information, Pictures, and Facts

Written by Kellianne Matthews
Published: May 19, 2023
© anetapics/Shutterstock.com
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Walt Disney’s film Bolt has captured the hearts of people everywhere since 2008. The film features an adorable white pup with a larger-than-life personality — Bolt believes he possesses superpowers! But with his striking white fur and piercing green eyes, what kind of dog is Bolt, exactly? Let’s take a closer look at the details of Bolt’s breed and explore what makes him such a unique and lovable character!

Who Is Bolt?

Bolt is the canine star of Disney’s 2008 hit film, Bolt, starring John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. In the film, a young girl named Penny adopts Bolt when he is just a puppy, and the two of them become the stars of a hit television series. Unfortunately, however, Bolt has never really been allowed to go home or act like a normal dog. Instead, this adorable white pup has spent his entire life on the production set of the TV series. Because of this, Bolt doesn’t just play a superhero dog with incredible superpowers on TV — he thinks he actually is one in real life!

One day while they are filming a new episode, Penny’s character is kidnapped by Dr. Calico, the villain in their TV series. Unfortunately, this particular episode was a cliffhanger — and since Bolt believes that the show is actually real, he bravely runs from the set to rescue his beloved owner. Fortunately, Bolt does eventually make it back home, but along the way, he discovers what it’s like to be a real dog without superpowers. In the end, Bolt returns and ends up saving Penny from a fire on set — even without any cinematic superpowers!

What Kind of Dog Is Bolt?

Technically, we don’t really know what kind of dog Bolt is. In fact, the film’s design team didn’t want Bolt to be restricted to any one dog breed. However, Joe Moshier (the lead character designer behind Bolt) explained that the inspiration for Bolt’s distinctive look initially came from a white German shepherd puppy. As Bolt’s design evolved though, he ultimately came to resemble a white Swiss shepherd instead. 

One of the traits that the characters designers really liked about these white shepherd dogs was their really long ears that stick straight up. This allowed them to give Bolt’s character more expressiveness, showing both with his face and with his ears. In addition, Bolt has a dense double coat with thick white hair, much like that of a white German shepherd or a white Swiss shepherd. In fact, the animators worked tirelessly on more than 200,000 individual hairs on Bolt to give him an extra soft and expressive appearance.

Let’s take a closer look at the canine inspirations behind Bolt’s unique character: the white German shepherd and the white Swiss shepherd.

White German Shepherd

Despite their magnificent white coloring, white German shepherds are actually just German shepherds with white hair! The only difference is that a white-colored German shepherd expresses a recessive gene that gives them their white fur. In fact, for nearly 100 years there wasn’t any distinction between the various color types. However, during the 1930s, white dogs were banned from German shepherd registration.

Fortunately, within just a few decades, the striking white German shepherd began to make a comeback. In fact, today the United Kennel Club even recognizes the white German shepherd as its own separate breed (although both white German shepherds and traditional German shepherds share the same genetics).


German shepherds are captivating dogs with chiseled heads, soul-piercing almond-shaped eyes, and long triangular-shaped ears. They are typically black and tan, all black, or all white. They have large muscular bodies that are 22 to 26 inches tall and weigh 50 to 90 pounds. German Shepherds have medium or long hair with dense fur coats. However, long hair comes from a recessive gene, so these are rarer. 

white german shepherd dog, Chicago, IL, March 2023
White German shepherds are highly intelligent.



German shepherds are highly intelligent dogs that are quick learners, although consistency is key to their success. Many owners of white German shepherds claim that they may have a more mellow personality compared to your typical working shepherd.

German shepherds were originally bred to be working dogs and herding dogs. You might recognize many of these dogs working as search and rescue dogs or as police dogs. German shepherds are also known for their unwavering loyalty, no matter what color their coats are. They are incredibly devoted to their families and will go above and beyond to keep them safe from harm. However, their natural protective instincts can also make German shepherds wary of strangers. But with the right training and socialization, white German shepherds can learn to be more friendly around unfamiliar faces.

However, white German shepherds are not suited for first-time dog owners, unless you have really done your research and have prepared for this unique dog breed. They need lots and lots of exercise, as well as plenty of mental stimulation.

White Swiss Shepherd (Berger Blanc Suisse)

Remember how white German shepherds made a comeback after being banned from registration? Well, their newfound popularity led to many of these impressive pups being sent over to Switzerland in the early 1970s. There they flourished and eventually led to a brand new dog breed — the white Swiss shepherd, or Berger Blanc Suisse.

The white Swiss shepherd was officially recognized as its own separate breed in 1991 by the Swiss Kennel Club. Today it is also recognized as its own official breed by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.


White Swiss shepherds are medium-sized dogs. They are around 20.5 to 26 inches tall at the withers and weigh 55 to 88 pounds. Bolt is closer to the size of a white Swiss shepherd. He is about 20 inches tall (whereas German shepherds are a bit taller). In addition, Bolt has softer lines and a more square-cut muzzle. This is more in line with the appearance of the white Swiss shepherd rather than the German shepherd.

Like the German shepherd, white Swiss shepherds can have medium-length or long-haired coats. However, white Swiss shepherds always have white coats and they usually have dark skin. German shepherds, on the other hand, can have coats that are tan and black, all black, or all white. Both dogs, however, are heavy shedders and need to be brushed at least twice a week.

Swiss Shepherd running through field of yellow flowers
The white Swiss shepherd shares many characteristics with the German shepherd.



In addition to their appearance, white Swiss shepherds also have a demeanor that is quite different from your typical German shepherd. Although both German Shepherds and Swiss shepherds take their job as guard dogs seriously, Swiss shepherds are typically gentler and shyer in nature. A Swiss shepherd will bark at the first sign of an intruder to let you know that something is up, but after that, they are happy to leave the rest to you. On the other hand, German shepherds are more outgoing, and they can be aggressive in order to protect their families.

Swiss shepherds are also highly intelligent dogs and get bored easily, so they need lots of exercise and plenty of mental stimulation. However, unlike the more intense German shepherd, Swiss shepherds exude a gentle and laid-back vibe. They aren’t really suited for police work like German shepherds are, but they do make excellent service dogs. 

White Swiss shepherds can be the perfect companions for families as well as children, and they crave love and attention. However, Swiss shepherds need a lot of socialization and affection in order to be happy. If you leave them alone for too long, they can suffer from separation anxiety and become super clingy. They may even resort to destructive behaviors like chewing and digging.

Although initially the inspiration for Bolt came from a white German shepherd puppy, his appearance in the film appears to be closer to that of a white Swiss shepherd. Bolt has a Softer, more approachable look, with thick and sturdy legs, and a wrinkly domed forehead. 

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About the Author

As a professional writer and editor for many years, I have dedicated my work to the fascinating exploration of anthrozoology and human-animal relationships. I hold a master's degree with experience in humanities, human-animal studies, ecocriticism, wildlife conservation, and animal behavior. My research focuses on the intricate relationships and dynamics between humans and the natural world, with the goal of re-evaluating and imagining new possibilities amid the uncertainty and challenges of the Anthropocene.

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