Wolfdogs: The Hybrid Some State Laws Restrict
Wolfdogs, or wolf-dog hybrids, are very controversial, and laws and regulations concerning them vary from place to place. In some places, such as Czechoslovakia, the wolfdog is recognized as a breed and registered as one by the kennel club. It also has standards like other breeds.
However, about forty states in the United States ban the owning and breeding of wolf hybrids. In my own state of Wisconsin, the regulations even vary from one county to another.
What Is a Wolfdog ?
Generally, it is a hybrid of a wolf with a domestic canine, usually with specific breeds such as German Shepherds, Malamutes, or Siberian Huskies.
- Usually, they are deliberately bred.
- Although there are some accidental breeding between wolves and domestic dogs, they are not usually inclined to mix.
- They are considered exotic pets.
Some Historical Facts About Wolfdogs
- There is some evidence that pre-historic wolfdogs date back 10,000 years or more in the Americas.
- In Europe, there is fossil evidence that suggests they were used for hunting mammoths.
- Animals in the artwork of the Teotihuacan civilization in Mexico’s Central Valley may have also been wolfdogs. Fossil evidence of them was found in 2010 and suggests that they were kept by the warrior class.
- In Great Britain, the first known wolf hybrid appeared around 1766 when a male wolf mated with a Pomeranian, who ended up having a litter of nine pups.
- Occasionally, English noblemen purchased wolfdogs as scientific curiosities.
- They were also popular in British menageries and zoo exhibits.
- There appears to have been no intentional breeding until the 1920s when the Saarlooswolfhond was created by a Dutch breeder.
- They were used as experimental attack dogs in South Africa during apartheid. These hybrids were bred from German Shepherds and wolves from the Urals. The first of these appeared in 1978. He was a male named Jungle who remained in service until 1989.
According to Wikipedia, there are at least seven breeds of wolfdog hybridization. Four are deliberate crosses with German Shepherds.
- Saarlooswolfhond: This breed was a result of the first attempt at sustained crossing of wolves with dogs to prevent distemper. The effort failed, but the FCI and Dutch Kennel Club recognize the breed.
- Czechoslovakian Wolfdog: Created in the 1950s.
- Lupo: Accepted by Italian Kennel Club.
- Kunming Wolfdog: A Chinese breed used for military purposes.
- Japanese Wolfdog: Might be a descendent of the extinct Japanese wolf.
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
In 1955, Czechoslovakia started with the breeding of 48 working-line German Shepherds with five Eurasian wolves. According to Wikipedia, the aim was to create a wolf-dog hybrid with the temperament, pack mentality, and trainability of the German Shepherd, and the strength, physical build, and stamina or the Eurasian wolf. The breed was developed for use by the border patrol in Czechoslovakia. Later they were used in search and rescue, schutzhund, tracking, herding, agility, obedience, and drafting. In 1982, the dog was officially recognized as a national breed in Czechoslovakia. In 2002, the breed was recognized in the UK.
There doesn’t seem to be a standard for wolf-dog hybrids in the U.S. They are typically a cross between a pure wolf and a dog or a wolf hybrid. The dogs are usually Malamutes, Huskies, or German Shepherds. The hybrids tend to result in dogs that are bigger than wolves.
Those who are pro-wolfdog tend to claim the animals are as docile as domestic breeds, whereas most anti-wolfdog folks say they are vicious and untrainable. Because these hybrids take on generic mixtures of wolves and dogs, their physical and behavioral characteristics can’t be accurately predicted. According to CDC and the Humane Society of the United States, the wolfdog stands at number six among animals with the highest number of attack fatalities in the U.S. But the aggressiveness varies from animal to animal.
Common sense would indicate that they need special training and probably a special trainer. The website wolfcoutry.net does not recommend the average person own wolfdogs. But, these animals are great for those who have the knowledge and inclination to keep and train them.
Training a Wolfdog
Wolfcountry.net also alludes to the “position of alpha.” While a dog can be mastered (even a stubborn one), a wolfdog will always try to test the master for dominance. The owner has to show superiority, but it can lead to a constant battle. The same seems to be true to some extent with wolf-like breeds such as Huskies, although maybe not to the same degree.
The main thing to keep in mind is that you should make an informed decision if you are considering raising a wolfdog. Aside from local laws the owner must have enough space and dedication, and know the necessary diet and availability of medical care. Ask whether your vet can and is willing to treat a wolfdog.
According to WolfCoutry, they have special needs — physical and mental. Many hybrids end up being put down because it is very difficult to place them with new owners. The website recommends a Malamute or Husky for people who want something that resembles a wolf.
People have to understand that a wolfdog is still part wild, it will never be the docile family pet.— WolfCountry
Wolfdogs, according to Wikipedia, are affected by fewer inherited diseases than most breeds. Some established breeds were bred specifically to improve the health and vigor of working dogs.
The USDA has not approved rabies vaccines to be used on wolfdogs. Owners and breeders claim that this is a political attempt to discourage wolfdog ownership.
When I moved to Wisconsin, I had a German Shepherd/Siberian Husky mix, and presently, I have a Siberian Husky with an unknown mix. In both cases, the people have often told us they look to be part wolf.
I have met owners in town who have wolfdogs. One day, I was walking my dog, and a woman driving by stopped me to inquire if it was part wolf. It turned out her dog was a wolf hybrid. Another case was someone I used to run across when walking my pup. His dog looked like a Husky. One day, I was walking by his house and one of his neighbors told me that the man had died. The neighbor wanted to know what to do about the dog, and later told me that he decided to get a wolfdog rescue to take it. That was the first time I knew what breed it truly was.
Some counties in Wisconsin ban wolf hybrids (e.g., LaCrosse county). Others do not. According to an article in the Lacrosse Tribune, the wolf hybrids, being neither wolf nor dog, don’t fit the legal categories, making it difficult for animal control authorities to know how to deal with them. There are also no state laws to regulate them. Since they are not dogs, they don’t fall under regulations for dogs and they don’t fit into the regulations for wolves. According to the article, the Humane Society wants to totally ban wolfdogs.
- Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
Czechoslovakian Wolfdog - breed information, history, standard and photo gallery featuring 20 individuals representative of this rare European breed.
- News Artcle: "State, county officials look to regulate wolf-dog hybrids"
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Don A. Hoglund