What Is a Wolf Dog?

Wolfdog hybrids are becoming increasingly popular as household pets. But the rise in their sales in the United Kingdom and recent reports of escaped hybrids killing small dogs and threatening humans in the United States have renewed concerns about whether or not these animals should continue to be bred and sold to the public.

Infamous examples include werewolves, the big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and Fenrir in Norse mythology, whom the gods, fearing his strength, tied to a rock. To this day, Fenrir remains bound, awaiting the arrival of Ragnark (Doomsday) to loose himself, at which point he will greedily consume the Sun and destroy the Norse gods.

For various reasons, including the threat that they posed to human safety and to herds of grazing farm animals, wolves were hunted to near extinction in North America and Europe. Numerous conservation programs and research projects aimed at providing a better understanding of wolves and their behaviors have shifted public perception and have led to increases in wolf populations worldwide.

Are wolf-dogs safe?

While some wolf hybrids are docile and non-aggressive, a higher percentage of wolf hybrids are likely to be dangerous and prone to attack humans and other animals. In fact, dog bite statistics show that wolf-dogs hold the sixth position in dog bite fatalities by breed.

Are wolfdogs illegal?

Private ownership of wolf hybrids is illegal in some states. These are Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Wyoming.

What defines a wolf dog?

1 : any of various large dogs formerly kept for hunting wolves. 2 : the offspring of a wolf and a domestic dog.

Are wolf-dogs aggressive?

Social Behavior. When wild wolves and domestic dogs are bred the result is often an unpredictable and mentally conflicted wolf dog. Dogs are gregarious, aggressive, and obedient to please man.

A wolfdog is a canine produced by the mating of a dog (Canis familiaris) with a gray wolf (Canis lupus), eastern wolf (Canis lycaon), red wolf (Canis rufus), or Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) to produce a hybrid.

A 1982 study of canine skulls from Wyoming dating back 10,000 years ago identified some that match the morphology of wolfdogs. In 2010, archeologists found the remains of wolf-dogs in a warrior’s burial in Mexico’s central valley that date about two thousand years ago, therefore what was once thought as coyotes depicted in Teotihuacan civilization art are being re-examined.

Genetic research has shown that wolves with black pelts owe their coloration to a mutation that first arose in domestic dogs.Genetic research revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation that entered the wolf population through admixture with the domestic dog. [12] Adolph Murie was among the first wolf biologists to speculate that the wide color variation in wolves was due to interbreeding with dogs; [13] Four breeds were the result of intentional crosses with German Shepherd Dogs and have distinguishing characteristics of appearance that may reflect the varying subspecies of wolf that contributed to their foundation stock.

The intent behind creating the breeds has ranged widely from simply the desire for a recognizable companion high-content wolfdog to professional military working dogs. Wolves typically display aggressiveness toward dogs, but a wolf can change its behaviour and become playful or submissive when it becomes socially isolated. [23] Wild wolfdogs were occasionally hunted by European aristocracy, and were termed lycisca to distinguish them from common wolves.

Noted historic cases (such as the Beast of Gvaudan ) of large wolves that were abnormally aggressive toward humans, may be attributable to wolfdog mating. However, extensive admixture between wolf and dog is not supported by morphological evidence, and analyses of mtDNA sequences have revealed that such mating are rare. In 1997, during the Mexican Wolf Arizona Reintroduction , controversy arose when a captive pack at Carlsbad designated for release was found by Roy McBride to be largely composed of wolf-dogs, who had captured many wolves for the recovery programme in the 1970s.

Though staff initially argued that the animals’ odd appearance was due to captivity and diet, it was later decided to euthanise them. The study indicated that there exists individual wolves of dogwolf ancestry in most of the wolf populations of Eurasia, but less so in North America. In 2019, in the Osogovo mountainous region along the border between Bulgaria and North Macedonia a putative grey wolf was recorded by camera to be living with a pack of 10 feral dogs, and by its behaviour and phenotype was assumed to be a wolfdog hybrid.

[33] In Canada, the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island prohibit wolfdogs as pets. [35] Wolfdogs were among the breeds banned from the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton and elsewhere after a fatal dog attack by a pit bull on a child. In many cases the resulting adult wolfdog may be larger than either of its parents due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis (commonly known as hybrid vigor ).

Breeding experiments in Germany with poodles and wolves, and later on with the resulting wolfdogs showed unrestricted fertility, mating via free choice and no significant problems of communication (even after a few generations). However, the offspring of poodles with either coyotes and jackals , all showed a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems, and an increase of genetic diseases after three generations of interbreeding between the hybrids. Wolfdogs display a wide variety of appearances, ranging from a resemblance to dogs without wolf blood to animals that are often mistaken for full-blooded wolves.

A lengthy study by DEFRA and the RSPCA found several examples of misrepresentation by breeders and indeterminate levels of actual wolf pedigree in many animals sold as wolfdogs. [16] In some cases, the presence of dewclaws on the hind feet is considered a useful, but not absolute, indicator of dog gene contamination in wild wolves. High wolf-content wolfdogs typically have longer canine teeth than dogs of comparable size, with some officers in the South African Defence Force commenting that the animals are capable of biting through the toughest padding “like a knife through butter”.

Tests undertaken in the Perm Institute of Interior Forces in Russia demonstrated that high wolf-content wolfdogs took 1520 seconds to track down a target in training sessions, whereas ordinary police dogs took 34 minutes. Wolfdogs are generally said to be naturally healthy animals, and are affected by fewer inherited diseases than most breeds of dog. Wolfdogs are a mixture of genetic traits, which results in less predictable behavior patterns compared to either the wolf or dog.

Due to the variability inherent to their admixture, whether a wolfdog cross should be considered more dangerous than a dog depends on behavior specific to the individual alone rather than to wolfdogs as a group. Randi, Ettore; Hulva, Pavel; Fabbri, Elena; Galaverni, Marco; Galov, Ana; Kusak, Josip; Bigi, Daniele; Bolfkov, Barbora ern; Smetanov, Milena; Caniglia, Romolo (2014). Kopaliani, Natia; Shakarashvili, Maia; Gurielidze, Zurab; Qurkhuli, Tamar; Tarkhnishvili, David (12 March 2014).

At issue is the use of known wolfdog hybrids derived from the Ghost Ranch, formerly on display at the Living Deseart Zoo in Carlsbad, NM, in the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program. Pilot, Magorzata; Greco, Claudia; Vonholdt, Bridgett M.; Randi, Ettore; Jdrzejewski, Wodzimierz; Sidorovich, Vadim E.; Konopiski, Maciej K.; Ostrander, Elaine A.; Wayne, Robert K. (2018). “Widespread, long-term admixture between grey wolves and domestic dogs across Eurasia and its implications for the conservation status of hybrids” .

A wolf dog is any canine with both domestic dog and wolf in its recent genetic ancestry and can result from any of the following parent combinations: a pure wolf and a pure domestic dog, a pure wolf and a wolf dog, two wolf dogs, or a wolf dog and a pure dog. Any breed of dog or subspecies of wolf are capable of producing viable offspring, though the chances of a toy poodle-wolf mix is extremely unlikely without human intervention in the breeding process due to the size difference between the parents.

FACT:Due to the shy nature of wolves, hybrids usually make poor protection dogs. Aggressive tendencies, if any, in the hybrid may be fear induced and as such, can be unpredictable and hard to control.

Domestic dogs tend to mature much earlier (6 to 8 months of age)., but the challenging behavior still exists, although it is typically less intense in most breeds compared to wolves.

Admixture

There are a range of experts who believe that they can tell the difference between a wolf, a dog, and a wolfdog, but they have been proven to be incorrect when providing their evidence before courts of law.Admixture between domestic dogs and other subspecies of gray wolves are the most common wolfdogs since dogs and gray wolves are considered the same species, are genetically very close and have shared vast portions of their ranges for millennia. Such admixture in the wild have been detected in many populations scattered throughout Europe and North America, usually occurring in areas where wolf populations have declined from human impacts and persecutions.At the same time, wolfdogs are also often bred in captivity for various purposes. Admixture of dogs and two other North American wolf species have also occurred historically in the wild, although it is often difficult for biologists to discriminate the dog genes in the eastern timber and red wolves from the gray wolf genes also present in these wolf species due to their historical overlaps with North American gray wolves as well as with coyotes, both of which have introgressed into the eastern timber and red wolf gene pools.Recognized wolfdog breeds by the FCI are the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog and the Saarloos Wolfdog.

History

Whole genome sequencing has been used to study gene flow between wild and domestic species. There is evidence of widespread gene-flow from dogs into wolf populations, and very few deliberate crossings of wolves with dogs, such as the Saarloos Wolfdog. However, the global dog population forms a genetic cluster with little evidence for gene flow from wolves into dogs. Ancient DNA shows that dogs from Europe over 5,000 years ago also show little evidence of interbreeding with wild canids.

Prehistoric wolfdogs

A 1982 study of canine skulls from Wyoming dating back 10,000 years ago identified some that match the morphology of wolfdogs.

Teotihuacan wolfdogs

In 2010, archeologists found the remains of wolf-dogs in a warrior’s burial in Mexico’s central valley that date about two thousand years ago, therefore what was once thought as coyotes depicted in Teotihuacan civilization art are being re-examined.

North American gray wolf-domestic dog admixture

Genetic research revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation that entered the wolf population through admixture with the domestic dog.In 2008 it was discovered that a gene mutation responsible for the protein beta-defensin 3 is responsible for the black coat color in dogs.

Documented breeding

The first record of wolfdog breeding in Great Britain comes from the year 1766 when what is thought was a male wolf mated with a dog identified in the language of the day as a “Pomeranian”, although it may have differed from the modern Pomeranian breed. The union resulted in a litter of nine pups. Wolfdogs were occasionally purchased by English noblemen, who viewed them as a scientific curiosity. Wolfdogs were popular exhibits in British menageries and zoos.Six breeds of dog exist that acknowledge a significant amount of recent wolfdog admixture in their creation. One breed is the “wolamute”, a.k.a. “malawolf”, a cross between an Alaskan Malamute and a timber wolf. Four breeds were the result of intentional crosses with German Shepherd Dogs and have distinguishing characteristics of appearance that may reflect the varying subspecies of wolf that contributed to their foundation stock. Other, more unusual crosses have occurred; recent experiments in Germany were conducted in the crossing of wolves and Poodles.

The Saarloos Wolfdog

In 1932, Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos crossed a male German Shepherd dog with a female European wolf. He then bred the female offspring back with the male German Shepherd Dog, creating the Saarloos wolfdog. The breed was created to be a hardy, self reliant companion and house dog.

The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog

In the 1950s, the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was also created to work on border patrol in the countries now known as Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It was originally bred from lines of German Shepherd Dogs with Carpathian grey wolves. It was officially recognized as a national breed in Czechoslovakia in 1982, and later was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale, the American Kennel Club’s Foundation Stock Service and the United Kennel Club, and today is used in agility, obedience, search and rescue, police work, therapy work, and herding in Europe and the United States.

Livestock guardian dogs

A 2014 study found that 20% of wolves and 37% of dogs shared the same mitochondrial haplotypes in Georgia. More than 13% of the studied wolves had detectable dog ancestry and more than 10% of the dogs had detectable wolf ancestry. The results of the study suggest that admixture between wolves and dogs is a common event in the areas where large livestock guardian dogs are held in a traditional way, and that gene flow between dogs and gray wolves was an important force influencing gene pool of dogs for millennia since early domestication events.

Wolfdogs in the wild

Hybridization between wolves and dogs typically occurs when the wolf population is under strong hunting pressure and its structure is disrupted due to a high number of free-ranging dogs. Wolves typically display aggressiveness toward dogs, but a wolf can change its behaviour and become playful or submissive when it becomes socially isolated.Admixture in the wild usually occurs near human habitations where wolf density is low and dogs are common.In 1997, during the Mexican Wolf Arizona Reintroduction, controversy arose when a captive pack at Carlsbad designated for release was found by Roy McBride to be largely composed of wolf-dogs, who had captured many wolves for the recovery programme in the 1970s. Though staff initially argued that the animals’ odd appearance was due to captivity and diet, it was later decided to euthanise them.In 2018, a study compared the sequences of 61,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (mutations) taken from across the genome of grey wolves. The study indicated that there exists individual wolves of dogwolf ancestry in most of the wolf populations of Eurasia, but less so in North America. The admixture has been occurring across different time scales and was not a recent event. Low-level admixture did not reduce the wolf distinctiveness.In 2019, in the Osogovo mountainous region along the border between Bulgaria and North Macedonia a putative grey wolf was recorded by camera to be living with a pack of 10 feral dogs, and by its behaviour and phenotype was assumed to be a wolfdog hybrid.

Breed-specific legislation

The wolfdog has been the center of controversy for much of its history, and most breed-specific legislation is either the result of the animal’s perceived danger or its categorization as protected native wildlife.According to the National Wolfdog Alliance, 40 U.S. states effectively forbid the ownership, breeding, and importation of wolfdogs, while others impose some form of regulation upon ownership.

Description

The physical characteristics of an animal created by breeding a wolf to a dog are not predictable, similar to that of mixed-breed dogs. In many cases the resulting adult wolfdog may be larger than either of its parents due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis (commonly known asWolfdogs display a wide variety of appearances, ranging from a resemblance to dogs without wolf blood to animals that are often mistaken for full-blooded wolves. A lengthy study by DEFRA and the RSPCA found several examples of misrepresentation by breeders and indeterminate levels of actual wolf pedigree in many animals sold as wolfdogs. The report noted that uneducated citizens misidentify dogs with wolf-like appearance as wolfdogs.Observations on wild wolfdogs in the former Soviet Union indicate that in a wild state these may form larger packs than pure wolves, and have greater endurance when chasing prey.Tests undertaken in the Perm Institute of Interior Forces in Russia demonstrated that high wolf-content wolfdogs took 15–20 seconds to track down a target in training sessions, whereas ordinary police dogs took 3–4 minutes.

Health

Wolfdogs are generally said to be naturally healthy animals, and are affected by fewer inherited diseases than most breeds of dog. Wolfdogs are usually healthier than either parent due to heterosis.

Temperament and behavior

Wolfdogs are a mixture of genetic traits, which results in less predictable behavior patterns compared to either the wolf or dog.Due to the variability inherent to their admixture,The view that aggressive characteristics are inherently a part of wolfdog temperament has been contested in recent years by wolfdog breeders and other advocates of wolfdogs as pets.