Wolfdog Myth of the Week: “My wolfdog is crossed with (insert atypical breed here), and that’s why it doesn’t look or act like a real wolfdog!"
When it comes to creating wolfdogs, most breeders chose domestic dogs that are already very wolf-like in appearance: Their go-to breeds are Husky, Malamute, and German shepherd. It is highly uncommon for wolfdogs to be intentionally crossed with any other breed, as most other breeds produce less wolfy-looking wolfdogs. And the wolfier a wolfdog looks, the more it’s worth to buyers and breeders alike.
That said, there have been several accidental or experimental "odd” wolfdog mixes out there. They are typically well-documented due to the rarity and novelty of the event, and are absolutely not commonplace. The chances of an Average Joe dog-owner finding and housing one of these animals successfully are slim-to-none.
For starters, let’s look at a couple of F1 (first-generation) wolf/dog crosses. The two used for this example are mixed with malamute and GSD. Note that F1 pairings are the only acceptable time to describe wolf content in terms of percentages/fractions, as an F1 puppy has received exactly half of his genetic material from his mother’s side, and exactly half from his dad’s side. These animals are the true standard for “50%” wolf.
Almost exclusively, odd breed mixes are the result of wolfdog/domestic dog pairings, and rarely involve a pure wolf parent.
It is highly uncommon for breeders to even own a pure wolf in this day and age, as in many places, doing so is illegal. Those who rare few individuals do own pure wolves for wolfdog breeding purposes will virtually never cross their animals with pure domestic dogs. This debunks claims of “my dog is half wolf and half beagle, mastiff, rottweiler, etc.” right off the bat.
The only exception to this rule exists in the case of a Russian experiment in canine genetics which saw biologists crossing purebred wolves with purebred poodles. The first-generation offspring share some wolfy characteristics and some doggy ones, too. And while the animals may not look as wolfy as an F1 wolf/malamute cross, the wolf content is nevertheless present and unmistakable. Nobody could pass these animals off as “just” dogs.
Next, we see an F1 lab/wolf cross. If memory serves me well, this animal was the offspring of a pure wolf being illegally-kept by an exotic game rancher, who raised it with one of his Labrador retrievers. The animals mated just before the original owner was forced to surrender his canines to a wolfdog sanctuary. Note the similarities in skull structure and gait between the lab/wolf and the pure wolf parent in the background.
Following the wolf/lab mix are two rescued pups which were being bred intentionally by an irresponsible private owner. They are husky, malamute, wolf, Irish wolfhound mixes in the low to low-mid content range.
Below them is a super low-content collie/wolfdog mix also bred by a breeder who didn’t really know what he was doing. From my understanding, this breeder is now out of business and no longer works with wolfdogs.
Last, we have one of my personal favorite “oddball” wolfdogs, Buku, who was born at a sanctuary under similar circumstances as the wolf/lab cross above.
Buku’s mother, a high-content black wolfdog, was confiscated along with another male wolfdog from irresponsible owners who couldn’t handle their wild nature. The rescuers knew she was pregnant at the time they took her in, and suspected that she had been mated by the male wolfdog, but were surprised when her pups ended up looking nothing at all what they expected them to!
Further inquiry lead to the discovery that the wolfdogs’ original owners also kept a bully breed dog on the premises who was likely the father. Again, these oddball pups still display some wolfy traits, even if they are harder to identify on account of their doggier appearances.
In conclusion, most claims of “my wolfdog is crossed with pit bull, mastiff, doberman, etc.” are false. The exceptions known are listed above, and are usually widely-discussed in the wolfdog community on account of the novelty factor, but breeders and breed fanciers alike all agree that intentionally breeding wolfdogs with anything other than Northern breeds and GSDs is irresponsible and serves no purpose.
A couple days ago I met one of the most enchanting animals I’ve ever seen while hiking on some cliffs in Cali.. A part timber wolf, german shepherd mix. This dog looked like it walked straight out of a fairy tale book.