Wolf-dog Education...

Responsible Ownership thru Education

Do YOU know what a wolf looks like?  Can you tell the difference?


What is a wolf-hybrid? 

Dogs were reclassified by the Smithsonian in 1993 as Canis lupus familaris instead of Canis familarisThroughout this website the term wolfdog will be used.


**Legally speaking, anything with some percentage of domestic animal (dog) in it, is considered to also be a domestic animal (In Texas wolfdog’s are considered domestic animals- in some Counties however, they are illegal/wild). The animals themselves are all captive-bred.  Wolves are NOT pulled from the wild as breeding stock, and captive bred animals are not wildlife. ** Solowolf_93



Next Question!  What does a WOLF look like? 


Most of the general public doesn’t know.  They think that anything with yellow eyes and a black spot on it's tail is part wolf. The media and public image of a wolf is usually something like this.


A wooly malamute/siberian husky cross, bred by Kodi Alaskan Malamutes.

Hex, a pure bred agouti colored racing Siberian Husky. (www.huskycolors.com/agouti.html)

GSD/Husky/Mal mix.

Compared to a real pure wolf...

Picture of Socrates, A pure wolf at Wolf Park (taken by Monty Sloan).  http://www.wolfpark.com/

Gray wolf in Montana (WWF).


Or for the Arctic Wolf, this:


Compared to a real High Content Arctic Wolfdog...

 Finding a legit pure or high content (like this animal here) Arctic wolfdog is rare and most are well documented.  There are many unethical breeders out there that try to pass off white mals, huskies, samoyeds and white phase wolf crosses as Arctics. (photo Arctic RT Farms).


 What does low, mid and high content mean?

NOTE: The % range is an estimate.  True content can vary, especially with F2 animals.



Low-Contents (generally up to 40%): 

Low contents can show little to almost no physical appearance of being part wolf. Most will cycle and breed like regular dogs (usually 2 times a year or every 6-8 months) and some may only breed 1 time a year, though it is more unusual (some dog breeds, such as Basenji's only have 1 heat cycle/year).  Puppies can be born with pre-dominant markings such as black/white or all white. Low contents  can produce "wolfy" looking pups) depending on dog breed used (GSD's/GSD mixes often produce dark "wolf" colored puppies).  Most will look like the dog breed in its background (Malamute, husky, GSD etc) and will *generally* be easier to work with, living quite contently in the house. Some low contents may require secure containment or an experienced owner.  Some Low-Contents may have the extra “wolfy” look or personality quirk that people desire.  Due to the mislabeling of animals- low contents are often mistaken for or represented as high content. 


Mid-Contents (41%-80%): 

Generally described as being “half wolf”. Most animals of this content will show noticeable characteristics from both sides- dog and wolf.  Since Mid-Contents can vary considerably, the category is further broken down into:



Photo of Tatanka by Monty Sloan

Lower Mid to Mid/Mid Contents (generally between 41%- 60%):

Lower mid to mid/mid contents will display wolf-like characteristics in both behavior and looks, but will still lean a bit more towards the dog side.  Some tend to cycle and mature like regular dogs do while others will only cycle one time a year.  Puppies may be born “dog colors” like all white or with pre-dominant markings, though most will be born more "wolf" colored. Some might look more like the dog in its background with a noticeable “wolf-look.”  They may be a bit more difficult to train and housebreak than a regular dog or Low-Content.  Some still live quite comfortably in the house- but proper containment should always be available.   Most people will ask if your animal is a wolf or "hybrid."


Mid/Mid to Upper Mid-Contents (generally between 61%-80%): 

Mid to upper mid contents will display noticable wolf-like characteristics in both behavior and looks, generally leaning more towards the wolf side.  Though most will cycle like a pure wolf, having puppies only in the Spring, some might cycle slightly earlier or later then a true high content.  Few still may cycle like a dog, either once a year at an odd time or 2 times a yea, though it is uncommon. Most puppies will be born wolfy (dark solid color) instead of like a husky or malamute, though few may retain a hint of "dog" coloration to them.  Some may still slightly resemble the breed of dog in its background with a noticeable “wolf-look”; and some may take on a more wolfy appearance with few dog-like traits.  They tend to be more difficult to housebreak and train then a Low or Lower Mid-Content.  They may or may not take to living in the house without problems.  They will need proper containment & fencing should they be kept outside. Upper Mid-Contents will draw attention and most often people will ask if it is a "full blooded wolf." 




 High Hills KennelsWolves USA

Lower High-Contents- High contents (generally between 81%-94%): 

A certain number of wolf genes must be present (and expressed) for the animal to be considered a true high content.  High-Contents will look like wolves with subtle “dog-like” characteristics.  They will cycle and mature like a pure wolf.  Puppies will be born a dark solid color (NEVER white), usually brown, black or dark grey. Some people cannot tell them apart from pure wolves.  Some “dog-like” characteristics may include- slightly larger ears, wider chest or smaller heads than normal pure wolves- but nothing to the extreme.  Most High-Contents cannot live in the house.  They are very difficult to housetrain (it is possible- though to a different standard!)) and take someone with experience and understanding of wolf behavior to handle them.  They will need proper containment and fencing- no exceptions. They will draw attention and many will ask if it is a pure wolf.  They cannot pass as “Malamute” or any dog cross, no exceptions.


 High hills kennel

Very high "Wolf content"(95%-99%): 

This classification pretty much speaks for itself. These are animals that are verified as being Wolfdog crosses, and are as close to a pure wolf as you will get.  Generally being described as “98%” wolf, these animals, even more so then High-Contents, are wolves.  They need to be treated and respected like so- no exceptions.  Most people, even wolf biologists, cannot tell these animals apart from pure wolves. 


NOTE: High-Content wolfdog’s DO NOT have blue eyes as adults.  High-Contents also are only fertile during the late winter & early spring months as puppies (Pups are always born grayish-brown or black, even those animals that will be white when grown.) are generally born between March and May.  The females only have one heat cycle during these times and males are only fertile when females come into heat. On a male, testicles are much smaller in summer when they are not fertile- this was seen when Texx was recently neutered!  It was very interesting! 



Here are a few pictures of pure wolves and different northern breeds to compare these Low, Mid (lower-mid and upper-mid) and High content wolfdogs too.

Predominantly black Siberian Husky with blue eyes (huskycolors.com)

Very high content Arctic wolfdog and Low content wolfdog.  Good comparisons.

Registered agouti/sable colored racing Siberian Husky (huskycolors.com)

Young pure wolf

Registered Canadian Inuit Dog (http://www.wolfpark.com/)


Black phase

Wooly coated Siberian


Sable coated Siberian Husky (huskycolors.com)


Dark sable, wooly coated Alaskan Malamute (Texas Alaskan Malamute Rescue/TAMR)


Agouti colored racing Siberian husky (huskycolors.com)

Black phase- note the muzzle profile.  Very little stop between the eyes. http://www.bigoakwolfsanctuary.com/

 What about puppies? What do wolf puppies look like?

Litter of high content Arctic wolfdog pups.  ARCTICS ARE NOT BORN WHITE!  http://www.wcatcr.com/

Low content Alaskan Malamute/wolfdog pup

A mid-content pup

An agouti colored Siberian Husky pup

A high content wolfdog pup. (wind dancer wolves)

Alaskan Malamute pup

Lower-mid content wolfdog pup

German Shepherd pup (note dark, solid coloration).

Pure wolf pup

Lower content black phase pup

Lower content sable pup

German Shepherd pup

High content wolfdog pup (note no white, not even on tips of paws).

A young pure wolf pup (top) and low content pup  




 How much wolf is in that wolfdog? 



Wolf VS. Dog!


To put it plainly, the term “wolfdog” is so vast that this is what confuses most people.


For example, you can have a wolfdog that looks just like a German Shepherd. You can also have a wolfdog that looks just like a Wolf.  Then of course there are the in-between animals that are distinguishable from both extremes but clearly have retained either more Dog or more Wolf in their overall appearance and behavior.


To make it a bit easier, most people classify wolfdog’s based on the actual amount of wolf-like characteristics (phenotype- overall physical and behavioral characteristics compared to that of a pure wolf) that have actually been inherited, instead of just basing it on  its background percentage/generation (genotype- ie: 87% F3) and that’s a whole different story!!!  The term “X %” wolf is not entirely accurate.



Having a “high-percentage” wolfdog IS NOT ALWAYS the same as having a High-Content wolfdog.  Keep this in mind.





Wolf vs Wolfdog vs Dog: overall Physical and Behavioral comparisons.

Appearances can be deceiving: The Truth Behind the “Wolfy” Appearance!

Wolves are often portrayed as being a large, snarling bulk of animal.  While wolves can be large (especially in interior Alaska) they are not built the way many people think.

A wolf’s overall structure is very lean and light.  They are built for endurance and are very athletic and agile.   Most of the “wolves” people see on T.V. are Alaskan Malamutes or Wolf/Malamute crosses- and the size/weight factor USUALLY comes from the dog bred into them.

(by: Solowolf_93.  www.geocities.com/solowolf_93/wolfers.html

I use sort of a checkpoint system for "wolf traits"; I look for the things mentioned below...nothing is completely exclusive to wolves--anything found in wolves can be found in dogs as well--, but an animal with *many* of the traits listed below may be part wolf...especially if it was sold as a wolfdog. (I rarely expect a stray animal--that came to humans to be caught, no less--to be a "true" Wolfdog...it does happen, but in my experience, most shelter strays labeled "wolves" are just mixed breed domestics that someone thought "looked sort of wolfy" ;)

Note that these are "WOLF traits", not "wolfdog traits". Wolfdog’s are a mix of wolf and dog, and can take after either animal on any given feature.(!) A "high content" wolfdog will have almost all of these physical traits. A low content wolfdog may not have any more of the traits than a northern mixed breed dog!  And BEWARE--there are a few dog breeds that do have many wolf attributes! There is a
LOT of overlap between wolves and dogs.


Small, rounded, shoe leather-thick, heavily furred inside (not big & pointy like GSD ears). Erect at just a few weeks of age (3-4 weeks); wolf pups DO NOT have flop-over ears. (Malamute ears are set further out on the head than wolf ears. Husky ears are pointier at the tips, and set high on the head. GSD ears, of course, are much larger and thinner!)

: Light/pale (but NOT blue!), almond-shaped, slanted/"Chinese-looking"/obliquely set in the head...usually are yellow, green, orange, or amber...occasionally light brown; very intense look about them. Presence of a tapetum--i.e. the eyes reflect back brightly when a light hits them dead-on from a distance. "Red-eye" (caused by lack of a reflective layer in the eye) is a dog trait.

Nose, Lips, Eyeliner, Gums:
Always black, not pink or spotted. Very important for communication purposes, and are supposed to be highly visible from a distance. No "snow noses" as seen in Huskies and Malamutes (pink stripe thru nose).

long, curved...large in proportion to dog teeth.

Large in proportion to the body. Snout is long and tapered, as opposed to the Malamute "snub nose". Forehead is very flat, the stop is not at all pronounced. (i.e. if you run your finger up along the top of the muzzle, on a *dog* you hit a "wall" at their forehead. On a wolf, you glide right up to the top of their head without any speed bumps.) Closest comparison in muzzle length and slope is a Collie.

Straight, no downward slope like a GSD.

Very elongated, tall, and narrow (not barrel-chested like a Siberian).  Height generally ranges from 26-35 inches at the shoulder and weights ranging from 70- 100 is most common.  Some wolves get to be as large as 150 lbs, but it is not the norm.  AVG weight/height for males is 90lbs/32 inches- females generally run 80lbs/30 inches.

Very long for the animals overall size. Front legs close together at chest, shoulder blades--as viewed from the back--should be close together, causing knees to be held more in towards the chest. Toes pointing slightly outwards rather than pointing straight forward like a dog. Back legs are 'cow hocked'. Unusually long pasterns.

Disproportionately large. Not "large" like GSD paws, but more like "enormous" (esp. in Arctics!) Toes are very long, and the overall footprint is more elongated than most dogs. (By comparison, Siberians have a very round--almost catlike--paw print.) Heavily furred between toes; toenails and pads of paws are always black (exceptions being Arctic wolves whose nails may be “skin colored” or taupe- NEVER clear or white. No rear dew claw.

Straight and bushy. Looks like a bottle brush. No curl (most dog breeds have some curl), and no "flag tail" as seen in GSDs. Wolves' tail ends above the hock, unlike GSD whose tail extends below the hock.

Double-coated. Stiff, long, black-tipped outer guard hairs; has a mane/ruff around the neck area, and longer "cape" hairs on the back (near the neck). Thin & wiry coat in summer, but grows a noticeably thick coat for winter. Not normally super-soft or extra-fluffy like some domestics...though there is some evidence that diet/illness can affect this.

Colors of fur:
Each hair is banded with several colors along its length, as opposed to being one color all the way through. That's what gives the well-blended sable appearance. Sharp markings, such as those seen on Siberians, are a dog trait. Even on a white or black animal, the wolf saddle or "cowl" (further forward than a GSD saddle) should be slightly visible. Wolves are never one solid color (i.e. pure white), and they get a grizzled appearance as they age. Precaudal mark on tail is plainly visible (even in black or white animals), and made up of stiffer hairs than the rest of the tail. The gland--not just the mark--is also present. Markings are symmetrical: never a black spot over one eye, nor one tan ear and one white one. "Eyebrows" are visible, but are well blended as with the rest of the coat. Mask comes down the bridge of the nose, and around the eyes, i.e. "closed faced". "Open faced" or other odd markings signify Mal or Husky. No intentionally bald areas, such as the bald tummy on some dog breeds.

Wolves move in a more loose, fluid manner than dogs; they run with head lowered and tail straight out; when they walk, they *slink*, keeping the head level with the body.  The back feet basically step into the paw prints of the front feet, and the front feet cross over each other ("single-tracking"). Wolves are generally more alert, more aware of their surroundings, much more reactive and intense than the majority of dogs. They're "live wires" compared to your average domestic, and will observe and react to almost everything in their environment--even things that YOU, the human, don't notice. If they are submissive, they are REALLY, really submissive; when they react, they OVER-react, etc. They'll start at the slightest noise. Pure wolves tend to be very timid animals...and this is genetic in origin. Dogs can *learn* to be shy, if not raised properly...but a wolf may well be born that way...and stay shy regardless of how well the owner socializes it.  Wolves are extremely "honest"--you can take their body language at face value.

~~The rest of this (more subjective) stuff is from my personal experience, or the experiences of my friends, only. Note also that the AGE of the animal can play a large part!

The majority of wolves/high contents I have seen are quite shy (NOT aggressive) around people they don't know. It is rare for a wolf to be indiscriminately friendly (as is the norm for many "wolfy" looking northern breeds). However, some wolves who are genetically less fearful, and who have been well socialized, will greet new folks almost as cheerfully as a dog. Most will greet their "owner" joyously, though!

Intelligence is rather subjective and hard to quantify, but "wolf intelligence" has more to do with problem solving ability and getting what they want, than with common-sense (for dogs!) type stuff or learning tricks to please the humans. Most owners feel their intelligence is off the scale, for a dog...comparable to that of a small child.

Almost all of them have an extreme urge to put anything & everything in their mouths; often leads to them destroying whatever objects they got their teeth on! Wolves are excessively curious animals and will tear open a box or de-stuff the couch just to see what's inside.

Many of them seem to have permanent diarrhea if fed only regular kibble. Soy & corn allergies are the norm for wolfdog’s.  Wolfers seem to have a real affinity for high places--on top the counter, washing machine, fridge...or their doghouse if outside.  If "trapped" in a smaller enclosure, or in the house with the door to outside closed, they may become panicky.

 In a rescue/shelter situation, many won't take food--even a hotdog--when you go to evaluate them, and some of them won't even look at you...they just cower in the corner & hide their faces. Shelter life is extremely hard on the average wolf's temperament. Even the less frightened ones won't usually come to you; they lurk at the back of their kennel runs & watch you. (Remember, this is upper content animals, now. The low-content Siberian for example, often can't *wait* to get some loving' from their visitors!)

MacKenzie Valley Wolf, Mexican Grey Wolf, Arctic Wolf, red Wolf and other heritage claims.  Misrepresentation.

 Great links for this are:





http://www.wolfdog.ws/html/whatdoesitmean.html <-- AWESOME SITE!

 http://www.wolfpark.org/wolfdogs/Poster_section3.html <go to Section 1 and look from begining.  Great packet put together by Wolf Park on wolfdog (hybrids).