German Shepherd Genetic Origin: Related To The Wolf?



Maybe you’re interested in German Shepherd breed in general, or maybe you’re looking at buying a German Shepherd and you want to know a bit more about the German Shepherd origin.

Either way, the bloodline in terms of how the original German Shepherds were bred is pretty interesting.

We discuss the dogs used to breed the first German Shepherds, and whether wolf genetic material was involved.

If you’re interested, you can read a full origin, history and evolution guide of the German Shepherd from 1899 to now here.


German Shepherd Origin: Related To The Wolf?


Where Have All Domesticated Dogs Evolved From?

A number of genetic studies of the genome of the domesticated dog clearly show that the dog is derived from gray wolves more closely than any other Canid.

A Canid is part of the biological family ‘Canidae’ – which is a lineage of carnivores that includes domestic dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and many other extant and extinct dog-like mammals.


The Mainstream German Shepherd Genetic Origin – Max von Stephanitz & Horand Von Grafath

So, we know that German Shepherds as domesticated dogs are distantly related to the gray wolf.

But, after that, where does the German Shepherd get it’s bloodlines and original breeding from?

If you do a basic Google search, you’ll most likely find that the breed creator was a man named Max von Stephanitz.

You’ll probably also find that Max was impressed by a dog at a dog show that showed many impressive traits like the erect ears and working-like body that German Shepherds were known for.

He later purchased that dog, and named it Horand von Grafrath. Horand became a sire of the original standardised German Shepherd breeding program.

The German Shepherd became officially registered as a breed in 1899, when Max also founded the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (Society for the German Shepherd Dog – referred to as SV for short).

However, what most people don’t often hear is that whilst Horand was impressive, Max was not completely satisfied with the fact that Horand was as easy to train as he would have liked due to his unharnessed energy and high desire to play instead of being focussed completely on working.

Max needed to round out the breeding stock, so he looked to the other regional non-standardised Shepherds in the local German towns.


The Real German Shepherd Genetic Origin – Regional Shepherds: Thuringian, Wurttemberg Sheep Dog, & 

The three regional Shepherds Max chose to round out the foundation bloodlines of the German Shepherd breed were:

  • The Thuringian Dogs

Horand was actually a Thuringian dog. Thuringian dogs were characterised by their energy, wolf gray color and history of being a show dog.

  • The Wurttemberg Sheep Dog

The Wurttemberg Sheep dog brought large dog genes, dense bones, a thicker working type body and the working structure (thicker head, chest and paws) and working stamina to the breed.

They were quite intelligent and trainable.

Wurttemberg Sheep dogs were known to be a highly respected especially by threats to the flocks they protected. They were even tempered, but when they sensed a real threat to themselves or whoever they were protecting, they were courageous and powerful enough to engage in offensive behavior.

This is where German Shepherds originally get their noble but aloof type personality.

  • The Swabian Service Dog

The largest and most versatile of the three regional dogs. 

The Swabian service dogs had very even temperaments, a great working ability and tremendous nerves and courage in threatening situations.

It is thought this is where German Shepherds get the versatility they display in a very wide range of working type activities.


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