German Shepherd vs A Wolf: Differences, & Comparison


In the guide below, we compare the German Shepherd dog breed vs a wild Wolf (not to be confused with a Wolfdog).

This is a comparison some people have a general interest in, so, we’ve outlined what the main differences between them might be, as well as providing other relevant information.


(NOTE: the information in this guide is general information only. It is not professional advice, or a substitute for professional advice. See a qualified vet or animal expert for an expert opinion in regards to your pet/s)


German Shepherd vs A Wolf: Differences, & Comparison


Firstly, Are Domesticated Dogs Derived From Wolves?

A number of genetic studies of the genome of the domesticated dog clearly show that it is derived from grey 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.


When Did Dogs Diverge From Wolves?

Different reports give different estimates on when exactly domesticated dogs diverged from wolves, but, the range might vary from between about 15,000 years ago, to 40,000 years ago.


So, Do German Shepherds Come From Wolves?

Based on the information above, German Shepherds appear to be derived from wolves if you go back in time on a far enough scale. 


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Origin/History


Several reports indicate that wolves have evolved and developed over the course of the last hundreds of thousands of years, to 1 million years.

Some reports indicate that the smaller dog like forms that wolves started from might first date back to Eurasia about 1 million years ago, and then they migrated to North American about 750,000 years ago.

Other reports indicate that the evolutionary history of wolves might be a bit more unclear.

Today, there are different species of wolves found across different countries of the world.


German Shepherds

German Shepherds were first bred in Germany around 1899.

They were bred from different Shepherd breed dogs in Germany at the time (reportedly a sheep type dog, and also a service type dog), with the intention of having ideal working dog traits and working ability.

GSDs as a breed belong to the ‘herding dog’ category.

Today, GSD’s are used in a range of working fields, compete as show dogs, and are also pets & family dogs.


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Size

Looking at the sizes below, wolves appear to be bigger in size than German Shepherds on average


German Shepherd

German Shepherds might be classified as a large breed of dog

Males might average 24-26 inches in height (60-65 cms), and 66-88 lbs in weight (30-40 kg)

Females might average 22-24 inches in height (55-60 cms), and 49-71 lbs in weight (22-32 kg)

One report indicates the breed is 39-42.5 inches (99 to 108 cms) from nose to tail



– Weight

The mass/weight grey wolves differs between countries.

One report indicates that the mean weight of wolves is around 88 lbs (40kg), but European, North American, and Arabian wolves all differ in weight.

Large wolves weighing over 119 lbs (54 kg) might be uncommon, but might sometimes be found in Alaska and Canada.

Some of the most exceptionally large male wolves can reach a weight of 152-174 lbs (69-79 kgs) in Russia.


– Height

The average height of a wolf might be anywhere between 26-34 inches (66-85 cms)


– Nose To Tail Length

The average length of a wolf from nose to tail tip might be in the range of 50 to 70 inches (127-177 cms), with other reports indicating they can be 4.5 to 6 feet long


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Lifespan

German Shepherd

German Shepherds might have a lifespan of around 9-13 years on average

Although, some reports indicate some GSDs may even live up to 15 years of age



Lifespans for wolves can vary greatly, and obviously depend on different variables.

In the wild, some die at birth or die very young, but some reports indicate the average lifespan might be between 6 to 14 years.

In captivity, some reports indicate they may live up to 15 or 16 years.


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Appearance, Features, & Colors

German Shepherd

German Shepherds might commonly be known for the following appearance and physical features:

– Black and tan, or sometimes black and red coat color and saddle pattern (although other colors exist too)

– Erect ears/ears that stand up

– An angulated back and dropped hips (although body shape differs between the individual lines of GSDs)

– Generally medium length hair/plush coat, with a double coat (although, short and long haired GSDs exist too)


Having said that though, different German Shepherds have different physical features and appearances.

You can read about the different variations in German Shepherds, such the different lines, colors, and coat lengths/types here.



Wolves might commonly be known for the following appearance and physical features:

– Banded fur that is a mix of grey, white, brown, black and sometimes yellow. Some wolves have different coloration too though, such as solid white

– Pointed/upright ears 

– A solid/sturdy body, bushy tail, distinct eyes, and a black nose

– A dense, well insulated, double coat, with a coarser outer layer, and a softer inner layer


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Head, Teeth & Jaws

We don’t have specific comparisons of wolves to German Shepherds for this section, but rather a comparison to dogs in general

Some reports indicate that dogs and wolves have the same number of teeth (42 in total), but wolves have:

– Larger skulls

– Bigger and stronger jaws

– Larger and thicker teeth i.e. canine teeth that are longer and thicker than most dogs, as well as larger/more developed molars

– Teeth that are specially developed to hunt, cut through meat, crush hard bone, and defend them against threats and other animals


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Intelligence, & Which Is Smarter?

We don’t have specific comparisons to German Shepherds for this section, but rather a comparison to dogs in general

Some reports indicate that:

– Wolves do better on some tests of logic and also problem solving than dogs

– Wolves understand the connection between cause and effect better than dogs (domestication of dogs may have led to this)

– Wolves may understand human cues as well as, or better than some dogs


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Bite Force

The bite force of different dog breeds and different animal might be a generalized measurement only, and not definitive or comprehensive.

We list some of the potential reasons for this in a separate guide about the bite force of different dog breeds.

But, where bite force is expressed in psi (pounds of force per square inch), a comparison of the bite force of both German Shepherds and Wolves might be:

– German Shepherds might have a bite force of 238 psi 

– Some reports indicate wolves have a bite force of around 400 psi, with others indicating that number might be closer to 1000 psi (or more)


German Shepherd vs A Wolf – Speed

Some reports indicate that German Shepherds can reach speeds of 30 mph, whilst wolves can reach up to 36 to 38 mph

Some reports indicate that wolves also have both a good burst of speed, and also the ability to sustain their speed as well


Other Potential Differences Between Dogs & Wolves & German Shepherds

Other potential differences might include but aren’t limited to:

– Genetics

– Physical features such as bone density, or lung capacity

– Diet

– Behavior and drives, with wolves cooperatively hunting game together, bringing down large prey, being social when in packs, engaging in group howling, travelling long distances in the wild

– Population sizes of each animal

– Ability to follow directions, and ability to be obedient to humans

– And more


More Information On German Shepherds

It’s worth noting that some of the information in the guide above about German Shepherds comes from our ‘German Shepherd Breed Information Guide‘, which also has additional information about the German Shepherd breed.



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