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Stop messing around! As children, we heard this shouting down the hall as we tried – and failed – to hide our childish antics while doing homework or dragging our feet during a tedious job. If only we knew when we caught our attention, embarrassed, we would actually have to blame our ancestors. Humans are distantly related to monkeys, lemurs, and apes, but wait, there are more bananas growing. Almost 99 percent of our DNA is identical to that of a chimpanzee, according to the American Museum of Natural History – but you’d probably never guess if you just looked.
The same does not apply to our canine companions, who are strikingly similar to wolves in the wild. Some wolf-like dogs may even warrant a double shot if you pass them on the road, but rest assured – these stunning dog breeds are more closely related to the cute little Chihuahuas than to their carnivorous forest claim cousins.
Are dogs descended from wolves?
Although it was widely believed that all dogs were directly descended from the gray wolf we know today, genetic testing that found domesticated dogs actually came from a now-extinct relative of the gray wolf, says Jerry Klein, DVM, veterinary chief of the American Kennel Club (AKC). Still, dogs share 98.8 percent of their DNA with wolves – and this applies to all dog breeds, not just the wolfdog doppelgangers.
“While certain breeds of dogs appear more ‘wolf-like’, they are in fact no ‘more related to wolves’ than other dog breeds,” says Klein. “Domesticated dogs are more genetically similar than wolves.”
A notable difference between dogs and wolves is, of course, their adaptability to humans. Dogs today have evolved to read and respond to human body language and facial expressions. Like wolves, dogs thrive in packs, but not in the fluffy, furry kind.
“Dogs are accessible to human society as packs,” says Klein. “Wolves are naturally fearful and shy of humans. Their pack is with other wolves.”
The story goes on
If you want to expand your pack and be drawn to the athletic prowess and powerful grace of the wolf, these dog breeds that look like wolves can provide the best of both worlds.
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Ranked the 16th Most Popular Breed by the AKC in 2020, the sleek athletic aesthetic and piercing eyes of the Siberian Husky are recognized as the epitome of the wolfdog breed. In fact, the Siberian Husky can be traced back to a wolf over 35,000 years old. Bred as working dogs and successful as sled dogs, Siberian Huskies most notably saved the day in an early 20th century epidemic and took over the reins as sled dogs that delivered the miraculous medicine across more than 600 miles of Alaskan terrain. This breed is not one that sits still!
“This athletic breed requires a lot of exercise, so they will benefit from running with their owners or participating in some canine sports,” says Klein.
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Irish wolfhounds are up to 3 feet tall and weigh up to 180 pounds. They are gentle giants who, despite their dominant stature, make great family pets, although they get along best with older children. Funnily enough, Irish wolfhounds were originally bred for wolf hunting and were so successful in their endeavors that they almost became extinct in the 18th century when the predatory threat subsided. Fortunately, they have been resuscitated to the hearty dogs we welcome into our homes today.
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These fluffy white wolf-like dogs are the breeds of dogs that are akin to a marshmallow and do well for winter weather.
“Thanks to their double coats, Sammies can withstand even the coldest and harshest weather,” says Klein. “The Samoyed is also known for having a characteristic ‘smile’ due to the upward curvature of its black lips.”
The best way to make him smile? Lots of outdoor activity! Don’t be surprised if you see a white streak – these fast paced fluffballs love to chase and burn energy.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog (Caucasian Ovcharka)
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Don’t be fooled by their teddy bear looks and lolling tongues. Although the Caucasian Shepherd Dog poses a major problem for their people, they have protective tendencies for their home and residents. The Caucasian Shepherd Club of America recommends only experienced dog owners who have enough time to devote to socializing and training their pup. Crate training is a must, according to the club, and positive reinforcement is effective when teaching the desired behavior.
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Another successful sled dog, the Alaskan Malamute – or “Mals” as they are affectionately known – enjoys being taken to work. Adventurous and strong, muscular mothers enjoy hiking through various areas and can be very helpful companions if you allow them to carry your supplies. You shouldn’t sit still for long – but make sure you can sit still long enough to groom yourself daily. Klein recommends using both a needle brush and a metal comb for the thick layers.
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While they look very similar to the Irish Wolfhound, the Scottish Deer Dog is another breed that is historically known for hunting deer in the Scottish Highlands (as the name suggests). Large and responsible, the Scottish Deerhound has a formidable presence but a relatively calm demeanor. Although well-suited for families, Scottish Deer Dogs can knock down young children with the best of intentions, so homes with older children are recommended. Their size is not meant to be trapped in a small apartment, so houses with fenced-in yards are best for moving around freely.
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“The Belgian Malinois has an intensity that requires constant activity and has to deal with its owner both mentally and physically,” says Klein. “Daily walks aren’t enough for this breed, so it’s important to familiarize them with higher-energy activities like running, biking, hiking, and even dog sports like agility, herding, and tracking.”
The Belgian Malinois is commonly confused with a German Shepherd and is a breed in its own right. However, both breeds are very popular with the police and the military.
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The American Eskimo is similar to its cloud-like counterpart in the Samoyed, but is much smaller and comes in three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard, weighing just six pounds. Tiny but energetic, these pups are perfect for kids and can make a pretty dynamic duo as they entertain each other.
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Formerly known as the Russian Wolfhound, Borzoi dogs are named for their speedy status – “Borzoi” is a game of a Russian word that means “fast”. Members of the Russian aristocracy bred the borzoi to hunt wolves and other game, and today’s borzoi are best for homes with large, fenced-in yards to roam free, although they would be fine in an apartment as long as there was enough opportunity to do so Movement is offered. Indeed, the calm nature of this limited breed can appeal to apartment dwellers.
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The Swedish Vallhund is a relatively rare breed in America – although in appearance it resembles the AKC’s eleventh most popular breed in America, the Welsh Pembroke Corgi. They have more than 1,000 years of history with the Vikings and were originally bred as herding dogs for Swedish farmers, according to the Swedish Vallhund Club of America. The versatile Vallhund is well suited to a variety of families and lifestyles, is active and trainable, and friendly to children and other animals.
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German shepherd dog
“German Shepherds have always been one of the most popular breeds in the United States,” says Klein. “Currently, the German Shepherd is the third most popular breed of dog in the United States.”
Revered by many families, these people often protect and serve, a popular breed to work in the police or military. However, the average home will find these pups to be playful pets who rarely leave their loved one’s side. German Shepherds are happiest around their people and should not be left alone for long periods of time.
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Early ancestors of the Tamaskan were known simply as “wolf-like” as breeders aspired to what is now the Tamaskan breed, although the breed is not currently recognized by the AKC. According to the Tamaskan Dog Register, “its body proportions, shape and movement are similar to those of a wolf: balance between strength, agility and endurance.” In fact, the breed’s name comes from “Tamaska”, which means “mighty wolf”.