Saarloos Wolfdog

The Dutch geneticist Leendert Saarloos began to cross German Shepherd Dogs with wolves just after World War II to create what he thought would be a sounder variety of the German Shepherd. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog also comes from crosses of German Shepherds and wolves. The last infusion with wolf is said to have taken place in 1966 and the resulting, the more elegant Saarloos breed, was recognized in 1975. It looks very much like the Nordic Wolf and is mainly kept as a guard and companion dog. It is known to be reserved toward strangers.

Sometimes called the Saarloos Wolfhound, the Dutch Wolfdog or the European Wolfdog, this breed takes its name from its creator, the Dutchman Leendert Saarloos (1884—1969).


This remarkable animal was the creation of a Dutch breeder who had become critical of the state of modern domestic dogs. He felt that, through centuries of selective breeding, they had lost their true canine nature and had become "degenerate". He decided to put back some of the wild, ancestral, lupine personality by arranging matings between the domestic dog and the wolf. Saarloos started his experiments in the interwar period — the 1920s and 1930s — and was soon completely obsessed with his unusual project.

The starting point of the Saarloos Wolfdog was a cross he made between a male German Shepherd Dog and a female wolf. Back-crossing with the sire created a group of quarter-wolves. He started to train these as working dogs, but met with little success. What he had overlooked was that the main difference between the wolf and the dog is that the wolf (against all popular beliefs) is an extremely shy animal. It is this acute shyness that 12,000 years of domestication has bred out of the modern dog.

To his dismay, he found that they were useless as a working dog, because they were too cautious; useless as a guard dog because they refused to attack; useless as a watchdog because they were reluctant to bark; useless as a guide dog for the blind because they withdrew the moment there was any sign of trouble; and useless for dog trials, because they were strong-willed and resisted the ordinary training methods.

This was not the result he had hoped for, but they were majestic animals nonetheless and he persevered. In 1963 he introduced new wolf blood, crossing one of his wolf-dogs with a female wolf. In 1969 Saarloos died, and in the years that followed, the Saarloos Wolfdog breed went into a rapid decline, with too little control over breeding programmes. In 1975, Dutch canine authorities stepped in and saved the breed. Up to this point it had been known as the European Wolfdog, but now they renamed it the Saarloos Wolfdog, in honour of its creator, and gave it official recognition.


In personality the Saarloos Wolfdogs proved to be attentive, careful dogs, timid with strangers and cautious of novelty.

Consistent with being in part developed from the wolf, the Saarloos Wolfhond possesses a strong pack instinct. Most owners of the Saarloos have two or more dogs in order to create a “pack” environment for their pets.


The height at the withers should be about 24-29 1/2 inches/60-75 cm. In general appearance, the Saarloos wolfdog should resemble the wolf in shape, coat and coloring, except that a light liver brown color is also accepted. Some people say that this exception is an indication that the Siberian Husky may have had a part in the creation of the breed.

Care and Exercise

The coat needs brushing only once a week. The Saarloos Wolfdog requires a lot of exercise, ideally away from other people and dogs.

Puppies and Training

A litter usually numbers four to eight puppies that require intensive early training to get them used to people and domestication.

Gallery of Saarloos Wolfdog