Dogs and wolves are two sides of the same coin. Though domesticated for thousands of years, many dog breeds still carry a striking resemblance to their wild ancestor.
In this article, we will explore 10 Dog Breeds Genetically Similar to wolves,. These 10 dog breeds have retained remarkable traits from their wild ancestors, showcasing the enduring connection between dogs and their wolf heritage.
So, join us as we unravel the unique traits of these fascinating breeds.
10 – Lhasa Apso
Starting the list at number 10 is the Lhasa Apso. The small and cute Lhasa Apso with their adorable appearance might not look anything like a wolf, but their genetic makeup tells a different story.
This thousand-year-old breed served as sentinel dogs at palaces and Buddhist monasteries isolated high in the Himalayan Mountains. In Tibetan folklores, the country’s protector is the mythical Snow Lion, and Lhasas, the “bearded lion dogs,” are the Snow Lion’s earthly representatives.
Studies have shown that the sweet and funny Lhasa’s genetic makeup is very close to that of wolves.
This breed makes for a great companion animal. Lhasas are very loyal and friendly to their humans. They’re less friendly toward strangers but very loving toward their owners or people they otherwise know.
And keep in mind, underestimating these dogs for their small size can be a huge mistake. Lhasa Apsos have a strong protective instinct and the courage to back up their protectiveness, making them ideal watchdogs.
9 – Afghan Hound
At number 9, we’ve got the Afghan Hound. This regal and elegant breed is known for its long, silky coat and distinctive appearance. But what many people may not know is that the Afghan Hound has a strong genetic similarity to wolves.
As their name suggests, the Afghan Hounds have their origin in the mountains of Afghanistan. They are considered one of the oldest dog breeds and they are also a basal breed, a breed that had a huge influence on the development of the species we have today.
The Afghan Hound is also known for its independent and aloof nature, high energy levels, and strong hunting instincts, which are traits commonly found in wolves. Additionally, they are a unique and hardy breed, well suited for cold climates and rugged terrains.
8 – Shar-Pei
Number 8 on the list is the Shar-Pei. This fascinating but challenging breed of ancient pedigree is steadfastly loyal to family but standoffish with strangers. Used as guard dogs and sentinel dogs at the royal palaces in ancient China, their history accounts for the fierce loyalty they are famed for today.
Chinese farmers also employed these rugged, intelligent dogs as hunters, herders, and guardians of livestock against predators and rustlers.
The Chinese Shar-Pei has physical characteristics that make them a one-of-a-kind companion and guardian dog.
The compact, medium-sized Chinese Shar-Pei is an amalgamation of odd physical traits: a broad ‘hippopotamus‘ muzzle; a blue-black tongue; small, sunken eyes with a scowling expression; tiny triangular ears; abundant folds of loose skin about the head, neck, and shoulders; the tapered high-set tail’ all blanketed by a harsh, sandpapery coat.
But what’s little known about these dogs is that they are very genetically similar to wolves. Who would have thought these wrinkled canine companions could be so closely related to the vicious wild wolf of the past just based on their appearance, right?
7 – Shih Tzu
In the 7th place, we’ve got the Shih Tzu. Another dog breed of Chinese origin, the Shih Tzu is yet another dog that might not look anything close to a wolf, but their genetic makeup again tells a different story.
Bred solely to be companions, Shih Tzus are affectionate, happy, outgoing house dogs who love nothing more than to follow their people from room to room. Since ancient times, they’ve made themselves comfortable on the laps of people from all walks of life, even emperors!
These happy and affectionate little dogs make great family pets who get along with other animals and even children, so long as kids know how to gently handle and play with a small pup.
And they love nothing more than to meet and greet friends and strangers alike. Count on a Shih Tzu to make friends wherever they go.
Don’t let their small size fool you, though. The Shih Tzu is a vocal breed with a big personality. They also can’t get enough of digging, so keep an eye on your garden if a Shih Tzu is about!
6 – Basenji
They are also one of the closest breeds to wolves genetically, carrying plenty of “wolf-like” DNA. Unique and beguiling, the Basenji is a dog breed from central Africa and they’re recognized by their glistening short coat, tightly curled tail, wrinkled forehead, and expressive almond-shaped eyes that convey a variety of subtle, humanlike emotions.
Basenjis are fastidious and they will frequently groom themselves like cats. These dogs are a lovely sight at a standstill but more impressive when they are in motion. An excellent hunter, the Basenji has a strong prey drive and a high energy level which is why they’re best suited to owners who can provide them with adequate physical and mental stimulation.
These dogs are very loyal and loving with their family members but they can be reserved with strangers. Basenjis are also independent dogs, so they might not respond to their owner’s commands if they don’t feel up to it.
5 – Shiba Inu
Famed for their hunting capacity, the Shiba is another member of the “basal breed” along with the Afghan hound.
The Shiba Inu’s genome reveals a high proportion of markers that are common to wolves, indicating a closer relationship to the wild ancestor of all dogs. But despite the breed’s wild roots, the Shiba Inu has adapted to life as a companion animal.
In fact, today, the Shiba is the most popular companion dog in Japan. They are adaptable dogs at home in both towns and the countryside.
The smallest of the six ancient spitz dogs originating in Japan, the Shiba is well-renowned for their bold and fiery personality. These are independent and strong-willed dogs that require firm and constant leadership to bring out the best of them.
4 – Chow Chow
In the fourth spot, we’ve got the Chow Chow. Another ancient breed of dog from China, the Chow Chow is known for its distinct blue-black tongue and its thick and fluffy coat.
They also have many wolf-like features, such as their heavy coats and upright ears, but were bred to look like lions.
It is believed that the Chow Chow is one of the first dogs to have emerged after the domestication of dogs. Yet another dog of basal lineage, like the Shiba and the Afghan, Chows are one of the very closest breeds to grey wolves genetically.
The dignified, serious-minded, and aloof, Chow Chow presents the picture of a muscular, deep-chested aristocrat with an air of inscrutable timelessness.
As family dogs, Chow Chows are said to be very devoted to their owners but wary of strangers, which is why they make great watchdogs as well as excellent guard dogs.
Like most other dogs on this list, Chows can be very independent and strong-willed, so it is important for potential owners to be experienced with dog training and handling.
3 – Akita
Coming in at number 3 on the list is the Akita. This majestic breed hails from the cold northern regions of Japan, and it’s no surprise that the Akita has evolved to have a thick, double coat to protect them from harsh weather. They look much like wolves, with their pointy ears, strong build, and big furry coat.
But it’s not just their appearance that has a wolf-like quality. Akitas are known for their strong hunting instincts, independence, and natural wariness toward strangers, much similar to the qualities of a wolf, making them excellent watchdogs.
Originally, bred for guarding royalty and nobility in feudal Japan, these dogs were also used to track and hunt wild boars, black bears, and sometimes deer. Today, however, they’ve found their place as loyal and devoted companions.
Akitas are also known for their loyalty and devotion to their family, making them affectionate companions. The large, independent-thinking Akita is hardwired for protecting those they love.
These quiet and fastidious dogs are wary of strangers and often intolerant of other animals, but they’ll gladly share their silly, affectionate side with family and friends.
2 – Alaskan Malamute
In 2nd place, we’ve got the Alaskan Malamute. Just take one look at the Alaskan Malamute and you’ll notice how similar they look to wolves in terms of appearance.
They are known for their thick fur coats which keep them warm in cold climates.
These dogs share many physical characteristics with wolves, such as their large size, thick fur, and pointy ears. Luckily, the Alaskan Malamute doesn’t share its ancestor’s unfriendliness. These dogs are said to make excellent family and companion dogs due to their playful and affectionate disposition.
But it’s not only the physical characteristics of the breed that are similar to wolves. The breed’s genetic similarity can also be seen in their natural instincts, such as their strong pack mentality and high endurance levels.
Originally bred for hauling heavy loads across the snowy terrain of Alaska, the Alaskan Malamute is a powerful and hardworking breed that requires a lot of physical and mental stimulation. They also possess a strong sense of independence, which makes them a challenging breed to train and handle, but if trained properly they make a loving and loyal companion.
1 – Siberian Husky
But despite the similar physical characteristics, Siberian Huskies are not wolves—there are several distinct differences between them. Author Pontus Skogland of Harvard Medical School has claimed, however, that a large portion of the Siberian Husky’s genome traces back to ancient Siberian Wolves.
Additionally, they also share many behavioral traits with their wild ancestors such as their pack mentality and high level of stamina.
As their name suggests, the Siberian Husky originates from Siberia, where they were highly valued as working sled dogs. These dogs were perfectly adapted to the environment they were raised in and capable of surviving below-freezing temperatures.
Siberian Huskies are known for their striking beauty, and their wolf-like appearance makes them a unique and sought-after breed.
And these unique features make them great companions for people who are looking for a dog that’s a little bit different from the rest.
So, whether you’re drawn to the power of the Alaskan Malamute or the agility of the Shiba Inu, these wolf-like breeds offer a world of wonder for dog enthusiasts.
Tell us your favorite breed in the comments and explore our dog articles for more dog info!