Dogs are descended from wolves, although few today look much like their ancestors. Dogs have been party to natural and human selection for millennia; while most have lost their wolf-like appearances, some still look very much like they're wild predecessors. Wolf-like dogs have also been recreated through crossbreeding experiments.
The Saarloos wolfdog is the result of a Dutch crossbreeding project from the 1920s. German shepherd-like dogs and wolves were selectively bred in the hopes of creating useful working and guide dogs. The Sarloos's body (which weighs, on average, between 77 and 88 pounds) is longer than that of the wolf, but retains the wild animal's triangular ears, wedge-like head, long, arched feet, and wolf-grey coat, usually blended with brown- or cream-colored fur.
Czechoslovakian wolfdogs are also German shepherd-wolf hybrids. While smaller than the Sarloos variety (they weigh, on average, between 44 and 57 pounds), Czechoslovakians have inherited many of the wolf's character traits -- they are fearless, fast, stealthy, resilient and very private. The Czechoslovakian wolfdog features the same triangular ears and wedge-shaped head as the Sarloos, though its tail is straight and high-set, its nails are far darker, its coat yellower and its face distinctively whiter.
West Siberian Laika
West Siberian laikas are hardy dogs bred to hunt in the forests of Siberia. These confident, eager animals are popular in their native country, though their urge to hunt is so strong that they're not widely regarded as suitable house dogs. The laika's wolf-like appearance starts with its tell-tale erect, triangular ears and wedge-shaped head. It also has long, muscular forelegs. Though it's about the same size as a Czechoslovakian wolfdog, the laika's tail differs, curling over its back like a plume.
Alaskan malamutes are the largest and oldest of Arctic sled dog varieties. With their exceptional strength and endurance, they are designed to carry heavy loads over long distances. Like Saarloos wolfdogs, malamutes are large dogs, though they are somewhat broader than wolves and their tails more plume-like. Still, they carry the same wedge-like heads on their shoulders, and the same upright, triangular ears on their heads. What's more, their shaggy coats are a wolfish gradient of white, gray and black.
Norwegian elkhounds are surprisingly small (ideally weighing between 48 and 55 pounds) when one considers that these resilient, hardy dogs are bred to hunt animals like elk and bear. This breed offers the silver-gray coat so many wolf-lovers have come to know, as well as the requisite triangular ears and wedge-shaped head. Though, like the malamute, elkounds are thicker in the body than most wolves and carry curled tails, their faces, especially as puppies, are unmistakably wolf-like.
Siberian huskies were initially bred in Northeast Asia as sled dogs. Like their cousins, the malamutes, they're known as dedicated workers with remarkable endurance and stamina. Siberians range in weight from 35 to 60 pounds. Like many cold-climate breeds, they have exceptionally thick coats. However, their fur's shaggy texture and color variations from white to black only compound their wolf-like appearances. Siberians also feature the triangular ears and wedge-shaped head necessary to complete the look.
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images