Are Wolfdogs Legal? Wolfdog Facts & Fiction


Are Wolfdogs Legal? Wolfdog Facts & Fiction


Heart-of-King-Dog-George Marsh


As I wrote in my popular article DOG INTELLIGENCE – THE TOP 10 MOST INTELLIGENT DOG BREEDS, cross-bred husky/wolf hybrids were once common in the Canadian Northcountry. My short story WOLFBLOOD deals with this theme (and readers keep asking me, “What happens to the wolf dog puppies?”).

I described how First Nations people deliberately interbred their sled dogs with gray wolves. The result was a big intelligent animal adapted to the wild country. As mechanized transport was introduced to the North, the need for working sled dogs decreased…


When French and English explorers first arrived in the savage Northcountry of Canada and Alaska, the natives would commonly warn them to “Watch out for the dogs!”

Those wolfdogs were big, fierce and dangerous. Most were kept outdoors, although gentler “less wolfish” puppies were sometimes allowed indoors with families.

The outside world heard about these mixed breeds mostly from the popular fiction of adventurous writers who knew the country. Their books became best sellers. Books like WHITE FANG by Jack London. KAZAN THE WOLF DOG by James Oliver Curwood. And SILVER CHIEF: DOG OF THE NORTH by Jack O’Brien.  Although they were writing fiction, these authors knew their subjects well.  They had traveled the Northlands.

Jack O’Brien, for instance, was described by his publisher as “one of those soldiers of fortune to whom adventure and danger are the spice of life.” As Chief Surveyor for Admiral Byrd’s first Antarctic Expedition of 1928-1930, O’Brien was in charge of the dog teams taken along on that historic trip. He drove huskies on prospecting ventures into Northern Canada and worked so often with the big sled dogs that “he came to know them as few men do.”

The last interbred wolfdogs to be used as working dogs were from the Ungava area of the Canadian Northwest Territories. American writer and explorer George Marsh wrote about these last wolfdogs, the Ungava huskies, in novels such as FLASH THE LEAD DOG and THE HEART OF THE KING-DOG.

With the advent of snowmobiles and other gas-driven machines, sled dogs were mostly abandoned as working animals.

Competitive racing became the rage of the age, growing in popularity. Thus began a deliberate breeding of modern huskies and malamutes for speed. Crossbreeding northern dogs with southern racing breeds. The result is a much smaller animal. The huskies you see in present day movies and videos are much smaller and sleeker than the old wolfdogs of a hundred years ago.

Are wolfdogs legal? Yes and no.  In most countries, there’s no law against interbreeding canine species.  Owning them may be a problem.  Many cities, because of population numbers, tend to have more proactive pet bylaws than rural areas with their open countryside.

In the US, Alaska has no wolf/dog hybrid breeding laws.  Probably because Alaska (along with the Canadian Yukon and Northwest Territories) have that cultural history of such interbreeding.   It’s interesting to note that cat crossbreeding is illegal in Alaska — owning a kitten from mating a domestic cat with any species of wild cat is illegal.

In Missouri, you must have a permit to confine a hybrid wolf.   Texas laws vary county by county.

In Canada, owning a pure wolf is illegal.  But not wolf hybrids.

In other words, check with your local Lands & Forests.  Or veterinarian.

In North America, such animals are often the result of happenstance. A rural female pet who meets a bachelor wolf, usually without the pet owner’s knowledge – until the puppies appear.

Although there are a number of independent American and Canadian breeders advertising and selling wolfdog puppies.   Like Wolves USA, who say, “My wolfdogs are my greatest passion – words can’t express the majesty and intelligence these animals exude, they are grace beyond description.  When I have secured the right kind of homes for the pups, my wolfdogs have litters once a year in Spring. Their bloodlines contain Canada Blackphase Wolf,  Alaskan Tundra, Alaskan Interior, Arctic Wolves and Canadian Gray.”

In Europe, however, there have been a number of attempts to create a recognized standard wolfdog breed. Like the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. And the European, or Dutch wolfdog.

The most successful results came from Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos. In the 1920’s, Saarloos (believing that radical breeding had genetically weakened the modern domestic dog, creating sickly and inferior animals) decided to take Canis familiaris back to its ancestral roots, Canis lupus.

“Saarloos began the creation of the European Wolfdog by crossing a German Shepherd Dog called Gerard with a female wolf called Fleur. That pairing between GSD and wolf produced a total of twenty wolf-dog hybrids over time. He then crossed those half-wolves back with their father the German Shepherd Dog Gerard producing a new stock of hybrids that were just quarter wolf,” explains dog breeding expert and writer “Kayye Nynne” [1] who goes on to say:

“His quarter wolf-dog mix canines were extremely shy and wary of people, an undesirable trait that 12,000 years of domestication had apparently relieved the domestic dog of. Wild wolves are notoriously shy and wary of Humans and generally avoid people as much as possible. Furthermore his Saarloos Wolfhounds were little disposed to the usual methods of training and overall made for second rate work dogs. The Wolfdogs were also lousy guard dogs because they just plain refused to attack and made for equally bad watchdogs because just like the wolf, barking simply was not their thing.”

As our friend Kayye concludes: “In the end, what it really boiled down to was that the Saarloos Wolfdog had inherited a tad too much of the wolf gene. Wolves are highly intelligent animals that are very adept at escaping confinement within man-made enclosures, something that the average domestic dog is not.

“It’s in fact now believed that wild canids learn through insight whereas the domestic dog learns by rote and repetition. Yet people tend to think of dogs that do their bidding willingly and eagerly as intelligent and those that don’t as dumb.”

Despite these difficulties, the Saarloos Wolfdog (known as the Saarlooswolfhond in Holland) has been recognized as a true breed.

Are wolfdogs legal?  In most localities, yes.

But if you answer a “Wolfdog For Sale” ad, you should be aware of a couple things.  One, wolfdog hybrid experts are saying things like “75% of all claimed wolf dogs are actually just dogs.”  Second, you might find that you’ve got an animal not quite suited to your own expectations or lifestyle. A wolf IS a wild animal. And they like it that way.  Hybrid wolf-dogs can be the same.

We may like the whole concept of adopting a captive-bred wolf, a wolfdog or other exotic hybrid.  And many folks rise to the challenge and provide a loving home for them.  But other folks find they’ve just got “too much dog” on their hands and abandon their canine charge.  Unless they can find a proper rescue group to take over the homing of the suddenly unwanted animal — such as Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary of New Mexico or the Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary of Alberta, Canada — the end result can be tragic.

“Tread carefully when you follow the Wolf Trail.”
Brian Alan Burhoe


“A WILD WOLF, A HALF-WILD HUSKY, A WILY OLD TRAPPER!”   If you want to read my Free story in the Jack London & George Marsh Tradition,  Click Here to Read My Popular Online Northwestern WOLFBLOOD! 


[1] Kayye Nynne is the author of a number of canine-related eBooks, including “The Single Biggest Mistake People Make When Choosing A Puppy.”  His books can be found on iTunes, ChaptersIndigo, Amazon and Smashwords.

Are Wolfdogs Legal? Wolfdog Facts & Fiction Keywords: animal rights, are wolfdogs legal, Jack London Tradition, ungava huskies, wolf dog, wolfdogs, wolfdogs for sale, wolves


About Brian Alan Burhoe

A Graduate of the Holland College Culinary Course, Brian Alan Burhoe has cooked in Atlantic Coast restaurants and institutional kitchens for over 30 years. He is a member of the Canadian Culinary Federation. Brian's articles reflect his interests in food service, Canadian history, imaginative literature, wildlife writing, animal rights, wilderness preservation and our best friends -- our dogs. See his CIVILIZED BEARS!
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