All dogs have descended from wolves or other wild canids and many still maintain their primitive looks and temperaments today.
Although it’s been centuries since dogs became domesticated, recent DNA studies have brought to light which of the recognized breeds are the most closely related to wolves and their ancestors. The study included 414 dogs from 85 different breeds and the results might surprise you! You can read more about the study at National Geographic.
Although this breed looks nothing similar to wolves and other wild canids, the Shih Tzu is genetically one of the domestic breeds most closely related to wolves. It is thought that this companion breed originated in China around 800 BC.
Like the Shih Tzu, this lapdog hails from China and despite its appearance and temperament, is one of the least diverged from its ancestors. This breed has been owned and adored by members of the Chinese Imperial Palace for centuries.
A northern spitz-type from Russia, the Samoyed looks more believable when it comes to wild ancestors. This breed is social but primitive, still used for sledding and reindeer herding in its native land.
The Lhasa Apso is known for being a watchdog among Buddhist monasteries in its native Tibet. Researchers believe this breed originated roughly 4,000 years ago and its genetic makeup proves this to be true. Regardless of their appearance, the breed is one of the most closely related to wolves.
As its name suggests, this breed originates from Tibet, but it is not a true terrier. Tibetan Terriers have been kept as purebred dogs in their native home for over 2,000 years.
The Saluki is a sighthound native to the Middle East and known for traveling the Silk Road with caravans and nomadic tribes. Salukis are thought to be one of the oldest dog breeds in existence, with ancient rock art showing Saluki-like dogs as far back as 10,000 BC. Genetically, the breed is still very closely related to its wild ancestors.
Like the Saluki, the Afghan Hound is a sighthound that is also considered to be one of the oldest domestic dog breeds in existence. Genetic testing from this study proved they have little divergence from wolves.
This northern breed hails from Siberia where it has been and is still used for sledding. Not only does the breed resemble its wild ancestors, it has changed relatively little genetically over time. Siberian Huskies allowed nomadic tribes to survive in the cold, harsh environment of the Russian north.
Like most other Chinese breeds, the Shar-Pei is genetically very ancient. Despite its appearance, its genes are very similar to those of wolves. Although the exact history of the breed is uncertain, there are pottery s depicting Shar-Pei-like dogs as far back as 206 BC.
The Basenji is a small- to medium-sized hunting dog from Africa. Like other wild dogs and wolves, the Basenji is known for its yodeling rather than barking. Genetically, the breed is considered ancient and is closely related to its wild ancestors.
The Shiba Inu is the smallest of the Japanese breeds and is also a very ancient dog. It was originally used to hunt rabbits and birds, but is most commonly seen as a family companion today. Its DNA makeup suggests it is one of the oldest living breeds.
Often considered a larger version of the Shiba Inu, the Akita is a guardian dog from Japan. Like the Shiba, it is genetically very ancient and similar to its wild ancestors. Although the Japanese and American Akitas have become two very different types, and are ever considered separate breeds in some countries, they are still relatively similar.
This large northern breed was developed for sledding and cart pulling and it is still used for this function today. With its wolf-like appearance, it doesn’t surprise many to learn that this Alaskan native is very closely related to its wild ancestors.
Of all Chinese breeds, the Chow Chow looks most closely like its wild ancestors. Although still very different, the breed is genetically ancient and considered to be one of the oldest breeds still in existence. They have primitive temperaments and were used as guard dogs as far back as 150 BC.
- Afghan Hound. …
- Alaskan Malamute. …
- Siberian Husky. …
- Shih Tzu. …
- Pekingese. …
- Lhasa Apso. …
- Shiba Inu. This Japanese breed may be small, but it is also very similar to the ancient wolf ancestors. …
- Chow Chow. The Chow Chow is very similar looking to the wild ancestors of wolves.
What makes some dog breeds close to wolves?
The main reason why dog breeds are close to wolves is their genetics. Dogs are a distant relative of wolves and this can be seen by research done on these two animals.
Dr. Robert K. Wayne is a canid biologist and molecular geneticist who states that modern dogs only differ from grey wolves by 0.2% of their DNA.
This is an incredibly small difference considering that coyotes are often considered the wolf’s closest relatives and also have a 4% difference between their DNA.
This means that dogs are 20 times closer to wolves than coyotes are in regards to their genetics. Some dogs are closer to wolves than others due to cross-breeding making them look and act so different from one another.
The Lhasa Apso looks as far from a wolf as it’s possible to look, but DNA doesn’t lie. Yes, this sweet, funny canine’s genetic makeup is very close to that of wolves. They originate from Tibet and, despite their small size, graced palace doors as guards just like the Shar-Pei in China. They also served as watchdogs for monasteries.
The gentle Samoyed is certainly a sight to behold. We challenge anyone to try and walk past these fluffy white dogs in the street and not feel the urge to give them a cuddle! The breed was historically used as a working dog and as blankets for the Samoyedic people—Samoyeds used to lay upon their owners to keep them warm during cold Siberian and Russian nights.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and—with some more than others—it’s easy to forget where they descended from. Between 27,000 and 40,000 years ago, the dog as we know it today evolved from prehistoric wolves. It is estimated that dogs first became domesticated around 15,000 years ago. Dogs are a separate breed from wolves but share a similar genetic blueprint.
Though all dogs descend from wolves, some breeds are more closely linked to ancient wolves than others. While some retain more obvious “wolfish” physical features like the Akita and Alaskan Malamute, others look nothing like their ancestors. Aesthetics aside, what’s important is that domesticated dogs don’t share their wild ancestor’s inability to bond with humans.
Physically, in some breeds, the wolf-like traits are long-gone, but the genetic makeup remains very similar. Without further ado, let’s explore the 14 dog breeds closest to wolves genetically.
The 7 Dog Breeds That Have the Closest Relation to Wolves
Currently, dogs and wolves share 99.9% of their DNA. According to PBS, different dog breeds have been created through purposeful interbreeding over the last 150 years, with varying looks and physical and mental characteristics serving as breeding markers.
However, over time, there have been genetic issues and other concerns for purposeful breeding. It was once believed that domesticated dogs came to be used for guarding livestock and other purposes. But it’s a possibility that dogs might have come to humans first for warm shelter and food.
Let’s take a look at the breeds with the absolute closest ties to their wolf cousins.
|Colors:||Red sesame, black sesame, black and tan, sesame, cream, red|
|Temperament:||Confident, strong-willed, affectionate, easygoing|
The impressive little Shiba Inu is a cheerful pup that might look a little more like a fox than a wolf. However, they are very closely related to wolves and share many common behaviors. These spunky pups are full of fire, running on a full tank all the time.
They can be a little challenging for first-time owners, as they tend to be pretty headstrong. But they are also incredibly rewarding pups with a love for the outdoors. Always testing the waters, your Shiba might also test your patience.
They are highly social with their family members, but they might be reserved with strangers. They are also a bit possessive and require manners training when sharing toys or bringing balls back during fetch.
|Colors:||Black, blue, fawn, red, cream|
|Temperament:||Dominant, aloof, loyal|
Resembling bears, the Chow Chow is one of the oldest Chinese breeds around. It is instantly recognizable for its wrinkles, thick coat, and black pigmented tongue.
Chow Chows are definitely not for the faint of heart. They have very assertive, even dominant, personalities with potential aggression issues. Experienced dog owners should do well with the breed, but they might not work so well for first-timers.
But Chow Chows have come a long way from their original purpose of herding and guarding. All that said, they still love to protect their household with unwavering loyalty. If you have issues with a Chow who shows aggression, behavioral training might be a must.
|Colors:||White, white and biscuit, cream|
|Temperament:||Playful, social, alert, peppy, friendly|
The Samoyed is a very closely related breed to their wild wolf cousins. This is a very cheerful little dog in the Spitz family with tons of energy. This breed gets especially attached to its family members. They look at you as one of their very own, and they delight in every moment spent with our owners.
Since this breed gets so attached, they do best with owners who aren’t making any significant changes. Buying or adopting this lovely dog means a commitment for its whole life.
The Samoyed is extremely amiable with strangers and familiar friends alike. This beautiful white breed is typically very good with children of all ages, although their energy can be quite a lot for children under 6 years old.
|Colors:||White, brindle, sesame, red fawn|
|Temperament:||Affectionate, loyal, aloof with strangers|
All in all, the Akita share as much DNA with their wild cousins as possible without being defined as pure wolves themselves. It really comes through in the Akita’s assertive demeanor. Many owners could probably understand just how closely they could be related. An Akita’s coat is characteristically suited for cold temperatures.
The Akita is curious and adventurous by nature. It is not unusual to have one escape any enclosure. But apart from that, Akita‘s are quite quiet, not barking unless there is a fundamental reason. These dogs make excellent watchdogs as they are notoriously unsure of strangers.
However, in the situation where it warrants, you can count on them to protect your household. These dogs are relentlessly faithful creatures with only one thing in mind—the wellbeing of their family.
Akitas work best in rural or suburban areas with large backyards. Since these dogs love to roam and wander, you must have the space and time to spend with them. They can also be escape artists, and they are brilliant, so make sure your fence is very well reinforced.
|Colors:||White, black, gray and white, sable and white, black and tan, black and white, silver-gray, gray, red and white|
|Temperament:||Intelligent, friendly, active, social|
Siberian Huskies are closely related to wolves, but they puzzle scientists with their extremely different behaviors. Siberian huskies tend to be very pack-oriented, like wolves. However, their actions and personalities differ greatly.
Siberian Huskies tend to be highly adventurous and active. If they are not properly stimulated, it’s easy for them to develop nervous tendencies or destructive behaviors. Huskies are natural escape artists. If they are enclosed without proper exercise, they will want to bolt every chance they get. Huskies can be a lot of work
but they can also make excellent family companions. However, they usually do best in households with lots of space to roam and run. So if you are living in an apartment in the city, this might not be the right breed for you.
|Colors:||Black, brindle, black and white, tricolor, tan, red|
|Temperament:||Quiet, alert, sharp, mild, playful, affectionate|
The Basenji is a very old breed, stemming back into the days of ancient Egypt. There is some speculation that it could be Ethiopian wolves rather than descending from traditional gray wolves. If you take a peek at this wolf species, it’s quite easy to see a detectable resemblance.
They are considered Africa’s barkless dog, which is a huge plus for some folks who prefer less vocalization. But like some other familiar breeds you know, Basenjis let out a yodel rather than a bark when they communicate like their wild ancestors.
Basenji’s have a reputation for being highly hygienic, grooming often. They are a relatively small breed but have very lean athletic bodies. These dogs are highly social animals with their family members and are very curious about their surroundings.
This breed is known to have quite a cult following. So, if you have ever been lucky enough to meet or own a Basenji, they probably have left an imprint on your heart.
|Colors:||Gray and white, seal and white, sable and white, black and white, chocolate and white, and red and white|
|Temperament:||Loyal, cheerful, alert, playful|
Alaskan Malamutes are probably not a shocking close relation to gray wolves. With their standard coloring and overall features, you can definitely see the resemblance.
Alaskan Malamutes are very alert, watchful, making wonderful watchdogs. But they are also extremely loyal and devoted to family, which means they are excellent family companions.
Sometimes, malamutes can be a little territorial, so they might not take well to strangers, outings, or other pets.
Reserved by nature, these dogs will make irreplaceable companions in the right home.