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The German Shepherd Dog and its Relatives
In this Periodical:
- Distant Relatives - The Origin of Dogs
- Oldest Dog Breeds
- German Shepherds - Wolf Lookalikes?
- Variety of Wolves...
- ...and Variety of German Shepherds
- Breed Standard German Shepherd
- Large Breed German Shepherd
- Modern German Shepherd Siblings
- Shiloh Shepherd
- King Shepherd
- Other German Shepherd Relatives
- Belgian Shepherd Dog - Malinois
- Dutch Shepherd Dog
- Saarloos Wolfdog
Distant Relatives - The Origin of Dogs
According to fossil founds, some 33000 years ago a few wolves that weren't as shy of humans as others in their pack narrowed in on human settlements in Siberia in order to ... scavenge some food remains. Yes!
This was much easier for the wolves than hunting other animals, and such motive certainly helped to reduce their shyness (called flight distance).
The behavior intensified within these particular family lines of wolves, and soon these wolves stayed close to the human settlers all the time.
The human settlers liked the company of the wolves. One reason probably was that, in 'exchange' for the scavenged food leftovers, the wolves protected the people from dangers. Because the wolves would hear anything coming close long before our own ancestors could hear it. It was a win-win for both parties really.
This moment was the start of ALL of our modern domesticated dogs!
Soon our ancestors must have ventured into targeted breeding of those wolves which demonstrated specific traits that our ancestors particularly liked.
Since wolves (like dogs) mature early, they created a new offspring every year, and very quickly the early settlers had bred dogs: Wolves that were markedly different in their behavior to the initial wild wolves (who would attack people when they see a chance).
From generation to generation these new wolves (dogs) became increasingly docile towards people, while remaining hostile towards all other dangers. So much, that at some point these domesticated dogs became so different to their ancestors that these dogs even protected the people from the wolves! (It is not clear at what time historically this transition took place.)
Now canines had become human's best friend!
This targeted breeding continued, and dog domestication was of course multiregional. Hence soon, not only the behavior but also the looks of these early dogs became more and more different from that of wolves. It can be assumed that probably within a few thousand years these earliest dog family lines had changed so much that in terms of size, shape, and behavior they no longer resembled wolves.
We can easily see this by looking at the oldest dog breeds.
Oldest Dog Breeds
Gene analysis found that the oldest dog breeds (closest to wolves in terms of their genes) are:
Indeed, only 4 of these 9 ur-dogs show facial features that remind of a wolf: the Siberian Husky, Alaskan Malamute, Akita Inu, and Shiba Inu. But even these dogs look overall very different to wolves. And, as said before, all dogs behave very different to wolves.
Gene analysis also found that 36 regions of the genome set apart the wolves from all dogs. For example, the modern dog has ten genes that allow dogs to break down fats and digest starches!
In particular, dogs have more copies of the AMY2B gene, which allows for amylase production. Amylase is an enzyme that helps to digest carbohydrates, like from grains. In dogs, this gene is 28 times more active in the pancreas than in wolves.
This is why today's canines can eat most of what we humans eat (but not all)! We will discuss this (often misrepresented) fact in an upcoming MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.
One of the best books that covers dog breeds in general, and with beautiful photos too, is Caroline Coile's Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds.
German Shepherds - Wolf Lookalikes?
So, in terms of their genes German Shepherds are more distant to wolves than many other dog breeds.
In terms of their looks however (in my personal opinion) GSDs have - after the Siberian Husky (see above) - the closest resemblance with wolves.
Variety of Wolves...
According to everythingwolf.com, both height and weight of the wolf also are spot on with those of the German Shepherd Dog: Average height of the North American Wolf ranges from 26 to 32 inch at the shoulder, and average weight ranges from 40 to 175(!) pounds.
Even coat color is spot on: Wolves can be grey, tan-brown, black-brown, solid white or solid black!
Indeed, it is fair to say that in terms of height and weight and coat color GSDs resemble wolves as much as in terms of overall looks.
...and Variety of Germans Shepherds
From last week's Periodical, German Shepherd Dog Global Pedigree Differences, you already know the standard height, weight, and coat color of German Shepherd dogs. You may now be inclined to wonder whether wolves are slightly bigger than GSDs?
However, last week's Periodical also showed that overall 74% of German Shepherds are Non-Standard.
This Periodical was meant to provide a backdrop for next week's 'life-or-death' Periodical that's at the heart of this site's founder Tim Carter. An absolute MUST-READ! Well, more watch, in this case. A MUST-SEE Periodical, yes, that's it!
And certainly a MUST-THINK Periodical too.
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