Wolves are awe-inspiring wild animals unfortunately ill-suited to life as domesticated pets.
And while there are a few wolf hybrids, these breeds are tricky and ownership is tightly regulated.
But people who fantasize about bringing a cub into their pack can have the next best thing: a dog closely resembling a wolf instead.
Gina DiNardo, Executive Secretary of the American Kennel Club (AKC) notes prehistoric dog breeders used wolves to create domestic dogs, meaning the animals share many physical traits.
She told Newsweek: “Wolves are dogs’ ancestors, so it’s no wonder that some of them still resemble their shape, fur type and mannerisms.
“While you may think of huskies and similar breeds when you think of wolf look-alikes, there are many other AKC-recognized breeds, large and small, that resemble these dogs of the past.
“The earliest dog breeders actually used wolves to breed domesticated dogs, another reason why so many breeds even today still bear the resemblance.”
Read on to discover which wolf-like dog breeds could work for you.
1. Alaskan Malamute
This large, fluffy dog breed resembles a blend of huskies and wolves. Recognized by the AKC in 1935, these sled dogs have a curved tail, but otherwise, their face and body shape are akin to a wolf.
Gina DiNardo told Newsweek: “They have thick, weatherproof coats and a playful and gentle personality, known for being pack animals.”
2. Belgian Malinois
Though their coloring is usually browner than a wolf’s grey, this breed, recognized by the AKC in 1959, is known for being worker dogs that love to exercise and be active.
DiNardo said: “If wolves had shorter coats, the Belgian Malinois would be their doppelgangers.”
3. Czechoslovakian Vlcak
Known for its wolf-like appearance, this dog was originally bred for border patrol in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s. Intelligent, active and loyal, these dogs also share many personality traits with wolves.
DiNardo said: “With pointed ears, long snouts and tails and a similar bone structure, this dog would make you do a double-take.”
4. Finnish Lapphund
This medium-sized dog is as fluffy as fluffy gets, with majestic, wolf-like features such as its coat coloring and pointed ears.
They were recognized by the AKC in 2011, so are a more recent addition to the list of recognized breeds. DiNardo said: “The Finnish Lapphund was once a reindeer herder, and are quick and agile.”
5. Norwegian Elkhound
This dog breed in the Hound Group does not look far off from its wolf ancestors. With pointed ears, a thick coat and a strikingly similar face to a wolf, these ancient dogs sailed with Vikings and are known for their alert, strong nature.
DiNardo said: “They were AKC recognized in 1913, and the only feature that isn’t akin to their wolf brethren is their tail, curled tightly over their back.”
They are graceful, powerful dogs, thriving in the cold and as typical pack animals. With pointed ears and a long, dense double-coat, they are friendly and great for people who want a dog with wolf-like qualities.
DiNardo said: “Though they have a fluffier coat than a wolf, these medium-sized dogs, recognized by the AKC in 1906, bear a striking resemblance.”
7. Shiba Inu
They are generally small-to-medium sized dogs, with a short double-coat, typically black, tan, cream and red. These ancient Japanese dogs became AKC recognized in 1992, and they are sturdy, muscular and good-natured.
Gina DiNardo said: “Aside from this breed’s curly tail, Shiba Inu dogs have a wolf-like body and face.”
8. Siberian Husky
Siberian huskies have thick coats, and these natural pack-dogs bear quite a striking resemblance to wolves. They were AKC recognized in 1930, and are notably smaller and lighter than Alaskan Malamutes, who also look similar.
DiNardo said: “When you think of dogs that look like wolves, huskies are sure to be one of the first breeds that come to mind.”
The American Kennel Club also suggested some scaled-down dogs it describes as “mini wolves.”
9. laskan Klee Kai
These tiny dogs come in three sizes: Toy, Miniature and Standard—none of which rival the size of its wolf lookalikes.
DiNardo said: “They resemble small huskies as well, with pointed ears and thick, wiry coats, and are alert and energetic, though reserved in unfamiliar situations.”
10. American Eskimo Dog
Another small breed of dog that resembles a wolf is the American Eskimo Dog, recognized by the AKC in 1994.
DiNardo said: “Often white, their coat color may not directly match a wolf’s, but their fur and head shape make them an easy comparison regardless.”
11. Icelandic Sheepdog
Small but mighty, this multi-colored sheepdog, which became AKC recognized in 2010, has many wolf-like features despite its curled tail.
DiNardo said: “A voluminous double coat, pointed ears and a wolf-like face, this breed also often has similar markings above the eyes and throughout the face as wolves do.”
With similar snout and ear shapes, these dogs’ coat colors may not resemble much wolf-like characteristics, but they otherwise look like a scaled-down version of a wolf.
DiNardo said: “Don’t let the size of this 20-30 pound dogs fool you, they are as fearless as their wolf ancestors.
With pointed ears, double-fur coats and faces like a wolf’s, these dogs became AKC recognized in 1904. Small but mighty, these dogs were nicknamed Belgium’s “little captains.”
DiNardo said: “These tiny dogs are another wolf-in-dog’s-clothing example of small breeds that resemble their ancestors.”