Posts Tagged ‘wolf hybrid’

Garry was registered with the Kennel Club as an “Esquimaux dog” and was exhibited at the Alexandra Palace Exhibition and the “Birmingham dog show” (Crufts?) in 1876.  He was said to be an “Eskimaux [dog] bred in the far north of Lombardy.”

This depiction of him comes from Hugh Dalziel’s British Dogs (c. 1880).  Dalziel was of the opinion that he was not a wolf or wolf hybrid. However, I have a certain amount of skepticism about Dalziel’s reasons for assuming that Garry was a pure dog, which I shall get to in good order.

Dalziel reports the description of Garry from his own C.E. Fryer:

Mr. C. E. Fryer, whose notice of Garry we reproduce from The Country, entitled him a “North American wolf dog,” and we find the idea that these dogs, or at least special varieties of them, are produced by a cross with the wolf rather commonly entertained, but there is no better reason for it than his general wolfish appearance. Garry is decidedly typical of the Esquimaux family of dogs, and on the subject of his breeding we have little to add to our sub-note to Mr. Fryer’s letter at the time it first appeared.

Mr. Fryer says: “The accompanying engraving represents one of these curious dogs, which are so much prized by the natives and inhabitants of North America, and so difficult to obtain in this country. The cut is taken from a photograph of a dog lately owned by a member of Oxford University, who gave me the following account of it: Garry, the dog in question, is about eighteen months old, and has been in this country seven months. He was brought from the Saskatchewan Mountains, Manitoba, in the far north-west of Canada.

Fryer’s geography is a bit off. Manitoba is in the middle of Canada, and I have never heard of any “Saskatchewan Mountains” in Saskatchewan or Manitoba.

Dalziel describes Garry’s origin:

The Indians take great pride in rearing a pure white wolf dog, and when they manage to secure one they have a feast in his honour, called the ‘ Feast of the White Dog.’ I refrain from attempting the native names, lest I should display my own ignorance and do some damage to my readers’ jaws. Garry is said to be the produce of an Esquimaux bitch, crossed nine times by a prairie wolf. The Indians chain up the Esquimaux mothers in the neighbourhood of the wolves, to whose kind attentions they leave them. The dog Garry has travelled many thousand miles over the snow, drawing a sleigh, and is quite tame, following his master closely through the streets without chain or muzzle. Sometimes he is treated to this latter sign of ‘civilisation,’ under which he is very patient, though he continually endeavours to free himself from it. His food is plain dog biscuit, which he eats without complaint, though at first he ate raw meat ravenously. His master, however, finding his blood was getting too hot, gradually reduced him to one meal per day of dog biscuits. He is very tractable and docile, and but for his enormous size would not give any idea of ferocity.

This would have made Garry a very high content wolfdog, and judging from this depiction of him, I would have no reason to doubt that he was either a high content wolfdog or even a possible pure wolf.

His behavior appeared to have been quite wolf-like:

His owner tells me he does not bark, but utters a low growl when enraged, and at night howls piteously.

And his teeth sound as if they were those of a wolf, not a domestic dog:

His mouth would easily take in a man’s leg, and his teeth are a caution to dentists. Whether he feels flattered by being told that we are possessors of developed ‘ canine ‘ teeth I can’t say.

Wolves and coyotes have much more robust teeth than domestic dogs do. The big game hunting specialist wolves have particularly large teeth, and if Garry were a wolf or a wolf hybrid, he would have been of this type.

Of course, Hugh Dalziel didn’t think that Garry was any kind of wolf or wolf hybrid:

The mystic story of Garry’s birth and parentage is very charming, but I fear the talismanic number nine would alone be fatal to it, as it is decidedly suspicious; and in these days of Kennel Stud Books we get awfully sceptical of unauthenticated pedigrees, and in such matters positively refuse as evidence the traditions of the Red Man, however pretty and romantic. I saw Garry in the flesh at Birmingham – where, by the way, he took a £5 prize – and I must pronounce him the very finest specimen of an Esquimaux dog I have seen, but I must differ from our esteemed correspondent when he says there is unmistakeable evidence of wolf blood in the dog. Dogs appear to approach nearer to the wolf type the farther they are removed from the higher civilised life of man, and that, I think, is the case with Garry, and, besides that, hybrids do not breed.

Actually, there have been wolves that have been imprinted upon people are quite docile animals. There is the story of Wags, Adolph Murie’s pet wolf, who was so gentle that he trusted her to play with his children. And she was not the only one. There are many accounts of socialized wolves that were very gentle with people. Not all imprinted wolves are extremely emotionally reactive and predatory animals. It is true that most imprinted wolves exhibit these behaviors, which is why we are so strongly warned against keeping them. But there have always been very docile wolves.

Dalziel is merely showing his Victorian racial views. The “Red Man” of Canada couldn’t domesticate a wolf.  Only Westerners could ever do such a thing.

But he really shows his error in that last line when he says that hybrids between wolves and dogs cannot breed. Of course, wolf and dog hybrids can reproduce. The two animals are now considered to be the same species, and as such, calling them wolf hybrids is no longer valid. The word hybrid denotes the breeding of two distinct species, and that is no longer the case when one discusses the breedings between wolves and dogs. This blog calls wolves “wild Canis lupus” and dogs “domestic Canis lupus.”

Dalziel also though Garry’s proportions all wrong, simply because they are all wrong for a sled dog.

But let’s look at what Garry’s proportions actually say:

Height at shoulder, 2ft. 6in.; length from centre between shoulder blades to centre between ears, 1ft.; from latter point to end of nose, 11in.; length from shoulders to setting on of tail, 2ft. 7in.; length of tail, lft. 4in.; measurement round head just behind ears, 2ft.; just above eyes, lft. 8in.; at point of nose, 10in.; his girth measured fairly tight, not outside the hair, 3ft.; his weight is 8st. 8 lb. His hair is long, straight, and pure white, which is his chief beauty.

Garry stood 30 inches at the shoulder and weighed 120 pounds (that’s how you convert from stones to pounds!)

That would make him a large wolf, not unlike an arctic wolf or perhaps an unusually large “Buffalo wolf” of the Canadian prairies.

No Canadian Eskimo dog (qimmiq) has these proportions. According to the breed standard, they are not to exceed 88 pounds and 28 inches at the shoulder. Qimmiq do look like wolves superfically, but because they have been bred for hauling, they are built very differently– much more bone and much broader chests.

W.D. Drury depicts anther “Esquimaux dog” that was a contemporary of Garry in British Dogs, Their Points, Selection, And Show Preparation (1903). Myouk was derived from dogs brought over by Sir John Franklin, and it is very obvious that he was a genuine article qimmiq:

Drury also takes exception with the notion that Garry could not have been a wolf or wolf hybrid:

Garry…was of a different type from many other Esquimaux that have been exhibited. He was sometimes called a North American Wolfdog, and was said to be a cross between a wolf and an Esquimaux bitch. It is a perfectly well-known fact that the wolf and dog will breed freely together, and the late Mr. Bartlett, of the Zoological Gardens, told the writer that the offspring will continue to breed – a fact that has been doubted by some [like Hugh Dalziel].

In addition to his different proportions from the qimmiq, Garry also appears to have larger feet in proportion to his body size than one typically sees in a dog. Northern wolves have large feet, which they use as snowshoes. They distribute the weight of the wolf out over the snow more evenly, preventing them from breaking through the crust and becoming encumbered. Sled dogs have similar feet, but they are not nearly as well-developed as those of wolves, which also have no sweat glands to produce moisture that will collect snow as the animal traverses snowy ground.

There is also quite a bit of evidence of indigenous people keeping wolves as pets. As a young boy traveling to the Canadian arctic as an assistant to his renowned ornithologist uncle to the artic of Manitoba, Farley Mowat encountered a native trapper with a live wolf pup. He implored his uncle to buy it, but he refused. The trappers wanted the bounty value for the pup– only $5– but his uncle seemed to think that such an animal would only cause trouble. It is possible that Garry or his ancestors had been collected in the same fashion.

Everything about Garry suggests that he was a wolf or high content wolf hybrid that was exhibited as an “Esquimaux dog.”  Compare the depiction of Garry with these arctic wolves:

The resemblance is uncanny.

Almost unmistakable.

Garry was a show wolf or high content wolfdog.

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From the LA Unleashed Blog:

Mexican researchers said Wednesday they have identified jawbones found in the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan as those of wolf-dogs that were apparently crossbred as a symbol of the city’s warriors.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said the jawbones were found during excavations in 2004 and are the first physical evidence of what appears to be intentional crossbreeding in ancient Mexican cultures.

The jawbones were found in a warrior’s burial at a Teotihuacan pyramid. Anthropological studies performed at Mexico’s National Autonomous University indicate the animal was a wolf-dog.

“In oral traditions and old chronicles, dog-like animals appear with symbols of power or divinity,” said institute spokesman Francisco De Anda. “But we did not have skeletal evidence … this is the first time we have proof.”

Wolf- or dog-like creatures appear in paintings at Teotihuacan, but had long been thought to be depictions of coyotes, which also inhabit the region. But archaeologists are now reevaluating that interpretation.

Several jawbones were made into a sort of decorative garment found on the warrior’s skeleton at the 2,000-year-old site north of Mexico City.

The wolf-dog apparently served as a symbol of strength and power.

Dogs and wolves are very similar genetically, and there has been evidence of ancient remains that may show natural crossbreeding.

But archaeologist Raul Valadez said the animal was the result of intentional selection. While the inhabitants of Teotihuacan had dogs, wolves and coyotes, they almost exclusively used wolf-dog bones in the ceremonial arrangement.

Of the bones found, eight were wolf-dog, three were dogs and two were crosses of coyotes and wolf-dogs.

These wolves would have likely been Canis lupus baileyi, which is now extinct in the wild in Mexico. They were actually known to hybridize with domestic dogs as the subspecies became rare in the wild. A whole line of these wolves that was kept at Carlsbad Caverns was euthanized under the suspicion that they were “contaminated” with dog blood. However, it was later found that these wolves had no evidence of dog hybridization in their MtDNA sequences.

This is yet another example of a gene flow between wild and domestic populations of Canis lupus, although the exact wild nature of these wolves is certainly in question. It is possible that these wolves lived in a state of semi-domestication. Historically, it hasn’t been very hard to habituate wolves to people, and it wouldn’t be very hard to breed an habituated wolf to a dog.

Or maybe they were urban wolves, like this one in Romania. Because there is no evidence of these people persecuting the wolves, they would have had more reason to hang around the city and have opportunities to breed with dogs.

The people of Teotihuacan were fairly good animal keepers. There is evidence that they were adept at keeping pumas and jaguars in captivity, so it would not be all that strange that they kept both wolves and coyotes in this manner.

Throughout their long history, dogs have retained some of their genetic diversity through wild blood. Now that wolves have been pushed very far from human societies,and dogs have undergone extensive selective breeding, these differences seem much more extreme than they once were.

But through much of that history, dog and wolf have bred with each other–sometimes intentionally, as seems to be the case here, and sometimes accidentally, as is likely the case with the evolution of black wolves in North America.

These ancient Mexicans worshiped the dog and the wolf. The hybrid was likely much like the character they lauded in the warrior. The warrior was civilized in his manner during times of peace and as savage as a wild animal in times of war. That dichotomy was celebrated when these hybrids were used for these ceremonial arrangements.

Perhaps one could find evidence ancient North American dogs were actually hybrids. It was suggested that the domestic dogs kept by various peoples of the Southeast were nothing more than tamed red wolves. Black red wolves were very common, which is why they had the archaic scientific name Canis niger.

However, all the studies I’ve seen suggest that New World domestic dogs from both the Pre-Columbian and modern era have predominantly or entirely Old World ancestry.

More work needs to be performed in examining the genetics of these New World dogs.

I suspect that some “dogs” from South America might actually be domesticated versions of South American wild dogs, as was the case with the Perro Yagan, the domesticated culpeo of Tierra del Fuego.

The intentional hybridization of Mexican wolves and domestic dogs at Teotihuacan shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. We have evidence of wolf hybridization in the origin of certain Finnish and Scandinavian breeds. To find archeological evidence of hybridization in Mexico is just more evidence that dogs and wolves do not represent distinct species.

They represent the beautiful and wondrous diversity that is the species we call Canis lupus. From two-pound chihuahuas that fit nicely in handbags to giant bone crushing wolves that lived in Alaska during the Pleistocene, this species has had the ability to occur in some many different shapes and sizes.

The people of Teotihuacan were probably a little amazed when their domestic bitches bred wolves and produced puppies. Such a crossbreeding from such different looking animals would have been fascinating– almost to the point that it would have required a divine explanation.

And once that explanation would have been put in place, it wouldn’t have been very long before some priesthood would come up with a need to use them for ceremonial purposes.


According to Art Daily, some of the remains are from dog-coyote hybrids and to crosses with wolfdogs and coyotes, so intentional wolf and dog crosses were not the only Canis hybrids these people were creating for this purpose.

I strongly disagree with the suggestion in the Art Daily piece that pumas (cougars) are more easily domesticated than wolves.  We have no domesticated cougars, but we have hundreds of millions of domestic dogs throughout the world. Not all wolves become status seeking machines in captive situations. Adolph Murie had one named Wags that was basically a golden retriever in wolf form.

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The dog in “identify the canid” query from a few days ago is a Saarloos wolfhond. (In Dutch, it is “Saarlooswolfhond.” In English, it is sometimes called “Saarloos Wolfhound.”)

It is not a “wolf hybrid” or “wolf dog,” as we typically understand them. Most wolf hybrids and wolf dogs are the result of rather haphazard crossing wolves with GSD’s, huskies, and Malamutes.

This particular dog is part wolf, but it has been selectively bred to be a relatively tractable animal. Saarloos wolfhonds have even been used as guide dogs for the blind, and they are known for having relatively low levels of aggression towards people.

They are the result of a Dutch German shepherd dog fancier named Leendert Saarloos thought the GSD was a doomed breed. Many of the dogs were dying of distemper, and they were losing their guarding abilities.

To solve this problem, Saaloos began breeding his GSD’s with wolves, including some Canadian wolves. He then began to breed them to be more like dogs.

However, most of the dogs were very susceptible to distemper. Most of the original dogs in his breeding program died.

And the dogs were useless as guard dogs.

However, fanciers became interested in them in Germany and the Netherlands, because people thought it was awesome to own a dog that had some wolf in it. It was believed that German shepherds were very close to wolves, and owning a dog that was part wolf and shepherd was a way of reconnecting to those “wolf dogs of the Rhine” that Tacitus wrote lived among the Germanic tribes.

Although I am opposed to keeping casually bred wolfdogs, I am not opposed to keeping this breed or the similar Czechoslovakian wolfdog. These animals do have wolf in them, but they have been selected to be more like dogs. They are not as unpredictable as casually bred wolf-hybrids can be.

However, I don’t think either of these breeds should be kept by owners who don’t understand dogs very well.  These dogs need mental and physical exercise and respect as “canine beings.”

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The pelt of Hagenbeck's wolf.

In 1927, German zoologist Lorenz Hagenbeck procured a pelt from a fur trader in Buenos Aires. There were four black pelts available, and all appeared to have come from the same species. All looked remarkably like black wolf pelts. Hagenbeck purchased one of the skins, and it was sent to Germany, where it was mostly ignored for over a decade.

In 1940, Dr. Ingo Krumbiegel began to research the skin. Krumbiegel had found a skull of a unknown canid in South America ten years earlier, and he wanted to connect the skull he found to the pelt that Hagenbeck had purchased.   Perhaps they belonged to an undiscovered species of South American wild dog.

Krumbiegel’s skull  measured 31 centimeters, which was significantly larger than that of a maned wolf. The dentition suggested that the animal was an omnivore.

Krumbiegel named the creature Dasycyon hagenbecki, but because no live specimens were ever found, it has never been officially designated as a species.

Without a body, Krumbiegel could never fully prove that the skull he found had anything to do with Hagenbeck’s pelt. The fact that the two pieces of evidence represented enigmatic canines from South America does not automatically mean that the two are representatives of each other.

Further, one must always be a little skeptical of any German or Austrian science that comes from the period of 1933-1945  in the case of Germany or from 1938-1945 in Austria.

The skull disappeared during World War II, so we are left with only a pelt as evidence of this supposed species.

1960, it was determined that the pelt was that of a domestic dog.  In 2000, attempts to analyze the pelt for DNA were inconclusive. Traces of dog, wolf, human, and pig DNA were found, but it was decided that the pelt’s DNA was too contaminated to make a full determination of its identity

So what was Hagenbeck’s wolf?

Despite the contamination, I don’t think it is very had to come up with some hypotheses.

1. It is a domestic dog. The fur trader got three pelts from someone who killed some big dogs that were very similar in type and color. Selling dog pelts is a common practice in parts of Asia. I would assume that a lot of that was sold throughout history actually came from dogs. It’s just very easy to get dog furs, and if you’re selling them to a foreigner who doesn’t know the fauna of your region, it is very easy to offload them as something rare.

2. It’s from an escaped pack of wolves or wolf hybrids. Traveling menageries were not unknown in the region, and it would make sense that a traveling menagerie might have a few wolves or wolf hybrids. Of course, such animals are hard to keep, so it would also make sense that someone might release them into the wild. Or sell them to a fur trapper who then sells them to a fur trader as some kind of rare specimen.  The pelt has some characteristics that are associated with black North American wolves. It has lighter shadings that come throught its undercoat.  Black North American wolves almost always lighten as they age, and many of them start out already much lighter in color than most black dogs.

3. It actually is a unique South American canid. I think this is less likely, but it could possibly be a descendant of a population of an American member of the genus Canis— like the dire wolf (Canis dirus) or Armbruster’s wolf (Canis armbrusteri). However, the pelt’s black coloration probably precludes this as a possibility. It is doubtful that anyone could find a population of wild dogs from the genus Canis with black coloration before the domestication of the dog. Black North American wolves and coyotes  and black Italian wolves  got their coloration through hybridizing with black domestic dogs.  Hagenbeck’s wolf could also be able to interbreed with domestic dogs, but I think it is much more likley that this animal represents an out of place wolf hybrid, pure wolf, or wolfish domestic dog.

Whatever it was, the connections between this pelt and the others that the trader was selling and the skull that Krumbiegel found have not been proven. It is a best speculative to assume that they were even connected in the first place.

If we had that skull, we might be able to make some determination as to whether an omnivorous canid that is larger than a maned wolf can be found in South America.

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The Dogue de Bordeaux is the last remaining native French mastiff. There were once Parisian dogues, dogues from Toulouse, and the Dogue de Bordeaux. These dogs were often brindle, red with black masks, or marked with white.  The dogs may have had lots of purposes, as all mastiff-types did. Their ancestors probably hunted boars, wolves, and other large animals. Some were probably used in war (the famous story of the mastiff defending Sir Peers Legh at the battle of Agincourt was an English mastiff, though, not a French one). Later, they guarded estates. These dogs were powerful and fierce. Unlike the bullmastiff and the big English mastiff, the Dogue de Bordeaux retains some of these traits, some more so than others.

Today, this breed is horribly inbred with a very short life expectancy of about six years. It was made popular for a few years with the film Turner and Hooch, which was an early Tom Hanks film. The dog was a slobbering beast with a charming personality that on occasion went berserk on a bad guy. No wonder Americans wanted one!


Another wild French canid was the Beast of Gevaudan that killed scores of peasants in rural France. No one has been able to figure out what it was. A wolf? A hyena? A lion? Maybe a cryptid unknown to science? The story of the Beast was the basis for the film Brotherhood of the Wolf, a 2001 French film. In this film, though, the beast is an armored lioness released upon the peasants to make them hate their king who allowed for scientific thought to exist in France.

But what was the animal? There were two of them, but both were larger than the wolf of the region. Wolf attacks may have happened in Europe, most of them were probably the result of rabies. However, there were child snatching wolves in India that, killed or seriously maimed 74 children from 1996-1997. These people were in the same position as the French peasants. They were poor and unarmed. The forest was nearly empty of game, forcing wolves to rely on livestock for food. It is just a short leap from killing livestock to killing people, and these Indian wolves did it. Could the Gevaudan wolves also made that leap?

There are some problems with this theory. One is that there were only two wolves, and over three years they attacked over 200 people and killed 113 people. In the case of the Indian wolves, whole packs of wolves involved. Further, the French were wolf hunters, unlike the people of this part of India. Although the peasants did not often have guns, the nobles had estate managers and hired hunters to keep the wolf population low. The wolves had a lot more to fear of people in France in 1764 than the wolves had to fear of people in India in 1996.  Both of these problems– the volume of the deaths from just two animals and the ability for the French to kill wolves– certainly causes me to doubt that the Beast of Gevaudan was a wolf.

The animals tore at the face and throats of their victims, which is consistent with a dog or wolf attack. Some have suggested that the beast wasn’t a canid at all, but a hyena or a big cat. Big cats were often kept in menageries, but there is no record of any missing big cats in that part of France. Further, no one owned any. The hyena theory does get some people excited, because there is mention of the Beast having stripes and a wolf-like head. However, striped hyenas are only scavengers. They do not hunt. Spotted hyenas are the only hyenas that hunt large prey, and if the Beast had been mottled, the hyena theory might have some merit.  (The brown hyena has been known to kill fur seal pups on the coast of Namibia, but those are slow moving prey. The brown hyena is the largest animal that can survive on scavenging alone. Anyway, that species was virtually unknown to Europeans).

In 1765, the King of France had one of his wolf hunters go into the countryside, as well as some of his harquebus bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt. The French government spent lots of money and manpower trying to kill the beast, but all the came up with was an unusually large wolf, weighing 130 pounds and standing 31 inches at the shoulder. The common wolf of Europe weighs only 75 to 100 pounds. Pure wolves of this size only exist in the wild in far northern parts of North America, which is why I am sure this animal wasn’t a pure wolf. It had scar  that the animal had received from its victims as they tried to defend themselves. This “wolf” is sometimes called the Wolf of Chazes, and there are very few good depictions of it other than fanciful nonsense, such as this:


But there is this depiction of it that seems more realistic:


The size is very large for a wolf (and probably not realistic). But the head and really large ears seem to me that this beast was actually a wolf-dog. Large ears are indicative of a wolf-dog cross. Because most modern wolf-dogs are hybrids with wolves and wolf-like dogs, we assume that the wolf hybrids are going to look like wolves. But here are some wolf hybrids from a wolf and standard poodle:


From the goldendoodle website. Could you tell that they were poodle-wolf crosses? They look like some kind of weird dog to me. I don’t think I could determine their species.

The second creature was killed two years later, as people continued to be attacked and killed. One local hunter, Jean Chastel, was charged with the task of kill the beast. And he succeeded, after he had stopped to pray (of course!) and the reign of the Beast of Gevaudan was ended. The second animal looked something like this:


The white marking tells you that this is definitely a wolf hybrid.



What kind of dog was it that the wolves were crossed with to make the Beasts? The first animal was probably an F1 cross, a very high content wolf hybrid. The second animal had more dog-like characteristics. It may have been the descendant of the first. Both animals were reddish in color, big, and striped (brindled?)  The white markings on the second animal tell me what it was. And the dog in the mix was a French Mastiff, a dogue, probably a red brindled one. This assertion is not far-fetched. The Spanish used their war mastiff, a close relative of the dogue, to kill native people in the New World. Dogue and wolf combine could create a mysteriously ugly monster of a hybrid, one that no one could identify as either species.

Perhaps this hybrid occurred naturally, or perhaps human agency was involved. There were plots against the French king at this time, for France had lost most of its overseas empire in the Seven Years War just before the killing started. France was a broken nation, and a monster problem that could not be solved could turn the peasants into a revolutionary state. There are some conspiracy theories that name Jean Chastel, the wolf hunter, as part of the conspiracy, along with the nobles of the region. However, I do not wish to engage in conspiracy theories on this site.

Animal Planet once had a show called Animal X, a show about cryptozoology. They covered the Beast of Gevaudan as a whodunnit, and I thought that this was about the only reasonable show of the series in terms of science. However, I still loved it for its camp factor. I love true believers in cryptids. I’m sorry I can’t join you, but I love to watch you tilt at windmills.

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