In 1935, Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos (1884-1969) started his new line by cross-breeding a male German Shepherd Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) to a female European Wolf (Canis lupus lupus) which he obtained from the Rotterdam Zoo (Dutch: Diergaarde Blijdorp).
Although he was passionate about the German Shepherd, he found most of the dogs to be too domesticated and he wanted to breed in more natural characteristics in order to get better working dogs.
The result wasn’t entirely what Saarloos had hoped for.
This breed is cautious, reserved and lacks the ferocity to attack. Until Leendert Saarloos died in 1969, he had full control over the breeding of his “European wolfdogs”.
The Dutch Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1975.
To honour its creator they changed the name to “Saarloos Wolfdog”.
In 1981 the breed was recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI). In the past, Saarloos Wolfdogs were trained as guide dogs for the blind and as rescue dogs, but most dogs of this breed are currently kept as family companion pets today.
In the year 1926, Dutch gentleman Leendert Saarloos, began breeding German Shepherds and on September 15, 1934, his kennel “van de Kilstroom” was officially registered in the books of the Dutch Kennel Club in the Netherlands.
Leendert Saarloos wanted to reduce the highly strung and almost nervous nature of the German Shepherd Dog at that time and wanted to bring the endurance and strength of the wolf together with his German Shepherd Dogs to create a new breed of dog. He wanted to breed healthy and mentally stable dogs that could be better trained as police dogs.
Leendert’s German Shepherd Dogs were from his neighbor, Chris de Groot, who bred German shepherds in his kennel “von Transrhenum”. Leenderts male GSD “Gerard” was of classic Prussian type (the original straight backed, athletic GSD). Unfortunately we do not know Gerard’s exactly pedigree, for there were no records found. Leendert wanted to mate Gerard to a female wolf. So he obtained a wolf pup from the Rotterdam Zoo (Blijdorp) and called her Fleur. Unfortunately, this first wolf pup, that grew up amongst his GSD’s, got sick and died. But the zoo gave him another female wolf. In the spring of 1936 he had his first litter of pups from his male GSD and the second female wolf, also called Fleur! (Leendert named all his wolves Fleur). Sadly all these puppies died within a month. But the next year he had a second litter, and this is the very beginning of the breed known today as the Saarloos Wolfdog.
The first attempt to get the breed recognised was in 1942, Leendert Saarloos went to the big Winner Show with 16 of his (as he called them at that time Dutch Wolfdogs). The goal of Leendert was to create a very reliable, obedient and brave working dog for the police, but they lacked the will to attack, so they were not very useful as police dogs. In May of 1943 the Dutch KC met to discuss the recognition of the breed, but they decided not to acknowledge it at that time.
After the Second World War, Leendert finds out (by accident) that they made great guiding dogs for the blind. A blind lady in his neighbourhood lost her dog and she asked Leendert to give her a wolfdog. And in 1944 he starts the Dutch Wolfdog owners club and starts his guide dog training centre. In 1956 Saarloos gets his last female wolf. This time from the Amsterdam Zoo, for Rotterdam does not have any pups. She is the 6th wolf he owns, but we cannot say with certainty, if all 6 were bred into the breed. This wolf however was certainly bred into the breed. She was the last “official” wolf bred into the breed by Leendert and it was her offspring were put into the studbook of the Dutch KC when the breed finally became recognised.
In 1963 Leendert Saarloos tries to get the breed recognised again, but this also fails. In 1969 Leendert Saarloos sadly died. He never got to see his breed being recognised, for on July 5th, 1975 the breed did gain official recognition by the Dutch KC (Raad van Beheer), and was called the ‘Saarloos Wolfdog’ in honour of the founder of the breed.
The working ability of the dogs is today lost, believed to be due the increase in the proportion of “wolfblood” present in the breed. The Saarloos Wolfdog does not have a high drive or any guarding tendencies. It is more than happy to have a “sofa day” so today they are bred solely as a companion dog and generally make good family pets.
The Saarloos Wolfdog is a strongly built dog, and the outer appearance should be very lupine, the construction of the dog should be well balanced and natural, appearing long limbed.
The Saarloos Wolfdog is an active dog with good energy. They are loving, loyal and reliable with a high level of devotion to their families. They should be sweet, good natured dogs though a wolf-like manner to avoid the unfamiliar is typical of the breed. Aggression in any form is considered a disqualifying fault as is being “overly shy” as stated in the breed standard.
What subspecies of Wolf was involved in the creation of the Saarloos Wolfdog?
For the very first wolves (Fleur 1st to the 5th), we cannot say for certain, but there is a strong suspicion they were European wolves (also called Eurasian wolves). We can’t say with 100% certainty because the timeline predates the taxonomic subspecies classification of wolves.
Marijke Saarloos, the daughter of Leendert, is sure that the last wolf was a European wolf (Canis lupus lupus), likely from the Siberian branch of the population.
What is the average F Generation of a Saarloos Wolfdog?
Today most Saarloos would be between F10 and F15.
However, it is widely accepted that some more recent wolf additions have been made since the death of Leendert to the gene pool. A small number of breeders added more wolves before the onset of reliable and widely available DNA testing. So some Saarloos are lower F-gen depending on their bloodlines. DNA testing and pedigree profiling reveal that the Saarloos wolfdog today is generally between 30 and 40% wolf. Some individuals may be more, and certainly some out-crosses may be less.
Does the Saarloos have a prey drive?
Yes, though it should not be excessive. Many live happily with cats and small animals, but caution, as with any dog, should always be taken around sheep and livestock.
Because there are some serious health issues in the breed.
Most of the problems can be tested for such as Degenerative Myelopathy, Pituitary Dwarfism and Hip Dysplasia. Also, breeders can test the eyes for Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Hereditary Cataract. So by testing, we could manage some of problems within the breed.
But, there is also the problem of cancer, more and more Saarloos wolfdogs seem to be affected by cancers. Saarloos Wolfdogs having epileptic seizures. Saarloos wolfdogs suffering from severe joint luxation and so on. This is all related to the ineffective immune system because of the very small gene pool.
There is an official out-cross project in the Netherlands, with FCI registered offspring in circulation. To date the following dog breeds have been added to the gene pool;
White Swiss Shepherd
Podenco (Spanish breed of sight hound)
The Saarloos Wolfdog is a specialist breed. It is not a dog for the novice. It retains many natural qualities both physically and behaviourally and a good understanding of the true nature of both wolves and dogs is essential. Patience is a much needed trait in any handler or owner of the Saarloos Wolfdog and a willingness to engage in life long learning are essential.