Saarloos Wolfhund


carlic saarloos wolfdog
"Carlic" - Saarloos wolfhund - owned by Charlie Richardson
(photo courtesy of Simon Frazier)

FCI-Standard N° 311 / 22. 01.1999


GENERAL APPEARANCE : The Saarloos is a strongly built dog whose outer appearance (body build, movement and coat) are reminiscent of a wolf. His construction is balanced and he has quite long limbs without giving the appearance of being long-legged. The different secondary sexual characteristics are pronounced in dogs and bitches.

IMPORTANT PROPORTIONS : The Saarloos is longer than its height. The upper jaw and skull have a relation in length of 1 to 1 to each other.

BEHAVIOUR /TEMPERAMENT : A lively dog, bursting with energy, with evidence of a proud independent character. He obeys only of his own free will; he is not submissive. Towards his master he is devoted and reliable to a high degree. Towards strangers he is reserved and somewhat suspicious. His reserve and wolf-like wish to flee in unknown situations, are typical for the Saarloos Wolfdog and should be retained as typical qualities of the breed. When strangers approach the Saarloos, they should have some understanding for the behaviour of this dog, for his reserve and wish to flee, qualities which he carries as his inheritance. A forced, undesired approach by a stranger can lead to an overwhelming desire to flee. The suppression of this inclination, for instance through lack of freedom in a dog kept on a lead, can make his behaviour appear nervous.

HEAD : The head should give a wolf-like impression and its size should be in harmonious relation to the body. Seen from above and from the side, the head is wedge-shaped. The line from the muzzle to the well developed zygomatic arch is very characteristic. Together with the correct shape and position of the eye, this line gives the desired wolf-like appearance.

Skull : The skull is flat and broad. Exaggeration in respect to width must be warned against as this affects the typical wedge shape. The occiput and the eye socket must not be noticeable. The superciliary ridges should merge with the skull in a flowing line.Stop : The transition from the strong muzzle to the skull must form a slight stop.

Nose : Nose leather well pigmented. Bridge of nose straight.
Lips : Well closed. Tight fitting.
Upper jaw : Must not appear coarse compared to the skull. Too coarse a muzzle disfigures the typical wolf-like shape.
Lower jaw : Not conspicuous.
Jaws/Teeth : Upper and lower jaw are well developed and have a strong and complete scissor bite which is also acceptable in the shape of a very close fitting scissor bite.

Eyes : Preferably yellow, almond shaped. Set slightly oblique, not protruding and not round, with well fitting lids. The expression is alert, reserved but not anxious. The eye is a very typical characteristic of the breed which emphasizes the desired wolf-like appearance. The desired expression is only achieved by a light eye. A great deal of value must be placed on the colour, shape and correct position in skull. With an older dog, the yellow eye colour may darken but the original disposition to a yellow colour should be maintained. Disposition to brown colour is less desirable. The eye socket merges into the skull in a flowing line : An eye socket that is too pronounced together with a pronounced superciliary arch and a marked stop are undesirable.

Ears : Medium size, fleshy, triangular with rounded tip. Hairy on inside. The ear is set on at the level of the eyes. The ears are very mobile and express the emotions and feelings of the dog. Not desired are ears too pointed or set on too high. Ears set too far apart laterally, disfigure the head in its typical appearance and are therefore less desirable.

NECK : Dry and well muscled, merging with the back in a very flowing line. Just as flowing is the line from the throat to the chest. The neck can, especially with a winter coat, be adorned by a beautiful collar (ruff). The skin of the throat is minimal and not conspicuous. It is typical of the Saarloos that at a relaxed trot, head and neck form an almost horizontal line.

BODY : The Saarloos is longer than its height.

Back : Straight and strong.

Ribs : Normally sprung.

Chest : The flowing line of the brisket reaches, at the most, to the elbows. Chest and distance between legs, seen from the front, appear moderately broad. Too massive a chest should be avoided as it disturbs the outline which typifies this steady trotter. The outline is rather slim and very wolf-like.

Lower line : Taut and lightly tucked up.

TAIL : Broad and profusely coated at set on reaching at least to the hocks. Appears slightly low set, which is often accentuated by a slight depression at the set on. The tail is carried lightly curved in sabre shape or almost straight. It may be carried slightly higher in excitement or when the dog is trotting.


FOREQUARTERS : Legs are straight and well muscled. Bone is oval in cross-section and not too coarse. Legs rather show a certain grace in relation to body.
Shoulder-blade : Sufficiently broad and long. Normal angulation of about 30° to the vertical, not exaggerated.
Upper arm : Same length as shoulder-blade; angulation between shoulder-blade and upper arm normal, not exaggerated.
Elbows : Close fitting to thorax without being pressed close. Due to the curve of the ribs and the correct position of the shoulder and the upper arm, the distance between the front legs is moderately broad.
Front feet : Harefeet, well muscled and arched with strongly developed pads. This, together with the strong carpal joints and the lightly sloping pasterns, are responsible for good flexible, springy movement. When standing, slight outward turn is permitted.

HINDQUARTERS : Normal position of pelvis. Due to low tail set on, which is often accentuated by a slight depression, the pelvis, however often appears to be placed more obliquely. The angulation of the hindquarters is in balance with the angulation of the forequarters. The light movement, typical of the breed, is very dependent on the correct angulation of stifle and hock. The slightest deviation prevents this typical movement. Slight cow-hocks are permitted when standing.
Upper thigh : Normal length and breadth, strongly muscled.
Stifle : Angulation not exaggerated.
Hock joint : Angulation must not be exaggerated. Bones and muscles permit optimal stretching of hock joints.
Hocks : Sufficiently long (not short), medium slope.
Hind feet : Well developed and well arched.

GAIT / MOVEMENT : The Saarloos Wolfdog is a typical untiring trotter, which can easily cover great distances at his own pace. He barely tires by his natural movement and is reminiscent of the wolf. The Saarloos Wolfdog differs greatly from other breeds through his very specific light-footed movement. The correct forward movement is very dependent on different details in the construction of the body; above all, the correct angulation of the different limbs, is of great influence. At a free unrestricted trot, the Saarloos Wolfdog carries head and neck at almost horizontal level : in this position, the position of the eyes and the wedge shape of the head are particularly characteristic. At an untiring trot, which is the movement typical of the breed, the dog shows no great reach of the limbs because this, as well as too much drive, would spoil the light-footed movement which is a model for energy conserving movement.


HAIR : The summer coat differs greatly from the winter coat. In winter the undercoat predominates mostly, which together with the guard hair of the topcoat forms a profuse coat, covering the whole body and forming a distinct collar (ruff) round the neck. With the summer coat, the guard hair of the topcoat predominates. Temperature changes in autumn and winter can have a great influence on the undercoat; but the disposition to this should always be present. It is essential that the belly, the inside of the upper thighs and the scrotum are covered by hair.


The development of the Saarloos - Courtesy of Charlie Richardson - Cry-wolf

In the 1920s, in subsequence to many years of canine breeding research together with the experience of crossbreeding several species, Leendert Saarloos embarked on an enterprise of breeding a dog that would be intrinsically healthy. At that time the wolf, being a non-selectively bred animal with "natural health", was considered an ideal blood-rejuvenator for the run-down domesticated dog. Leendert Saarloos acquired a female European wolf, "Fleur", whom was bred three times to a GSD-male, "Gerard van Fransenum". Together they produced a total of 28 pups from which Leendert Saarloos in consultation with Dr. Hagedoorn, a geneticist, chose three for further breeding.

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These three puppies were subsequently bred back to GSD bloodlines and eventually he established a pack of dogs with approximately 25% wolf blood and 75% GSD. In 1963 he initiated a further and final breeding programme, acquiring a new female wolf, Fleur II, and from her produced a second separate breedline of GSD X wolf dogs with 50% wolf blood and 50% GSD. Until his death in 1969 Leendert Saarloos was the sole owner of all these dogs and he was, accordingly, able to control and meticulously select individuals for breeding based on temperament and health.

In his endeavours to obtain Netherlands KC recognition for his dogs he was required to demonstrate the utility of his new ‘breed’. Accordingly, Leendert Saarloos set about training some of his dogs in Schutzhund-work (Schutzhund is German for “protection dog”). Although not without some success the dogs were generally unsuitable, from the point of view of their temperament, as the European wolf does not possess a will to attack! In every other respect they were very skilful and intelligent and were subsequently trained to make excellent seeing-eye-guide and rescue-dogs.

After his death, his wife and daughter continued with his breeding initiative and in 1973 combined the two separate breedlines into one unified breed. The amalgamation of the two breedlines has produced a stabilised dog with its own unique characteristics. In 1973 a Saarloos breeder´s club was founded and the breed attained Dutch Kennel Club recognition in 1975. Subsequently all Saarloos have been entered in the Nederlands Hondenstamboek (Dutch Studbook). In 1981 the breed was recognised internationally by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).



In my opinion the Saarloos Wolfhund is much more wolflike than any of the other wolfdog breeds, both in looks, behaviour and temperament.   They are active, athletic dogs with a high prey drive and require a lot of exercise.   Saarloos Wolfhunds are very intelligent and quick to learn but you shouldn't expect the obedience you would get from a GSD.   They are aloof dogs and need expert handling - certainly not for the novice owner.  Extremely pack orientated, they cannot be left alone;  their position in the household very much resembles that of the wolfpack structure and in depth knowledge of wolfpack behaviour is essential for any owner before getting one of these dogs. The Saarloos Wolfhunds that I have seen are all very nervous around people, but this could be due to lack of socialisation when young.  I believe Saarloos Wolfhunds would prefer to flee if they find themselves in a situation they aren't comfortable with, so it is best to allow them an escape route rather than get them backed into a corner.   These are 'specialist' dogs and I do not believe they make suitable domestic pets, as they need owners with a unique lifestyle, sympathetic understanding of wolf behaviour and a commitment to adapt to the needs of the dog.

saarloos wolfhund stockpic

"You can take the dog out of the Wolf Pack, but you can't take the Wolf Pack out of the dog"




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