Rottweiler vs Wolf: How Closely Are These Canines Related
Most people are aware that modern domestic dogs are genetically related to wild canids, including wolves.
In fact, canine researchers have been able to map the canine genome and trace it all the way back to a now-extinct ancient wolf species.
But this doesn’t mean that dogs and wolves act alike. And it doesn’t mean that wolves can be domesticated so they will act like pet dogs.
However, Rottweilers are often compared to the wolf because of their temperament and qualities. In this article, we take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the Rottweiler dog breed and the wolf.
Rottweiler vs Wolf
The Rottweiler is one of those dog breeds that people often liken to a wild wolf. This is because the Rottweiler is a fierce protector, strong and brave, and very loyal.
But the fact is that Rottweiler’s behavior is actually quite unlike how a truly wild wolf would act around humans. Wolves are typically quite shy around humans and will stay far away if the option is available.
See a Rottweiler and a Wolf Hybrid Interacting
In this short YouTube video, you can see a fully grown adult Rottweiler interacting with a Wolf hybrid dog that is about the same size as a fully grown wild wolf.
However, this is definitely not something you want to try at home! We only share this video to show the size and appearance differences between the Rottweiler and a wolf-like hybrid dog.
What Research Tells Us About Wolf Dog Ancestry
All modern domestic dogs are related to wild wolves. They are related so closely, in fact, that the wolf species name is Canis lupus and the dog species name is Canis lupus familiaris.
Canine researchers even estimate that wolves and dogs share approximately 99.9 percent of their DNA. However, this does not mean that the wolf and the Rottweiler are similar in any of the ways that matter to people who want to have a companion canine.
Smithsonian Magazine states that the species line for wolves and dogs may have parted ways as far back as 40,000 years ago.
Of course, there are still so many theories about exactly why wolves and dogs eventually diverged to become distantly related but separate species.
And in fact, as Live Science points out, the earliest companion canines were probably wolf-dog hybrids similar to the wolf-dog you watched in the YouTube video earlier in this article.
As the respected journal Nature points out, genetic sequencing can only confirm the biological connection between wolves and dogs. It cannot answer some of the deeper questions about how those early wolves evolved into dogs who became socialized to human company.
Why a Rottweiler Dog Could Never Be a Wolf
While the Rottweiler may seem to be a dog breed that could be more closely related to the wolf than many other dog breeds, actually this is not the case.
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute reports that Asian and African dog breeds are most closely related to ancient wolves than a Roman/German breed like the Rottweiler.
As Real Clear Science reports, there is an inverse relationship between dog breeds known to closely bond with their people and dogs that are most closely related to wolves.
In other words, it is the Rottweiler’s “velcro dog” personality and temperament that places this breed a bit farther down in the hierarchy of dogs most closely related to wolves.
Rottweiler vs Wolf: Who Would Win in a Showdown
With the rise of the dog as the most popular companion animal in the world, it is simply inevitable that Rottweilers and wolves might cross paths at some point.
This is most common in more rural areas where Rottweilers are still kept to serve true working dog functions such as livestock herding and guarding and family protection.
Yet people still like to speculate on what might occur if a Rottweiler and a wolf were to fight.
Wolves generally do not seek out confrontation with humans or domestic dogs unless they are hungry, feel threatened, or are afflicted with rabies. It is very rare for a wolf to act as an aggressor against a domestic animal or a human otherwise.
There is simply no way to know for sure what outcome to expect if a wolf and a Rottweiler dog were to clash.
Rottweilers are a truly ancient dog breed that dates back to ancient Roman times. The Roman armies relied on Rottweilers to guard their livestock, haul heavy carts and even fight alongside humans.
So if a wolf acted aggressively towards you, it would be reasonable to expect your Rottweiler to fight to the death to defend you and protect you.
Rottweiler vs Wolf Overview
The Rottweiler is currently number eight out of 197 American Kennel Club (AKC) purebred dog breeds in terms of popularity.
These dogs are prized as family guard dogs, personal protection and security dogs, and police and military dogs. The Rottweiler makes a great working dog and service dog.
To their people, the Rottweiler is known as a loyal and loving, affectionate and playful, and even silly and goofy dog breed.
But a well-trained adult Rottweiler is a force to be reckoned with, which has earned this dog breed a spot on many states’ dangerous dog lists.
In nearly every case, a Rottweiler could actually present more danger to other humans and animals than a wild wolf, especially since healthy adult wolves generally try to avoid human contact.
As Wolf Matters points out, the main reason that wolves and dogs ever interact today is because of human use of wild wolf territory, or land.
The more humans develop what used to be wild natural lands, the more wolves have to deal with the presence of humans and their pet dogs.
As wolves increasingly lose their territories and hunting grounds to people, the more they seek out new food sources such as livestock animals. Otherwise, wolves prefer to hunt in a pack to take down large wild prey like deer, elk, and even huge moose.
Wolves almost never attack humans and will only encounter dogs like the Rottweiler if they are forced to hunt domesticated livestock due to habitat loss.
Key Differences Between Rottweiler and Wolf
According to PetMD, there are several key differences between dogs and wolves that are important to keep in mind.
These differences explain why an encounter between a wild wolf and a Rottweiler tends to be rare and why dogs are not as much like wolves as their DNA might suggest.
Wolves look the same while dogs look different
For example, wolves look very uniform in appearance, while dogs come in all shapes and sizes. Wolves have kept their large square strong jawline because this is what they need to hunt effectively in the wild.
All wolves also have larger paws, larger skulls and jaws, long lean tails, and pointed ears because there has been no human tampering with the wolf genome.
Wolves are shy while dogs are outgoing
Dogs gravitate towards people naturally, looking to people to help solve problems, provide for their needs and offer social support and bonding.
This is why people love dogs so much!
But just the opposite is true for wild wolves. Even when wolf pups are raised by human carers and trained in common commands, they revert to a wild state once they reach puberty at around six months old.
As long as a wolf can hunt on its own, there is no motivation for a wild wolf to look to humans for assistance or meeting any other needs. So they tend to give humans a wide berth.
Wolves grow up faster than domestic dogs
While both wolves and dogs will be weaned from the mother’s milk by around two months of age, dogs tend to stay in a type of perpetual puppyhood while wolves rapidly become increasingly wild and human-averse.
In a wild setting, wolves need to grow up quickly and become self-sufficient. Dogs, however, don’t ever need to fully grow up since they look to people to meet their needs.
Wolves only mate once a year while dogs may mate twice a year or more
Wild wolves will raise pups in mated pairs. It is common to see grown pups assisting the mom and dad pair with raising the new pups.
For wolf packs, mating and pup raising only happen once per year and litter sizes are smaller than they are for many domestic dog breeds.
Dogs can breed more often and usually the mother dog is alone to wean and raise the puppies. But mother dogs nearly always have the help of humans, which makes having the father dog present irrelevant.
Wolves don’t play the way domestic dogs play
Even though Rottweilers are big, strong dogs, Rottie owners can attest to how goofy and silly these dogs can be with their people.
To dogs, play is play. But to wild wolves, play is training for hunting, mating, self-defense, and pack life.
Wolves are also regarded as being smarter and more resourceful than domestic dogs. This makes sense considering that wolves are generally unwilling to look to humans for help.
Wolves eat more like cats than domestic dogs
Dogs have evolved to become omnivores like humans. As Vetstreet explains, this has three different genes that help them digest starches and glucose, each of which are found in quantity in the human diet.
Wolves, on the other hand, generally only eat grains or plant matter when they consume the partially-digested contents of a prey animal’s stomach. Wolves do have some ability to digest these types of foods, but not to the same degree that domestic dogs do.
So where dogs are omnivorous, wolves are considered to be carnivorous just like cats.
Cats are obligate carnivores, a term that means their digestive tract is uniquely adapted to eat a diet of pure animal protein.
Wolves are somewhere in between domestic dogs and cats but fall closer to cats than to dogs in how their digestive system functions.
Rottweiler vs Wolf – Can These Two Species Interbreed
The International Wolf Center explains that wolves and dogs are similar enough genetically that they are capable of interbreeding.
When a wolf and a dog mate, the pups are called wolf-dog hybrids.
While wolf-dog hybrids continue to be popular as pets, the truth is that these animals tend to be poorly suited to life with humans.
Wolf-dog hybrids might be friendly in puppyhood, but as soon as they become sexually mature their behavior becomes more aloof and difficult to manage.
Wolf-dog hybrids may bond closely with only one human and place all their focus and interaction needs on that one person, causing strain within the human family system.
Here, you might wonder whether crossing a wild wolf with a very domesticated, people-centric dog breed like the Rottweiler could make a wolf-dog hybrid easier to keep and care for.
But wolf experts caution against it. Keeping wolf-dog hybrids is not even legal in many states. Often you need a special permit and must provide a specific type of housing to be allowed to keep such a hybrid as a pet.
You may need to purchase special permits that come with extra fees.
Most of all, wolf-hybrid dogs are not better at guarding and protecting duties than wild wolves. There are many sad stories about hybrid animals being relinquished to rescue shelters when the human could no longer manage the wolf-dog’s behavior.
Rottweilers Make Good Pets But Wolves Do Not
The most important thing to remember is that wolves are not dogs and never will be. Wolf puppies will not grow up to act like dogs and cannot learn how to do so.
However, Rottweilers can be great family pets and are very loyal and loving.