Is A Shih Tzu Really A Wolf?

We know that dogs evolved from wolves, but how much of the fierce apex predator really remains in our loveable fuzz balls?

Will Lockett
7 min readJun 29, 2020


Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash — Shih Tzus in a hammock

Today we have around 150 different species of dogs, from cute little Pugs, Pekingese and Shih Tzu through to the behemoths like the Great Dane, Chow Chow and St Bernard. But how did this colourful array of pooches evolve from the sleek Grey Wolf? And does that mean a Shih Tzu is still a wolf?

Let’s get a mind-bending fact out of the way first. Grey Wolves (Canis Lupis) and Domestic Dogs (Canis Familiaris) might have different names, but they are in fact the same species. If a dog and a wolf mate, they produce fertile offspring. These ‘Wolfdogs’ are truly terrifying to behold!

Yuki The WolfDog — As featured in Pocket Travel Guide — He is 87.5% Grey Wolf, 8.6% Siberian Husky & 3.9% German Shepherd

However, while dogs like Huskies and German Shepherds might be physically able to mate with a wolf, a lot of other dog breeds physically can’t. So, I doubt we will find any Pugwolf hybrids any time soon… That would have to be one very brave Pug!

Although dogs technically are wolves, their genetics are different enough to tell them apart. This is because other than the occasional mixing between dogs and wolves, like Yuki in the picture above, the gene pools of wolves and dogs have been kept separate for long enough for distinctive genetic differences to occur.

So, when did the split from wolf to dog take place? Well, originally scientists thought that it happened quite recently, around 15,000 years ago. This is because the earliest cave paintings and archaeological evidence for dogs are from around this date, like the dog remains found at the Bonn-Oberkassel site in Germany.

But it turns out they were way off the mark! A DNA study in 1997 actually found that dogs split from wolves more than 100,000 years ago. This means dogs predate settlements, farming and large societies by literally tens-of-thousands of years.

So, dogs are actually way older than we thought!

Now you’d be forgiven for thinking that more wolf-like looking dogs such as German Shepherds and…



Will Lockett

Independent journalist covering global politics, climate change and technology. Get articles early at