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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The household pets that are 'half wolf'


Move over Rover - a new "hybrid wolf" closely descended from wild animals is displacing more traditional dog breeds as family pets.

Timberwolf hybrid pups: The pets that are 'half wolf'
Hybrid pups sell for up to £5,000 and once fully grown, the animals closely resemble wolves and even howl like the wild animal Photo: APEXNEWS

The animals are the offspring of European and North American wolves which have been mated with domestic dogs.

Animal groups have expressed concerns about the growing hybrid population, warning that the creatures could present a danger to humans, particularly children, who experts say are seen as "prey" by the animals.

In the US, where they have carried out a number of fatal attacks on children, hybrids are banned in some states and in others are only legal once they are five generations removed from wolves.

Chris Laurence, veterinary director of the Dogs Trust, said: "If you have genuine hybrid wolves inside people's homes then that is a worry. I would be very concerned about that, because of their behaviour towards children."

Dr Ros Clubb, wildlife scientific officer at the RSPCA, said:

"In a domestic environment the expression of natural behaviours could be unsuitable and potentially dangerous in a family home."

The growing numbers of hybrid wolves in the UK follows clarification of their legal status by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which means hybrids can be kept without a licence in this country if they are just three generations removed from the wild animal.

Hybrid pups sell for up to £5,000 and once fully grown, the animals closely resemble wolves and even howl like the wild animal.

They can be bred by crossing wolves with a range of dog breeds, including German shepherds, akitas, malamutes, huskies and inuits.

As well as the hybrids, two other breeds closely related to wolves are also growing in popularity in the UK, following the revised guidelines.

These are sarloos, from a cross between a timber wolf and a German shepherd, and the Czechoslovakian wolfdog, which was bred from a Carpathian wolf and a German Shepherd, to patrol borders along the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

Andre Tanner, from South Molton, in Devon, owns a three-year-old male hybrid called Coosa, who is three generations from a timber wolf.

"He will play with me like a dog. Brought up properly, hybrids are civil. They are reasonably dog-like. They can be a bit aloof but also very friendly."

Charlie Richardson, a breeder who specialises in sarloos and who is now planning to breed hybrids, said:

“Hybrids can be good pets. For the right people in the right environment. You would never go back to an ordinary dog. The level of intelligence and social awareness in these animals is staggering. They really are special creatures. The big bad wolf myth is misleading.

“The hybrid - along with the Czechoslovakian wolfdog and the sarloos - are difficult dogs, but not in a dangerous s ense.”

However, Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today, added: “The relaxation in the law seems madness. To live in a domestic situation with a part-wolf is insane.

“Wolves are wonderful and much maligned in children’s fiction, but they are hugely different from dogs and should be kept separate. Hybrids are a potential disaster area.”