Mysterious "Wolfdogs" Roaming Southeastern Connecticut Will Be Genetically Tested

Mar 27, 2014

State officials said DNA tests will be conducted on seven animals to determine if they are hybrid "wolfdogs." The animals, which are illegal to own in Connecticut, have allegedly threatened several people in the southeastern part of the state.

Wolfdogs contain an unpredictable genetic stew of wild wolf and domesticated dog, which can make them dangerous to keep as pets. But that's not stopping people from acquiring them. "The complaint is that there are dogs in a pack roaming in this area of Ledyard, and that they have threatened people," said Dennis Schain from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

Schain said wolfdogs can exhibit unpredictable behavior. So why would someone want one? "Mostly, what I've run across is: they like wolves," said Monty Sloan. He's trained wolves for about 30 years. "They think it would be really cool to have something that they could call a wolf, even though it's not a pure wolf."

Wolfdogs, as illustrated in The Menageries: Quadrupeds Described and Drawn from Living Subjects by W. Ogilby, 1829.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Sloan said finding first-generation crosses, a pure wolf bred with a domesticated dog, is rare. What's more likely: an unscrupulous breeder looking to make a quick buck.

"Most of the wolves out there are grossly misrepresented," Sloan said, "and may not have any wolf in them whatsoever. The reason for that is those animals do make good pets, because there's no wolf in them, and you can still sell puppies for a lot of money."

A Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. The breed is sometimes used by European Police forces. Monty Sloan said pedigrees of European wolfdogs are much more well kept then those of their American counterparts.
Credit Creative Commons

Dennis Schain said there will always be a market for illegal wolfdogs. "You know, there's some niche out in the world of people who want to have them ... and especially with the Internet, people who are interested find sources for them."

Schain said samples from the dogs currently undergoing tests will be sent to a lab at the University of California Davis. If the animals are determined to be illegal wolfdogs, they will be seized from their owner and placed in a zoo, education facility, or sanctuary.