History of the Spitz Family

Ancient Seal c 3,000 BCAncient Seal c 3,000 BC

Archaeological evidence suggests that as far back as the 'Neolithic' period (3,000 BC) medium sized 'Spitzlike' dogs lived in close proximity with humans. Fossil remains of this period from this Bronze Age people have been found among remains of pile dwellers in many parts of Europe. The Lapphunds and other Scandinavian Spitz dogs probably came across the Baltic Sea to settle first in 'Pomerania' which eventually became Germany in the mid-1800's. Originally called Esquimaux dogs, once domesticated they became our family of Spitz breeds[1].

Pariah Dogs

Australian DingoAustralian Dingo

Pariah Dogs are primitive dogs which are considered to be close ancestors of the Spitz family. They are medium-sized fairly square in outline with a double coat, a wedge shaped head, pricked ears and a tail curled over the back. They lived in free-roaming packs in large areas of Asian wilderness from the Middle East to the Indian subcontinent to South East Asia, and also in North and Central America and Australia. They first existed by scavenging for food from human settlements and then gradually became domesticated. They include not only some which still live in the wild like the Australian Dingo and the New Guinea Singing Dog, but also the now recognised pure breeds of the Canaan DogPharaoh Hound, the Ibizan Hound and the Basenji[2].

Grey WolfGrey Wolf


The domestic breeds we know today that are members of the Spitz family were formally descended from the wild dog of the wolf family. Their most common ancestor is the Grey Wolf, sometimes also called the Timber Wolf.

It is believed wolves were first domesticated in Northern Eurasia many thousands of years ago. These wolves once ranged from Alaska to Canada and all over what is now USA to Mexico and throughout Europe and Asia. They lived in every type of habitat except tropical rain forests.


Wolf (USA)Wolf (USA)

Domestication is a genetic process by which whole populations of dogs become progressively suitable to co-exist with humans for the mutual benefit of both races[4].

Built for travel, wolves have the ability to pursue prey at 60 km (37 miles) per hour. This equips them for a predatory way of life. In the wild, wolves have to travel long distances to find sufficient food to survive.

Domestication is believed to have begun when wolves discovered that humans who lived in camps, threw away lots of waste. This not only ensured the wolf of a reliable food source, it saved hunting for its own food. On the other hand, humans realised that resident wolves chased not only other wild species away from their camps, but also rival wolves. This kept their humans safe from predators.

Wolves of various sizes

Most wolves stand about 76 cm (30 in) high at shoulder. However, their weight varies greatly from 14 - 65 kg (31 - 143 lb), according to the terrain in which they live. Female wolves are generally 20% smaller than males. The largest wolves tend to be in west-central Canada and across Northern Asia.

Wolf (Mexican)Wolf (Mexican)

The smallest wolves tend to be nearer the southern end of their distribution (the Middle East, Arabia and India). Wolves have long legs, large feet and deep but narrow chests This build suits them well for life on the move. The body coat is usually grey but it may be brown, reddish, black or whitish, while the underparts are usually yellow-white. Light coloured wolves are also common in the Arctic regions[3].

References and Further Reading

[1] Alice Gatacre, 'The Keeshond' Published by London Country Life Ltd 1938 'The Keeshond in History and Art'  Illustration in an article called 'Anitquity' by Dr Max Hiltsheimer from the German 'Zeitshrift fur Hundeforschung' Page 1

[2] Lee Boyd and Victor Kaftal 'Canaan Dog' Published by T.F.H Publications Neptune City N.J, USA ISBN 0-7938-0800-6 Origin and History of the Canaan Dog Pages 7 - 8.

[3] Steven H Fritts, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Chief Scientist, Gray Wolf Recovery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Helena, Montana, U.S. Advisory Board, International Wolf Center, Ely, Minnesota, U.S. Feb 12, 2021 https://www.britannica.com/animal/wolf

[4] Jessica Addams and Andrew Miller 'Between Dog and Wolf' Published by Dogwise Publishing Wenatchee, Washington WA 98801, USA Chapter 3 Domestication from Dog to Wolf Page 59