Although King Shepherds aren't officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, their massive size makes them standout among their close relatives: Shepherds and herding dogs. As their name implies, King Shepherds are giant shepherd hybrids, resulting from the cross-breeding of German Shepherds and Shiloh Shepherds.
Despite their large size and somewhat imposing appearance, King Shepherds can be considered the "gentle giants" of the canine world. Not only are they incredibly calm and sweet, but they're gentle with small children and other pets. King Shepherds are loyal and protective of their family members—but not aggressive—making them the perfect family pet.
King Shepherds have very temperate, adaptable personalities, but they're better suited for single-family homes with fenced-in outdoor space, due to their size and high exercise needs.
Group: This breed is not officially recognized by the AKC, but King Shepherds are closely related to German Shepherds, members of the Herding Group
Height: 29 inches at the shoulder (male) or 27 inches at the shoulder (female)
Weight: 130 to 150 pounds fully grown (male) or 90 to 110 pounds fully grown (female)
Coat and Color: Straight and coarse or wavy and long in black, white, tan, brown, gray, or silver
Life Expectancy: 10 to 11 years
Characteristics of the King Shepherd
|Tendency to Bark||High|
|Amount of Shedding||High|
History of the King Shepherd
When you think of a "designer breed," you may imagine a teacup-sized purse or lap pooch—but the giant, rugged-looking King Shepherd can be considered a designer breed, too. Originating in the United States in the 1990s, the King Shepherd was originally bred to create a German Shepherd mix that had fewer health issues than a purebred German Shepherd.
American breeders David Turkheimer and Shelley Watts-Cross fist bred a German Shepherd with a Shiloh Shepherd, a hybrid breed that blends German Shepherd with Alaskan Malamute, to elevate the best qualities of the German Shepherd. In order to achieve the long-haired look they wanted, the breeders also blended long-haired German Shepherds from European lineages. Incorporating European lines didn't just give King Shepherds their distinctive coats—it also boosted genetic variation, thereby reducing the risk of certain genetic issues that are common in very inbred lineages.
Because King Shepherds are a relatively new breed—and still fairly rare among American families—they are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. They are, however, recognized by the American Rare Breed Associations (ARBA), World Wide Kennel Club (WWKC), and Eastern Rare Breed Dog Club (ERBDC), among other smaller organizations.
King Shepherd Care
If you're looking for a low-maintenance dog, the King Shepherd may not be the right pet for you. Between their grooming and exercise requirements, King Shepherds needs lots of time, energy, and attention in order to thrive.
King Shepherds have thick, double coats, so you can expect a lot of shedding. Brushing your King Shepherds coat several times per week—or even daily, in some cases—can help reduce shedding, and keep their coat healthy, clean, and tangle-free. Because King Shepherds have long coats, you may think constant bathing is required, but it's actually the opposite: If your dog's coat is healthy and well-maintained, they'll only need a bath every three to four months. King Shepherds are extremely active, so walking, running, and playing will typically keep their nails worn down, but it's important to examine the nails often, and trim as needed.
King Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs, making training relatively simple—if you're consistent and engaging. King Shepherds can become bored easily, so it's important to keep their training interesting. Because King Shepherds are so eager to please their family members, they can learn—and perform—basic commands fairly quickly.
King Shepherds are high-energy and have high exercise requirements, so daily, strenuous exercise is a must. King Shepherds thrive in active, single-family homes with lots of space to run, walk, explore, or play games. Because they're highly intelligent, King Shepherds can greatly benefit from exercise routines that also incorporate mental stimulation. Playing games like fetch, tug-o-war, hide and seek, or completing obstacle courses can help your King Shepherd release excess energy, while stimulating her mind, as well. King Shepherds can become bored very easily, so it's vital to keep them engaged—and exercised—to avoid destructive behavior caused by boredom.
Common Health Problems
Like any other breed or mix of breeds, King Shepherds may be susceptible to certain health issues. Because King Shepherds are a hybrid breed, their greater genetic variation offers some protection against certain genetic disorders—but it's important to know about any potential health problems, should they arise in your dog.
Some health problems that are common among King Shepherds include:
- Joint dysplasia: A condition that causes instability, weakness, and pain in the hips or elbows
- Von Willebrand's disease: A genetic disorder that affects the blood's ability to clot after injury
- Hypothyroidism: An endocrine disease that reduces the dogs metabolic rate, often resulting in obesity, canine diabetes, or heart disease.
Reputable breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards—and to produce the healthiest dogs possible—but that isn't a guarantee against all health issues. Be sure to talk to your King Shepherd's veterinarian about any potential health issues, and the steps you can take to reduce your dog's risk of developing them.
Diet and Nutrition
Your dog's diet depends largely on her weight, age, activity level, and metabolism, but generally, you can expect to feed a King Shepherd between three and four cups of high-quality, dry dog food per day. It's recommended that this amount be divided across at least two mealtimes.
Canine obesity is common among all breeds, so be sure to carefully measure your King Shepherd's food each day. If you're not sure how much to feed your King Shepherd, or she's gaining too much weight, talk to your veterinarian about her nutritional requirements.
Sweet, gentle, and very good-natured with children or other pets
Fiercely loyal to its family, but not aggressive
Highly intelligent and easy to train
Requires daily grooming to avoid excessive shedding
Has very high exercise needs or may exhibit destructive behavior from boredom
Not suitable for apartments or homes without outdoor space
Where to Adopt or Buy a King Shepherd
Check your local animal shelter or shepherd rescue organization for a King Shepherd that needs a loving home.
If you choose to purchase a King Shepherd puppy, conduct extensive research to locate an ethical, reputable breeder. Ask the breeder lots of questions, meet the litter's parents, and conduct an on-site tour of the breeder's facility, if possible.
More Dog Breeds and Further Research
Before adding a King Shepherd to the family, make sure your home, schedule, and lifestyle can accommodate a very large, energetic dog that requires daily grooming and daily, strenuous exercise.
If you're interested in breeds similar to the King Shepherd, check out:
- The German Shepherd
- The Alaskan Malamute
- The Shiloh Shepherd