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Are Old-World German Shepherds A Real Dog Breed?

Are Old-World German Shepherds A Real Dog Breed?

Have you heard about these extra-large and long-coated German Shepherds that people are talking about?

If you’ve come across the term “old world” German Shepherd, then you must have been tempted to find out what they actually are. I know I was intrigued the first time I heard about them.

There is a ton of misinformation about these dogs online and it can be incredibly tough to distinguish between fact and fiction. To help you out, I’ve decided to write this article.

What Is An Old-World German Shepherd?

Old-World German Shepherd standing in a meadow
Photo from: @bellevue_gsd

Is it a separate breed? Is it a sub-breed of the German Shepherd? Well, it’s (kind of) neither of those things.

It is actually a really old type of herding dog that predates the modern GSD and it was, in fact, one of the main inspirations for Max von Stephanitz to develop the modern breed that we know and love today.

However, these old-world GSDs were excluded from the breeding programs because they were considered faulty, so they quickly became pretty rare. It came to the point that people just started considering them an alternative variant of the “new” German Shepherd.

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) does not (and never did) recognize them as a separate breed.

Where Did Old-World German Shepherds Originate?

It is believed that these GSD ancestors lived in what is now Germany as early as the 9th century. They were domesticated by local farmers and used as herding dogs for their sheep.

They were also pretty good as watchdogs because of their incredible alertness and intelligence.

Once Max von Stephanitz established the official breed standard for German Shepherds in 1899, these dogs were no longer considered desirable because of their coat and their back.

But what exactly were the differences that made these dogs miss the cut?

Old-World German Shepherds Vs Regular German Shepherds

Old-World German Shepherds Vs Regular German Shepherds

So, why exactly weren’t old-world German Shepherds included in the official GSD breed standards, and why were they excluded from breeding practices basically from the very start of organized breeding?

What differences could they possibly have had that they were deemed not good enough?

That’s exactly what I will be focusing on in the paragraph below!


Perhaps the biggest and the most obvious difference between the old and new German Shepherds is their coat.

Old-world GSDs have a distinctly longer coat which has made a lot of people call them simply long-coated (or long-haired) German Shepherds. However, that can create some confusion as it might lead people to think that this is a recognized type of GSD that could be produced by modern breeding practices.

Most of the GSDs that you can see today have coats with lengths of under two inches, but the old-world ones frequently have three or four-inch long outside coats, in addition to having thick undercoats.

The difference in hair is particularly highlighted in the neck area, where the extra length almost looks like a lion’s mane in the old world German Shepherds.

In terms of coat color, there isn’t much difference, as the old-world breed mostly has the same patterns, including the trademark black and tan.


There is a lot of contradicting information out there when it comes to the size of the old-world German Shepherds.

Some sources claim that these dogs can weigh up to 150 pounds, but that frankly doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s probably misinformation or speculation.

The truth is that German Shepherds simply don’t have the body structure to support that kind of weight.

That being said, it’s safe to say that old-world GSDs are noticeably larger than the modern ones. In terms of height, they seem to be in the 20 to 35-inch range, while the standard ones usually top out at about 24 inches.

And while they don’t necessarily reach 150 pounds, they can still be pretty hefty, with an average weight between 80 and 100 pounds. To be fair, that isn’t much different from regular GSDs, which are known to be around 85-90 lbs on average.


Old-world German Shepherds are a relatively healthy breed, at least according to the limited information available about them.

They seem to occasionally struggle with the same conditions that befall standard GSDs, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, degenerative myelopathy, and various eye and ear issues.


Old-world German Shepherds typically have a medium-to-long life expectancy, which is around 13 years on average.

That is somewhat comparable to modern GSDs, even though the data from the American Kennel Club states that they have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years.

However, it should be noted that there are different types of GSDs, and they can have varying life expectancies.

For example, working types usually live longer than show types, because they don’t have the trademark sloped backs that can often lead to health issues.

In that sense, the lifespan of old-world German Shepherds is similar to the working line of standard German Shepherds.

Another thing to note is that these old-world GSDs also don’t have sloped backs, which might be one of the reasons behind their slightly longer lifespans.

Where Can I Get An Old-World German Shepherd?

Old World German Shepherd puppy
Photo from: @bellevue_gsd

Here’s the thing: getting an old-world German Shepherd is not as easy as getting a standard GSD, mostly because they simply aren’t as readily available.

However, it’s not impossible.

Even though old-world shepherds were removed from breeding practices all the way back at the start of the 19th century, there were still independent breeders who wanted to extend this breed.

They continue to exist to this day, particularly in Germany, and they sell old-world German Shepherd puppies bred to have recognizably long hair and straight backs.

Old World German Shepherd Puppy Price

According to several online sources, the price of an old-world German Shepherd puppy is around $1,600. On the other hand, standard GSDs have a wider range of prices (between $450 and $1,900), but can be easily found for half the price of an old-world one.

The reasons behind this inflated price are probably clear.

Old-world German Shepherds are quite rare and that always causes the cost to go up, and when you add to that their fascinating look, it’s no surprise that some breeders charge double the price of regular GSDs for these pups.

Final Thoughts

Old-world German Shepherds are something of a novelty dog breed. They’re not an actual breed by themselves, and they’re not exactly a sub-breed of standard GSDs, either.

I think that they would be most accurately described as the ancestors of the modern German Shepherd breed, who have most of the trademark characteristics but are also different in a few ways.

The purpose of this article was to shed some light on old-world German Shepherds and clear any misconceptions about them that you might have had.