German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd: What’s the Difference?


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German Shepherds originated in Germany and were bred to herd sheep and other livestock. They are ranked the 2nd most popular dog in the US and 8th in the UK. The King Shepherd is a rare stunning looking dog, similar to the German Shepherd. So what’s the difference between a German Shepherd and a King Shepherd? 

The difference between German Shepherds and King Shepherds is that GSDs are purebred, whereas King Shepherds are a relatively new crossbreed. Both breeds appear almost identical, although the King is somewhat larger. King Shepherds were bred for a slightly different temperament and fewer health issues.

The hybrid King Shepherd is a mix of German Shepherd with other breeds, including the Shiloh Shepherd, Alaskan Malamute, or Great Pyrenees. Another key difference is the origin. We know the GSD came from Germany, but what about the King Shepherd?

This article will explore the origin and the main traits of both the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd. We will compare the individual characteristics highlighting all the similarities and differences, and learn about each breeds’ history.

You’ll discover all the information you need, especially if you’re contemplating buying or adopting either the German Shepherd or King Shepherd.

A German Shepherd next to a King Shepherd. Difference Between German Shepherd and King Shepherd

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Let’s now dive into all the differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd.

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd – Which One is Right for You?

What’s the difference between a German Shepherd and a King Shepherd? This is a good question if you are looking to bring either of these breeds into your home. It’s fair to say, both breeds are stunning and make great family dogs. 

However, there are several similarities and differences between these two breeds. Whether you choose a German Shepherd or a King Shepherd will ultimately depend on what you are looking for in a dog. 

When you first see a King Shepherd, you might think you’re just looking at a large, long-haired German Shepherd, but that’s not entirely correct. So, what exactly is a King Shepherd?

A King Shepherd is a relatively new breed of dog still in development. It is a hybrid, not recognized by the American Kennel Club. King Shepherds were initially developed using American German Shepherds crossed to flock guardians, also known as livestock guarding dogs.

The primary ancestors of the King Shepherd are the German Shepherd and the Shiloh Shepherd. The Shiloh Shepherd is another hybrid of the German Shepherd and predominantly Alaskan Malamute. So, most of this new breed is the German Shepherd – maybe we could say around two thirds.

The American King Shepherd Club (AKSC) recognizes the King Shepherd and is the original club of the breed. The breed’s history dates back to 1991 when it was developed by Americans Shelley Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer. 

If you desire an easily trainable, reliable working dog, you should probably choose the German Shepherd. This breed is intelligent, strong, brave, loyal, and protective and can be aggressive towards intruders if not socialized or trained. They make both excellent police and guard dogs due to their protective nature.

However, if you want a gentle family dog with a lovely temperament, you should choose the King Shepherd. This breed is considered more laid-back and rarely becomes aggressive. Nonetheless, he is very protective and makes a great watchdog due to his intimidating size.

Although they are utilized as a family companion dog, King Shepherds are also easy to train and are capable of working as police dogs, guide dogs, or therapy dogs.

Check out this cool video which highlights the main differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd:

King Shepherd vs. German Shepherd – The difference between the two dog breeds

Below, we will explore the differences and similarities between these two stunning dog breeds.

How Do These Breeds Compare?

So, what sets these two breeds apart? Below is a table highlighting the main differences between German Shepherds and King Shepherds. 

Please note that heights and weights are always an approximation, and a dog might be larger or smaller (weight or height) than the sizes stated in the Breed Standard.

GERMAN SHEPHERDKING SHEPHERD
GROUPHerding Herding
ORIGINGermanyAmerica
MALE
HEIGHT
60 – 65 cm
24 – 26 inches
68 – 81 cm
27 – 32 inches
FEMALE
HEIGHT
55 – 60 cm
22 – 24 inches
63 – 76 cm
25 – 30 inches
MALE
WEIGHT
30 – 40 kg
66 – 88 pounds
50 – 63 kg
110 – 140 pounds
FEMALE
WEIGHT
22 – 32 kg 
49 – 71 pounds
40 – 54 kg
90 – 120 pounds
APPEARANCEAny pigmentation (nose can be black or pink)Dark pigmentation (e.g. black nose, paw pads, lips)
HIP
ANGULATION
More severe angulationBalanced angulation,
More upright stance
LIFE SPAN10 – 13 years10 – 11 years
LITTER SIZE86 – 8
DOG SIZE Medium-Large  Large
OTHER
NAMES
Alsatian, Alsatian Wolf Dog, Schäferhund, Deutscher SchäferhundAmerican King Shepherd,
Giant German Shepherd
COAT
COLORS
Black and Tan, Bicolor, Black, Black and Red, White or Cream, SableBlack and Tan, Bicolor, Black, Black and Red, Sable
COAT
TYPE
Double-coated, short to medium, medium, or longDouble-coated.
Varies from smooth to long
SHEDDINGHeavy,
Constant, seasonal
Heavy, constant, seasonal
TEMPERAMENTAggressive, Outgoing,
Brave, Protective, Watch-dog, Strong,
Confident,
Intelligent, Alert,
Independent, Loyal, High-energy,
Aloof,
Affectionate, Versatile
Stable Temperament, Less Aggressive, Loving, Protective, Alert, Courageous, Playful, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Loyal, Sensitive, Intelligent, Independent, Versatile, Aloof With Strangers
GROOMINGModerate maintenanceModerate maintenance
TRAINABILITYEasily trainableEasily trainable
HYPOALLERGENICNot hypoallergenicNot hypoallergenic
CHILD FRIENDLYYesYes, very child friendly
NEW OWNER FRIENDLYYesYes, very good first dog
COST$900 – $4500$1250 – $2000

As you can see from the above table, there are many differences and similarities between these two breeds.

We will now look at the main differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd, including history, temperament, nutrition, and health. 

History, Temperament, Nutrition & Health

German Shepherds are deemed to be a multipurpose working dog. They are medium-large build, agile, muscular, strong, and highly intelligent. The GSD is fun, loyal, confident, courageous, forming an intense bond with their owner – making them the perfect match for many dog lovers. 

Below is a fantastic 2-minute video from the American Kennel Club on the German Shepherd breed:

Meet the German Shepherd Dog

King Shepherds resemble giant German Shepherds, with a typical Shepherd face and pointy ears. However, they have less severe hip angulation. Front and rear angulations should be balanced.

They also have quite a different temperament, are not overly aggressive, and have a calmer demeanor than the German Shepherd. They were specifically bred to be less intense – making them an excellent family companion. Although still protective, they are more friendly and gentle. They also adore children.

Below is a really cool video all about the King Shepherd:

King Shepherd Facts – Top 10 Facts About the Mighty King Shepherd

The History of the German Shepherd

True to their name, German Shepherds originated in Germany in 1899. They were bred by Max von Stephanitz, an ex-cavalry captain, to be working dogs. They are unbelievably bright, strong, brave, and obedient.

GSDs were not initially bred as household pets or companions but were specifically bred to work as herders and all-purpose farm dogs. They were responsible for herding sheep and protecting flocks. Their sense of smell, intelligence, courage, and speed made them perfect herders.

By the commencement of World War 1, the German Shepherd had become extremely popular throughout Germany and had already started spreading to other parts of the globe.

The breed’s popularity rose in the UK and America. This was mainly due to the popularity of dog movie stars Strongheart and Rin-Tin-Tin. Returning soldiers of the First World War also spoke very highly of them. They admired the German Shepherds’ characteristics, especially their loyal and courageous demeanor. 

All these remarkable qualities have made the German Shepherd an increasingly popular choice over the years. Nowadays, German Shepherds are rarely used to herd sheep. However, they are often used as police and military dogs, dogs for the blind, and search and rescue.

The History of the King Shepherd

King Shepherds are a relatively new breed, but they share the same ancestry as a German Shepherd. They were developed in 1991 in America by Shelley Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer. The official breed club, the American King Shepherd Club (AKSC), was established in 1995.

The King Shepherd is defined as a rare breed. It remains unrecognized by the American Kennel Club. It also matches the definition of being a dog still in development or in the process of being refined.

It is true to say that the King Shepherd was created by selective breeding. Specific bloodlines of American German Shepherds straying from the American Kennel Club breed standard, mainly due to being oversized, were used.

The original breeders wanted to create a larger sized GSD, having outstanding watchdog capabilities but less aggressive and having fewer health issues.

King Shepherd

According to the AKSC, one of the first rare breed organizations that recognized the King Shepherd included the following among its acceptable definitions on how an F1 Generation King Shepherd could be produced: 

  • Breeding a King to a German Shepherd
  • Breeding a King to a Shiloh Shepherd
  • Breeding a German Shepherd to a Shiloh Shepherd

Subsequently, the American King Shepherd Club (AKSC) improved the King Shepherd breed standard. They introduced other breeds to build upon the traits that make the King Shepherd different from the German Shepherd. Here is the official breed standard.

Therefore the King Shepherd is primarily a German Shepherd mixed with many other large breeds, including the Shiloh Shepherd, Alaskan Malamutes, Belgian Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Leonberger, Akita, amongst others.

The American Rare Breed Association (ARBA) also recognizes the King Shepherd. Their mission is to protect rare breeds in the US, register dogs, and host conformation dog shows. Many other smaller organizations also acknowledge the breed.

German Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

German Shepherds love to please their master, and this makes them easily trainable. Obedience training should start at 8-weeks old as this will ensure that your puppy grows up to become a well-trained adult.

They make a wonderful protective companion or watchdog, and they love having a job to do. GSDs form an intense bond with their master from a young age. For more insights into this, check out my article, Can a German Shepherd Have Two Masters? Only an Owner Will Know!

When faced with strangers, the German Shepherd can become nervous and occasionally aggressive. This is due to their immense loyalty to their family, which originates from their natural guarding instincts.

My German Shepherd will go crazy if a stranger approaches the house. However, she will relax as soon as I let her know that the “stranger” is not a threat.

If not raised in a loving home, socialized, and trained, German Shepherds can definitely grow up to become aggressive. 

The German Shepherd is a high energy dog, and lots of exercise is essential. They require at least two hours of daily physical exercise including walks, hikes, off-leash running, frisbee, fetch, or agility. These are best done in two separate sessions.

They also require mental stimulation. It’s a good idea to have a selection of interactive or puzzle toys to keep their brain active. You can find loads of these at your local pet store.

Without regular exercise, German Shepherds will get into mischief and will become destructive. They’ll display unwanted behavior such as digging, chewing, barking, or howling. I love to keep my GSD occupied with the iFetch Interactive Ball Launcher from Amazon. The random distance setting keeps him guessing every time!

German Shepherds are very affectionate dogs and love to be part of the family. They can often become quite clingy and suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.

If you’re thinking about adopting a German Shepherd, here is my guilt-free guide on how long German Shepherds can be left alone that I’m sure you’ll find useful.

Having a decent-sized yard might be beneficial for a German Shepherd. But as long as they’re exercised and cared for properly, they can adapt to living in smaller spaces, even apartments! However, this will require lots of additional work, so make sure you have a suitable lifestyle to devote time to your dog.

King Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

King Shepherds are known for their kind and loving nature. They are not hyperactive or overly aggressive. They were specifically bred to have a consistent, sound temperament.

They are extremely intelligent dogs and are very trainable in both obedience and personal protection. Their intimidating size would deter any threat! They are strong and fearless.

They are also very loyal, especially towards children, whom they adore. Despite their size, King Shepherds are affectionate and sensitive in how they are treated. They are eager to please and thrive off your praise. 

King Shepherds are clever dogs and enjoy learning new commands and tricks. They train easily and excel as protection, police, or therapy dogs. Their excellent temperament makes them a cherished family pet who will be kind and friendly to children.

Like the German Shepherd, King Shepherds can be quite clingy towards their owners. They are also prone to separation anxiety and can’t cope with being left alone for long periods. They soon become bored and depressed.

King Shepherds are an active breed due to their strong herding lineage. They require a great deal of daily exercise, including running and lots of playing. They are great fun to be with.

However, if they are left without exercise, they will become destructive as they need to release their pent up energy. Kings enjoy dog sports and conformation, which also keeps them mentally and physically stimulated.

German Shepherd Nutrition and Health

The German Shepherd breed is generally a very fit and healthy dog with an average lifespan of around 10-13 years. However, like many other purebreds, some hereditary conditions can cause issues in the German Shepherd. 

Due to this, it’s necessary to choose a reputable breeder. Responsible breeders will screen their breeding stock for known hereditary health conditions, such as degenerative myelopathy (DM) or hip dysplasia. 

German Shepherd with a ball
My German Shepherd Willow looking all healthy!

The GSD needs high-quality food to provide all the nutrition he needs for an active lifestyle. There are many different types of diets that you can feed your dog, such as dry, wet, raw, etc.

Here’s where you can find my giant guide on the best diet for German Shepherds, including nutrition and precisely what they can and can’t eat.

German Shepherds can also be prone to bloat (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that causes the abdomen to swell with gas and twist, leading to serious complications and trauma. With this in mind, German Shepherd owners should educate themselves on the symptoms.

King Shepherd Nutrition and Health

We have learned that the King Shepherd also has an abundance of energy. It’s also essential to feed a healthy, high-quality dog food formulated for large breeds. This ensures that the dog receives the correct nutrients in their correct proportions to meet all their energy needs.

This beautiful breed is also considered healthier than the German Shepherd due to careful, selective breeding. After all, it was one of the criteria that the founders wished to create.

Early screening by most breeders for conditions such as hip dysplasia has allowed this disease, and others, to be substantially reduced. Kings can live for 10-11 years.

What Else To Know About King Shepherds

King Shepherd

The King Shepherd has striking features due to his immense size, good-looking expression, and wolf-like appearance. He’s becoming increasingly popular due to his desired temperament, beauty, and reduced health problems. 

Nonetheless, Kings are heavy shedders and daily brushing is required to keep on top of the flying fur! Bathing should only be done as and when required. Two to three times per year is usually sufficient.

The King Shepherd is less expensive to purchase than the German Shepherd. Prices can vary, but the average is $1600.

In contrast, expect to pay around $2000 for an average German Shepherd. However, this price can also quickly increase to $4500 or even more for top breed lines, such as a working or show dog.

Origins

As its name suggests, the German Shepherd was originally developed in Germany. The King Shepherd was created in America, emerging from the American German Shepherd Dog, Shiloh Shepherd, and other livestock guarding dogs.

Appearance

The main difference between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd is in their appearance. The King Shepherd is a large dog having the appearance of a giant German Shepherd.

He possesses thick dense bone, a well-muscled torso, and a strong impressive head. He is rugged, powerful, and impressive, with less severe angulation at the hips.

The German Shepherd is classed as a medium-large sized dog and is more angular at the hips, with a slightly sloping back. Here is the full breed standard of the GSD.

How Are German Shepherds and King Shepherds Similar?

As you can see, there are several differences between the German Shepherd and King Shepherd. However, they share a lot of similarities, too! Below are the main similarities between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd. 

Ancestry

The German Shepherd and the King Shepherd share the same ancestry. Although a crossbreed, the King Shepherd is very closely related to the German Shepherd. You could say the King is two-thirds GSD due to how they were bred, especially if the pup came from a Shiloh Shepherd.

Intelligence

Both of these breeds are remarkably intelligent and easy to train. This stems from their eagerness to please you and their undivided devotion to you. They can easily learn many skills and tricks, and they quickly obey commands.

When socialized and trained well, both the German Shepherd and King Shepherd are extremely disciplined and respected. This is why they are they are used as working dogs in various roles.

Loyalty

The German Shepherd and King Shepherd are both very loyal, devoted, protective, and love to please their master. While King Shepherds can be slightly needier towards their owner due to their more gentle nature, nonetheless, both will protect their family and territory due to their strong herding traits.

Good with Children and Other Pets

When raised with children or other pets, both the King Shepherd and German Shepherd are very good with them, again the former being slightly better due to their softer temperament.

It can be daunting deciding on the right breed of dog to bring into your family. However, both are a great choice, and bringing a puppy German Shepherd or King Shepherd into your family will be a success as long as you devote enough time to them and know what to expect. 

Which Breed Would Make the Best Pet?

The answer to this question really lies in what you are looking for in a dog. The breed also needs to fit your specific circumstances and lifestyle, however, they do come pretty close. 

If you are looking for a trustworthy, protective, confident watchdog, I would recommend a German Shepherd. Due to his more aggressive nature, he makes the perfect guard dog while remaining faithful and true to his family.

However, if you are looking for a less intense loving family pet with a lower drive, I would choose the King Shepherd. Being aggressive does not tend to be in their nature, and they have a more gentle and calmer demeanor. 

Nonetheless, they still make a great watchdog and their immense size and wolf-like appearance is enough to scare any intruder away!

German Shepherd vs. King Shepherd – Final Thoughts

Now you have learned the many similarities and differences between these two fantastic breeds of dog. Here are some key takeaways from the article:

  • The main differences between the German Shepherd and the King Shepherd are their size, country of origin, temperament, and health.
  • The German Shepherd and the King Shepherd have almost identical traits. However, the King is a lot less intense, calmer, and less aggressive of the two.
  • Both breeds make wonderful loyal pets. They also make great working dogs due to their intelligence and easy trainability. 

I hope this article has helped you understand the differences between the German Shepherd vs. the King Shepherd, as it can be rather confusing at first! If you are planning on having one for a pet, you now have all the knowledge to help you decide.

Remember that both require the same amount of daily exercise and thrive from being well-trained and stimulated. This is an important point to remember when considering a German Shepherd or a King Shepherd as a pet, as you need to dedicate lots of time to properly care for them. 

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck!

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Sharon Waddington

I am the owner of World of Dogz. I have a female German Shepherd named Willow, and I've worked with dogs for almost 30 years. I love spending time with her, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise of all things dogs on this site!

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