Vol. 8 No. 3 (2022)

Wolf and German shepherd dog skull: morphometric changes due to domestication

Alessandra Coli
Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie Università di Pisa
Elisabetta Giannessi
Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie Università di Pisa

Published 2023-10-06


  • skull,
  • domestication,
  • morphometry,
  • wolf,
  • German Shepherd,
  • dog
  • ...More


A morphometrical investigation between Italian wolves skulls and German Shepherd dogs skulls was  carried out to study  if the domestication process can determine craniometric  changes induced by the different way of life between the wild ancestor and the present domestic dog. By the comparative evaluation of  morphometrical data from 8 wolf and 8 German Shepherd skulls, all obtained from Navone taxidermy laboratory (https://www.tassidermia.com/), the Authors found that wolf skulls are larger in 78% of the craniometrics variables, in accordance with strong and fast use of masticatory  muscles, necessary for predation.  From morphological and morphometrical point of view, less marked nasal “frontal stop”, shorter and wider skull, larger orbital angle and a coronoid process with dorsal side facing caudally are the features that most characterize the wolf skull and that change during the domestication process. Of particular interest is the lower morphometrical parameters of canine and carnassial teeth in German Shepherd dog  jaw respect to wolf  jaw, probably related to a different approach to food, and a larger nasal opening of German Shepherd dog skull, probably related to a an aesthetic characteristic. The reduction of craniometric parameters which mainly concern the dorsal part of the skull could be attributed to a decrease of brain volume caused by domestication process, attributable to a reduction of the limbic system.