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King Shepherd vs German Shepherd: What’s The Difference?

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

King Shepherd vs German Shepherd

Most dog lovers are familiar with the German Shepherd, but have you ever heard of the noble King Shepherd? The King Shepherd isn’t recognized by some of the most breed organizations, including the American Kennel Club, but they are the gorgeous result of mating a German Shepherd with the Shiloh Shepherd (Alaskan Malamute & German Shepherd) or a Great Pyrenees, or a blend of all. The breed was first created in 1995.

The King Shepherd borrows many traits from the German Shepherd, especially when it comes to appearance. However, these two canine varieties are far from identical. For instance, while the German Shepherd excels at police and military work, the King Shepherd is often referred to as a “gentle giant.”

So, what are the key differences between the King Shepherd and its parent breed, the German Shepherd? And is the King Shepherd a worthy alternative to the much more popular German Shepherd?

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Visual Differences

King Shepherd vs German Shepherd side by side

A Quick Overview – King Shepherd vs German Shepherd

King Shepherd
  • Average Height (adult): 25–31 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 75–150 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–11 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Excellent, highly intelligent
German Shepherd
  • Average Height (adult): 21–26 inches
  • Average Weight (adult): 75–95 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10–14 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours/day
  • Grooming needs: High (weekly)
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: Excellent, highly intelligent

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King Shepherd

The canine world is filled with countless dogs dubbed “designer breeds”—the King Shepherd is one of them. While many of these cross-breeds are bred for unique physical traits or diminutive size, the King Shepherd actually emerged from an attempt to create a German Shepherd with fewer health problems.

To achieve this goal, breeders crossed European and American German Shepherds with the Shiloh Shepherd. The Shiloh Shepherd is another cross-breed, combining the German Shepherd with the Alaskan Malamute. Again, this designer breed came about when a German Shepherd breeder set out to develop a variety of dogs with healthier hips.

So, what do you get when you mix the genetics of European German Shepherds, American German Shepherds, and the Alaskan Malamute? In the case of the King Shepherd, you get a large, regal, even-tempered, and incredibly gorgeous dog.

West-German Working Line German Shepherds
Image Credit: Pixabay

Physical appearance

Aside from its imposing size, the King Shepherd has an all-around noble appearance. Their body is slightly squared off and muscular, and they have a larger, less-pointed snout than the German Shepherd.

King Shepherds come in similar colors and coat patterns as German Shepherds, though their fur trends longer and shaggier. This difference comes from the use of long-haired European German Shepherds and the Alaskan Malamute when developing this cross-breed.

Typically, the King Shepherd measures at least 27 inches at the shoulder, with males growing larger than females. Female dogs weigh between 90 to 110 pounds, while males weigh in at 130 to 150 pounds.


Despite originating from high-energy, stubborn breeds, the King Shepherd is remarkably mellow and sweet-natured. Generally speaking, the King Shepherd does well around children and other dogs, as well as strangers, when equipped with proper socialization.

Don’t mistake the King Shepherd’s mild temperament for lack of intelligence, though. This cross-breed is trainable and requires plenty of mental stimulation to reach its full potential.

All prospective owners should understand the King Shepherd’s exercise needs. These dogs are bred for herding and protecting livestock, making them ideal for an active household.


For a large breed, the King Shepherd actually has a fairly long life expectancy. This cross-breed lives to be 10 to 14 years old on average.

King Shepherds were developed specifically for their overall health, but these dogs are not immune to illness and disease. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common ailments, as well as hypothyroidism and von Willebrand’s disease.


Since the King Shepherd’s coat is long, thick, and double-layered, regular grooming is a necessity. Brushing or combing this cross-breed’s fur should be done several times a week if not every day.

Owners can also expect heavy seasonal shedding from the King Shepherd.

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German Shepherd

The German Shepherd is most famous for its role as a working police breed, but these dogs are also extremely popular as companion animals. However, the breed’s high level of energy and defiant personality can make them a handful for inexperienced dog owners.

As the name suggests, the German Shepherd originated in Germany as a herding and guard dog. While the breed is quite common in modern America, anti-German sentiments delayed their stateside popularity during World War I and II.

Today, the German Shepherd is the second most popular dog breed, according to the American Kennel Club.

German Shepherd
Image Credit: Pixabay

Physical appearance

The German Shepherd has a sloped, graceful build, which often hides the immense strength and power of the breed. Its snout is tapered but certainly not small, with a decidedly wolf-like sparkle to the eyes.

German Shepherds are most often seen with a bi-colored coat pattern, but the breed boasts several officially recognized colors. Some breeders specialize in unique colors, including entirely black and white German Shepherds.

The German Shepherd is tall and lean, measuring about 22 to 26 inches depending on sex. Male German Shepherds weigh between 65 to 90 pounds, while females weigh around 50 to 70 pounds.


The German Shepherd is smart and hardworking, both must-haves in a working farm or police dog. But these traits don’t necessarily translate to life as a household pet.

Owning a German Shepherd is a careful balancing act. On the one hand, this breed thrives on a strong bond with its owner and family members. On the other, an under-stimulated German Shepherd is stubborn, destructive, and frustrating to train.

Ideally, your German Shepherd should be included in as many family activities as possible. Canine sports are also a great way to burn your dog’s excess energy while giving them a focused purpose.


Given proper care, the average German Shepherd will live to be 7 to 10 years old. While this is notably shorter than the King Shepherd, this lifespan is typical of most large breeds.

When it comes to health concerns, hip and elbow dysplasia are fairly common. German Shepherds may also develop degenerative myelopathy and bloat—a spinal cord disorder and a stomach disorder, respectively.


The German Shepherd’s dense, short coat demands a minimalist grooming regimen. Weekly brushing is enough to keep tangles, debris, and burrs from making a home in your dog’s fur.

Like most double-coated breeds, German Shepherds shed with the changing seasons. More frequent grooming during these times can help keep fur clean-up around the house to a minimum.

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King Shepherd vs. German Shepherd: Which Is Right for You?

When searching for a new four-legged friend to add to your family, the German Shepherd is one of the most popular breeds around. However, there’s good reason to consider a close relative, such as the King Shepherd, for your household.

The King Shepherd might be significantly larger than the German Shepherd, but its temperament means this gentle giant is often easier to handle. Plus, the King Shepherd possesses healthier joints than the average German Shepherd. At the same time, German Shepherds are popular working and companion dogs for a reason. The breed is focused, driven, and responds well to thorough training and socialization.

If you can find a King Shepherd in your area, then this cross-breed is definitely worth considering as a household companion. But if you can’t, the German Shepherd will make an excellent addition to the right family.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: (L) DoberNut, Shutterstock | (R) Alexander Naglestad, Shutterstock

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