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What Dog Breed is Bolt from the Movie? About Disney’s White Shepherd

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Being a dog owner is one thing, but having a dog with superpowers takes things to a whole new level! In Disney’s 2008 animated movie Bolt, the titular canine character is a no-nonsense, all-challenges accepted pup who kicks major as a crime-fighting super dog—on TV that is.

However, Bolt doesn’t quite get that at first. Being deprived of a normal dog’s environment his entire life, this pooch truly believes he has superpowers. It isn’t until separating from his owner (and co-star) Penny that Bolt gets a hard dose of reality. But even after the movie’s over, one question remains—what kind of dog is Bolt?

There is some controversy surrounding Bolt’s breed. Disney animators have said that they based him on the White Swiss Shepherd Dog, but Bolt’s breed is never directly referenced in the film. Main character designer Joe Moshier has also indicated that the Bolt’s design is based loosely on a White German Shepherd puppy while admitting that Bolt was never intended to be one specific breed.

Divider 1What is a White German Shepherd?

white german shepherd running in the snow
Image By: anetapics, Shutterstock

For the longest time, White German Shepherds were just that—German Shepherds with white coats. They were just considered a genetic anomaly with a prevalent showing of the recessive gene of a German Shepherd’s coat color. However, breeders began isolating this trait and breeding pure White German Shepherds. And when this started happening, kennel clubs didn’t take too kindly to it. As a matter of fact, White German Shepherds were actually banned from registration in their native Germany.

Although White Shepherds didn’t fare well in Germany, exported pups in the US and Canada grew in popularity. And in 1969, these dogs had their very own breed club established. They are now slowly making their way into mainstream kennel clubs with the United Kennel Club recognizing them as an independent breed in 1999.

Physical Features of the White Shepherd

White Shepherds have nearly identical builds to the standard German Shepherd. Fully grown, they have a large muscular build standing tall at more than 25 inches and weighing up to 90 pounds. They are considered to be large dogs and are often used for security, military, or law enforcement working purposes.

One of the features they’re best known for is their perky, erect ears. This breed—along with standard German Shepherds—is known for their sharply angular profiles with their pointed ears, adding more rigidity to their appearance. This is easily seen in Bolt’s profile as the animators made sure to accentuate them specifically.

Another feature that both Bolt and the White Shepherd have in common is a large bushy tail. Shepherds have long, bushy tails—another highlighted trait during animation. This bushy tail can somewhat be attributed to the White Shepherd’s double coat which makes them notorious shedders just like their standard counterparts. However, some White German Shepherds don’t possess a double coat, making them unique in that regard.

White Shepherd Character and Personality Traits

When watching the movie Bolt, we couldn’t help but notice just how much Bolt acts like a German Shepherd. Not only did they model the character’s look after the White Shepherd, but it’s also as if they transplanted the personality of the breed as well.

White Shepherds are an exceptionally confident and intelligent breed. They’re capable of learning just about anything, which is part of what makes them one of the best working breeds around. And Bolt being a “superhero” embodies this aura, but instead of working in the traditional sense, he believes that he can melt steel with his mind and fend off evil with his super-bark.

They’re also natural-born watchdogs and protectors, especially towards children they have been raised with. In the movie, when Bolt becomes separated from Penny, his sole dedication is finding his way back to her. This exhibits the true-to-life nature and loyalty of the White Shepherd.

And lastly, these dogs are super-active and need plenty of exercise. And Bolt is anything but lazy. In fact, throughout the whole film, Bolt is entirely motivated to keep pressing forward to reunite with his master.

White German Shepherd on the bridge
Image Credit: Nikol Mansfeld, Shutterstock

Divider 2Conclusion

Although Bolt is only loosely based on the White Shepherd, there’s very little doubt that that’s what he is. Bolt not only looks the part, but he acts the part as well. His fierce loyalty and dedication to his family—Penny—is only rivaled by the loyalty shown through the real-life dog breed. And he’s super-confident in his abilities to save the day and protect those in need.

And when coupled with the signature pointed ears and bushy tail associated with the White Shepherd, there’s no doubt that Bolt isn’t just based on a White Shepherd. He truly embodies one. The biggest difference between Bolt and a true White Shepherd is their size. Bolt could stand to be a little larger, but that probably wouldn’t make for as cute of a cartoon.

Featured Image Credit: Characters by  Walt Disney Animation Studios.  All rights reserved to the copyright owners.

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