American vs European German Shepherd (8 Things You Should Know)

Categorized as German Shepherd Types and Mixes
american german shepherd vs european german shepherd

If you are interested in getting a German Shepherd, but you don’t know whether to choose between European or American, there are some things you need to know. Both of them are from the same breed, but they do have a few exclusive differences. 

The initial difference has to do with the fact that they were both trained differently because they grew up in different locations. 

Let us be clear: all breeds of dogs growing up and bred differently will usually carry different characteristics. Even though the differences between the two are quite subtle, several of them may influence you to choose one of the others as it relates to work ethic, size, price, and health.

It is not so well known that there are various types of German Shepherd. Typically, we are used to that black and brown fur that characterizes them, but this is not always the case. This breed has many variants, and we will explain and compare the American German Shepherd vs. European German throughout this article. 

If you are considering adopting a specimen of this breed, you will most likely run into controversy over the European and American varieties. Are there really different types, or is it just a myth? You are about to learn everything about the American and European Shepherd, the differences and characteristics of each.

History of the German shepherd

The first mentions of these dogs date back to the 7th century. During the 18th century, animal husbandry was actively developing in Germany. Farmers needed animal guardians capable of handling their livestock. The sheepdogs or herding dogs coped well with this role. At the same time, the selection was made to obtain animals with the desired performance without paying attention to the external appearance of the dogs. 

Although there were differences between the species, the owners silently crossed the animals. In 1882, the breed was first introduced to the public. Two males, Greif and Kyras, distinguished by the light color of their wool, won the admiration of the crowd, prompting further reproduction of the breed. Turing dogs are believed to have become the ancestors of the breed we see today.

The Regulations

The American version of the German Shepherd obtains its regulation from the American Kennel Club. The European version of the German Shepherd obtains its regulation and control of Germany’s Shepherd Club called the GSCB. 

In the United States, there are many breeders that only handle the European German Shepherd breed. This means, if you live in the United States, you can adopt a European puppy without having to go overseas to get it done.

The Difference in Appearance

One of the most important differences between these two German Shepherds is how they look in appearance. The European is smaller than the American breed. The American breed has a longer body and a sloping rear end. 

In comparison, the European breed weighs less than its counterpart and has a smaller set of bones. The American breed has a rounder and smaller head, while the European breed has a larger head size, which is angular in shape. Many people describe its head like that of a wolf.

As it pertains to their coats, it is long and textured in the same way. Some may have a tan color, while others may be black or white for either breed. The one difference in color is the American German Shepherd may have a lighter color.

Summarized Differences

American German ShepherdEuropean German Shepherd
Height22-26 inches21-26 inches
Weight55-90 pounds50-85 pounds
Temperamentprotective, loyal, intelligent, confidentprotective, loyal, intelligent, confident
Energyvery highvery high
Healthaverageabove average
Life span10-12 years10-12 years
Price$1,000 and up$1,500 and up
Maintenance costhigherlower
Relationship with childrengoodnot as good
Relationship with other dogsregularreserved
The American United Kennel Club supports all colors. The European German SV only supports black and tan, brown or yellow, up to light gray and quilted.

American German Shepherd

Regarding their physical characteristics, this type of dog is a little longer, taller, and thinner than the dogs that originally belonged to the German line. His character, in general, is much calmer than those of the European line. 

They are perfect for people looking for a good companion dog since they are less active and less dominant than their siblings on the other line. These types of dogs do not have the ability to work or perform sports modalities and are used above all for beauty exhibitions. It is bred in North America as a show dog, that is, to appear in dog competitions. Dogs of this type have a proportionate and muscular body, with hard and rough fur.

American Shepherds are usually taller than European varieties. As this classification only depends on the place of origin, the color can vary among all those that the shepherd presents: sable, black, white, or bicolor. The personality of an American show shepherd is laid back, and he is perfect as a companion dog. They stand out for being spirited, agile, and playful, as they adore spending time with their masters.

European German Shepherd

The Eastern European breed was bred with the participation of the original German Shepherd breed. Over time, the “Europeans” found a series of differences that separated breed from the source. The animals became larger in size, massive, which allowed them to be used in guard duty. 

Today, the appearance of the European breed is significantly different from the German counterparts. The specimens of this line are much larger and less agile dogs than those of the American line. Instead, they have much more energy and can perform high-intensity exercises. The European Shepherd Dog is sometimes mistaken for a subspecies of a German companion. It is not. The differences of the animals are manifested in the signs of the exterior and in the history of the breeds.

The standard breed was formed in 1976, but it was not recognized as an independent breed. They were equated with the German Shepherd variety. In 1990, the popularity of the animals began to decline considerably. The “Europeans” began to weave with the German colleague, but the cubs were still “European.” 

However, this method of selection has a beneficial effect on the breed – it turned out that it got rid of the following disadvantages:

  • Softback
  • Lowered sacrum
  • Twisted limbs

Despite the acquired advantages, the breeders were very suspicious of the “Europeans,” which could lead to the disappearance of the breed. In 1991, a union of European breed nurseries was organized on the territory of Russia. 

At the beginning of the 21st century, a single book mating genealogy was created. After a couple of years, the canine community officially adopted the standard for “Europeans.” Cynologists wanted the breed to be able to perform many different tasks: guarding, protecting, guarding, escorting, patrolling, and conducting research work.

Want to Get A European German Shepherd?

Those who are thinking of sharing an important part of their life with a European German Shepherd dog will do well to forget about the associations, good or bad, that have historically been attributed to the dog and better focus on the qualities and characteristics that they initially attract. 

The original German Shepherd, and in this ideal case, was agile, powerful, tough, reliable, alert, and intelligent. Above all, the dog was delighted in work and dedication. The dog’s association with man was neither slavish nor amusing, nor was the dog intended to be an object of beauty or refinement. The German Shepherd relationship with man began on an equal footing, as had never happened with any other breed of dog.

Want to Get An American German Shepherd?

Puppies have hanging ears, which become erect between three and six months of age. However, some dogs’ ears never become erect. Although bandaging can often correct this defect, these dogs should be considered unsuitable for breeding. 

Conventional breed descriptions emphasize the black and tan color with markings on the back. Its layer is double, with the thicker outer layer that serves to resist water and weather, and the inner, dense, and soft underlayer, which retains heat during cold seasons. 

Hair can range from short and thick to long and smooth. Dogs with long fur, unpopular in Europe and for a while in the US, have now become selected in monographic exhibitions of race in the US.

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful and useful as you raise and train your German Shepherd.

Here are some of my favorite reviews for German Shepherd supplies that I personally use and recommend. If you do decide to purchase them, please remember that I’ll earn a small commission which helps me maintain this website.

By Andrew Garf

Andrew Garf has loved dogs, especially German Shepherds, since he was 10 years old. Though he also loves burgers, training dogs is his real passion. That's why he created the website - to help dog owners learn how to properly train, care for, and bond with their German Shepherd dogs.