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American King Shepherd Breed Description

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Breed Organization

The American King Shepherd Club

Native Country
United States of America

Other Names
King Shepherd

Life Expectancy
Approximately 10-11 Years

Litter Size
Average 4-8 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

A King Shepherd resembles a large German Shepherd Dog. The breed was originally developed on the East Coast using American bred German Shepherds, crossed to flock guardians, which were then crossed with European bred German Shepherd dogs. The intent was to develop a superior family companion and protector that was capable of performing a wide variety of working duties ranging from police service, to guide dogs, to search and rescue dogs. The original breeders also wanted to produce a dog which was free of the many health and temperament problems, which has been affecting German Shepherd Dogs.

Generally, when full grown, a male King Shepherd can range from 27 to over 32 inches at the shoulder and weigh from 110 to over 140 pounds. Females are slightly smaller ranging from 25 to 30 inches at the shoulder and weighing from 90 to over 120 pounds.

King Shepherds come in two distinct varieties, smooth coated and long coated. The smooth coated Kings look much like large German Shepherd dogs. The long coated Kings have a coat that closely resembles that of a Belgian Tervuren. Both varieties shed and require a moderate amount of grooming. A good five-minute brushing twice a week is more than adequate.

Breed Standard

Size: The height at the highest point of the withers should be a minimum of 27 inches for dogs, and a minimum of 25 inches for bitches. The minimum weight for a dog is 110 pounds with the ideal weight being 120-145 pounds. The minimum weight for a bitch is 80 pounds with an ideal weight being 90-110 pounds.
Weight: is in proportion to the overall size and structure with preference given to the larger. A dog or bitch measuring under the minimum height and weight limits specified shall be disqualified. The dog's appearance is more massive throughout than the bitch's. Large size is desirable, but never at the expense of balance and structure.
Proportion: The American King Shepherd is a balanced dog with the height measured at the withers being somewhat less than the length of the body measured from the point of the shoulder to the rearmost projection of the upper thigh (buttocks). The proportions of 10-11.5 create a slightly rectangular dog. Front and rear angulations are balanced.
Substance: He is a dog of considerable substance which is determined by spring of rib, strong muscle, and heavy bone.
Head: The American King Shepherd is distinguished by his immense, square and well defined head. The large square head is a key essence of breed type. The head: is broad and deep, not coarse or clumsy, but in proportion to the size of the dog, planes of the skull and muzzle are parallel. The muzzle is square, blunt, with level and parallel planes, and is in equal proportion to the back skull; when measured from the tip of the nose to insertion of the stop. Demonstrating a strong well developed underjaw.
Skull: is measured from the point of stop to the far most point of the occiput. The furrow is moderately defined with slightly arched frontal bones lending to a well defined stop. The skull is broad and moderately rounded between the ears, gradually narrowing and flattening on top as it approaches the eyes, rounding off to cheeks that are moderately curved, and when viewed from the top should be much in the form of a trapezoid, and well filled in under the eyes.
Expression: keen, intelligent and composed.
Eyes: of medium size, almond shaped, set a little obliquely and not protruding. The color is as dark as possible ranging through shades of brown. On lighter colored dogs lighter eyes are permissible but not desired.
Ears: are moderately pointed, in proportion to the skull, open toward the front, and carried erect when at attention, the ideal carriage being one in which the center lines of the ears, viewed from the front, are parallel to each other, high set, and perpendicular to the ground. A dog with cropped or hanging ears must be disqualified.
Teeth: 42 in numbers--20 upper and 22 lower--are strongly developed and meet in a scissors bite in which part of the inner surface of the upper incisors meet and engage part of the outer surface of the lower incisors. Complete dentition is to be preferred.
Neck: Robust, strongly muscled, of medium length, well set on the shoulders and is long enough for proud head carriage with no evidence of dewlap or throatiness. The neck is carried erect when excited and typically above the horizontal aspect of the topline when gaiting.
Topline: The backline is level. The back is strong, broad, and muscular and is level from just behind the withers to the croup. The chest is full and deep with the brisket reaching at least down to the elbows. Ribs are well sprung, with the anterior third of the rib cage tapered to allow elbow clearance.
Body: The chest is moderately broad. The rib cage is well sprung, oval in shape, and of sufficient depth to reach the elbows. Back and loin are broad and strongly coupled with some tuck-up. The croup is gently sloping with the tail set on just below the level of the back.
Tail: The tail is well plumed, carried low in repose and may not be carried over the back. The tail is broad at the base and strong. It has no kinks, and the distal bone reaches to the hock. When standing relaxed, the tail hangs straight or with a slight curve at the end. In motion the tail is down and slightly curved or out when gaiting. If the dog becomes excited it may raise the tail, and it will become more curved without going beyond the vertical aspect of the back, but it does not curl or lie over the back.
Shoulders: The shoulders are well laid back, well muscled, and lie close to the body. The upper arm meets the shoulder blade at approximately a right angle. The upper arm angles backward from the point of the shoulder to the elbow and is never perpendicular to the ground. The length of the shoulder blade and the upper arm is approximately equal. The height from the ground to the elbow appears approximately equal to the height from the elbow to the withers.
Forelegs: The legs are of thick, dense bone and muscle to provide a balance with the frame. The elbows are close to the body and point directly to the rear when standing and gaiting. The forelegs, when viewed from the side, are located directly under the withers and are straight and vertical to the ground. The elbows, when viewed from the front, are set in a straight line from the point of shoulder to the wrist. Front pasterns are strong and flexible. Each foreleg may carry a single dewclaw.
Front Feet: Rounded, close-cupped, well cushioned pads, toes well arched. There is a protective growth of hair between the toes. The pads are thick and tough; toenails short and strong.
Hindquarters: The rear assembly is powerful, muscular, and heavily boned. Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight and parallel. Viewed from the side, the thighs are broad and fairly long. Stifles and hocks are well bent and the line from hock to ground is perpendicular. Hocks are well let down.
Hind Feet:are similar to the front feet. Rear legs-- are broad and heavily muscled through the thighs; when viewed from the rear, the legs stand and move true in line with the movement of the front legs, not too close or too wide. Dewclaws on the rear legs are undesirable and should be removed shortly after puppies are whelped.
Coat: The ideal dog has a rough coat of moderate length, a smooth coated type of American King Shepherds exist, and is equally acceptable A slightly wavy outer coat should be as dense as possible, hair straight, harsh and lying close to the body. The head, including the inner ear and foreface, and the legs and paws are covered with short hair, and the neck with longer and thicker hair. The rear of the forelegs and hind legs has somewhat longer hair extending to the pastern and hock, respectively.
Color and Markings: The American King Shepherd Dog varies in color, and many colors are permissible. Strong rich colors are preferred. Colors are as follows: Sable (a brown/red with black markings or a tan/cream with black markings); bi-colored (predominantly black with red, tan or cream); black saddle with red, tan, gold or cream, and solid black.
Markings: Small areas of white, the smaller the better, are permissible on the chest, toes, tail.
Gait: The gait of the American King Shepherd in motion has strong reach and drive, and gives the impression of effortless power. He moves with a purpose. He is a trotter; He is agile for his size and build. When viewed from the side, the hindquarters exhibit strong rear drive that is transmitted through a well-muscled loin to the forequarters. The forequarters receive the drive from the rear with a smooth reaching stride. When viewed from the front or from the rear, forelegs and hind legs travel straight forward, neither too close nor too wide. His gait is powerful, pronounced, demanding and rhythmic, covering the maximum amount of ground with the minimum number of steps. As the dog's speed increases, the legs tend toward single tracking. Essential to good movement is the balance of correct front and rear assemblies.


American dog breeders Shelley Watts-Cross and David Turkheimer developed this large breed from American and European German Shepherd Dogs, Alaskan Malamutes and Great Pyrenees. An official breed club was established in 1995.


The American King Shepherd is self-confident with a well-balanced nervous system and should not be shy. Extremely intelligent and easy to train. Faithful and eager to please its owner, this breed makes a fine working dog and sheep-herder. A courageous watch and guard dog showing courage and hardiness in his role of protector, it makes a very nice companion. The American King Shepherd is full of strength and vigor. Friendly toward strangers, children (although it is not a good idea to leave the breed alone with very young or small children) and other animals. A docile, obedient breed with an easy gait and plenty of stamina.

He has a thick coat that is naturally resistant to water and extreme cold temperatures. All that is necessary for the coat is regular brushing. The coat only requires occasional washing. The breed is susceptible to ear infections, so it is a good idea to check the ears on a regular basis. The American King Shepherd is a large breed and is most suitable for large spaces, such as a moderate size backyard. Smaller environments, such as apartments are not suitable for the American King Shepherd because it has a tendency to be inactive indoors.


The breed has a distinct personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression, self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. The dog must be approachable, quietly standing its ground and showing confidence and willingness to meet overtures without itself making them.


The American King Shepherd is susceptible to some minor conditions. The breed's coat is thick and it can become irritated and itchy. The breed may also develop infections of the eye and ears.

All Kings should be screened for dysplasia prior to being bred. In the past, a screening could be constituted as a Preliminary X-Ray, an OFA Report or a Penn Hip Evaluation. Penn Hip is the preferred method for hip evlauation, by the AKSC.

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