There’s no question that dogs and wolves have a lot in common. After all, they’re descended from a common ancestor. Heck, the two species even look remarkably similar!
Still, there are quite a few major reasons why wolves are not the same as dogs. For example, while dogs might express a “pack-like” mentality towards their humans, it’s not nearly as intense as the one possessed by their wild cousins.
That’s why a recently released study conducted on wolves who have been raised by humans was so fascinating. It concluded that wolves and dogs are indeed remarkably similar… but their differences might be even more important than we realize.
There are roughly 15,000 years of evolution that distinguish dogs from wolves. Despite the similarities in their appearance, it’s clear how both animals have developed. And while dogs still behave like wolves in specific ways, it wasn’t known until recently how much it worked the other way around.
Counselling / Pixabay
Luckily for anyone curious about the subject, a study was conducted in order to analyze the characteristics of wolves who have been raised by humans. Scientists concluded that one dog-like trait found in these wolves was the attachment that they felt towards their human caregivers.
Royal Society Open Science published the research on June 27, 2017, which concluded that these feelings toward the wolves’ owners lasted through the animals’ adulthood, even if they still retained their inherent sense of fear toward humans. That’s not all they found, though!
Such observations led researchers to believe that the common ancestor of dogs and wolves may have actually been open to human companionship, leading to the development of their friendlier, cuddlier ancestors that we all know and love.
Let’s not forget, though, that dogs are still entirely different animals than wolves, even when said wolves are brought up by humans. The study, lead by Eötvös Loránd University’s Dorottya Ujfalussy in Hungary, proved that that wolf puppies can get attached to humans, but that doesn’t mean people should adopt wolves!
This is especially true when wolves are taken out of their natural habitats, which usually range for hundreds of miles, to live with humans. Moreover, studies of dogs’ brains prove that they are truly happier around us, even more than when they’re around other dogs! Humans even reduce stress in dogs. Yet that’s not so with wolves.
Mike Baird / Flickr
Wolves actively fear humans, and they avoid environments occupied by them. They’re also far more independent than their domesticated counterparts despite their pack-like mentality. For example, when wolf packs go hunting, the puppies are often left alone, so they learn to take care of themselves.
Dorottya was also interested in the similarities between the two animals. For example, both wolves and dogs like to greet each other by licking each other’s faces. Similarly, both dogs and wolves can understand certain human gestures, like pointing fingers—something even chimps can’t do!
Sander van der Wel / Flickr
This research was quite groundbreaking. “What we learned from our study is that while dogs may be more attached to their human caretaker in the sense of dependence and using their owners as a secure base,” said Dorottya in an interview, “wolves are also able to form lasting affiliative relationships with their caretakers, though without a sense of dependence.”
Like any thorough scientific study, there were a number of other observations to be made. Perhaps the most important one, though, was that as much as wolves have the capacity to connect with humans, they are not domesticated.
“The problem starts when people disregard the advice of professionals and mistake wolves for dogs, keeping them as pets,” Dorottya said. “This is a serious welfare issue for wolves, as 99 percent of those animals will eventually be given up and usually euthanized.”
“Basically, wolves are wild animals, more independent, hard to control, hard to manage, and health-keeping conditions are impossible to provide in the human home, thus tame wolves kept as pets are a real danger to their environment and to themselves.” Phew! Good to know.
Tambako the Jaguar / Flickr
These new findings are absolutely fascinating, especially for dog-lovers. Who knows what else we may find out about our furry friends and their closest relatives?
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