The Wolf in Our Dogs

WolfPicture from National Geographic, by Joel Sartore

It’s hard to imagine our little Yorkies or Chihuahuas are descendants of the big ferocious wolves. But it’s true and there is still a little wolf in each of them as some of us can attest to (fierce little guys). Let’s explore.

Wolves are the largest members of the dog family. Gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere.  Wolves and humans have a long adversarial history even though they almost never attack humans, but considered one of the animal world’s most fearsome natural villains. They do attack domestic animals, and countless wolves have been shot, trapped, and poisoned because of this tendency. Red wolves live in the southeastern United States, where they are endangered. The maned wolf, a distant relative of the  gray and red wolves, lives in South America and resembles a large red fox more than its wolf relatives. Wolves live and hunt in packs of around six to ten animals. Wolfpacks are established according to a strict hierarchy, with a dominant male at the top and his mate not far behind.

The origin of domestic dog began with the domestication of the gray wolf several tens of thousands years ago.  Genetic and archaeological evidence shows that humans domesticated wolves on more than one occasion. Different breeds came about from intentional artificial selection and cross breeding. Despite all those years, dogs still conserve many characteristics of wolves.

Like wolves, dogs …….

1) have pack drive and demonstrate the need of social relationships with other dogs and people.

2) may be seen greeting owners in the same way wolves greet the alpha pair, showing ”active submission”.

3) have prey drive even though to a much lower extent than wolves.

4) share 78 of the same chromosomes, allowing them to successfully crossbreed. Their mitochondrial DNA makeup is only different by 0.2 percent or less.

5) have sets of 42 teeth.

6) bred for northern exposure such as Akitas, chows and huskies, have two layers of fur.

7) have an acute auditory sense as well as a profound sense of smell, used in tracking.

8) territorial in nature and will stand guard to protect their territory

9) howls, growls, whimpers, and barks

10) bare their teeth when they smile, and aggression is accompanied by growls.

Reference:, retrieved 6/3/2013, retrieved 6/3/2013, retrieved 6/3/2013, retrieved 6/3/2013

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