Is it Possible to Domesticated Wolves?

Have you ever felt like, no matter how hard you try, there’s someone after you? You construct a dwelling made of straw, and what happens? He demolishes it. You construct a dwelling made of sticks. Guess what? Same outcome.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We all feel like the Three Little Pigs from time to time. Every time we turn around, there’s the Big Bad Wolf ready to tear things down. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could just domesticate him?

After all, a wolf is simply a large dog, right? And dogs are humans’ closest companions. Couldn’t we train the Big Bad Wolf to be our companion? Maybe not . . .

Some species of animals are easily domesticated. Others tend to remain wild their entire lives. Today, we’ll examine wolves and whether it’s possible to domesticate them.

Scientifically, wolves are known as Canis lupus. Canis is the term that gives us our common name for domesticated dogs: canines. So wolves are indeed part of the dog family. In fact, they’re the largest members of the Canis genus.

Throughout history, wolves have had a fascinating relationship with humans. They’ve been depicted as wild beasts with spine-tingling howls. They rarely attack humans. Nevertheless, most people view them as one of nature’s most formidable predators. Perhaps it’s because they do frequently attack domestic animals, such as pets and livestock.

And yet, between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago, a group of these formidable predators embarked on the long journey to domestication. Over time, they became the pet dogs that reside in millions of households worldwide today. Despite this, most experts advise against attempting to domesticate wolves. Why? It’s extremely challenging for the average person to meet the needs of a true wolf, even if the animal was friendly towards humans. Most wolves have a higher quality of life in the wild.

Many types of wolves were once abundant all across the United States. Today, however, their population has significantly declined. Due to hunting and loss of habitat, wolves struggle to survive in the modern world.

Because some species of wolves are scarce, some scientists have attempted to increase their numbers by breeding them in captivity in zoos or animal reserves. This has led some to question whether these wild creatures could be domesticated like the dogs we are all familiar with.

It seems logical, right? They are animals from the same family. Scientists have confirmed through genetic testing that wolves and domestic dogs are quite similar. Despite this, wolves are very challenging to domesticate.

With such a similar genetic background, scientists have long pondered why wolves tend to remain wild while dogs readily assume the role of a person’s closest companion. New research has provided them with some clues as to the answer to this enigmatic puzzle.

Kathryn Lord, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, believes the difference between wolves and dogs stems from their initial sensory experiences and how they are socialized. Each animal goes through a brief period of time called a socialization window.

During this period, they can be exposed to various things like other animals, sights, smells, and experiences. These things will become familiar to them throughout their lives. However, once the socialization window closes, new things will trigger a fear response.

The difference between wolves and dogs may lie in the timing of their socialization window. Researchers believe that the window may occur much earlier for wolves compared to dogs. Why is this significant?

When wolves and dogs are very young, their sense of smell develops first, followed by their sense of hearing and then their sight. When wolves go through their socialization window, they may only rely on their sense of smell. They may not be able to hear or see much as they explore their new surroundings.

As their socialization window closes and they develop their hearing and sight, new sounds and sights will trigger fear responses. This could explain why it is extremely difficult to domesticate wolves.

On the other hand, dogs enter their socialization window after their hearing and sight have developed. As a result, they do not fear most of the things they hear and see early in life. This enables them to get along with humans and a variety of other animals without fear.

Do you own a pet dog? If you do, you understand the importance of socialization for your furry friend. If not, we hope you have had the chance to meet friendly dogs in your life. It’s easy to see why they are considered humans’ best friends!

Give It a Try

Ready to have some fun? Gather a few of your adventurous friends and family members and get ready to explore the following activities:

  • Wolves do share one thing in common with domesticated dogs—they love their families! Learn more about wolf families and discuss what you have learned with a friend or family member. Do you know anyone who has seen a pack of wolves in real life? How about at the zoo? Enjoy talking about the fascinating facts you have discovered about wolves today!
  • How similar are dogs and wolves? You can decide! Take a look at the Wolf Pictures photo gallery online. Which pictures are your favorites? Why? Do the wolves in the pictures resemble any pet dogs you have seen? After viewing these pictures, delve into more interesting facts about wolves! When you are done, create a poster on paper or using Canva to educate others about wolves. Include at least one picture and five intriguing facts about these animals.
  • Gray wolves were delisted from the endangered species list in 2020. However, there is still ongoing debate on whether this was the right decision. Learn more about the issue and form your own opinion. Write a persuasive letter or email to someone you know, convincing them to agree with your viewpoint. Make sure to provide at least three strong reasons to support your stance.

References

  • https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/lords-study-may-explain-why-wolves-are-forever-wild-dogs-can-be-tamed (accessed 05 Apr. 2021)
  • https://saintfranciswolfsanctuary.org/wolves-as-pets/ (accessed 05 Apr. 2021)
  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/how-wolves-really-became-dogs-180970014/ (accessed 05 Apr. 2021)
  • https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/so-you-want-a-pet-wolf/ (accessed 05 Apr. 2021)
  • www.learnersdictionary.com (accessed 05 Apr. 2021)

FAQ

1. Can wolves be tamed?

Wolves are wild animals and have a natural instinct for survival. While it is possible to develop a bond with a wolf through careful socialization and training, it is not easy to fully tame them. Unlike dogs, wolves retain their wild instincts and behaviors, and they require specialized care and attention. Taming a wolf requires a lot of time, effort, and expertise in understanding their natural behaviors. Even with extensive socialization, wolves may still display unpredictable behaviors and can be a potential danger to humans and other animals.

2. Is it legal to keep a wolf as a pet?

The legality of keeping a wolf as a pet varies depending on the country and local regulations. In many places, it is illegal to keep a wolf as a pet without the proper permits and licenses. Wolves are considered wild animals and are often protected by laws to ensure their conservation and prevent them from being kept in inappropriate conditions. Additionally, wolves have specific needs that require specialized care and expertise, making them unsuitable as pets for the average person.

3. Can a wolf be domesticated?

Domestication is a process that occurs over generations of selective breeding, resulting in animals that are genetically and behaviorally adapted to live alongside humans. While wolves can be socialized and trained to some extent, they cannot be fully domesticated. Domestication involves significant changes in an animal’s genetic makeup and behavior, which cannot be achieved with wolves in a short period of time. Domesticated dogs, for example, have undergone thousands of years of selective breeding to develop their unique traits and bond with humans.

4. Are there any risks associated with attempting to tame a wolf?

Attempting to tame a wolf can be extremely risky. Wolves are powerful and intelligent animals with strong instincts and natural behaviors. Even with extensive socialization and training, they may still display unpredictable and potentially dangerous behaviors. Wolves have a strong prey drive and territorial instincts, which can make them aggressive towards humans and other animals. Their natural behaviors and instincts cannot be completely eliminated, and this poses a significant risk to those attempting to tame them. It is important to prioritize the welfare and safety of both humans and the wolf when considering any attempts at taming.

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