How Closely Related are Dogs and Wolves?

How Closely Related are Dogs and Wolves?

Wolves

Wolves

Most people already know that every dog, from a fuzzy little Maltese to an imposing Great Dane, can call the Wolf their ancestor. Sometimes this is hard to imagine when you look at the great variety you can find in modern dog breeds today. Of course, every domestic dog carries some characteristics of their wild ancestors, so it is easy enough to assume that both dogs and wolves are very closely rated. The question that many dog and wolf lovers ask is how closely related are dogs and wolves?

The exact time distance between your own pet dog and his wolf ancestors is not exactly known, but scientists assume that it was at least 15,000 years ago. Since dogs and wolves can still breed together and produce viable offspring, it seems possible and even likely that the domestication of wolves took place in more than one place in history too. In fact, maternal DNA testing suggests that the oldest dog breeds may originate from domesticated wolves that lived 33,000 years ago.

How Were Wolves First Domesticated?

Of course, before the first dogs came the first domesticated wolves. There are two theories about how that happened. Since there might have been than one point of wolf domestication, it is possible that both of these theories are true or partly true.

  • Orphaned Wolf Cubs: It is not hard to imagine some prehistoric child stumbling upon orphan wolf cubs and begging his mother to keep them. Parents back then may have been similar to parents today, or perhaps the parents figured that when the cubs got bigger they would supply a couple of meals. A nursing mother may have even donated some of her milk to the tiny cubs. In time, they saw the family or clan as their pack, proved how useful they were to have around, and established themselves as man’s best friend.
  • Self Domestication: This theory is just as believable as it concludes that wolves just started scavenging around the littered sites of prehistoric human communities. If you have ever seen dogs rummage around outside, you know that the daintiest poodle will not be that picky about digging into refuse. As time passed, some of these wolves may have had mildly friendly dispositions and even began to beg for scraps. Humans saw that it was useful to have a benign wolf pack hanging around to warn them on danger or perhaps even scare off larger predators.

Both of these ideas seem equally likely, and they could both be true. In fact, they both may be semi true. As wolves grew closer to human clans, there may have been more chances to stumble upon orphaned cubs.