HOWL Colorado

How do you tell the difference between a wolf and a dog?

HOWLColorado : Wolf FactsThis is a very good question, and HOWLColorado will attempt to answer it here.

Genetically speaking, the differences were, until recently, considered impossible to detect through a standardized test. Dog and wolf DNA is less than 0.2% different. In 1998, the University of California* was able to develop a test which could determine the differences between a pure blooded wolf and a hybrid, or dog. It wasn’t immediately clear if the test was reversible, allowing you to test a dog to look for signs of recent ancestoral wolf genetics. One misconception is that huskies, malamutes or other specific dog breeds have “more wolf in them” than other breeds. This is untrue. A malamute is related as closely to wolves as a chihuahua is. Peter Savolainen, noted biologist from Stockholm, researched the origin of dogs and how they connect to their wolf ancestors. You can read an article about his study here.

Some breeds have maintained some of the wolf-like traits through their breeding. Herding dogs use the pursuit trait of wolves, but have had the kill trait bred out of them. A malamute or a huskie might have more of the feral elements of the wolf in their make up, to increase their sturdiness and survivability.

There are physical traits which might give you a clue as to whether you are dealing with a wolf-dog or not. A high content wolf-dog might have the lean, long physical frame associated to a wolf. The amber eye color may be present. They may have the behavioral traits of a wolf. However, it is just as likely that you will see none of those tale-tell physical attributes.

“There are many stories of wolves being just “wild dogs” that could be tamed. While wolves and dogs do share many biological traits, they are very different from each other. The dogs we have as pets have been bred to be gentle companion animals to humans. Wolves are still wild animals and should be treated as such. Sometimes wolves and dogs interbreed, and the pups are called wolf hybrids. However, these hybrids usually do not make good pets. There is another myth that some breeds of dog, like the husky, are part wolf. But huskies are just another breed of domestic dog, like a poodle or a golden retriever.” – San Diego Zoo

For more details, visit Wolf Song of Alaska‘s website.

*HOWLColorado believes the test was developed by the research group of Robert Wayne, Dept. Biol., U.C., Los Angeles.

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