The one main difference between a wolf and a dog is this: a dog is domesticated while a wolf is a wild animal. Also, a dog has a long snout together with claws that cannot be retracted. The domestic canine barks, howls, and whines and has a brilliant olfactory sense. On the flip side, a wolf is obligatory carnivorous and forms part of a pack.
This article will give you a run-down of the biggest differences between dogs and their ancestors, the wolves. Also, you will get to know how dogs were born of wolves. Stick around to get every detail.
As compared to the wolf, dogs have weaker, smaller jaw and skulls. On the flip side, the muzzle and the skull of wolves are stronger and more extensive. The species of the dog is Canis lupus familiaris, which can be paralleled to Canis lupus, the wolf species. In terms of speed, the dog clocks between 20 and 45 mph while the wolf goes for 31 to 37 mph.
In terms of sexual matureness, dogs become ready to breed between the ages of 6 and 12 months. Wolves take longer, and they only become mature three years after birth. At this point, they choose to leave their pack to pursue a mate. Evolutionarily speaking, the relationship between wolves and dogs is close. The only difference is that dogs were affected by circumstances that led them to become the domestic animals we know today.
Unlike wolves, dogs are okay with living by themselves. For the most part, they may need to be contained. On the flip side, and as already mentioned, wolves find their identity in packs. In terms of interspecies engagement, dogs are social with other animals and pets too. However, wolves are inclined to operate wildly as they are more aware and cautious about what surrounds them. When dogs are busy barking at strangers, wolves will be howling.
The Wolf-Dog Differences: Eight Of The Best
Whichever breed your dog is – Alaskan Malamute, Dachshund, or Border Collie – he or she has a relationship with the wolf. The information given by scientists is that about 15000 to 40000 years ago, the dogs became independent of the wolf. Then, all the dog breeds that you see today evolved in the last 1000 or 2000 years. Actually, a great majority of them came up within the previous 200 years.
The one thing that scientists link with dog evolution is their association with human societies. As humans engaged in agriculture and hunting, they created piles of refuse near their places of stay. At that point, wolves saw it as a chance to scavenge without having to toil hard. While the animals had a particular fear of humans, the only way they could scavenge successfully would be by getting closer to them.
When the association and engagement between humans and wolves continued, the animals became better at communication – reading human cues, instructions, and moves. With the passing of generations, the breeds that came connected intimately with humans, eventually becoming companions and guardians.
Between dogs and wolves, there is a 99-percent sharing of DNA. Actually, the two closely-related but different species can interbreed, but this does not happen because of infrequent engagement. The two noteworthy dogs – those that look like the wolf – are the Siberian Husky and the Alaskan Malamute.
What follows now is an explanation of the most remarkable differences between wolves and dogs. See yourself to the end of this informationally-rich section.
1. Differences In Terms Of Physicality
While the two canines have the same number of teeth, the wolf has more potent and larger jaws. This is an adaptation that the wolf has taken to break bony pieces in the wild. On the other hand, pooches do not need stronger jaws as they simply scavenge for food in human refuse.
If you look at the faces of each canine, you will realize that the wolves have less-rounded and smaller eyes. The dog has a short, curly tail with floppy ears, while a wolf has a long tail (sickle kind), and its ears are pointed.
The canines’ feet are also another item of distinction. A wolf has enormous feet, with its two middle toes being longer than their other side toes. These feet help wolves to spring incredibly and flex their ankles effortlessly. The effect is that a wolf is better at energy conservation and is likely to go far – more than a dog.
2. Differences In Terms Of Human Dependence
Although arguably, one can say that the survival of dogs is dependent on humans. Someone would argue that feral dogs do not engage with humans, but those do not live long in their wild. The domesticated-ness of feral dogs is a liability when they go out – their chances of surviving are decreased.
If you are an enthusiastic dog lover or a pet parent, you know that they are keen to obey human commands. When they please humans, they great treats. If you try that with a wolf, it will go away, ‘citing frustration in the system.’ Studies have also shown that wolves do not behave like dogs are unlikely to connect with humans like their canine counterparts.
3. Differences In Terms Of Maturity
One thing that shows you how close these two species are in their weaning, which get completed after eight weeks. However, dog puppies are slower to mature than their wolf counterparts. Some studies report that wolf pups – at young ages – can solve puzzles. This makes sense because survival in the wild necessitates that they mature faster. On the flip side, domestic puppies, even after weaning, need us to care for them. They live comfortable lives.
When your furry canine friend gets to 2 years of age, he or she is likely to be loyal to you and will be your lifelong companion. On the other side, experts say and suggest that beyond six months, wolves become a little unbearable and hard to handle.
4. Differences In Terms Of Breeding
As you may already know, dogs can breed multiples times within a year. On the flip side, wolves only breed one time in the same period. Additionally, their breeding season runs between February to the mid of March. Then, the pups are born between the months of April and May, the same year.
When the pups are delivered, the wolf and dog show a difference in litter sizes. For a wolf, its litter can be something between 4 and 5 pups. However, dogs can even have up to six pups in one litter. When the little ones come, the bitches and wolf mothers helps them to get weaned. The male wolves have active paternal instincts, and they help care for their pups. On the other hand, taking care of dog puppies is the sole responsibility of a bitch. Actually, wolf packs are formed like families – a father, a mother, and all their offspring. On the flip side, dogs do not form groups based on families.
5. Differences In Terms Of Play
The reason why your dog engages in play is because of fun and enjoyment. On the other hand, play is crucial to pups as it helps them learn social and survival skills. Through play, a wolf puppy will know how to conduct itself when hunting and how to be the leaders of a pack, and especially in enforcing discipline. Like human kids, play helps them to learn, understand, and grasp what the limits are.
The social skills picked help the wolf pups to grow and talk to other members of the pack. In the end, you will definitely have a healthy pack made of obedient wolves.
In dogs, however, social skills and knowledge about social boundaries are not very critical. Also, play continues, and you will see adult dogs jumping up and down. Unlike a wolf, a dog will work on socializing with other species – even non-human ones – and they will even display behaviors of affiliation.
6. Differences In Terms Of Nutrition
While the dental anatomy of dogs suggests that they are carnivores, they are omnivores like humans and other primates. On the other side, wolves are obligate canines who thrive and survive on eating raw meat. Also, they can go days without meals. Dogs may not do so well if you don’t give them food on a routine.
Because wolves depend on their success in hunting, they choose to eat a lot. Depending on the species, a wolf will eat up to 20 pounds of food until they get the next meal. However, with dogs, we are always feeding them – a cup of food when it wakes up, another in the afternoon, and another in the evening. Between the periods, we all give them treats.
7. Differences In Terms Of Personality
While we may know and think that wolves are vicious, they are quite shy and try as much as they can to stay away and avoid humans. That means that wolf attacks on humans are rare. If a group of humans approaches a kill that the wolves have made, they will scatter.
If wolves were like dogs, that is, without fear of humans, they would wreak havoc in human lives. They would combine their intelligence, strength, and wildness to bring about severe destruction.
8. Differences In Terms Of Problem-Solving Mentality
Studies focusing on the mental and problem-solving faculties of dogs and wolves say that dogs quit when problems become more challenging. The dog is a being that is not very patient. On the other side, wolves will take much of their time trying to figure out a viable solution. More often than not, wolves come out as thinkers and problem-solvers.
However, experts who have engaged in these kinds of studies recommend that humans stay away from wolf-dogs and wolves. Most jurisdictions do not allow the keeping of wild or part-wild animals. That, however, does not mean that they are not lovely dogs.
Looking at all those wolf facts, you may be impressed to get a wolf-like dog. So, it is recommended that you get any of the following dog breeds: The German Shepherd, the Alaskan Malamute, the Husky, the Samoyed, and the Akita.
Looking Back: How Wolves Became Dogs
As seen in the previous section, dogs and wolves share both differences and similarities. They have an impeccable smell sense, they can all howl, and they have a particular pack mentality that brings them together as one Canis family.
Throughout the previous section, we have identified environment and surroundings as motivating factors – they make the wild ancestor and the household scamp far apart. We can look back and trace the lineage of the domestic dog in terms of thousands of years. As we do that, we should inquire about the domestication process and how it came along.
Now, let us look back and follow the family tree of these canines back to its roots. At the end of this part, you will know how your furry canine friend came from being a wolf to your dog.
When Domestication Dawned
Evolutionists and scientists think that the Taimyr wolf was the ancestor of both the dog and the wolf. The Taimyr wolf was massive, and it roamed around what is now the European continent as far back as 80 thousand years ago. At that time, the Taimyr wolf’s massiveness allowed it to eat mammoths and bison, colossal prey. At the moment, it is now extinct.
Divergent evolution has it that the Taimyr wolf became the domestic dog and the grey wolf, which are the two distinct species we now know and love. The one thing that motivated the divergence is because humans got involved in what is known as domestication.
The timeline when the divergence occurred is a contentious issue. The fossil records available say that the best time to place domestication was about 15 thousand years ago. Interestingly, a 1997 research examined and studied the DNA of a dog. The researchers came out to say that the domestication of wolves by humans began 130 years ago, a time when agriculture wasn’t even thought about.
Another theoretic engagement says that domestication was not concentrated in one place. It posits that domestication happened is something like two fronts – once in East Asia and separately in Europe. The timelines given for this theory of divergence is between 60,0000 and 20,000 years ago.
The newest theory, which focuses on genetic analysis of dog and wolf details – brings forth a new hypothesis. The claim is that domestication was a single event, and it happened about 40,000 years ago.
The Meeting Between Humans And Wolves
Although there is no agreement about when, how, and where domestication began, the one thing that theorists agree on is that the process was subtle. Several legends suggest that domestication started when an injured wolf got rescued by an ancient-hunter gatherer. After that, the two become friends because the human had gained the wolf’s trust. However, this cannot be held as truth since there is no scientific evidence. What happened is less of human involvement and more of the canine’s instinct and drive.
Ancient and modern wolves have one thing in common – they both can excellently coordinate and cooperate with each other. The idea of being a pack helps them to take down massive prey and carry out tasks and attacks that would seem impossible. During tough times, the packs may have shown humans and extended to their cooperation inclinations.
When the growing intelligence of humans drove them to develop better hunting techniques and proper tools, they began getting more and making more kills than they could eat. This means that there were more leftovers – in terms of carcasses – that wolves could go for. So, the canines learned to associate humans and the meals they left behind.
The braver and more tolerant wolves took their chance and got close to humans. The closer they got, the fresher the food they would scavenge. Curious by nature, humans noticed that the wolves were trailing them. They got connected to the friendlier wolves, and in that connection, they have them extra scraps of meat.
Since wolves are the territorial kind of animals, they marked human settlements as their own spaces. They would howl and growl when intruders approached, and humans would notice any attacks by the invaders. They develop a mutual relationship with the wolves.
There may have been no intention by the wolves to go defensive and protect human settlements. However, it came as an instinctual by-product. Now, we love dogs and hold them in high esteem.
Survival: Not For The Fittest, But The Friendliest
When wolves kept being fed by humans, they were able to reproduce well. This correlation of nutrition and reproduction applies to many creatures, not animals alone.
The wolves that had less fear and were friendly fed on the leftovers that humans left. When their bellies got a little too full, it was easy for them to reproduce. The new offspring took on the traits of fearlessness and friendliness. As time passed, the genes became prominent in the new wolf population. With time, wolves started a process of self-domestication and became dogs.
Changes In Vision And The Self-Domestication Phenomenon
In the wild environment, you will see that all wolves have very similar looks – they share coat colors and lengths, body types, ear shapes, and facial structures. On the other hand, domestic dogs – specifically those that form one breed – can bear very different looks. This difference can be accounted for by self-domestication, where a species inclines itself to another – in this case, humans – and through the acclimation, it evolves. Essentially, humans did not do anything to motivate domestication – wolves needed to adapt to survive alongside humans.
When any species choose to befriend humans, variations start forming in its physical appearance. These changes that happen will be visually appealing to humans. The coat patterns will become catchy, and we will begin to think of dogs as being cute.
When the wolves became increasingly friendly and visually appealing, their relationship with humans started getting more profound and intimate. At the end of the day, wolves were no longer wolves – they were domestic dogs.
When domestic dogs were birthed from wolves, they became – together with humans – linked inextricably. Also, they started behaving in very appealing ways, and in turn, we develop a particular need to care for their needs. The best places to search for evidence of dog-human relationships were from ancient burial sites.
In Germany at Bonn-Oberkassel, a grave – of 14000 years – was found containing a puppy – and get this: it was buried together with a man and a woman. When the puppy’s remains were analyzed, it was suggested that its death occurred when it was 28 weeks old. On the 19th week of its existence, it had contracted canine distemper. This means that for nine weeks, the dog has been under the care of humans because that period is too long for a dog to remain alive.
Seeing that the puppy was buried alongside two humans, one can say that the pup was considered a family member. Today, that is how we view dogs; they are not mere animals; they are, to a great extent, people we love and cherish.
After wolves became dogs, dog breeds followed. It is likely that this started self-divergence because of the human and dog populations that were evolving individually and independently. Many years of this kind of evolution formed breeds that bore different genes.
Also, evidence of humans breeding dogs for particular purposes exists. In the southwestern part of Asia, humans who live 7000 years ago bred herding dogs. Up to 9000 years ago in Siberia, the breeding of sled dogs was thought to have happened.
In the past 500 years (in the 1500s), the breeding of dogs happened crazily. Initially, breeding was done to create dogs that would do a specific job. In the 1500s, dogs were bred to behave and bear unique looks. Up to date, humans have bred at least 360 dog breeds to meet their desired qualities.
After that, the cultures of dog shows and the formation of breed clubs started in Britain in the 1800s. This meant that dogs were seen more than their utilitarian value. Breeding was also done as a hobby, which to the creation of the most famous breeds globally.
Although many differences exist between breeds, all dogs – domestic and feral – belong to the same species. And all of the dogs – tens of thousands of years – came from the wolf.