A new study into animal domestication found that wolf cubs raised by humans can develop a similar attachment to their carers as puppies. The findings supplement results from previous studies where wolves played fetch, much like dogs.
For the study, carried out at Stockholm University, behavioural ecologist Christina Hansen Wheat and colleagues compared the attachment of 12 Alaskan huskies from two litters and 10 European Grey wolves from three litters. All animals were raised by humans from 10 days old.
The researchers devised a series of tests to compare the attachment of both races to discover whether dogs have evolved from wolves to become innately attached to humans.
For the first two months of their lives, the animals were hand-fed by their carers, who were present throughout the entire period. At the age of four months, the presence of their carers gradually reduced until the animals were alone throughout the night. The team found that both wolves and huskies developed the same attachment to humans at this point in their lives, whether that was greeting their carers, going with them on walks, or looking for physical contact, RTBF reported.
The study is particularly pertinent given that the dogs that today are kept as pets are descended from wolves. Hansen Wheat explains that the domestication of wolves started over 15,000 years ago, making dogs one of the first domesticated animal species. By comparing the two races in identical conditions, the study allowed researchers to address important questions about how domestication affects animal behaviour. The team looked into both the behaviour of individual animals and how they interacted as a group.
Ultimately, the study raised more questions than it answered and the team will continue studying the animals’ behaviour to better understand the relationship between animals and humans.