Wolves and their unusual evolution

How wolves evolved into pets.

We have long believed that dogs evolved from wolves to integrate with human society in small ways. Scientists now believe that human beings might have been subtly trained to understand dogs.

Humans are always quick to give themselves credit for domesticating dogs. Did hunters adopt wolf puppies after finding them cute? Did they then prove themselves to be good hunters? And is this why hunters decided to keep and domesticate wolves?

The relationship between man and wolves.

Man is possibly responsible for the eradication of carnivores like the sabretooth tiger and giant hyenas. Wild dogs share the same carnivorous instinct and could have been seen as as lethal as the tigers. When humans entered the picture 43,000 years ago, they proved to be better hunters than any of these powerful species. It is highly likely that they hunted and killed most of the extinct carnivores we know of today.

Did humans hunt wolves?

Humans could hunt successfully without wolves. They were able to use their ingenuity to wipe out animals that they viewed as threats. This includes wolves. Wild dogs that move in packs are also very difficult to penetrate for food. It is likely that humans competed with them for food.

There is a lot of evidence to describe how and why humans persecuted wolves. Solon of Athens offers the first written record about the persecution of the wild dogs in the 6th century.  In England, people managed to kill the last wolf during the reign of Henry VII, in 16th century AD. The rugged terrain of Scotland was not hospitable to wolves either. In North America, wolves were killed successfully in over 48 states.

Wolves are alarmingly intelligent.

Human beings were aware of the wolves well before they become domesticated. How did they become friends? Evolution is a result of the fittest surviving the odds. But wild dogs survived by becoming friendly. Wolves likely approached humans when they began to scavenge for food closer to human societies. They would have realised that aggressive behaviour would have caused their mass extinction. It is possible that they would have adopted a more friendly approach. An evolutionary development in their physicality might have followed. The friendly wild dogs slowly started having distinctive features from their aggressive partners. Their looks and psychology started to appear different and began to evolve.

Soon, dogs started to understand human gestures over time and could be trained. This ability is remarkable and akin to human infants. When the owners point to a toy or ball, the dogs are bound to get it. Some dogs can even read small gestures like the change of eye direction of their owners.  With such abilities, people with dogs had an advantage. Even in the modern world, Nicaragua depends on dogs for prey detection. Hunters of Congo believe they would starve without their pets, and those who have dogs bring 56% more prey than the others. Dogs bark at strangers, it serves as warning signals for the neighbours. It helps them to defend themselves from the predator.

An evolved new man’s best friend.

The weakest wild dogs would have been sacrificed for food. Wolves would have evolved to adapt to human beings by showing prowess at hunting. It is likely that wolf puppies adapted to the human habitat rather than the other way round. The advantages of having dogs became clear as humans were strongly affected by their relationship with them. This probably changed the way human beings approached wolves over time.

Source: https://on.natgeo.com/2yyCV2Q