Reminder: The selected responses presented below are a reflection of the collaborative effort of Hybrid Wolf Mailing List aka. Wolfdoglist members to share opinions / information about wolf x dogs, responsible "ownership" and breeding practices. This FAQ is not a scientific or veterinary resource. Some responses have been edited for brevity.
How long have wolf-dogs been around? Are wolfdogs new?
The earliest fossil records of wolf-dogs, dated at about 8000 B.C., were found at the Agate Basin site in Wyoming. From the Horner site, a jawbone of a wolf-like animal was found. As late as the seventeenth century, similar bones were also recovered. 1
Both the Agate Basin and Horner sites were important North American Paleoindian communal bison kill sites. There are no written records from this early period, but it is easy to speculate that wolfdogs played an important role in human hunting activities such as these large-scale bison drives. From the Ukraine, we have evidence associating wolfdogs with mammoth hunting camps. 2
To fully grasp how far back wolfdogs go... one must realize the origins of dogs. It's known that wolves (Canis lupus) and dogs (Canis lupus familiarus) are the same species. In a nutshell, UCLA geneticist Robert K. Wayne states, "dogs are grey wolves, despite their diversity in size and proportion; the wide variety in their adult morphology probably results from simple changes in developmental rate and timing." 3
As we know from studies conducted with fox and other species selectively bred for "tameness", with domestication comes changes (ie. Dmitri Belyaev's 40 year experiment with fox, resulted in animals of smaller size, curled tail, retention of juvenile features). Such neotenization of wolves, resulting in wolf-like animals and ultimately the development of what we now recognize as dogs. But the full development of dog types did not occur without interference from man. Puppy-like behavior in adults is most likely the most desireable quality early wolf-like animals were selected for, and thus more easily incorporated into human society. 4
In her book, A History of Dogs in the Early Americas, author Marion Schwartz writes, "Numberous accounts from early visitors to North America state that most native groups had dogs that resembled coyotes or wolves." 5
"It appears that on the Plains, to a much greater degree than elsewhere, native dogs received frequent influxes of wolf blood - with or without with the connivance of people." 6
It is interesting to note that as we get closer to modern times, (and have eyewitness accounts to reference) that the usefullness of wolfdogs seems to concentrate on the 3-H's; hauling, hunting and herding. Wolfdogs being preferred for hauling, with speculation that backcrossing hauling-dogs with "wild" canids improved and invigorated their stock. 7
On a similar note, in 1836, John Richardson wrote, "The offspring of the wolf and Indian dog are prolific, and are prized by the voyagers as beasts of draught, being stronger than the ordinary dog." 8
(Unfinished work) Hope you enjoy this so far, Gudrun.
2. Hannus, A. 1990. Mammoth Hunting in the New World. Hunters of the Recent Past, ed. L.B. Davis and B. Reeves, 46-47. London: Unwin Hyman.
3. Wayne, R.K. 1993. Molecular Evolution in the Dog Family. Trends in Genetics 9:218-224.
4. Clutton-Brock, J. 1977. Man-Made Dogs. Science 197:1340-1342.
5. Schwartz, M. 1997. A History of Dogs in the Early Americas. Yale University Press.
7. Roe, F.G. 1955. The Indian and the Horse. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
8. Young, S.P., and E.A. Goldman. 1944. The Wolves of North America. Washington, D.C.: American Wildlife Institute.
See also... Origins of the Domestic Dog: The Fossil Record by Stanley J. Olsen
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