ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Wolves to "Man's Best Friend"

Updated on July 13, 2011

How did wild wolves turn into “Man’s best friend?” There is little doubt dogs descended from wolves, and was probably the first animal to be domesticated. Yes, dogs are a subspecies of the wolf. Dogs are of the species canis lupus familiaris and wolves are canis Lupus. They can not only produce offspring, but their offspring are able to reproduce, something hybrids like mules cannot do.

Despite similarities, there are a few differences. Like domestic dogs, wolves have 42 teeth, although the wolves 4 canine teeth are much longer. Wolves’ legs move differently while running and the social system in which wolves live is not like that of domesticated or wild dogs. And wolves only breed once a year, where domestic dogs can breed twice. But much about the origin of dogs has been thrown into doubt.

Conventional thinking has it a wolf pup was most likely picked up by a band of wandering nomads and eventually bred with other human-adopted wolves. But is this really where domestic dogs we know today came from? Some researchers have doubts.

Recent researchers working with DNA techniques have found evidence which suggests a much different origin. The concept “wolf dogs” may have lived among Stone Age cavemen peoples came from discoveries of canid bones and skulls at a European archaeological site indicating dogs split from wolves maybe as far back as 135,000 years ago. Some genetic research in the 1990s supported the theory. However, more recent studies strongly suggest domestic dogs did not originate in Europe, but in the Middle East. And long after the Stone Age.

Both theories were put to the test in 2002, when Peter Savolainen, a Swedish molecular biologist, and his associates published results of their research on dog DNA.

Savolainen became interested in the evolution of dogs in 1992 while working with Sweden’s National Laboratory of Forensic Science. He analyzed dog hairs found at two high-profile murders. Although he didn't solve the crime, it led him to study the heredity of domestic dog breeds with DNA technology. “We expected to see different DNA types within each breed,” says Savolainen. “But we found the same type in all breeds, whether it was a German shepherd or a poodle.” These findings meant there must have been a common ancestor for the domestic dog.

In 1998 Savolainen began collecting dog hairs from wherever he could find them to collect and examine. Three years later he had over a 1,000 hair samples representing dogs from around the world. His results showed more DNA types in hair samples from East Asian dogs indicating domestic dogs originated in East Asia.

This suggestion, if true, would place the origin of dogs several thousand miles farther east than many experts previously thought, and it would trace their source gene pool to a few female Asian wolves about 15,000 years ago.

Other genetic studies conducted by Swedish researchers found dogs in modern America are almost genetically identical to Old World dogs. This would suggest Native Americans did not domesticate dogs from wolves. Rather, domesticated canines came with them when they crossed the Bering land bridge around 12,000 years ago.

However, that still leaves the question of how domesticated dogs evolved from wolves. What was the process that transformed wild wolf to dog? Raymond Coppinger, a retired biologist from Hampshire College in Massachusetts, believes he has the answer.

He believes wild wolves domesticated themselves. On the face of it, this hypothesis may seem ludicrous until putting it under a microscope and examining the period when domestication was thought to have occurred, and the kind of societies existing then.

Coppinger proposes, people living at the time would not have had the time, motivation or knowledge. Coppinger holds a wolf pup would need to be separated from its parents by the time it was 19 days old. According to Coppinger, any later than that, it would always remain a wild, potentially dangerous animal. Not to mention, they are extremely difficult to train.

He theorizes the domestication process was initiated by the wolves themselves around 10,000 years ago as humans established settlements. Wolves began visiting village garbage dumps for food scraps. At first, wolves probably fled when humans approached. But over time they eventually became used to their presence and took up residence in the village.

The mysteries of the wolf’s evolution into the dog may never be fully understood, but one thing is certain: Wild wolves are an endangered species in many places today. Visit to learn more about what you can do to help protect them.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      A brilliant hub, I love anything to do with nature/animals etc. This one was a treat and hopefully here's to many more to share.

      Take care


    • Bygdog profile image


      7 years ago

      Phenominal hub, several facts I had no idea about.

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      7 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      Thank you ahorseback. Peter it does sound stupid, don't it?

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image


      7 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      JY, really good topic and article. The treatment of wolves in the US IS DEPLORABLE. In Alaska where I come from the state conducted airiel wolf Kills to protect the moose and caribou for the hunters to kill. How dumb is that? It seems that of we don't understand it and we can't control it we kill it, no matter what it is. Peter

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love tha isolation and the mystique of the wolf! Man has been a fool when it comes to not only understanding the wolf, but in his biologicl "studies" ,the wolf has been exploited to the extreme. And man knows no more now than ever! Radio collars , Dna , traps and fools who think they can live in a fenced in pen and "know them" , one day perhaps wolf will out live man on earth .And finally get a break! Awesome hub!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)