Did You ‌Know‌ ‌Wolf‌ ‌Cubs‌ ‌Also‌ ‌Play Fetch‌‌?

Fetching was thought to belong to dogs alone as they have learnt it due to 15,000 years of their domestication. However, the scientists have now discovered that wolf cubs also play fetch. The findings of the research suggest this game might be innate to all canine species.

In a behavioural test, the results of which were published in iScience magazine, 13 wolf puppies from three different litters were tested. The subject of the research was to compare their behaviour to dog puppies. In one test, eight-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously showed interest in a tennis ball and returned it to an unfamiliar person they had never seen before upon encouragement.

Animal experts were shocked by this finding. Behavioural ecologist Christina Hansen Wheat, of Stockholm University, even noticed that when observing the first wolf puppy retrieving the ball, she got goosebumps.

Only some of the studied puppies were interested in this kind of interaction with a person. However, the researchers knew immediately that if some variation of the game directed by a human is innate to wolfs, it might have had a crucial role in dog domestication. Wolf puppies showing human-directed behaviour could have had a selective advantage in the early stages
of dog domestication.

Moreover, the details between these two canine species might help us explain where the behaviour typical for dogs comes from. The research results also showed that our ancestors probably tried to domesticate wolves as well as dogs.

To learn more about the behavioural similarities and differences of wolves and dogs, the team of researchers will continue to work with the data collected over the course of three years of hand-raising wolves and dogs under identical conditions.

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