Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Hybrid Wolf

Hybrid Wolves

Genetic studies confirm that the Gray Wolf is the ancestor of the domestic dog, which is a subspecies of the wolf. All dogs are descended solely from the wolf and not, as has sometimes been assumed, from the wolf and the jackal. The domesticated wolf is the dog. Scientists now agree that wolves were domesticated about 12,000 to 15,000 years ago by humans throughout the world. In early history young wolves were brought into the family circle of humans to make them useful companions and work animals. Since that time selective breeding has produced the many varieties of domestic dogs, some of which are very un-wolflike in appearance and habit. Today there are more than 800 true breeding types worldwide. The dog is our most successful and useful experiment in domestication. There are currently more than 400,000,000 dogs in the world, and fewer than 200,000 wolves.

The actual domestication process is a source of debate. Although it is popularly assumed that dogs are the result of artificial selection, the general intractability of adult wolves to human handling has led certain experts to theorise that the domestication process occurred through natural selection when Mesolithic human communities began building permanent settlements in which a new ecological niche (middens and landfills) was opened to wolves. These wolves would have formed a commensal relationship with humans, feeding on their waste over many generations, with natural selection favouring assertive wolves with shorter flight distances in human presence, and causing physical changes related to the redundancy of features adapted for hunting big game.

The friendship between man and dog is one of the oldest and most lasting in history. Many of the things that people love about dogs are that they act like their wolf ancestors. Dogs have maintained many of the characteristics that they were originally domesticated for. However, in spite of the fact that dogs have evolved from wolves, there are a number of physiological differences between the two. One difference is estrus, twice a year for dogs and only once a year for wolves. The age of maturation is less than a year for dogs, but two years for wolves. Wolf cubs vary greatly in growth rate and size. In August cubs weigh about 40 Ibs (18 kg), about the weight of a healthy coyote. But by the beginning of July they are usually taller than coyotes. They are also distinguishable from coyotes by their puppyish features – feet "too big" for their bodies, legs "too long", blunt nose, and a shorter, less bushy tail. Wolf cubs have nearly adult-sized feet by late July.

Domestic dogs possess four DNA lineages, suggesting four independent domestication events. A later study identified DNA evidence suggesting a common origin from a single East Asian gene pool for all dog populations, while another using a much larger data set of nuclear markers, points to the Middle East as the source of most of the genetic diversity in the dog and a more likely origin of domestication events. A study by the Kunming Institute of Zoology found that the domestic dog is descended from wolves tamed less than 16,300 years ago south of the Yangtse river in China. Morphological comparisons have narrowed the likely ancestral subspecies of Gray Wolf to wolves of the Middle Eastern and South Asian variety.

One of the clearest differences is found in the skull and teeth. On average, wolves not only have bigger teeth than any dog breed, but they are larger in proportion. In the majority of dog breeds, tooth size is typically in conformity with the size of the skull, even in those breeds with deformed skulls such as bulldogs. The few exceptions are those breeds which have somewhat smaller teeth than the average. Though varied in appearance, dog skulls can be consistently distinguished from wolf skulls by their shortened muzzles, broader palates, crowded teeth and the broad, heavy frontal shields at the top of their skulls.

Dogs hold their tail much lower than wolves and for almost all dog breeds the tail tends to curl up. The dog has a "sickle" tail and the wolf has a "brush" tail. Paw prints are another distinguishing difference. In wolves the toe pads and claw marks point forward, whereas in dogs the toe pads and claw marks are angled to the outside. Wolves generally have longer legs than dogs.

Although wolves and dogs have similarities in some aspects, one comes across more in variations between the two. The wolf is basically categorized only as a wild animal compared to the dog which is well known house pet, for the reason that the dog was domesticated and bred so it would not act like a wolf. Wolves being wild animals are not suited to live with people or to make a close relation like dogs. Unlike wolves, dogs have demonstrated themselves as a good companion and good pet.

Because pet owners want to distance the dog from the wolf, in biogical classifications Zoologists and Taxonomists tend to include the wolves in the family "Canis Lupus" whereas dogs are placed in the family "Canis familiaris" of Kingdom Animalia. However, this unscientific trickery does not change the fact that the dog is a sub species of the Gray Wolf. The dog is a wolf.

One of the most visible differences between dog and wolf is a variation in physical appearance and structure. The wolf tends to have a larger body than most dog breeds. Also the muzzle or snout of the wolf is longer compared to most of dogs, and the dog has a "sickle" tail that curves upward, whereas the wolf has a straight brush tail.

The wolf has longer legs, larger feet and a wider cranium than the dog. Wolves are great predators and hunters but the dog lacks this specialty because of its domestication. Wolves are much more physically powerful than dogs. Despite the fact that wolves and dogs have the equivalent number of teeth, the differentiation is definite. The teeth of wolves are adapted for hunting. Unlike the dogs, wolves have stronger molars, which help it to crush largest bones. Wolves include specific teeth used for holding onto their prey. Dogs can feed on dog food/kibble while wolves are carnivores and they need raw meat to eat, yet they can take a large amount of meat at a time, because they know it can be possible that they will have nothing to eat for several days. The wolf has the capability to crush large bones and digest them, but dogs do not.

Wolves are 20% more intelligent and cleverer than the dog, and wolves are more conscious of their surroundings than dogs. Dogs bark whereas a wolf howls. However dogs easily learn to howl and the wolf only makes one muffled sounding bark on occasion.

Another difference that can demonstrate in societal behavior of both these is that wolves have a strong nature. They always love to be in a crowd, even if it is a group of two or more wolves. But dogs do not live in groups and they usually prefer humans to other dogs. When discussing their sexual characters, the female dogs come into "heat" twice a year while female wolves get into "season" only once a year. It has been noticed that only the Alpha female wolf or head female wolf is permitted reproduction in wolf habitation.

Some major differences can also be seen in the skeletal structures of the two, as the wolf has longer legs with large feet and a wider skull and narrow chest while a number of the dog’s species don’t possess this type of skeleton. Wolves are faster runners. During trotting the wolf’s back legs move backward and forward in the same line on its front legs. But the dog places its back legs between its front legs during walking or running, making the dog slower than the wolf.

There are different subspecies of wolf but they are all similar physically and behaviorally. Interbreeding is common between the subspecies and their distinctive differences become blurred in the mix. Genetic studies published in the late 1980's show the domestic dog is descended from the Gray Wolf (Canis lupus). Because of this the classification for the dog was changed in the early 1990's to Canis lupus familiaris. This has become widely accepted in the mainstream scientific community, though there does continue to be some disagreement. Theories of the process and time lines vary, but it appears that at some point domestication consisted of selectively breeding for desirable behaviors. Specifically, breeding for animals which never fully mature emotionally, with their development arrested at the adolescent level. The dog has the personality and behavior of an adolescent wolf.

Among the many behavior differences, a mature wolf is generally not very accepting of new people, is very quiet and is shy and suspicious. The high prey drive in these animals makes them potentially dangerous to small animals, including children, which might be in their regular habitat. They do not make good family pets. Contrary to common misconceptions, because of their shy nature wolves do not make good guard dogs because they are naturally afraid of the unfamiliar and will hide from visitors rather than bark at them. Wolves rarely bark anyway.

Wolves, dogs and coyotes are nearly identical genetically, and no tested method exists for distinguishing them on that basis. Obviously, hybrids of 2 or more of the species are even more confusing. A wolf and dog can be hybridized, but a fox and dog cannot, which points to the genetic and ancestral closeness of wolf and dog. Breeds of dogs cannot be distinguished from each other by anatomy or even biochemical genetic tests, including DNA fingerprinting. Since a breed of dog cannot be defined by any scientific means currently known, it is not possible to write any ordinance or law that would single them out for special treatment since they cannot be defined in a legal sense. There is no biochemical genetic test that can even distinguish wolves from domestic dogs. All wolves, wolf hybrids and domestic dogs belong to the species Canis lupus.

Wolf-dog hybrids have a mixed history. Often the intent is to get the wolf look with the dog personality. Unfortunately the outcome is generally an animal with an unpredictable and therefore dangerous behavior. In the right setting some of these animals may be excellent family members, but these are individual and rare exceptions, and it is only in the best informed and most experienced all adult homes where this is possible. The motivation for owning one of these animals is also critical. Unfortunately the all to often "macho" image is frequently the motivation, which is in direct contrast to the animals natural behavior. This tends to create the worst possible combination with a high possibility of injury to the people and other animals involved.

The term "wolf hybrid" is technically incorrect, although it is still commonly used. In 1993, dogs were re-classified as "canis lupus familiaris", a sub-species of wolf ("canis lupus"). Although dogs and wolves are genetically very close and have shared portions of their ranges for millennia, the two generally do not voluntarily interbreed in the wild. They can produce viable offspring, with all subsequent generations being fertile, as opposed to coydogs and jackal-dog hybrids. The captive breeding of wolf-dog hybrids has proliferated in the United States, with 300,000 such animals being present there. The most commonly used dog breeds for this purpose are of the spitz group. Although wolves normally kill dogs, lone wolves may fraternise with guard or herding dogs as surrogate pack members. Most wolf-dog matings in the wild involve female wolves soliciting male dogs. Wolf-hybrids may be bolder than pure wolves, and thus more dangerous to livestock and human life. In the wild, hybrids may preferentially associate and mate with dogs and other hybrids and live on the periphery of human settlements more readily. Although wolf-dog hybridisation in Europe has raised concern among conservation groups fearing for the wolf's purity, an analysis of DNA shows that introgression of dog genes into European wolf populations does not pose a significant threat. Also, as wolf and dog mating seasons do not fully coincide, the likelihood of wild wolves and dogs mating and producing surviving offspring is small. Like pure wolves, hybrids breed annually, though their mating season occurs 3 months earlier, with pups mostly being born in the winter period, thus lessening their chances of survival. Although it is popularly believed that some Inuit tribes mate their sled dogs to wolves in order to improve their stamina, this is likely untrue, as wolf hybrids are generally unable to cooperate effectively in pulling harnesses, and their stamina is much less than that of sled dogs. At least two wolf-dog breeds have been created in Europe, the Saarlooswolfhond and the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog, both by crossing wolves with German Shepherds. And the German Shepherd dog was created in the 1890's as a wolf-dog hybrid, and is 35% "recent wolf".

The eldest breed, the Saarlooswolfhond, traces its origins to the efforts of a Dutch breeder in 1921. This first attempt at sustained wolf-dog crossing was to improve Shepherd breeding stock and prevent canine distemper. Though this effort failed, today the FCI and the Dutch Kennel Club both recognize the breed. In the 1950's the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was also created to work on border patrol in the countries now known as Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It is recognized by the Foundation Stock Service of the American Kennel Club AKC, the United Kennel Club UKC, and the FCI, and today is used in agility, obedience, search and rescue, police work, therapy work, and herding in Europe and the United States. The Lupo Italiano has also been accepted into the Italian Kennel Club. Also, the Kunming Wolfdog is a Chinese wolf-dog hybrid bred for military purpose.

Wolves and hybrid wolves are very unpredictable and dangerous and should not be kept as pets. If you do have one of these creatures, be responsible and groom it yourself. Don't even consider taking a wolf to a groomer or public dog bathing facility and subjecting any one else to such unnecessary danger. Learn how to groom a pet wolf yourself. Use coat conditioners and de-tangling solutions between baths and brush coat at least twice a week to remove wooly hair shed from the dense undercoat. Only bathe a wolf when absolutely necessary.

Put a muzzle on the animal before attempting to do anything! If a bath is absolutely necessary, have all the equipment assembled and ready. Bathe the wolf in a large tub or bathtub. Put a rubber mat or towel down in the tub so the wolf will not slip. The wolf will probably howl while being bathed. Dilute a good brand of shampoo and use sparingly as it will be very hard to rinse the suds out of the wolf's coat. Scrub well and work shampoo down into the undercoat. Using a soft washcloth, wash the wolf's ears using some of the shampoo, then rinse washcloth and remove any excess shampoo from the ears.

Rinse its coat well with lots of clean warm water. Rinse thoroughly until all shampoo has been removed. Towel dry to remove as much water as possible. Use a hair dryer and blow off all excess water. Continue to dry using a pin brush and brush hair up and toward head. Continue doing this until it is dry. You will need a professional, high velocity dryer to dry the thick coat and undercoat. Do not leave hair damp in humid conditions. Brush if necessary when coat is thoroughly dry to remove any tangles. Do not attempt to cut the wolf's nails or do the anal glands.

Before attempting any brushing, bathing or grooming of any kind, always put a strong leather muzzle on the wolf. Only bathe a wolf when absolutely necessary. At any time during grooming or bathing if the wolf seems upset or starts getting aggressive, stop immediately and let him go off by himself. Do not force the animal to do anything. A wolf will probably howl during bathing and this does not seem to indicate a problem. Domestic dog vaccinations, including the rabies vaccine, may not work on wolves. Since the rabies vaccine still has not been legally accepted for use in "wolfdogs", the re-classification of dogs as a sub species of the wolf provides a strong argument for the vaccine to be usable on both dogs and wolfdog crosses. Wolf bites and scratches are extremely dangerous to other animals and humans.

Cleaning the fur, skin or orifices of foreign material by licking, chewing or scratching is done by a solitary animal. Licking is performed by the tongue and generally moves in the same direction as the fur. Chewing is done by taking small sections of the area to be cleaned between the front teeth and making short, quick biting motions, moving in the same direction as the fur. Scratching is generally performed by the hind paws, but the wolf may use its front paws. It starts when the head is lowered to the body, a paw is raised to the fur and begins to rapidly move up and down. It ends when the muzzle no longer touches the body or when all four paws are relaxed.

Wolves are shy and avoid eye contact with humans other than their owner. They generally listen to and take commands only from their owner. They will leave the room or hide when a "new" person walks in. Obviously, not every hybrid will exhibit all these qualities. The more of them exhibited, the more likely the animal has a high degree of wolf lineage. Hybrids' colors vary widely due to the dominance of the mix so it is a less reliable indicator. There also is a wide variety of color in wild wolves, so it cannot be the sole determinant.

Hybrid wolves are beautiful animals that possess a high level of intelligence. There are a number of sub-species of wolves which are bred with other dogs as pets, such as Arctic Tundra Wolves, Alaskan Interior Wolves, British Colombian Timber Wolves, and Eastern Timber Wolves. They are usually reffered to as Wolf Dogs and are a cross between the wild wolf and any type of domestic dog. They weigh about 100 pounds and are around 26 inches tall. Their color varies from shades of black to white and gray. Wolf dogs must be raised by their owner to make a compatible friend. They develop a very strong bond with their owners, but require a lot of attention. Wolf babies grow much faster than dog puppies and must be fed a soy-free dog food since they can not properly digest soy. They are very smart, strong and have high endurance levels. It is recommended that they should be kept in pairs since they are pack animals. Wolf hybrids must have a containment area since they are not allowed to run unsupervised. They can live up to 17 years and possess long limbs and strong muscles. Their face has the appearance of a Wolf with a long muzzle. Before purchasing a Wolf Hybrid it is important to check federal and local laws. They are not recommended for inexperienced owners and homes with children. These dogs like to be outside in the wild and are not recommended for small homes and apartments, since they possess high endurance and great energy they do best in a securely fenced rural setting with a lot of room to run and roam. Early and intense socialization is crucial. Wolf hybrids can adapt to hot and cold climate. They are usually shy but loyal and loving animals with their owner and with those they feel comfortable with.

Wolf hybrids can be sweet, intelligent companions. However, hybrids are not generally the ideal pet. They require a lot more time, effort and patience than dogs, and are definitely not for the inexperienced. They require special containment and diet, which can be an expensive proposition. And for many people who don't know the facts beforehand, hybrids can go from being docile, adorable puppies to adults who challenge their unprepared owners for dominance, and become destructive and impossible to handle.

There are differences between dogs and wolves. Pure wolves cycle once a year: cubs are born late March through early May. Dogs are born year-round. Pure wolves and high contents are born black (or very dark gray). Even Arctics, who eventually turn white, are dark at birth. Dogs are born in a variety of colors. High content (adult) hybrids look very wolfy. Some physical characteristics of the wolf are: long, leggy body; thick, double-coat; extra-large paws; ruff of fur around the neck and shoulder area; elongated snout; long, curved canine teeth; slanted eyes ranging from brown to amber to yellow in color; small, furry, rounded ears; straight tail (as opposed to the malamute/husky tail which curls up over the back); and a black nose. None of these characteristics should be used in and of itself to determine wolf content, since a number of them may be common to wolves and some dogs.

Early, consistent socialization of the hybrid is necessary at an early age, to adults, children, other animals, noises, situations, etc. If this is not done, the animal may grow into a skittish, unmanageable, fear-biting adult. Destruction: the wolf is a digger by nature, and the destruction in your home can be extreme, i.e. the living room couch, other furniture, even the walls themselves. Many high content hybrids can open just about anything (despite locks) including the refrigerator, cabinets, and doors.

The fact that wolves do not defecate in one area like domesticated dogs, combined with the natural inclination to mark their territory, makes housebreaking wolves and high content hybrids extremely difficult. High content hybrids are not good watchdogs, due to the wolf's timid nature. Do not expect a high content hybrid to protect you or your property. High contents and pure wolves don't bark much (usually one warning bark, as opposed to the dog's repetitive bark), so they don't make good "alarms", either.

Wolves and hybrids howl, whether out of loneliness, at sirens, or for their own wolf reasons. Take into consideration what type of neighborhood you live in and what your neighbors will put up with. Not everyone appreciates the eerily beautiful howl of the wolf, especially at 4:00 am. Mouthing and nipping are natural behaviors which must be modified at an early age. Teaching an adult 120 lb. hybrid not to bite is no fun, not to mention dangerous.

As far as being good with kids, yes, they can be brought up and socialized with children. But be aware that the prey instinct may be triggered by the young child running, or falling down and crying. Many hybrids grow to be very large in size, and play roughly as well. Regardless of breed or content, no large dog should ever be left alone with a child.

Wolves are extremely intelligent. They do, however, have their own reasons for doing things, and do not have the inbred desire to please humans that dogs do. Obedience training (especially with higher contents) is likely to take more time and effort and produce less reliable results than with a dog, although it can be done. Getting a high content hybrid to come when called is a major undertaking. Most can not be let off leash in a public area because of this (combined with the fact that children or small animals may trigger the prey instinct at any time). But many low contents have, with perseverance, gone through formal obedience training class and even excelled. Another extremely important thing is that you establish yourself as Alpha early on. It is natural for wolves to challenge the Alpha for place in the pack order. You must be prepared to deal with these types of behaviors correctly. Never ever hit a wolf or hybrid, because it is a form of suicide. Seek help from a professional trainer experienced with hybrids.

Wolves Hybrids are the great escape artists. They need an escape-proof enclosure, with room to run. Hybrids (or for that matter, dogs) should never be kept on a chain as a primary means of containment. The minimum necessary for containment is six foot high chain link fencing with lean-ins at the top, and a dig-proof bottom. Hotwire and a perimeter fence are also recommended. Hybrids need companionship, canine as well as human. Another hybrid or large breed of dog of the opposite sex is preferable.

Wolves are carnivores. High content hybrids do not do well on kibble alone. Be prepared to supplement the diet with fresh meat and it is a good idea to locate a source for meat and find out the costs involved before obtaining your animal.

Transporting high content hybrids and pure wolves in a car is difficult. Getting them into the crate is an ordeal in itself, and many defecate and urinate out of fear during the ride, making a routine visit to the vet an unpleasant experience at best. Some owners find it necessary to tranquilize their animals before transporting them. Be aware that some vets refuse to treat wolf hybrids of any content, and some refuse to administer the rabies vaccine since its effectiveness on hybrids remains to be proven (although this is an issue which is currently in debate, and evidence is pointing towards the vaccine being approved for use on wolves and wolf hybrids).

It has been estimated that over 90% of wolf hybrids sold in this country are credited with being of higher wolf content than they actually are. One danger in this is that the buyer purchasing a low content animal thinking it's higher may have the animal for years with no problems, training it like a dog, having it live in the house, be housebroken, non-destructive, etc. This person then spreads the story of how wonderful these high-content animals are and how easily cared for not much more trouble than a dog. Someone else hearing this (or even this same person getting a second animal down the line) then gets what actually is a high content animal – and is in for a big surprise. Also, keep in mind that in addition to percentage, the number of generations the animal is away from a pure wolf will affect behavior as well. A hybrid that is 8 generations down the line from a pure wolf will be less "wolfy" than one that is 3 generations away.

Most high content hybrids and pure wolves do not make good house pets. Most people who have high content animals keep them in the house as pups, only to banish them to the yard after the destruction and behaviors become too much to deal with. This is not to say that no one has ever been successful at keeping a high content in the house (however, many who think they have done so may unknowingly have lower content animals) – but it would take extreme effort and dedication, as opposed to the amount of work required to acclimate a lower content or pure dog.

Wolves have traditionally been crossed with malamutes or huskies, and are also sometimes crossed with German Shepherds. Due to the recent surge of popularity of the hybrid and the potential for a quick buck, some unethical breeders have begun to cross wolves with more aggressive breeds, such as chows or pit bulls. These particular crosses are an accident waiting to happen, and threaten the future existence of hybrids everywhere. Do not support this very dangerous trend.

Though wolves are trainable, they lack the same degree of tractability seen in dogs. They are generally not as responsive as dogs are to coercive techniques involving fear, aversive stimuli and force. Generally, far more work is required to obtain the same degree of reliability seen in most dogs. Even then, once a certain behavior has been repeated several times, wolves may get bored and ignore subsequent commands. Wolves are most responsive toward positive conditioning and rewards, though simple praise is not sufficient as in most dogs. Unlike dogs, wolves tend to respond more to hand signals than voice.

Physically, since they are essentially genetically identical, wolves and dogs are very similar, though there are a number of general differences that are usually visible. It must be noted that, with the high degree of variation between dog breeds, any dog breed may exhibit one or more wolf like physical traits without having any "full wolf" anywhere in its recent bloodline. Because of this, and despite the claims of some individuals, it is absolutely impossible to tell with any certainty if a dog has some wolf in it. There is no medical or genetic test that can provide this information. Anyone claiming they can tell if an animal is "part wolf" by looking at the animal. or with any other test, is either severely misinformed or is intentionally lying, often with some hidden agenda. The mix of certain breeds can easily produce an animal very "wolf like" in appearance, but with a pedigree of champions. Siberian Husky/Borzoi, Malamute/Collie and German Shepard/Saluki are some examples of mixes that will appear very much like a wolf in both appearance and size, and display many "wolf" physical traits. Certain breeds such as Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, and German Shepards are closer to wolves has than most dogs. The German Shepherd is 35% "recent wolf", but it is still very much a dog.

In 1998, the USDA estimated an approximate population of 300,000 wolfdogs in the United States. the highest of any country world-wide, with some other sources giving a population possibly as high as 500,000. In first generation hybrids, Gray Wolves are most often crossed with wolf-like dogs such as German Shepherds, Siberian Huskies, and Alaskan Malamutes for an appearance most appealing to owners desiring to own an exotic pet. Because wolfdogs are genetic mixtures of wolves and dogs, their physical and behavioral characteristics cannot be predicted with any certainty.

In 2010, experts announced that they had found the remains of many wolf-dogs that had been kept by the warrior class of the Teotihuacan civilization in Mexico's central valley about two thousands years ago, and that, in light of this evidence, the animal commonly found depicted in the art of that culture and which had been thought to be a strange dog or coyote were likely instead wolf-dogs.

The first record of wolfdog breeding in Great Britain comes from the year 1766 when what is thought was a male wolf had mated with a Pomeranian, which resulted in a litter of nine pups. Wolfdogs were occasionally purchased by English noblemen, who viewed them as a scientific curiosity. Wolfdogs were popular exhibits in British menageries and zoos. The first documented intentionally-bred wolfdog, the Saarlooswolfhond, did not begin until the 1920s. Later efforts include hybrids were used as experimental attack dogs in South Africa under apartheid. These wolfdogs were bred from German Shepherds and wolves from the Urals. The first of these hybrids was a male born in 1978 named Jungle, who remained in service until 1989.

Genetic research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation that first arose in domestic dogs. Cases of rare accidental breeding of wolfdogs are known, where a domestic dog female on oestrus strays and is mated by a male wild wolf. The wolfdog hybrid has been the center of much controversy for much of its history, and most breed-specific legislation is either the result of the animal's perceived danger or a categorization as protected native wildlife. The Humane Society of the United States, the RSPCA, Ottawa Humane Society, the Dogs Trust and the Wolf Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission consider wolfdogs to be wild animals and therefore unsuitable as pets, and support an international ban on the private possession, breeding and sales of wolfdogs.

According to the National Wolfdog Alliance, 40 U.S. states effectively forbid the ownership, breeding and importation of wolfdogs, while others impose some form of regulation upon ownership. In Canada, Alberta, Manitoba, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island prohibit wolfdogs as pets. Most European nations either outlaw the animal entirely or put restrictions on ownership. Wolfdogs were among the breeds banned from the U.S. Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton and elsewhere after a fatal dog attack by a pit bull on a child.

Hybridization in the wild usually occurs near human habitations where wolf density is low and dogs are common. However, there were several reported cases of wolfdogs in areas with normal wolf densities in the former Soviet Union. Wild wolfdogs were occasionally hunted by European aristocracy, and were called "lycisca" to distinguish them from common wolves. Noted historic cases, such as the Beast of GĂ©vaudan, of large wolves that were abnormally aggressive toward humans, may be attributable to wolf-dog mating. In Europe, unintentional matings of dogs and wild wolves have been confirmed in some populations through genetic testing. As the survival of some Continental European wolf packs is severely threatened, scientists fear that the creation of wolfdog populations in the wild is a threat to the continued existence of European wolf populations. However, extensive wolf–dog hybridization is not supported by morphological evidence, and analyses of DNA have revealed that such matings are rare. However, since DNA is mainly maternally inherited and most cases of hybridization in the wild seem to occur between a female wolf and a male domestic dog, these results may not be reliable. In 1997, during the Mexican Wolf Arizona Reintroduction, controversy arose when a captive pack at Carlsbad designated for release was found to be largely composed of wolfdogs by Roy McBride, who had captured many wolves for the recovery programme in the 1970s. Though staff initially argued that the animals' odd appearance was due to captivity and diet, it was later decided to euthanise them.

The physical characteristics of an animal created by breeding a wolf with a dog are not predictable, similar to that of mixed-breed dogs. Genetic research shows that wolf and dog populations initially diverged approximately 14,000 years ago and have interbred only occasionally since, thus imbuing the dissimilarity between dogs and wolves in behavior and appearance. In many cases the resulting adult wolfdog may be larger than either of its parents due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis, commonly known as hybrid vigor. Breeding experiments in Germany with poodles and wolves, and later on with the resulting wolfdogs showed unrestricted fertility, mating via free choice and no significant problems of communication even after a few generations. The offspring of poodles with either coyotes and jackals however all showed a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems as well as an increase of genetic diseases after three generations of interbreeding between the hybrids. The researchers therefore concluded that domestic dogs and wolves are the same species.

Hybrids display a wide variety of appearances, ranging from a resemblance to dogs without wolf blood to animals that are often mistaken for full-blooded wolves. A lengthy study by DEFRA and the RSPCA found several examples of misrepresentation by breeders and indeterminate levels of actual wolf pedigree in many animals sold as wolfdogs. The report noted that uneducated citizens misidentify dogs with wolf-like appearance as wolfdogs. Wolfdogs tend to have somewhat smaller heads than pure wolves, with larger, pointier ears which lack the dense fur commonly seen in wolves. Fur markings also tend to be very distinctive and not well blended. Black coloured hybrids tend to retain black pigment longer as they age, compared to black wolves. In some cases, the presence of dewclaws on the hind feet is considered a useful, but not absolute indicator of dog gene contamination in wild wolves. Dewclaws are the vestigial first toes, which are common on the hind legs of domestic dogs but thought absent from pure wolves, which only have four hind toes. Observations on wild wolf hybrids in the former Soviet Union indicate that wolf hybrids in a wild state may form larger packs than pure wolves, and have greater endurance when chasing prey. High content hybrids typically have longer canine teeth than dogs of comparable size, with some officers in the South African Defence Force commenting that the animals are capable of biting through the toughest padding "like a knife through butter". Their sense of smell apparently rivals that of most established scenthounds. Tests undertaken in the Perm Institute of Interior Forces in Russia demonstrated that high content hybrids took 15to 20 seconds to track down a target in training sessions, whereas ordinary police dogs took 3 to 4 minutes.

Wolf-dog hybrids are generally said to be naturally healthy animals, and are affected by fewer inherited diseases than most breeds of dog. Wolfdogs are usually healthier than either parent due to heterosis. Some of the established breeds of wolfdog that exist today were bred specifically to improve the health and vigor of working dogs. There is some controversy over the effectiveness of the standard dog/cat rabies vaccine on a wolfdog. The USDA has not to date approved any rabies vaccine for use in wolf-dog hybrids, though they do recommend an extra-label use of the vaccine. Wolfdog owners and breeders purport that the lack of official approval is a political move to prevent condoning wolfdog ownership.

Wolf-dog hybrids are a mixture of genetic traits, which results in less predictable behavior patterns compared to either the wolf or dog. This is not to say that the behavior of any specific hybrid is erratic. It would, however, be unlikely that someone unfamiliar with an individual animal would be able to predict that animal's behavior with reasonable certainty. The adult behavior of hybrid pups also cannot be predicted with comparable certainty to dog pups, even in third-generation pups produced by wolfdog matings with dogs or from the behavior of the parent animals. Thus, though the behavior of a single individual wolf hybrid may be predictable, the behavior of the type as a whole is not. The majority of high wolf-content hybrids are very curious and are generally more destructive than dogs.

According to the CDC and the Humane Society of the United States, the wolfdog ranks sixth in the number of dog attack fatalities in the U.S., with 14 hybrid-related fatalities between 1979 and 1998 in the United States. In 2000, DEFRA and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals released a lengthy study that attributed much of the reported aggressiveness of wolfdogs to the characteristics of the breeds of dogs with which the wolves are bred. With both wolves' and dogs' social habits revolving around a pack structure, some wolfdogs may not show the dog's natural acceptance of humans as the dominant pack members, possibly resulting in physical confrontations. Some purport that attacks may not even be caused by typical behavior patterns of aggression and dominance present in either parent species, but instead may be related to predatory instincts, as the majority of attacks involve small children. Between 1981 and 1999, there were 38 severe attacks and 13 fatalities caused by wolf hybrids in North America, with all victims being children.

Although not all wolfdogs will be aggressive, as some have shown to be gentler and easier to handle than others, the probability of aggressive behavior from a hybrid wolf varies from animal to animal, depending on whether or not the animal has a high prey drive, and peaks at the onset of sexual maturity, when the animal attempts to achieve dominance over other pack members. This aggression tends to peak during the winter months when hormones run high. Attacks may also be spurred by people becoming suddenly and conspicuously vulnerable due to either injury, disease or fear. Some half-hearted test attacks may be misinterpreted as play, and result in the owner failing to discourage such behavior. An officer in the South African Defence Force once commented that it was very difficult to dissuade wolf hybrids from pressing an assault once an attack was initiated.

Most wolf and wolfdog rescue organizations maintain that wolfdogs retain many of the traits and requirements of their wild relatives and therefore may be inappropriate as domestic pets. The view that aggressive characteristics are inherently a part of wolfdog temperament has been contested in recent years by wolfdog breeders and other advocates of wolfdogs as pets. Proponents of wolfdogs as pets say that the animals are naturally timid and fearful of humans, but that with proper training and responsible ownership wolfdogs can become good companions. Even in cases of wolfdogs displaying consistently dog-like behavior, they still often retain some wolf-like behavior such as howling, digging, chewing up household items such as furniture, fences and, to varying degrees, display considerable difficulty in housebreaking.

It is not uncommon for wolfdog hybrids to become feral and return to the wild. This can lead to major problems as the wolfdog is a cross between a wolf with their traits and a domestic dog. This has led to problems for the feral wolfdog and society.

Today, at least seven breeds of dog exist which acknowledge a significant amount of recent wolf-dog hybridization in their creation. Four breeds were the result of intentional crosses with German Shepherd Dogs, and have distinguishing characteristics of appearance that may reflect the varying subspecies of wolf that contributed to their foundation stock. Other, more unusual crosses have occurred; recent experiments in Germany were conducted in the crossing of wolves and poodles. Another breed is the Wolamute, a cross between an Alaskan Malamute and a Timber Wolf. The intention in creating the breeds was manifold; ranging from the desire for a recognizable companion wolfdog, to military working dogs.

In the 1995 movie Balto, Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon), the main character, is a half-breed wolfdog. His mother was presumably a wolf, and his father a purebred Husky. However, the real Balto which the film is based on was not a wolf-dog hybrid but a pure Siberian Husky. His daughter in the sequel was a half-breed wolfdog and shared his characteristics. In the book White Fang by Jack London, White Fang is a wolfdog. His father was a wolf, and his mother was a half-dog half-wolf, resulting in White Fang. White Fang was three quarters wolf, one quarter dog. In the popular TV show True Blood, wolves and wolfdogs are used to portray the werewolves.

Dog trainer Cesar Millan had two wolf hybrids (Hyde & Vada) on his show Dog Whisperer. Actress Kristen Stewart from Twilight owns two wolf dog hybrids, named Jack and Lily. In the TV police comedy-drama Due South Constable Benton Fraser's companion is a deaf (but can read lips), white wolfdog called Diefenbaker. Wolfdogs acted as enemies in the game Metal Gear Solid as well as its remake: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. Kate Shugak, the main character of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak Mystery series owns a wolfdog, Mutt, who serves as her companion and guarddog. The character Blue in the anime Wolf's Rain is a female dog who is part wolf.

Pet Wolves

Keeping pure wolves as pets has grown in popularity. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 80,000 to 2,000.000 privately owned wolves. Tame wolves tend to be less predictable and manageable than dogs. While dogs typically alter their behaviours to accommodate their handlers, the opposite is true for tame wolves. In contrast to dog pups, which are able to be socialised to humans at up to ten weeks of age, wolf cubs are unable to do so after 19 days. Because wolf milk contains more arginine than can be found in puppy milk substitutes, an arginine supplement is needed when feeding pups below the weaning age. Failure to do so can result in the cubs developing cataracts.

Wolves cannot alter their predatory behaviour, and cannot be fully trusted in situations where their prey drive can be given adequate stimulation. In contrast to dogs, which are usually accepting of strangers, treating them almost as an extension of their pack, wolves become increasingly xenophobic and intolerant of strangers not part of their immediate pack as they age. Dogs easily and actively form social bonds with humans, but wolves can only do so in the absence of adult conspecifics. Cubs under one year of age are generally not aggressive toward strangers, though their aggression increases with age, particularly during the mating season. Males may be more aggressive and difficult to handle than females. Wolves are difficult to contain in standard kennels, as they exceed dogs in observational learning and are able to quickly learn how to undo latches by simply watching their handlers do it. They are the great escape artists. Once wolves learn how to escape confinement, it becomes near impossible to contain them.

Though wolves are trainable, they lack the controlability of dogs. They generally do not respond like dogs to coercive techniques involving fear, aversive stimuli and force. Generally, far more work is required to obtain the same degree of reliability seen in most dogs. Even then, once a certain behavior has been repeated several times, wolves may get bored and ignore subsequent commands. Wolves are most responsive toward positive conditioning and rewards, though simple praise is not sufficient as in most dogs. Unlike dogs, wolves tend to respond more to hand signals than vocal commands.


The coyote (Canis latrans), also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada. Canis latrans means "barking dog" in Latin. The coyote occurs as far north as Alaska and all but the northernmost portions of Canada. There are currently 19 recognized subspecies of coyote, with 16 in Canada, Mexico and the United States, and 3 in Central America. Unlike its cousin the Gray Wolf, which is Eurasian in origin, evolutionary theory suggests the coyote evolved in North America 1.81 million years ago alongside the Dire Wolf. Unlike the wolf, the coyote's range has expanded in the wake of human civilization, and coyotes readily reproduce in metropolitan areas. In areas where wolves have been exterminated, coyotes usually flourish. For example, as New England became increasingly settled and the resident wolves were eliminated, the coyote population increased and filled the empty ecological niche. Coyotes appear better able than wolves to live among people.

Preliminary genetic evidence shows that coyotes in some areas are genetically 85 to 90% Canis latrans, and from 10 to 15% Canis lupus (Gray Wolf), along with some domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). This prompted one researcher to jokingly suggest that they be called "Canis soupus", because they are a "soup" or mixture of canid species. Coyotes have been known to live a maximum of 10 years in the wild and 18 years in captivity. They seem to be better than dogs at observational learning. One big difference between wolves and coyotes is size. A wolf is nearly twice as large as a coyote. A coyote is around one and a half feet tall, while a wolf is about two and a half feet. Coyotes weigh around 25 to 40 pounds, compared to a wolf's weight of 60-100 pounds. Wolf skulls are also different from those of coyotes. Coyotes have a smaller "rostrum", or snout, in relationship to the brain case, which gives the coyote's skull a long, thinner look compared to the wolf. Its skull is also much smaller than the wolf's.

The color of the coyote's pelt varies from grayish-brown to yellowish-gray on the upper parts, while the throat and belly tend to have a buff or white color. The forelegs, sides of the head, muzzle and paws are reddish-brown. The back has tawny-colored underfur and long, black-tipped guard hairs that form a black dorsal stripe and a dark cross on the shoulder area. The black-tipped tail has a scent gland located on its dorsal base. Coyotes shed once a year, beginning in May with light hair loss, ending in July after heavy shedding. The ears are proportionately large in relation to the head, while the feet are relatively small in relation to the rest of the body. Some experts have noted the shape of a domestic dog's brain case is closer to the coyote's in shape than that of a wolf's. Mountain-dwelling coyotes tend to be dark-furred, while desert coyotes tend to be more light brown in color.

Coyotes typically grow to 30 to 34 in (76–86 cm) in length, not counting a tail of 12 to 16 in (30–41 cm), stand about 23 to 26 inches (58 to 66 cm) at the shoulder and on average weigh from 15 to 46 pounds (6.8–21 kg). Northern coyotes are typically larger than southern subspecies, with the largest coyotes on record weighing 74.75 pounds (33.91 kg) and measuring 1.75 m (5.7 ft) in total length. The upper frequency limit of hearing for coyotes is 80 kHz, compared to the 60 kHz of domestic dogs. Compared to wolves, and similar to domestic dogs, coyotes have a higher density of sweat glands on their paw pads. This trait, however, is absent in the large New England coyotes, which are thought to have some wolf ancestry. During pursuit, a coyote may reach speeds up to 43 mph (69 km/h), and can jump a distance of over 13 feett (4 m).

Though coyotes have been observed to travel in large groups, they primarily hunt in pairs. Typical packs consist of six, closely related adults, yearlings and young. Coyote packs are generally smaller than wolf packs, and associations between individuals are less stable, so their social behavior is more in line with that of the dingo. In theory, this is due to an earlier expression of aggression, and the fact that coyotes reach their full growth in their first year, unlike wolves, which reach it in their second. Common names of coyote groups are a band, a pack, or a rout. They are primarily nocturnal, but can often be seen during daylight hours. Once they were essentially diurnal, but have adapted to more nocturnal behavior with pressure from humans.

Female coyotes are monoestrous, and remain in estrus for two to five days between late January and late March, during which mating occurs. Once the female chooses a partner, the mated pair may remain temporarily monogamous for a number of years. Depending on geographic location, spermatogenesis in males takes around 54 days, and occurs between January and February. The gestation period lasts from 60 to 63 days. Litter size ranges from one to 19 pups and the average is six. These large litters act as compensatory measures against the high juvenile mortality rate: about 50 to 70% of pups do not survive to adulthood. The pups weigh approximately 250 grams at birth, and are initially blind and limp-eared. Coyote growth rate is faster than that of wolves, being similar in length to that of the dhole. The eyes open and ears become erect after 10 days. Around 21 to 28 days after birth, the young begin to emerge from the den, and by 35 days, they are fully weaned. Both parents feed the weaned pups with regurgitated food. Male pups will disperse from their dens between months six and 9, while females usually remain with the parents and form the basis of the pack. The pups attain full growth between 9 and 12 months old, and sexual maturity is reached by 12 months. Unlike wolves, mother coyotes will tolerate other lactating females in their pack.

Coyotes will sometimes mate with domestic dogs, usually in areas such as Texas and Oklahoma, where the coyotes are plentiful and the breeding season is extended because of the warm weather. The resulting hybrids, called coydogs, maintain the coyote's predatory nature, along with the dog's lack of timidity toward humans, making them a more serious threat to livestock than pure-blooded animals. This crossbreeding has the added effect of confusing the breeding cycle. Coyotes usually breed only once a year, while coydogs will breed year-round, producing many more pups than a wild coyote. Differences in the ears and tail generally can be used to distinguish coydogs from domestic or feral dogs or pure coyotes. Breeding experiments in Germany with poodles, coyotes, and later on with the resulting dog-coyote hybrids showed that, unlike wolfdogs, coydogs exhibit a decrease in fertility, significant communication problems, and an increase of genetic diseases after three generations of interbreeding.

Coyotes have also been known to occasionallay mate with wolves, though this is less common than with dogs, due to the wolf's hostility to the coyote. The offspring, known as a coywolf, is generally intermediate in size to both parents, being larger than a pure coyote, but smaller than a pure wolf. A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more wolf ancestry, and one was 89% wolf. The large eastern coyotes in Canada are proposed to be actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and wolves that met and mated decades ago, as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources research scientist Brent Patterson has revealed findings that most coyotes in Eastern Ontario are wolf-coyote hybrids and that the Eastern wolves in Algonquin Park are generally not interbreeding with coyotes.

Coyotes and wolves interbreed. Each species ranges far: a wolf pack typically from 40 to 400 square miles. Wolves and coyotes run across each other hunting and can interbreed. Most of the hybrids live eastern Canada. Normally, wolves chase coyotes away from their territory or attack and kill them. The number of wolves, however, has dwindled since settlers started moving west in the 1700's. When the picking is poor, a male wolf will mate with a female coyote. Their offspring live and reproduce. Apparently, male coyotes don't mate with female wolves. At least, their offspring don't survive. "This may indicate that the smaller male coyotes cannot inspire the larger female gray wolves to mate with them," speculates Robert K. Wayne, biology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The resulting gray-wolf and coyote cross breeds look and act like an animal somewhere in between – smaller than the wolf, more reddish in color, and wolf-like howls mixed with coyote yips – and can hybridize with both species. Older hybrid zones in southern United States were perhaps up to several thousand miles in width. These hybrids are now essentially coyotes as the wolf has become extinct in the southern states.

The calls a coyote makes are high-pitched and variously described as howls, yips, yelps, and barks. These calls may be a long rising and falling note (a howl) or a series of short notes (yips). These calls are most often heard at dusk or night, but may sometimes be heard in the day, even in the middle of the day. Although these calls are made throughout the year, they are most common during the spring mating season and in the fall when the pups leave their families to establish new territories. When a coyote calls its pack together, it howls at one high note. When the pack is together, it howls higher and higher, and then they yip and yelp and also do a yi-yi sound, very shrill, with the howl.

Coyotes are opportunistic, versatile carnivores with a 90% mammalian diet, depending on the season. They primarily eat small mammals, such as voles, prairie dogs, eastern cottontails, ground squirrels, and mice, though they will eat birds, snakes, lizards, deer, javelina, and livestock, as well as large insects and other large invertebrates. The coyote will also target any species of bird that nests on the ground. Though they will consume large amounts of carrion, they tend to prefer fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables are a significant part of the coyote's diet in the autumn and winter months. Part of the coyote's success as a species is its dietary adaptability. As such, coyotes have been known to eat human rubbish and domestic pets. They catch cats and dogs when they come too close to the pack. Urban populations of coyotes have been known to actively hunt cats, and to leap shorter fences to take small dogs. In particularly bold urban packs, coyotes have also been reported to shadow human joggers or larger dogs, and even to take small dogs while the dog is still on a leash. However, this behavior is often reported when normal urban prey, such as brown rats, black rats and rabbits, have become scarce. Yet, confirmed reports of coyotes killing a human have been documented. A recent trail cam uncovered two or three coyotes killing a large deer.

Considerable overlap exists between the size of wolf and coyote scats. Air-dried scats of 1.2 inches (30 mm) and larger in diameter are wolves 95% of the time. However, 2/3 of the time wolf scats are less than 1.2 inches. Coyote scats often contain hair and bones of small mammals. However, this is not diagnostic as wolves also eat small mammals, and coyotes scavenge and sometimes kill ungulates.

The offspring is generally intermediate in size to both parents, being larger than a pure coyote, but smaller than a pure wolf. A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern coyotes in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and wolves that met and mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges. These eastern coyote populations also have fewer sweat glands in their pawpads than western coyotes, but have more than wolves. Researchers in the Northeast and Canada say the population of coywolf hybrids is growing in the Northeast region. The red wolf is thought by certain scientists to be in fact a wolf/coyote hybrid rather than a unique species. Strong evidence for hybridization was found through genetic testing which showed that red wolves have only 5% of their alleles unique from either Gray Wolves or coyotes. Genetic distance calculations have indicated that red wolves are intermediate between coyotes and gray wolves, and that they bear great similarity to wolf/coyote hybrids in southern Quebec and Minnesota. Analyses of DNA showed that existing red wolf populations are predominantly coyote in origin.