Recent findings published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B have revealed that wolves are more tolerant than dogs when cooperating with each other. Co-director of the Wolf Science Centre at the Messerli Research Institute at the University of Vienna, Friderike Range explained that “wolves cooperate more than dogs do in terms of breeding, defending territories and probably hunting. Dogs are scavengers.”
She and her colleagues Zsofia Viranyi and Caroline Ritter raised a dog and wolf pack under similar conditions to carry out the research. The wolves were born in captivity and originated in North America. The dogs were mutts that were born in animal shelters in Hungary. The animals were documented interacting with their pack mates, revealing crucial behaviour during meal time.
The wolf pack were shown to be democratic with high ranking and low ranking wolves engaging in growling and stare down contents for a fair share of meat. Each wolf had an equal opportunity to monopolise their share of the food. In contrast, only high-ranking dogs showed this behaviour as it wasn’t tolerated between low-ranking dogs.
Range said in wolves “the high-ranking partners were more tolerant of the lower-ranking ones. In the dogs, the lower-ranking ones did no dare to challenge the higher ranking partners.”
The difference lies in structural design between wolf and dog packs. Feral dog packs contain multiple males and females that aren’t necessarily related. A wolf pack is usually presided over by a dominant male and female couple that live with offspring from the past 2-3 years. This behaviour demonstrates wolves are capable of compassion, specifically towards their own pack mates. They also show mercy in antagonistic situations with unrelated wolves. If a wolf rolls over with its stomach facing upwards and vulnerable another may not attack it.
Despite this penchant for cooperation, wolves are not meant to be pets. Humans chose to domesticate dogs for a reason. However, the research helps to break the image of wolves being mindless, savage creatures. They are highly intelligent and cooperative animals that are worthy of our protection.