Humans love their dogs but fear and loathe wolves, their wild ancestor

Humans have a split personality about the dog. All dogs from the scruffy mongrel on the streets of an African village to the most expensive, squeakyclean and fluffy toy dog in a palatial home in Los Angeles are descended from the wolf. They are all wolves in dogs’ clothing.

Peggy Jehly has been working with wolves and wolf dogs for a number of years
Peggy Jehly has been working with wolves and wolf dogs for a number of years. Photo: BBC. She loves wolves and says they are not bad guys.

The wolf was domesticated and it must have been domesticated because of its personality so why do we hate the wolf and love the dog? Essentially they have the same personality. As I said earlier, I think humans have a split personality when it comes to appreciating the wolf. There is no question in my mind that the wolf has been hard done by.

We know why we love the dog. They are man’s best friend. They are loyal and reliable. They entertain and they work in a wide range of employment from gundogs, guard dogs, sheepdogs to toy dogs and everything else in between. The interesting question is why we fear and loathe the wolf. That is not to say that everybody does. I don’t, for example, but historically you can see a huge amount of persecution of the wolf and one of the reasons is because they get in the way of humans by killing livestock and competing with humans for wild game. And they were villified in fairytales and folklore i.e. the big bad wolf.

Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood. Folklore and faiytales made us fear and loathe the wolf. Image: Getty.

However, a guy writing on the Internet, Kirk Robinson, has quite a nice theory on this. He agrees that wolves are very much like humans in their character. They are very sociable and live in family groups. Is it fair to say that they are altruistic towards each other in sharing their caring responsibilities for the group? There is a hierarchy. There are leaders and there are followers. There is a great similarity to us and they are intelligent.

The human evolved into what they are today; inherently arrogant and they like to think that they are civilised. When they look at the wolf they look at their uncivilised ancient version of times past. They look at the way they were. The wolf reminds them of themselves as they were 100,000 years ago as nomadic hunters and gatherers sharing the landscape with the wolf. Wolves probably lead early humans to game to hunt, kill and eat. Humans in turn left some of the food for wolves. Perhaps there was a kind of symbiotic relationship at that time but now humans want to divorce themselves from their past and disconnect from nature altogether. It is a great loss to us.

Perhaps the wolf reminds humans of what they truly are: uncivilised and animal-like. Humans today are essentially tribal which is why everybody is at least potentially racist because I think you can call racism a version of tribalism. It is still there in strength. Nothing has essentially changed in the human character and we see it in the wolf.

If you search for information about the character of the wolf, Google finds millions of pages on people whose character is that of a wolf i.e. leaders and conquerors. Hitler liked men who acted like wolves. You do not find pages on the true character of the animal that is a wolf. Interesting. We are still comparing ourselves to the wolf’s character. This is a throwback, I suggest, to those early times when we lived in the same landscape as as this courageous and intelligent animal, when we hunted and died there side by side.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
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Post Category: Dogs > dog behaviour