Researchers from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University have been investigating the reactions of dogs to howling wolves. Are there dogs that are more prone to howling in response? Are these dogs genetically closer to wolves? To answer these questions, this study tested the effects of dogs’ breed, age, and sex on their behaviour.
An investigation carried out by academics from the Eötvos Loránd University and headed by Fanni Lehoczki, showed that there are some dog breeds whose method of communication with the outside is associated with wolves, their most distant ancestors. The group of specialists in animal ethology explained that this is due to domestication which caused a drastic change in their behaviour.
Dogs speak same language as wild relatives
In their article “Genetic distance from wolves affects family dogs’ reactions towards howls,” published in the journal Nature in the February issue of this year, the academics analyzed the behaviour recorded by dogs when exposed to the sound made by wolves
The latest research has concluded that ‘man’s best friend’ arose from wild wolves 33,000 years ago in Southeast Asia. It was, therefore, the first animal domesticated by man.
A group of scientists from the Department of Ethology at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) in Hungary has studied the reactions of dogs to the howling of wolves. Their goal was to find out if dogs still speak the same “language” as their “wild relatives.”
Despite the fact that the older breeds showed more interaction with the “wolf call” and the “modern dogs” only vocalized towards their owners, the researchers explained that this hypothesis requires further investigation, since the barking of the dogs is linked to different types of stimuli, unlike howling.
An investigation carried out by academics from the Eötvos Loránd University and headed by Fanni Lechoczki commented that another alternative hypothesis given the results of the experiment is that the ancient races responded to the call for teamwork.
‘Ancient races’ and ‘modern races’
To solve the ‘dog howling mystery’, to examine whether it is true that specific breeds are more prone to howling, and whether this has something to do with their genetic closeness to wolves, the researchers tested 68 purebred dogs, playing recordings of howling wolves and observe their reactions in a laboratory.
To test the ‘breed effect’, the genetic similarity of different wolves to wolves (the so-called ‘root distance’) was used as a measure. And yes, there are notable differences between breeds that are genetically closest to wolves and those that are furthest away.
“According to our results, breeds that are genetically most similar to wolves (‘ancient breeds’) are more likely to respond with their own howls to wolf breeding,” explains Fanni Lehoczki, first author of the study.
“On the other hand, breeds more distantly related to wolves (‘modern breeds’) often react with barks rather than howls. It appears that while howls are present in the repertoire of most breeds, they have lost their functionality.” due to the change in the social environment, so modern breeds do not use them in appropriate situations,” adds Lehoczki.
Breeds that bark the most
According to a study by academics from a Hungarian university, the Samoyed, the husky and the malamute are the three breeds most closely related to the wolf and this genetic closeness is what would cause them to howl more than other types of dogs.
The researchers came to this conclusion after studying 68 breed types in their experiment and realizing that “ancient breeds” howled more than modern breeds.
“We also found in our study that modern breeds bark more than ancient breeds in response to wolf howl reproductions,” they detailed the differences between the two groups.
Although the older breeds showed more interaction with the “wolf call” and the “modern dogs” only vocalized towards their owners, the researchers explained that this hypothesis requires further investigation, since the barking of dogs is linked to different types of stimuli, unlike howling.
Fanni Lehoczki commented that another alternative hypothesis given the results of the experiment is that the ancient races responded to the call for teamwork.
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