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November 14, 2008 9:15 PM   Subscribe

The philosopher and the wolf. "A spur-of-the-moment decision to buy a wolf cub changed Mark Rowlands’s life. From that moment on he found human company never quite matched up." [Via]
posted by homunculus (50 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
This looks a lot more interesting than Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World (current #1 NYT Bestseller in non-fiction)
posted by stbalbach at 9:24 PM on November 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have never wanted a wolf more than I do after reading this. Thank you homuculus.
posted by ktrey at 9:30 PM on November 14, 2008


The proprietors of this hotel raised wolves. Wouldn't be surprised if they still did.

Our family used to go on vacation up there for a few weeks each summer. I made friends with Mike, the owners' son, who was a couple years younger than me. I'll never forget the day I got to meet one of the wolves. You could tell that she and Mike had grown up together and had a great deal of affection for each other. In the wolf's case there was a mix of tenderness and vigilance.

We spent an ordinary afternoon playing computer games together, except with a wolf padding around. It was quite clear that she was keeping a close eye on things. I concentrated on maintaining a friendly posture, but I'm sure if I seemed the slightest bit of a threat to Mike, the wolf would have intervened decisively.

In retrospect I suppose that was pretty unusual.
posted by tss at 9:57 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


Awoo!
posted by homunculus at 10:11 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


This made me think of the time I went to visit a wolf rehab place in Missoula. Outside the fence, near the offices, this big red half-sphere was laying on the ground, like half of a gobstopper the size of your head.

It was a bowling ball one of the wolves had bitten in half.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:13 PM on November 14, 2008 [7 favorites]


Yeah. That was awesome. Really makes me want to get another dog. A larger, wilder, other dog. Thanks, H.
posted by armoir from antproof case at 10:51 PM on November 14, 2008


When I was a kid and I saw pics of wolves, I always thought they looked like slightly meaner German Shepherds. Then I saw real, live wolves up close. They were HUGE. And very scary (side note: same applies to bald eagles), at the same time I couldn't help but be drawn in by them. Up north you hear of people having them as pets, but the effort it would take to keep a wolf in line is more than I'd be willing to take on.
posted by Salmonberry at 10:53 PM on November 14, 2008


I was telling someone about this at lunch, and he told two stories about a wolf research lab in Washington state that started up in the 70s. (I guess stories from a friend of his? I have no idea the source)

The program got a wolf cub or two, and they didn't have a place for them, so they were being raised by some grad students in their apartment. Once the cub was older, it started getting out. It was a third floor apartment, and they couldn't figure out how it was escaping. Finally they figured it out: the wolf would get out the window into the gap between the apartment building and the neighboring building - and it would do a Jackie Chan feet-on-both-walls to climb up to the roof of the neighboring building and then go down the fire escape from there.

At some point, one of the wolves was in Boston (maybe for a scientific conference? not clear on this) and needed to be transported back to Seattle. So some of the grad students who were working with it put it in the back of their car and drove cross country. In the east, people would ask "wow, that's a big dog you've got there, what breed is it?". In the midwest, people would ask "wow, your dog almost looks like a wolf, what breed is it?". In the west, people would ask "why the hell do you have a wolf in the back of your car?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:30 PM on November 14, 2008 [22 favorites]


While we have Obama in place to stop Palin in 2012, Mark Rowland should consider entering one of his wolves in the Democratic primaries in 2016 to take her on. We have realized Dr. Martin Luther King's dreams, now it is time for Dr. Doolittle.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:52 PM on November 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


She would just have it shot from a plane.
posted by homunculus at 12:01 AM on November 15, 2008


I have several customers that have wolves and wolf hybrids. They are all AMAZING pets. One in particular I know very well, he is 10 years old and something like 90% wolf, docile to the point of timidity. When I go to my friends house he just lays there like any old slothful dog, but he has this way of observing, he ALWAYS knows who is closest to his master and despite his age and calm demeanor he has a presence about him, a way that says "If you fuck with that dude it will be the last thing you ever do". But as long as you're cool he will be cool with you, his ability to read your body language is impressive. I'm pretty sure a wolf hybrid will be my next dog. Thanks for the link.
posted by vito90 at 12:29 AM on November 15, 2008


I wonder if wolves are allowed in the classroom anymore?
posted by A189Nut at 1:56 AM on November 15, 2008


That was a fantastic story.
posted by Science! at 3:30 AM on November 15, 2008


I have a very dear friend on the board of directors at the Wild Canid Research and Survival Center here in Missouri, and this story would make her very angry. Keeping wild animals as pets, breeding wolf/dog hybrids for fun and profit is pure human narcissism, and never in the best interest of the animal--

And while programs that try to preserve endangered animals by breeding them in captivity is just as much a human, Judeochristian conceit, in the face of global habitat destruction, and every other kind of blighting behavior, we cling to the hope that the crazy ugly naked bipeds will mutate into something harmless and benign.
posted by Restless Day at 4:31 AM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


I wonder if wolves are allowed in the classroom anymore?

Have you never met a university professor?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:50 AM on November 15, 2008


On a somewhat related raising canids topic, here is a woman raising a coyote.
posted by internet!Hannah at 5:28 AM on November 15, 2008


When I was a kid and I saw pics of wolves, I always thought they looked like slightly meaner German Shepherds. Then I saw real, live wolves up close. They were HUGE. And very scary (side note: same applies to bald eagles), at the same time I couldn't help but be drawn in by them. Up north you hear of people having them as pets, but the effort it would take to keep a wolf in line is more than I'd be willing to take on.

Hyena as pet (previously)
posted by delmoi at 6:20 AM on November 15, 2008


This was a great story, thanks. I look forward to the book!
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:31 AM on November 15, 2008


Ugh. Wolf hybrids are a terrible idea. Most dog owners can't properly train an animal that's been domesticated for tens of thousands of years, most people have no idea of how to properly and safely interact with a domestic dog, adding a wild animal into the mix is just stupid. I feel so sorry for these animals, especially since your average domestic dog is misunderstood more often than not because people don't even do the bare minimum of research. And good luck getting home insurance if you own one.
posted by biscotti at 7:25 AM on November 15, 2008 [4 favorites]


I once owned a half-wolf, acquired entirely by accident. He was almost pure white, was an incredible sucker for any petting you would give him, and terrified children for miles around by howling at the moon.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2008


She would just have it shot from a plane.

You know, when I first heard that Palin supports shooting wolves from helicopters, my first thought was, "Oh my god - she killed Amaroq!"
posted by Afroblanco at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2008


They are all AMAZING pets.

I find this a very strange idea. Maybe I'd feel better if you read this.
posted by sneebler at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2008


Huh. Small world. I may be mistaken, but I think that my father owned a couple of wolves that must have come from the same breeding stock as Brenin -- there can't have been that many people in the Birmingham area in the business of selling wolf cubs in the mid-90s.

Dad called me one Saturday and said, "I got a couple of wolves." Wolves? Really? Yes, really. "And I want you to take them to obedience school." Why don't YOU take YOUR wolves to obedience school? "It'll be good for you." This was my father's standard answer to get me to do the things he didn't want to do but which needed to be done, so I knew it was useless to argue.

The dog trainer shook his head and pursed his lips when I brought the cubs to him. He thought it was a bad idea. A few weeks into training, it was obvious that one of the wolves, Diva, was smart, trainable, and receptive. The other, Shandy, not so much. Diva graduated at the top of her class. Shandy, uh, did not.

Dad had "retired" a few years earlier and had almost immediately started a small fabrication shop in order to get out from under mom's feet every day. It was a fenced-in piece of property in an unsavory neighborhood, the kind of place where it wasn't unusual to pass a burned-out car on the way to work. The whole place was double-fenced -- crime was a big problem, and though the product we were making wasn't worth carrying off, the machines to make the product were pretty valuable, and well worth building a fence around. So Diva and Shandy would have free run of the place during the day, and then when dad left in the afternoon, he'd lock the main fence and leave the wolves to roam the perimeter. Shandy spent most of her time sulking in her air-conditioned doghouse, and Diva would trot at my father's heels, a hundred-some-odd pounds of ferocity with the temperament of a lap dog.

One day dad's sole employee managed to dump about five thousand pounds of scrap iron onto his foot, which, contrary to common sense and OSHA regulations, had not been shod in a steel-toed work boot. I was working nights, and so dad asked me to fill in and run the machines for a few weeks while JJ healed up.

So I was out there running a shear, turing forty-foot long steel rods into forty-inch long rods, when I heard a scream and a howl. "Oh shit," I thought. "Shandy's killed someone." I ran toward the loading bay.

And burst out laughing.

See, the truck drivers who made our deliveries were usually the same two or three guys, and it was their habit to unload their trucks and then have a cup of coffee with dad while they waited for me or JJ to fire up the crane, move the load, count the material off, and sign off on the invoice. They'd become accustomed to seeing Diva and Shandy, and they enjoyed tossing a stick to them and otherwise getting in a little wolf-time during what had to be their favorite stop of the day. But on this day there was a new driver. And he didn't know he'd be making a delivery to Wolf Central.

When I rounded the corner, this is what I saw: a parked semi, driver's side window rolled down. Diva perched on the driver's step, her whole head in the cab of the truck, howling her lungs out. The driver was cowering in the passenger's seat, using his baseball cap to swat at Diva's muzzle, which from his perspective must have looked like about a million long, white, pointy teeth.

Wolves greet each other by clamping their jaws on one another's muzzles -- the standard greeting for Diva and Shandy was to run up to you, mouth wide open, tongue lolling, and clamp their jaws around your hand. So when Diva went to say hello to the new driver, well, let's just say that he misconstrued her intentions.

I pulled Diva off the cab and manhandled her into the pen. I explained that the wolves were no danger, and invited the guy to come in for coffee while I unloaded the truck.

"I can't get out of the cab," he muttered, avoiding my eye. "I pissed myself."

Diva never could understand why that guy didn't like her. She was just trying to be friendly!

A few years later when my father died I gave the wolves away to a couple who live on a huge farm in south Alabama. There was some unpleasantness relating to a neighbor's chickens, but the two wolves lived out the remainder of their lives roaming that farm.

I would never buy another wolf, as much as I loved them. I'm just happy to have known those two. They brought my dad much pleasure in his waning years, and I like to think that though they may have been wild animals at their core, they considered us a part of their pack. I never felt threatened by them and I never saw them threaten or harm a person. And I've never met another animal as smart, as graceful, as powerful, and as fascinating to be around as Diva.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:49 AM on November 15, 2008 [24 favorites]


I've known a few people who had wolves for pets. Stupid idea, in my opinion. It's a wolf. Shoot the damn thing and get a poodle.
posted by bradth27 at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2008


This story troubles me.

On the one hand, I'm always thrilled and touched to read stories of humans taking good, life-long care of the animals they adopt.

On the other hand, as a former animal shelter director, I'm scared to death by the thought that some unknowable number of people will, after having read Rowland's story, go out and "buy" a "wolf."

Domesticated animals can be hard enough to care for properly. Wolves and coyotes are not domestic animals. The *only* reason Rowland's story ends as well as it does is that, as it says in the byline, it appears that he and the wolf were "inseparable" for the 11 years they were together. The same is true for Shreve and Charlie the coyote (as linked by internet!Hannah, above). After two decades' worth of anecdotal observation (and nearly 8 years of professional work), I believe that the only way this can work is that the human must completely recalibrate their life and make it 100% about the animal.

Humans are not very good at being selfless -- at least not maintaining a constant state of selflessness for over a decade. And that's what it takes to ensure that a non-domesticated animal (canid, at least) in the care of a non-professional caretaker lives well (and to make sure that it does not kill or maim anyone along the way).

Rowlands "did it right." Many, many more do not. Perhaps his story will help others reflect on their own efforts, or abilities.
posted by CitizenD at 9:15 AM on November 15, 2008 [3 favorites]


That was a delightful article, thanks for posting it. And BitterOldPunk, thanks as well...hilarious story.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2008


Rowlands "did it right." Many, many more do not. Perhaps his story will help others reflect on their own efforts, or abilities.

Yes, I would hope the difficulty of the undertaking gets conveyed by his emphasis on rule number one: never leave the wolf's presence.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2008


Well, shit. Now I need a dog and a run.
posted by cmoj at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2008


My friends Nan and Dan took me to see a friend of theirs named Rick, who has a sweat lodge on his land, and I've gone back a few times, to sing Lakota prayer songs with them in the sweat lodge.

Rick had two wolfdogs (one of them was all white, sonic meat machine) that were very timid around strangers; Dan told me he had tried and tried to get close enough to pet them, without success.

The last time I went with them to Rick's I was able to get the white one to approach me, get close enough to let me pet him; Nan said, "Hey Dan," and pointed. Some weeks after that, I went with Nan and Dan to a sundance ceremony in North Dakota. Dan had been participating in this annual event--fasting, dancing, piercing, the whole bit--for many years; but on this occasion he was given a ceremonial sundance name: White Wolf.

I don't know why, it just seemed like the thing to do at the time: I had plucked a tuft of fur from Rick's white wolfdog and stuck it in my pocket; and then, I packed it along with my things and took it to the sundance. When Nan told me Dan had been given the name White Wolf, and I was able to present him with that tuft of white fur . . . it was pretty fucking sweet.
posted by Restless Day at 10:16 AM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have a very dear friend on the board of directors at the Wild Canid Research and Survival Center here in Missouri, and this story would make her very angry. Keeping wild animals as pets, breeding wolf/dog hybrids for fun and profit is pure human narcissism, and never in the best interest of the animal--

All my feelings are in agreement with this, but I think it's a little bit wrong.

Dogs are, among many other things, a stupendously huge bank of genes which came from wolves, some of which are active, but many of which are duplicates without promoters hanging out in the vast unexpressed areas of the individual genomes.

Someday we may realize what we have lost and destroyed-- and what monstrous crimes we have committed-- and decide to try to do something about it, and those genes will be part of the library we will work from.

Or, more likely, we'll lose our deadening grip on this planet, and dogs may get the chance to reconstitute wolves themselves.

In either case, I believe it's important to get as many wolf genes as possible into the dog population right now, while we still can.
posted by jamjam at 11:36 AM on November 15, 2008


Shandy spent most of her time sulking in her air-conditioned doghouse
Welp, there's your problem; got yerself a Rat Thing.

I do kinda shudder to think about people wanting wolves for pets, though, and not knowing what they'd be getting into. I seem to recall that the coyote lady fields a lot of emails asking about how a coyote can be gotten as a pet, and has to tell them all that she adopted Charlie because he was orphaned on her property. (As in, last resort, not because it was an awesome idea by default.)
posted by zusty at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2008


Restless Day: it makes me a little bit sad that, for a few moments, I considered whether your story was true or not. It's just so intrinsically awesome, some non-insignificant part of me wondered whether you'd made it up. But then life reminded me that it is intrinsically awesome, and now I believe all over again. Thanks for sharing your moment of awesome awesomeness. (awesomiosity?)

*goes for hanky*

posted by CitizenD at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2008


I believe it's important to get as many wolf genes as possible into the dog population right now, while we still can.

Why?
posted by biscotti at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


As far as people not going out to buy wolves, that horse done left the barn. I know at least a dozen people in Seattle that in the last two years have gone up to BC to buy wolf hybrids. The breeders are selling out their litters months ahead of time.
posted by vito90 at 12:49 PM on November 15, 2008


Good post and great followup comment.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2008


I had a friend with a wolf hybrid that would sneak out of the house (they lived in the hills above Hollywood) and bring home abandoned and stray dogs. I'm not kidding. They acquired several dogs this way. I guess he was building a pack...
posted by OolooKitty at 1:39 PM on November 15, 2008 [6 favorites]


CitizenD, the facts themselves aren't all that extraordinary, but I admit to framing them in such a way . . . as a storyteller might. You hang around indians, everything takes on a symbolic quality, the natural world becomes magical. I've had an interesting life--embellishing with untruths would only diminish the reality.
posted by Restless Day at 1:42 PM on November 15, 2008


jamjam, I think that undoing all the selective breeding we've done to dogs is a great idea--which is why I will not support spay-and-neuter programs, which invariably spay and neuter mixed-breed dogs while Licensed Breeders are allowed to crank out more-and-more inbred monstrosities. But if it was me, I'd make it illegal to breed dogs for profit, rather than encourage keeping wolves in captivity for their genetic material.
posted by Restless Day at 2:20 PM on November 15, 2008


Dogs are, among many other things, a stupendously huge bank of genes which came from wolves, some of which are active, but many of which are duplicates without promoters hanging out in the vast unexpressed areas of the individual genomes.

Someday we may realize what we have lost and destroyed-- and what monstrous crimes we have committed-- and decide to try to do something about it, and those genes will be part of the library we will work from.


This is kind of a silly idea. First of all there are millions if not billions of feral dogs running around that are doing fine without reverting back into wolves.

Secondly the dog human symbiotic relationship is estimated to be around 10 - 100 million years old, and it is as good and natural as the symbiosis between a bee and a flower. There are some theories that wolves "domesticated" themselves. Certain wolf packs would hang around human camps for scraps of food, and the ones that interacted the best with humans evolved into dogs.

It is also quite possible, likely even, that human evolution itself was affected by this interaction. That is the wolves domesticated us.
posted by afu at 5:50 PM on November 15, 2008


Opps, forgot the Wikipedia link on the Oof the domestic dog
posted by afu at 5:51 PM on November 15, 2008


In addition to what afu said (which I agree with), there is some deep, deep misconception, ignorance or misunderstanding by Restless Day as evidenced by the false dichotomy that the only options for dog lovers are mixed breeds (which have all the health issues purebreds have, not least because they are usually the result of random chance due to irresponsible owners) and "inbred monstrosities" bred by "Licensed Breeders" for profit. "Licensed Breeders" are very often puppy millers, since you only require a license for producing more than a certain number of puppies per year in most places (generally in the neighborhood of five or more litters a year, which is decidedly NOT what most ethical breeders do). There are many, many ethical purebred dog breeders out there, who work to produce healthy, correct-tempered dogs, who work to eradicate health problems and maintain genetic diversity in their breed, who take responsibility for the dogs they produce for life, and who are normally lucky to break even. Inbreeding is not intrinsically bad, mixed breeds are not intrinsically healthier (and are almost never bred ethically), and mixing dogs selectively bred for tractability for tens of thousands of years with wild animals is just a recipe for disaster.
posted by biscotti at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2008


A great post..thanks..

I had a friend who had a wolf hybrid...it was, without doubt, the best dog/wolf I've ever known... loyal, smart, obedient.....

I've recently been adopted by a siberian husky, about as close to wolf as you can get... I love this puppy, and can relate to the experience in this article....

The bond established between a wolf/dog and it's human partner is amazing...
posted by HuronBob at 8:13 PM on November 15, 2008


I just read BitterOldPunk's tale to my cattle dog, sadly for his energey marooned with me in suburban Seattle, and he smiled and laughed and reminded me of the time he chased the neighboring cemetery coyote off our street.

BOP, I have trouble with your username since I am bitter and old and I must have ten years on ya. Ya punk. Great story.
posted by mwhybark at 9:36 PM on November 15, 2008


afu: Secondly the dog human symbiotic relationship is estimated to be around 10 - 100 million years old...

100 million years? Really? Since before the evolution of both the Carnivora and the Primates to which dogs and humans belong, respectively? Since before the dinosaurs went extinct?

Even 10 million years ago is still around 9 million years before the human and gray wolf species got their acts together.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:52 PM on November 15, 2008


afu: Secondly the dog human symbiotic relationship is estimated to be around 10 - 100 million years old...

100 million years? Really? Since before the evolution of both the Carnivora and the Primates to which dogs and humans belong, respectively? Since before the dinosaurs went extinct?

Even 10 million years ago is still around 9 million years before the human and gray wolf species got their acts together.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:52 PM on November 15, 2008


Must've meant thousands, I'm guessing...
posted by tss at 12:21 AM on November 16, 2008


yeah, from my shelter days I remember the research saying 10,000-30,000 years ago as the emergence of the first domesticated dogs.

and about 4,000 years ago for cats, FYI.
posted by CitizenD at 9:05 AM on November 16, 2008


A little over ten years ago I spent about six months at a wolf and wolf hybrid facility where I had the opportunity to meet about sixty wolves. This post will likely ramble; if you are thinking about getting a wolf or wolf hybrid, please skip to the end. No judgment, just a little advice.

This was one of the best links I've come across on this site and I've been lurking here since the first half of 2001. They are incredible animals. It's easy to think of them as just a big dog but it isn't close, not Huskies, not Malamutes. Their eyes convey this sentient presence that is just nothing like a dog. Independence is a little misleading because everyone knows a few minimums about pack dynamics (alpha, beta, omega, leader of the pack, first to eat, etc.) and they are intensely social animals, it's that they posses a certain reserve or autonomy no matter how timid or how bold that particular wolf may be. When I'm with a dog or any other domesticated animal it seems evident to me and I would bet that it's evident to the dog or cat or horse that I'm a different order of being. That isn't there with a wolf. He might not think he's the alpha but the wildness is evident, I'm not necessarily the most important element of his environment. Their focus is wider than that.

I had loved wolves as a child and then other subjects came to the forefront as I got older. When I read 'The Crossing' by Cormac McCarthy, it reawakened a desire to have some experience of them. It was only a few sentences scattered through the first twenty or thirty pages but the image they evoked was very compelling. A couple of weeks later I was at a friend's house to do dope and sitting on his coffee table was Lopez's 'Of Wolves and Men'. A few days later, I owned it and started learning more about them. Then I got on the web and saw it was possible to own and raise a wolf and that there were numerous difficulties in doing so. Getting one then was out of the question and I knew that if and when I was in a place where it was possible I would want to do it right. So I found a place where I could spend some time as an animal caretaker and interact with the animals, and I went. At the time, I was pretty fixated with Cormac McCarthy and I had an inkling where he lived so I went by that way and over to what I'm pretty sure, was his house. Probably a good thing he wasn't home, don't know what I would have said. I didn't think it would be some great encounter, just seemed appropriate. Sure would have liked to check out his bookshelves though.

It was raining when I got there and we walked straight to a pen where there were four yearlings. The ground of the pen was on a small embankment maybe eight inches or so higher than where I was standing and they ran out towards us and jumping up, put their paws on the fence. Standing on their hind legs, they were about six feet tall and with the embankment they were looking down on us. They were skinny, not having yet grown into their size, and wet and muddy. I think I'll always remember looking up at the four of them, with their legs splayed out, panting. At that moment, I didn't even think they looked like wolves, more like a laughing wolf's head on top of a wispy, undersized, vaguely humanoid body.

Being out there and interacting with the animals was remarkable, I'm glad that I did so. Some of them would trust you quicker than others, some wouldn't trust you at all. Touching one of the pures or a high percentage hybrid for the first time was always great. Probably the best was just sitting in a pen, hanging out, and having one of them come up, take a sniff and scent roll on me. I would be pleased to learn that the wolf deigned to pick up some of my scent. Although it should be said that they found cow shit to be a more than acceptable alternative. It seemed to happen more often if it had been a few days, or more, since my last shower. And then there was the howling, hearing several dozen wolves going off at the same time never got old. There's also something about sharing a space with an animal that can kill you. I don't mean this in any sort of macho way, it isn't a danger thing. It's that you're in the same spot and tolerating each other and if it was otherwise you would know it. You both know of each other and you're aligned. It's a sense of space that just isn't there with a domesticated animal, a heightened feeling of acceptance.

So, it's been some years and I never went and got one of my own. There hasn't been room. It wasn't until I read the links that I remembered how much I miss not having one in my space, or perhaps better put, being in his. Maybe someday, the time will be right.

----- advice
If you're thinking about getting one of these animals, please think it through. I won't be one of the voices telling you not to. After all it's something I may well do myself. But, think it through, really think it through. The first thing you need to know is that a lot of wolf and wolf hybrid breeders are rip-off artists. Wolves are expensive pains in the ass, they also mate for life. Most breeders will have one mating pair, if that. So there is little to no selection exercised in choosing parents. If both parents have dominant, aggressive personalities, most of the pups from the litter will be exceedingly difficult to live with. You wouldn't want a 110 lb Timber Wolf challenging you for dominance at a time and place of his choosing. Wolves are predators, not fighters. Their body language says a lot but they can catch you off guard and a challenge can come by way of an ambush. If you can locate a breeder who has a facility that allows him to select according to temperament, that's where you want to go. However, many breeders don't even have the one pair. A lot of high percentage animals are not. If you want a hybrid on the 'wolfy' side, then the important number is not the percentage but the number of generations back before a pure is found. Closer is better. First generations are referred to as 'F1's. High percentage animals can look like wolves, but if there is no pure ancestor for three or four generations, they will act more like a dog. Generally the looks and the behavior go together. Wolves have a sagittal crest (top of the skull), a narrow deep chest, a straight tail, big paws, an under and over coat, and are tall and long. If it differs, it's not a wolf. I've met people walking a slightly oversize husky with a corkscrew tail who have told me that their 'hybrid' is 87% first generation wolf dog. Get a good idea of what a wolf actually looks like before you go shopping. The only exception to the rule is an F1 Malamute, which can look a lot like a Malamute, have a squirrely tail and still be pretty wolfish in its behavior.

Assuming you want an F1 or a pure, here's what you need. An enclosure, the bigger the better, with an eighth of an acre being on the small side, that is completely escape proof. Wolves will surprise you. Fortunately they don't have opposable thumbs but they can do more than you expect. They are much smarter than any dog. Fence should be eight feet high with a section that slants in. Ground wire should run three feet deep underground. Many owners use hot (electric) wire to discourage burrowing out. Some build double gate entries. They will need special consideration when it comes to vets, boarding and diet. All of which will be more expensive than an equivalently sized dog. The absolute destruction they can wreak needs to be seen to be believed. It won't just be the inside of the house, they'll kill most of the vegetation in the yard and then burrow huge (4-5' deep) dens. Housebreaking is not easy.

Very few high percentage F1s or pures will defend you or the home. I've heard a number of stories of pures disappearing under the bed the moment strangers come in the house and staying there for the entire visit. Most of them are more than suspicious, they're downright shy. Still, if it gets out and you're in a rural area it may well kill domesticated animals for the fuck of it. And also know that if you can't handle it, few if any animal shelters will adopt them back out.

It's like CitizenD says, the owner has to make massive change to accommodate the animal. The wolf isn't going to change, if it's going to work the prospective owner will.
posted by BigSky at 9:06 PM on November 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


Must've meant thousands, I'm guessing...

Yeah I meant thousands, and after I looked at it a little more it seems like 100 thousand number is too high. 10 to 30 is probably the right range.
posted by afu at 7:12 AM on November 20, 2008


The Wolf That Changed America
posted by homunculus at 9:58 AM on November 23, 2008


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