Scientists are eager to learn more about the subtle connection between our pets and their distant cousins, the wolves. In an extraordinary new study, they focused on understanding family ties, writes Sci Tech Daily .
Scientists at the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Lorand University (ELTE) have focused on understanding questions such as: Are there dogs that are more likely to respond with howls? Are they genetically closer to wolves? To answer these questions, scientists decided to study the reaction of dogs to wolf howls depending on breed, age and gender.
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In their quest to unravel the mystery of howling canines, scientists are getting closer to understanding why some breeds are more prone to howling than others, and whether this has anything to do with their genetic affinity to wolves.
To answer these questions, scientists selected 68 animals – purebred family dogs. They then played recordings of wolves howling and watched their reactions. The tests were conducted in a behavioral laboratory. The researchers also used the genetic similarity of different breeds to wolves as one measure of comparison.
She and her colleagues found that breeds that are genetically closer to wolves, the so-called “ancient breeds,” are more likely to respond to the “call of the forefathers” with their own howls, according to study first author Fanny Lechocki. On the other hand, scientists found that more modern breeds, which are further away from wolves on the genetic tree, more often responded to the “call of the ancestors” by barking rather than howling.
The researchers suggest that over time, howling in dogs lost its functionality – the reason for this was a change in the social environment. Lehotsky believes that this is the explanation for why dogs do not use howls in appropriate situations.
Scientists suggest that representatives of the “ancient breeds” are genetically closer to wolves, and therefore better than modern ones are able to process information that is hidden in a wolf’s howl.
Note that earlier studies have suggested that older dogs use howling at higher levels of stress – in fact, it is a response to fear. In the new study, the scientists noticed that this genetic effect is actually seen only in adult dogs over 5 years old. However, more research is needed to confirm or refute this theory.
The researchers also found that two other factors influence pet response: gender and reproductive status. For example, scientists have found that intact and spayed males behave differently, while females have not found such changes. Scientists suggest that this may be due to the fact that neutered males are more fearful – thus, a dog’s howl could actually mean something along the lines of “I’m afraid, don’t come near me.”
By the way, this is the first study that is devoted to dog howling. Scientists note that they will need more additional research in order for people to understand their relationship with pets.
Focus previously wrote that scientists tested the intelligence of 13 dog breeds and ranked them .