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Introducing: Wolf Hybrids

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Published on Oct 24, 2011

A wolfdog is a canid hybrid resulting from the mating of a wolf (various Canis lupus subspecies) and a dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Any dog with wolf heritage within the last five generations is called a wolfdog. The physical characteristics of an animal created by breeding a wolf to a dog are not predictable, similar to that of mixed-breed dogs. Genetic research shows that wolf and dog populations initially diverged approximately 14,000 years ago and have interbred only occasionally since; thus imbuing the dissimilarity between dogs and wolves in behavior and appearance. In many cases the resulting adult wolfdog may be larger than either of its parents due to the genetic phenomenon of heterosis (commonly known as hybrid vigor).
Observations on wild wolf hybrids in the former Soviet Union indicate that wolf hybrids in a wild state may form larger packs than pure wolves, and have greater endurance when chasing prey. High content hybrids typically have longer canine teeth than dogs of comparable size.Their sense of smell apparently rivals that of most established scenthounds. Tests undertaken in the Perm Institute of Interior Forces in Russia demonstrated that high content hybrids took 15--20 seconds to track down a target in training sessions, whereas ordinary police dogs took 3--4 minutes.
HISTORY:
* North American mammoth hunting wolfdogs: Evidence for prehistoric domesticated wolfdogs in the Americas dates back at least 10,000 years while fossil evidence in Europe points to their use in hunting mammoths.
* Teotihuacan wolfdogs: In 2010, experts announced that they had found the remains of many wolf-dogs that had been kept by the warrior class of the Teotihuacan civilization in Mexico's central valley about two thousands years ago, and that, in light of this evidence, the animal commonly found depicted in the art of that culture and which had been thought to be a strange dog or coyote were likely instead wolf-dogs.
* British wolfdogs: The first record of wolfdog breeding in Great Britain comes from the year 1766 when what is thought was a male wolf had mated with a Pomeranian, which resulted in a litter of nine pups. Wolfdogs were occasionally purchased by English noblemen, who viewed them as a scientific curiosity. Wolfdogs were popular exhibits in British menageries and zoos.
* Documented Breeding: The first documented intentionally-bred wolfdog, the Saarlooswolfhond, did not begin until the 1920s. Later efforts include hybrids were used as experimental attack dogs in South Africa under apartheid. These wolfdogs were bred from German Shepherds and wolves from the Urals. The first of these hybrids was a male born in 1978 named Jungle, who remained in service until 1989.
* New World Black Wolves: Genetic research from the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of California, Los Angeles revealed that wolves with black pelts owe their distinctive coloration to a mutation that first arose in domestic dogs.
* Random-bred Wolfdogs: Cases of accidental breeding of wolfdogs are known (though this is very rare), where a domestic dog female on oestrus strays and is mated by a male wild wolf.
* Wolfdogs in the wild: Hybridization in the wild usually occurs near human habitations where wolf density is low and dogs are common. However, there were several reported cases of wolfdogs in areas with normal wolf densities in the former Soviet Union. Wild wolfdogs were occasionally hunted by European aristocracy, and were termed lycisca to distinguish them from common wolves. Noted historic cases (such as the Beast of GĂ©vaudan) of large wolves that were abnormally aggressive toward humans, may be attributable to wolf-dog mating. In Europe, unintentional matings of dogs and wild wolves have been confirmed in some populations through genetic testing. As the survival of some Continental European wolf packs is severely threatened, scientists fear that the creation of wolfdog populations in the wild is a threat to the continued existence of European wolf populations. However, extensive wolf--dog hybridization is not supported by morphological evidence, and analyses of mtDNA sequences have revealed that such matings are rare. However, since mtDNA is mainly maternally inherited and most cases of hybridization in the wild seem to occur between a female wolf and a male domestic dog, these results may not be reliable.

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