It’s commonly known that dogs are man’s best friend.
They’ve held that title for as long as they’ve been domesticated, a new study suggests that dogs may have been friends with humans even before domestication!
The study, titled “Human-directed attachment behavior in wolves suggests standing ancestral variation for human–dog attachment bonds,” was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution and suggests that wolves were actually man’s best friend before they were domesticated into the modern dogs we know today.
Prior to the study, it was believed that people became close with dogs after they were domesticated from wolves. However, we may have befriended them before them – when they were wolves still!
In the study, researchers examined 10 wolves and 12 dogs to see how they behaved in different situations. The dogs and wolves were both handraised by humans.
The study proved that wolves can distinguish between people they know and strangers. Much like domesticated dogs, wolves show affection to the humans they’re familiar with and like.
Based on their reactions in the study, it’s possible that wolves and humans formed an attachment prior to the domestication of the species 15,000 years ago. In fact, it could be that the bond we formed with wolves encouraged domestication in the first place!
In a press release, lead study author Dr. Wheat said: “It was very clear that the wolves, as the dogs, preferred the familiar person over the stranger…I do not believe that this has ever been shown to be the case for wolves before and this also complements the existence of a strong bond between the animals and the familiar person.”
This finding contradicts the idea that dogs’ attachment to humans only developed after humans domesticated them.