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Can You Tame a Wolf? (Domestic Wolves)

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Wolf pups can be tamed, but it is not possible to tame an adult wild wolf. Wolves in captivity are tamed and can live with humans if they are raised from infancy, but are still considered wild. 

Wolves are wild animals. Hence, it’s important to differentiate between the words “tame” and “domesticate”.

Domestication is the process of taking an animal that used to live in the wild and, essentially, turning them into human-friendly pets. You can see it as a permanent genetic state, from when they’re young.

Tame, on the other hand, is taking a wild animal and reducing its natural instinct to avoid humans, making it used to the presence of humans.

But can you tame a wolf?

That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.

What Is Domestication?

Domestication can be defined as an evolutionary process of human-controlled selection by which organisms with the most desirable characteristics are selectively bred over time.

Domestic canines, like wolves and dogs, share many behaviors that they evolved through this selective breeding. For one, they’re more friendly toward humans. [1]

domesticated dogs

Wolves and Humans

Wolves can be dangerous animals, and they have a long history with humans.

Research suggests that wolves and humans helped each other thousands of years ago. This was done in the form of hunting larger animals, like mammoths. The hypothesis revolves around how humans trained wolves to help us hunt. [2]

In the later years, after mammoths and other greater animals went extinct, humans had no real use for wolves, hence the relationship changed.

Humans began to hunt wolves between 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Hence, wolves have developed a natural instinct to stay away from people. [3]

However, they can also live with us in harmony, if they’re raised and trained by humans. There are wolf sanctuaries where the wolves have gotten used to their caretakers. 

Wolves are not naturally friendly creatures like dogs are. They have wild instincts. Wolves aren’t domesticated, as they haven’t been bred to develop domestication syndrome.

Related: Do wolves imprint on humans?

Man with wolf in zoo

Are Wolves Friendly to Humans?

Wolves are typically not friendly to humans. They tend to stay away from us, as they see us as a natural enemy. 

However, they can get used to our presence.

Wolves and dogs are actually relatives, so it’s not too surprising that wolves can become tame in captivity. Much like dogs can. 

However, unlike dogs who were bred specifically for companionship, wolves don’t make good pets. There are a few reasons for this: firstly, they need lots of space to roam around; secondly, they require a very specific diet which is difficult to replicate in captivity, and lastly, they can be quite aggressive towards other animals and people.

Related: Wolves natural enemies

man-stroking-wolf

Dogs: A Domesticated Version of the Wolf

Wolves and dogs are related. In fact, wolves are considered the ancestor of all dog breeds. [4] 

Dogs were domesticated by humans around 23,000 years ago in Siberia [5]. Humans selectively bred wolves with gentler behavior, and they soon turned into domestic dogs.

What does it mean to be domesticated? 

It means that the animal has been bred so that it is comfortable living around humans. Dogs have been selectively bred over centuries for their abilities to herd animals, protect property, search for drugs or explosives, pull sleds or carts, and perform other tasks. 

Domestication also results in physical changes in the animals – dogs have shorter muzzles, floppy ears, curly tails, etc. Traits not seen in wolves.

group of dogs

Is It Possible to Tame a Wolf?

Yes, it is technically possible to tame a wolf, though it gets more difficult the older they are. Wolves raised in captivity are used to humans from they’re born, while adult wolves have learned to stay away from people.

Wolves aren’t able to be domesticated though, and there’s a big difference between the two as described earlier.

Do Wolves Make For Good Pets?

No, wolves don’t make for good pets, and there are a few reasons for this. They need a lot of space, eat a very specific diet, need certain social relations, and more.

First, let’s take on the issue of domesticating a wild wolf. It’s not possible to domesticate wolves, which results in a struggle to keep them as pets.

There are many reasons for this: first off, wolves have no reason or desire to submit themselves to another creature; second, even captive-bred wolves can revert back to their wild ways; and third, adult wolves are simply too dangerous for humans to handle.

Related: Can wolves be pets?

aggressive wolf barking

What Does It Take To Tame a Wolf?

Wolves can be tamed, but it’s not easy. People can’t tame wild wolves because they’re just too dangerous and may attack anyone who tries to come near them. 

The best way to tame a wolf is to raise it. Wolves raised by humans in captivity see their caretaker as a member of their pack. This leads to a special social bond, where the wolf won’t, typically, attack them.

Taming wild animals take patience, caring, feeding, training, and generally a lot of work. While they may be tame, they’re still not considered domestic, as they’ll still genetically be wild. [6]

While domestic dogs are descendants of wolves, they’re no longer the same animals. Dogs have, through crossbreeding, developed certain characteristics that make them ideal as pets.

Related: Can you ride a wolf?

Why Haven’t Wolves Been Domesticated?

Wolves haven’t been domesticated for a lot of reasons. They need a lot of space, a specific diet, to fulfill their social instincts, and they’re generally dangerous wild animals.

1. Wolves Need Lots of Space

Wolves are beautiful animals that can get used to humans, but they need a lot of space. Unlike dogs, who can thrive in an urban environment, wolves require lots of lands to roam and play. 

They also need a place to hunt and explore.

pack of wolves

2. They Eat a Specific Diet

Wolves are carnivores and have a very specific diet that needs to be followed in order to keep them healthy. They require meat, bones, and organs from prey animals in order to get the nutrients their bodies need. 

This can be difficult to fulfill if you’re keeping wolves. Ideally, a wolf needs to hunt for its own food. They typically hunt ungulates and smaller animals.

Related: What do wolves eat?

gray-wolf--eat-meat-in-the-winter

3. Wolves Need a Wolf Pack

Wolves are incredibly social animals, living in packs. They require some form of social interaction. In the wild, wolves live in packs of around six to eight animals. 

This is necessary for them because it allows them to hunt and protect each other. 

Wolves that are raised by humans can never truly replicate the bond they would have with their pack mates in the wild, which can lead to behavioral issues.

wolf pack with alpha howling

4. Wolves Are Dangerous

Wolves have been known as some of the most feared animals in history because they can easily overpower or kill other creatures including humans. Nowadays, wolves typically stay away from humans though.

Even though you may have tamed a wolf, they’re still considered wild. This means, that their natural instincts may take over at some point.

Related: How dangerous are wolves?

wolf bite force

5. Wolves Don’t Thrive in Captivity

Wolves can live in captivity, but that doesn’t mean they thrive in it. As stated, they need a lot of space, a place to hunt, and they need social interaction. 

When raised in captivity, they may not get all of their need fulfilled, making it dangerous to be around them. They may get sick, or turn aggressive due to a lack of fulfillment.

couple of wolves in the wild

6. Many Veterinarians Won’t Treat Wolves

One of the main reasons why wolves don’t make good pets is that they can be difficult to treat if they get sick or injured. 

Many veterinarians are unwilling to treat wolves, as they can be quite dangerous. 

If your wolf does get sick or injured, you may have to take it to a specialist veterinarian, which can be very expensive.

man taking care of wolf

Conclusion

Wolves can technically be tamed, but they can’t be domesticated. The difference is their genetics. Domesticated animals develop domestic tendencies, while tamed wild animals still have their wild instincts.

Wolves also, generally, don’t make for good pets. They need a lot of space to roam and hunt, and they need to be able to fulfill their natural social instincts.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.

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