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SE: Study: Wolves can also retrieve balls

Sweden We all know that dogs like to pick up a thrown ball. But Swedish researchers have discovered that even wolves do spontaneously go against previous theories about how the interaction between dog and man has developed.

Researchers at Stockholm University have conducted a series of behavioral tests on 13 puppies from three different wolf litters. No one expected the puppies to be able to fetch, but three eight-week-old puppies from the same litter spontaneously showed interest in a thrown ball. On request, they also fetched the ball to a person unknown to them.

The result surprised researchers because it was previously assumed that the ability to interpret such signals from humans arose only in dogs since they were tamed by humans at least 15,000 years ago.

“When I saw the first wolf puppy get the ball, I literally got goose bumps,” says researcher Christina Hansen Wheat in a press release from the Department of Zoology at Stockholm University.

Neither she nor the other researchers had expected any of the wolves to pick up the ball. One theory is that there is a variation in the behavior of wolves and that those who had easier to interpret signals from humans may have had better conditions to be domesticated.

The study is published in the scientific journal iScience.