This book, originally published in 1978 is such a beautiful read you almost get lost in the fantastic information tucked inside the pages. Lopez not only covers basics of wolf behaviour and research but also attends to the more intimate nature of the man vs. wolf relationship that has raged throughout the centuries. A relationship that has in turns been beautiful and respectful, or severe and tragic.
Some of the elements that I found most fascinating I have outlined below…
A wolf can develop a crushing pressure of 1500lb’s/sq. in compared to an adult German Shepherd at 750lb’s/sq. in (pg 26). Now that is why dogs can so easily crack their teeth on a long bone from the butchers! I’ll stick with brisket and softer bones for my dog’s raw diet!
“Social structure in a wolf pack has been observed in greatest detail among captive wolves, which makes extrapolating to wild wolves risky.” It makes it even more risky to then extrapolate those extrapolations into dog behaviour!
“ Young females tend to be the better hunters in a pack. The male hunter- male leader image of the wolf pack is misleading but, unconsciously, I am sure, it is perpetuated by males, who dominate this field of study.” (pg 32). Interesting, I wonder if that is still true 30 years later?
“The term alpha – evolved to describe captive animals—is still misleading. Alpha animals do not always lead the hunt, break trail in snow, or eat before others do. An alpha animal maybe alpha only at certain times for a specific reason, and, it should be noted, is alpha at the deference to other wolves in the pack.” (pg 33). Oh dear what would Jan Fennel or Ceasar Milan say to this…? I think they need to brush up on pack dynamics a bit.
This book was such a pleasure to read as Lopez discusses the wolf as a metaphor, the wolf in fairy tales and fables, the wolf as a sign of the devil or in contrast the bringer of light. One last shiny rock of perception…
“And we are going to have to find a way, not necessarily to esteem, but at least not to despise intuition in the scientific process, for it is, as Kepler and Darwin and Einstein have said, the key.” (pg 284).