Clever wolf puppies filmed playing fetch by shocked scientists in world first
WOLF puppies have been filmed playing fetch for the first time – a feat previously thought to be impossible.
Playing a game of fetch is simple for dogs, while wolves were believed to lack the intelligence to complete the task.
It suggests that the ability to interpret human social cues that allow dogs to collect and return balls also exists in wolves.
The finding is being described as a happy accident that left scientists shocked.
Researchers studied 13 wolf puppies from three different litters.
And during a series of tests, three of the 8-week-old pups "spontaneously showed interest in a ball" – before returning it to a "perfect stranger" under encouragement.
It was previously believed that the ability to understand these cues only appeared in dogs after they were domesticated by humans 15,000 years ago.
"When I saw the first wolf puppy retrieving the ball I literally got goose bumps," said Christina Hansen Wheat, of Stockholm University.
"It was so unexpected.
"I immediately knew the this meant that if variation in human-directed play behaviour exists in wolves, this behaviour could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication."
All of the wolves involved in the project were raised by Hansen Wheat's team from the age of 10 days.
The games of fetch were conducted by new people unknown to the pups.
The researchers say they didn't expect the wolf puppies to catch on – and the first two litters didn't at all.
But puppies from the third litter did ...
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