Do Indigenous American Peoples’ Stories Inform the Study of Dog Domestication?

Keywords: American Indians, Canis lupus, Dog domestication, Indigenous peoples, Myths, Wolves


I discuss the article “Relationships Between Indigenous American Peoples and Wolves 1: Wolves as Teachers and Guides” (Fogg et al. 2015) and the book “The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved” (Pierotti and Fogg 2017). The article proposed that published stories about interactions between indigenous American peoples and wolves (Canis lupus) provide insight into wolf-human relationships as humans began domesticating wolves. In the book, the authors offer a theory of how wolves and humans coevolved by building on the information in the article and the authors’ long experience with captive and pet wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, and dogs. I (1) present arguments and evidence that question the value of indigenous American stories for drawing conclusions about the relationship between early humans and wolves 14,000 yrs BP; (2) demonstrate how indigenous American stories contradict documented information about wolf biology, behavior, and known interactions with humans; and (3) point out important information not considered by the authors about wolf attacks on humans and the importance of rabies in the wolf-human relationship.

Author Biography

L. David Mech, U.S. Geological Survey

L. David Mech is a senior research scientist with the Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Geological Survey, and an adjunct professor of the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Science, and the Department of Ecology, Evolution, Behavior, and Biology at the University of Minnesota.


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How to Cite
Mech, L. D. (2019). Do Indigenous American Peoples’ Stories Inform the Study of Dog Domestication?. Ethnobiology Letters, 10(1), 69-75.