Black wolves are the result of mating with black dog maybe 15,000 years ago

Introduction of domestic dog genes into wild wolves long ago gave us black wolves-

Traits from domestic animals are usually thought to be harmful to their wild cousins, but in the case of the black dog or dogs mating with wolves long ago, a beneficial trait was passed on and conserved. “Apparently, natural selection has increased the frequency of black coat color dramatically in wolf populations across North America,” Co-author Robert K. Wayne said. “It must have adaptive value that we don’t yet understand. It could be camouflage, or strengthening the immune system to combat pathogens, or it could reflect a preference to mate with individuals of a different coat color.”

The pedigrees of the Yellowstone wolves were instrumental in discovering the inheritance pattern of this genotype.

There were many stories about the finding in the news today.

New World Wolves and Coyotes Owe Debt to Dogs. New York Times. By Mark Derr.

Black Wolves the Result of Interbreeding With Dogs. By Michael Wall. Wired.

Biologists solve mystery of black wolves. UCLA newsroom.

Wolf In Dog’s Clothing? Black Wolves May Be First ‘Genetically Modified’ Predators. Science Daily

I received a copy of the full scientific article from one of the authors.The title is: “Molecular and Evolutionary History of Melanism in North American Gray Wolves.” By Tovi M. Anderson,1 Bridgett M. vonHoldt,2 Sophie I. Candille,1 Marco Musiani,3 Claudia Greco,4 Daniel R. Stahler,2,5 Douglas W. Smith,5 Badri Padhukasahasram,6 Ettore Randi,4 Jennifer A. Leonard,7 Carlos D. Bustamante,6 Elaine A. Ostrander,8 Hua Tang,1 Robert K. Wayne,2 Gregory S. Barsh1. Science Express.





  1. Jon Way Avatar

    Fascinating… Finally some interesting science on wolves and not politics about delisting…

  2. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    Well from everything I have read or seen on wolves, there would be no dogs if not for wolves and man. If black wolves came from breeding with a dog, then why do not all black wolves carry dog DNA? I do believe dog and wolf DNA are a bit different. I am not buying it sorry. A dog is man made, a wolf is a wolf…don’t get me wrong, I love my dog!

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Dogs were split from wolves by humans, but feral dogs have always been mated from time to time by wolves, usually male.

    So at some time after a split, one of more black dogs were mated by gray wolves.

    Compared to many mammals, the canids have been evolving rapidly. This can be seen very well with the emergence of the northeastern coyote.

  4. JimT Avatar

    Somewhat ironic in that the black color is seen generally as a a positive thing when it is well known in the rescue and adoption dog world that black dogs are usually the last to be adopted out, or even selected from a purebred litter, and usually comprise the largest percentage of dogs euthanized due to paucity of homes for them. Personally, nothing more handsome to me than a black Labrador, fit and enjoying life.

    BTW, there is a book that is regarded generally as being an authority on wolf-dog-domestication discussion, written by the Coppingers. It is called Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution,” published by Scribner of New York, 2001–in case you have nothing to read during the transition months of winter…~S~

  5. Cris Waller Avatar
    Cris Waller

    I wonder how long it will be before we see this used as an argument by the same folks who demand the removal of “non-native Canadian” wolves- “Look, black wolves are wolf-dog hybrids, and you can’t protect hybrids under the Endangered Species Act!”

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Sure they will. They go so far as to argue that the ESA must reasonably call for the restoration of dinosaurs if it calls for the restoration of wolves.

  7. Jay Avatar

    That would be AWESOME!! T-rexes roaming about Wyoming…I bet their favorite prey would be Wyoming Redneck.

  8. JimT Avatar

    I can see some velociraptors or some TRex being released on Cheney’s ranch..LOL..

    This issue of genetic consistency will go on and was a big issue in the discussions on the reintro in the Northeast, as has mentioned on this blog in the past.

    I suspect we will be discovering we are all hybrids of some sort, including humans. One of the reasons why, in a different time, it would great to re-orient the ESA to ecosystem and inhabitants thereof application instead of species by species. Way way too risky to touch the ESA these days.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan