Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Wild dogs howl and house dogs bark

  1. Apr 23, 2012 #1

    Anna Blanksch

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why do we hear coyotes and wolves howl or yelp while house dogs more often bark? Does it have something to do with living in a pack vs. living alone?

    Also... today when I was on a walk around noon I spotted two separate coyotes (the dog I was walking started barking at the first one which got me thinking about my previous question). I thought wild dogs were nocturnal. Is that incorrect? If it is correct, could their day-time roaming have something to do with the noisy humans keeping them up?

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2012 #2
    There are domesticated breeds of dogs that do howl and yelp. Keep this in mind as well, The National Science Foundation recently had an article, Discovery Down Boy: Investigating the Domestication of Dogs Through DNA, from February 24, 2011 that states:

    I've seen coyotes roaming fields during the afternoon. And from the link that I earlier provided it states the following:

    Another article you may like to read from UCLA, 2010 Dogs likely originated in the Middle East, new genetic data indicate - Findings based on analysis of largest set of genetic markers ever studied by Stuart Wolpert. Here's an excerpt:

    http://insciences.org/uploads_article/9000/8548/1222.jpg [Broken]
    Evolutionary tree of dog breeds and gray wolves

    For a larger version of the above, see the article or follow this link: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/artwork/5/5/1/0/1/155101/dog-breeds-1.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Apr 24, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    You can get a whole neighborhood of domestic dogs howling if you start howling in the middle of the neighborhood.
  5. Apr 28, 2012 #4
    I live in a gated community wherein homeowners are required to keep their domesticated dog(s) from barking. Naturally, there is the occasional barker.:) The most important thing about a puppy is to socialize it once he/she gets a rabies vaccination. Socialization is the key factor if you desire to have a friendly pet that you can take almost anywhere you may go. Dog parks are very popular where I live, along with recreational parks. The great outdoors for people and dogs can be a healthy lifestyle. Walk or run with your doggie.

    From what I understand, there are some dogs that don’t bark such as a Basenji and Japanese Chin.
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2012
  6. May 1, 2012 #5
    My understanding is that barking is a juvenile characteristic in wolves. Pups bark and adults howl. Dogs are the descendants of wolves that were bred to retain juvenile characteristics and barking, which may betray a certain "nervousness" or uncertainty, is one of them. See: "neoteny."

    I believe coyotes are now primarily nocturnal because for many, many generations they've been killed on sight.

    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  7. May 1, 2012 #6
    Please supply me with scientific articles that support your comments otherwise I will have to dismiss them as being false.

    In wilderness locations of America wolves and coyotes' activities occur during daylight and night time hours. Please also take into consideration that there are Endangered Species Acts and laws that protect wolves, coyotes, etc.

    An example of a coyote living in the wild: http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.html#facts
  8. May 1, 2012 #7
    As near as I can tell coyotes can be hunted and trapped anywhere in the country where hunting and trapping are allowed, and they aren't listed as endangered anywhere to my knowledge. I'd be interested, and possibly entertained, if you could show me evidence for your belief that they are. Coyotes have been one of the most persecuted animals in American history, aside from wolves perhaps. Google "coyotes nocturnal hunting pressure" and you'll find enough links to keep you busy for awhile. Of course you could dismiss them all, and I would be bemused.

    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  9. May 1, 2012 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Adult wolves do bark, it really depends on the subspecies of wolf too. IIRC Middle eastern subspecies of grey wolf bark a lot more than they howl. In North American grey wolves, adults tend to bark as a fear and alert response, like to say a cougar.

    Barking might be more common in juvenile animals though and that would be a good hypothesis. As has been seen in foxes, where neotenous traits were selected through domestication as well.

    In areas with high human traffic coyotes are more nocturnal, as CM stated that probably has a lot to do with hunting them. I know where I live we have a very healthy coyote population (I think there were something like a 150 taken last year on tags and pest permits) and I live in a rather residential area. You wouldn't guess it because you don't see them in the day, but get out camping at night and you do.

    I have to agree with CM too, I don't think I've heard of anywhere in the US that coyotes are protected. The IUCN rates them as "least" concern. Coyotes, like rats, humans and roaches, seem to be very acclimatable to different environments and circumstances. They are rather incredible survivors.
  10. May 1, 2012 #9
    There's been some interesting stuff published recently concerning where dogs were first domesticated. At least one study, if I recall, identified the most likely ancestors as being Middle Eastern or "southern" wolves which, I see now, do bark more than the more recently evolved northern variety. Wikipedia, under "Bark (utterance)" has: "Although wolves do bark, they do so only in specific situations. According to Coppinger and Feinstein, dogs bark in long, rhythmic stanzas but adult wolf barks tend to be brief and isolated.[1] Compared with wolves, dogs bark frequently and in many different situations." The Wikipedia article offers the neoteny hypothesis as well. I would add that a more recent study about dogs made a strong argument for their having been domesticated in more than one location, including in the north, I believe. Reading Stephen Jay Gould is where I learned most of what little I know about neoteny, but the idea that barking in dogs is an example of it is something I read a few years later in an article I came across in Smithsonian magazine. This was back in the early 90's. It was a great article, unfortunately I couldn't find it online. If anyone wants to track it down the article was: "Hark! Hark! The Dogs Do Bark....And Bark....And Bark.....And Bark" - Smithsonian Magazine, 1991. I remember reading about those foxes some years back too.

    I don't think I'd go so far as to put coyotes in the same class as rats and roaches. The latter after all are pretty much obligate anthropophiles in most of their range. Coyotes could do just fine without us.
    Last edited: May 1, 2012
  11. May 1, 2012 #10
    My anecdotal experience from growing up in the countryside is that mixed breed dogs will start to howl a couple hours after they think your gone. Which has me thinking its largely a means of long range communication.
  12. May 1, 2012 #11
    Of my last 3 dogs, two were completely unable to howl. Both were golden retriever + ? mixes. The third was a Labrador, pretty much. He responded to my singing by joining right in...as he did with nearby ambulance sirens. The other two are incapable of any music other than yip-yip-yip. Not barks, but distinctive yips. The paid no attention to sirens or other noises, by the way.
  13. May 1, 2012 #12
    I'd like to respond to the above mentioned comment of yours, Bobze. I'm short on time today but hope to return within a few days. As I noted earlier, coyotes are seen during daylight hours in grassy fields close to where I live. I can drive down the street and see them less than a block away. (My major concern is hitting the geese on the road while driving. Traffic stops when the geese walk! lol) I too live in a residential area. These coyotes cause no harm to humans, though I think I might have lost a male cat to a coyote since I didn't bring him in that night. It appears to me that we aren't living in the same locality. :smile: I've done a lot of camping in my lifetime but never spotted a coyote. Now not meaning to derail this topic, I just have to share it with you since you are an outdoorsy kind of person, I recently did see something spectacular at Irish Beach in California. On the beach there was a white 13 foot male seal laying on a huge rock (boulder) and nearby in a cove on the sand were two white females each with a white pup. I could kick myself since I usually carry my camera but left it behind on that day. I'm shaking my head as I write this. First time I've ever seen such a spectacular event and didn't have my second set of eyes to snap it. Take care.:smile:
  14. May 2, 2012 #13

    Anna Blanksch

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Thanks so much for the input! I never really thought about whether certain breeds of dogs could or could not howl. Interesting!

    One of the boys who I nanny for (who lives in the area with the frequent coyote visitors) said that his family can tell when the coyotes are hunting based on their yips/barks and how the family can hear the coyotes voices moving around the neighborhood quickly. I was so excited to see two coyotes on my walk (I've seen them while inside the house or car a few times but never so up close and personal)! They're so beautiful! Seen a fox once in my life. Are they barkers or howlers?
  15. May 3, 2012 #14
    Red foxes, the most common species, make a number of different and interesting sounds. Check out what it says under "vocalizations" in the Wikipedia entry for "red fox." There are videos and mp3 files of fox sounds online too. I was recording great-horned owl calls from my porch last October and was surprised by a strange nearby sound that moved farther away. The first cry was so close and loud it blew out the levels and I didn't capture it. Only later I found out it was a fox: frontiernet.net/~c.younger/11-15-11.mp3

    I'm still trying to record the coyotes. I've heard them only a few times. Twice they were pretty close by. Maybe only about 100 yards, though that's a guess. Unfortunately that was in colder weather and the second I open my front door they stopped. But what a weird and wonderful combination of sounds it is. I moved here to the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania 4 years ago and the rolling hills have a kind of echoing, resonating effect, impossible to describe (they do interesting things to the clouds too).

    BTW, I didn't mean to suggest, earlier, that coyotes' shift to nocturnal activity was genetic. I'm sure it's a learned behavioral adaptation, and there are always outliers and individuals who take more risks. Neither do I know how long it would take, once human hunting pressure was reduced in an area, before they started reverting to more diurnal behavior patterns. As has been noted they're very intelligent and adaptable animals. I wouldn't be surprised if there were some epigenetic changes though.

    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  16. May 3, 2012 #15

    Anna Blanksch

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Wow! That's awesome! That fox makes a very strange kind of screech-bark. Kinda spooky!
  17. May 3, 2012 #16
    Really! It was like 20 feet away and I had no idea what it was. It was very cool.
  18. May 10, 2012 #17
    Hi smyounger:smile: Do you have access to the article? There was an article in the peer-reviewed journal NATURE-Heredity (2012) 108, 507–514; doi:10.1038/hdy.2011.114; published online November 23, 2011 entitled Origins of domestic dog in Southern East Asia is supported by analysis of Y-chromosome DNA OPENhttp://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/v108/n5/full/hdy2011114a.html
  19. May 10, 2012 #18
    Everything I remember seeing in the past year or so is summarized in the Wikipedia article, "Origin of the domestic dog."
  20. May 10, 2012 #19
    Ok, so please give me the actual article(s) with a link(url) so I can read them. I prefer not using Wikipedia. I do recall asking you earlier on about providing me an article to support your claims. I am looking for scientific articles. :smile: Also, please keep in mind that the most recent information is extremely important. (Be sure to look at the date of the scientific article) Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter.
  21. May 10, 2012 #20
    I recall seeing some scientific articles cited in the Wikipedia article I referenced. There are links there. As I said the article rather completely covers what I remember reading online in the last 6 months to a year. You can logically make no request, but I believe I've answered your question twice.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook