Quick, right now, take a guess: Is the hyena more closely related to dogs or cats? If you’re thinking “Duh, they’re obviously dogs,” good, that’s what I expected you to say. Unfortunately, it’s incorrect.
I know, I know. Hyenas are more like big cats than our dogs, though they’re also “closer to mongooses than they are to tigers and jaguars,” according to Mental Floss. Imagine that. Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas are members of the same species, but all dogs and hyenas are not.
So, if these “laughing” mammals, which look eerily similar to canines, are not, then are animals like wolves, foxes, and coyotes really dogs?
The short answer is: kinda, yeah.
See, domesticated dogs are a sub-species of Canis lupis, where the gray wolf belongs. Dogs also belong to the taxonomic family (basically an organized category) Canidae, though this splits into two separate groups: Canini (wolves) and Vulpini (foxes). The differences between the two are mainly in size, behavior, and hunting techniques, but both are considered species relatives of your pup.
You may even be able to see a bit of these wild counterparts in your own dog:
1. Gray Wolf
The largest of all! And the common ancestor of most of our familiar domesticated breeds.
No road runners here, (sorry, I had to)…
…but these scavengers can give your food-snuffling hound a run for his money.
The African wild dog that looks great in Egyptian garb. Thanks, Anubis.
They straddle the border between domestic and wild dog — if I saw it on a leash in NYC, I might not even question it.
These natives of Asia have killer whistling skills, though their bark is almost nonexistant.
6. Red Fox
You’ve probably seen these guys around, in your neighborhood, in your backyard; it helps to be the most common fox in North America.
7. African Wild Dog
Also called the African Painted Dog, they’re the Jackson Pollocks of the Sahara.
8. Maned Wolf
My personal favorite, and the largest pup in South America, these guys have legs for MILES.
We’re just brushing the surface here, but at least this gives you a taste of where your dog’s roots may lie. Cuddly on the outside, wild on the inside.