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Thread: Domestication Lowers Intelligence - Except for Dogs

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    Lightbulb Domestication Lowers Intelligence - Except for Dogs

    Wolves are, after all, cleverer than dogs

    DOMESTICATION is not normally reckoned good for a species’s intelligence. All that grey matter is expensive to grow, so if you have an owner to do your thinking for you, then you do not need so much of it. Natural selection (not to mention deliberate selection by people) might therefore be expected to dumb domestic animals down.

    Dogs, however, look like an exception to this rule. Some, such as herding sheepdogs, have been bred for tasks that seem to involve a lot of intelligence. More intriguingly, an experiment carried out in 2004 by Brian Hare, then at Harvard and now of Duke University in North Carolina, suggested that natural selection in the context of domestication had boosted dogs’ intelligence, too, by allowing them to understand human behaviour in a way that their ancestors, wolves, cannot. The latest study of the matter, however, suggests that is not the case after all, and that wolves, not dogs, are the clever ones.

    Dr Hare’s experiments involved showing his animals two upside-down cups, one of which covered food. A human would then gesture in some way at the cup covering the food. In theory, if the animal being tested was properly interpreting the gestures, it should have been lured to the object that the experimenter was indicating. And that is what Dr Hare found. Dogs selected the cup hiding the food far more than half the time, whereas the wolves he used for comparison got it right no more frequently than chance.

    That led him to conclude that domestic dogs have evolved an ability to understand what their masters are up to by living among people for so long. Monique Udell of the University of Florida, however, begs to differ. She observed that Dr Hare’s wolves, though captive, had not been raised among humans, and wondered whether learning rather than evolution explained his observations. Her team therefore worked with a mixture of pet dogs, dogs from animal shelters that had had minimal interaction with people, and wolves raised by humans. They exposed their animals to an experiment similar to Dr Hare’s and came up with strikingly different results.

    As they report in Animal Behaviour, the wolves outperformed both shelter dogs and pets. Indeed, six of the eight wolves followed human gestures perfectly in more than eight out of ten trials. Only three of eight pets were as successful as that and, as with Dr Hare’s wolves, none of the shelter dogs performed better than chance. Far from being dumb, then, wolves are smarter than dogs. You just have to bring 'em up proper.


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    Domesticated animals have smaller brains than those of their wild forebears. At a similar body weight, the brain of the domestic cat (with an average value of 0.06 pounds or 30 grams) is 23.9 % lighter than that of the wild cat, the brain of the dog is 29 % lighter than that of the wolf, and the brain of the pig is 34 % lighter than that of the wild boar.
    The Encephalization Quotient (EQ) known as brain to body mass ratio is an estimate of intelligence. There are basics every organism needs such as breathing, thermoregulation, etc. Of course, with a higher ratio with less devoted to the basics, there will be more potential for more advanced cognitive abilities. I have noticed certain people have a harder time regulating their own body’s temperature during the cold.

    The domesticated animals have become degenerated and reduced compared to the wild ones. They eat man-made processed crap, get less exercise usually the lazy owner’s fault, and do nothing all day to train their minds mentally. The animals before them likely went through the same stages. When I think of a domesticated cat, I think of it sitting on a couch or a table all day doing nothing.

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