NB: for more background, the humans of this question are the direct ancestors of the druids from that question.

I am building the timeline of a druidic society which rose to dominate the forest they lived in, thank to their discovery of magic.

In particular, their ancestors discovered how to use mana to communicate with a sub-species of wolves.

Humans, like wolves, need to consume one specific species of berries which replaces the ability to see normal blue light with that of seeing mana. Once they do, skilled individuals become able to communicate telepathically, provided that they maintain eye contact. Note that this also works in the dark because "vision" of mana is not related to actual visible light. Naturally, wolves and humans can also use other forms of communication, but this telepathy has been the initial ingredient needed for both packs to understand each other.

The two groups cooperate for mutual protection and hunting, without one rising to tame or dometicate the other.

In this scenario, what specific hunting strategies could the symbiotic group use to take advantage of this cooperation?

Our usage of hunting dogs suggests that wolves could be used to track, flush or retrieve preys, leaving the killing part to humans. I am not certain however that this strategy has historically been adopted by humans prior to domestication and breeding into a docile species.


What do they each bring to the party?

Humans and wolves are both optimised for persistence hunting. While this means that they have similarities that make it easier to relate to each other, it actually reduces the synergy from cooperative efforts - either species would be better off pairing up with species such as cheetahs or raptors. So let's look at the differences.

Humans are omnivores, tool users and sapient beings.

Wolves are faster than humans over short distances, have a superior sense of smell (although inferior to many other canids) and an extremely powerful bite. They are primarily carnivores, but do consume some fruit and vegetable matter (including berries).

So some of the options for combining these abilities include:

  • Gathering (not hunting) - wolves may be able to use their sense of smell to locate edible plants that the humans need more than the wolves do. While this is not cooperative hunting as per the question, it means that when hunting does occur the wolves can be given more of the meat. It is also important that the wolves can communicate specifically what plant/s they are smelling, they will not waste the humans' time on plants they currently have a surplus of.
  • Detection and tracking - this is not significantly different to the current/historic use of hunting dogs, but the difference here is communication. Instead of having a dog indicating "Prey! (pant, pant, pant)" the wolf / wolves can communicate "Two deer" or "A pride of lions!"
  • Channelling - humans can construct traps that the wolves will drive prey into. While humans can use this strategy on their own, in many types of terrain the low-profile wolves will be able to move much more quickly to get into flanking positions. Again, the difference is communication - a human does not need to move with the wolves to direct their actions. Conversely, the humans may initiate the attack against the prey and run the animal/s to exhaustion - right into the killing ground where the wolves are waiting.

The main difficulty with this scenario is the requirement that neither becomes dominant in the relationship. The simple fact is that where there is one party with animal instinct level thinking and one with sapience, the sapient party is going to end up calling the shots. Initially it may be for "the common good", but sooner or later it will end up being "for the humans' good". In order for the relationship to be equal, the wolves need to bring their share of brainpower to the party (something like the kyree in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series).

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    $\begingroup$ "Humans are [...] sentient beings." As are wolves. Do you mean sapient? $\endgroup$ – AngelPray Dec 22 '18 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ Good call, but surprised by the variety of definitions of both words in a quick search. Editing now. $\endgroup$ – KerrAvon2055 Dec 22 '18 at 13:07

Working as one

One of my friends goes bow hunting with a couple of native Bushmen. What he told me is each bushman had a dog. Now keep in mind that when i say dogs the dogs are closer to a wolf then your standard house dog. (the dogs where mixes between the native dog breed and a domesticated one) the dogs would track the prey until they were within firing range. Then the man would brush his hand down on the ground, the dogs would then lay low to the ground acting like the man’s shadow. The bushmen would take the shot and the two would go home with the kill.

He asked them what would happen if they missed (which never happened when my friend hunted with them) they said the dogs would then leap forward and chase the prey down and pin it, the men would then run a up and stab the prey in the heart to kill it (then the man who missed the shot would be punished for missing).

Fun fact the reason they mix the native dogs is because the native dog will not follow orders as well (or at all) but the mixed breed will. I found this out when I got to meet one myself. The dogs eyes would not look to where you point only follow your movements and almost never make eye contact with you (may be a plot hole in your own story).

To be able communicate telepathically, provided that they maintain eye contact

That would be hard to do on the fly. What could be better is this mana gives an area effect to the telepathically ability. Or a better idea is that the mana gives you the ability to sense other mana user’s intent (much like how the native dog works with the hunters) so your hunters would know what the wolves want to do and vice versa.

  • $\begingroup$ Wolves just don't care about humans. That's the main difference between dogs and wolves. Dogs care. Dogs will follow and work with. Wolves have their own agenda. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Dec 23 '18 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ Good point about mana. But the intent was that they develop a special relationship, which then allows them to communicate non-telepathically because they understand how the other thinks. I like the idea of pairing up but then Erin is probably right: that seems to need the intimacy of the dog-master relationship. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Dec 23 '18 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis why not make it that the wolves have some sort of alliance with the druids of the forest. Could be even the wolfs where the true guardians of the forest and showed the humans how to use mana in the first place (you did say that they were sub-species of wolves just give them diffract traits) the pair up idea could work. so have it that a wolf pup and a human pair up and get bonded with each other (a ritual could do it) so each pair works together to hunt and fight and live making them equals, that can bypass your master-servant relationship problem but that's just my idea its your world $\endgroup$ – Creed Arcon Dec 23 '18 at 13:15

Wolves are oh-so close, yet oh-so-far from dogs.

Dogs and wolves CAN interbreed, and their offspring can breed as well. This means that genetically, they really have some huge similarities going.

The definition of dog actually is "wolves acclimated to the presence of humans" And humans took that further by breeding for specific characteristics, as did Darwinism. HOWEVER, those wolves who could tolerate humans and benefited from following humans and hunting with them, well, those wolves already HAD a lot of the characteristics of dogs--because wild wolves DON'T.

As for them "communicating as equals" well...wolves can't talk. Humans can't really speak wolf. Telepathy would be more pictorial than language-based.

Now, as to how they would hunt--the leader of the pack isn't going to be in front. Like dogs, wolves put their leader in the middle or behind them, while they scout ahead. They are aware of what a leader is doing, and if they change direction, they will too, but it's generally the second in command that ranges ahead, checking back to see what the cues are.

Early on, they likely worked more closely with hunters and actually killed things. But wolves, and dogs are FAR more useful to point their human servants to something tasty. Humans take the risk, they get a percentage. It's a sweet deal. And for humans, with their spears and such, tooth and claw isn't the advantage. What is: the very special set of skills that wolves and dogs have that we do not--hearing, smell, and this case, a pack, which can work to corner prey so that the humans can finish it off.

The wolves following humans happened to have a particular set of genetics that made them less dangerous to humans, and more likely to retain "wolf pup" characteristics that are more like dogs in nature.

You CAN'T take a wild wolf and simply raise it to follow you, but IF a wolf pack has been naturally acclimated to humans that means that they are actually proto-dogs already.

  • $\begingroup$ Regarding the communication part, I think you're not doing justice to the telepathic part of their relationship. The premise of the question assumes that handwavium solved the communication part. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Dec 22 '18 at 6:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexis Added a line on that. There's a language/thought barrier, I think. $\endgroup$ – Erin Thursby Dec 22 '18 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexis have you ever read the Wheel of Time? Robert Jordan writes a character who can communicate with wolves and detailing how wolf thoughts are different to "man" thoughts is actually a really interesting theme that runs through the series. It's worth checking out if you want to see this sort of thing done well, as having read the wheel of time I don't think Erin's idea takes away from your idea at all. $\endgroup$ – hamsolo474 - Reinstate Monica May 23 '20 at 8:47
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    $\begingroup$ @hamsolo474-ReinstateMonica I will be sure to have a look when I can! Just to be clear I think Erin's answer is very good indeed, but I remain interested by the idea that the dog-human relationship could have gone differently if our communication with them had been on another level. Maybe your reading tip will change my mind ;-) $\endgroup$ – Alexis May 23 '20 at 19:02

Depends on what you are hunting. Since hunting with dogs is legal in lots of places today in the real world, lets see how they are used. Not sure about other areas, but this is how I've seen dogs being used and actually used dogs for hunting here in north central Florida.

1 - hunting pigs, bears, other potentially dangerous things. Dogs/wolves go in and harrry and eventually catch the target, and keep it in place long enough for a human to go in and quickly kill/subdue/trap the target animal. Most often done with pigs around here, the pigs are then often kept and grain fed for a few weeks before being slaughtered and processed.

2 - hunting deer - many humans are in the woods, one human and dogs go "away" and then towards the humans in the woods, driving deer, etc. away from the chasing human/dogs/wolves and towards the hunters waiting. As deer go past, they get shot.

3 - retrieving in areas where humans won't do so well. Duck or goose hunting is a great example of this. In and out of cold swampy water. Or even in areas where humans do OK but it is more efficient to get some 4 legged help (retrieving dove, etc from grain fields)

4 - finding/pointing game (and then maybe retrieve or find after being shot). Look at upland bird hunters - pheasant, quail, etc. Humans and dogs work together to find birds. Dogs either hold at bird or get bird to go fly, bird gets shot, dog finds (and maybe retrieves) dead bird


You don't need telepathy.

There are assorted instances of humans and predatory mammals cooperating without domestication or taming being involved, possibly the most famous being the orcas of Eden, Australia. In that instance you had two intelligent predators cooperating; the orcas would alert the humans of a whale being present, the humans would kill the whale and leave portions for the orcas to eat (as well as being able to eat the smaller animals attracted to the kill).

One could easily imagine the same being done with wolves and, in fact, may have as the start of the domestication of the dog. Wolves alert the humans that prey is nearby and herd the prey animals toward the humans who are waiting in ambush. Humans kill more than they need and leave the excess to the wolves. It makes hunting easier for both--no need for trying to run prey down--and after both have had their fill they go their separate ways.

  • $\begingroup$ Fascinating example. Also the WP article you link to apparently gives the right keyword for such behavior: mutualism, rather than cooperation. $\endgroup$ – Alexis Dec 27 '18 at 20:07

Technically, all domesticated dogs are descended from the Asian Red Wolf. From that perspective, think of hunting with a pack of Alaskan Huskies.

I think a look at real life dog training principles and the experiences of wolf / wolf hybrid owners will be useful.

The pathway to domestication starts with a few individuals that have less fear of humans than normal, and lots of handling. Even pure wild stock wolves can be conditioned to see humans as alphas, but the handlers need to interact with them daily and enforce submission rituals on a regular basis - rubbing the belly of the animal is a prime example of exploiting a normal submission ritual (exposing the belly) too encourage behaviors.


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