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Let's imagine a group of people who can turn from human to wolf at will. Wolves are quadrupeds, and humans are biped, so I guess their weight is differently shared in their body, notably when they walk.

Assuming that, if one such person receives a wound in one form, it is placed in the equivalent of that place on the body of the other form, is there a place on the body that, if wounded, would prevent practical use of the wolf form while having little to no consequence to the human form?

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Mar 12 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ losing the third and fourth legs ;) $\endgroup$ – Display name Mar 12 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ A few thoughts, although I'm not certain of the effect on canids. Broken/cracked sternum: Often manageable for humans so long as they don't carry too much. Pectus excavatum (funnel chest): A concave chest which may lead to breathing difficulties in humans but can, I believe, be more serious for dogs. It's something people are born with though, so not a wound per se. $\endgroup$ – Alchymist Mar 13 at 16:51
  • $\begingroup$ Anything that you don't want to stick your face in or near but wouldn't mind getting your hands near. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Mar 13 at 22:01
  • $\begingroup$ I proposed changing "wound" to "injury", because when I read the title, I misread it as "would would" instead of "wound would", and my brain ignored the word "wound" because I thought it was repeated. Similar to that old illusion "a bird in the the hand". $\endgroup$ – user45266 Mar 14 at 3:55

15 Answers 15

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Wikipedia says:

All dogs (and all living Canidae) have a ligament connecting the spinous process of their first thoracic (or chest) vertebra to the back of the axis bone (second cervical or neck bone), which supports the weight of the head without active muscle exertion, thus saving energy. This ligament is analogous in function (but different in exact structural detail) to the nuchal ligament found in ungulates.

Severing that would probably be pretty unpleasant for the wolf.

If you can be a bit flexible on what you mean by 'wound', you might also consider:

  • Hyperthermia -- between hardly any sweat glands and also wearing a full fur coat all the time, a heat wave might keep everyone bipedal for a while.

  • Chemical warfare -- with their vastly-improved sense of smell, I would have to imagine that getting sprayed by a skunk, hit by tear gas, etc, is going to suck quite a lot more as a wolf.

If you have any interest in the reverse case, wolves have only-vestigial collarbones, so having a busted one is probably going to be worse for the bipeds.

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    $\begingroup$ What's the importance of this ligament for a human, if it exists? $\endgroup$ – Spooikypok_Dev Mar 11 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ And if it doesn't exist in humans, a wound couldn't hurt it. (depending on your Built-World version of the werewolf.) $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Mar 11 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Spooikypok_Dev it's a bit early to select an answer. I would recommend unchecking this answer and deciding on one (maybe still this one) in 48 hours or so. This will encourage more answers. $\endgroup$ – Aethenosity Mar 11 at 19:54
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexandreAubrey They still have the required muscles (after all, they can look up), they'd just be overexerted. Compare the difference between sitting on a chair, and removing the chair while not changing your body position - yes, you have the muscles and the balance to maintain that position, but it's going to be tiring, painful and just plain uncomfortable. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Mar 12 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Spooikypok_Dev It's present in most animals well adapted for running (including humans), as well as ruminants (which have to keep their head low to eat grass). It's kind of necessary for any long-distance running, since it keeps the neck stable when running (quite an effort otherwise!). So it's definitely very important for humans as well, and for the same reason it is important for wolves. That said, this assumes your human form will still need to run long-distance, rather than, say, ride in a coach :) $\endgroup$ – Luaan Mar 12 at 8:59
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Broken Phalanges(blue on the middle image)AKA toes and fingers

Broken fingers. humans can still use their hands with one or two broken fingers, (better with a splint) but a wolf is not running on broken fingers since all their weight sits on them.

Broken toes. likewise since wolves are digitigrade and humans are plantigrade a human can walk (or limp) with broken toes, but a wolf cannot, they can't shift their weight to their heel, well not and walk while doing so. A wolf cannot walk without putting weight on broken toes, a human can limp long without putting their weight on broken toes, keeping all the weight on the tarsals and metatarsals. Humans can even manage a fair turn of speed by walking with the foot sideways provided the ground is level.

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As Nuclear wang mentioned a wolf can limp along an three legs but they are not going anywhere fast if it can even feed itself. two such injuries will turn any wolf into a sitting duck, but will let a human do all their basic necessities and even work if the job is non physical. So you can even dial in how helpless they are by how many limbs are injured in this way.

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    $\begingroup$ Good answer. The picture is illustrative, and could even be improved by numbering the joints to show the correspondence. I just learned about this last week when wondering why many quadrupeds' knees are "backwards" - it turns out that's not a knee, it's equivalent to a heel. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Mar 11 at 23:41
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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. Phalanges especially as they're load bearing in wolves but you are still able to (just) use your hand with broken ones in an emergency. $\endgroup$ – Ynneadwraith Mar 12 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Not sure about this. Dogs can run with three legs and the bone will heal. So you'd need two injuries, two wounds, plural, for it to be "terrible". Same thing as humans just using the other hand or other fingers really. Still a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi Mar 13 at 2:59
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang I forgot that was the case, but when learning to draw it that's kind of how I did it $\endgroup$ – Wayne Werner Mar 13 at 21:54
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Both Arms

If I incapacitate both your arms, you can still walk and run. If you turn into a wolf then you are limited to pushing your torso across the floor.

Still has a consequence for a biped but not nearly as severe as that for a wolf.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 Even just a broken or sprained wrist would be enough to severely slow down a wolf. $\endgroup$ – David K Mar 11 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ While this is the most obvious answer, I wouldn't say this has "little consequence" for a biped. I'm glad that you acknowledge that fact, but losing the ability to use your arms is a pretty big deal to people who are used to having arms (e.g. the vast majority of humans) $\endgroup$ – Beefster Mar 11 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ @Beefster would it be better if only your non-dominant arm was incapacitated. The wolf would still be hindered partially by having to limp places now and as a human with one arm you can manage very well. $\endgroup$ – Tolure Mar 11 at 20:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Acccumulation, for a dog, walking on its hind legs is much like you walking on your hands: yes, it's possible, but it's not practical for any sort of distance. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 11 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ +1... I literally laughed out loud at the image of a human-turned-wolf sliding face first across the floor attempting to escape from some threat... $\endgroup$ – Sam Weaver Mar 12 at 3:40
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Teeth

It depends on the reason. If the human wants to stop the wolf-form from doing harm then they should have all their teeth removed and have false ones made. The false teeth won't fit the wolf. They could also have implants and unscrew them at night.

A werewolf that can only suck wouldn't be too frightening.

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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget nails. A wolf with no teeth is still dangerous. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 11 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I'm starting a shapeshifter-friendly false teeth business in your location very soon. You can choose between wolf teeth, which look ridiculous on humans, or human teeth, which are useless in the wolf form, but at least they don't fall out constantly, plus I'm conducting some testing on hybrid human/wolf teeth that appear human, but are substantially sharper. $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 11 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ Here are some early renders of the wolf-form teeth: deviantart.com/aokitianwolf/art/… $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Mar 11 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ @John Dvorak - Keep your fingernails short! Then the worst the wolf can do is headbutt you. I was covering the case where the human is in charge of the teeth and wants to disable their own wolf-form. I don't see a wolf going to a specialist to have fangs made. They can't speak - especially without any teeth. There's nothing worse for business than a lisping wolf with no wallet. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK Mar 11 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ You really would only have to remove the eyeteeth aka canines. Plenty of people have had this done for one reason or another and it doesn't affect their ability to eat. The wolf would be severely limited in his ability to bite and tear his victim. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Mar 11 at 18:13
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Tolure's answer is good.

But I wanted to add, you don't even need an injury, just heat or endurance or both. A wolf has a relatively low endurance for running or heat. A person has huge tolerance for both. The difference is that a wolf cannot sweat. And it essentially holds it's breath to run fast (True for a lot quadrupeds). Humans have sweat and can breath normally while running. A well conditioned human can outlast a wolf in a marathon.

So if your in a warm place or are required to run a very long distance very quickly, your human form might be better suited.

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    $\begingroup$ Actually, there isn't much of an endurance difference between humans and wolves: both practice "persistence hunting", where you chase your target until it drops of exhaustion. Difference in marathon performance would be entirely due to the weather. $\endgroup$ – Mark Mar 11 at 23:01
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    $\begingroup$ Wolves cannot sweat, but they have another strategy - a) they're adapted for and live in cold climates (duh), b) if they need to increase their heat losses, they breathe openly and over their tongues. Not quite as good as human or horse sweating, but again - it's evolved for much colder climates than humans or horses. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Mar 12 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Luaan They can't do that if they are running. That's the trick. As Mark said, both developed persistence hunting. Humans are just way better at it in an open area. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Mar 12 at 11:53
  • $\begingroup$ @TrevorD That's just as unfair of an comparison as if you put a naked human into arctic winterland and expected him to perform well. We're both persistence hunters, but adapted to very different environments. As long as you only consider our biological makeup (and not our technology, no matter how primitive), that's the main difference - we're persistence hunters adapted for hot, open plains; wolves are persistence hunters adapted for cold, forested areas. $\endgroup$ – Luaan Mar 12 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Luaan Actually a wolf will still overheat even in the arctic if running full speed or fast enough that they can't pant. But few people live in the arctic, so it's still a fair advantage for this question. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Mar 12 at 12:14
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A papercut on your fingertip or palm

Dogs essentially walk on their fingertips. A biped can easily avoid putting significant pressure on a fingertip or can put a bandage on them, but this isn't so nice to a load-bearing part of your body. It's equivalent to getting a papercut on the soles of your feet. Not fun and opens the door to infections and re-opening the wound as you walk.

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Torn UCL

The UCL is akin to the ACL, only on the inside of the elbow. While a human with a torn UCL would have a bit of pain, and would have a harder time throwing things, activities like walking, holding a heavy object, or even stabilizing a weapon wouldn't be that bad. For a wolf, however, it would be similar to a torn ACL, meaning pain when walking, running, turning, or even standing still. If it was the human's non-dominate arm, it would have even less effect on them, while the wolf form would still be just as badly off.

Ears/Ear muscles

While wolves have 18 ear muscles and humans only have 6, if those six muscles are damaged, humans may only barely notice, but wolves will find themselves unable to easily direct their ear toward sounds, limiting hearing.

Worse, if a human's (outer) ear is very damaged, they won't look great, but their hearing won't be too much worse. Wolves, however, use their ears as "sound scoops", directing sounds into their ear canal; without an outer ear, they will lose a lot of directional hearing, and their hearing overall will drop considerably.

Surface burns

While getting a bad burn would suck, as long as it healed decently, a human would only have an unsightly scar to deal with. If the scar is on their back, it may go entirely unnoticed; out of sight, out of mind.

However, hair doesn't grow on burned scar tissue, or at best grows in clumps and patches. Wolves don't (usually) have the option of wearing clothing, and without hair - especially body hair - they will freeze to death in cold weather.

Fused Joints

Wolves and humans use very different joints. While a human would probably be fine if they had one or more ribs fused to their spine, it would mean a huge limitation to a wolf. Likewise, a human with a fused ankle would only be slightly slower than usual, while a wolf would hardly be able to move. A human with a fused wrist, especially non-dominate wrist, would function almost entirely normally, while a wolf would again be nearly unable to walk. Fusing a pair of spinal bones may make a human slightly uncomfortable, or unable to turn their head as far, but would severely limit a wolf's range of motion.

Stuffy nose

For a human, it's pretty annoying to have a clogged nasal passage. You can't smell, you have to breathe through your mouth, and you have an annoying feeling of blockage - not to mention the mucus draining down the back of your throat. For a wolf, however, having a stuffy nose means losing one of their best senses - smell. And, unlike a human, wolves have to work a lot harder to swallow draining mucus; rather than just swallow, they often have to do a sort of "reverse sneeze" to force the mucus down.

Out-of-Balance Digestion

Humans have a far more complex digestion system, compared to wolves. We can eat just about anything, and unless we have some sort of sensitivity or allergy, it goes through the system without a fuss. However, after an illness (especially if we had to take an antibacterial medication), out gut bacteria can get screwed up. If we don't fix it, eating certain foods can become very difficult. However, being that we can eat just about anything, the simplest fix is... don't eat that food.

Wolves don't have that option. They are meat-eaters, and their guts are designed to process one thing, and one thing only: meat. If they can't process proteins, that's basically a death sentence. While it's possible for wolves to digest some non-proteins, those foods are usually heavily processed, essentially pre-digesting them. That food would be hard to come by anywhere but a highly civilized area.

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Injured non-dominant hand

Barely any effect on a day-to-day life of a human besides some annoyance since most of what we do with our hands is not load-bearing, especially the non-dominant hand; this may be dependent on your character's line of work and lifestyle, though. It can even be unnoticeable to people around them when in human form.

However, an injured paw on a wolf (based on observation of injured dogs) would keep them from running very fast or with great agility due to pain.

Along the same lines, Missing fingernails

Again not much of an issue for humans, but lack of claws would reduce the amount of grip a wolf has while running and it ability to capture prey.

Not a wound, per se, but Baldness

Some users mentioned that wolves can't deal with heat due to their thick coats, but let's flip it around: complete inability to grow hair.

Little to no effect on a human (baldness in men is fairly common) and we wear clothes to keep warm, but baldness would make it completely impossible for wolves to live in their natural (cold) habitat.

The baldness could be cause by severe burns, if you absolutely need it to be a wound.

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  • $\begingroup$ The non-dominant hand thing was my first thought as well. However, dogs with a single missing/crippled aren't really all that uncommon. Their gait looks a bit stilted, so its clearly not optimal, but otherwise they seem to do fine. $\endgroup$ – T.E.D. Mar 12 at 16:00
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Chocolate or coffee. Vegetarian diet.

Both for the same reason, which is also the reason that transformation to a wolf (apart from the obvious) is rather unplausible, biologically (or transformation to a bat, for that matter). Wolves are sooooooooooo far away from humans, you wouldn't believe. The only thing yet worse would be a cat.

Among the things that genetically prove the distance are the inability to catabolize xanthines (like theobromine or caffeine), and to build e.g. Vitamin A from carotene -- dog-likes are barely able, cat-likes not at all.

Now of course a wererat or a werebunny isn't nearly as cool, I'll admit to that. Except the Rabbit of Caerbannog.

Then there's the story of Androcles (and its approx. one million adaptions, including Aesop and Disney). Step on a thorn as human? No biggie.
Step on a thorn as a lion? Well, if only you had fingers to pull it out.

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Anal glands

Dogs and wolves have those, but humans don't. So if the lycanthropes take a stab to their anal sacs it may hurt a lot - but when they revert to human form they will not have the sacs, so no pain.

By the way, I think damage to the anal sacs may be very painful. I once saw a dog whose previous owners tried to castrate him with a slingshot, the poor creature had lesions on a sac. The poor dog required meds for pain for quite a while.

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  • $\begingroup$ The glands might not be there from wolf to human, but isn't the flesh still there? Being stabbed hurts, even if the glands make it worse for the dog I doubt a human would be just fine after being stabbed in the rear. $\endgroup$ – Megha Apr 24 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Megha OP wasn't clear on that. $\endgroup$ – Renan Apr 24 at 9:47
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When dogs run, their spine flexes as their back feet make contact with the ground. The spine extends as they push off with their back feet and stretch their front feet forward, releasing the energy stored in the flexed spine (like a spring) as a burst of forward speed. This is a big contributor to a dog's ability to sprint. It's also completely unlike anything used in bipedal motion.

If a canine has a back injury like a pulled muscle or a slipped disk, running would be extremely painful and would likely worsen the injury. From personal experience, I can attest that a biped would have minimal trouble walking or running with such an injury since the spine remains upright and stationary. A biped can even use a back brace to limit the impact, but a back brace would prevent a canine from going through the motions required for running.

Along the same lines, injured abdominal muscles would seriously limit a canine's ability to flex the spine while running, but would only be a nuisance to a biped.

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A nasty (but not huge) splinter in the non-dominant hand, just below the fingers.

For a human, it would hurt but have little effect but try running/trotting on one, or using it to leap up with or claw, when you need to flex that part of both front paws, and impact it on the ground......

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Adding to Alexandre Aubrey's post above about baldness:

Alopecia universalis

Going beyond just baldness, it's a total inability to grow hair anywhere on the body. Not a huge deal beyond aesthetics in a human (maybe lack of eyelashes/eyebrows/nose hair can be an issue), but would be a serious medical condition for a wolf due to the importance of the fur coat in thermoregulation.

It's not an injury per se, but it could be the result of an autoimmune issue or as a side effect of cancer treatment.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi there Brickman, welcome to WorldBuilding.SE! I edited your text a little bit to make it easier for others to find the post you are referring to and to sound less like you tried to go around the rep limit for a comment by using an answer. That would be a reason to delete an "answer" that should have been a comment. Answers need to stand on their own, which yours does in my opinion. Comments should only be used to improve existing answers, for example by pointing out flaws in the logic. If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Mar 13 at 9:34
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Shave.

Humans hardly suffer from being bald all over. Many people do it on purpose.

Wolves need their fur to stay warm, specially wolves in arctic climates. Also, lack of whiskers will hamper wolf life.

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Loss of the tail

Wolves use their tail to communicate as well as for balance while running.

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  • $\begingroup$ No tail is hardly a terrible consequence for a dog at least. My previous dog was born without a tail and he managed perfectly fine, not to mention all the countries where docking the tail is still legal and a common procedure. I have a hard time believing it would be much different for a wolf. $\endgroup$ – pipe Mar 12 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ But the OP stated they change into wolves, not dogs and wolves use their tail for communication which means while changed, they'd be virtually mute. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Mar 12 at 22:14

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