Wolf cubs

Rooobert Bayer

These wolves are born gamblers, unlike cautious dogs

Most humans aren’t big gamblers: We prefer a guaranteed 100 bucks over a 50-50 chance of winning 200. Now, scientists have discovered that when it comes to betting, dogs are a lot like us. Wolves, on the other hand, are risk takers. Researchers at the Wolf Science Center in Ernstbrunn, Austria, tested seven wolves (above) and seven dogs from separate packs on their gambling inclinations. They let the canids choose among upside-down bowls on a table, which the animals did by touching them with their paws or muzzles. Wolves and dogs had been taught that the first bowl always hid an insipid-tasting food pellet, whereas the second bowl covered either a delectable bit of meat or an inedible stone 50% of the time. In 80% of the trials on average, the wolves chose the risky option, whereas the dogs did so in only 58% of theirs, the scientists report today in Frontiers in Psychology. The reason? Dogs likely evolved a more cautious nature after they shifted from hunting to scavenging when humans domesticated them between 18,000 and 32,000 years ago, the researchers say. But wolves still hunt, a dangerous and risky lifestyle. The findings fit with previous studies that show that species with uncertain food resources, like chimpanzees that hunt monkeys and feed on seasonal fruits, are also more likely to gamble.