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The Anatomy of Aggression and Its Ritualization in Canidae: a Developmental and Comparative Study

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The postnatal development of agonistic behavior patterns in the wolf, coyote and grey fox are described, and in the red and Arctic fox which were first observed at a later age. Piloerection and back arching were present in all species, the latter behavior being especially well developed in the grey fox. The orientation of attack was almost exclusively directed at the cheek in the grey fox, but in other canids the shoulder hackle area, throat and muzzle area were also attacked; prolonged bouts of jaw-muzzle wrestling occurred in the wolf, scruff-wrestling in wolf and coyote and dog, and cheek-wrestling in the grey fox during agonistic play (play-fighting). Orientation of attack was correlated with distinctive body markings in various species. The contribution of social experience in the ontogeny of scruff-oriented attack was demonstrated in hand-raised isolated dogs and visually deprived group-raised dogs. The significance of head-turning, looking away and avoidance of eye contact in the wolf and dog is discussed.

Affiliations: 1: (Dept. Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.


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