Wolves get a bum rap in age-old stories that originated in Europe and have become global archetypes. Thanks to Aesop and the Brothers Grimm, the Big Bad Wolf looms large in the catalogue of scary creatures that children learn to distrust from a young age. While the dog — basically a domesticated wolf species — enjoys all the kudos of "man’s best friend", the wild wolf connotes bloodshed and danger. When anthropomorphised, dogs become symbols of loyalty and affection; wolves, by contrast, stand for cunning, deceit and even insanity. This derision and fear is not universal. In Japanese and Mongolian folklore, as well as among the native peoples of North America, the wolf is a revered animal, associated with good luck and healing. However, that hasn’t helped the wolf population. Around the world, various wolf species face endangered status. I learned recently that one of the apartheid government’s more bizarre schemes was importing dozens of Russian grey wolves for cross-breeding with ...

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