Wolf pups practice pack behavior by howling together

Humans tend to think of wolves as fearsome and wild predators—an accurate representation in some respects—but this video of wolf pups howling together shows a different side of these wildest of dogs. The pups are seen trotting along a country road in Northern Quebec, and when one kicks up a call, the others soon follow. Within moments, the wolves are all howling together in what is clearly a show of unity and togetherness. While to human observers, this is pretty darn cute, it’s clear that the howl has a special meaning to the pups.

So why do wolves howl? It turns out this activity is vital to a wolf pack’s social bond. Howling is central to affirming the pack’s status as a unit, and it strengthens relationships between its members. It also helps the wolves to keep track of one another when they are separated. After all, wolves hunt over huge areas and often end up scattered, sometimes across many miles. The howling brings them back together, and the wolves are acutely aware when one of their members is missing.

According to scientists at the Wolf Science Center and the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, wolves are motivated to howl by affection for a missing packmate. Friendship, then, is what leads to the most intense howling sessions.

The pups in this video are building important social skills that will come to shape the rest of their lives. Social hierarchies are also reflected in wolf howls, and sometimes quarrels do break out over who is allowed to take part. But with wolves this young, rank is still being determined, and what’s most important is learning to function as a group. So far, they seem to be doing just fine.