In this excerpt from Beyond Words by Carl Safina, ©2015, researcher Rick McIntyre reminisces about one of his favorite wolves, known by his research number Twenty-one:
One of Twenty-one’s favorite things to do was to wrestle with little pups. “And what he really loved to do,” Rick adds, “was to pretend to lose. He got a huge kick out of it.” Here was this great big male wolf. And he’d let some little wolf jump on him and bite his fur. “He’d just fall on his back with his paws in the air,” Rick half mimes. “And the triumphant-looking little one would be standing over him with his tail wagging.
“The ability to pretend,” Rick adds, “shows that you understand how your actions are perceived by others. It indicates high intelligence. I’m sure the pups knew what was going on, but it was a way for them to learn how it feels to conquer something much bigger than you. And that kind of confidence is what wolves need every day of their hunting lives.”