In folklore and mythology
Traditionally humans held a distasteful view of wolves, a creature they feared. It was also often accentuated in European folklore beginning in the Christian era. Settlers brought this view with them as they settled North America. The Gray Wolf, once found in every ecosystem across the Northern Hemisphere, was one of the first species to be culled by settlers. As technology made the killing of wolves and predators easier, humans began to overhunt wolves and cause their numbers to dwindle significantly.
In Norse mythology, Fenrir or Fenrisulfr is a gigantic wolf, the son of Loki and the giantess Angrboða. Fenrir is bound by the gods, but is ultimately destined to grow too large for his bonds and devour Odin during the course of Ragnarök. At that time he will have grown so large that his upper jaw touches the sky while his lower touches the earth when he gapes. He will be slain by Odin’s son, Viðarr, who will either stab him in the heart or rip his jaws asunder according to different accounts.
In Central Asian nations such as that of Turkic peoples and Mongols, the wolf is a revered animal. The shamanic Turkic peoples even believed they were descendants of wolves in Turkic legends. The legend of Asena is an old Turkic myth that tells of how the Turkic people were created. In Northern China a small Turkic village was raided by Chinese soldiers, but one small baby was left behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane named Asena found the baby and nursed him, then the she-wolf gave birth to half wolf, half human cubs therefore the Turkic people were born. Also in Turkic mythology it is believed that a Gray Wolf showed the Turks the way out of their legendary homeland Ergenekon, which allowed them to spread and conquer their neighbours.
Relation to the dog
Much debate has centered on the relationship between the wolf and the domestic dog; most authorities seeing the wolf as the dog’s direct ancestor, but others postulating descent from the Golden Jackal. Because the canids have evolved recently and different canids interbreed readily, untangling the true relationships has been difficult. But molecular systematics now indicate very strongly that domestic dogs and wolves are more closely related than either is to any other canid, and the domestic dog is now normally classified as a subspecies of the wolf: Canis lupus familiaris. The main differences between wolves and domestic dogs are that wolves have, on average, 30% larger brains, a better immune system, better sense of smell, and are generally much larger than domestic dogs.