In my book The Shyness Guide, I discuss The Pipestone Wolves, a book by animal behaviorist Gunter Bloch about a family of wolves that lived in Canada’s Banff National Park.
Bloch writes about the shyness that is common in wolves, and most wild animals. But he has a concept of shyness that is different. After years of research he concluded that the psychological pie can be best divided up not with one split – the usual introvert-extrovert – but with two:
Shy vs Non-shy
Strong-minded vs Weak-minded
Bloch started his studies in Italy with feral dogs, when he says he was using the “introvert/extrovert” terminology. But he found it too confining, so he switched to ‘type A, type B’, which incorporates this different understanding of shyness.
Type A’s, he says, are explorative and daring. They are the wolves most often seen on the park’s roads by tourists. Then he adds:
By contrast, there is the Type B personality, who always waits and behaves more cautiously and is more reserved in decision making. This personality does not spontaneously approach unknown stimuli but rather behaves discreetly and is shy. Type B wolves often take detours around any obstacles, such as vehicles.
Both type A and type B can be either strong or weak, or somewhere in-between.
The male leader of the Pipestone pack was a black wolf they called Spirit. He was a shy wolf – type B – more avoidant of humans and other dangers than most wolves. But he was also a strong-minded, brave wolf who successfully led the pack for years both in hunting and fighting rivals. His partner Faith was Type A, more outgoing than Spirit, and also strong. The two shared their leadership duties on a more or less 50/50 basis.
One of Bloch’s many interesting findings is that wolves tend to mate with a partner who is their opposite – type As join up with type Bs. He has never found two type As or two type Bs together. It makes you wonder whether wolves might know something about psychology – about life – that we don’t know.
I have also said before that I don’t see shyness and autism as distinct personalities. There is a great deal of overlap, and it would be interesting to examine autism with these tools of Gunther Bloch.
Of course, The Pipestone Wolves is about more than shyness, or autism. It is an important addition to the literature about a fascinating animal, and the Pipestone wolf family is one you won’t forget. Here is a link to their beautiful book on Amazon: