The Call of the Wild was enormously popular from the moment it was published. H. L. Menken wrote of London's story: "No other popular writer of his time did any better writing than you will find in Call of the Wild." A reviewer for The New York Times wrote of it in 1903: "If nothing else makes Mr. London's book popular, it ought to be rendered so by the complete way in which it will satisfy the love of dog fights apparently inherent in every man." The reviewer for The Atlantic Monthly wrote that it was a book: "untouched by bookishness...The making and the achievement of such a hero [Buck] constitute, not a pretty story at all, but a very powerful one."
The book secured London a place in the canon of American literature. The first printing of 10,000 copies sold out immediately; it is still one of the best known stories written by an American author, and continues to be read and taught in schools. It has been published in 47 languages. London's first success, the book secured his prospects as a writer and gained him a readership that stayed with him throughout his career.
After the success of The Call of the Wild London wrote to Macmillan in 1904 proposing a second book (White Fang) in which he wanted to describe the opposite of Buck: a dog that transforms from wild to tame: "I'm going to reverse the process...Instead of devolution of decivilization ... I'm going to give the evolution, the civilization of a dog."
The first adaptation of London's story was a silent film made in 1923. The 1935 version starring Clark Gable and Loretta Young expanded John Thornton's role and was the first "talkie" to feature the story. The 1972 movie The Call of the Wild, starring Charlton Heston as John Thornton, was filmed in Finland. The 1978 Snoopy TV special What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is another adaptation. In 1981, an anime film titled Call of the Wild: Howl Buck was released, starring Mike Reynolds and Bryan Cranston.
A comic adaptation had been made in 1998 for Boys Life magazine. Due to cultural sensitivities, the Yeehat Indians are omitted, and John Thorton's killers are now white criminals, who as before, are also killed by Buck.
French Canadian film director Christian Duguay has announced financing and distribution for a version of The Call of the Wild to be released in 2018. Meanwhile, Chris Sanders is directing another film adaptation Call of the Wild[sic], this time hybrid with live action combined with computer animation, scheduled to release on December 25, 2019 by 20th Century Fox. Harrison Ford will star as the lead role and Terry Notary will start as Buck.