Spirit of the wolf was/is the most important buff in the game. Having the ability to run faster made getting coaches, escaping, and exploration much more bearable.
When the game first came out, my friend and I made some pretty mistakes about the buff. First, we called it by the way it looked. Sow like sour. Second, we thought that only barbarians could get SoW (since most Shammys were barbarians) and they had it because they were so tall that their legs couldn’t keep up with the munchkins of the game.
SoW became pretty common on the Say-Chat feed. If you were a shammy or druid over level 12, your importance went up significantly. A friend of mine avoided big cities all together because he hated the requests. I remember a troll shammy named Agatha that would stand in Highpass with a macro SoW cast going. Anytime you coached through, she would target you and put the buff on.
I remember when rangers and bards were given the buff. That was a major upgrade for their group importance since if you had a cleric in your group you were pretty much up a creek when traveling.
What I never understood is how every class didn’t have some form of self SoW by level 60. Pallys, SKs, clerics, and casters (except alchs and maybe mages?) had no speed bonus buffs. Warriors and monks did have a self-SoW but it only lasted 15-30 seconds.
I get the fact that SoW helps separate classes, yet at 60, you shouldn’t have to be asking level 12’s for SoW and then bowing to show some sort of gratitude. Look at WoW, everyone gets mounts by level 20. Obviously speedier travel is a pretty big interest in improving a player’s interest in a game.