Only one person can really say for sure: Wolverine's original creator, writer Len Wein, who wrote the character into a cameo appearance in The Incredible Hulk #180 way back in 1974, and then placing him as the Hulk's newest adversary in the follow-up book, The Incredible Hulk #181.
Although designed by art director John Romita Sr., Len Wein was the one who decided how to write Wolverine. He was picked due to his work on an earlier comic called Brother Voodoo. Editor-in-chief Roy Thomas was so impressed by Wein's writing of accents that he called Wein up and told him "You are doing something I cannot do as a writer; I cannot write accents to save my life. I'd love to see how you'd do a Canadian accent. Uh, Wolverine's a great name."
Wein then did research on wolverines, and noted that "They are short, mean, nasty little creatures with razor-sharp claws that will attack anything twice their size and don't go anywhere near them; they will kill you. Well, that's a character defined right there." Wein implemented these characteristics into Wolverine, adding an indestructible metal skeleton (later called Adamantium) and an accelerated healing factor, therefore giving him the necessary tools to battle a character like the Hulk in a believable sense; most of this information can be found in the DVD, X-Men Revealed. Later on, when X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released, Wein said on the Blu-Ray special features that 'he has read "Ten things you didn't know about Wolverine", which states that the character was originally intended to be a mutated wolverine.'
He went on to say 'I'm not certain if the idea was first suggested by Chris Claremont, the late, much-missed Dave Cockrum, or John Byrne when he came aboard as artist, but it most certainly did not start with me.' This second part of Wolverine's explained past can be found on Wikipedia. I hope this article helps.