For thousands of years, wolves have captured humanity’s imagination. While they may not be as large as lions or bears, wolves still fill people with fear. These sociable animals hunt in packs and are capable of bringing down prey much heavier than them. Their territory can spread over hundreds of miles, and packs can include up to 20 adult members.
Researchers are discovering more about wolves every year. Direct observation of these complex and intelligent animals in places like the high arctic and Yellowstone, advances in genetics, and sophisticated tracking devices have unlocked many secrets. But much about the wolf remains a mystery, and the adage “Never say ‘Never,’” and never say “Always” when the subject is wolves is still true.
Gray wolves, or timber wolves, are canines with long bushy tails that are often black-tipped. Their coat color is typically a mix of gray and brown with buffy facial markings and undersides, but the color can vary from solid white to brown or black. Gray wolves look somewhat like a large German shepherd. Wolves vary in size depending on where they live. Wolves in the north are usually larger than those in the south. The average size of a wolf’s body is three to five feet long and their tails are usually one to two feet long. Females typically weigh 60 to 100 pounds, and males weigh 70 to 145 pounds.
General Features Of Wolves
1. Gray wolves are the largest living wild canine species.
2. Wolves are the wild ancestor of all our domesticated dogs, from poodles to bulldogs to greyhounds.
3. Wolf packs usually hunt within a territory, which can range from 50 square miles (129 square kilometers) to over a 1,000 square miles (2,590 square kilometers).
4. Wolves often travel at five miles (8 kilometers) an hour, but can reach speeds of 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour.
5. Wolves howl to solidify pack bonds and warn other wolf packs to stay away—but despite popular belief, wolves don’t howl at the moon.
Classification/Taxonomy Of Wolves
This the classification of wolves, according to ITIS:
Kingdom: Animalia Subkingdom: Bilateria Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia Phylum: Chordata Subphylum: Vertebrata Infraphylum: Gnathostomata Superclass: Tetrapoda Class: Mammalia Subclass: Theria Infraclass: Eutheria Order: Carnivora Suborder: Caniformia Family: Canidae Genus: Canis Species:
- Canis lupus (gray wolf)
- Canis rufus (red wolf)
- Canis lycaon (Eastern wolf)
How Many Species Of Wolves Are There In The World?
There are two universally recognized species of wolves in the world: the gray wolf (Canis lupus) and the red wolf (Canis rufus). Two other members of the canine family are considered to be wolves by some researchers and other species by other researchers. The use of molecular genetic research on wolves is suggesting that there may be two more species of wolf in the world. Some scientists question whether the Ethiopian or Abyssinian wolf (Canis simensis) is a true wolf or a jackal. Other researchers have presented strong evidence that the eastern timber wolf (Canis lupus lycaon), may be a distinct species, the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon). Due to the complex nature of studying wolves using molecular genetics to distinguish species, the process takes a great amount of time to reach solid conclusions.
How Much Does A Wolf Weigh?
Wolves can weigh up to as much as 120 pounds. This weight can vary depending on the species, age, and gender of the wolf. Taking all species into account the general weight of a wolf is between 40 to 120 pounds.
Gray wolves are the larger species normally weighing between 50 and 120 pounds, and red wolves are the smaller species normally weigh between 50 and 85 pounds. An even smaller species, the Abyssinian wolf, which is still being debated whether it’s a wolf or not, normally weighs up to 30 pounds.
How Big Are Wolves?
As mentioned earlier, the size of an adult wolf is influenced by its genetic makeup and environment. Some wolves, like the Great Plains wolf, will never reach the gargantuan size of a well-fed Alaskan wolf. Wildlife experts say anything over 140 pounds is huge. With length spans ranging from 6 to 7 feet, wolves reach a formidable size among forest predators. However, they’re not nearly as big as some domesticated dog breeds like the Great Dane and English Mastiff.
How Much Does Wolf Pups Weigh?
Gray and red wolf pups weigh about a pound at birth. The newborns are blind and deaf and depend upon their mother for warmth. In about two weeks, their eyes open, and in three weeks, they emerge from the den and begin to explore their world. Growth is rapid, and by the time the pups are 6 months old, they are almost as big as the adults.
Do Wolves Attack Humans?
It is extremely rare that wolves attack humans. This idea has mostly been populated out of fear of the creatures, and is largely untrue. Wild wolves are generally scared of humans and will stay away. Out of the documented attacks, most have happened from pet wolves that had become used to humans.
Can You Buy A Wolf As A Pet?
It depends on where you live. Many state or city ordinances forbid citizens from owning a 100% wolf as a pet. Sometimes, a mix is allowed. Check your local laws to be sure.
What Is Wolf Pack
A wolf pack is a cohesive family unit consisting of the adult parents and their offspring of the current year and perhaps the previous year and sometimes two years or more. Wolf parents used to be referred to as the alpha male and alpha female or the alpha pair. These terms have been replaced by “breeding male,” “breeding female,” and “breeding pair,” or simply “parents.” The adult parents are usually unrelated, and other unrelated wolves may sometimes join the pack.
Though wolves once roamed far and wide, they are very scarce today. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists red wolves as critically endangered. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, there are 20 to 80 red wolves currently living in the wild.