Gray Wolf
Overview
The gray wolf also known as the wolf, is the largest extant wild member of the Canidae
Canidae
Canidae is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and domestic dogs. A member of this family is called a canid . The Canidae family is divided into two tribes: Canini and Vulpini...

 family. Though once abundant over much of Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, the gray wolf inhabits a reduced portion of its former range due to widespread destruction of its territory, human encroachment, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked broad extirpation
Local extinction
Local extinction, also known as extirpation, is the condition of a species which ceases to exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere...

. Even so, the gray wolf is regarded as being of least concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 for extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when the entire gray wolf population is considered as a whole.
Encyclopedia
The gray wolf also known as the wolf, is the largest extant wild member of the Canidae
Canidae
Canidae is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and domestic dogs. A member of this family is called a canid . The Canidae family is divided into two tribes: Canini and Vulpini...

 family. Though once abundant over much of Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

 and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

, the gray wolf inhabits a reduced portion of its former range due to widespread destruction of its territory, human encroachment, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked broad extirpation
Local extinction
Local extinction, also known as extirpation, is the condition of a species which ceases to exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere...

. Even so, the gray wolf is regarded as being of least concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 for extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when the entire gray wolf population is considered as a whole. Today, wolves are protected in some areas, hunted for sport in others, or may be subject to population control or extermination as threats to livestock, people, and pets.

Gray wolves are social predators that live in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, their offspring and, occasionally, adopted immature wolves. They primarily feed on ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s, which they hunt by wearing them down in short chases. Gray wolves are typically apex predator
Apex predator
Apex predators are predators that have no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Zoologists define predation as the killing and consumption of another organism...

s throughout their range, with only human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s and tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

s posing significant threats to them.

Genetic studies reaffirm that the gray wolf is the ancestor of the domestic dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

. A number of other Canis lupus subspecies
Subspecies of Canis lupus
Canis lupus has 39 subspecies currently described, including two subspecies of domestic dog, Canis lupus dingo and Canis lupus familiaris, and many subspecies of wolf throughout the Northern hemisphere...

 have been identified, though the actual number of subspecies is still open to discussion.

In areas where human cultures and wolves both occur, wolves frequently feature in the folklore and mythology of those cultures, both positively and negatively.

Evolution

The most likely ancestral candidate of Canis lupus is Canis lepophagus
Canis lepophagus
Canis lepophagus or Hare-eating Wolf is an extinct species of canidae which was endemic to much of North America and lived from the Miocene epoch through Early Pleistocene, 10.3—1.8 Mya. The species existed for approximately . It is one of the more basal species of Canis, having existed before most...

, a small, narrow skulled North American canid of the Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 era, which may have also given rise to coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s. Some larger, broader skulled C. lepophagus fossils found in northern Texas may represent the ancestral stock from which true wolves derive. The first true wolves began to appear at the end of the Blancan North American Stage
Blancan
The Blancan North American Stage on the geologic timescale is the North American faunal stage according to the North American Land Mammal Ages chronology , typically set from 4,750,000 to 1,808,000 years BP, a period of .. It is usually considered to start in the early-mid Pliocene epoch and end...

 and the onset of the early Irvingtonian
Irvingtonian
The Irvingtonian North American Stage on the geologic timescale is the North American faunal stage according to the North American Land Mammal Ages chronology , typically set from 1,800,000 to 300,000 years BP, a period of . It is usually considered to overlap the Lower Pleistocene and Middle...

. Among them was Canis priscolatrans, a small species closely resembling the red wolf
Red Wolf
The red wolf is a North American canid which once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States and is a glacial period survivor of the Late Pleistocene epoch...

, which colonised Eurasia by crossing the Bering land bridge
Bering land bridge
The Bering land bridge was a land bridge roughly 1,000 miles wide at its greatest extent, which joined present-day Alaska and eastern Siberia at various times during the Pleistocene ice ages. Like most of Siberia and all of Manchuria, Beringia was not glaciated because snowfall was extremely light...

. The new Eurasian C. priscolatrans population evolved into Canis etruscus, then Canis mosbachensis.

This primitive wolf closely resembled the modern southern wolf populations of the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia, which were once distributed in Europe in the early Quaternary glaciation
Quaternary glaciation
Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, the current ice age or simply the ice age, refers to the period of the last few million years in which permanent ice sheets were established in Antarctica and perhaps Greenland, and fluctuating ice sheets have occurred elsewhere...

 until about 500,000 years ago (see Subspecies). C. mosbachensis evolved in the direction of Canis lupus, and recolonised North America in the late Rancholabrean
Rancholabrean
The Rancholabrean North American Stage on the geologic timescale is the North American faunal stage according to the North American Land Mammal Ages chronology , typically set from less than 240,000 years to 11,000 years BP, a period of . It is usually considered to overlap the Middle Pleistocene...

 era. There, a larger canid species called Canis dirus was already established, but it became extinct 8,000 years ago after the large prey it relied on was wiped out. Competition with the newly arrived gray wolves for the smaller and swifter prey that survived may have contributed to its decline. With the extinction of dire wolves, gray wolves became the only large and widespread canid species left.

The North American recolonisation likely occurred in several waves, with the most distinctive populations occurring in the periphery of the range. These populations (C. l. arctos
Arctic Wolf
The Arctic Wolf , also called Polar Wolf or White Wolf, is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf, a mammal of the family Canidae. Arctic Wolves inhabit the Canadian Arctic, Alaska and the northern parts of Greenland....

on the high arctic islands, C. l. lycaon
Eastern Wolf
The Eastern Wolf , also known as Eastern Canadian Wolf or Eastern Canadian Red Wolf, may be a subspecies of gray wolf or a distinct species of canid native to the eastern part of North America since the Pleistocene era. It seems to be closely related to the Red Wolf...

in the eastern forests, C. l. baileyi
Mexican Wolf
The Mexican Wolf is a subspecies of the Gray Wolf. It is native to North America, where it is the rarest and most genetically distinct subspecies.- Physical features :...

in the far south and C. l. rufus at the continental corner opposite the point of invasion) may represent survivors of early migrations from Eurasia. C. l. baileyi, C. l. lycaon and C. l. rufus display some primitive traits and systematic affinity to one another. Fossil remains from the late Pleistocene of large bodied wolves similar to C. l. arctos and C. l. albus
Tundra Wolf
The Tundra Wolf is a subspecies of Gray Wolf native to the tundra and forest zones in the European and Asian parts of Russia and Kamchatka. Outside Russia, its range includes the extreme north of Scandinavia....

occur in coastal southern California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, indicating that large North American gray wolf subspecies were once widespread, and may have been driven southward by glaciation, though wolves no longer reside there. Fossils of small bodied wolves similar to C. l. baileyi have been found in a range encompassing Kansas and southern California. This indicates a late Pleistocene population flux, in which large, Arctic forms of wolf moved farther south, with smaller, warmth adapted wolves expanding as the climate moderated.

The now extinct Japanese wolves
Japanese Wolf
The Hokkaidō Wolf, known in Japan as the , is one of the two extinct subspecies of Canis lupus that have been called the Japanese Wolf. The other is the Honshū Wolf.This endemic wolf of Japan occupied the island of Hokkaidō...

 were descended from large Siberian wolves which colonised the Korean Peninsula
Korean Peninsula
The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 684 miles from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the south, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water.Until the end of...

 and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, before it separated from mainland Asia, 20,000 years ago during the Pleistocene. During the Holocene, the Tsugaru Strait
Tsugaru Strait
is a channel between Honshu and Hokkaido in northern Japan connecting the Sea of Japan with the Pacific Ocean. It was named after the western part of Aomori Prefecture...

 widened and isolated Honshu
Honshu
is the largest island of Japan. The nation's main island, it is south of Hokkaido across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyushu across the Kanmon Strait...

 from Hokkaidō
Hokkaido
, formerly known as Ezo, Yezo, Yeso, or Yesso, is Japan's second largest island; it is also the largest and northernmost of Japan's 47 prefectural-level subdivisions. The Tsugaru Strait separates Hokkaido from Honshu, although the two islands are connected by the underwater railway Seikan Tunnel...

, thus causing climactic changes leading to the extinction of most large bodied ungulates inhabiting the archipelago. Japanese wolves likely underwent a process of island dwarfism 7,000–13,000 years ago in response to these climatological and ecological pressures. C. l. hattai (formerly native to Hokkaidō) was significantly larger than it southern cousin C. l. hodophilax
Honshu Wolf
The Honshū Wolf, known in Japan as the , , or simply , is one of the two extinct subspecies of the Gray Wolf once endemic to the islands of Japan. The Honshū Wolf occupied the islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū in Japan. The other subspecies is the Hokkaidō Wolf, native to the island of Hokkaidō...

, as it inhabited higher elevations and had access to larger prey, as well as a continuing genetic interaction with dispersing wolves from Siberia.

Subspecies

In 2005, 37 subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

 of wolf were recognised, including the red wolf
Red Wolf
The red wolf is a North American canid which once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States and is a glacial period survivor of the Late Pleistocene epoch...

 and not including two Canis lupus subspecies: Canis lupus dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

 and Canis lupus familiaris
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

. Wolf subspecies are divided into two categories:

"Northern wolves": large-sized, large-brained wolves with strong carnassials which inhabit North America, Europe and northern Asia.
"Southern wolves": native to North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia. They are characterised by their short fur, small brains and weak carnassials. They may represent a relict
Relict
A relict is a surviving remnant of a natural phenomenon.* In biology a relict is an organism that at an earlier time was abundant in a large area but now occurs at only one or a few small areas....

 population of early wolves, as they closely resemble fossil European wolves, and the rate of changes observed in their DNA sequences date them to about 800,000 years, as opposed to the American and European lineages which stretch back only 150,000. The vocalisations of southern wolves have a higher proportion of short, sharp barking, and they seldom howl. It is likely that dogs and dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

es stem from this group.

Wolves in Central and East Asia are intermediate in form and size to northern and southern wolves. Differences in brain size
Brain size
Brain size is one aspect of animal anatomy and evolution. Both overall brain size and the size of substructures have been analysed, and the question of links between size and functioning - particularly intelligence - has often proved controversial...

 are well defined in different wolf populations, with wolves in northern Eurasia having the highest values, North American wolves having slightly smaller brains, and the southern wolves having the smallest. Southern wolves have brains 5–10% smaller than northern wolves. Though different in behaviour and morphology, northern and southern wolves can still interbreed: the Zoological Gardens of London
London Zoo
London Zoo is the world's oldest scientific zoo. It was opened in London on 27 April 1828, and was originally intended to be used as a collection for scientific study. It was eventually opened to the public in 1847...

 for example once successfully managed to mate a male European wolf to an Indian female, resulting in a cub bearing an almost exact likeness to its sire.

Domestication

Studies on the genetic distance
Genetic distance
Genetic distance refers to the genetic divergence between species or between populations within a species. It is measured by a variety of parameters. Smaller genetic distances indicate a close genetic relationship whereas large genetic distances indicate a more distant genetic relationship...

 for mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA located in organelles called mitochondria, structures within eukaryotic cells that convert the chemical energy from food into a form that cells can use, adenosine triphosphate...

 on dogs and Eurasian wolves confirmed that wolves are the exclusive ancestral species to dogs. Domestic dogs possess four mtDNA lineages, suggesting four independent domestication events. A later study identified mtDNA evidence suggesting a common origin from a single East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

n gene pool for all dog populations, while another, using a much larger data set of nuclear markers, points to the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 as the source of most of the genetic diversity in the domestic dog and a more likely origin of domestication events. A study by the Kunming Institute of Zoology
Kunming Institute of Zoology
Kunming Institute of Zoology , one of the 20 biological institutes under the Chinese Academy of Sciences , is one of China's first class zoological research institutes...

 found that the domestic dog is descended from wolves tamed less than 16,300 years ago south of the Yangtse river in China. Morphological comparisons have narrowed the likely ancestral subspecies of gray wolf to wolves of the Middle Eastern and South Asian variety.

The actual domestication process is a source of debate. Although it is popularly assumed that dogs are the result of artificial selection
Artificial selection
Artificial selection describes intentional breeding for certain traits, or combination of traits. The term was utilized by Charles Darwin in contrast to natural selection, in which the differential reproduction of organisms with certain traits is attributed to improved survival or reproductive...

, the general intractability of adult wolves to human handling has led certain experts to theorise that the domestication process occurred through natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 when Mesolithic
Mesolithic
The Mesolithic is an archaeological concept used to refer to certain groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Paleolithic and the Neolithic....

 human communities began building permanent settlements in which a new ecological niche
Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem to each other; e.g. a dolphin could potentially be in another ecological niche from one that travels in a different pod if the members of these pods utilize significantly different food...

 (midden
Midden
A midden, is an old dump for domestic waste which may consist of animal bone, human excrement, botanical material, vermin, shells, sherds, lithics , and other artifacts and ecofacts associated with past human occupation...

s and landfill
Landfill
A landfill site , is a site for the disposal of waste materials by burial and is the oldest form of waste treatment...

s) was opened to wolves. These wolves would have formed a commensal relationship
Commensalism
In ecology, commensalism is a class of relationship between two organisms where one organism benefits but the other is neutral...

 with humans, feeding on their waste over many generations, with natural selection favouring assertive wolves with shorter flight distances in human presence, and causing physical changes related to the redundancy of features adapted for hunting big game.

Although dogs are the most closely related canids to gray wolves (the sequence divergence between gray wolves and dogs is only 1.8%, as opposed to over 4% between gray wolves, Ethiopian wolves
Ethiopian Wolf
The Ethiopian wolf , also known as the Abyssinian wolf, Abyssinian fox, red jackal, Simien fox, or Simien jackal is a canid native to Africa...

 and coyotes), there are a number of physical and behavioural differences. Comparative studies on dog and wolf behaviour and anatomy have shown that dog physiology and most dog behaviours are comparable to those of young wolves, an example of neoteny
Neoteny
Neoteny , also called juvenilization , is one of the two ways by which paedomorphism can arise. Paedomorphism is the retention by adults of traits previously seen only in juveniles, and is a subject studied in the field of developmental biology. In neoteny, the physiological development of an...

 and pedomorphism.

The tympanic bullae are large, convex and almost spherical in wolves, in contrast to dogs whose bullae are smaller, compressed and slightly crumpled. Compared to equally sized dogs, wolves tend to have 20% larger skulls and 10% bigger brains. The reduction lies in the parts of the brain that deal with sense impressions. The teeth of wolves are also proportionately larger than those of dogs; premolar
Premolar
The premolar teeth or bicuspids are transitional teeth located between the canine and molar teeth. In humans, there are two premolars per quadrant, making eight premolars total in the mouth. They have at least two cusps. Premolars can be considered as a 'transitional tooth' during chewing, or...

s and molar
Molar (tooth)
Molars are the rearmost and most complicated kind of tooth in most mammals. In many mammals they grind food; hence the Latin name mola, "millstone"....

s of wolves are much less crowded, and have more complex cusp
Cusp (dentistry)
A cusp is an occlusal or incisal eminence on a tooth.Canine teeth, otherwise known as cuspids, each possess a single cusp, while premolars, otherwise known as bicuspids, possess two each. Molars normally possess either four or five cusps...

 patterns. Dogs lack a pre-caudal gland
Pre-caudal gland
The pre-caudal gland is located at the base of a wolf's tail. It can be used to release a pheromone onto another wolf, marking that wolf as a member of a particular pack. Usually, this marking is performed by the alpha male....

, and enter estrus twice yearly, unlike wolves which only do so once annually.

The forelegs of wolves are closer to each other than those of dogs, with the former's tracks being further apart. Their tails hang straight or in a slight curve toward the body when neutral, whereas dogs carry their tails in a slight curl. Wolf paws are generally larger than dog paws, though it is almost impossible to distinguish similarly sized wolf and dog prints with certainty, though most dogs tend to have rounder paw prints than wolves.

Physical description

Anatomy

Gray wolves are slender, powerfully built animals with large, deeply descending ribcages and sloping backs. Their abdomens are pulled in, and their necks heavily muscled. Their limbs are long and robust, with comparatively small paws. The front paws have five toes each, while the back paws have four. The forelimbs are seemingly pressed into the chest, with the elbows pointed inward, and the feet outward. Females tend to have narrower muzzles and foreheads, thinner necks, slightly shorter legs and less massive shoulders than males. Wolves are very strong for their size, possessing sufficient strength to turn over a frozen horse or moose carcass.

They are also capable of running at speeds of 56–64 km (34–38 miles) per hour, and can continue running for more than 20 minutes, though not necessarily at that speed. In cold climates, wolves can reduce the flow of blood near their skin to conserve body heat. The warmth of the footpads is regulated independently of the rest of the body, and is maintained at just above tissue-freezing point where the pads come in contact with ice and snow. The intestines of adult wolves measure 460–575 cm, the ratio to body length being 4.13–4.62. The stomach
Stomach
The stomach is a muscular, hollow, dilated part of the alimentary canal which functions as an important organ of the digestive tract in some animals, including vertebrates, echinoderms, insects , and molluscs. It is involved in the second phase of digestion, following mastication .The stomach is...

 can hold 7–9 kg (15–20 lb) of food and up to 7.5 litres (8 U.S. qt) of water. The liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

 is relatively large, weighing 0.7–1.9 kg (1.6–4.2 lb) in males and 0.68–0.82 kg (1.5–1.8 lb) in females.

Wolves' heads are large and heavy, with wide foreheads, strong jaws and long, blunt muzzles. The ears are relatively small and triangular. Wolves usually carry their heads at the same level as their backs, raising their heads only when alert. The sagittal
Sagittal crest
A sagittal crest is a ridge of bone running lengthwise along the midline of the top of the skull of many mammalian and reptilian skulls, among others....

 and lambdoid crests are well developed, the former dividing just in front of the bregma
Bregma
The bregma is the anatomical point on the skull at which the coronal suture is intersected perpendicularly by the sagittal suture.-Location:The bregma is located at the intersection of the coronal suture and the sagittal suture on the superior middle portion of the calvarium...

 into two ridges curving outward to form posterior border of postorbital process
Postorbital process
The Postorbital Process marks the rear, upper edge of the eye socket and is a projection from the frontal bone....

es. The interorbital region
Interorbital region
The interorbital region of the skull is located between the eyes, anterior to the braincase. The form of the interorbital region may exhibit significant variation between taxonomic groups....

 is moderately elevated and well defined, with distinct longitudinal concavity between raised and thickened postorbital processes. The dental formula is:

The teeth are heavy and large, being better suited to bone crushing than those of other extant canids, though not as specialised as those found in hyena
Hyena
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora , and one of the smallest in the mammalia...

s. The canine teeth are robust and relatively short (26 mm). The animal can develop a crushing pressure of perhaps 1,500 lbf/in2 compared to 750 lbf/in2 for a German shepherd. This force is sufficient to break open most bones, as well as cut through half inch lasso
Lasso
A lasso , also referred to as a lariat, riata, or reata , is a loop of rope that is designed to be thrown around a target and tighten when pulled. It is a well-known tool of the American cowboy. The word is also a verb; to lasso is to successfully throw the loop of rope around something...

s with one snap.

They generally resemble German shepherds or huskies
Husky
Husky is a general name for a type of dog originally used to pull sleds in northern regions, differentiated from other sled dog types by their fast hard pulling style...

 in bodily configuration, but are distinguishable from them by their orbital angle of 40°–45° rather than 53°–60°, and the greater size of their heads and teeth (see Domestication). Compared to coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s, wolves are larger and have broader snouts, shorter ears, and a proportionately smaller brain case and lack sweat glands on their pawpads. Compared to golden jackal
Golden Jackal
The golden jackal , also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, thos or gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe , Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia...

s, wolves are larger and heavier, and have proportionately longer legs, shorter torsos and longer tails. The teeth are overall less trenchant than the jackal's, particularly in the upper molars, which have lower cusps, are broader, and are more .

Dimensions

Gray wolves are the largest extant members of the Canidae
Canidae
Canidae is the biological family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals that includes wolves, foxes, jackals, coyotes, and domestic dogs. A member of this family is called a canid . The Canidae family is divided into two tribes: Canini and Vulpini...

, excepting certain large breeds of domestic dog. Gray wolf weight and size can vary greatly worldwide, tending to increase proportionally with latitude as predicted by Bergmann's Rule
Bergmann's Rule
Bergmann's rule is an ecogeographic principle that states that within a broadly distributed genus, species of larger size are found in colder environments, and species of smaller size are found in warmer regions. Although originally formulated in terms of species within a genus, it has often been...

. Adult wolves are 105–160 cm (41–63 in) in length and 80–85 cm (32–34 in) in shoulder height. The tail is ⅔ the length of the head and body, measuring 29–50 cm (11–20 in) in length. The ears are 90–110 mm (3.5–4.3 in) in height, and the hind feet are 220–250 mm. Wolf weight varies geographically; on average, European wolves may weigh 38.5 kilograms (84.9 lb), North American wolves 36 kilograms (79.4 lb), Indian and Arabian wolves 25 kilograms (55.1 lb) and North African wolves 13 kilograms (28.7 lb).

Females in any given wolf population typically weigh 5–10 lbs less than males. Wolves weighing over 54 kg (120 lbs) are uncommon, though exceptionally large individuals have been recorded in Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, and the former Soviet Union. The heaviest recorded gray wolf in North America was killed on 70 Mile River in east-central Alaska on July 12, 1939 and weighed 79.4 kilograms (175 lb), while the heaviest recorded wolf in Eurasia was killed after World War II in the Kobelyakski Area
Kobeliaky
-Famous people from Kobeliaky:* Nikolai Timofeyevich Gres, soloist with the Bolshoi Theatre and the Alexandrov Ensemble-References:* * * * Kobeliaki on Ukrainian Wikipedia...

 of the Poltavskij Region
Poltava Oblast
Poltava Oblast is an oblast of central Ukraine. The administrative center of the oblast is the city of Poltava.Other important cities within the oblast include: Komsomolsk, Kremenchuk, Lubny and Myrhorod.-Geography:...

, Ukrainian SSR
Ukrainian SSR
The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic or in short, the Ukrainian SSR was a sovereign Soviet Socialist state and one of the fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union lasting from its inception in 1922 to the breakup in 1991...

, and weighed 86 kilograms (189.6 lb).

Fur

Gray wolves have very dense and fluffy winter fur, with short underfur and long, coarse guard hair
Guard hair
Guard hairs are the longest, coarsest hairs in a mammal's coat, forming the topcoat . They taper to a point and protect the undercoat from the elements. They are often water repellent and stick out above the rest of the coat...

s. Most of the underfur and some of the guard hairs are shed in the spring and grow back in the autumn period. The longest hairs occur on the back, particularly on the front quarters and neck. Especially long hairs are found on the shoulders, and almost form a crest on the upper part of the neck. The hairs on the cheeks are elongated and form tufts. The ears are covered in short hairs which strongly project from the fur. Short, elastic and closely adjacent hairs are present on the limbs from the elbow
Elbow
The human elbow is the region surrounding the elbow-joint—the ginglymus or hinge joint in the middle of the arm. Three bones form the elbow joint: the humerus of the upper arm, and the paired radius and ulna of the forearm....

s down to the calcaneal tendons.

The winter fur is highly resistant to cold; wolves in northern climates can rest comfortably in open areas at −40° by placing their muzzles between the rear legs and covering their faces with their tail. Wolf fur provides better insulation than dog fur, and, as with wolverine
Wolverine
The wolverine, pronounced , Gulo gulo , also referred to as glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae . It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids...

s, it does not collect ice when warm breath is condensed against it. In warm climates, the fur is coarser and scarcer than in northern wolves.

Female wolves tend to have smoother furred limbs than males, and generally develop the smoothest overall coats as they age. Older wolves generally have more white hairs in the tip of the tail, along the nose and on the forehead. The winter fur is retained longest in lactating females, though with some hair loss around their nipples. Hair length on the middle of the back is 60–70 mm. Hair length of the guard hairs on the shoulders generally does not exceed 90 mm, but can reach 110–130 mm.

Coat colour ranges from almost pure white through various shades of blond, cream, and ochre to grays, browns, and blacks. Differences in coat colour between sexes are largely absent, though females may have redder tones. Fur colour does not seem to serve any camouflage
Camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...

 purpose, with some scientists concluding that the blended colors have more to do with emphasizing certain gestures during interaction. Black coloured wolves
Black wolf (animal)
A black wolf is a melanistic color variant of the grey wolf . Black specimens are recorded among red wolves , but these color variants are probably extinct...

 (which occur through wolf-dog hybridisation) rarely occur in Eurasia, where interactions with domestic dogs has been reduced over the past thousand years due to the depletion of wild wolf populations. They are more common in North America; about half of the wolves in the reintroduced wolf population in Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park are black. In southern Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 the black phase is more common than the white, though gray coloured wolves predominate.

Senses

Their sense of smell is relatively weakly developed when compared to that of some hunting dog
Hunting dog
A hunting dog refers to any dog who assists humans in hunting. There are several types of hunting dogs developed for various tasks. The major categories of hunting dogs include hounds, terriers, dachshunds, cur type dogs, and gun dogs...

 breeds, being able to detect carrion upwind no farther than 2–3 km. Because of this, they rarely capture hidden hares or birds, though they can easily follow fresh tracks. Captive wolves are known to be able to detect what foods their handlers have eaten by smell. Their auditory perception is very sharp, being able to hear up to a frequency of 26 kHz, and is greater than that of foxes. Their hearing is sharp enough to register the fall of leaves in the autumn period. The legend that wolves fear the sound of string instrument
String instrument
A string instrument is a musical instrument that produces sound by means of vibrating strings. In the Hornbostel-Sachs scheme of musical instrument classification, used in organology, they are called chordophones...

s may have a basis in fact, as captive wolves in the Regent's Park Zoo were shown to exhibit signs of intense distress when hearing low minor chords. Their eyesight is not as powerful as that of dogs, though their night vision
Night vision
Night vision is the ability to see in low light conditions. Whether by biological or technological means, night vision is made possible by a combination of two approaches: sufficient spectral range, and sufficient intensity range...

 is the most advanced of the Canidae.

Social structure

In popular literature, wolf packs
Pack (canine)
Pack is a social group of conspecific canids. Not all species of canids - notably the red fox - form packs. Pack size and social behaviour within packs varies across species.-Species which exhibit pack behavior:...

 are often portrayed as strictly hierarchical social structures with a breeding "alpha" pair which climbs the social ladder through fighting, followed by subordinate "beta" wolves and a low ranking "omega" which bears the brunt of the pack's aggression. This terminology is based heavily on the behaviour of captive wolf packs composed of unrelated animals, which will fight and compete against each other for status. Also, as dispersal is impossible in captive situations, fights become more frequent than in natural settings. In the wild, wolf packs are little more than nuclear families
Nuclear family
Nuclear family is a term used to define a family group consisting of a father and mother and their children. This is in contrast to the smaller single-parent family, and to the larger extended family. Nuclear families typically center on a married couple, but not always; the nuclear family may have...

 whose basic social unit consists of a mated pair, followed by its offspring. Northern wolf packs tend not to be as compact or unified as those of African wild dog
African Wild Dog
Lycaon pictus is a large canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and lightly wooded areas. It is variously called the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf...

s and spotted hyena
Spotted Hyena
The spotted hyena also known as laughing hyena, is a carnivorous mammal of the family Hyaenidae, of which it is the largest extant member. Though the species' prehistoric range included Eurasia extending from Atlantic Europe to China, it now only occurs in all of Africa south of the Sahara save...

s, though they are not as unstable as those of coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s. Southern wolves are more similar in social behaviour to coyotes and dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

es, living largely alone or in pairs. The average pack consists of 5–11 animals; 1–2 adults, 3–6 juveniles and 1–3 yearlings, though exceptionally large packs consisting of 42 wolves are known. Wolf packs rarely adopt other wolves into their fold, and typically kill them. In the rare cases where strange wolves are adopted, the adoptee is almost invariably a young animal of 1–3 years of age, while killed wolves are mostly fully grown. The adoption of a new member can be a lengthy process, and can consist of weeks of exploratory, non-fatal attacks in order to establish whether or not the newcomer is trustworthy. During times of ungulate abundance (migration, calving etc.), different wolf packs may temporarily join forces. Wolves as young as five months and as old as five years have been recorded to leave their packs to start their own families, though the average age is 11–24 months. Triggers for dispersal include the onset of sexual maturity and competition within the pack for food and breeding.

Reproduction

In areas with low wolf densities, wolves are generally monogamous. Mated pairs usually remain together for life if one of the wolves does not die. Upon the death of one mated wolf, pairs are quickly re-established. Since males often predominate in any given wolf population, unpaired females are a rarity. Polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

 does occur, but primarily in captive situations. Multiple litters are rarely successful, due to infanticide
Infanticide
Infanticide or infant homicide is the killing of a human infant. Neonaticide, a killing within 24 hours of a baby's birth, is most commonly done by the mother.In many past societies, certain forms of infanticide were considered permissible...

 by the pack's females. The age of first breeding in wolves depends largely on environmental factors; when food is abundant, or when wolf populations are heavily managed, wolves can rear pups at younger ages in order to exploit the newly available resources. Captive wolves have been known to breed as soon as they reach 9–10 months, while the youngest recorded breeding wolves in the wild were 2 years old. Females are capable of producing pups every year, with one litter annually being the average. Unlike coyotes, wolves never reach reproductive senescence
Menopause
Menopause is a term used to describe the permanent cessation of the primary functions of the human ovaries: the ripening and release of ova and the release of hormones that cause both the creation of the uterine lining and the subsequent shedding of the uterine lining...

 before they die. Incest
Incest
Incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives that is usually illegal in the jurisdiction where it takes place and/or is conventionally considered a taboo. The term may apply to sexual activities between: individuals of close "blood relationship"; members of the same household; step...

 rarely occurs, though inbreeding
Inbreeding
Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is...

 has been reported in Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan is a prairie province in Canada, which has an area of . Saskatchewan is bordered on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota....

 and Isle Royale
Isle Royale
Isle Royale is an island of the Great Lakes, located in the northwest of Lake Superior, and part of the state of Michigan. The island and the 450 surrounding smaller islands and waters make up Isle Royale National Park....

.

Estrus typically occurs in late winter, with older, multiparous females entering estrus 2–3 weeks earlier than younger females. Before the rut ensues, wolf packs will temporarily dissolve until the end of the mating season. When receptive, females will avert the base of their tails to one side, exposing the vulva
Vulva
The vulva consists of the external genital organs of the female mammal. This article deals with the vulva of the human being, although the structures are similar for other mammals....

. During mating, the pair is locked into a copulatory tie which may last 5–36 minutes. Because estrus in wolves only lasts a month, the males do not abandon their mates to find other females to inseminate as dogs do. During pregnancy, female wolves will remain in a den located away from the peripheral zone of their territories, where violent encounters with other packs are more likely. Old females usually whelp
Whelp
The term Whelp can refer to:* A Whelp: a young, carnivorous mammal, essentially one that is still dependent on its parent for food, care and/or protection...

 in the den of their previous litter, while younger females typically den near their birthplace. The gestation period
Gestation period
For mammals the gestation period is the time in which a fetus develops, beginning with fertilization and ending at birth. The duration of this period varies between species.-Duration:...

 lasts 62–75 days, with pups usually being born in the summer period. The average litter consists of 5–6 pups. Litters of 14–17 occur 1% of the time. Litter sizes tend to increase in areas where prey is abundant. Wolves bear relatively large pups in small litters compared to other canid species. Pups are born blind
Blindness
Blindness is the condition of lacking visual perception due to physiological or neurological factors.Various scales have been developed to describe the extent of vision loss and define blindness...

 and deaf, and are covered in short soft grayish-brown fur. They weigh 300–500 grams at birth, and begin to see after 9–12 days. The milk canines erupt after one month. Pups first leave the den after 3 weeks. At 1.5 months of age, they are agile enough to flee from danger. Mother wolves do not leave the den for the first few weeks, relying on the fathers to provide food for them and their young. Unlike wolf mothers, the fathers do not regurgitate the pups' food, but carry them pieces from a kill. If the mother dies prior to the pups' weaning period, they are suckled by the pack's other females. Pups begin to eat solid food at the age of 3–4 weeks. Pups have a fast growth rate during their first four months of life: during this period: a pup's weight can increase nearly 30 times.

The reproductive behaviour of introduced wolf packs in Yellowstone
History of wolves in Yellowstone
When Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872, gray wolf populations were already in decline in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. The creation of the national park did not provide protection for wolves or other predators, and government predator control programs in the first decades of the 1900s...

 is unusual, as they often have multiple breeding females who mate with lone male wolves that encroach upon the pack territories during the mating season. These so called "Casanova wolves" are young males that, having failed to procure mates or territories after leaving their natal pack, mate with the daughters of already established breeding pairs from other packs. Unlike males from established packs, Casanova wolves do not form pair bonds with the females they mate with. Because of the great abundance of prey in Yellowstone, female wolves there can bear multiple litters in this fashion.

Denning and sheltering behaviour

Wolves use different places for their diurnal rest; places with cover are preferred during cold, damp and windy weather, while wolves in dry, calm and warm weather readily rest in the open. During the autumn-spring period, when wolves are more active, they willingly lie out in the open, whatever their location. Actual dens are usually constructed for pups during the summer period. When building dens, females make use of natural shelters such as fissures in rocks, cliffs overhanging riverbanks and holes thickly covered by vegetation. Sometimes, the den is the appropriated burrow of smaller animals such as foxes, badgers or marmots. An appropriated den is often widened and partly remade. On rare occasions, female wolves will dig burrows themselves, which are usually small and short with 1-3 openings. Wolves do not line their denning places, a likely precaution against parasites. The den is usually constructed not more than 500 metres away from a water source. Resting places, play areas for the pups and food remains are commonly found around wolf dens. The odour of urine and rotting food emanating from the denning area often attracts scavenging birds such as magpie
Magpie
Magpies are passerine birds of the crow family, Corvidae.In Europe, "magpie" is often used by English speakers as a synonym for the European Magpie, as there are no other magpies in Europe outside Iberia...

s and raven
Raven
Raven is the common name given to several larger-bodied members of the genus Corvus—but in Europe and North America the Common Raven is normally implied...

s. As there are few convenient places for burrows, wolf dens are usually occupied by animals of the same family. Though they mostly avoid areas within human sight, wolves have been known to nest near domicile
Domicile
*In architecture, a general term for a place of residence or "permanent residence" in legal terms*Domicile , the zodiac sign over which a planet has rulership...

s, paved road
Road
A road is a thoroughfare, route, or way on land between two places, which typically has been paved or otherwise improved to allow travel by some conveyance, including a horse, cart, or motor vehicle. Roads consist of one, or sometimes two, roadways each with one or more lanes and also any...

s and railways.

Territorial behaviour

Wolves are highly territorial animals, and generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive in order to assure a steady supply of prey. Territory size depends largely on the amount of prey available: in areas with an abundance of prey, the territories of resident wolf packs are smaller. Wolf packs travel constantly in search of prey, covering roughly 9% of their territory per day (average 25 km/d or 15 mi/d). The core of their territory is on average 35 km² (13.5 sq mi), in which they spend 50% of their time. Prey density tends to be much higher in the territory's surrounding areas. Despite this higher abundance of prey, wolves tend to avoid hunting in the fringes of their territory unless desperate, due to the possibility of fatal encounters with neighboring packs. The size of their territory may increase when the pack's pups reach the age of 6 months, and thus have the same nutritional requirements as adults. The smallest territory on record was held by a pack of six wolves in northeastern Minnesota, which occupied an estimated 33 km² (12.7 sq mi). The largest was held by an Alaskan pack of ten wolves encompassing a 6272 km² (2,421.6 sq mi) area. In some areas, wolves may shift territories during their prey's migration season.

Wolves defend their territories from other packs through a combination of scent marking, direct attacks and howling (see Communication). Scent marking is used for territorial advertisement, and involves urination, defecation and ground scratching. Scent marks are generally left every 240 metres throughout the territory on regular travelways and junctions. Such markers can last for 2–3 weeks, and are typically placed near rocks, boulders, trees or the skeletons of large animals. When scent marking and howling fail to deter strange wolf packs from entering another's territory, violent interactions can ensue. Territorial fights are among the principal causes of wolf mortality: one study on wolf mortality in Minnesota and the Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve
Denali National Park and Preserve is located in Interior Alaska and contains Denali , the highest mountain in North America. The park and preserve together cover 9,492 mi² .The longest glacier is the Kalhiltna glacier....

 concluded that 14–65% of wolf deaths were due to predation by other wolves. In fact, 91% of wolf fatalities occur within 3.2 km (2 mi) of the borders between neighboring territories. Because the consequences of trespassing can be fatal, such incursions are thought to be largely due to desperation or deliberate aggressiveness.

Hunting and feeding behaviours

Although wolf packs do cooperate strategically in bringing down prey, they do not do so as frequently or as effectively as lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

esses do; unlike lions, wolves rarely remain with their pack for more than two years, thus they have less time to learn how to hunt cooperatively. Contrary to lion prides, food acquisition per wolf decreases with pack size. Overall, single wolves or mated pairs typically have higher success rates in hunting than do large packs. Single wolves have occasionally been observed to kill large prey such as moose, bison
Bison
Members of the genus Bison are large, even-toed ungulates within the subfamily Bovinae. Two extant and four extinct species are recognized...

 and muskoxen unaided. When hunting, wolves will attempt to conceal themselves as they approach their prey. With ungulate herds, they then either attempt to break up the herd, or isolate one or two animals from it. If the targeted animal stands its ground, the wolves either ignore it, or try to intimidate it into running. When chasing small prey, wolves will attempt to catch up with their prey as soon as possible. With larger animals, the chase is prolonged, in order to wear the selected prey out. Wolves usually give up chases after 1–2 km (0.62-1.3 mi), though one wolf was recorded to chase a deer for 21 km (13 mi). Sometimes, a single wolf will distract the herd with its presence, acting as a decoy
Decoy
A decoy is usually a person, device or event meant as a distraction, to conceal what an individual or a group might be looking for. Decoys have been used for centuries most notably in game hunting, but also in wartime and in the committing or resolving of crimes.-Duck decoy:The term duck decoy may...

, while its pack mates attack from behind. Wolf packs may also set up ambush trails; Indian wolves have been observed to chase gazelle herds through ravines where other wolves lie in wait within holes dug prior to the hunt, while Russian wolves will set up ambushes near water hole
Depression (geology)
A depression in geology is a landform sunken or depressed below the surrounding area. Depressions may be formed by various mechanisms.Structural or tectonic related:...

s, sometimes using the same site repeatedly. Both Russian and North American wolves have been observed to drive prey onto crusted ice, precipices, ravines, slopes and steep banks to slow them down.

Mature wolves usually avoid attacking large prey frontally, instead focusing on the rear and sides of the animal. They kill large prey by biting large chunks of flesh from the soft perineum
Perineum
In human anatomy, the perineum is a region of the body including the perineal body and surrounding structures...

 area, causing massive blood loss. Such bites can cause wounds 10–15 cm in length, with three such bites to the perineum usually being sufficient to bring down a large deer in optimum health. When attacking moose, they occasionally bleed it to death by biting its soft nose. With medium-sized prey such as roe deer or sheep, northern wolves kill by biting the throat, severing nerve tracks and the carotid artery
Carotid artery
Carotid artery can refer to:* Common carotid artery* External carotid artery* Internal carotid artery...

, thus causing the animal to die within a few seconds to a minute, while the smaller southern wolves may grab the animal by the neck and stun it by jerking its head downward, hitting its nose on the ground. When prey is vulnerable and abundant, wolves may occasionally surplus kill
Surplus killing
Surplus killing is the behavior predators exhibit when they kill more prey than they can immediately use. They may partially consume, cache, or abandon intact prey...

. Such instances are common in domestic animals, but rare in the wild. In the wild, surplus killing primarily occurs during late winter or spring, when snow is unusually deep (thus impeding the movements of prey) or during the denning period, when wolves require a ready supply of meat when denbound. Medium-sized prey are especially vulnerable to surplus killing, as the swift throat-biting method by which they are killed allows wolves to quickly kill one animal and move on to another. Surplus killing may also occur when adult wolves are teaching their young to hunt.

The breeding pair typically monopolizes food in order to continue producing pups. When food is scarce, this is done at the expense of other family members, especially non-pups. This is in marked contrast to the feeding behaviours of dhole
Dhole
The dhole is a species of canid native to South and Southeast Asia. It is the only extant member of the genus Cuon, which differs from Canis by the reduced number of molars and greater number of teats...

s and African wild dog
African Wild Dog
Lycaon pictus is a large canid found only in Africa, especially in savannas and lightly wooded areas. It is variously called the African wild dog, African hunting dog, Cape hunting dog, painted dog, painted wolf, painted hunting dog, spotted dog, or ornate wolf...

s, who give priority to their pups when feeding. The breeding pair typically eats first, though as it is they who usually work the hardest in killing prey, they may rest after a long hunt and allow the rest of the family to eat unmolested. Once the breeding pair has finished eating, the rest of the family will tear off pieces of the carcass and transport them to secluded areas where they can eat in peace. Wolves typically commence feeding by consuming the larger internal organs of their prey, such as the heart
Heart
The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

, liver
Liver
The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

, lungs and stomach
Stomach
The stomach is a muscular, hollow, dilated part of the alimentary canal which functions as an important organ of the digestive tract in some animals, including vertebrates, echinoderms, insects , and molluscs. It is involved in the second phase of digestion, following mastication .The stomach is...

 lining. The kidneys and spleen
Spleen
The spleen is an organ found in virtually all vertebrate animals with important roles in regard to red blood cells and the immune system. In humans, it is located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. It removes old red blood cells and holds a reserve of blood in case of hemorrhagic shock...

 are eaten once they are exposed, followed by the muscle
Muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

s.

Body language

Postural communication in wolves is composed of a variety of facial expressions, tail positions and piloerection. Aggressive or self assertive wolves are characterised by their slow and deliberate movements, high body posture and raised hackles, while submissive ones carry their bodies low, sleeken their fur and lower their ears and tail. When breeding males encounter subordinate family members, they may stare at them, standing erect and still with their tails horizontal to their spine. The pre-caudal scent glands may play a role in expressing aggression, as combative wolves will raise the base of their tails whilst drooping the tip, thus positioning the scent glands at the highest point.

Two forms of submissive behaviour are recognised: passive and active. Passive submission usually occurs as a reaction to the approach of a dominant animal, and consists of the submissive wolf lying partly on its back and allowing the dominant wolf to sniff its anogenital area. Active submission occurs often as a form of greeting, and involves the submissive wolf approaching another in a low posture, and licking the other wolf's face.
When wolves are together, they commonly indulge in behaviours such as nose pushing, jaw wrestling, cheek rubbing and facial licking. The mouthing of each other's muzzles is a friendly gesture, while clamping on the muzzle with bared teeth is a dominance display. Dominant wolves may assert themselves by straddling over a subordinate family member. At a kill, wolves will protect the carcass from afar from other wolves by flattening their ears outwardly, thus indicating that they are covering something belonging to them.

Howling

Wolves howl to assemble the pack (usually before and after hunts), to pass on an alarm (particularly at a den site), to locate each other during a storm or unfamiliar territory and to communicate across great distances. Howling consists of a fundamental frequency which may lie between 150 and 780 Hz, and consists of up to 12 harmonically related overtones. The pitch usually remains constant or varies smoothly, and may change direction as many as four or five times. Wolves from different geographic locations may howl in different fashions; the howls of European wolves are much more protracted and melodious than those of North American wolves, whose howls are louder and have a stronger emphasis on the first syllable. The two are however mutually intelligible
Mutual intelligibility
In linguistics, mutual intelligibility is recognized as a relationship between languages or dialects in which speakers of different but related languages can readily understand each other without intentional study or extraordinary effort...

, as North American wolves have been recorded to respond to European-style howls made by biologists.

Wolf howls are generally indistinguishable from those of large dogs. Male wolves give voice through an octave
Octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

, passing to a deep bass with a stress on "O", while females produce a modulated nasal baritone
Baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

 with stress on "U". Pups almost never howl, while yearling wolves produce howls ending in a series of dog-like yelps. Howls used for calling pack mates to a kill are long, smooth sounds similar to the beginning of the cry of a horned owl
Horned owl
The American horned owls and the Old World eagle-owls make up the genus Bubo, at least as traditionally described. This genus, depending on definition, contains about one or two dozen species of typical owls and is found in many parts of the world. Some of the largest living Strigiformes are in...

. When pursuing prey, they emit a higher pitched howl, vibrating on two notes. When closing in on their prey, they emit a combination of a short bark and a howl. When howling together, wolves harmonize rather than chorus on the same note, thus creating the illusion of there being more wolves than there actually are. Lone wolves typically avoid howling in areas where other packs are present. Wolves do not respond to howls in rainy weather and when satiated.

Other vocalisations

Other vocalisations of wolves are usually divided into three categories: growls, barks and whines. Barking has a fundamental frequency between 320–904 Hz, and is usually emitted by startled wolves. Wolves do not bark as loudly or continuously as dogs do, but will bark a few times and retreat from perceived danger. In captivity, wolves may learn to bark more often if they hear dogs doing so.

Growling has a fundamental frequency of 380–450 Hz, and is usually emitted during food challenges. Pups commonly growl when playing. One variation of the howl is accompanied by a high pitched whine, which precedes a lunging attack. Whining is associated with situations of anxiety, curiosity, inquiry and intimacy such as greeting, feeding pups and playing.

Diet

Wolves primarily feed on medium to large sized ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

s (sometimes 10–15 times larger than themselves), though they are not fussy eaters. Medium and small sized animals preyed on by wolves include marmot
Marmot
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in...

s, hare
Hare
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares less than one year old are called leverets. Four species commonly known as types of hare are classified outside of Lepus: the hispid hare , and three species known as red rock hares .Hares are very fast-moving...

s, badger
Badger
Badgers are short-legged omnivores in the weasel family, Mustelidae. There are nine species of badger, in three subfamilies : Melinae , Mellivorinae , and Taxideinae...

s, fox
Fox
Fox is a common name for many species of omnivorous mammals belonging to the Canidae family. Foxes are small to medium-sized canids , characterized by possessing a long narrow snout, and a bushy tail .Members of about 37 species are referred to as foxes, of which only 12 species actually belong to...

es, polecats, ground squirrel
Ground squirrel
The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less...

s, mice
MICE
-Fiction:*Mice , alien species in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy*The Mice -Acronyms:* "Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions", facilities terminology for events...

, hamster
Hamster
Hamsters are rodents belonging to the subfamily Cricetinae. The subfamily contains about 25 species, classified in six or seven genera....

s, vole
Vole
A vole is a small rodent resembling a mouse but with a stouter body, a shorter hairy tail, a slightly rounder head, smaller ears and eyes, and differently formed molars . There are approximately 155 species of voles. They are sometimes known as meadow mice or field mice in North America...

s and other rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

s, as well as insectivore
Insectivore
An insectivore is a type of carnivore with a diet that consists chiefly of insects and similar small creatures. An alternate term is entomophage, which also refers to the human practice of eating insects....

s. They frequently eat waterfowl
Waterfowl
Waterfowl are certain wildfowl of the order Anseriformes, especially members of the family Anatidae, which includes ducks, geese, and swans....

 (particularly during their moulting period and winter, when their greasy and fatty meat helps wolves build up their fat reserves) and their eggs
Egg (biology)
An egg is an organic vessel in which an embryo first begins to develop. In most birds, reptiles, insects, molluscs, fish, and monotremes, an egg is the zygote, resulting from fertilization of the ovum, which is expelled from the body and permitted to develop outside the body until the developing...

. When such foods are insufficient, they will prey on lizard
Lizard
Lizards are a widespread group of squamate reptiles, with nearly 3800 species, ranging across all continents except Antarctica as well as most oceanic island chains...

s, snake
Snake
Snakes are elongate, legless, carnivorous reptiles of the suborder Serpentes that can be distinguished from legless lizards by their lack of eyelids and external ears. Like all squamates, snakes are ectothermic, amniote vertebrates covered in overlapping scales...

s, frog
Frog
Frogs are amphibians in the order Anura , formerly referred to as Salientia . Most frogs are characterized by a short body, webbed digits , protruding eyes and the absence of a tail...

s, rarely toad
Toad
A toad is any of a number of species of amphibians in the order Anura characterized by dry, leathery skin , short legs, and snoat-like parotoid glands...

s and large insect
Insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...

s. In times of scarcity, wolves will readily eat carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

, visiting cattle burial grounds and slaughter houses. Wolf packs in Astrakhan
Astrakhan
Astrakhan is a major city in southern European Russia and the administrative center of Astrakhan Oblast. The city lies on the left bank of the Volga River, close to where it discharges into the Caspian Sea at an altitude of below the sea level. Population:...

 will hunt Caspian seal
Caspian Seal
Caspian seals , one of the smallest members of the earless seal family, are unique in that they are found exclusively in the brackish Caspian Sea. They can be found not only along the shorelines, but also on the many rocky islands and floating blocks of ice that dot the Caspian Sea...

s on the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

 coastline. Some wolf packs in Alaska and Western Canada have been observed to feed on salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

. Cannibalism
Cannibalism (zoology)
In zoology, cannibalism is the act of one individual of a species consuming all or part of another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded for more than 1500 species...

 is not uncommon in wolves; during harsh winters, packs often attack weak or injured wolves, and may eat the bodies of dead pack members. However, they are not known to eat their young as coyotes sometimes do. Human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s are rarely, but occasionally preyed upon (see Attacks on humans). Wolves will supplement their diet with fruit and vegetable matter; they willingly eat the berries of mountain ash
Sorbus
Sorbus is a genus of about 100–200 species of trees and shrubs in the subfamily Maloideae of the Rose family Rosaceae. Species of Sorbus are commonly known as whitebeam, rowan, service tree, and mountain ash...

, lily of the valley
Lily of the Valley
Convallaria majalis , commonly known as the lily-of-the-valley, is a poisonous woodland flowering plant native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere in Asia and Europe....

, bilberries, blueberries and cowberry. Other fruits include nightshade, apple
Apple
The apple is the pomaceous fruit of the apple tree, species Malus domestica in the rose family . It is one of the most widely cultivated tree fruits, and the most widely known of the many members of genus Malus that are used by humans. Apple grow on small, deciduous trees that blossom in the spring...

s and pear
Pear
The pear is any of several tree species of genus Pyrus and also the name of the pomaceous fruit of these trees. Several species of pear are valued by humans for their edible fruit, but the fruit of other species is small, hard, and astringent....

s. They readily visit melon
Melon
thumb|200px|Various types of melonsThis list of melons includes members of the plant family Cucurbitaceae with edible, fleshy fruit e.g. gourds or cucurbits. The word "melon" can refer to either the plant or specifically to the fruit...

 fields during the summer months. Wolves can survive without food for long periods; two weeks without food will not weaken a wolf's muscle activity.

In Eurasia, many wolf populations are forced to subsist largely on livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 and garbage
Waste
Waste is unwanted or useless materials. In biology, waste is any of the many unwanted substances or toxins that are expelled from living organisms, metabolic waste; such as urea, sweat or feces. Litter is waste which has been disposed of improperly...

 in areas with dense human activity, though wild ungulates such as moose
Moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

, red deer
Red Deer
The red deer is one of the largest deer species. Depending on taxonomy, the red deer inhabits most of Europe, the Caucasus Mountains region, Asia Minor, parts of western Asia, and central Asia. It also inhabits the Atlas Mountains region between Morocco and Tunisia in northwestern Africa, being...

, roe deer
Roe Deer
The European Roe Deer , also known as the Western Roe Deer, chevreuil or just Roe Deer, is a Eurasian species of deer. It is relatively small, reddish and grey-brown, and well-adapted to cold environments. Roe Deer are widespread in Western Europe, from the Mediterranean to Scandinavia, and from...

 and wild boar are still important food sources in Russia and the more mountainous regions of Eastern Europe. Other prey species include reindeer
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

, mouflon
Mouflon
The mouflon is a subspecies group of the wild sheep Ovis aries. Populations of Ovis aries can be partitioned into the mouflons and urials or arkars...

, wisent
Wisent
The wisent , Bison bonasus, also known as the European bison or European wood bison, is a species of Eurasian bison. It is the heaviest surviving land animal in Europe; a typical wisent is about long, not counting a tail of long, and tall. Weight typically can range from , with an occasional big...

, saiga, ibex, chamois
Chamois
The chamois, Rupicapra rupicapra, is a goat-antelope species native to mountains in Europe, including the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, the European Alps, the Tatra Mountains, the Balkans, parts of Turkey, and the Caucasus. The chamois has also been introduced to the South Island of New Zealand...

, wild goat
Wild Goat
The wild goat is a widespread species of goat, with a distribution ranging from Europe and Asia Minor to central Asia and the Middle East. It is the ancestor of the domestic goat.-Social structure:...

s, fallow deer
Fallow Deer
The Fallow Deer is a ruminant mammal belonging to the family Cervidae. This common species is native to western Eurasia, but has been introduced widely elsewhere. It often includes the rarer Persian Fallow Deer as a subspecies , while others treat it as an entirely different species The Fallow...

 and musk deer
Musk deer
Musk deer are artiodactyls of the genus Moschus, the only genus of family Moschidae. They are more primitive than the cervids, or true deer, in not having antlers or facial glands, in having only a single pair of teats, and in possessing a gall bladder, a caudal gland, a pair of tusk-like teeth...

. The prey animals of North American wolves have largely continued to occupy suitable habitats with low human density, and cases of wolves subsisting largely on garbage or livestock are exceptional. Animals commonly preyed on by North American wolves include moose, white-tailed deer
White-tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer , also known as the Virginia deer or simply as the whitetail, is a medium-sized deer native to the United States , Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America as far south as Peru...

, elk
Elk
The Elk is the large deer, also called Cervus canadensis or wapiti, of North America and eastern Asia.Elk may also refer to:Other antlered mammals:...

, mule deer
Mule Deer
The mule deer is a deer indigenous to western North America. The Mule Deer gets its name from its large mule-like ears. There are believed to be several subspecies, including the black-tailed deer...

, mountain sheep and caribou. In North Africa, wolves feed on various cultivated crops and vegetables and domestic animals.

Enemies and competitors

Wolves typically dominate other canid species in areas where they both occur. In North America, incidences of wolves killing coyote
Coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s are common, with such incidences being especially common in winter, when coyotes feed on wolf kills. Wolves may attack coyote den sites, digging out and killing the pups. They rarely eat the coyotes they kill. There are no records of coyotes killing wolves, though coyotes may chase wolves if they outnumber them. Near identical interactions have been observed in Eurasia between wolves and golden jackal
Golden Jackal
The golden jackal , also known as the common jackal, Asiatic jackal, thos or gold-wolf is a Canid of the genus Canis indigenous to north and northeastern Africa, southeastern and central Europe , Asia Minor, the Middle East and southeast Asia...

s, with the latter's numbers being comparatively small in areas with high wolf densities. Wolves are the most important predator of raccoon dog
Raccoon Dog
The raccoon dog , also known as the magnut or tanuki, is a canid indigenous to east Asia. It is the only extant species in the genus Nyctereutes...

s, killing large numbers of them in the spring and summer periods. Wolves also kill red
Red Fox
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia...

, arctic
Arctic fox
The arctic fox , also known as the white fox, polar fox or snow fox, is a small fox native to Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere and is common throughout the Arctic tundra biome. The Greek word alopex, means a fox and Vulpes is the Latin version...

 and corsac fox
Corsac Fox
The corsac fox , also known as the steppe fox, is a medium sized Asiatic fox species found throughout the central steppes of Asia. It is sometimes referred to as the "sand fox", but this terminology is confusing because two other species, the Tibetan sand fox and Rüppell's fox are also sometimes...

es, usually in disputes over carcasses. They may eat the foxes they kill. In Asia, they may compete with dhole
Dhole
The dhole is a species of canid native to South and Southeast Asia. It is the only extant member of the genus Cuon, which differs from Canis by the reduced number of molars and greater number of teats...

s.

Brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

s are encountered by wolves in both Eurasia and North America. Generally, the outcome of such encounters depends on context: brown bears typically prevail against wolves in disputes over carcasses, while wolves mostly prevail against bears when defending their den sites. Both species will kill each other's young. Wolves will eat the brown bears they kill, while brown bears seem to only eat young wolves. American black bear
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

s occur solely in the Americas. Wolf interactions with black bears are much rarer than with brown bears, due to differences in habitat preferences. The majority of black bear encounters with wolves occur in the species' northern range, with no interactions being recorded in Mexico. Wolves have been recorded on numerous occasions to actively seek out black bears in their dens and kill them without eating them. Unlike brown bears, black bears frequently lose against wolves in disputes over kills. While encounters with brown and black bears appear to be common, polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

s are rarely encountered by wolves, though there are two records of wolf packs killing polar bear cubs. Wolves will also kill the cubs of Asian black bears. When attacking bears in daylight, wolf packs have been known to harry their quarry and wait till nightfall before making the final assault, as wolves have better night vision than bears.

Wolves may encounter striped hyena
Striped Hyena
The Striped Hyena is a species of true hyena native to North and East Africa, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Middle and Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent...

s in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and Central Asia, usually in disputes over carcasses. Hyena
Hyena
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora , and one of the smallest in the mammalia...

s feed extensively on wolf-killed carcasses in areas where the two species interact. On a one-to-one basis, hyenas dominate wolves, though wolf packs can drive off single hyenas.

Large wolf populations limit the numbers of small to medium sized felines
Felinae
Felinae is a subfamily of the family Felidae which includes the genera and species listed below. Most are small to medium-sized cats, although the group does include some larger animals, such as the Cougar and Cheetah....

. Wolves encounter cougars along portions of the Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 and adjacent mountain ranges. Wolves and cougars typically avoid encountering each other by hunting on different elevations. In winter however, when snow accumulation forces their prey into valleys, interactions between the two species become more likely. Although they rarely interact, wolves and cougars will kill each other, with packs of the former sometimes usurping the latter's kills. They hunt steppe cats, and may pose a threat to snow leopard
Snow Leopard
The snow leopard is a moderately large cat native to the mountain ranges of South Asia and Central Asia...

s. Wolves may reduce Eurasian lynx
Eurasian Lynx
The Eurasian lynx is a medium-sized cat native to European and Siberian forests, South Asia and East Asia. It is also known as the European lynx, common lynx, the northern lynx, and the Siberian or Russian lynx...

 populations.

Other than humans, tiger
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

s appear to be the only serious predators of wolves. In areas where wolves and tigers share ranges, such as the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

, the two species typically display a great deal of dietary overlap, resulting in intense competition. Wolf and tiger interactions are well documented in Sikhote-Alin
Sikhote-Alin
The Sikhote-Alin is a mountain range in Primorsky and Khabarovsk Krais, Russia, extending about 900 km to the northeast of the Russian Pacific seaport of Vladivostok...

, which until the beginning of the 20th century, held very few wolves. It is thought by certain experts that wolf numbers increased in the region after tigers were largely eliminated during the Russian colonization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is corroborated by native inhabitants of the region claiming that they had no memory of wolves inhabiting Sikohte-Alin until the 1930s, when tiger numbers decreased. Tigers depress wolf numbers, either to the point of localized extinction
Local extinction
Local extinction, also known as extirpation, is the condition of a species which ceases to exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere...

 or to such low numbers as to make them a functionally insignificant component of the ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

. Wolves appear capable of escaping competitive exclusion from tigers only when human persecution decreases the latter's numbers. Today wolves are considered scarce in tiger inhabited areas, being found in scattered pockets, and usually seen traveling as loners or in small groups. First hand accounts on interactions between the two species indicate that tigers occasionally chase wolves from their kills, while wolves will scavenge from tiger kills. Tigers are not known to prey on wolves, though there are four records of tigers killing wolves without consuming them. This competitive exclusion of wolves by tigers has been used by Russian conservationists to convince hunters in the Far East to tolerate the big cats, as they limit ungulate
Ungulate
Ungulates are several groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving. They make up several orders of mammals, of which six to eight survive...

 populations less than wolves, and are effective in controlling the latter's numbers.

Wolf-dogs

Although dogs and wolves are genetically very close, and have shared vast portions of their ranges for millennia, the two generally do not voluntarily interbreed in the wild. They can produce viable offspring, with all subsequent generations being fertile, as opposed to coydog
Coydog
A coydog is the hybrid offspring of a male coyote and a female dog . Together they are genetically capable of producing fertile young. The dogote, a similar hybrid, is the result of breeding a male domestic dog with a female coyote...

s and jackal-dog hybrid
Jackal-Dog Hybrid
A jackal–dog hybrid is a canid hybrid resulting from a mating between a dog and a golden jackal. Such crossbreeding apparently only occurs in captivity, as such matings in the wild have never been observed...

s. The captive breeding of wolf-dog hybrids has proliferated in the United States, with 300,000 such animals being present there. The most commonly used dog breeds for this purpose are of the spitz
Spitz
Spitz-type dogs are a type of dog, characterized by long, thick, and often white fur, and pointed ears and muzzles...

 group. Although wolves normally kill dogs, lone wolves may fraternise with guard or herding dogs as surrogate pack members. Most wolf-dog matings in the wild involve female wolves soliciting male dogs. Wolf-hybrids may be bolder than pure wolves, and thus more dangerous to livestock and human life. In the wild, hybrids may preferentially associate and mate with dogs and other hybrids and live on the periphery of human settlements more readily. Although wolf-dog hybridisation in Europe has raised concern among conservation groups fearing for the wolf's purity, an analysis on the mtDNA sequences show that introgression of dog genes into European wolf populations does not pose a significant threat. Also, as wolf and dog mating seasons do not fully coincide, the likelihood of wild wolves and dogs mating and producing surviving offspring is small. Like pure wolves, hybrids breed annually, though their mating season occurs 3 months earlier, with pups mostly being born in the winter period, thus lessening their chances of survival. Although it is popularly believed that some Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 tribes mate their sled dogs to wolves in order to improve their stamina, this is likely untrue, as wolf hybrids are generally unable to cooperate effectively in pulling harnesses, and their stamina is much less than that of sled dogs. At least two wolf-dog breeds have been created in Europe, the Saarlooswolfhond
Saarlooswolfhond
The Saarlooswolfhond is an established breed of wolf-dog hybrid.-History:In 1921, Dutch breeder Leendert Saarloos started crossbreeding a German Shepherd Dog male to a female Mackenzie Valley Wolf...

 and the Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
Czechoslovakian Wolfdog
The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog is a relatively new breed of dog that traces its original lineage to an experiment conducted in 1955 in Czechoslovakia...

, both by crossing wolves with German shepherds.

Coywolves

The offspring is generally intermediate in size to both parents, being larger than a pure coyote, but smaller than a pure wolf. A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

, 22 had half or more wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern coyotes in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and wolves that met and mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges. These eastern coyote populations also have fewer sweat glands in their pawpads than western coyotes, but have more than wolves. Researchers in the Northeast and Canada say the population of coywolf hybrids is growing in the Northeast region. The red wolf
Red Wolf
The red wolf is a North American canid which once roamed throughout the Southeastern United States and is a glacial period survivor of the Late Pleistocene epoch...

 is thought by certain scientists to be in fact a wolf/coyote hybrid rather than a unique species. Strong evidence for hybridization was found through genetic testing which showed that red wolves have only 5% of their alleles unique from either gray wolves or coyotes. Genetic distance calculations have indicated that red wolves are intermediate between coyotes and gray wolves, and that they bear great similarity to wolf/coyote hybrids in southern Quebec and Minnesota. Analyses of mitochondrial DNA showed that existing red wolf populations are predominantly coyote in origin.

Range and populations

The gray wolf was once the world's most widely distributed mammal, living north of 15°N latitude in North America and 12°N in Eurasia. Wolves tend to have difficulty adapting to human induced changes, and are often referred to as an indicator species
Indicator species
An indicator species is any biological species that defines a trait or characteristic of the environment. For example, a species may delineate an ecoregion or indicate an environmental condition such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition or climate change...

; a species delineating an ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

 or indicating an environmental condition
Environmental science
Environmental science is an interdisciplinary academic field that integrates physical and biological sciences, to the study of the environment, and the solution of environmental problems...

 such as a disease outbreak, pollution, species competition, or climate change. Wolves do not seem to be able to adapt as readily to expanding civilization the way coyotes do. While human expansion has seen an increase in the latter's numbers, it has caused a drop in those of the former.

Despite not being at risk for extinction, local populations of wolves are still threatened. One such threat is genetic bottlenecking caused by population fragmentation. Human populations have isolated small pockets of animals, which then suffer the effects of inbreeding. Studies have shown that the reproduction rate in wolves is strongly related to genetic diversity.
Isolated wolf populations are greatly affected by the introduction of the alleles of even a single additional wolf.

With the exception of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 and Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, wolves were widespread in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 during the 18th century. Wolves were exterminated from all central and northern European countries during the 19th century and the post World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 period. Remnant populations remain in Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, though Eurasian wolves have been recovering naturally in several parts of Europe; recolonising France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 and Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

. The largest populations now occur in eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, primarily in Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

, the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 and Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

.

Wolf populations generally seem to be stable or increasing in most, but not all, Bern Convention
Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats 1979, also known as the Bern Convention , came into force on June 1, 1982....

 nations. Limiting factors in member nations include a lack of acceptance of wolves (particularly in areas where they have made a comeback) due to concerns on livestock and dog predation and competition with hunters. Although properly regulated wolf harvests and control have been largely accepted as compatible with maintaining wolf numbers to economically acceptable levels, overhunting and poaching are recognised as the main limiting factor in European wolf populations.

With the exception of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, there is little information available on wolves in the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. The Arabian Peninsula
Arabian Peninsula
The Arabian Peninsula is a land mass situated north-east of Africa. Also known as Arabia or the Arabian subcontinent, it is the world's largest peninsula and covers 3,237,500 km2...

 is home to an estimated 300–600 wolves which, though hunted year round in all Middle Eastern countries except Israel, are relatively stable and protected by the inaccessibility of the northern mountains and central and northern deserts. In India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, wolves are classed as endangered, and number an estimated 800-3,000 individuals scattered among several remnant populations. In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, wolves are not protected except in reserves.

Wolves once ranged over much of North America north of Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

, save for parts of California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. Today, their status varies by country, state and province. Canadian and Alaskan wolves number in thousands and are in excellent biological condition. Wolves have expanded from Canada to the northern Rocky Mountains
Rocky Mountains
The Rocky Mountains are a major mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains stretch more than from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico, in the southwestern United States...

 since the 1970s, establishing themselves southward in Montana
Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

, Washington, Idaho
Idaho
Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

 and Wyoming
Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

. In 1994, wolves from Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

 and British Columbia
British Columbia
British Columbia is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is known for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu . Its name was chosen by Queen Victoria in 1858...

 were captured and introduced into Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park, established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, is a national park located primarily in the U.S. state of Wyoming, although it also extends into Montana and Idaho...

, where they had been extinct since the 1930s. A similar introduction took place in 1998 in the Apache National Forest
Apache National Forest
Apache National Forest was established by the U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico on July 1, 1908 with from portions of Black Mesa National Forest. In 1974 entire forest was administratively combined with Sitgreaves National Forest to create Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest...

 in Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

. A small, isolated group of wolves on Isle Royale is believed to be suffering from the effects of reduced genetic variability. In 1991, the population was reduced from 50 to 12 wolves. Studies have shown that this reduction has coincided with a 50% loss of allozyme heterozygosity.

The presence of wolves in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

 and Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 was confirmed in 2011, when a comparison was made between the MtDNA sequences of golden jackals, Holarctic wolves (most modern wolves are of this ancestry), the Indian wolf, and the Himalayan wolf (which are considered older lineages than the main Holarctic wolf lineage) revealed that North African wolves are more closely related to Indian and Himalayan wolves than they are to golden jackals, a species which they were associated with in the past.

Diseases and parasites

Because wolves travel great distances, they may play an important role in spreading and maintaining diseases in certain areas. Infectious diseases spread by wolves include brucellosis
Brucellosis
Brucellosis, also called Bang's disease, Crimean fever, Gibraltar fever, Malta fever, Maltese fever, Mediterranean fever, rock fever, or undulant fever, is a highly contagious zoonosis caused by ingestion of unsterilized milk or meat from infected animals or close contact with their secretions...

, tularemia
Tularemia
Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. A Gram-negative, nonmotile coccobacillus, the bacterium has several subspecies with varying degrees of virulence. The most important of those is F...

, listeriosis and anthrax
Anthrax
Anthrax is an acute disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Most forms of the disease are lethal, and it affects both humans and other animals...

. Wolves may also suffer from rabies
Rabies
Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. It is zoonotic , most commonly by a bite from an infected animal. For a human, rabies is almost invariably fatal if post-exposure prophylaxis is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms...

: wolves are a major host for the disease in Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and India. Canine distemper
Canine distemper
Canine distemper is a viral disease that affects animals in the families Canidae, Mustelidae, Mephitidae, Hyaenidae, Ailuridae, Procyonidae, Pinnipedia, some Viverridae and Felidae...

 seems to only pose a serious problem for wolves in Canada and Alaska. Wolves also carry the Canine coronavirus
Canine coronavirus
Canine coronavirus is a virus of the family Coronaviridae that causes a highly contagious intestinal disease worldwide in dogs. It was discovered in 1971 in Germany during an outbreak in sentry dogs.-Pathology:...

, with infections being most prevalent in winter months.

However, gray wolf populations are remarkably resilient against disease outbreaks. Usually, a wolf displaying the first symptoms of disease will leave its pack, thus preventing the sickness from spreading to its pack mates. Wolves in the former Soviet Union have been recorded to carry over 50 different parasite species. Tick
Tick
Ticks are small arachnids in the order Ixodida, along with mites, constitute the subclass Acarina. Ticks are ectoparasites , living by hematophagy on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians...

s carried by wolves include Ixodes ricinus
Ixodes ricinus
Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean tick, is a chiefly European species of hard-bodied tick. It may reach a length of when engorged with a blood meal, and can transmit both bacterial and viral pathogens such as the causative agents of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis.-Description:In common...

and Dermacentor pictus
Dermacentor
Dermacentor is a genus of hard-bodied ticks.-Species:* Dermacentor abaensis Teng, 1963* Dermacentor albipictus Packard, 1869* Dermacentor andersoni Stiles 1908* Dermacentor asper Arthur, 1960...

. Although wolves are host to Sarcoptes scabiei
Sarcoptes scabiei
Sarcoptes scabiei or the itch mite is a parasitic arthropod that burrows into skin and causes scabies. Animals affected include not only human but also wild and domesticated dogs and cats in which it is one cause of mange...

(or mange
Mange
Mange is the common name for a class of persistent contagious skin diseases caused by parasitic mites. Since mites also infect plants, birds, and reptiles, the term "mange," suggesting poor condition of the hairy coat due to the infection, is sometimes reserved only for pathological...

 mite) they rarely develop full blown mange, unlike foxes. Other ectoparasites include biting lice, sucking lice and the flea
Flea
Flea is the common name for insects of the order Siphonaptera which are wingless insects with mouthparts adapted for piercing skin and sucking blood...

s Pulex irritans and Ctenocephalides canis. Endoparasites include nematode
Nematode
The nematodes or roundworms are the most diverse phylum of pseudocoelomates, and one of the most diverse of all animals. Nematode species are very difficult to distinguish; over 28,000 have been described, of which over 16,000 are parasitic. It has been estimated that the total number of nematode...

s such as Toxascaris leonina
Toxascaris leonina
Toxascaris leonina is a common parasitic roundworm found in dogs, cats, foxes, and related host species. Toxascaris leonina, or T. leonina, is an ascarid nematode, a worldwide distributed helminth parasite which is in a division of eukaryotic parasites that, unlike external parasites such as lice...

and T. canis
Toxocara canis
Toxocara canis is worldwide distributed helminth parasite of dogs and other canids. T. canis are gonochorists, adult worms measure from 9 to 18 cm, are yellow-white in color, and occur in the intestine of the definitive host. In adult dogs, the infection is usually asymptomatic. By the...

. Wolves are also carriers of Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis is a nematode parasite, occurring in rats, pigs, bears and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. It is sometimes referred to as the "pork worm" due to it being found commonly in undercooked pork products...

, the prevalence of which is significantly related to age.

Other endoparasites include cestodes such as Taenia pisiformis
Taenia pisiformis
Taenia pisiformis is a tapeworm. It is related to Taenia solium, the pork tapeworm, and to Taenia saginata, the beef tapeworm.The adult may reach up to 200 cm in length.The definite host is represented by carnivores such as the dog or the cat....

, T. hydatigena, Echinococcus granulosus
Echinococcus granulosus
Echinococcus granulosus, also called the Hydatid worm or Hyper Tape-worm, is a cyclophyllid cestode that parasitizes the small intestine of canids as an adult, but which has important intermediate hosts such as livestock and humans, where it causes hydatid disease...

, Mesocestoidea lineatus, Dioctophyme renale
Dioctophyme renale
Dioctophyme renale is commonly referred to as “giant kidney worm” because it is the largest helminth to parasitize humans and has the propensity to affect the kidneys. D. renale is distributed worldwide, but is less common in Africa and Oceania. It affects fish eating mammals, particularly mink...

and the adult phase of Multiceps multiceps. Wolves may carry Neospora caninum
Neospora caninum
Neospora caninum is a coccidian parasite that was identified as a species in 1988. Prior to this, it was misclassified as Toxoplasma gondii due to structural similarities. The genome sequence of Neospora caninum is determined by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute...

, which is of particular concern to farmers, as the disease can be spread to livestock; infected animals being three to thirteen times more likely to abort than those not infected. Wolves suffering from tapeworms may deliberately forego eating fresh meat in favour of putrified flesh, in order to rid themselves of the parasites.

Folklore and mythology

Wolves appear prominently in the folklore and mythology of human cultures. In Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

 and Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

, wolves were portrayed as almost god-like. In Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, grain farmers worshiped wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching them to protect their crops from wild boars and deer, while the wolf Fenrir of Norse mythology was depicted as the son of Loki
Loki
In Norse mythology, Loki or Loke is a god or jötunn . Loki is the son of Fárbauti and Laufey, and the brother of Helblindi and Býleistr. By the jötunn Angrboða, Loki is the father of Hel, the wolf Fenrir, and the world serpent Jörmungandr. By his wife Sigyn, Loki is the father of Nari or Narfi...

. Certain cultures portrayed wolves as part of their foundation myths. In Roman mythology
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

, the Capitoline Wolf
Capitoline Wolf
The Capitoline Wolf is a bronze sculpture of a she-wolf suckling twin infants, inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome. According to the legend, when Numitor, grandfather of the twins Romulus and Remus, was overthrown by his brother Amulius, the usurper ordered the twins to be cast into...

 nurses the future founders of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus
Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder...

. In the mythology of the Turks, Mongols
Mongols
Mongols ) are a Central-East Asian ethnic group that lives mainly in the countries of Mongolia, China, and Russia. In China, ethnic Mongols can be found mainly in the central north region of China such as Inner Mongolia...

 and Ainu, wolves were believed to be the ancestors of their race, while the Dena’ina
Dena’ina
The Dena'ina are an Alaska Native people, an extended tribe of American Indian lineage. They are the original inhabitants of the southcentral Alaska region ranging from Seldovia in the south to Chickaloon in the northeast, Talkeetna in the north, Lime Village in the Northwest and Pedro Bay in the...

 believed wolves were once men, and viewed them as brothers. Wolves were linked to the sun
Sun
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields...

 in some Eurasian cultures. The Ancient Greeks and Romans associated wolves with the sun god Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

, while the wolf Sköll
Skoll
In Norse mythology, Sköll is a wolf that chases the horses Árvakr and Alsviðr, that drag the chariot which contains the sun through the sky every day, trying to eat her. Sköll has a brother, Hati, who chases Máni, the moon...

 in Norse mythology was depicted pursuing the setting sun. Wolves were sometimes associated with witchcraft
Witchcraft
Witchcraft, in historical, anthropological, religious, and mythological contexts, is the alleged use of supernatural or magical powers. A witch is a practitioner of witchcraft...

 in both northern European and some Native American cultures. In Norse mythology, the völva
Völva
A vǫlva or völva is a shamanic seeress in Norse paganism, and a recurring motif in Norse mythology....

 (witch) Hyndla and the giantess Hyrrokin are both portrayed as using wolves as mounts. In Navajo
Navajo people
The Navajo of the Southwestern United States are the largest single federally recognized tribe of the United States of America. The Navajo Nation has 300,048 enrolled tribal members. The Navajo Nation constitutes an independent governmental body which manages the Navajo Indian reservation in the...

 culture, wolves were feared as witches
Witch (Navajo)
There are a number of beliefs in traditional Navajo culture relating to practices which, in English, are all referred to as 'witchcraft.' In the Navajo language, they are actually each referred to distinctly, and are regarded as separate, albeit related, phenomena.The practices lumped together in...

 in wolf's clothing. Similarly, the Tsilhqot'in
Tsilhqot'in
The Tsilhqot'in are a Northern Athabaskan First Nations people that live in British Columbia, Canada...

 believed that contact with wolves could cause mental illness and death. According to the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first animal to experience death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. According to the Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

, wolves are a creation of the evil spirit Ahriman, and are ranked among the most cruel of animals. Wolves are referenced thirteen times in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 as symbols of greed
Greed
Greed is an excessive desire to possess wealth, goods, or abstract things of value with the intention to keep it for one's self. Greed is inappropriate expectation...

 and destructiveness.

Livestock and dog predation

Livestock depredation has been one of the primary reasons for hunting wolves, and can pose a severe problem for wolf conservation. As well as causing economic losses, the threat of wolf predation causes great stress on livestock producers, and no foolproof solution of preventing such attacks short of exterminating wolves has been found. Wolves typically resort to attacking livestock when wild prey is depleted: in Eurasia, a large part of the diet of some wolf populations consists of livestock, while such incidences are rare in North America, where healthy populations of wild prey have been largely restored. However, certain wolves may become "addicted" to livestock, as the stomach lining of domestic ungulates has a higher calorific value than that of wild herbivores. The majority of losses occur during the summer grazing period. Untended livestock in remote pastures are the most vulnerable to wolf predation. Some nations help offset economic losses to wolves through compensation programmes or state insurance. Sheep are the most commonly taken livestock species in Europe, domestic reindeer in northern Scandinavia, cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 and turkey
Turkey (bird)
A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The domestic turkey is a descendant of this species...

s in North America, goat
Goat
The domestic goat is a subspecies of goat domesticated from the wild goat of southwest Asia and Eastern Europe. The goat is a member of the Bovidae family and is closely related to the sheep as both are in the goat-antelope subfamily Caprinae. There are over three hundred distinct breeds of...

s in India and horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

s in Mongolia. As wolves tend to attack large prey from behind, cattle may be more vulnerable to wolves than horses because the latter are better able to defend their hind quarters with powerful kicks. Different subspecies of wolf may preferentially target different animals: small bodied wolves rarely molest adult cattle, while large northern wolves are able to kill fully grown steers and sometimes horses unaided. The number of animals killed in single attacks varies according to species: most attacks on cattle and horses result in one death, while turkeys, sheep and domestic reindeer may be killed in surplus. Wolves mainly attack livestock when the animals are grazing, though they will occasionally break into fenced enclosures. Injuries caused by wolves on large bodied livestock include docked
Docking (animal)
Docking is a term for the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or ears. The term cropping is also used, though more commonly in reference to the cropping of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail. The term tailing is also commonly used...

 ears and tails, as well as slash wounds on the lower legs. In some cases, wolves do not need to physically attack livestock in order to negatively affect them; the stress livestock experiences in being vigilant for wolves may result in miscarriage
Miscarriage
Miscarriage or spontaneous abortion is the spontaneous end of a pregnancy at a stage where the embryo or fetus is incapable of surviving independently, generally defined in humans at prior to 20 weeks of gestation...

s, decreased weight gain, and a decrease in meat quality.

Wolves will kill dogs on occasion, with some wolf populations relying on dogs as an important food source. Wolves generally outmatch dogs, even large ones, in physical confrontations, because of their larger heads and teeth and stronger bites. Also, the fighting styles of wolves and dogs differ significantly; while dogs typically limit themselves to attacking the head, neck and shoulder, wolves will make greater use of body blocks, and attack the extremities of their opponents. In Croatia, wolves kill more dogs than sheep, and wolves in Russia appear to limit stray dog populations. Wolves may display unusually bold behaviour when attacking dogs accompanied by people, sometimes ignoring nearby humans. Wolf attacks on dogs may occur both in house yards and in forests. On village outskirts, wolves may set up ambushes for dogs, with one wolf soliciting the dog to follow it and lead it to another wolf. In some areas, livestock guardian dog
Livestock guardian dog
A livestock guardian dog is a domesticated canine used to defend livestock against predators. LGDs are commonly referred to as "sheep dogs" since they most often have guarded flocks of sheep, but most are capable of guarding other species of livestock. They are classified as pastoral dogs...

s are fitted with wolf collar
Wolf collar
A wolf collar is a type of dog collar that is designed to protect dogs from wolves. Wolf collars are fitted with elongated spikes to stop wolves from attacking dogs on the neck. Such collars are mainly used in countries such as Turkey and Spain, where they are known as carlancas.-Use:A wolf collar...

s in order to protect themselves from wolf attacks. Wolves however may learn to avoid the spiked collars just as they do the antlers of ungulate prey, and still kill guard dogs. Wolf attacks on hunting dogs are considered a major problem in Scandinavia and Wisconsin. The most frequently killed hunting breeds in Scandinavia are harrier
Harrier (dog)
The Harrier is a small to medium sized dog breed of the hound class,used for hunting hares by trailing them. It resembles an English Foxhound but is smaller, though not as small as a Beagle.-Appearance:...

s, with older animals being most at risk, likely because they are less timid than younger animals, and react differently to the presence of wolves. Wolf-caused injuries on dogs are often located on the back, thighs and hind
legs. The fatal wound is mostly a bite to the back of the neck. Large hunting dogs such as Swedish elkhound
Jämthund
The Jämthund, also called the Swedish Elkhound, is a breed of dog of the Spitz type that are found in Northern Europe. The Jämthund is eponymous to Jämtland, a province in the middle of Sweden. The dog is described as having a wolf-like appearance....

s are more likely to survive wolf attacks due to their better ability to defend themselves.

Attacks on humans

Wolves are generally not dangerous to humans, as long as they are in low numbers, have sufficient food, have little contact with humans and are occasionally hunted. The number of people attacked and killed by wolves varies geographically. Wolf attacks on humans were a rare, but occasional feature of life in pre-20th century Europe: in France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 alone, historical records indicate that during the period 1580–1830, 3,069 people were killed by wolves, of whom 1,857 were killed by non-rabid wolves. Church and administrative accounts from Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 indicate that 440 humans were killed by wolves during the 15th and 19th centuries, occurring in the central part of the Po Valley
Po Valley
The Po Valley, Po Plain, Plain of the Po, or Padan Plain is a major geographical feature of Italy. It extends approximately in an east-west direction, with an area of 46,000 km² including its Venetic extension not actually related to the Po River basin; it runs from the Western Alps to the...

, which once encompassed part of modern day Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. Prior to 1882, 94 children under the age of 12 were killed in Fennoscandia
Fennoscandia
Fennoscandia and Fenno-Scandinavia are geographic and geological terms used to describe the Scandinavian Peninsula, the Kola Peninsula, Karelia and Finland...

 by non-rabid wolves in a 300 year period. European Russia
European Russia
European Russia refers to the western areas of Russia that lie within Europe, comprising roughly 3,960,000 square kilometres , larger in area than India, and spanning across 40% of Europe. Its eastern border is defined by the Ural Mountains and in the south it is defined by the border with...

 also records numerous attacks, particularly in pre-revolutionary times and after World War II. Between 1840 and 1861, 273 non-rabid attacks resulting in the deaths of 169 children and 7 adults occurred throughout Russia, while between 1944 and 1950, 22 children between the ages of 3 and 17 were killed by wolves in the Kirov Oblast
Kirov Oblast
Kirov Oblast is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Kirov. Population: -History:In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Vyatka remained a place of exile for opponents of the tsarist regime, including many prominent revolutionary figures.In 1920, a number of...

 (see Kirov wolf attacks
Kirov wolf attacks
The Kirov wolf attacks were a series of man-eating wolf attacks on humans which occurred in 1944-1954 in nine raions of the 120,800 km2 Kirov Oblast of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic which resulted in the deaths of 22 children between the ages 3-17. In all cases, the attacks...

). There are numerous documented accounts of wolf attacks in the Asian continent, with three India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

n states reporting a large number of non-rabid attacks in recent decades. These attacks were well documented by trained biologists. In Hazaribagh
Hazaribagh
Hazaribagh is a city and a municipality in Hazaribagh district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. It is the divisional headquarters of North Chotanagpur division. It is famous as a health resort and for Hazaribagh National Park ....

, Bihar
Bihar
Bihar is a state in eastern India. It is the 12th largest state in terms of geographical size at and 3rd largest by population. Almost 58% of Biharis are below the age of 25, which is the highest proportion in India....

, 100 children were injured and 122 killed from 1980 to 1986. The North American continent has very few recorded incidences of such, though the oral history
Oral history
Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews...

 of some Native American tribes confirms that wolves occasionally did kill humans. Tribes living in woodlands feared wolves more than their tundra-dwelling counterparts, as they could encounter wolves suddenly and at close quarters. It is thought that the reason why so few attacks are recorded in North America than in Eurasia is linked to the former's historically greater availability of firearms, whose usage taught North American wolves to fear humans more than their Eurasian counterparts. However, encounters with aggressive wolves in North America seem to be on the increase. One study revealed 80 events in Alaska and Canada where wolves closely approached or attacked people, finding 39 cases of aggression by apparently healthy wolves, and 29 cases of fearless behavior by nonaggressive wolves.

Recorded incidences of rabid wolves in Eurasia go far back as the 13th century. The number of cases of rabid wolves are however low when compared to other species. Wolves do not serve as primary reservoirs of the disease, but can catch it from other animals such as dogs, jackals and foxes. Cases of rabies in wolves are very rare in North America, though numerous in the eastern Mediterranean, Middle East and Central Asia. Wolves apparently develop the "furious" phase of rabies to a very high degree. This, coupled with their size and strength, make rabid wolves perhaps the most dangerous of rabid animals, with bites from rabid wolves being 15 times more dangerous than those of rabid dogs. Rabid wolves usually act alone, travelling large distances and often biting large numbers of people and domestic animals. Most rabid wolf attacks occur in the spring and autumn periods. Unlike with predatory attacks, the victims of rabid wolves are not eaten, and the attack generally only lasts a day. Also, the victims are chosen at random, though the majority of cases involve adult men.

Predatory attacks usually involve single wolves or packs that learn to exploit humans as prey. Such attacks may be preceded by a long period of habituation
Habituation
Habituation can be defined as a process or as a procedure. As a process it is defined as a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus...

, in which wolves gradually lose their fear of humans. The victims are generally attacked in a sustained manner around the neck and face, and are then dragged off and consumed, unless the wolves are disturbed. Such attacks tend to cluster in time and space until the offending animals are killed. Predatory attacks can occur at any time of the year, with a peak in the June–August period, when the chances of people entering forested areas (for livestock grazing or berry and mushroom picking) increase, though cases of non-rabid wolf attacks in winter have been recorded in Belarus, the Kirovsk and Irkutsk districts, Karelia and Ukraine. Also, wolves with pups experience greater food stresses during this period. The majority of victims of predatory wolf attacks are children under the age of 18 and, in the rare cases where adults are killed, the victims are almost always women. Non-rabid wolves are able to distinguish between armed and unarmed people, and will typically avoid investigating people who display self confident demeanors typical of being armed.

Wolves may react aggressively in self defense, though such attacks are mostly limited to quick bites on extremities, and the attacks are not pressed.

Hunting

Wolves are notoriously difficult to hunt due to their elusiveness, their sharp senses, their high endurance in the chase and ability to quickly incapacitate and kill hunting dogs. Historically, many methods have been devised to hunt wolves. In areas where wolves are a threat to livestock, the destruction of spring-born litters in their dens is a sure way of keeping wolf populations to a minimum. When hunting wolves with dogs, usually combinations of sighthound
Sighthound
Sighthounds, also called gazehounds, are hounds that primarily hunt by speed and sight, instead of by scent and endurance as scent hounds do.-Appearance:...

s, bloodhound
Bloodhound
The Bloodhound is a large breed of dog which, while originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar, was later bred specifically to track human beings. It is a scenthound, tracking by smell, as opposed to a sighthound, which tracks using vision. It is famed for its ability to discern human odors even...

s and fox terrier
Fox Terrier
Fox Terrier refers primarily to two different breeds of the terrier dog type: the Smooth Fox Terrier and the Wire Fox Terrier. Both of these breeds originated in the 19th century from a handful of dogs who are descended from earlier varieties of British terriers, and are related to other modern...

s are used. The sighthounds chase and immobilise wolves until the arrival of the heavier dogs which do most of the fighting. Still hunting of wolves (alternately walking quietly and waiting concealed in the pursuit of game) is primarily practised in areas where the terrain is too rough for hunting with dogs, though wolves are almost as hard to hunt with this method as cougars are. Because of their sharp hearing, wolves are almost impossible to stalk, even when asleep. Poisoning with strychnine
Strychnine
Strychnine is a highly toxic , colorless crystalline alkaloid used as a pesticide, particularly for killing small vertebrates such as birds and rodents. Strychnine causes muscular convulsions and eventually death through asphyxia or sheer exhaustion...

 was once practised, but is now generally unpopular, as it can cause the unintentional deaths of animals other than wolves, and wolves generally learn to recognise and avoid poisoned baits. The ideal time for wolf poisoning was during the late summer and early autumn period, when pups were more likely to stray from their mothers and consume objects which they had yet to learn to avoid. Foothold traps are effective, as long as no long lasting human odours are present on them. Many Native American tribes favoured deadfall traps in capturing wolves. Wolf traps are sometimes accompanied by scents (usually beaver
Beaver
The beaver is a primarily nocturnal, large, semi-aquatic rodent. Castor includes two extant species, North American Beaver and Eurasian Beaver . Beavers are known for building dams, canals, and lodges . They are the second-largest rodent in the world...

 or musk deer
Musk deer
Musk deer are artiodactyls of the genus Moschus, the only genus of family Moschidae. They are more primitive than the cervids, or true deer, in not having antlers or facial glands, in having only a single pair of teats, and in possessing a gall bladder, a caudal gland, a pair of tusk-like teeth...

 musk
Musk
Musk is a class of aromatic substances commonly used as base notes in perfumery. They include glandular secretions from animals such as the musk deer, numerous plants emitting similar fragrances, and artificial substances with similar odors. Musk was a name originally given to a substance with a...

 and wolf urine) or baits (venison
Venison
Venison is the meat of a game animal, especially a deer but also other animals such as antelope, wild boar, etc.-Etymology:The word derives from the Latin vēnor...

 or horse meat
Horse meat
Horse meat is the culinary name for meat cut from a horse. It is a major meat in only a few countries, notably in Central Asia, but it forms a significant part of the culinary traditions of many others, from Europe to South America to Asia. The top eight countries consume about 4.7 million horses...

). Traps however are not foolproof; because of their excellent vision, wolves can detect the flaws in hidden traps, even at night, and wolves with prior experience of being trapped can teach their young to avoid them. Hunting blind
Hunting blind
A hunting blind is a cover device for hunters, designed to reduce the chance of detection; ground blinds are an alternative to the traditional Treestand, movements in a well-designed ground blind can virtually be undetectable by the game....

s can be effective against wolves, though they are seldom used, as their use requires much patience. A popular method of wolf hunting in Russia involves trapping a pack within a small area by encircling it with flag poles carrying a human scent. This method relies heavily on the wolf's fear of human scents, though it can lose its effectiveness when wolves become accustomed to the smell. Some hunters are able to lure wolves by imitating their calls, a method which is especially useful in winter and the mating season. In Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

, wolves are traditionally hunted with eagles and falcons, though this practise is declining, as experienced falconers are becoming few in number. Shooting wolves from aircraft is highly effective, as it allows greater visibility of wolves than hunting on the ground, though this method is controversial, as it allows wolves little chance to escape or defend themselves.

Fur use

Wolf pelts are primarily used for scarf
Scarf
A scarf is a piece of fabric worn around the neck, or near the head or around the waist for warmth, cleanliness, fashion or for religious reasons. They can come in a variety of different colours.-History:...

s and the trimming
Trim (sewing)
Trim or trimming in clothing and home decorating is applied ornament, such as gimp, passementerie, ribbon, ruffles, or, as a verb, to apply such ornament....

s of women's garments, though they are occasionally used for jacket
Jacket
A jacket is a hip- or waist-length garment for the upper body. A jacket typically has sleeves, and fastens in the front. A jacket is generally lighter, tighter-fitting, and less insulating than a coat, which is outerwear...

s, short cape
Cape
Cape can be used to describe any sleeveless outer garment, such as a poncho, but usually it is a long garment that covers only the back half of the wearer, fastening around the neck. They were common in medieval Europe, especially when combined with a hood in the chaperon, and have had periodic...

s, coat
Coat (clothing)
A coat is a long garment worn by both men and women, for warmth or fashion. Coats typically have long sleeves and are open down the front, closing by means of buttons, zippers, hook-and-loop fasteners, toggles, a belt, or a combination of some of these...

s, mukluk
Mukluk
Mukluks or Kamik are a soft boot traditionally made of reindeer skin or sealskin and were originally worn by Arctic aboriginal people, including the Inuit and Yupik. The term mukluk is often used for any soft boot designed for cold weather and modern designs are often similar to high-top athletic...

s and rug
Rug
RUG or rug can mean:* carpet, a textile floor covering that is made from various materials.** specifically, one made by rug making* slang for toupee* rug , to keep domesticated animals warm and/or dry...

s. The quality of wolf peltries rests on the density and strength of the fur fibre, which keeps the fur upright and gives the pelt an appealing bushy aspect. These characteristics are mostly found in northern wolf populations, but gradually lessen further south in warmer climates. North American wolf pelts are among the most valuable, as they are silkier and fluffier than Eurasian peltries. The pelts of wolves killed by poison are mostly worthless.

In Medieval Europe, pelts were considered the only practical aspect of wolves, though they were seldom used, due to the skin's foul odour. In Scandinavian folklore
Scandinavian folklore
Scandinavian folklore is the folklore of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland.Collecting folklore began when Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden sent out instructions to all of the priests in all of the parishes to collect the folklore of their area...

, wolf-skin girdle
Girdle
A girdle is a garment that encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often for support. The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English, the term girdle is most commonly used for a form of women's foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity...

s assisted in transforming the wearers into werewolves. Several Native American tribes used wolf pelts for medicinal purposes, though some Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 tribes favour dog skin over wolf skin, as the latter is thinner, and more prone to tearing when sewn. The Pawnee wore wolf skins as capes when exploring enemy territories. The United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 used wolf skin for parkas during the later stages of WWII and the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

 to protect the faces of soldiers from frostbite
Frostbite
Frostbite is the medical condition where localized damage is caused to skin and other tissues due to extreme cold. Frostbite is most likely to happen in body parts farthest from the heart and those with large exposed areas...

. In the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, between 1976 and 1988, 30,000 wolf pelts were produced annually. Recent statistics from CITES indicate that 6,000–7,000 wolf skins are internationally traded each year, with Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 being the largest exporters, and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 being the largest importers. Overall, the harvesting of wolves for their fur has little impact on their population, as only the northern varieties (whose numbers are stable) are of commercial value. Wolf trapping for fur remains a lucrative source of income for many Native Americans.

Wolves as pets

Keeping wolves as pets has grown in popularity. In the United States alone, there are an estimated 80,000-2 million privately owned wolves. Tame wolves tend to be less predictable and manageable than dogs. While dogs typically alter their behaviours to accommodate their handlers, the opposite is true for tame wolves. In contrast to dog pups, which are able to be socialised to humans at up to ten weeks of age, wolf pups are unable to do so after 19 days. Because wolf milk contains more arginine
Arginine
Arginine is an α-amino acid. The L-form is one of the 20 most common natural amino acids. At the level of molecular genetics, in the structure of the messenger ribonucleic acid mRNA, CGU, CGC, CGA, CGG, AGA, and AGG, are the triplets of nucleotide bases or codons that codify for arginine during...

 than can be found in puppy milk substitute
Milk substitute
A milk substitute is a liquid that replaces milk in a diet or recipe. This overlaps with but is distinct from the group of milk-like liquids called "milks" because of their similarity to the liquid produced by mammary glands....

s, an arginine supplement is needed when feeding pups below the weaning age. Failure to do so can result in the pups developing cataract
Cataract
A cataract is a clouding that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope, varying in degree from slight to complete opacity and obstructing the passage of light...

s. Wolves lack any alteration of their predatory behaviour, and can thus not be fully trusted in situations where their prey drive
Prey drive
Prey drive is the instinctive inclination of a carnivore to pursue and capture prey.In dog training, prey drive can be used as an advantage because dogs with strong prey drive are also willing to pursue moving objects such as toys, which can then be used to encourage certain kinds of behavior, such...

 can be given adequate stimulation. In contrast to dogs, which are usually accepting of strangers, treating them almost as an extension of their pack, wolves become increasingly xenophobic
Xenophobia
Xenophobia is defined as "an unreasonable fear of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange". It comes from the Greek words ξένος , meaning "stranger," "foreigner" and φόβος , meaning "fear."...

 and intolerant of strangers not part of their immediate pack as they age. While dogs readily, and actively form social bonds with humans, wolves can only do so in the absence of adult conspecifics. Pups under one year of age are generally not aggressive toward strangers, though their aggression increases with age, particularly during the mating season. Males may be more aggressive and difficult to handle than females. Wolves are difficult to contain in standard kennel
Kennel
A kennel is the name given to any structure or shelter for dogs. A kennel is a doghouse, run, or other small structure in which a dog is kept...

s, as they exceed dogs in observational learning
Observational learning
Observational learning is a type of learning that occurs as a function of observing, retaining and replicating novel behavior executed by others...

 and are able to quickly learn how to undo latch
Latch
Latch may refer to:* Latch , a type of door or window fastener* Latch , a circuit used to store information** A latching relay* Latch , lock on a system data-structure like an index...

es by simply watching their handlers do so. Once wolves learn how to escape confinement, it becomes near impossible to contain them.

Though wolves are trainable, they lack the same degree of tractability seen in dogs. They are generally not as responsive as dogs are to coercive techniques involving fear, aversive stimuli and force. Generally, far more work is required to obtain the same degree of reliability seen in most dogs. Even then, once a certain behavior has been repeated several times, wolves may get bored and ignore subsequent commands. Wolves are most responsive toward positive conditioning and rewards, though simple praise is not sufficient as in most dogs. Unlike dogs, wolves tend to respond more to hand signals than voice.

See also

  • California Wolf Center
    California Wolf Center
    California Wolf Center is a non-profit wildlife education center committed to increasing public awareness and understanding of the importance of all wildlife by focusing on the history, biology, animal behavior and ecology of the gray wolf...

  • Migration patterns of the gray wolf
    Migration patterns of the gray wolf
    The gray wolf is the largest member of the Canidae family. It shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog. Although called the gray wolf, it can also be found having more of a white, black, or red coloring to it. They stand roughly tall, and their frame runs from long. The male gray wolf...


Further reading


External links

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