Mid Pleistocene – Recent
|A wolf howling
Adult wolves are usually 1.4 to 1.8 metres (4.6 to 5.9 ft) in length from nose to tail depending on the subspecies. Wolves living in the far north tend to be larger than those living further south. As adults they may weigh typically between 23 to 50 kilograms (51 to 110 lb). The heaviest wolf recorded weighed 86 kilograms (190 lb).
The wolf has a long muzzle, short ears, long legs, and a long bushy tail.
Wolves usually measure 26–38 inches at the shoulder. Wolves have fur made up of two layers. The top layer is resistant to dirt, and the under-layer is water resistant. The color of their fur can be any combination of grey, white, taupe, brown, and black.
Wolves live in groups called "packs". They are pack hunters. The members of the pack are usually family members, often just the parents and offspring. Wolves that are not family may join if they do not have a pack of their own. Packs are usually up to 12 wolves, but they can be as small as two or as large as 25. The leaders are called the parent (breeding) male and the parent (breeding) female. Their territory is marked by scent and howling; they will fight any intruders. Young wolves are called 'pups' or 'whelps'. Adult females usually give birth to five or six pups in a litter.
Wolves can run very fast and far. A wolf can run 20–30 miles in a day.
Grey wolves can live six to eight years. They can live in captivity for up to 17 years.
Wolves are carnivores and eat mostly medium to large size hoofed animals (unguligrades), but they will also eat rodents, insectivores and foxes. Some wolves have been seen eating salmon, seals, beached whales, lizards, snakes and birds. They also eat moose, bison, deer and other large animals. Wolves usually stalk old or sick animals, but they do not always catch what they stalk. They may go days without food. Sometimes only one out of twelve hunts are successful. But the way they eat stays the same. The breeding male and female feed first. Then the other members feed. Sometimes (especially if the prey they have killed is large) wolves may store food and come back that day to feed on it. Wolves have very sharp teeth which helps them tear large chunks of meat from a dead animal. They will eat up to 2/7 their body weight. Wolves will also swallow food and then bring it back up for pups to eat.
The habitat of Arctic wolves is very hostile. Not much is known about their lifestyle. They are more friendly than other wolves, but they can still be very aggressive.
Their winter fur is highly resistant to the cold. Wolves in northern climates can rest comfortably in open areas at −40 °C (−40 °F) by placing their muzzles between the rear legs and covering their faces with their tail. Wolf fur provides better insulation than dog fur, and does not collect ice when warm breath is condensed against it. Since about 1930, the skull of many Arctic wolves has become smaller. This might be because of hybridization between wolves and dogs. They are 3 feet (0.91 m) tall when they're adults. Adult arctic wolves weigh about 75 to 120 pounds (34 to 54 kg). Arctic wolves live in a group of 7-20 wolves. They may live up to 5–10 years in the wild. They can live for 14 years if they are well cared for in a zoo.
Wolves and humans
A few years ago wolves were put back into Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to breed, because they were becoming endangered. The wolves have been very successful in the park. There had been no wolves there for a long time, because of hunting and poisoned water. Many people were not happy about this because they were afraid that the wolves would eat the sheep and cows near the park. However, wolves only eat livestock when they can not find wild prey.
Extinction in Britain
Wolves in Britain were all killed after centuries of hunting. The last wolves survived in the Scottish Highlands. There is a legend that the last one was killed there in 1743 by a character called MacQueen.
Within the past ten years, there have been studies that are in favour of allowing new wolves to come and live in the English countryside and Scottish Highlands again. One study was in 2007. Researchers from Norway, Britain, and Imperial College London decided that wolves would help add back plants and birds that now are eaten by deer. The wolves would keep the deer population lower. People were generally positive, but farmers living in rural areas wanted to be paid for livestock that were killed by the wolves.
In popular culture
- Many folktales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs have wolves in them.
- Minecraft have wolves which can be tamed.
Images for kids
Beringian wolf - extinct type of wolf that lived during the Ice Age
F1 wolf-dog hybrids from Wildlife Park Kadzidlowo, Poland. The first is the product of a male wolf and a female spaniel, while the latter comes from a female wolf and a male West Siberian Laika
Facial expressions (Konrad Lorenz, 1952). Bottom to top: increasing fear (ears back); left to right: increasing aggression (snarl); top right: maximum of both.
Polychrome cave painting of a gray wolf, Font-de-Gaume, France
European wolf in Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany
Monument to the last Japanese gray wolf, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Gray wolf near Ardahan, Turkey. Although Turkish wolves have no legal protection, they may number about 7000 individuals.
Wolf Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.