The earliest drawings of wolves are in caves in southern Europe and date from 20,000 B.C.
Wolves do not make good guard dogs because they are naturally afraid of the unfamiliar and will hide from visitors rather than bark at them.
Wolves run on their toes, which helps them to stop and turn quickly and to prevent their paw pads from wearing down.
Wolves are the largest members of the Canidae family, which includes domestic dogs, coyotes, dingoes, African hunting dogs, many types of foxes, and several kinds of jackals.
Wolves can smell other animals more than one mile (1.6 kilometers) away.
Wolves have about 200 million scent cells. Humans have only about 5 million.
A wolf pup’s eyes are blue at birth. Their eyes turn yellow by the time they are eight months old.
A male and female that mate usually stay together for life. They are devoted parents and maintain sophisticated family ties.
Wolf gestation is around 65 days. Wolf pups are born both deaf and blind and weigh only one pound.
Wolves were once the most widely distributed land predator the world has ever seen. The only places they didn’t thrive were in the true desert and rainforests.
Among true wolves, two species are recognized: Canis lupus (often known simply as “gray wolves”), which includes 38 subspecies, such as the gray, timber, artic, tundra, lobos, and buffalo wolves. The other recognized species is the red wolf (Canis rufus), which are smaller and have longer legs and shorter fur than their relatives. Many scientists debate whether Canis rufus is a separate species.
Immense power is concentrated in a wolf’s jaw. It has a crushing pressure of nearly 1,500 pound per square inch (compared with around 750 for a large dog). The jaws themselves are massive, bearing 42 teeth specialized for stabbing, shearing, and crunching bones. Their jaws also open farther than those of a dog.
The North American gray wolf population in 1600 was 2 million. Today the population in North America is approximately 65,000. The world population is approximately 150,000.
A hungry wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal, which is akin to a human eating one hundred hamburgers.
A wolf pack may contain just two or three animals, or it may be 10 times as large.
Though many females in a pack are able to have pups, only a few will actually mate and bear pups. Often, only the alpha female and male will mate, which serves to produce the strongest cubs and helps limit the number of cubs the pack must care for. The other females will help raise and “babysit” the cubs.
Lower-ranking males do not mate and often suffer from a condition of stress and inhibition that has been referred to as “psychological castration.”
Wolves can swim distances of up to 8 miles (13 kilometers) aided by small webs between their toes.
A wolf can run about 20 miles (32 km) per hour, and up to 40 miles (56 km) per hour when necessary, but only for a minute or two. They can “dog trot” around 5 miles (8km) per hour and can travel all day at this speed.
Wolves howl to contact separated members of their group, to rally the group before hunting, or to warn rival wolf packs to keep away. Lone wolves will howl to attract mates or just because they are alone. Each wolf howls for only about five seconds, but howls can seem much longer when the entire pack joins in.
Where there are wolves, there are often ravens (sometimes known as “wolf-birds”). Ravens often follow wolves to grab leftovers from the hunt—and to tease the wolves. They play with the wolves by diving at them and then speeding away or pecking their tails to try to get the wolves to chase them.
The Cherokee Indians did not hunt wolves because they believed a slain wolves’ brothers would exact revenge.
Unlike other animals, wolves have a variety of distinctive facial expressions they use to communicate and maintain pack unity.
The Japanese word for wolf means “great god.”
Wolves were the first animals to be placed on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list in 1973.
Currently, there are about 50,000 wolves in Canada; 6,500 in Alaska; and 3,500 in the Lower 48 States. In Europe, Italy has fewer than 300; Spain around 2,000; and Norway and Sweden combined have fewer than 80. There are about 700 wolves in Poland and 70,000 in Russia.