Species of Wolf

Species of Wolf

Wolves live in family groups, or packs with an average number of three to seven individuals and there is always a breeding male and female. The pack is hierarchical, and each wolf has its own place in the group. The order of the pack is displayed each time the wolves meet by caressing, romping, tail wagging, wrestling, and many other expressions. The dominant wolf stands tall with its ears up and forward. Lesser-ranked wolves crouch, holding their tails between their legs and lower their ears.

There are more than one species of wolf in the world, however, it is the Grey Wolf (Canis lupus) that most people think of when they hear the word "Wolf". Currently there are two definitive species of wolf - the Grey wolf and the Ethiopian (Canis simensis), however some other potential species are under hot scientific debate. Listed below are the uncontested species of wolf.

The Grey Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus
The grey wolf can be seen in many different colours, from white to black, but most often grey. It has short, soft under-fur covered by coarse, outer guard hairs. The under-fur is grown during the winter months; it is dense and insulates the wolf against the cold. Stiff hairs also protect the footpads. It also has a long, bushy tail.

The wolf was the most widely distributed mammal two centuries ago, living all over North America, Canada, Russia, Europe and Asia. The only habitats it could not occupy were deserts, tropical rain forests and the peaks of high mountain ranges. Now, the wolf's range has been much reduced due to hunting and habitat loss. They can still be found in areas of their original range in much fewer numbers.

The Ethiopian Wolf — Scientific name: Canis simensis
The Ethiopian wolf is native to the Ethiopian highlands, which is in North East Africa. Their current range is limited to isolated mountain ranges and all of the population is found on either the Simian or Bale Mountains. It is the world’s rarest canid, and Africa’s most endangered carnivore. It’s even rarer than the Giant Panda as there are less than 500 of them in the world! Part of the reason the Ethiopian wolf is struggling is because, unlike most large canids, they are very specialised feeders, which means that they require particular rodents for their dinner, which can only be found in a particular habitat!

It is similar size and build of a Coyote (Canis latrans) but can be distinguished from a Coyote by its red and white fur, and long narrow skull! It only weighs 24 to 42lbs and are 2 and a half to three feet long, making them smaller than a Grey Wolf.

Subspecies of the Grey Wolf
There are lots of subspecies of the Grey Wolf! At the moment there are currently 24 listed subspecies under the Canis lupus species, two of which are domesticated dog's, Canis lupus dingo and Canis lupus familiaris which are the Dingo and our familiar pet, the Dog. Below we have listed the most common and/or genetically distinct subspecies of wolf.
Eurasian Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus lupus
The Eurasian or European wolf has the largest range among wolf subspecies and can currently be found throughout Europe, Asia and Russia. In the past wolves have been exterminated throughout central and northern European countries during the 19th century, the numbers of wolves throughout Europe are now slowly recovering naturally with France, Germany, Sweden and Norway being recolonised. The largest population can still be found in eastern European countries like Romania, Poland and the Balkans. The European wolf disappeared from the UK and Ireland during the 18th century.

European wolves are larger than other subspecies and have longer, broader skulls. Their coat is generally coarser than that of American wolves and is a combination of white, cream, brown, red, grey and black. They stand 76cm at the shoulder, and weight between 32 and 59kg. The main source of prey is found in the form of wild ungulates such as wild boar, mountain goats, moose and several species of deer.

Arctic Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus arctos
The Arctic wolf is the only subspecies that can still be found through out its original range, in the Canadian arctic, Alaska and parts of Greenland. It is able to tolerate the sub-zero temperatures, spend up to five months of the year living in darkness, and survive for weeks without food. In a part of the world where the ground is always frozen the Arctic wolf is one of the few mammals that can cope with these conditions.

Arctic wolves prey on lemmings, arctic hare, musk oxen and caribou, which are usually widely spaced. The caribou or musk oxen are too powerful for any one wolf to take on alone. A musk ox will provide enough food to last the wolves several days. The wolves have territories of up to 1300 square km in which to search for their prey, in the winter temperatures drop and the wolves follow the migrating caribou. The height of an arctic wolf varies from 65 – 80cm to the shoulder and they can be up to 1.5m long from nose to tail. They have adapted to their environment with small ears and short muzzles that help keep in body heat, they also have light coloured, mostly white coats which help them blend into their environment which is especially important when hunting.

Arabian Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus arabs
The Arabian wolf was once found throughout the Arabian Peninsula, but is now only found in small pockets of Israel, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and possibly some parts of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. It is a small, desert adapted wolf that stands at around 66cm at shoulder height and weighs an average of 18kgs.

This small wolf lives in one of the most extreme environments on earth. They have a short grey-beige coat, which is thin in the summer, with long hair on their back to help protect them from the desert sun and longer and thicker all over in the winter to keep them warm in the cooler temperatures. Their ears are big in relation to body size when compared to other wolf species, this helps to disperse body heat and keep them cool. The Arabian wolf will also dig burrows in the sand to protect themselves from the sun, and hunt mainly at night.

Mexican Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus baileyi
The Mexican wolf found in the USA once ranged from New Mexico to Texas and southeastern Arizona. Today, after becoming extinct in the wild, the Mexican wolf has been reintroduced to a small area of Arizona with the hope that as the population expands they will hopefully move back into New Mexico. There are 47 Mexican Wolf captive breeding facilities in United States and Mexico.

The Mexican Wolf is the smallest subspecies of the grey wolf in North America. It is only 1.2–1.5m in length and a maximum height of about 80 cm. Its weight ranges from 27–37 kilograms. Their coat varies in colour from reddish brown to buff and white, with red and white faces. They have pointed ears and a shorter coat to suit the warmer climates that they live in. Mexican wolves mostly hunt and eat ungulates (large hoofed mammals) like white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk but they are also known to eat smaller mammals like wild pigs, rabbits, ground squirrels and mice.

Mexican Wolf — Scientific name: Canis lupus himalayensis
The Mexican wolf found in the USA once ranged from New Mexico to Texas and southeastern Arizona. Today, after becoming extinct in the wild, the Mexican wolf has been reintroduced to a small area of Arizona with the hope that as the population expands they will hopefully move back into New Mexico. There are 47 Mexican Wolf captive breeding facilities in United States and Mexico.

The Mexican Wolf is the smallest subspecies of the grey wolf in North America. It is only 1.2–1.5m in length and a maximum height of about 80 cm. Its weight ranges from 27–37 kilograms. Their coat varies in colour from reddish brown to buff and white, with red and white faces. They have pointed ears and a shorter coat to suit the warmer climates that they live in. Mexican wolves mostly hunt and eat ungulates (large hoofed mammals) like white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk but they are also known to eat smaller mammals like wild pigs, rabbits, ground squirrels and mice.
Contested classifications
Listed below are the species or subspecies of wolf that are currently contested and under debate.
Red Wolf — Scientific name: Canis [lupus] rufus
The Red wolf is under hot debate as to whether it is a separate species of a subspecies of the Grey Wolf. A study in 2011 found it's DNA to consist mainly of Coyote and be only 20% Grey Wolf however, suggesting that it is not a genetically distinct species of wolf.

The Red Wolf is an endangered species. By 1980, this wolf had completely disappeared from the wild, killed off mainly by humans through habitat loss and hunting. Historically, red wolves ranged throughout the southeastern United States from Pennsylvania to Florida and as far west as Texas. A breeding program was started in the 1970s which saved the red wolf from extinction; today wild populations roam more than 1.7 million acres throughout northeastern North Carolina.

The Red wolf is a small carnivore with a coat of mixed cinnamon, black and white fur, which helps distinguish it from the larger grey wolf. It weighs between 23-32kg and stand 51-81cm tall at the shoulder. They are primarily nocturnal (active at night) and have the same social structure as the grey wolf with a breeding pair forming the center of the pack structure; they breed once per year and produce an average of five cubs. The cubs remain with their parents until approximately 18 months when they become self sufficient, upon dispersal they will travel up to 32km (20 miles) to form a new territory.