There are many types of wolves world today.
In addition, new breeds are being discovered, especially with the inter-breeding that occurs when wolves travel for long distances.
Some species are even endangered, such as the red wolf.
People and organizations are also becoming more and more aware of the decline of wolf numbers.
They are working on wolf re-introduction procedures to help keep wolves alive and at an acceptable figure.
Wolves are known as an indicator species since they are quick to adapt to their environment.
This means that their study can shed more light on the area’s diseases, pollution, climate change, or species competition.
Wolves have been slowly adapting to expanding encroachment from civilization, unlike their brothers, the coyotes.
Wolves are considered the largest species of the dog family.
Some states allow you to purchase a wolf mix, but not a 100% pure wolf as a pet.
They feed on meat and rarely attack humans for the same.
Most wolves travel in packs and are highly social in these packs.
There are two types of wolves recognized in the world currently; the red and gray wolves.
Factors Used to Differentiate the Type of Wolves in the World Today
Many factors can be used to differentiate wolves.
These may include:
- Feeding ecology and diet
Types of Wolves
The following are some wolf species in existence today:
1. Eurasian Wolf
This species, scientifically known as the Canis lupus lupus, is considered the world’s most fiercesome and powerful wolf.
Its natural home is the Steppes of Kazakhstan, after which it obtains its other name, the Kazakh wolf.
The Eurasian Wolf is also found in Western Europe, Russia, Scandinavia, and some parts of China.
Unlike most wolves, it has a skinny body but remarkable strength.
It can even kill prey just about its size. It weighs 160 pounds and can grow to full heights of 5 feet.
It hunts domestic animals such as lambs, pigs, sheep, and calves.
They are a subspecies under the grey wolf category.
The size of most Kazakh wolf adults varies with the geographic location, primarily due to adaptation to the area they exist in.
For example, Russian varieties can be greater than wolves found in Europe.
The Russian wolf can weigh up to 50 kgs / 110 lb. Italian breeds will weigh 35 kgs / 77lb.
The largest one was weighed at 86 kgs / 190 lb.
Swedish and Norwegian species are also perceived to be heavily built.
Their coat is usually coarse and thicker than the one seen for North American subspecies.
The coat can appear in many colors and varies from reddish grey to off-white coats.
They have higher ears, and the distance from one year to the other is less than that for most species.
They also have long legs.
They can be found in temperate forests, boreal forests such as the Scandinavian ones, deciduous forests, pristine lowland forests, mountains, and Siberia’s tundra regions.
Food and Diet
These wolves prefer small prey and move on to larger prey when forced by scarce food.
This favors them when they travel solo.
However, for packs of Eurasian Wolves, larger animals are preferred so that each member gets to eat.
Some prey in the wild includes moose, red deer, roe deer, and wild boar for solo hunts.
These wolves will hunt the European bison, mountain goats, fallow deer, reindeer mouflon, chamois, ibex, and saiga in packs.
In Poland, the Bialowieza National Park wolves eat wild ungulates and red deer.
These wolves do not rely on meat meals alone.
In South Eurasian countries such as Italy, these wolves can feed on fruits and plant material.
They eat fruits such as apples, raspberries, plums, watermelon, melon, pears, figs, cherries, blueberries, and grapes since they are abundant in the region.
The Kazakh wolves travel in packs of 4-6 members for socializing and to helping each other coordinate hunting activities.
Groups are also beneficial to maintain the security of their territory.
Some wolves can stray from their packs because of feuds and travel individually.
Most countries have realized that the population of the Eurasian wolf is quickly dwindling and have started conservation efforts.
For example, in Sweden, the species is fully protected.
In Poland, the population consists of approximately 900 pairs.
Recovery efforts began in the 1950s.
Romania leads with the highest number of Eurasian wolves, with a population of more than 2400 wolves.
In the world, we can safely assume that the total population is around 29,000-30,000 wolves living in the wild.
2. Ethiopian wolf
This is one of the rarest wolf species.
There have even been arguments about whether the Ethiopian wolf or Canis Simensis is a wolf.
The rarity could be because it is the most vulnerable species.
It is generally medium-sized, yet it survives on minute rodents.
From their name, they are mainly found in the Ethiopian Highlands in Ethiopia.
They prefer to stay in altitudes of 4000 meters.
There are currently less than 500 wolves remaining in the wild.
Mature Ethiopian wolves are larger than jackals but smaller than coyotes.
Their legs are pretty long, and they have broader ears compared to the Eurasian wolf.
The wolf’s head length is 10 cm / 39 in and stands at 6 cm / 24 in at its shoulder.
Male species can weigh about 19 kg / 43 lb, while females can average approximately 11.2–14.15 kg (24.7–31.2 lb).
Their skull is narrow and long. Their coat is red with white undersides.
A sharp line separates the red and white colors.
During the mating season, the female’s coat turns from red to yellow.
In Ethiopia, this type of wolf can be seen on the north of Rift Valley, Wollo highlands, Guassa Menz, north Shoa, and Simien Mountains.
Some can be observed living in Mount Choqa, Arsi, Mount Guna, and the Bale Mountains.
They can survive in heights of 4000m where they stay at.
Their habitats are characterized by Afroalpine grasslands and heathlands where their primary food source, rodents, can be found.
Some animals can build habitats in the Bale mountains due to herbs and grass.
The wolves found in the Northern population rely on Festuca and giant lobelias.
The Ethiopian wolf is social, just like its brothers all over the world.
It travels, lives, and hunts in packs of 6-20 individuals per group.
The alpha wolf is the dominant and most assertive member of the crew who leads the group.
The position is matrilineal, and when a leader dies, her daughter takes over.
The wolves are incredibly territorial and have territories ranging about 6 km2
They ward off strangers and wolves from other packs in case they stray into their territory. Strangers could face death if they intrude into these territories.
Ethiopian wolves rarely accept strangers into their groups but can do so if one of the packs disappears.
Pack sizes are controlled mainly through food availability.
An area with many rodents will have wolves and packs.
The wolves relax during nighttime and travel during the day.
Caves and overhanging rocks usually act as shelter when the rainy season comes.
Dens are explicitly used for rearing young wolves only. The adult wolves sleep close to these dens but not in them.
Ethiopian wolves rely exclusively on rodents.
This is a unique character not in many wolf breeds which prefer larger meals.
This controls most aspects of their lives, such as when to wake up, where to live and how to hunt. Their primary food mainly consists of big-headed mole-rats.
They have long, sharp jaws which help them catch the rodents.
They have acute hearing senses, which help them locate their prey by listening to the movement of the prey’s feet.
Ethiopian wolves also consume highland hares, yellow-spotted rats, eggs, goslings, and grass rats.
They also eat the East African mole-rat and the Abyssinian grass rats.
During hunting, the wolf moves close to the prey as much as 15-20m.
They then rush in and strike their target with lightning speed.
Sometimes they may also become scavengers.
They also dig sand if their nose helps them locate newborn rats
The mating season for Ethiopian wolves is August to November, within which they breed.
Their gestation period lasts for two months, and pups are born from October to December. Puppies have their grey coat, but their eyes are closed.
Female Ethiopian wolves give birth to 2-6 pups which leave the den within 21 days.
Young wolves begin to eat solid food when they’re 35 days old and become independent in 2-6 months.
Pups become adults in 2 years and are looked after by all members of the pack.
3. Arctic Wolf
The arctic wolf is also known as Canis lupus arctos, polar wolf, or white wolf.
It is a type of grey wolves. They are common in Alaska, Greenland, and the Canadian Arctic.
They have legs that are short to help them regulate their body temperature.
They show massive canines and have white fur.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies them into the Least Concern category.
Arctic wolves can grow to a length of 2 meters, taking the tail into account, and weigh a maximum of 70Kg.
Males can grow very large, up to 175 lbs and a length of 4-6 feet.
This makes them dominantly larger than the females. Males mature in 3 years while females come of age after two years.
The arctic weather is brutal for most animals, including the wolves.
They cope by having thick fur to help them remain insulated from harsh cold conditions.
The temperatures in the Arctic can fall way below zero.
Their physical features enable them to go for weeks without food, survive in absolute darkness for five months each year, and survive in sub-zero temperatures.
When winter arrives, they add a coat of fur to stay warm.
The coat may also act as a camouflage to keep them unnoticed by both prey and predators.
The coat will help the wolves sleep comfortably even in temperatures below zero.
Sometimes, they huddle together to share their body warmth.
Most arctic wolves live for 8-10 years in the wild.
Those in captivity are taken care of by man and can live for 15-20 years.
This species of wolves travel and live in packs of up to 15 members.
They can also be divided into small groups of families consisting of one male, a female, and their offspring.
The packs are obligated to care for the pups, feed them, protect them, and play with them.
The young wolves will move out of their packs or groups to venture into the wild to find mates and form new packs.
If pack members cannot mate, the rest of the wolves will abandon them.
They usually mark their territories using their smells.
Alpha wolves are wolves that gather other wolves to form a pack.
During pregnancies, the females may temporarily leave their packs to dig dens for raising the pups
Hunting for arctic wolves is done in packs. Most arctic wolves feed on Muskoxen and Caribous.
Since they can swim, they also prey on seals, commonly found around polar regions.
They also feed on arctic hares, lemmings, waterfowls, smaller animals, and ptarmigan.
The areas they live in are sometimes covered in heavy snow, and it becomes hard to navigate and find prey.
This makes them travel for 1000 square miles while hunting caribou during winter.
They are also not swift runners but make up for this by having great stamina, which helps them outrun their prey.
Arctic wolves have been found to have 42 teeth and use these teeth to catch, kill and eat their prey.
They are also able to swallow large chunks of meat without chewing it entirely.
The teeth are also able to crush bones. In a single meal, these wolves can each consume up to 9 kg each.
Some wolves are tasked with carrying food for their pups which they regurgitate for the puppies once they are back to the dens.
The Arctic wolf lives in the Northern regions of Greenland, the Canadian Arctic, and Alaska.
They are said to be natively from Northern America millions of years ago.
Wolves are intelligent; they create dens with two chambers. One is usually for their pups, while the other is used as a store for food.
Since they live in extreme weather, they have not faced any real danger from human encroachment.
Some of their breeds can be found in Northern Alberta in Wood Buffalo National park.
They can be found in both 70 and 60-degree latitudes in Canada.
Northern Minnesota also houses some Arctic wolves.
Female adults close to giving birth usually dig deep in snow to create a home for their pups.
The dens protect the puppies from predators. The burrows are also used to feed the puppies.
The ground can sometimes be hard due to frozen snow.
The mother finds caves, hanging boulders, or rock outcroppings and shallow depressions to use as a den in such cases.
Their gestation period is 60-80 days. The pups are born during May – June.
Each female gets 2-3 pups. However, one wolf was recorded to litter 12 pups.
The lower number of pups may be due to the harsh conditions and lack of food in the arctic.
Puppies are born blind, just like in other varieties, and their weight usually is one pound.
The mum looks after the pups for up to 5 weeks when they can leave the den for short periods.
Whenever the mother is away, some pack members are tasked with protecting the pups until she is back.
4. Red Wolf
The red wolf Canis rufus is found in Eastern parts of the United States.
Their physical appearance is nearly similar to the gray wolf.
They are labeled critically endangered by the IUCN. Their main threat is mankind.
Adult red wolves can average 160 cm / 63 inches in head-body length and weigh up to 39 kg / 85 lbs. They average around 25 inches shoulder height.
They show a reddish tawny color on their coat.
They have the most enormous ears in the wolf family. Like other species, the males are larger than the female.
They once dominated the southeast US between the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
They make dens in hollow trees or along river banks. They could also stay in dense vegetation and deep caves.
They are more social than other species. They are active during the day and night.
They are primarily active during the night and can be found in packs.
The adult red wolves mark their territories and communicate mainly by howling and using different body postures.
They mainly eat rabbits and rodents, deer, raccoons, and coypu.
They may also take insects and wild berries.
Mating for red wolves occurs in January to early March. Females can give birth to 5-8 pups.
Their gestation period is two months, and pups are born from March to May. Both parents usually take care of the pups.
The young are allowed to leave the dens after 45 days and attain maximum length after a year. Pups take two years to become mature.
Red wolves live for up to seven years in the wild and up to 20 years for those in captivity.
Other types of wolves
1. Mackenzie Valley Wolf
The Mackenzie Valley Wolf, also known as the Canadian Timber Wolf, is undisputedly the giant wolf species in the world today.
They are native to Mackenzie River Valley in Canada, from which they draw their name.
They can also be found in some parts of Alaska and Western Canada.
Mackenzie Valley wolves weigh about 175 pounds and can grow up to 7 feet long.
This is because they are adapted to survival at very high altitudes, which have reduced air pressure.
This large body gives room for the development of substantial organs such as the lungs needed to breathe at such high altitudes
2. Tundra Wolf
This kind of wolf is lighter than the Mackenzie Valley Wolf but grows to a similar length of 7 feet.
They are primarily seen in Russia’s coldest parts, making them have thick fur, which keeps them warm in the cold weather.
They mainly consume bison and caribou found in those areas.
Since food is scarce, the wolves are usually wise enough to target and isolate the weakest animals within the herd.
This helps them conserve a lot of energy.
3. Great Plains Wolf
This breed is just as long as the Alaskan Interior wolf but not as long as the latter.
The species is categorized as endangered, and it was at one point almost hunted to extinction.
However, the effort by the US wildlife service and some organizations has helped start increasing their numbers.
They travel in packs of 5 wolves. It’s even currently one of the most common species in the United States.
4. Dire Wolf
This is an extinct species of wolf that was the largest in the world and weighed around 17 pounds.