9 Super Interesting Wolf Facts You've Probably Never Heard Of

There's a lot to learn about wolves.

wolf with question marks

Everyone knows that dogs were domesticated from wolves. But do you know how similar dogs really are to their wolf ancestors? Or which types of dogs are the most similar?

Keep reading to get the answer, plus a bunch of other interesting wolf facts.

9 super interesting wolf facts

gray wolf
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1. There are two species of wolves

There are two species of wolves: the gray wolf and the red wolf. There are also multiple subspecies of gray wolves, including:

  • Rocky Mountain gray wolf
  • Great Plains gray wolf
  • Mexican gray wolf
  • Eastern wolf
  • Russian gray wolf
  • African gray wolf
  • Iberian gray wolf

2. Wolves are very social animals

Wolves live in groups called packs, and they form strong bonds with the members of their packs. Packs are family groups that typically consist of a male (dad) and female (mom) wolf and their offspring. Once the pups reach maturity (around 1 to 3 years old), they leave to mate and form their own packs.

3. Wolves don’t actually howl at the moon

A wolf howling at the full moon is a well-known sight in popular media, but wolves don’t actually do that. They do howl for other reasons, though. Each wolf has his own distinct howl, and wolves use their howls to communicate with members of their packs or to scare other wolves away from their territory. And a wolf’s howl can be heard up to 10 miles away!

Wolves are pretty similar to dogs in the ways they communicate. Along with howling, they use other sounds to talk to each other, like whining, growling, snarling, yelping and barking. And also like dogs, they use scent and body language to communicate.

two wolves kissing
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4. Wolves mate for life

Unlike humans, many animals don’t mate for life — but wolves do! Wolf packs have a social hierarchy and form around an “alpha” pair of wolves who mate and breed. Sounds like a power couple to us!

5. Their paws are huge

Wolf paws are bigger than many dogs’ paws. A wolf’s paw can be around 4 inches wide and 5 inches long. This is around the same size paw as some of the biggest dogs, like Bernese mountain dogs and Great Danes.

pack of wolves
Pat-s pictures/Shutterstock.com

6. Wolves are super large

It’s not only wolves’ paws that are big — their whole bodies are huge. In fact, gray wolves are the biggest members of the canid (aka dog) family, which also includes domestic dogs, coyotes, dingoes, jackals and foxes. They can grow to be about 3 feet tall at the shoulder and 5 feet long (not including the tail) and weigh up to around 180 pounds.

The largest type of wolf is the Mackenzie Valley wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf.

7. Red wolves are almost extinct in the wild

Red wolves were declared extinct in the wild in 1980, but a program to reintroduce them to the wild helped increase their numbers. It’s estimated that there are currently only 20-23 red wolves in the wild, and they’re only found in North Carolina. The number of red wolves in the wild has dramatically decreased because of the destruction of their habitats, mating with coyotes, hunting and conflicts with people.

8. Dogs are more similar to wolves than you might think

Your cuddly pet dog isn’t that different from his wolf ancestors. He’s actually extremely similar — dogs and wolves share about 99.8 percent of their DNA, making them more alike than different (though dogs of different breeds are more similar to each other than they are to wolves).

Wolves and dogs are even considered to be subspecies of Canis lupus, meaning they’re the same species. Previously, they were considered separate species altogether: Canis lupus familiaris (dog) and Canis lupus lupus (wolf).

9. Some dog breeds are more closely related to wolves than others

Some of the dog breeds that are genetically closest to their wolf ancestors are kind of obvious because they look just like wolves. These breeds include:

  • Siberian huskies
  • Afghan hounds
  • Basenjis
  • Chow Chows
  • Akitas

Some of the other breeds that are most closely related to wolves might surprise you since they look pretty much nothing like wolves. These are some breeds that are closely related to wolves, but you’d never know it:

  • Shih tzus
  • Pekingeses
  • Lhasa apsos
  • Shar-Peis
  • Salukis

Since wolves are the ancestors of our pet pups, it’s pretty cool to find out just how similar they actually are.