Wolf, the typical form of the canidai or dogs, whose family characters have been described under Dog. The European wolf (canis lupus, Linn.) is about 4 ft. long, with a tail of 16 in., and is commonly yellowish gray above and dirty yellowish white below; it is about the size of a large dog, but leaner and more gaunt, and with a wicked expression of countenance from the obliquity of the eyes; the pupils are round, the ears erect, and the tail carried nearly straight and hanging down. It is cowardly but powerful, hunting deer and animals of that size in packs, often committing great ravages among sheep, calves, and the smaller domestic animals, but rarely attacking man unless rendered fearless by hunger; it is very cautious and difficult to entrap, except when food is very scarce. It was formerly common over most of Europe, but is now so only in the most unfrequented and mountainous regions of N. Europe and Asia. Its osteological and anatomical characters are almost identical with those of the dog, and the period of gestation the same. When taken young it has been successfully tamed. A species of wolf is represented with the dog on Egyptian monuments, and is figured on tombs of the fourth dynasty, 4,000 years ago.
It becomes almost white in Sweden and Siberia. - In North America there are two well marked sections of wolves; in the smaller, to which the prairie wolf belongs, the skull is slender and the muzzle elongated and fox-like, with not very prominent cranial crests; in the other, containing the large wolf, the skull is higher, with larger crests, broader muzzle, and relatively smaller orbits. Some rank the South American fox-like canidce among the wolves, comprising the genera lycalopex and pseudalopex of Burmeister. The North American or common gray wolf (C. occidentalism Rich.) is usually grayish above, with a mixture of black points giving a grizzled appearance, and lighter or yellowish gray below; it varies from this to nearly white, and is hence called C. variahilis by Prince Maximilian; it is from 3¾ to 4¼ ft. long, with a tail of 17 to 20 in. It is stouter than the European wolf, with wider muzzle, larger head, more arched forehead, shorter ears and legs, longer and finer hair, and more bushy tail; many authors consider it a permanent variety of the European species, while others not only regard it as distinct, but make several species of it.
Among the varieties which have received names are the white wolf on the upper waters of the Missouri, the dusky in the northwestern states, the black in the south, and the rufous in Texas; these vary also in shape, being more slender and longer - legged at the south. The giant wolf described by Townsend, from Oregon, was probably only a very large specimen of the common gray species. Gray wolves were formerly abundant all over North America; in the far west they follow the trail' of the buffalo herds, picking up the sick and straggling or feeding on the refuse of the hunters; they also run down deer in packs, and occasionally attack and devour horses, and man himself, when furious with hunger. In the middle and New England states a few still linger in the mountainous districts, especially where there are deer. The wolf has four to nine young at a time in the spring, which it protects in burrows; it crosses with domestic dogs, and the Indians try to improve their sledge dogs in this way; it can hardly be distinguished from these dogs except by its superior size and strength; the howl is much like that of the dog. - The prairie wolf (G. latrans, Say), the coyote of the Mexicans, is intermediate in size between the fox and the wolf, having the sharp muzzle of the former and the shape and tail of the latter; it is the American representative of the old world jackal.
It is 36 to 40 in. long, with a tail of 16 to 18 in.; the color is usually dull yellowish gray on the back and sides, with black cloudings; under parts and inside of limbs dirty white; the ears very large, triangular, erect, and mostly coated with hair; there are four toes on each foot, and on the fore feet a sharp claw on the inside, 2 in. above the sole, attached to the rudimentary thumb; tail bushy but tapering, and the hair coarse. The voice is a kind of snapping bark, whence the name of barking wolf. It is found on the plains of the Missouri and the Saskatchewan, extending from Mexico to lat. 55° N.; it lives and breeds in burrows, having the young, sometimes 10, in April; it hunts in packs, and is very fleet.
European Wolf (Canis lupus).
Coyote or Prairie Wolf (Cania latrans).