Hollywood movies like The Wolf and The Red Riding Hood, and several television shows across the world on humans turning into wolves, have ensured that wolves carry a mystery factor around them. Is it true that they howl during full moons, do werewolves really exist, how are wolves related to humans, are a few questions that your kid may often ask you.
Belonging to the family of wild dogs, the species of wolves include gray wolf, arctic wolf, white wolf and Mexican wolf. They belong to the same family as dingo and coyote. The animals reach speeds of over 60km/h. Let’s learn more about wolves facts for kids! Have a look!
25 Amazing Wolf Facts For Kids:
1. Hunters By Birth:
Known to be vicious hunters, the wild dogs head out as a pack to hunt their prey. It is said that they discuss which animals to chase before they set out on their job. After they hunt their target, the wolves devour their prey within minutes.
The animals exhibit a few traits of humans, such as the fact that they live in close-knit families. Once born into the family, wolves stay close to the pack for as long as they live.
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The wolf is known to be the ancestor of every known breed of dogs. They may not be friendly like your pet dog, though. They play around just like dogs, pushing and fighting with each other. Unlike dogs, they do not bark. Genetically they are identical and even capable of interbreeding. Despite their close relation to dogs, wolves find a meal in dogs! It is said that a single wolf can solicit a dog to follow it, and once it corners the prey, the other partners in the pack join the wolf to reduce the dog to shreds.
3. Weighty Issue:
Wolves typically weigh 40kg, and their maximum could go up to around 80kg. The farther they are from the equator, the heavier they grow. There have been reports that some wolves weigh more than 100kg, possibly in areas where alpha males have an insatiable appetite. The largest wolf to have ever been killed weighed over 75kg, in North America. Gray wolves are found to weigh 30 to 80kg, and the Arctic fox weighs around 3.5 to 9kg.
4. No Mercy:
Wolves aren’t exactly known for their speed, but they use this to their advantage. The entire pack goes chasing behind the potential meal, signaling and coordinating with each other. They have various techniques of communicating with each other, and this helps while hunting.
The entire pack attacks its target, tearing it off into pieces until the victim gives up the fight from exhaustion. They are said to eat their prey alive, unlike most other animals that wait until their prey is dead. They do not have any quick tricks to take the lives of their prey immediately and hence resort to eating them alive. Pretty gruesome, we’d say.
5. Wolf Packs:
Wolves move in packs. This is what sets wolves apart from most other animals. They hunt and breed in packs that range from two wolves to as many as 20. The size depends on their habitat and food supply. The alpha pair leads the pack and is the only pair of breeders. Once a mate is found, a couple is formed, and this is known as the alpha pair. A wolf finds a mate only once and sticks with that for the rest of its life.
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6. Early Life:
The ideal breeding time of wolves is between March and May. A female wolf can give birth to around four to six pups at a time. Universally two species exist, the gray wolf and the red wolf. The pups are in constant need of attention from their mother as they cannot move or crawl when born. Born deaf as well as blind when they enter the world, pups are around 500gm. The entire pack is known to assist the mother in childbearing. Eight months is the time they take to join in the pack for hunts.
7. Wolf Pups:
When born, the pups thrive on their mother’s milk. They require around five feeds every day to keep growing. They start to eat regurgitated meat once they are around two weeks old, and this is when their first set of milk teeth begin to show. Once they are eight weeks old, the wolves move on from their mother’s milk for the kill of the pack. For a newborn cub to urinate, it requires a nice little belly massage from its mother, using her warm tongue.
The growth rate of wolf pups is quite fast as they gain close to about three pounds every week for the initial 14 weeks. When they are 15 days old, they get a glimpse of the world through a set of eyes with poor vision. They begin to move around and venture out of their den after three weeks of their birth. They start to tag along with the others only once they are 12 weeks old. This is when they abandon the den completely.
8. Arctic Wolves:
Some wolves in the Arctic are known to survive for days without eating as they have to travel long distances in the forest in search of food. An arctic wolf has a color like no other. It is white and is unique as it is found scarcely. In some regions, they show variations of yellow and black. Being three feet long, they weigh around 125kg. Some are known to be six feet long. They can live for up to seven years. The wolf is seen as an animal and a great teacher, a pathfinder of some sorts.
9. Grey Wolves:
Grey wolves are also called timber wolves. They are in white, black, or brown in color or a combination of the three. Adult wolves have huge feet with a paw print of 13cm long and 10cm wide. Grey wolves do not walk on their feet but their toes. This they share in common with dogs. Their mouths are long and so are their tails. The average ground covered by a grey wolf is around 30 miles a day. They can leap far and wide, covering a large land. These animals are known to have two layers of fur, an undercoat and a top coat. This allows them to survive in extreme temperatures, the coldest being minus 40 degrees Celsius. Their fur is flattened in warmer places to keep them cool. They can also hear packs from around 20 miles away.
10. Eating Habits:
The carnivores’ prime prey are goats, beavers, deer and bison. A wolf by itself feasts on smaller animals such as rabbits and squirrels. When in a pack, they can take down animals as large as a yak or moose. In one single sitting, a wolf can chug down 9kg of food. Ranging from domestic animals, small mammals, carrion, small and large ungulates, wolves eat just about anything.
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When a kill has been made, it is customary for the alpha pair to eat first. Due to the irregularities in the availability of food, wolves eat up to one-fifth of their total weight. This is done to account for the missed food. The alpha pair is the oldest members of the troop. Their experience is useful to the pack in every field right from protecting the pack to defending their territory. They also seem to have mastered all the skills of hunting, and this is rewarded with respect from their troop. The pair takes the decisions involving the pack, as the right time to set out on the hunt, to move, etc. Each of the other members is offered inferior roles to that of the alpha pair. Pups under the age of two are not promised a place in the pack. They constantly fight with each in an attempt to find the next top wolf.
12. Coexistence With Men:
For wolves to coexist with humans, it is important to remove all conflicts that exist with each other. Eskimos are known to hunt a large number of Arctic wolves. Wolves are killed for their skin. The attack of beasts on humans is also not uncommon, with more number of incidents reported in India and its neighboring regions than in any other part of the world. More than 200 attacks were reported in South Asia in 50 years up to 2002.
The only threat a wolf faces is the one from humans. They are at the top of the food chain and are unstoppable predators. Humans see wolves as a threat and tend to kill them for fear of their lives. Wolves in Britain have been hunted to a point of extinction. Now that wolves are being studied, a deeper understanding of these creatures has been obtained. Rabid wolves are extremely dangerous, and hence, vaccination is done. The Ethiopian wolf is on the verge of extinction. It has been threatened by the spread of diseases by dogs which have been domesticated. A few organizations have been set up to protect these rare wolves.
Wolves communicate with each through noise, postures and rituals. They also leave indelible scent marks. In order to declare supremacy, dominant wolves look at the others right in the eye. When in the presence of their leader, the wolves lower their tails and bend low as an act of respect. The pack may also howl in some cases. When threatened, an open mouth and clenched teeth signify an angered beast. Being highly territorial creatures, wolves tend to shut out other wolves who do not belong to the pack. When marking their territory, wolves urinate all over the place. Objects over which the stench lingers belong to the territory being marked. The alpha male is usually in charge of things such as these.
A wolf’s hearing is 20 times higher than that of a human’s.
15. Life Span:
Wolves can live for over 13 years with the average life being six to eight years. They can live for over 16 years in captivity. The wilder ones tend to die faster than captive wolves mainly due to starvation. Encroachment of forests is also a reason for their death.
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16. Number Of Teeth:
Known to have ten more teeth than humans (42 teeth), these animals tear their meals apart in no time. The skeletal system of a wolf goes by the lifestyle it follows. Their jaws need to be strong enough to bring their prey down to their mercy. Strong bones and flexible wrist bones give the wolf added benefits when compared to other animals. While running, these creatures require additional stability. This is provided by the radius and ulna bones.
17. Scary Dog:
Even though they are the ancestors of dogs, wolves tend to shy away from things unfamiliar and visitors rather than confront them like dogs do. A wolf lowers its entire body and draws its ears back as a sign of active submission. It might also lick its muzzle and lower its body. It looks up at the dominant animal and places its tail between its legs. This shows that the wolf is humbling itself before the unfamiliar. This indicates an active submission.
A submission can also be passive, wherein, the wolf rolls over and exposes its underside. They keep their paws closer to the body and whimper away. This kind of submission is found to be more intense when compared to active submission.
Born with blue eyes, wolves get their true yellow eye color only once they are eight months old. A fully grown wolf has eyes that are often amber, with variations such as yellow, green and gray. A wolf hybrid can easily be spotted by the fact that they have blue eyes. Adult wolves seldom have blue eyes. Wolves are said to have eyesight close to that of humans. Research leads us to believe that wolves might just be shortsighted. Their eyes can adapt to rapid motion, and the ratio of rods to cones is quite high. This helps in night vision. At night, a wolf’s vision is at its peak and can outrun that of a human’s.
The wild dogs are not just restricted to land. They can swim across distances that span up to eight miles. This is aided by the webs between their toes. Wolves take an occasional dip in the icy streams and lakes. Nothing stops them from jumping into the waters, not even their prey. They take baths during summer to keep themselves cool. Known to be quite the groomers, wolves spend a lot of time keeping their fur spic and span. Seen as a means to strengthen social bonds between members of the pack, the grooming process is quite intense. Help is received from all members, as they claw and lick the dirt away. Comfort and support are depicted through these rituals.
20. Hitler Means Wolf:
What do you think Adolf Hitler translates to? Lead wolf. It is no wonder he led the way right through his life. He used a lot of code names associated with wolves for various operations. Hitler had a small part of his empire called the “Wolf’s Lair”. During World War II it served as his first military headquarters. It was located all through Europe.
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21. Howling Tendencies:
Did you know that if you imitated a wolf call, you might get a response? Why not give this one a try? Some reasons have been found for a wolf call. Wolves in the pack howl together to protect and defend their territory. It begins with any one wolf yelling out and is followed by responses from the rest. They might even respond to anything similar to a wolf cry. This could be a siren or a train whistle for that matter. Each howl can be distinguished by a pack member. If Scooby Doo ever taught you one thing, it is that all wolves howl at the full moon, right? Hate to break it to you, but this isn’t true. The reason they howl more often at night and during sunrise is because they are more active at these times. A little-known fact is wolves howl less in the summers than in winters.
22. They Find Companions In The Most Unlikely Of Critters:
Wolves are often accompanied by ravens. This is because the ravens feast on the aftermath of the hunt. In order to get the wolves away from the kill, these ravens peck away at the wolf’s tail to try and move them away.
For fear of their close resemblance to wolves, a large number of people were put to death in the 1600s, calling them werewolves. A few people think lycanthropy is what they are diagnosed with. This springs from the fact these humans think they can turn into wolves. Werewolves have been storylines for several movies. Fear not, they aren’t real.
24. Food for Thought:
If you thought only cows were capable of chewing that cud, think again. Regurgitating is the process wherein the wolves carry chewed up food in their bellies and throw it up to serve their young. Talking of the young, they too have toys to play, just like the humans. Their toys are feathers and bones of dead animals. Wolves also take pride in their victory over their prey and carry trophies around.
25. Red Wolves:
Yes, wolves could come in shades of red as well. They exhibit characteristics similar to most other wolves when it comes to diet except for the fact that these little critters feed on berries and insects as well. Once faced with extinction, red wolves seemed to have beaten the odds into surviving for a very long time. As of now, around 50 red wolves thrive in the wild, mostly in the southeastern parts of the US, and they are found to roam across around two million acres of land. They are also found in wildlife parks in and around the country. Fostering happens to be the process wherein captive born pups are placed in a pack of wild mothers and pups. These red critters find dens in trees and sand knolls. Known to exhibit high levels of unity within the pack, these animals communicate with the harmony of the highest forms.
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