What Wolves Look Like

Physical Characteristics of Wolves

Like humans, no two wolves look exactly alike. But most North American grey wolves have some common traits that can help us identify them.

Wolf Ears, Face & Eyes:

Wolf Face and Eyes
Wolf Ears:
Unlike dog ears, which are often large and floppy wolf ears are rounded, stand straight up, and are filled with fur.
Wolf Eye Color:
Wolf pup’s eyes start out a deep murky blue. By about three weeks they become bright blue. Around eight they will reach their adult color which can be pale yellow, to amber or even orange or brown. The orange of this wolve’s eyes is common.
Wolf Face:
One trait that is common among all adult grey wolves is their broad face, given them by the thick ruff of fur on the sides of their heads. Their eyes are narrow set, and their noses are long.


Wolf Coat & Color:

Wolf Color

Wolf Molting

Wolf Color:
Don’t be fooled by the term “grey wolf”. This is only a name given to their classification, or family of mammals. It does not mean that they are all grey. The color of their coats range widly from pitch black, to stark white (mostly in the arctic). Most wolves are a tawny brown or golden, with bands of black and white.
Wolf Coat:
Wolves have two layers of fur. The outer layer is made up of tough,long guard hairs that repel water, snow and dirt. This layer contains pigment and gives the wolf’s coat its color. The inner layer is dense, thich and soft, much like wool. It traps air, which insulates the wolf and keeps them warm at tempatures far below what humans could tolerate.

In the spring, the inner layer of wool is shed to help keep the wolf cool during the summer. A wolf will often rub against objects such as rocks and branches to encourage the loose fur to fall out. This process is called “molting”. The photo to the left is a of a captive wolf during the molting process — note the large chunks of fur falling off.


Wolf Paw:

Wolf Paw

Wolf’s Paw:
The full grown paw of an adult wolf can be almost as large as the hand of a full grown human. These large paws make it easier to walk on a wide variety of surfaces, especially snow. Between each toe there is a slight webbing (thin layer of skin) which allows them to move over snow and to swim more easily than the animals they hunt. Their large feet also helps them distribute their weight on snowy surfaces, which keeps them stay ontop of the snow instead instead of sinking into it.

The front paws are larger than the back paws, and they have a fifth claw, called the dewclaw. Bristled hairs and blunt claws enhance give them a tight grip on slippery surfaces like ice, and special blood vessels keep their paw pads from freezing. Wolves have scent glands between their toes which leave behind a faint smell as they walk, This helps them keep track of where they have been so they can navigate over long distances, and it also helps other wolves in the pack find them easily.
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