The Body Of The Wolf
A wolf’s body is made to hunt prey and carry them. For this, the wolves have excellent senses that help them find prey. They have strong muscles and long legs to run and have powerful jaws and teeth to hold their prey.
Wolves are larger than other wild canids and domestic dogs. An adult male wolf can be 91 cm tall and almost 2 meters long. And it can weigh more than 45 Kg. The wolves are smaller than the males.
The body of the wolf: Fur
The colors of the fur of the wolf can make it difficult for it to be found in its natural habitat, mingling with the background tones, which causes the disappearance of the wolf. Wolves that spend a lot of time in dark forests tend to have darker fur, in places where plants have many colors, the fur of wolves is often mottled.
To protect themselves from rain or snow, the wolves have three layers of fur on their backs. The water slips over these layers as on a safety pin. The hair in those layers can measure 13 cm in length. The wolf has 5 fingers on the front legs and 4 on the hind legs. Their paws can be very large (up to 13.3 cm long). In winter, the fur of the wolf is very thick and shaggy. It can be 63 mm thick. The fur keeps the wolf warm in the coldest weather.
Like dogs, wolves walk on the tips of their toes. This lengthens their legs and makes it possible for them to run faster. Their long legs are like stilts that allow them to take long steps.
The Senses of the Wolf
In order to survive, wolves have some senses more developed than human beings.
The Sense of Smell
A wolf’s sense smell is probably the most acute sense of the wolf and plays a fundamental role in communication. The wolf has a large number of apocrine sweat glands on the face, lips, back and between the toes. The odor produced by these glands varies according to the microflora and diet of each wolf, giving each a distinct “odor footprint”. A combination of apocrine and eccrine sweat glands on the paws allows the wolf to smell when it scrapes the soil, which usually occurs after urine marking and defecation during the breeding season.
The follicles present on the guard hairs of the back of the wolf have masses of apocrine and sebaceous glands at their base. As the skin of the back is usually folded, it creates a micro climate for bacterial spread around the glands. During piloerection, the back of the guard hairs are raised and skin folds extend, releasing a smell. The precaudal scent glands may play a role in the expression of aggression as combative wolves raise the base of their tail while lowering the end, positioning the scent glands at the highest point.
The wolf has a pair of anal sacs under the rectum, which contain apocrine and sebaceous glands. The components of anal sac secretions vary by season and sex, indicating that secretions provide information on sex and reproductive status. Secretions of the preputial glandsmay announce hormonal status or social position because it was observed that the dominant wolves take over subordinates and inspect the genital area, which can include genital licking.During the breeding season, wolves secrete vagina substances which communicate female reproductive status and can be detected by males over long distances.
Urine marking is the means olfactory communication best studied in wolves. Its exact function is debated, although most researchers agree that its first goal is to set boundaries. The urine of wolves is more frequently and vigorously marked in unknown areas, or intrusion areas, where the smell of other wolves or canids is present. The so-called urination with elevated legs more common in male wolves than in females, and can be used to maximize the possibility of detection by congeners, as well as to reflect the height of the wolf marker. Only the dominant wolves usually use this way of urination to mark, subordinate males continuing to use the standing posture. Urination is considered one of the most important forms of olfactory communication in wolves and represents 60 to 80% of all observed olfactory marks.
A Wolf’s Hearing
The wolves have an incredible ear. They can hear the howling of other wolves miles away and easily detect which direction the sound is coming from. To do this, turn the ears, in the direction in which the ears point when the sound is louder, reveals the wolf where it comes from.
A Wolf’s Head & Teeth
The head of the gray wolf is large and heavy, with a broad forehead, strong jaws and a long rounded snout. The skull measures on average 230 to 280 mm long and 130 to 150 mm wide. The teeth are heavy and large, better adapted to the grinding of bones than those of other existing canids, but not as specialized as those of hyenas. Their molars are flat chewing surface, but not as much as the coyote, whose diet contains more plant materials. The adult dentition is 42 teeth. The young have 32 baby teeth, the final dentition appearing at 7 months. The fangs of wolves can measure up to 6 to 7 cm including 2 cm embedded in the gum.