The Nature Of Wolves
As with most things in this world, the evolution
of the Wolf is up for debate. Biologists believe the wolf evolved
from primitive carnivores known as "Miacids". These
prehistoric creatures ranged in size from something equivalent
to a gopher up to a large dog. 52 million years ago is a long
way back to start the history of the wolf we know today. But
to understand the wolf, you should understand it's history.
The Miacids evolved to the first canids relatively late in
their evolutionary cycle. Some biologists believe the canids
originated in North America, then spread to Asia and South America.
Others believe the canids originated in Asia and spread to other
two land masses. The evidence isn't clear enough to determine
where the canids originated, but that they did exist primarily
in these areas from their early Beginnings.
Robert Wayne (a researcher from the University of California)
suggests a number of wolf like species evolved from a common
- Canis lupus: The first gray wolf . First appeared in Eurasia
during the Pleistocene period, about 1 million years ago.
- Canis dirus: The dire wolf. Believed to be a decedent of
Canis lupus which migrated to North America around 750,000 years
ago. Canis dirus is larger and heavier than it's ancestor, but
the two species seem to have coexisted for about 400,000 years.
As it's prey began to vanish due to climate changes, the dire
wolf gradually became extinct as well. Vanishing completely about
7,000 years ago.
Canis lupus got it's official classification from a Swedish
scientist named Carl von Linne in 1758. The name can be loosely
associated to Carl's own surname. In Latin, Carl Linne becomes
Carolus Linnaeus, thus Canis Lupus was a born label for a magnificent
- Kingdom: Animal (Animalia)
- Phylum: Notochords (Chordata)¹
- Subphylum: Vertebrates (Vertebrata)²
- Class: Mammals (Mammalia)
- Subclass: Placental mammals (Eutheria)³
- Order: Carnivores (Carnivora)
- Family: Dogs (Canidae)
- Genus: Dogs (Canis)
- Species: Gray Wolf (lupus)
Notochord: an elongated rod-shaped structure composed of cells
forming the supporting axis of the body.
² Vertebrates: having a backbone or
mammals that give birth (as opposed to laying eggs).
Sub-Species can be divided
into two categories. First, the most common classification of
wolves prior to 1992, defined 24 different sub-species or racial
groups. However, in 1992 at the Northern American Wolf Symposium,
and based largely on the research of taxonomist Ron Nowak, a
new classification of 5 groups was created. Here are both categories:
- Kenai Peninsula wolf (Canis alces ª
1925) One of the largest in North America.
- White Wolf (Canis arctos) Found in the high Arctic.
- Small Gray Wolf (Canis baileyi) The smallest North American
Gray Wolf. From Mexico through the South Western U.S.
- Newfoundland Wolf (Canis beothucus ª
?) Reported as almost pure-white.
- Bernard Wolf (Canis bernardi ª
1918-52) Limited to the Banks and Victoria
Islands in the Arctic. Described as white with black-tipped hair
along the spinal ridge. It was not recognized as a species until
- Columbia Wolf (Canis Columbianus) A large wolf found in the
Yukon, British Columbia and Alberta.
- Crassodon Wolf (Canis crassodon) Found in the Vancouver Island,
this is a medium sized grayish wolf.
- Fuscus (Canis fuscus ª 1940) Found in the Cascade Mountains, this
was a brownish-colored wolf.
- Grizzly Wolf (Canis griseoalbus) Found in Alberta, Saskatchewan
and Manitoba this is a very large wolf.
- Hudson Wolf (Canis hudsonicus) Found in northern Manitoba
and the NW Territories, this is a light colored wolf.
- Mountain Wolf (Canis irremotus) Found in the northern Rocky
Mountains, this is a medium sized light colored wolf.
- Labrador Wolf (Canis labradorius) Found in Labrador and northern
- Lago Wolf (Canis ligoni) Found in Alexander Archipelago islands
in the arctic, this is a small dark colored wolf.
- Timber Wolf (Canis lycaon) Found in eastern Canada and the
U.S. The first subspecies to be recognized in North America in
1775. It originally had the largest range of territory in North
- Mackenzie Wolf (Canis mackenzii) Found in the Northwest Territories,
it was not recognized as a species until 1943.
- Arctic Wolf (Canis manningi) The smallest arctic wolf found
in the Baffin Islands. It is a white or light colored wolf and
was not recognized until 1943.
- Arizona Wolf (Canis mogollonensis ª
1935) Found primarily in Arizona and New
Mexico, it was a medium sized wolf.
- Texas Wolf (Canis monstrabilis ª
1926) Found primarily in Texas and New
Mexico. Almost identical to the Arizona and Small Gray Wolf species.
- Buffalo Wolf (Canis nubilus ª
1926) Also known as the Great Plains Wolf,
it was usually light in color.
- Mackenzie Valley Wolf (Canis occidentalis) Found in western
Canada, this is a large wolf, typically Gray in color.
- Hunter Wolf (Canis orion) Found in Greenland, this is a white
or very light colored wolf.
- Alaskan Wolf (Canis pambasileus) Found primarily in Alaska
and the Yukon. This is a dark colored wolf.
- Tundra Wolf (Canis tundrarum) Found in the arctic tundra,
this is a light colored wolf.
- Southern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis youngi ª
1935) Found in the southern Rocky Mountains,
this wolf was a light buff color.
- ª Indicates an extinct species.
Followed by the year it was classified as extinct.
- Canis occidentalis
Contains most of the Alaskan and western Canadian species. Includes:
alces, columbianus, griseoalbus, mackenzii, occidentalis, pambasileus
- Canis nubilus
Contains most of the SE Alaskan, central and northeastern Canadian
and western U.S. species. Includes: beothucus, crassodon, fuscus,
hudsonicus, irremotus, labradorius, ligoni, lycaon of Minnesota,
manningi, nubilus and youngi.
- Canis lycaon
Contains the southeastern Canadian and northeastern U.S. subspecies.
Includes: lycaon (except for the Minnesota lycaons).
- Canis arctos
Contains the Arctic islands and Greenland species. Includes:
arctos, bernardi and orion.
- Canis baileyi
Contains the species from Mexico and the extreme southwestern
U.S. Includes: baileyi, mogollonensis,and monstrabilis.