- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids


Gray Wolf Facts

Size 31-33 inch (80-85 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 5 mph (8 km/h) (long distances)
Weight 60-88 lb (28-40 kg)
Lifespan 6-8 years
Food Deer, moose, bisons, moose, hares, mountain sheep
Predators -
Habitat Northern hemisphere
Order Carnivore
Family Dogs
Scientific name Canis lupus
Characteristics All dogs descend from the wolf

Main Characteristics

The wolf is a predatory animal from which all today's domestic dog breeds descend. Wolves are about as tall and heavy as a German shepherd. There are numerous subspecies, eg. the Arctic wolf, the Tundra wolf and the Timber wolf. Wolves mainly live in the northern hemisphere and inhabit forests, but also grass- and bushlands, rocky regions or mountains.


The Wolf Pack

Wolves live in families, which are called packs. The pack usually has about 8 members, but sometimes there are packs of 20-30 wolves. Formerly, people believed that a pack of wolves is always being led by the highest ranking, oldest, and strongest male animal, which was called an "alpha animal". 

Alpha, because this is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. The omega animal therefore has the lowest rank as it is the last letter of the alphabet. Yet, only wolves in captivity show this behavior. In the wild, wolves do not fight to establish their ranking. Normally, a family of wolves includes two adult animals (the leaders) and their offspring.

What Is the Size of a Wolf Pack Territory?

Actually the size of the territory is limited by man and depends mainly on how much space the wolves are allowed to live in. In Europe a wolf territory is about 95 square miles (250 qkm), which equals about 35,000 soccer fields. In Canada and Alaska they can be three times as large.

Gray Wolf Photo: mlorenz/Shutterstock


Why Do Wolves Howl at the Moon?

The howling of wolves can have many different meanings: "Quick, come here!", "Stop, stranger! This is my territory!" or "Let’s go hunting!" It hasn’t got anything to do with the moon.

Are Wolves Dangerous?

In „Little Red Riding Hood“, the big bad wolf devours grandma, and in “The Wolf and the Seven Young Kids”, little goats end up in its stomach. Even apart from that, the wolf is not very popular, because it feeds on domestic goats, sheep, and cattle. Some even say that the wolf also attacks humans. 

Yet, there does not exist one single official report stating that a healthy wolf has ever tried to attack and eat a human being. Normally wolves keep away from humans. But humans are gradually taking over more and more of the wolf’s habitat, so that the wolf does no longer have many options to withdraw.

Gray Wolf Photo: Derek R. Audette/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

How Fast Do Wolves Run?

Wolves can run as fast as 38 mph (60 km/h). But only on short distances. Above all, they are enduring long-distance runners and travel 25-37 miles (40-60 km) per day in search of food. They are trotting slowly, with about 5 mph (km/h) on average.


Is a Wolf Just a Kind of Wild Dog?

On the contrary: In the course of the centuries, the dog breeds have evolved from the wolf. All domestic dogs from the German shepherd and the poodle to the labrador, the chiahuahua, and the husky have descended from the wolf. Wolves and dogs still have many anatomical and biological characteristics in common, yet they are totally different.

What Role Do Wolves Play in the Ecosystem?

Wolves are important in maintaining the balance of nature, because they often kill sick or weak animals.

Gray Wolf Photo: Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock


After mating it takes between 62 and 75 days until on to twelve cubs are being born in a den. They are deaf and blind and open their eyes after 11 to 15 days. After 20 days they leave their den for the first time. They are being breast-fed for six to eight weeks.

Fun Facts

Wolves Enjoy Playing Games

Wolves like to play games. They sometimes play "soccer" with bones and branches.

The Wolf Is Related To:

  • Coyote
  • Dog
  • Jackal
  • Wild Dog

Animals in the Same Biome:

Gray Wolf Photo: Cynthia Kidwell/Shutterstock


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