Large Wolves of the World
Large wolves, as well as the many types of domesticated dogs, are all part of the Canidae family, which also includes foxes, coyotes, dingos and jackals. Dogs and wolves are both grouped in the same genus, Canis, yet the two are easy to tell apart, even though some dog breeds, such as the Huskie and Malamut, are closely related to the wolves of the wild.
Canis lupus or gray wolf is the legendary wolf of the North Woods that has been recounted in stories from Russia, northern Europe and North America. These large wolves average about 55 pounds, but have known to exceed 100 pounds in weight and six feet in length. Many subspecies of the wolf are known to exist, including the Himalayan wolf of Northern India. Although the graywolf has been greatly reduced in its range, the animal is still common in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. As implied by the name, this wolf is gray in coloring, but may contain darker or lighter streaks. Overall, Canis lupus is capable of developing into the largest size of any wolf.
Perhaps closest in size to the Gray Wolf is the Arctic Wolf, which still survives among the most northern reaches of our planet. This large wolf has developed numerous adaptive features to help it survive in the tundra regions of the northern hemisphere. So distinct are these features that this animal is often classified as a separate species. Some of the traits that aid the canine in surviving in the far north, include an intense white coloring, two layers of fur, smaller ears, and padded feet. The range of the arctic wolf includes Alaska, Canada and Greenland, but the animal may range over a larger area depending on weather and ice conditions.
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Although closely related to the Gray or Grey Wolf, the Eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) is sometimes, but not always, considered to be a distinct species. These animals still naturally occur in eastern Canada, especially Algonguin Park, and are also raised on a few ranches in the southeastern United States. Their original range consisted of much of the eastern U.S. and their main source of food is believed to be deer. Because they are smaller than the gray wolf and often display darker markings, they can be confused with a coyote, another wild animal of the Canis genus.
The red wolf gets its name for the cinnamon tint of its fur, which is often, but not always present. The wild canine also has large ears, white around the muzzle and hunts in small packs or even alone. This canine originally could be found in the Southeastern U.S., as far west as central Texas. According to the National Parks Conservation Association a few of these large wolves have been successfully re-introduced to eastern North Carolina. Efforts to re-introduce the wolf to other parts of their original range have not been very successful because of the heartworm disease. With a grown male weight of 60 to 80 pounds, the red wolf is probably the smallest of the big wolves.