HOW WOLVES DIFFER FROM DOGS
A wolfs long, powerful muzzles help distinguish them from other canids, particularly coyotes and golden jackals, which have more narrow, pointed muzzles. Wolves differ from domestic dogs as they have a comparatively larger brain capacity. Larger paw size, yellow eyes, longer legs and bigger teeth further distinguish adult wolves from other canids, especially dogs. Also, precaudal glands at the base of the tail are present in wolves, however, not in dogs.
Wolf paws are able to tread easily on a wide variety of terrains, especially snow. There is a slight webbing between each toe, which allows them to move over snow more easily. Wolves are digitigrades (an animal that stands or walks on its digits, or toes) and with the relative largeness of their feet, helps them to distribute their weight evenly on snowy surfaces. The front paws are larger than the hind paws and have a fifth digit, the dew claw, which is absent on their hind paws. A dew claw is a vestigial digit of the paw which grows higher on the leg so that when the animal is standing, it does not make contact with the ground.
Bristled hairs and blunt claws help wolves to grip on slippery surfaces, and special blood vessels prevent their paw pads from freezing. Scent glands located between a wolfs toes leave trace chemical markers behind, helping the wolf to effectively navigate over large areas while keeping others informed of its whereabouts. Unlike dogs and coyotes, wolves lack sweat glands on their paw pads.
Muzzle – A wolf has two hundred million smelling cells inside its nose and can smell 100 times better then a human being. A wolf has 42 teeth including four canines. Wolves use their sharp teeth to wound, grab and kill its prey. Wolves use their back teeth to crush the bones and make the meat into smaller pieces and they use the small front teeth to nibble and pull at the skin. A wolf has a very rough tongue which is used for cleaning the meat off of the bones.
Eyes and Nose – Wolves move their ears from side to side to determine where a sound is coming from. Wolves have excellent eye sight, a keen sense of smell and acute hearing. Wolves can see and smell a deer from a great distance.
Body – A wolfs body is strong and powerful which enables it to kill large prey such as deer and elk.
Fur – The wolf has two layers of fur. On top is a longer course fur used as guard hairs which keeps the wolf dry. The other is short under fur that keeps it warm.
Legs and Feet – Wolves toes spread apart when they step in the snow so they do not sink. Wolves walk and run on their toes. It makes their legs longer and nimble so they can run with speed and catch fast prey. Wolves have four toes on their hind feet and five toes on their fore feet.
Tails – Wolves use their tails to communicate. For example, the tails position and the state of its hair send specific messages. Wolves also have a scent gland on the back surface of their tails which they use to scent-mark territory.
Skeleton – The skeleton of the wolf is well adapted to its lifestyle. Their bones need to be strong, for power in bringing down large prey such as caribou, deer, elks or moose. The narrow collarbones, interlocked foreleg bones and specially adapted wrist-bones give the wolf streamlining, strength and speed. The radius and ulna bones are ‘locked’ in position. This inability to rotate the forelimbs gives superb stability when running.
Long Skull – Wolves have long skulls which is a typical carnivore skull, housing extensive and strong cheek muscles, necessary for holding onto prey, killing and consuming.
Large Brain Capacity – Skull capacity allows adequate space for an advanced cerebral cortex (brain) necessary for coordinating group social activity.