Fierce Creatures: The Wolf

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Most people have a fascination with wolves. Perhaps it is because they are similar to our own pets but they are the picture of "wild and dangerous". Maybe it is just due to their larger than life majestic beauty. Either way, most always people are curious to learn more about them and here is a few facts that most people do not realize about the world of the wolf

Types

There are two species of wolf, the canis lupus or grey wolf and the Canis rufus or red wolf. However each of these species may have many subspecies, especially the grey wolf. It has 38 subspecies linked to it.

Wolves are not good pets to own if you want a guard dog. They do not like things that are different. If a stranger is sensed, the wolf will be more likely to hide than bark. They would rather avoid people at all costs than deal with a person. This means if a wolf attacks a person, it is most likely due to the fact that the person provoked the wolf.

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History

There are drawings of wolves that date back to 20000 B.C. in the caves of southern Europe. Research suggests that wolves were in existence back in pre-historic times. Those wolves are known as Dire Wolves and they could easily take down the woolly mammoth.

The Gray Wolf is one of the most studied animals in the world because of how amazing they are the true ancestors of our common house dogs. However, there is great controversy about how good a house pet the wolf would make.

Lifestyle

Wolves only run on their toes. This allows them to not wear down the pads of their paws and also enables them to stop and turn very quickly. Wolves are excellent hunters because they have an amazing sense of smell. They can smell animals more than a mile away from them with their 200 million scent cells. Humans only have about five million of them. Combine this super smell with the fact that under the right conditions they can hear noises that are many miles away and you have a true hunting nature. In the forest their ears hear things up to 6 miles away. On flat clear ground without a lot of trees they may hear things that are 10 miles away.

When a wolf bites, they exert about 1500 pounds of pressure. Your common large breed dog has only 750. The wolves jaw also opens further than pets and each wolf will have 42 teeth. This works well for how much they need to eat per day. They can easily eat up to 20 pounds of meat every day.

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They are also good swimmers thanks to webbing between their toes. It allows them to swim for up to eight miles quickly. Their feet also serve them well when running. They are able to run 20 mph for long stretches of time. They are able to run closer to 40 mph for a short period of time.

The alpha male and alpha female of a pack are often the first to do everything. When a kill is made, the alphas eat first. They are followed by their cubs and it is only after that when the rest of the pack is allowed to eat Wolves are everywhere except for the hottest deserts and rainforests.

Mating

Wolves mate and stay together for life. Both are responsible for raising young and stay together as a family. Packs of wolves will vary greatly and not all males and females in a group will mate. Instead, most of the time only the alphas of the pack will mate and have cubs and the other females will help raise the pups.

The mother wolf will carry her pups for about 65 days before giving birth. Once born the pups are both deaf and blind. Their eyes are blue at birth and gradually change to yellow by the time they reach eight months old. At birth the pup will weigh only about one pound. As a newborn cub, the mom must massage her young to make them urinate.

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Superstitions and Beliefs Regarding the Wolf

Wolves were at one time used in cases where someone was in pain. Their teeth were thought to sooth a babies gums if they were teething, their dung was thought to treat colic and cataracts. Powdered wolf livers were thought to relieve childbirth pain and a sharpened wolf bone was also rumored to delay a person's death.

As with all superstitions there were some negatives as well. For instance, some believed that if you ate a lamb that had been killed by the wolf, you may become a vampire. Wolves were not hunted by all Indians because some tribes believed that if you killed a wolf its brothers would seek revenge and the weapon that you used to kill it would never work the right way again.

In the 18th century doctor's believed that the disease most commonly known as Lupus was caused by getting wolf bit. That is why the technical term for Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythmatosus) literally means "wolf redness".

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