The Maned Wolf of South America - A Strange Animal of the Savanna

A maned wolf
A maned wolf | Source

The Maned Wolf

The maned wolf of South America has a very distinctive appearance. It’s often described as a “fox on stilts” because of its very long legs and fox-like face. Its name refers to the band of long, black hair along the back of its neck and shoulders. The mane can be erected to make the wolf look larger when it's threatened.

The wolf's large ears, pointed face, long legs and mane make it look very different from other members of the family Canidae. This family contains dogs, wolves, coyotes, foxes and jackals as well as the maned wolf.

The scientific name of the maned wolf is Chrysocyon brachyurus. It's the only member of the genus Chrysocyon and isn't closely related to any other member of its family. The wolf is classified as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although it may be endangered in some parts of its range.

A Maned Wolf at the Houston Zoo

Appearance and Habitat

An adult maned wolf is about three foot high at the shoulder and weighs about fifty pounds. Its muzzle is long and pointed, like a fox's. The wolf has red-brown or golden-red fur over most of its body, white fur on the inside of its ears, a white throat and a white tip on the tail. The mane and the lower legs are black. The back legs are a little longer than the front legs.

The maned wolf inhabits grasslands in Brazil, Paraguay and Peru. A small wolf population is present in Bolivia, Argentina and perhaps Uruguay. The animal is found on the savanna and in a mixed habitat of open woodland and savanna known as cerrado. It's also found in areas of scrub and on marshland.

It's thought that the wolf developed its long legs to help it see over the tall grasses of the savanna. The ears may reach seven inches in length and are believed to help the wolf hear the movements of rodents. The ears also release heat to cool the animal down in the hot South American climate.

A maned wolf at the Beardsley Zoo
A maned wolf at the Beardsley Zoo | Source

Maned Wolf Territory

Unlike other wolves, named wolves don't live in packs. Instead, they are solitary and reclusive animals. They form monogamous pairs. The male and the female share a territory, but the two animals rarely come together except during the breeding season. The territory is thought to have an area of about ten square miles.

The wolf marks its territory with its urine and feces. This urine has a strong and distinctive smell, which has been described as being similar to skunk spray. Researchers have found that chemicals called pyrazines are responsible for the smell. Sometimes the wolf's body releases the same odour. Wolves in captivity may be smelled before they are seen.

A maned wolf in South America
A maned wolf in South America | Source

Diet and Hunting Strategy of the Maned Wolf

Maned wolves have an omnivorous diet. They hunt at night or at dawn and dusk. The wolves catch small mammals and occasionally larger ones, as well as birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and invertebrates. Plant form about half of the wolf's diet, which is unusual for a member of the Canidae family.

A wolf may cover twenty miles in one night as it hunts. The front and back legs on the same side of body move almost at the same time, giving the animal an unusual gait. Its mammal prey includes rodents, rabbits, armadillos and, on rare occasions, pampas deer. The wolves sometimes catch domestic chickens but aren't believed to eat other livestock.

The wolves stalk their prey and pounce on it when they reach it. They also stamp on the ground to disturb their prey from a patch of grass and then pounce on the animal when it emerges. They dig for underground prey with their legs or with their teeth. The thin legs are not well adapted for digging.

Monks Feed a Wild Maned Wolf

Maned Wolves and the Lobeira Fruit

Maned wolves eat many types of fruits, especially the lobeira fruit, which is also known as a wolf apple. This fruit is thought to act as a medicine to protect the wolf from infection by the giant kidney worm (Dioctophyme renale), although more research is needed to prove this idea. The worm is a parasite that enters the wolf's body inside prey such as crustaceans and fish. The parasite typically inhabits and destroys one of the kidneys. The affected kidney is generally the right one.

The seeds of the lobeira fruit pass through the wolf's digestive tract and drop on to the ground with the feces. Researchers have discovered that the journey through the wolf's body helps the seeds to germinate. This is important for both the wolves and the other animals that eat the lobeira fruit.

The lobeira (Solanum lycocarpum) belongs to the family Solanaceae, which also contains tomatoes and potatoes. The spiny plant grows as a large shrub or as a small tree. The unripe fruit is green and hard and looks like an apple. The ripe fruit is yellow, soft and aromatic.

The Maned Wolf in the Wild

Vocalizations

Maned wolves are vocal animals that bark, growl and whine. A deep and resonant bark is used for long-distance communication while an aggressive growl is used for communication over short distances.

If two wolves from different territories meet, they may arch their backs and erect their manes in threatening postures. Each wolf tries to intimidate the other. If this plan fails, the wolves may snarl and attack each other. Zoos have to be careful how they group maned wolves in enclosures in order to prevent unfriendly interactions.

A Barking Maned Wolf

Reproduction

The female wolf gives birth to a litter of one to five pups after a gestation period of sixty to sixty-five days. The pups are born in a den above ground, which is created in thick patches of tall grass or in scrub. There are one to five pups in the litter. They have black fur instead of the characteristic colours of the adult wolves.

The pups rely on their mother's milk for about a month and are then introduced to regurgitated food. The adult colours begin to appear when the youngsters are two to three months old. The elongated legs develop a little later.

Maned wolves are considered to be adults at one year of age. In the wild, they probably leave their mother at this stage. They don't reproduce until they are about two years old, however.

In captivity, both the male and the female regurgitate food for the pups after they have been weaned, but it's unknown if the males do this in the wild. Captive maned wolves have lived for up to sixteen years.

Dora and Diego - Maned Wolf Pups at Eleven Days Old

Maned Wolves in Captivity - Dora and Diego

On December 30th, 2010, two maned wolf pups named Dora and Diego were born at the Houston Zoo. They were the first maned wolves successfully born at the zoo in over ten years, Their mother, Lucy, wasn't caring for them properly, so the zoo staff intervened and hand reared the pups. The zoo created a video record of the wolves as they grew. Some of the videos are shown in this article.

Dora and Diego at Five Weeks Old

Population Threats

The maned wolf population is classified as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. The wolf is in trouble mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Land is increasingly being cleared for agriculture, shutting out the wolves completely or restricting them to isolated patches of land. Wolves are also being killed on highways. Farmers sometimes kill the wolves because they think that the animals will attack their livestock. In addition, domestic dogs have had a negative influence on the maned wolf population by transmitting diseases to the wolves.

Maned wolves are generally timid around humans. However, their reduced habitat is forcing them into closer contact with us, which can cause problems such as increased visits to livestock and roads.

In the past, wolves were killed for their body parts. These were believed to have mystical or medicinal benefits. Killing the wolves for this purpose still sometimes occurs. This activity is thought to be only a minor threat to the wolf population, however.

Maned wolves are protected by law in many parts of their range, but enforcement is frequently problematic.

— International Union for Conservation of Nature

Dora and Diego Visiting the Outside World

Conservation Efforts

Zoos and conservation organizations are trying to breed maned wolves, but it's not easy. The wolves don't breed very well in captivity and there is a high pup mortality rate. There have been some successes, though, especially recently. Most zoos now keep careful records of how their pups are reared and share their data with other organizations.

As more pups are born and as more is discovered about the natural lives of wild maned wolves, more is bring learned about how to keep the wolves in captivity and breed them successfully. Although keeping wolves in zoos isn't an ideal situation, it does have the benefit of maintaining the population. This will be very important if the wild wolves become endangered.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

More by this Author


Comments 46 comments

Deborah Brooks profile image

Deborah Brooks 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

The Manned Wolf is so beautiful.. I love wolves any way..

great hub. thanks for sharing.

voted up

debbie


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment and the vote, Debbie. Yes, I think all wolves are beautiful too! The maned wolf is very interesting to observe as well.


Pcunix profile image

Pcunix 4 years ago from SE MA

Another beautiful creature. Thank you yet again!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Pcunix. I appreciate your visit and comment!


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

A truy beautiful hub which without a doubt I vote up up and away and a bookmark. I will be reading this one every now and then for a long time I think.

I loved it;take care and I wish you a wonderful day.

Eddy.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the visit and the lovely comment, Eddy! I wish you a wonderful day, too.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING! Thanks friend! I don't think I've EVER even heard of this animal!

Freaking FASCINATING! You're like one of the very few persons that does this kind of thing here, and I'm so happy that you're continually finding the animals to present that I've never even heard of!


HattieMattieMae profile image

HattieMattieMae 4 years ago from Limburg, Netherlands

Yes nice job on your hub! Never knew there was this breed of wolf.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 4 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Certainly is a strange looking creature Alicia. Thanks for all the great information, as I had never heard of a maned wolf before


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for such a wonderful comment, Wesman! I loved creating this hub, and it's great to get comments like yours.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, HattieMattieMae. (I love your name!) Thank you for the visit and your comment.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, CMHypno. Yes, the maned wolf is a strange animal! It's a fascinating creature to study.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

This is a cute critter!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Yes, I think maned wolves are attractive creatures too! Thanks for commenting, Maren Morgan.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Another outstanding hub on an unusual animal, Alicia. Thank you. This maned wolf is a real hybrid resembling not only a wolf but a fox or a long-eared dog wearing long black stockings. It would surely be a loss if they became extinct.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much, drbj. I agree, the maned wolf does look like it's wearing black stockings - that's a great description!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England

Hi, amazing hub, Alicia, I have never heard of the maned wolf before. looking at it I couldn't figure out exactly what mix it looks like, obviously a fox face but the body looks like a mix of so many others, it was interesting to read about the fruit, if they don't eat it they can get bad kidneys, fascinating! up and shared!


tammyswallow profile image

tammyswallow 4 years ago from North Carolina

This is such a beautiful Wolf! I had to read this. There was just an announcement on the news today that people are now allowed to kill Coyote's in Charlotte, NC under free season. They must be killed with bows and arrows. I wish wolves, coyotes, and other wild animals had more protection. Excellent hub!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, Nell. I appreciate the vote and the share very much! Yes, maned wolves are fascinating animals, and they do have a strange appearance. It will be very interesting to see what else researchers discover about the relationship between the lobeira fruit and the giant kidney worm.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, tammyswallow. It's nice to meet you! Thank you very much for the comment. Thank you also for the information about the news announcement. I'll have to read more about this. I agree with you, it is a great shame that wild animals don't have more protection.


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

This was really cool to find out about the Maned Wolf. I didn't think S. Amer had any animal like this. It sure does look different; to be honest it kinda resembles some bizarre Canidae cloning experiment. A magnificent appearing creature nonetheless. Thanx Alicia, the vids are a great addition too.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Alastar. That's an interesting thought - a maned wolf as a cloning experiment! I agree, maned wolves are magnificent creatures. Thank you for the visit and the comment.


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 4 years ago from Texas

This creature is stunning. I had no idea they existed. Such an interesting hub...


hecate-horus profile image

hecate-horus 4 years ago from Rowland Woods

I love that first picture. It's like he's saying "Yeah, I got a mane. I'm cool."


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

Ah thanks for the news on the Coyote announcement from Charlotte Tammy. It's a shame they can't be protected but their numbers are exploding as they adapt to the urban with the consequent expanding range. Unfortunately, on occasion they take small animals like free roaming chickens and some people fear-unreasonably, except maybe in rabies season- for their childrens' safety. Its acatch-22 all 'round.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment, Augustine. I don't think that many people know about maned wolves, but they are interesting animals and certainly worth studying.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, hecate-horus. I know what you mean about the wolf in the first photo - that's a good description of his or her expression! I was very pleased to find that photograph.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi again, Alastar. It is a difficult situation when wildlife comes close to where humans are living. Thank you for the extra information.


JKenny profile image

JKenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

What a beautiful creature, strange how its known as a Wolf, when at first glance it resembles a Red Fox


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, JKenny. Yes, the maned wolf is unusual compared to other members of its family. It's classified differently from both true wolves and true foxes, so maybe we need another common name for this animal!


Karanda profile image

Karanda 4 years ago from Australia

Gosh, I'd never heard of the maned wolf. Thanks AliciaC for sharing an interesting Hub about yet another animal that could well end up the endangered species list.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, Karanda. Yes, we do have to be careful. The maned wolf isn't as endangered as some animals that I've written about, but its population does have problems.


sgbrown profile image

sgbrown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

Hi Alici C. This is a very interesting hub. I knew of the maned wolf, but knew very little about it. I love learning new things about different animals. Very good information here, thank you for sharing it with us. Voted up and interesting.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment and the votes, sgbrown. It's very nice to meet you. I love learning new things about animals too!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Like all dogs, these are super cute. Never heard of them before. Very interesting and well researched. Up and shared.


mottiandbander profile image

mottiandbander 4 years ago from Chd

I have seen this in discovery....


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the visit, PDX. I appreciate the comment, the vote and the share!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, mottieandbander. I enjoy watching wildlife videos and TV shows, too. It's very interesting to see a creature that you might never view in real life. Thanks for commenting.


buckleupdorothy profile image

buckleupdorothy 4 years ago from Istanbul, Turkey

Lovely! What a gorgeous animal - and great detail on your part. Thank you. Voted up and shared.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share, buckleupdorothy. I agree with you - the maned wolf is gorgeous!


dmop profile image

dmop 4 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

Great article about an unusual animal. I'm glad they are being protected. I voted this up, interesting, and useful.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment and all the votes, dmop. I appreciate your visit!


LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

I used to live a block from the San Diego Zoo and my husband (then boyfriend) came home one day a little freaked out and said he'd just seen a giant red fox on stilts. He's French, so I laughed and figured it was a coyote and showed him a picture. He assured me that was not what he saw, insisting that it was red, really tall, with disproportionally long legs. Then I showed him a picture of a maned wolf and immediately he recognized it. Escaped I presume.

P.S. In San Diego I also had a ragdoll before the breed was recognized. I brought her to Paris when I moved here and she lived to be 19. She was the love of my life.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

That's a funny story, LetitiaFT! I hope the wolf found its way safely home, though. Ragdoll cats are a lovely breed. I hope my two ragdolls have long and healthy lives. I can understand why you became so attached to your cat!


LetitiaFT profile image

LetitiaFT 4 years ago from Paris via California

If the wolf was anything like a tapir from the zoo in the 50s, it found its way home. The tapir figured out how to exit the zoo through a drain pipe and roam the neighborhood. It took awhile for anyone to realize what was happening, despite what the police thought were nightly drunken reports of giant long-nosed pigs...


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

You have such interesting stories to tell, Letitia! What a clever tapir - s/he could have fun exploring the neighborhood (although it could have been dangerous for the tapir) and then return to the zoo for food, water and security! Thank you for sharing the story.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working