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wolf

Introduction

wolf, carnivorous mammal of the genus Canis in the dog family. Once distributed over most of the Northern Hemisphere, wild wolves are now confined to the wilder parts of a reduced range. Three wolf species (the gray wolf, red wolf, and coyote) are generally recognized, although there is much local variation within them.

Other living members of the genus Canis include the jackal and the dog, which is classified as a subspecies ( Canis lupus familiaris of the gray wolf. All Canis species can interbreed, producing fertile offspring; the Eskimos have interbred wolves and dogs to produce hardy animals for pulling sleds. The maned wolf, Chrysocyon brachyurus, found in wooded areas of central South America, is not a true wolf, although it is a canine (member of the dog family). It has extremely long, stiltlike legs and an erectile mane on the neck. Strand wolf is a name for the brown hyena (not a canine) of Africa. The aardwolf is also a member of the hyena family.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology


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