Have you ever wondered how large a wolf is? While many of us have seen wolves in nature documentaries, zoos, or even animated films, it’s hard to truly comprehend the size of these majestic creatures without a familiar comparison.
This article takes a deep dive into the world of wolves, breaking down their sizes, comparing them with humans, and contrasting them with other members of the Canidae family, as well as some familiar domesticated breeds.
From the towering Gray Wolf to the smaller and uniquely adapted Ethiopian Wolf, we explore their size variations and provide a better perspective on how big these fascinating creatures are.
Types of Wolves and Their Sizes
Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus)
The Gray Wolf, also known as the timber wolf, is the largest wild member of the Canidae family. It is well recognized due to its wide distribution across North America, Eurasia, and the Middle East.
These wolves play a key role in maintaining ecosystem health and controlling prey species numbers. They are considered to have a conservation status of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
- Length: 4.5 to 6.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 50 to 180 pounds
A Few Subspecies of Gray Wolf: From Smallest to Largest
Gray Wolves (Canis lupus) have 32 subspecies, varying in size and habitat. As examples, here’s a list of 4 subspecies from smallest to largest:
- Arabian Wolf (Canis Lupus Arabs): This desert-adapted wolf found in the Arabian Peninsula is one of the smallest subspecies.
- Length: 3.2 to 4 feet (including tail)
- Height: 26 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 45 to 50 pounds
- Indian Wolf (Canis Lupus Pallipes): This subspecies is found in the arid and semi-arid regions of the Indian subcontinent.
- Length: 3 to 3.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 24 to 38 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 55 to 77 pounds
- Eurasian Wolf (Canis Lupus Lupus): This is the most widespread subspecies, covering much of Eurasia.
- Length: 3.9 to 6.8 feet (including tail)
- Height: 31 to 33 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 70 to 130 pounds
- Mackenzie Valley Wolf (Canis Lupus Occidentalis): Also known as the Alaskan Timber Wolf or Canadian Timber Wolf, it is among the largest wolf subspecies.
- Length: 5 to 7 feet (including tail)
- Height: 33 to 36 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 100 to 145 pounds
Red Wolf (Canis Rufus)
The Red Wolf is a native canid of the Southeastern United States. With a coat characterized by a reddish-tawny color, the Red Wolf is smaller than its gray cousin but larger than the coyote. It is one of the world’s most endangered canids, and it’s listed as “Critically Endangered” by the IUCN.
- Length: 4.5 to 5.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 26 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 50 to 80 pounds
Ethiopian Wolf (Canis Simensis)
Endemic to the Ethiopian highlands, the Ethiopian Wolf is Africa’s most endangered carnivore and the world’s rarest canid. It’s also the only wolf species to be found in Africa. The IUCN lists it as “Endangered.”
- Length: 3 to 3.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 25 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 40 to 60 pounds
Maned Wolf (Chrysocyon Brachyurus)
Unlike its name suggests, the Maned Wolf is not a wolf, but a unique species altogether, being the only member of its genus Chrysocyon. It is recognized by its long, slender legs and reddish fur.
This South American canid is of considerable conservation interest, and it is listed as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN.
- Length: 4 to 4.5 feet (excluding tail), tail length: 12 to 18 inches
- Height: 35 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 50 to 55 pounds
Wolf / Human Size Comparison
To put the sizes of wolves into perspective, it can be useful to compare them with human sizes. The average adult human differs in size based on gender and geographical location, but for simplicity, we’ll use a general average.
- Average Adult Human Height: 5.5 to 6 feet
- Average Adult Human Weight: 136 to 176 pounds
Gray Wolf vs. Human
The Gray Wolf is the largest of all wolf species. A Gray Wolf on all fours is roughly waist-high to most adults, with an average height of 26 to 32 inches at the shoulder. If a Gray Wolf were to stand on its hind legs, which isn’t typical behavior in the wild, it could potentially reach a human’s height or even taller, especially for the larger subspecies like the Mackenzie Valley Wolf.
In terms of length, including the tail, Gray Wolves stretch from 4.5 to 6.5 feet, which is about the length of a human lying down. Their weight varies considerably, from 50 to 180 pounds, with the heaviest wolves approximately weighing as much as an average adult human.
Red Wolf vs. Human
The Red Wolf is slightly smaller than the Gray Wolf. It stands about waist-high to most adults, with an average shoulder height of 26 inches. In terms of length, they can measure from 4.5 to 5.5 feet, which is shorter than an average human’s height. Their weight ranges from 50 to 80 pounds, lighter than the average human.
Ethiopian Wolf vs. Human
The Ethiopian Wolf is the smallest wolf species and would reach about mid-thigh to waist height for most adults. They measure from 3 to 3.5 feet in length, shorter than a human when lying down. Weighing 40 to 60 pounds, they are significantly lighter than an average human.
Maned Wolf vs. Human
The Maned Wolf, with its long, slender legs, stands the tallest at the shoulder compared to other wolf species, reaching about waist to chest height on most adults. Their body length, excluding the tail, ranges from 4 to 4.5 feet. Despite their height, they are slender animals and weigh between 50 and 55 pounds, which is lighter than an average human.
Wolf Size Compared to Dogs
Wolf vs. Great Dane Size Comparison
The Great Dane, one of the world’s tallest dog breeds, can actually match or even exceed the shoulder height of a wolf, standing between 28 and 34 inches tall. However, in terms of body length and weight, the Gray Wolf can match or surpass the Great Dane.
Other wolf species like the Red Wolf, Ethiopian Wolf, and Maned Wolf are generally shorter in length and lighter in weight than the Great Dane.
Wolf vs. Siberian Husky Size Comparison
Siberian Huskies often get compared to wolves due to their similar appearances, but in terms of size, there is a significant difference. Siberian Huskies stand about 20 to 23.5 inches tall at the shoulder and measure up to 3.2 feet long.
They weigh between 35 to 60 pounds. Compared to wolves, they are much smaller, shorter, and lighter. Even the smallest wolves, like the Ethiopian Wolf, are taller and longer than a Siberian Husky.
Wolf Size Compared to Other Canids
Wolf vs. Coyote Size Comparison
Wolves are notably larger than coyotes in every aspect. An adult coyote has a shoulder height of 21 to 24 inches, and its body length can range from 3.3 to 4.5 feet.
This is much smaller compared to the size of any wolf species, whether it’s the Ethiopian Wolf (the smallest, standing at around 25 inches tall at the shoulder and measuring up to 3.5 feet long) or the Gray Wolf (the largest, standing up to 32 inches tall at the shoulder and measuring up to 6.5 feet long).
Furthermore, wolves are considerably heavier than coyotes, with the coyote weighing around 20 to 50 pounds compared to the wolf, which can range from 40 to 180 pounds.
Wolf vs. Fox Size Comparison
The size discrepancy between wolves and foxes is even more substantial. The largest fox species, the Red Fox, stands only 14 to 16 inches tall at the shoulder and measures up to 3.5 feet long, including the tail.
This size is dwarfed by every species of wolf. In terms of weight, the comparison is stark: the heaviest fox weighs only up to 15 pounds, while wolves can weigh between 40 and 180 pounds.
Wolf vs. African Wild Dog
The African Wild Dog, also known as the painted dog or Cape hunting dog, is smaller than all wolf species. An adult African Wild Dog stands about 24 to 30 inches tall at the shoulder and measures up to 4.6 feet long, including the tail. They weigh between 40 to 80 pounds.
While their shoulder height may be somewhat similar to that of the smaller wolf species like the Ethiopian Wolf, their length and weight are still less. Wolves also tend to have a more robust build compared to the lean and agile African Wild Dogs.
Wolf vs. Hyenas Size Comparison
Hyenas are a unique family of carnivores found in Africa and Asia. They are not Canids, they have their own family (Hyenidae), but they kind of look like Canids, so I found the comparison interesting.
- Spotted Hyena: This species stands about 2.5 to 3.2 feet tall at the shoulder, measures up to 5.6 feet long, and weighs between 90 to 190 pounds. While they may be shorter at the shoulder compared to the larger wolf species, their length and weight can rival or even surpass those of some wolves.
- Brown Hyena: The Brown Hyena stands about 2.3 to 2.6 feet tall at the shoulder, measures up to 5.1 feet long, and weighs between 89 to 102 pounds. In size, they are somewhat comparable to the smaller wolf species, although they are generally stockier in build.
- Striped Hyena: This species is the smallest of the three, standing about 2.2 to 2.9 feet tall at the shoulder, measuring up to 4.4 feet long, and weighing between 57 to 100 pounds. They are generally smaller than most wolf species in terms of shoulder height, length, and weight.
In general, wolves are taller at the shoulder and longer than most hyena species, but the weight can be comparable, especially when considering the spotted hyena. However, it’s important to remember that wolves and hyenas have significantly different body structures and lifestyles, with hyenas being more scavengers and wolves primarily being hunters.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Largest Wolf Species or Subspecies?
The largest wolf species is the Gray Wolf (Canis Lupus).
Within the Gray Wolf species, the largest subspecies is commonly considered to be the Mackenzie Valley Wolf (Canis Lupus Occidentalis), also known as the Alaskan Timber Wolf.
This subspecies can reach lengths of up to 7 feet from nose to tail tip and can weigh between 100 and 145 pounds, with some exceptional individuals even exceeding these measurements.
What is The Smallest Wolf Species or Subspecies?
The smallest species of wolf is the Ethiopian Wolf (Canis Simensis). This species measures approximately 3 to 3.5 feet in length and stands about 25 inches at the shoulder. They typically weigh between 40 to 60 pounds.
Regarding the Gray Wolf subspecies, one of the smallest is the Arabian Wolf (Canis Lupus Arabs), which is smaller and lighter than most Gray Wolves.
What Was The Largest Gray Wolf Ever Recorded?
The largest Gray Wolf ever recorded is disputed, as different sources report different individuals. However, one of the largest on record was an Alaskan wolf killed in 1939 that weighed 175 pounds.
Another large wolf, killed in Drayton Valley, Alberta in 1967, supposedly weighed 235 pounds, although this measurement has not been universally accepted. It’s important to remember that these are outliers and far larger than the average Gray Wolf.
Are Great Danes Larger Than Wolves?
Great Danes can be taller at the shoulder than wolves due to their long legs, reaching heights of up to 34 inches compared to the tallest wolves, which stand about 32 inches at the shoulder.
However, when it comes to body length and weight, a large Gray Wolf can match or even surpass a Great Dane. It’s also worth noting that the robustness of a wolf’s body, with a deep chest and powerful limbs, often gives it a larger overall appearance than a Great Dane.
From this exploration, it’s clear that wolves are formidable in size, particularly when compared to other wild and domestic canids. Whether it’s the Gray Wolf, matching a human in height when standing on its hind legs, or the smaller Red Wolf, larger than a coyote but dwarfed by the Great Dane, each species of wolf holds a unique position in terms of size.
Understanding their size not only puts into perspective their roles as apex predators but also emphasizes the physical characteristics that allow them to survive and thrive in their various environments. It’s our hope that this article has provided insightful comparisons that enhance your understanding and appreciation of these remarkable animals.