Wolves, majestic and fearsome, have long held a prominent role in folklore and mythology around the world. These intriguing creatures are more than just symbols, though; they are complex and diverse animals, each species and subspecies boasting unique traits and characteristics.
Among their most striking features is their size, which varies considerably across different types of wolves. This article will take you on a journey to explore the ten largest wolves on the planet. From the deserts of Arabia to the frozen tundra of Russia, join us as we delve into the world of these magnificent canids, ranking them from the smallest to the largest.
Top 10 Largest Wolves: Overview
|10||Canis lupus chanco (Mongolian Wolf)||3-3.5 ft / 91-107 cm||24-38 in / 61-97 cm||55-77 lbs / 25-35 kg|
|9||Canis lupus rufus (Red Wolf)||4.5-5.5 ft / 137-168 cm||26 in / 66 cm||50-80 lbs / 23-36 kg|
|8||Canis lupus campestris (Steppe Wolf)||3.5-5.5 ft / 107-168 cm||28-30 in / 71-76 cm||70-110 lbs / 32-50 kg|
|7||Canis lupus albus (Tundra Wolf)||5-7 ft / 152-213 cm||35 in / 89 cm||85-125 lbs / 39-57 kg|
|6||Canis lupus arctos (Arctic Wolf)||3.9-5.9 ft / 119-180 cm||25-31 in / 64-79 cm||70-125 lbs / 32-57 kg|
|5||Canis lupus irremotus (Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf)||4.5-6.5 ft / 137-198 cm||28-31 in / 71-79 cm||70-115 lbs / 32-52 kg|
|4||Canis lupus pambasileus (Alaskan Interior Wolf)||4.5-6.5 ft / 137-198 cm||30-32 in / 76-81 cm||85-115 lbs / 39-52 kg|
|3||Canis lupus nubilus (Great Plains Wolf)||4.6-6.6 ft / 140-201 cm||30-34 in / 76-86 cm||85-110 lbs / 39-50 kg|
|2||Canis lupus lupus (Eurasian Wolf)||3.9-6.8 ft / 119-207 cm||31-33 in / 79-84 cm||70-130 lbs / 32-59 kg|
|1||Canis lupus occidentalis (Mackenzie Valley Wolf)||5-7 ft / 152-213 cm||33-36 in / 84-91 cm||100-145 lbs / 45-66 kg|
#10 – Mongolian Wolf (Canis lupus chanco)
- Where found: Central Asia, from Mongolia to northern China
- Length: 3 to 3.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 24 to 38 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 55 to 77 pounds
The Mongolian Wolf, also known as the Tibetan Wolf, is found in central Asia, from Mongolia to northern China. Adapted to life in high-altitude environments, these wolves have a thin, lean build and a dense coat to withstand the cold. They primarily prey on various ungulates found in the region.
#9 – Red Wolf (Canis lupus rufus)
- Where found: Southeastern United States
- Length: 4.5 to 5.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 26 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 50 to 80 pounds
The Red Wolf, native to the southeastern United States, is one of the world’s most endangered canids. Smaller than the Gray Wolf, the Red Wolf is distinguished by its reddish-tawny color. Though the wild population is critically low, conservation efforts are ongoing to protect and restore these unique creatures.
#8 – Steppe Wolf (Canis lupus campestris)
- Where found: Caspian steppes
- Length: 3.5 to 5.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 28 to 30 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 70 to 110 pounds
Native to the Caspian steppes, the Steppe Wolf is a mid-sized subspecies adapted to life in a semi-desert environment. These wolves have a lighter build and shorter fur than their northern counterparts, and their primary prey includes various hoofed animals and rodents.
#7 – Tundra Wolf (Canis lupus albus)
- Where found: Russia’s tundra and forest zones
- Length: 5 to 7 feet (including tail)
- Height: 35 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 85 to 125 pounds
The Tundra Wolf is native to Russia’s tundra and forest zones. Adapted to life in an extremely cold climate, Tundra Wolves have a dense coat that changes color with the seasons. They are resilient predators, feeding on a variety of animals, including large ungulates.
#6 – Arctic Wolf (Canis lupus arctos)
- Where found: Canadian Arctic
- Length: 3.9 to 5.9 feet (including tail)
- Height: 25 to 31 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 70 to 125 pounds
The Arctic Wolf is native to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Adapted to icy landscapes and frigid temperatures, these wolves have a thicker coat than other subspecies. They primarily prey on muskoxen and Arctic hares and are known to travel long distances in search of food.
#5 – Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf (Canis lupus irremotus)
- Where found: Northern Rocky Mountains.
- Length: 4.5 to 6.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 28 to 31 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 70 to 115 pounds
Found in the northern Rocky Mountains and associated ranges in western North America, the Northern Rocky Mountains Wolf is noted for its mix of gray, black, and rust-colored fur. Adapted to rugged terrain, they are efficient hunters that can take down a variety of game, from elk and moose to smaller prey.
#4 – Alaskan Interior Wolf (Canis lupus pambasileus)
- Where found: Alaska, Yukon
- Length: 4.5 to 6.5 feet (including tail)
- Height: 30 to 32 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 85 to 115 pounds
The Alaskan Interior Wolf is native to the inland regions of Alaska. Known for their agility and endurance, these wolves cover large territories spanning the state’s diverse interior landscapes. They have a lighter build than the coastal Alaskan wolves and have a diet heavily based on moose and caribou.
#3 – Great Plains Wolf (Canis lupus nubilus)
- Where found: Once widespread in central North America but now mostly extinct
- Length: 4.6 to 6.6 feet (including tail)
- Height: 30 to 34 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 85 to 110 pounds
Once abundant across central North America, the Great Plains Wolf is now mostly extinct. Historically, these wolves roamed the American Midwest and Great Plains, hunting bison and other native game.
They were smaller than their northern relatives but larger and more robust than the wolves of the southern United States. Their disappearance is a testament to the widespread eradication efforts of the 19th and 20th centuries.
#2 – Eurasian Wolf (Canis lupus lupus)
- Where found: 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
Known as the Eurasian or European Wolf, this subspecies is the most widely distributed and inhabits much of Eurasia. Their habitats range from the snowy landscapes of Siberia to the temperate forests of Western Europe.
Renowned for their adaptability, they can thrive in diverse climates and environments. Their diets also vary widely, depending on their surroundings, and can include ungulates, rodents, and even seafood.
#1 – Mackenzie Valley Wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis)
- Where found: Western parts of North America
- Length: 5 to 7 feet (including tail)
- Height: 33 to 36 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 100 to 145 pounds
Also known as the Northwestern Wolf or Alaskan Timber Wolf, the Mackenzie Valley Wolf is one of the largest known subspecies of the Gray Wolf. Found in western parts of North America, their territory stretches from Alaska through the western Canadian provinces, into the northwestern United States.
These wolves have adapted to a variety of environments, including forests, mountains, and tundras. Their large size allows them to take down sizeable prey such as moose and bison.
What About The Dire Wolf?
The Dire Wolf (Aenocyon dirus / Canis dirus), whose name translates to “fearsome dog,” is an extinct species of the genus Canis. These formidable creatures roamed North America and parts of South America around 125,000 to 9,500 years ago, during the Late Pleistocene epoch.
The Dire Wolf was notably larger than most modern wolf species. Estimates based on fossil records suggest they weighed between 130 to 150 pounds (59 to 68 kg), stood about 2.5 feet (76 cm) tall at the shoulder, and measured approximately 5 feet (152 cm) in length. This robust body size allowed the Dire Wolf to bring down large Pleistocene megafauna, such as bison and mastodons, an ability that was crucial for survival in their environment.
Despite their impressive size and hunting abilities, Dire Wolves eventually went extinct in a period known as the Quaternary extinction event. While the exact cause of their extinction remains a topic of debate among scientists, proposed theories include climate change, competition with other species, and a decline in the large prey they depended on.
What is The Largest Wolf Ever Recorded?
The largest wolf ever recorded is a subject of much debate among scientists and wildlife experts due to differences in measurement methods and the verifiability of claims. However, a few specimens are often mentioned in this context.
One such specimen is an Alaskan wolf that was killed in 1939. This wolf was reportedly 7.6 feet (231 cm) long and weighed 175 pounds (79 kg), which are exceptionally large measurements for a wolf.
Another claim comes from Drayton Valley, Alberta, where a wolf allegedly weighed 235 pounds (107 kg) was killed in 1967. However, this particular record is not universally accepted due to potential inaccuracies and exaggerations.
It’s important to note that these are extraordinary examples and are not representative of average wolf sizes. The large majority of wolves, even within the biggest species, will not reach these sizes. The average weight range for a mature male Gray Wolf, for instance, is generally between 70 to 145 pounds (32 to 66 kg), depending on the subspecies and region.
Wolves are a remarkable testament to nature’s diversity and adaptability. The different species and subspecies of wolves we’ve explored here exemplify this, each uniquely suited to its environment.
Their size, far from being a mere physical trait, is intrinsically tied to their survival and the roles they play in their ecosystems. The grandeur of these majestic creatures goes beyond their size, encompassing their important ecological roles, unique behaviors, and symbolic presence in human cultures.
As we continue to study and understand these fascinating animals, their importance and the need for their conservation become increasingly apparent. May this exploration of the ten largest wolves have offered a new appreciation for these magnificent creatures and their diverse world.