The gray wolf or grey wolf (Canis lupus) is a species of canid native to the wilderness and remote areas of North America, Eurasia, and North Africa. It is the largest member of its family, with males averaging 43–45 kg (95–99 lb), and females 36–38.5 kg (79–85 lb). It is similar in general appearance and proportions to a German shepherd, or sled dog, but has a larger head, narrower chest, longer legs, straighter tail and bigger paws. Its winter fur is long and bushy, and is usually mottled gray in color, though it can range from nearly pure white, red, or brown to black.
Within the genus Canis, the gray wolf represents a more specialised and progressive form than its smaller cousins (the coyote and golden jackal), as demonstrated by its morphological adaptations to hunting large prey, its more gregarious nature and its highly advanced expressive behavior. It is a social animal, travelling in nuclear families consisting of a mated pair, accompanied by the pair's adult offspring. The gray wolf is typically an apex predator throughout its range, with only humans and tigers posing a serious threat to it. It feeds primarily on large ungulates, though it will also eat smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage.
The gray wolf is one of the world's most well researched animals, with probably more books written about it than any other wildlife species. It has a long history of association with humans, having been despised and hunted in most agricultural communities due to its attacks on livestock, while conversely being respected by some Native American tribes. It is the sole ancestor of the dog, which was first domesticated in the Middle East. Although the fear of wolves is prevalent in many human societies, the majority of recorded attacks on people have been attributed to animals suffering from rabies. Non-rabid wolves have attacked and killed people, mainly children, but this is unusual, as wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have been taught to fear humans by hunters and shepherds. Hunting and trapping has reduced the species' range to about one third, though its still relatively widespread range and stable population means that the species is not threatened at a global level, and is therefore classified by the IUCN as Least Concern.
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Famous quotes containing the words wolf and/or forest:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and a little child shall lead them.”
—Bible: Hebrew, Isaiah 11:6.
“The partridge and the rabbit are still sure to thrive, like true natives of the soil, whatever revolutions occur. If the forest is cut off, the sprouts and bushes which spring up afford them concealment, and they become more numerous than ever. That must be a poor country indeed that does not support a hare. Our woods teem with them both.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)