As the song goes, who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?
Well, if you knew just how big the biggest wolf could get, you’d be right to be afraid.
Some of the smallest wolves are just a few inches bigger and a lot lighter than the world’s biggest dog (a 44-inch Great Dane named Zeus), but the bigger dogs can be much taller and heavier than that. And with their predatory hunting skills, coming across one of these wolves in their natural habitat with no way of defending yourself can be dangerous.
Wolves are carnivores that belong to the Canidae family. They’re a distant relative of the domesticated dog, but there are closely related to its other canid family members such as coyotes, foxes, or jackals.
There are various types of wolves all over the planet living in either hot or cold environments. There are only 40 recognized wolf subspecies, most of which fall under the gray wolves that live in cold climates. People assume that the term “gray wolf” refers to a certain species that is the biggest wolf in the world, but actually, it’s the sub-category with plenty of diverse wolves.
Technically, people are right when they say that the gray wolves are the biggest wolves in the world, but that’s only because the top five biggest wolf species happen to fall under the gray wolf category. However, we can still narrow down to what specific species of wolf is the biggest.
The average gray wolf weighs around a hundred pounds, with most females weighing less than males. Gray wolves aren’t exactly gray: some of them can have brown, black, and white bushy fur to protect them in cold environments. They are identified by their blunt ears, muzzles, broad foreheads, snouts, and large jaws used for their carnivorous appetite.
There are over 300,000 gray wolves spread across the world. While you’ll often find them in colder environments, it’s not uncommon to see them in other environments as they are capable of adapting to certain climates to survive. They often travel in packs, which usually sums up to a dozen wolves per pack. These packs hunt and survive together, but like lions, it’s not uncommon for some wolves to leave the pack due to insufficient resources or the need to mate with another wolf they aren’t related to. And unlike other animals like roosters that can mate with any hen they see, wolves are monogamous and partner up with one other wolf until such a point that one of them dies.
As mammals, gray wolves reproduce sexually. Female gray wolves carry to term for about two to two and a half months before giving birth to a litter. In one birth, a gray wolf can give birth to up to six pups in the summer, but in some cases, there could be more or less. One pup can weigh as much as 500 grams, which means a gray wolf pregnant with half a dozen pups could be carrying around three kilograms, which is roughly the size of a slightly plump newborn human baby.
Fun fact: did you know that gray wolves are born blind and deaf? They require their mother’s assistance for the first two weeks because they are unable to see and hear. If you’ve ever raised a pregnant pet dog or cat, this is similar to the way your pet’s offspring stays in one area (often in the box where your pet decides to give birth) and don’t open their eyes the first few days they are born. Instead, they crawl around the box using their sense of touch and smell to find their mother and make their way to her breast for feeding.
3rd Biggest: The Tundra Wolf
The third biggest wolf of the bunch is the Tundra Wolf, also known as the Canis lupus albus. At 125 pounds, this wolf can grow as long as 7 feet. The average human may be taller than this wolf, but with its average weight and sharp predator skills, getting into a fight with one can be extremely dangerous.
Despite its size and capability, however, Tundra Wolves exercise selective predation and only hunt very weak targets: old and feeble bison, oxen, and its relatives. There are around 40,000 of these wolves scattered across Northern Europe and Asia, but due to their beautiful coats of fur, the Tundra Wolf was hunted by humans for their pelts. Thousands of them still exist in the northern arctic, but not as much as there once were before excessive hunting stopped.
2nd Biggest: Eurasian Wolf
The second biggest wolf is the Canis lupus lupus, also more commonly known as the Eurasian Wolf. While it’s a lot stouter than the Tundra Wolf with an average 5-foot length, it makes up in weight with an average 160 pounds, making it much bigger than the former. These wolves are exclusive to Northern Europe and China, with around 30,000 of them scattered across the continent. Most of them are in the colder areas of Russia.
The Eurasian Wolf has a slender build and is distinguishable by its short, coarse coat. They’re often seen with dark cream coats, but you can also find Eurasian wolves with red, black, gray coats or a combination of multiple colors.
While these solves are predators, these fearsome creatures will eat anything. This doesn’t just include herbivorous animals it can take down like sheep and deer, but also rodents and lizards, especially when they can’t find any other prey to hunt.
Biggest Wolf Ever: Mackenzie Valley Wolf
The leader of the pack is the Mackenzie Valley Wold, also known as the Canis lupus occidentalis, the Northwestern Wolf, or the Canadian Timber Wolf. It gets its name from the Mackenzie River Valley in Canada where it’s most spotted at.Lengthwise, it has the same size as the Tundra Wolf. But it outweighs both the Tundra and the Eurasian Wolf by at least 15 pounds with an average weight of 175 pounds.
Aside from the Mackenzie River, you’ll find some of these wolves frequenting Alaska. Unfortunately, while they are the biggest wolves in the world, their numbers aren’t as large as the other two wolves, with only around 10,000 wolves in existence. The silver lining, however, is that they live in a vast ecosystem where wolves of their nature can thrive.
Aside from their massive size, the Mackenzie Valley Wolf differ from other gray wolves because of their stronger limbs and bigger lungs. These allow them to breathe better in higher altitudes, which is good considering places where these wolves inhabit are filled with areas with high altitudes.
However, just because they’re big and carnivorous does not give anyone an excuse to hunt down these wolves and thin down their numbers. Left alone in their natural habitat, wolves won’t go searching for the nearest town to hunt for humans, especially when they’re left to their own natural habitat filled with enough prey for them to feed on. While these wolves won’t tower over you should you come across one in the wilderness, their hunting skill, size, and weight will all be to their advantage.