Wolf Anatomy

Table of Contents


The body of a wolf allows it to be able to survive in a variety of different locations. The bodies of these animals are built for ultimate survival. It allows for them to be able to run fast, to track prey, and to take down large animals.

They can have thick fur that is a variety of colors. The colors can include white, tan, brown, black, and gray. They are known to have beautiful eye colors like sky blue or chocolate brown. When it comes to their colors and their sizes, they have a huge range from one end to the other.

There are two types of hair that a wolf grows. The undercoat is very close to the skin. It helps to offer a waterproof barrier so that the body can stay warm and the overall temperature is regulated. The guards are the hairs on the outer layers that we see while looking at a wolf. The thickness of both of these coats depends on the climate and the time of the year. Scent glands are found in the fur, along the tail. This feature allows them to mark their territory.

Even though the body of a wolf may seem very thin overall, it is full of thick muscles. The scrawny appearance of the legs and the head can give a false impression that they aren’t a force to be reckoned with. The chest region is very slender so that the animal has a full range of movement.

Most experts believe they have more range than any other type of animal. The overall size will depend on the location, as well as the species of wolf that you are talking about. Some are only about 50 pounds while others are about 200 pounds. From their nose to the tail, some are about 4 ½ feet long while others are more than 5.5 feet long.

All wolves have rounded ears and a mouth full of extremely sharp teeth. When they are fully grown, they will have 42 teeth in their mouths. The front teeth are pointed which allows them to puncture as well as to cling to various elements. The molars are also pointed so that they can easily shred their prey. They have back molars that are flat which they use for crushing the bones of their prey.

Their jaws are extremely powerful which allows them to capture their prey as well as to fight if need be. The secret is that their jaws interlock so they can bite and hold onto prey with very little effort.

Close-up portrait of a gray wolf
Close-up portrait of a gray wolf

You will notice that the feet of wolves are extremely large. Their average is nine inches by ten inches. This allows them to walk on top of snow and ice rather than sinking down in it.

The bottom pads are very thick and what is interesting is that the front feet have five toes while the back feet have four. These animals have magnificent hearing which helps them to find their own pack as well as to find where prey is.

The nose of a wolf is very sensitive and able to pick up smells at a very long distance from where they happen to be. The tail of a wolf is quite long as well. This helps it to keep balance while walking. The tail is also used to keep the face warm in the bitter cold.

They have chemical markers that make it easy for them to leave traces for another member of the park to track them. These are found on the scent glands beneath their toes. 


Here are significant anatomical parts of a wolf and its functions.

  1. Muzzle

A wolf has strong sensory cells in the nose. Unlike the human nose which gets fatigued easily after some seconds of smell, a wolf can perform 100 times more than a man. According to its anatomy, there are at least two hundred million cells in its nose that aid its smelling ability. 

As described earlier, the dentition of a wolf is another part of the muzzle that cannot be overemphasized. It may surprise you that a wolf has 42 teeth (the 42 teeth have 4 canines). The teeth are arranged based on their function(s). The sharp teeth which are at the front are to grab, wound, kill, and harm its prey. Sometimes, the small teeth are used to pull and nibble at the skin. 

Their back teeth are used for masticating meat and crushing bones. The back teeth make bigger food molecules smaller and safe enough for the body to absorb. Another vital organ is its tongue. The tongue of a wolf is unique, rough, and strong. It helps a wolf to completely clean pieces of meat from the bones. 

  1. Eyes and Nose

Being a predator to many and prey to some, a wolf needs highly sensitive organs to adapt to its kind of life. Surviving in the jungle or woods comes with a great level of vigilance. Well, its ears are designed for acute hearing. They can easily move their ears to any side to detect any approaching or consistent sound.

Also, they are blessed with great eyesight. A wolf can see prey or predator from a far distance. The beauty of their eyesight is that they can see clearly and from far distances both during day time and night time. This largely helps their chance of survival in the woods. 

  1. Body

Another amazing feature of a wolf’s anatomy is its body. As mentioned earlier, the weight of a wolf can be as high as 200 pounds. That is a lot of weight many animals cannot easily outweigh. Also, this unique feature helps them to be powerful when they want to kill their prey. A wolf pounces on an elk or deer while the prey is helpless because it cannot overturn the “heavy” wolf to run for its “dear or deer” life.

  1. Fur

This has been discussed earlier to be two layers. They have the top layer of fur which is long and serves as a hair guard. Also, it keeps the wolf dry. The other fur is short and it keeps the wolf warm. 

  1. Tails 

Much more than maintaining balance, wolves used their tails for communication. For instance, another wolf will understand if a wolf is ready to mate from the state of the hair on the tail. The messages are too obvious and specific to be ignored. Also, they have a scent gland at the back of their tails which helps them to mark territories. 

  1. Long Skull

Like other carnivores, a wolf has a long skull. Their skull houses extensive and powerful cheek muscles which help them to consume, kill, and hold onto prey. 

  1. Large Brain Capacity:

Due to its long skull, there is enough space that accommodates its brain. It might amuse you that a wolf has an advanced cerebral cortex. Little wonder, it displays some important group social activities. 

  1. Skeleton: 

Their skeleton is another important feature of the wolf anatomy. The skeletal system has a unique skeletal makeup with specific functions. For example, it has strong bones which give them the power to bring down both large and small prey like deer, caribou, moose, or elks. 

They have narrow collarbones, strongly adapted wrist bones, and interlocked foreleg bones that support their strength, speed and streamlines the wolf’s body. The ulna and radius form an interlock in its position. They have great stability while running because they cannot rotate the forelimbs. 

  1. Paws

Their paws are unique as it allows them to tread on ice without sinking. Their digitized feet aids the even distribution of their weight. They can navigate around snows more easily because of the webbing found in between their toes. They have a dewclaw on the front paw which is a vestigial organ.

A vestigial organ does not have an active use for the animal. For a wolf, the dewclaw makes the front paw larger than the back paw. The animal can stand without making contact with the ground with its other paw. 


It is an indisputable fact that wolves are often compared to dogs. This is due to its physical appearance and observable features. In addition, there have been several controlled efforts to improve dogs to have the physical attributes of a wolf. There are tangible differences between a wolf and a dog beyond the former being a wild animal while the latter is a domestic animal. 

A wolf, dog, golden jackals, and coyotes are all part of a family, Canid. However, a significant anatomical difference of a wolf from other members of the canid is its long and strong muzzle. The superb property of a wolf’s muzzle has been described above. Nevertheless, its anatomical feature is largely different from that of a dog. 

Also, dogs do not have a brain capacity as large as a wolf’s. A dog can be social too because it relates to humans more. However, a wolf displays commendable social features in its pack. Its larger brain capacity is the “secret” to this feature. 

Other anatomical parts of a wolf that are larger than a dog include larger paw size, longer legs, eye color (wolf has yellow), and bigger teeth. Finally, there are no precaudal glands in dogs, unlike wolves that use them to mark territories. 

NB: it is important to say that these comparable features are more observable at the adult stage of the life of the wolf.

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