How Do I Recognize A Red Wolf? (Size, Fur & More)

The red wolf (Canis rufus) is the rarest canid in North America. There are less than 300 individuals living in the world today, both in the wild and in captivity. 

There’s a fair chance you haven’t seen one in your life, so how do you recognize a red wolf? What are its distinguishing characteristics?  And lastly, how can you differentiate a red wolf from other canids living in this part of the world?

Join Floofmania in delving into the world of the red wolf. Together, we’ll learn about its distinct features, how to tell it apart from other canids, and what makes the animal a truly unique creature. Let’s get started.

What Do Red Wolves Look Like?

Red wolves are canids with lean bodies. They have a lanky appearance due to their long, thin legs. Most of them have bushy tails with black on their tips. Their fur is shorter and thinner than that of a gray wolf’s, and it sometimes, but not always has a reddish hue.  

At a glance, the red wolf has a wide head that looks like a domestic German shepherd dog. They also have long slender legs similar to that of a greyhound. Their ears are pointy, wide, and longer compared to other wolf species.

More details about the red wolf’s face below.

What Does The Red Wolf’s Face Look Like?

Like other wolf species, the red wolf has a wide head with a broad muzzle. It has white/light color around its eyes and lips. The red wolf’s snout is longer than the gray wolf’s and other wolf species in North America—making it distinct and unique to this canid.

How Big Are Red Wolves?

Red wolves are considered to be medium to large-sized canids. They are on average, smaller than the gray wolf but larger than a coyote. Take note, however, that this description is not strictly followed as there are instances where the sizes of red wolves may overlap with the coyote and gray wolves. Some adult coyotes and gray wolves may be as big (or small) as the average size of a red wolf.

These canids can grow up to 26 inches tall. From head to tail, the length of a red wolf can reach at least 4 feet. Red wolves may not be the largest canids but they’re much bigger than your average dog—that’s for sure.

Adult red wolves usually weigh around 45 to 80 pounds. The males are a little heavier than the females.

What Color Do Red Wolves Have?

It is easy to assume that red wolves are red due to their name. However, the reality is a bit far from the truth. Red wolves can have a variety of coat colors

Yes, they usually have a red tint to their coat that makes them unique compared to other wolf species. But the majority of their fur color distribution can range from cinnamon red, reddish brown, tawny brown, dark brown, grey, back, and white

Fun Facts: The white color in a red wolf’s body fur usually present itself naturally as the animal ages. Other situations where the canid has whitish fur color are when it is sickly, injured, or under stress. 

Another Fun Fact: The red color in its fur is more prominent during the winter season. The usual red wolf colors return in the summer during molting.

Do Red Wolves Have Any Markings In Their Fur?

There are distinguishing markings that can help in the red wolf’s identification. It is very important to quickly identify the canid because of the fact that red wolves are often mistakenly identified as coyotes and consequently taken down by humans.

When you encounter the animal in the wild (if you’re that lucky), look for the following distinct markings:

  • Red tint of coloring on their furs. This feature is unique to the red wolf.
  • White markings around the eyes and more prominently around the mouth.
  • Bright or light markings on their legs and underbelly.

What Eye-Color Do Red Wolves Have?

The eyes of a red wolf have some sort of variety when it comes to their color. All red wolves are born with blue eyes but this gradually changes when they become adults. Adult red wolves usually have shades of yellow and green in their eyes.

Fun Fact: There are a lot of stories that say the red wolf, along with other wolf species, has red eyes. There is no truth to this. The red color typically appears at night when there’s very little light. It is caused by the wolf’s reflective part of its eyes (tapetum lucidum) which sort of glows in the dark and shows the red eye color. That’s a very cool feature to have!

What Does The Red Wolf’s Tail Look like?

The red wolf’s tail is long, and bushy, and has black coloring on its tip

What Do Red Wolves Look Like When They Move Around?

Red wolves look similar to other canids when they move around. The red wolf uses all four of its limbs when moving from one place to another. However, its motion is fluid which makes it distinct compared to non-wolf species.

What red wolves do when they move—may it be walking, trotting, or running— is called single tracking. Its hind legs swing in the same line as its front legs. When you track the red wolf in the snow, mud, or wet ground, you’ll notice that the back paws will touch almost the same spot where the front paws landed.

What Do Red Wolf Pups Look Like?

Red wolf pups are cute, little creatures—that’s a given. However, to the untrained eyes, newborn red wolf pups cannot be easily distinguishable. Why? Because a red wolf pup doesn’t have the appearance, physical characteristics, and even the color of an adult. These critters look entirely different from their adult forms.

Red wolf pups are born with blue eyes although you won’t see them right away. The eyes of newborn pups are closed until they’re about 12 days old. They have dark fur (mostly brown to dark brown), small ears, and a pug-like nozzle.

How Can You Tell A Male Red Wolf From A Female?

They may be from the same species but there are physical characteristics of male red wolves that differ from their female counterparts. Here are some differences between a male and female red wolf:

  • Male red wolves are usually 10% bigger and heavier than females. 
  • Males have larger heads and broader necks
  • One interesting feature between a male and female red wolf is the eye setting. The eyes of the male red wolf are closer together than that of a female. 

How To Tell A Red Wolf Apart From Other Animals?

To sum it all up, here are the distinguishing features of red wolves when compared to other animals:

AnimalHeightLengthWeightMuzzle ShapeFur Color
Red wolf26 inches at the shoulderUp to 4 feet45 to 80 poundsShort muzzle, thicker than a coyoteCinnamon red, tawny brown to dark brown, grayish
Gray wolf33  inches at the shoulder4.5 to 6 feet60 to 145 poundsShorter muzzle than the red wolfA mix of brown, gray, black, and white
Coyote22 to 25 inches at the shoulder3.9 to 4.4 feet 28.6 to 35.2 pounds Long, slender muzzleGrayish brown with a mix of silver gray and black
Domestic Dog5 inches to 43 inches at the shoulder9.8 inches to 7 feet3 to 242 poundsVaries depending on the breedWidely varies

Author: Jomvie Reyes

Jomvie has been a writer for over 10 years and animals and wildlife are among his favorite topics. Learning and writing about the vast and diverse wildlife from all over the world, is more of a hobby than a job for him. Jomvie loves to watch and observe these remarkable species up close and personal.

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