Some animals have really striking and descriptive names that sort of give you a mental image of what they might look like. When the animal is called a “black bear”, a “rhinoceros beetle,” or something like that, you expect a completely black animal and an insect that resembles a rhino.
In reality, however, the people who come up with these names may be a tad too creative because a black bear is often brown and a rhinoceros beetle is… Well, a beetle.
Another example could be the red wolf (Canis rufus). Someone who isn’t familiar with them could easily believe that they are indeed wolves that have their entire bodies covered in red fur.
In reality, red wolves have a mix of black, rusty red, tan, and gray coat colors. Their white legs also have black markings, while their underbellies are cream-colored. And lastly, they have black-tipped tails, which also serve as their identifying feature.
We at Floofmania believe that knowing the difference between similar-looking critters can be the key to preventing harm and consequently eradicating a species from the wild, which was once the case for these beautiful, elusive red wolves.
Fellow Canidae Family Members of Red Wolves
Table of Contents
- 1 Fellow Canidae Family Members of Red Wolves
- 1.1 Close Relatives of Red Wolves
- 1.2 Gray Wild Wolves
- 1.3 Domestic Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
- 1.4 Other Fellow Canidae Family Members of Red Wolves
- 2 Other Red-Furred Mammals Similar to Red Wolves
Members of the Canidae family are medium to large-sized mammals that live all around the world except in Antarctica.
They have similar body shapes: upright ears, long muzzles, sharp canine teeth, long and slender legs, and bush-like tails. Both males and females share the same physical appearance, although female canids are generally lighter in body mass.
In sum, about 34 to 37 species are listed under this family. Some of them are:
Close Relatives of Red Wolves
The closest relatives of red wolves are coyotes and gray wolves. Red wolves are slightly larger than coyotes but much smaller than gray wolves. Specifically, an adult red wolf can weigh anywhere from 45 to 80 pounds, measure 4 feet in length from its nose to its tail base, and stand at 26 inches or 2 feet tall from its shoulder to its feet.
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) are also the largest living members of the Canidae family. According to the Mammal Species of the World, which is the standard taxonomic and geographic reference for mammals, there are 38 subspecies listed under them.
Conversely, coyotes have contributed to the periodic decrease in the red wolf population in numerous unfortunate cases of mistaken identity.
Coyote (Canis latrans)
Coyotes are widely distributed and abundant throughout North America. Despite human encroachment, they maintain their wide hunting range by going into urban areas, wherein conflicts with humans arise.
Coyotes are considered livestock predators to sheep, goats, and cattle. They also attack household cats and dogs. But, most importantly, they have been known to bite humans, unlike red wolves, who fear and run away from human beings.
Despite having a narrower muzzle and weighing only half as much as the red wolf, a coyote’s rusty red to brown-colored coat looks pretty similar to the red wolf’s. Because of this, red wolves, especially juveniles, sometimes get mistakenly hunted for being misidentified as coyotes.
Although it is considerably hard to spot the differences between coyotes and red wolves, especially from afar, we hope this article brings awareness to the species. Let’s help keep the red wolves alive so that many more generations can witness these beautiful creatures.
Gray Wild Wolves
In a report by Robert M. Nowak, the scientist proposed that only five Gray Wolf subspecies exist in North America. Two of them resemble red wolves, which we will discuss below.
In addition, wolves in Japan have been long gone and declared extinct for hundreds of years. Yet a few recent sightings of them have led residents to believe in the possibility that they may still exist.
Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi)
A Mexican Wolf or “Lobo” is the rarest and smallest Gray Wolf subspecies in North America, although it can weigh up to 80 pounds.
These wolves previously lived in central Mexico to western Texas, southern New Mexico, and central Arizona deserts. However, they were eliminated in the wild in the 1950s, like red wolves (1980), because of aggressive predator control programs.
Fortunately, biologists made conservation efforts to save their species, similar to the efforts made to preserve red wolves. Even though their numbers are still relatively few today, the massive captive breeding programs were successful!
In fact, there are a total of 536 Mexican wolves, with 186 living in the wild as of 2021. In contrast, there are currently 243 red wolves in captive facilities, while an additional 21 wolves were released back into the wild, with 10 of them tagged with collars for monitoring.
Eastern Wolf (Canis lupus lycaon)
These Great Lakes and southeastern Canada natives also go by the names “Timber Wolf”, “Algonquin Wolf”, or “Eastern Timber Wolf”. Moreover, there is still much debate whether these wolves are a subspecies of gray or red wolves or even a separate unique species.
Furthermore, when compared to red wolves, eastern wolves have slightly darker silvery gray fur with a few shades of cinnamon. Like red wolves, they prefer small to medium-sized prey such as beavers and deer. They also like to munch on blueberries when they’re in season.
Japanese Wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax)
The Honshu Wolves were once endemic in the Japanese archipelago. Many experts believe that these wolves were probably the closest relatives of domestic dogs. However, a mix of rabies and canine distemper breakouts and aggressive livestock predator control initiatives eradicated the species in 1905.
Moreover, many individuals have recorded numerous encounters and sightings of the extinct Japanese wolf since its disappearance. Amid all these, Mr. Hiroshi Yagi is at the forefront of the search for Honshu wolves.
Mr. Hiroshi Yagi claims to have seen the wolf himself in 1996. He documented his encounter by taking 19 pictures of the alleged Honshu wolf. Based on the photos, the wolf’s coat colors were similar to red wolves. But the wolf appeared quite a bit shorter than most wolves. Its ears and tail were also visibly smaller than in red wolves.
Most skeptics just brushed off his encounter. The scientific community needs hard evidence before they can state and prove that the Japanese wolf is still alive.
Nevertheless, Mr. Yagi is still on his search for the wolf today. We wish him the best on his mission, and it would be pretty cool if the Honshu wolf is still really living in the wild right now.
Domestic Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
Domestic dogs, or our beloved pet dogs, are actually subspecies of gray wolves! They are also the most common canids in the world.
Humans domesticated the wolf thousands of years ago, turning them into our trusted companions, the dogs, today. Additionally, humans have initiated selective breeding among dog breeds to develop the specific skills or traits they need in their dogs to aid them in hunting, fishing, herding, and even for competing in dog shows.
As a result, there are about 450 dog breeds today! And each one differs significantly in behavior, body size, fur color, and tail shape from any other terrestrial mammal.
Here’s a video showing the history of how dogs, who were once gray wolves, became our lovely, hardworking pets today:
Greyhounds are tall, muscular, and have an “S-shaped” body type. They also have rugged and powerful legs primarily selected and bred for coursing games. In these games, the dogs traditionally chased and caught deer and hares they spotted from afar. Today, greyhounds on the dog track merely chase mechanical rabbits.
Greyhounds can run as fast as 44 miles per hour, making them prime contestants for racing games. In contrast, red wolves have a running speed of 36 to 38 miles per hour.
Their speed, as well as their size and measurements, are relatively close to one another. These numbers further prove some authors‘ claims that red wolves are similar to greyhounds primarily because they both have long and slender limbs.
German Shepherds were initially working dogs that farmers used to herd sheep. However, their intelligent nature has proved they can assist persons with disabilities and work in the police, search-and-rescue operations, and even warfare.
According to The National Wildlife Federation, a red wolf might appear like a domestic German Shepherd at first glance (like the photo above). But it’s more than that; they actually have the same shoulder heights and similar weights!
(Red) Siberian Husky
Like the one in the picture above, the red top coat color of the Husky is similar to a red wolf’s scarlet red hues on its coat. Both huskies and red wolves also have almond-shaped eyes. But regardless of the colors of their coats and eyes, the dog breed above is still identified as a Siberian Husky and not a separate breed.
Huskies originally worked as sled dogs for expeditions and to traverse mining fields. They look pretty similar to wolves with their erect, triangular ears and long, furry tails. However, their sizes and measurements come shy in comparison to most wolves.
Here is a table with all the necessary numbers and figures to distinguish red wolves from their close relatives:
|Canid||Weight||Body Length||Shoulder Height|
|Red Wolf||45 to 80 pounds||4 feet||2 feet|
|Coyote||25 to 35 pounds||3.5 feet||1.8 feet|
|Mexican Wolf||50 to 80 pounds||4.5 feet||2.6 feet|
|Eastern Wolf||53 to 67 pounds||5.5 feet||3 feet|
|Japanese Wolf||41 to 50 pounds||2.9 feet||1.9 feet|
|Greyhound||55 to 88 pounds||3.2 feet||2.3 feet|
|German Shepherd||49 to 88 pounds||3.5 feet||2 feet|
|(Red) Siberian Husky||35 to 60 pounds||2.8 feet||1.8 feet|
Other Fellow Canidae Family Members of Red Wolves
Most of the listed canids here are representatives of each genus under the Canidae family. Of the 13 listed living genera today, we will discuss 6 of them below.
A genus is, by the way, the first capitalized name you write for an animal’s binomial or scientific name.
Unlike red wolves that are only found in northeastern North Carolina today, golden jackals live in Eurasia. Although both of them belong to the same Canis genus.
In contrast to red wolves, which largely prefer to eat meat, golden jackals are omnivores that like to eat fruits and vegetables aside from their usual diet of birds and rodents. They are also opportunistic foragers that feed on insects, carrion, and livestock.
While red wolves can also become opportunistic livestock predators when there is no other food source available, they don’t have the same appetites as these jackals that can harm crop fields. While searching for their favored nuts, muskmelons, and watermelons, they destroy coffee, corn, grape, and sugarcane crops.
The golden jackal’s foraging behavior has since earned them the name and reputation of being agricultural pests to many farmers.
The “Lobo Guará” is the largest canine in South America. It is the only species in its Chrysocyon genus, which directly translates to the golden dog and aptly describes its sole member.
The maned wolf’s reddish-brown coat may be similar in color to red wolves, but they have taller shoulder heights than the critically endangered red wolves. In fact, maned wolves are the tallest among canids that live in the wild!
Their long black legs and mane serve as their identifying features. They can fluff or enlarge their manes when they feel threatened or need to be aggressive.
More importantly, it would be best not to misidentify them as wolves or foxes because they are not related, and mane wolves are a unique species on their own, despite being called “wolves”.
Black-backed jackals are medium-sized canids that live in eastern and southern Africa. Their relatively small size and omnivorous diet might fool you into thinking they are peaceful or docile. Yet they are opportunistic predators and fierce hunters that can take on larger animals than themselves.
You might think they are closely related to the Golden Jackals (Canis). However, these black-backed jackals belong to the Lupulella genus. The term “jackal”, apparently, is used quite freely to name different animals. Nonetheless, similar to the golden jackals, these jackals pose a huge threat to livestock, especially sheep.
The foxlike black-backed jackals have reddish-brown and tan coats with black-tipped tails that resemble those of red wolves. Yet they weigh and measure much less than the average red wolf, so you must be familiar with the exact figures to identify them correctly.
Racoon dogs of the Nyctereutes genus have short snouts and round craniums. They have an opportunistic carnivore diet and eat mostly at night.
They consume fish, birds, small mammals, insects, plants, and roots. But they pretty much eat whatever is present and abundant in a given season, which is also directly affected by many environmental factors.
The burnt red fur color of the Japanese Raccoon Dog or “Tanuki” looks like the reddish coat color of red wolves. But the wolves weigh 2 to 4 times more than the tanukis and even measure twice their length. Their black legs and raccoon-like circles around their eyes also set them apart from red wolves.
Want to learn more about the furry canid you might have never heard of before? Watch the video below to know why raccoon dogs aren’t closely related to raccoons, even though they look pretty much alike:
South American Gray Fox
The Patagonian Fox, “Chilla,” or Gray Zorro, belongs to the “false” foxes’ genus of Lycalopex. Like the red wolves, the gray fox has a similar rust-colored head and black “bars” on its limbs. However, the gray Zorro only weighs and measures a tiny fraction of a red wolf’s size and length. Half of its total body length is even attributable to its long, bushy tail.
More importantly, these nocturnal canids help the ecosystem by scavenging carrion and thereby recycling nutrients. They also disperse the seeds they consume by taking fruits to another place to eat or when the fruit pits stick to their feet and get scattered as they run and travel.
Red foxes live widely across the Northern Hemisphere and can quickly adapt to new environments. Despite being the largest members of their Vulpes genus or the “true” foxes, they only weigh a fraction of the red wolves’ average weights.
And even though the red foxes’ bright red coats with yellowish tints may resemble the fur of red wolves, they have much shorter limbs and smaller, more pointed muzzles or faces.
Their tails are long and can take up to 70% of their entire body length. While the red wolves’ tails are fluffy and long as well, they don’t touch the ground when they stand, as the red foxes’ tails do.
|Red Wolf||45 to 80 pounds||4 feet||2 feet|
|Golden Jackal||13 to 31 pounds||2.3 feet||1.6 feet|
|Mane Wolf||44 to 66 pounds||4.7 feet||3 feet|
|Black-Backed Jackal||13 to 29 pounds||2.6 feet||1.5 feet|
|Raccoon Dog||14 to 22 pounds||2.2 feet||1.6 feet|
|South American Gray Fox||5.5 to 12 pounds||3.5 feet||1.2 feet|
|Red Fox||5 to 31 pounds||2.9 feet||1.6 feet|
Other Red-Furred Mammals Similar to Red Wolves
The remaining animals on this list may have reddish hues or tints in their fur or “red” in their names, just like red wolves. Moreover, most of the animals below weigh and measure much less than red wolves. Still, these animals have resemblances to them in some way.
The furry animals enumerated here are well-adapted to climbing and spend most of their days on tree tops and branches. In contrast, red wolves aren’t built for and aren’t adept at climbing, so you’ll rarely (and even never) see them climb trees.
These animals’ ability to climb trees expertly is the most significant factor that would set them apart from red wolves in spite of their red-colored furs.
Unlike red wolves, the cuddly red pandas have sharp, semi-retractable claws that easily grip slippery tree branches. They also use their furry tails to keep their balance on the tree tops. In addition, they are only one of the few animals that can climb down headfirst from a tree because of their flexible ankles.
Even though red pandas are, in principle, carnivore mammals, they like to munch on bamboo shoots and leaves instead, making them mostly vegetarians! Yet their carnivorous appetites still require them to eat 20 to 30% of their body weight daily, so they need to consume roughly 2 to 4 pounds of bamboo each day!
Fishers are medium-sized mammals that weigh as much as a red fox and are comparable in size to a domestic cat. Compared to red wolves, fishers have much darker grizzled brown furs.
Despite their name, they don’t eat fish and prefer small animals, berries, and nuts, which they chase and grab quickly as excellent tree climbers. Amazingly, they are also one of the few animals that prey on porcupines.
Red Ruffed Lemur
Red ruffed lemurs are small primates with almost their entire bodies covered in rusty red fur except for their black-colored foreheads, stomachs, and tails. Today, they only live in a protected area in Madagascar because they are critically endangered, like red wolves.
South American Coati
Ring-tailed coatis typically sleep and forage for fruit in trees but also live on the ground where they hunt for small animals and invertebrates. They use their flexible, elongated snouts to poke through crevices where insects may hide.
Their coat colors are highly variable, but the dark or brightly rusted color resembles the fur of red wolves. Like red pandas, they can also descend from trees headfirst as they can reverse their ankle joints.
Himalayan gorals are bovid ruminants with a goat or antelope-like appearance, as they are also ungulated or hooved mammals. Their legs are tan-colored, while their coats are reddish-brown like red wolves. Moreover, their strong, broad limbs and heavy hooves are well-adapted for jumping and climbing.
Felidae Family Representatives
There are many differences between the Canidae and the Felidae families:
- Canids like to live and hunt in packs, especially wolves. In contrast, felines tend to be solitary animals.
- Canines, like red wolves bark, growl, howl, and whimper while communicating. On the other hand, cats like bobcats hiss, meow, roar, and purr.
- Wild cats are also most likely to stick to their carnivorous diet. Meanwhile, many canids tend to eat both meat and plants and are, therefore, omnivores.
Furthermore, the two wild felines on this list have a similar appearance or name to red wolves.
A bobcat is actually also called a “red lynx” because of its much darker coat color than most of its fellow lynx. Its buff brown and reddish-tinged fur resemble a red wolf’s, although the cat’s coat is spotted or striped with brown or black shapes.
Both bobcats and red wolves have black-tipped tails, but the cats’ bobbed tails only measure 5 inches long compared to the 10 to 14 inches tail lengths in red wolves. Bobcats also weigh much less than red wolves and are even shorter in body length than them.
Eurasian lynxes are one of the widest-ranging felines. They are the largest among the four lynx species and are actually comparable in weight and size to red wolves.
Like them, Eurasian lynxes also have reddish-brown coats. But their fur can have black spots that red wolves don’t have. Another difference Eurasian lynxes have from red wolves is their sharp, retractable claws that help them to climb tall trees.
In addition, their ear tufts are longer, and their tails are fully black-tipped, unlike bobcats.
|Red Wolf||45 to 80 pounds||4 feet||2 feet|
|Bobcat||13 to 30 pounds||3 feet||1.8 feet|
|Eurasian Lynx||57 to 77 pounds||3.5 feet||2.5 feet|
Hello! My name is Graciola Galo, but my friends call me “Gra” – so can you! Aside from being a dog lover, my bachelor’s degree in biology has helped me develop a deep appreciation for animals. I look forward to learning more about all kinds of wildlife in every future article I write for Floofmania and I aspire to impart that same awe and wonder to you, too!