An Indian Wolf At

Species Profile: The Indian Wolf

The Indian Wolf has one of the worst records regarding human attacks and fatalities 

An Indian Wolf At Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Pune - Maharashtra, India
An Indian Wolf At Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, Pune – Maharashtra, India (Photo: Rudraksha Chodankar/Wikimedia Commons cc by-s.a. 4.0)

The Indian Wolf is currently classified as a subspecies of the Gray Wolf though there are proposals to recognize it as a distinct species on its own.

This wolf is a much smaller species than the gray wolf: it’s actually somewhere in-between the Tibetan and Arabian wolf in size. It’s native to the Indian Subcontinent. Because of the warm climate in which it lives, its fur is much shorter and thinner than other wolf species. Also, its reddish/brown coat often causes people to mistake it for a fox.

Black colored individuals are very rare but a few have been sighted in India’s Solapur district. They live in different habitats much like other gray wolf subspecies. However, the Indian wolf tends to live in smaller packs of 8 individuals at the most.

Strangely, these wolves hardly ever howl and this remains a mystery. Some believe this is due to the fact that this species is not as territorial as other wolves.

Since it’s still classified under the gray wolf, the IUCN lists the Indian wolf as a Least Concern Species.

1) Scientific Name

Canis Indica

2) Scientific Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Carniformia
  • Genus: Canis
  • Species: Canis Indica

3) Life Expectancy

Up to 25 years.

 4) Average/Maximum Length

The Indian Wolf is one of the smallest species of wolves and most adults grow to just about 3 feet long.

5) Average/Maximum Weight

Adults weigh between 50 and 60 pounds.

6) Running Speed

They are surprisingly fast for their size and can run up to 50 Km/h.

7)Interaction With/Danger To Humans

Along with the Russian wolf, the Indian wolf has the worst record and reputation regarding human fatalities.

In fact, they have a historical sinister reputation for preying on children. This phenomenon came to be known as “child-lifting.” For instance, in Bengal alone, records state that 624 people were killed by these wolves in 1878. Another 285 people were killed in the Central Provinces in 1900.

From 1910 to 1995, there are accounts of almost 300 children deaths caused by wolf attacks.

Also, as with other wolves, it feeds on livestock making it an enemy of livestock keepers.

But, these wolves may not be completely at fault as much of their natural habitat and prey have been taken over by human developments.

Because of all these negative attributes, people hunt them illegally even though they are protected by law.

 The Indian Wolf, and the Russian Wolf, have the worst record of attacks on humans.

8) Reproduction Details

These wolves mate in October every year and the mother-wolf will have several dens not just one. They have a habit of moving their young from one den to another. The entire pack helps to care for the pups and as from 3 months old the pups can begin to venture out of the den.

Average litter size varies from 4 to 6 pups and the the newborns are blind and deaf for the first 2 weeks after birth.

9) Diet/Hunting Pattern Of The Indian Wolf

The Indian wolf can prey on antelopes but being of a smaller size, they go more after rodents, and hares. To take down an animal as large as an antelope, they have to hunt in pairs. So, one of the pair will distract the antelope while the second one will attack it from behind.

10) Population And Conservation Status

Rough estimates indicate that there are just about 3,000 Indian wolves left in the wild today. In addition to that number, some other wolves are held in captivity at the Jai Samand Sanctuary in Rajasthan.

Unfortunately, their reputation for attacking humans means that there is very little sympathy for them among the natives. As a result, there are little to no effective conservation efforts to help them.

While British rule lasted in India, many wolves were killed in retaliation for attacking livestock, and people. Bounty hunters killed at least 100,000 wolves in British India between 1871 and 1916.

11) Ancestry And History

For long, the Indian Wolf has been regarded as gray wolf subspecies: The Canis Lupus Pallipes. But more genetic studies show that Indian wolves have not cross-bred with any other subspecies in over 400,000 years. That indicates that it is a separate species on it’s own: The Canis Indica.

Canis Lupus Pallipes (Iranian Wolf) should then be used to classify wolves from the Arabian peninsula, Israel, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but not India. And although they are similar in outward appearance, these two wolves (the Iranian and the Indian wolves) are genetically distinct.

12) Distribution And Habitat

The Indian wolf prefers open lands and also does quite well in desert-like terrain, scrublands, grasslands, and semi-arid environments.

Some of the locations you can find them are the states of Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

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