Outside of humans, wolves are some of the most social animals on earth with each other. Last week I discussed some interesting wolf facts about their instincts and behaviors. Here are a few more fun things about wolves that I tried to work into my books about the Heaven’s Heathens (The Lone Prospect and Rodeo’s Run.)
Wolves greet each other by kissing!
Most people know that dogs and wolves get a lot of information about their surroundings through scent. They use their noses to get information about almost everything and if they can’t smell something it scares them. Wolves have strong scent glands all around their body that excrete pheromones that tell other wolves a lot about them. Wolves smell these glands as part of their greetings. There are glands around the cheeks, the flanks on the tail and of course, under the tail.
But wolves also greet each other by what looks like to a human a French kiss. They open their mouths and look like they are kissing each other by sticking their tongue into the others mouth! Of course, this probably sounds disgusting, but you aren’t the ones doing it.
There is actually one man in Europe who integrated himself into a captive wolf pack and actually did exchange wolf kisses with them. (Ick.)
Wolves love to sing!
Of course, we all know that wolves love to howl. 99% of wolf art is either a wolf howling or a wolf snarling. (Frankly, I’m over both types.) Wolves love to sing so much that they start doing it as puppies while their parents are off hunting and they’re being minded by older siblings. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is or what time of night. Singing is an activity that wolves will engage in by themselves or in large groups. In fact, one wolf howling can start other wolves howling. (Just like in Zootopia.) Humans can also get wolves to howl with them!
Once wolves really get going, it can be difficult to tell if there is one wolf, two wolves or twenty wolves. This is because they can vary their pitch up and down the key of E.
Wolves love to party!
Neighboring groups of Wolves love to get together for something we humans call a howl. They’ll gather in order to exchange greetings, see pups and basically run around yipping in excitement and of course howling. This is like humans having a big party!
Wolves love to play.
Among each other, wolves can be pranksters. They like to play games on each other involving pouncing and attacking. To humans, this looks like they’re fighting. Sure, wolves do fight as most groups and families do, but many times it’s simply wolf play. Wolves have thick fur and hide so what would really hurt and bloody up a person barely makes a scratch on them. Wolf play is mostly practice for the very important skill of hunting.
Wolves can fish!
Hunting big animals like deer and elk are not the only sources of protein for a wolf. If a wolf pack lives near the water they also get a lot of their protein from fishing! They can snatch fish right out of the water. In fact, wolves also eat small rodents such as mice and a lot of berries. Wolves’ bodies are designed for a feast or famine type of life. So, they eat what they can, when they can, that way when food is scarce, they won’t starve to death even if they get very hungry. A wolf can eat up to five pounds of meat in one go.
Wolf courtship involves dancing.
Yep, like humans wolves like to dance! If a male and female wolf are in the process of courtship or it’s around mating season (October to January depending on weather,) they’ll get to know each other by dancing. Wolves can go up on their back legs and put their front legs on each other’s shoulders and either sway or walk around a bit. This makes them roughly six feet tall.
Apparently dancing in all social cultures promotes intimacy! Who knew?
Raising the puppies is a family affair.
There are three things that happen in wolf families when it comes to raising puppies. Everyone in the family helps take care of them and brings back food from the hunt for them. It’s an egalitarian society because survival is so difficult. When the puppies are very young and are still nursing, an older sister can have a false pregnancy with their mother in order to help her mother nurse her younger siblings. That way there are two females giving the puppies nourishment.
Once the puppies leave the den, for several months they are too young to go on the hunt and have to stick to the den area. (The den tends to be in the middle of the pack’s established territory.) So, the older siblings have to babysit. Now unlike humans who may whine and moan and fight not to take care of their siblings, wolves love their little siblings so much that even the male wolves will fight to stay behind and watch them. Older siblings are very indulgent of their younger siblings and let them pounce on them and even bite their tails.
Lastly, tragedy can happen and puppies can die due to sickness or injury or even starvation. When this happens before the mother buries the puppy, the entire family mourns the loss of the puppy. The mother will take the dead body of the puppy around to the entire group and they will lick it and howl and essentially say their good byes. Then the mother will bury the puppy. Wolves feel loss and sadness much like elephants and humans.
Wolves are fascinating animals and predators and there’s a lot we don’t know about them. These are just a few of my favorite behaviors (mostly geared towards social interaction I’ll admit) that I’m trying to work into my books in fun ways as they meld with human behaviors!