Wolves are one of the most talked-about animals in North America. While they are hard to spot in the wild, everyone can picture a wolf from their popularity in movies. But one question I get asked a lot by the general public is, “How big is a wolf?”
Wolves are a lot bigger than you might realize. Many people can recall a movie where they have seen a “wolf,” not realizing that they most likely seen a dog playing the part of a wolf, such as a Siberian Husky, Northern Inuit dog, or a Czechoslovakian wolfdog.
You might go walking in the woods and see a deer or a moose, but it’s very unlikely to spot a wolf. These apex predators have keen senses and are wary of humans.
Let’s break down each species and look at their sizes. While many experts disagree on how many wolf species there are, we will break them up into the most commonly known names and focus on two widely recognized species.
Red wolf – 50-80lbs
Grey wolf – 60 -145lbs
The red wolf is usually found in its native lands in the southeastern United States. They’re named after the color of their fur, which has a reddish tawny color.
Red wolves are not the biggest wolf species. However, they are bigger than a coyote and similar in size to smaller species of gray wolves.
An adult red wolf measures between 53 – 63 inches in length. They typically weigh between 50 – 85 pounds. Males average about 60lbs while females average 50lbs. A red wolf stands about 26 inches at the shoulder.
The Gray Wolf
The gray wolf, or grey wolf as it’s also known, is probably the most recognized wolf. These wolves are the largest living canine species in the wild. There are many grey wolf subspecies, but they can weigh anywhere from 60 – 145 pounds.
Males can weigh between 70 – 145 pounds.
Females weigh between 60 – 100 pounds.
The average size of a gray wolf’s body is three to five feet long, and their tails are one to two feet long.
Adult wolves measure 31 – 33 inches at shoulder height.
These wolves are found in North America and Eurasia. Their location plays a part in determining their size. On average, gray wolves found in Europe weigh 85 pounds while the ones found in North Americas Weigh 79 pounds. Generally, the colder the climate, the larger the wolf. This is known as Bergmann’s rule. It’s not unusual to find wolves weighing up to 119 pounds in Alaska and Canada. In Russia, some exceptionally large wolves can get as big as 174 pounds.
To understand the size difference, we will look at the subspecies.
Native to Europe and Russia, the Eurasian wolf is also known as the common wolf or Middle Russian forest wolf.
It is the largest of the Old World grey wolves. The size varies depending on the region. In Russia and Scandinavia, the wolves tend to be larger than in Western Europe.
In Russia, the Eurasian wolves measure from 41 to 63 inches in length and have an average weight of 71 – 110 pounds. They have an average shoulder height of 31 – 33 inches. However, they have been known to get much bigger, with maximum weights of 152 – 176lbs reported.
In western and southern Europe, the wolves are considerably smaller. Males generally weigh between 55-77lbs and have a shoulder height of 19.5 – 27.5 inches. However, they have a similar length of body, typically 43 – 58 inches.
Also known as a white wolf or polar wolf. These wolves are found in the remotest areas of Northern Canada and parts of Greenland. Due to its limited interaction with people, this wolf is not as wary of people as other wolves.
The Arctic wolf is a very large subspecies. They measure 39.3-70.8 inches in length and weigh 99lbs up to 154lbs.
Their diet ranges from extremely large to small as their main diet consists of muskox and hares.
The timber wolf is a blanket term for three subspecies of grey wolf:
- Northern Rocky Mountain wolf
- Eastern wolf
The Mackenzie Valley wolf or Northwestern wolf
These are one of the largest subspecies of the grey wolf. The average weight of a Northwestern wolf is between 79 – 159 pounds.
Males weigh between 99 -159 pounds, and females weigh 79 – 132 pounds.
These wolves are also quite tall, ranging from 26.8 – 36.0 inches at the shoulder.
Northern Rocky Mountain wolf
These guys are native to the Rocky Mountains. Overall they are slightly smaller than the Northwestern wolf, but that doesn’t slow down their appetite, with their primary diet being made up of bison, elk, and mule deer.
Northern Rocky Mountain wolves weigh between 70-150 lbs and measure between 26-32 inches at the shoulder.
The eastern wolf is also known as the Algonquin wolf or the eastern timber wolf. These wolves are native to the great lakes region and southeastern Canada.
These wolves are smaller in stature than their Northern Rocky Mountain wolf relatives. They also feed on smaller prey such as whitetail deer and beavers.
A male Eastern wolf can weigh between 52-67lbs. They have an average height of 30-32 inches at the shoulder.
As you can see, there are several subspecies of wolves. So a gray wolf, for example, doesn’t have a set size. Each subspecies has a different size range from another. Location plays a huge part in the size of the animal. As we noted earlier, the colder the climate, the larger the wolves generally are.
Most of these wolves feed on large animals, and their size helps them in that matter. Compared to coyotes, who typically eat smaller prey.
How big is a wolf?
So how big is a wolf? The answer is generally very big, or between 50-200lbs.