Howling At The Moon
Because in fact I don’t intend to speak about stories depicting wolves but rather about wolves in themselves I shall now introduce you to the very subject. I have to admit that I happen to find wolves fascinating creatures and so will you once you have discovered more about them.
I would start talking about wolves by quoting the so called wolf credo I happened to find while researching for more information about them: “Respect the elders…Teach the Young…Cooperate with the pack/ Play when you can…Hunt when you must…Rest in between/ Share your affections…Voice your feelings…Leave your mark.” It sounds quite poetic when being written down or uttered but in fact it is truer than you can imagine.
As I seem to enjoy taking journeys into the world of animals I will do just about the same thing with wolves too. Pretty dangerous don’t you think so? Not dangerous at all in fact since it is only a virtual world I am going to refer to.
First I shall start by portraying the wolf the best as I can. You must have seen them in pictures; some may have looked cute to you, especially if there were pups but even adult ones can be equally cute too. Their body is covered with fur and as such they can be found in a wide variety of colors such as brown, black, gray, tan and even white. They are often described as being noble creatures, almost majestic in their appearance. No wonder they are envisaged as such since their eyes happen to be in most cases very beautiful having either the color of the blue sky or perhaps the same color as the delicious chocolate, namely brown.
You all probably heard the saying which says that “the wolf changes his coat, but not his disposition” and as you can all imagine there is something veridical in it too. Being quite preoccupied with his looks the wolf made sure that Mother Nature endowed him with just tow layers of fur. One is meant to protect him from the cold and keep him warm and at the same time protect him from getting all wet (and cold… poor him!) and the other layer, the one which we happen to see and admire when looking at them playing the role of some sort of “guardian” if I may say so. These layers may be quite thick, but after all much like it happens in our case with coats, they can vary in thickness according to the area of the world they inhabit, therefore the climate and as you can all imagine the season.
Even though some of the wolves may look pretty fragile to some of you they are not so in any way as beneath the layers of fur he keeps well hidden his muscles. He makes use of these muscles whenever needed, most often when he goes on hunting.
Did you ever take your time to look at its jaws? If you had then you probably noticed that they have strong jaws, just as strong as they need to grab the prey and turn it into pieces or strips as some may rightfully say. Some say that in fact they hold a secret when it comes to reaching their prey and that it is precisely this secret that makes them be able to hold onto the prey without much effort. Which is their supposed secret you may all wonder? It may be insignificant to you, yet it is extremely important to them since they manage to feed themselves; the big secret is that their jaws can interlock. When it comes to grabbing the prey did you know that wolves happen to have neither more nor less than 42 teeth? Just enough to mangle their prey and appease their hunger! You most surely didn’t dare to ask a wolf to willingly open his mouth but even so you most surely happened to notice in pictures at least that their front teeth are bigger in fact much larger than the back ones. It is all pretty much like in the Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf written by Roald Dahl when there is that already famous exchange of words “What great big ears you have, Grandma.” “All the better to hear you,” the Wolf replied. “What great big eyes you have, Grandma,” said Little Red Riding Hood. “All the better to see you with,” the wolf replied. “He sat there watching her and smiled. / He thought, I am going to eat this child. / Compared with her old Grandmamma / She’s going to taste like caviar. Then Little Red Riding Hood said, “But Grandma what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.” “That’s wrong!” cried Wolf. “Have you forgot to tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?”
So, to put it as a joke I shall nevertheless warn you now that you should never forget to notice the wolves’ big teeth. But after all you should perhaps not forget its entire presence as well because it is all these small details that make him one magnificent creature inhabiting our planet.
When it comes to their feet the interesting fact comes when noticing that their front feet have only four toes whereas their back feet have five. Pretty weird isn’t it? As you all probably imagined they have excellent hearing and an excellent smell as well. After all they seem to have been perfectly built in order to be able to survive the harshness of their environments!
As far as their tail is to be brought into discussion you may be surprised to hear that they do not use this one only to help them keep their balance while walking but as well to keep them warm when it happens to be too cold outside. As such they seem to be quite inventive and they use their tails to cover their face. Quite a funny aspect if we were to think about the fact that some of us deem them as quite ferocious, isn’t it?
Amazingly interesting is their internal organization or the organization of the so called society of wolves as some may ironically say. It is fascinating to observe how they establish clear roles for each of those that are members of a pack. In most cases it is precisely this pack that “facilitates” their survival. As Rudyard Kipling once said “For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”
If you ever imagined that there was nothing but a simple pack then you were wrong as there is much more to it than just this. As any well organized society needs to have a male and a female leader as well, this is the case of wolves too. In their case these two happen to be breeding mates as well. The male leader is generally referred to as the alpha male whereas the female leader, its partner is known as the beta female. And as every good “gang” needs to have a lower rank, in the case of wolves the one that happens to be the lowest in rank is commonly referred to as the omega.
Interesting enough, things do not stop here and the hierarchy is also established on the so called gender criteria too as female wolves have their own hierarchy and male wolves happen to have their own too. Every wolf knows its role in the respective pack and this practically helps them manage conflicts in a better way and as such ensure their survival for longer periods of time.
If you ever tended to think that wolves are not social creatures then you most surely proved to be wrong. I say this because as far as evidences clearly show this they prefer gathering in packs rather than roaming by themselves and they simply love to spend their time communicating with each other. How do they manage to do this?
I shall keep you curious and let you wait a little bit as I must now end sharing with you the rather amazing facts about the organization of wolves. Did you think that everything was just perfect within those packs? Well, it looks like wolves too at times happen to have something to fight over. In most cases the beta female is the one which is disputed. Not because the wolves from the pack actually wish to become the male leader of the pack but rather because they happen to consider the beta female quite attractive and an excellent mating partner. Perhaps her genes are better than the ones of her sorority female wolves and she is much envied for her beautiful pups, who knows?
Talking about pups I have to say that these ones are probably the happiest because admit it who hasn’t been spoiled when he or she was little! These ones are even more spoiled since they are the offspring of ‘the supreme leaders’. They take all their time to play and be well fed and as such they have lots of benefits. But even so, this does not last so long. A life of honey and milk can in fact not last forever, isn’t it so?
Starting with the age of three months these pups will begin accompanying their parents and the rest of the pack in hunting operations. Of course they do not need to lay down the prey themselves as they are just too little to do just this but even so they are there to learn how things are done and even take a bite or more from the kneeled prey.
What happens when two packs of wolves meet? Most often they will ignore each other trying not to cause useless troubles but if the food becomes rather scarce then most surely kindness and diplomacy will be forgotten and the fight will begin. They are in fact fighting for territorial supremacy since in fact possession over a certain territory is what gives them the right to hunt there and as such be able to survive. If you imagine the “dirty job”, the fighting part is done by the leaders of the pack then you are wrong since in fact it is the lower ranking wolves that are sent to fight. Someone needs to be sacrificed and they seem to be just the appropriate ones to do this.
Yes, wolves happen to have a quite keen sense of property and as such they happen to inhabit quite large amounts of land, up to 1000 miles. Quite a wide territory if you ask me! This must be why most of the wolf’ deaths are directly connected to these territorial disputes taking place between the various packs of wolves that happen to be out there in that area.
If you thought that there is no lonely wolf out there then you were wrong since it looks like there are a few loners roaming in the wild. They may have chosen to live lonely rather than in packs precisely because at some point they reached to the conclusion that it may be better for them to try and do it on their own. Most often these lonely wolves feed themselves with smaller animals such as rodents. If they are happy or not I honestly don’t know it! Perhaps you should be more courageous and ask him that next time you happen to see him. After all if I were to quote Lara Turner “A gentleman is simply a patient wolf.” So, you may happen to meet him sooner than you think!
I mentioned at some point the fact that wolves appear to simply love to communicate. How do they do this? Well, you most surely heard about the howls of wolves. They have been mentioned in poems, including by Shakespeare who wrote in A Midsummer-Night’s Dream “Now the hungry lion roars, / And the wolf behowls the moon.” Quite romantic but let’s now see why do wolves howl!
They may howl just to say Hello greeting their fellow wolves or they may as well simply try to communicate to the others the place where he is to be located. But they may as well use the howls as a loud way of marking their territory as if they wish to say “This is our property. Stay away from us or we are going to break your bones and eat you all!” (I don’t know exactly what they are saying but I tend to think that more or less this is the message they try to transmit when howling). They may as well howl in an attempt to bring the members of the pack together probably announcing a meeting.
If you ever thought like I did that wolves howl at the moon then I am sorry to disappoint you by saying that in fact they do not do this. They seem to be more pragmatic than we deem them to be. We are the ones having poetic thoughts and at times romantic natures and for sure we are the ones who make them look either meaner than they are or perhaps creating whole myths around them.
Did you know that in fact wolves are somehow related to dogs? You probably know since at times they are to be mistaken for certain breeds of dogs. Being considered the parents of dogs they belong to the so called Canidae family, being generally known under the scientific name of Canis Lupus. Did you ever take your time to notice how much wolves happen to resemble such dog breeds as huskies, malemutes and German Shepherd Dogs? Even so it has been discovered that wolves have longer legs, bigger teeth and even larger paws than dogs do. And if one takes its time to look closely at them you would also manage to see that their eyes look somehow different than the ones of dogs.
But even so just like dogs they use scents to mark their territory. I happen to find all these details amazingly interesting and this makes me look at wolves with even more leniency than before. When I say before I mean to say my childhood years.
If you ever wondered how many wolves are there in a pack then you should find out that the numbers go somewhere between 4 and 36 wolves. Quite a number I dare say!
They are deemed to be some of the most intelligent animals and this is most certainly proven by their almost perfect internal organization. If you feel like getting friend with a wolf then most surely you need to know that they feel at home in Canada, Asia, America, Europe and even the Arctic. Most often they happen to be met in forests but you may as well come across them on the highway as I think most of you happened to see the images in which a pack of wolves simply went on hunting on the highway. This happened in Russia and most certainly it came as a result of the fact that their habitat was burnt due to the rather extreme hot temperatures.
Who is the one to be blamed for this loss of habitat? I let you decide this time!
Given the fact that they can reach speeds of up to 35 meters per hour it is no wonder that at times their prey stands no chance at all. After all they are deemed to be skillful hunters and killers as well. Talking about killing have you ever wondered what wolves like to eat and as such what they consider being a delicacy? Most often they end up hunting weak or sick animals but they may as well hunt elks and even deer. And talking about their hunting habits I have to admit that when they are hungry they are hungry (as one of my friends would say) and as such one should not appear before them because in their determination to feed themselves they may as well travel across the lands far and wide for neither more nor less than 30 miles in a single day (sometimes even more) just to grab something and play ducks and drakes with it (I meant to say to find some food). Just imagine how scared those poor animals can be as they probably deem that out there, there is a bad wolf coming after them!
Now you really shouldn’t be afraid, and you should also trust me when I tell you that they can be playful too. There is a side of them that they do not show it to everyone (after all they have a reputation to defend!). If you have wondered what body language wolves use in order to indicate their good mood then you should be looking for their tails and their tongues. Now don’t be surprised! It may sound funny to some of you but even so you should know that if their tails wiggle back and forth then most certainly they are in a good mood. And if their tongues are out as if they are about to play tricks on you then most certainly they are joyful and ready to play. Even so be careful not to get too close to them because after all they happen to be ferocious predators and almost never friendly pets.
This doesn’t make them less interesting since they show off so many good and interesting qualities that we often may tend to forget the other “bloody” ones. When I say bloody I do not refer to men because along the history few men happened to be attacked by wolves and most surely this happened only because they were too hungry. Hungry because their habitat had been destroyed and they needed to move to other lands where food was rather scarce for the whole pack. Most often they happen to be cunning enough to choose the so called easy way and chase after preys which are easier to be caught and at the same weaker or at times even “naked” in front of their predator, in this case the big bad wolf.
Most surely it is their intelligence that ensured them the survival throughout the ages as it is said that their origins go back in time 300,000 years ago. Helped by a keen sense of smell which is said to be 100 times greater (if not even more) than that of a human, by its versatile way of being and by its intelligence him, Mr. Wolf, managed to survive until nowadays and with our good will he will manage to survive in the following ages to come too.
It is said that wolves generally mate for life and that only if their mating partner happens to die he will go out and look for another partner to mate with. No matter how romantic this may sound to some of you, some say that in fact when it comes to the gray wolf he is not that faithful (to put it nice) and he likes taking glances and even more than just this with other female wolves as well (poor him, how could he resist to so much beauty!).Now women should not set their comb as the vice versa is also valid. At least this is what rumors say!
If you ever happened to hear the story of Romulus and Remus, the well-known founders of Rome, or perhaps watched the equally famous story of Mowgli in the Jungle Book then you most surely know that female wolves are to be awarded the title of best mothers as well. Fiction or not fiction these stories exist and as such female wolves are endowed with the attribute of maternity and the spirit of family is somewhere deeply rooted inside them. In real life these myths are not far from reality since female wolves take good care of their pups and guide their first steps in life the best way they can. The funny fact when talking about taking care of pups is when finding out that whenever a wolf cub needs to urinate his mother has to gently massage its belly with her tongue. Isn’t this funny and cute at the same time? Just try to picture the image in your mind and it would surely make you smile!
Perhaps we should learn to share this planet with other creatures as well and as such be more lenient when it comes to wolves too. As long as they are not bothered they will surely not bother you too, at least this is what scientists analyzing their behavior managed to discover. Since wolves do not have any other predators, humans are the only ones contributing to their extinction.
But enough with bad things! I shall further on refer to even more interesting things about these creatures. When it comes to wolves too one can speak of two sides: on one side there are those who happen to appreciate them, namely Indians who used to look upon them with admiration, probably being attracted to them by their courage and power and wishing that they too shared these attributes and on the other side are to be placed those who happen to hate them mostly because they didn’t manage to deem anything good in them and envisaging wolves as primary sources of evil.
You all probably heard people mentioning something about werewolves – those people who can transform themselves into wolves in the periods of full moon. It all started as a romantic story as later on it was in fact proved that wolves do not use to howl at the moon but rather only seem to do so. It all happens due to the position they adopt while choosing to howl. Even so there are numerous sayings which state that in fact a night without the howl of the wolf is “lonely” and in fact never the same as it most surely lacks something.
If it were for me to tell what that night lacks I will certainly answer that it lacks poetry since in case you are not a poetry fan I can tell you that their howling has sometimes reached legendary proportions in some poems at least. And why not after all since they are deemed as cute and there are so much stories woven around them?
And I shall end this pilgrimage (a pretty long one for some, but I have to admit that when talking about wolves words simply roll out easily and ‘enough’ certainly reaches new proportions) into the world of wolves by quoting a poem written by an unknown author which practically wraps it all in poetry “Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing. / Perhaps it was the intense sense of family. / After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing. / Perhaps it was the rigid hierarchy of the packs. / Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality. / Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun. /Perhaps it was some celestial link with the winter night skies that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air. / For the native people who lived with the wolves, /and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics, /there was much to learn from them. / Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterize the wolves not as killers but as teachers?”
After all these words written here simply rushed out depicting the wolves in their main traits I may say the same thing Red Hot Chili Peppers used to sing “Throw me to the wolves because there is order in the pack.”11