Indian Wolf

Indian Wolf

Recent genetic research suggests that the Indian Wolf, originally considered only as a subpopulation of the Iranian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), may represent a distinct species (Canis indica). Similar results were obtained for the Himalayan wolf, which is traditionally placed into the Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus laniger). The Indian Wolf has been recorded as having stolen children in India and suffers persecution for it and figures prominently in the animal stories written by Rudyard Kipling.


A current proposal suggests that the Indian Wolf has not cross-bred with any other wolf subspecies for nearly 400,000 years, which could possibly make them a separate species altogether from the grey wolf. British naturalist B. H. Hodgson was actually the first to describe an Indian Wolf as a separate species, Canis laniger, in 1847, but the wolf he was describing was indeed separate from today's modern Indian Wolf (he was instead describing the former Himalayan Wolf).

Another British naturalist, W. T. Blanford, working for the Geological Survey of India, described the modern Indian Wolf as a separate species called Canis pallipes in 1888. He distinguished Canis pallipes from Canis laniger by its smaller size, much shorter and thinner winter coat, and smaller skull and teeth. Furthermore, he identified Hodgson's Himalayan Wolf as nothing more than a subspecies of Gray Wolf (i.e., C. lupus laniger, as opposed to C. laniger).

The confusion was sorted out in 1941 when British taxonomist R. I. Pocock classified both as separate subspecies of the Gray Wolf – C.lupus pallipes and C.lupus laniger, respectively. Today, the Himalayan Wolf originally identified by Hodgson in 1847 (C.lupus laniger) has been stripped of its subspecies title and placed with the Eurasian Wolf (C.lupus lupus), whereas the Indian Wolf {C.lupus pallipes) has maintained its subspecies status, though this could, as previously mentioned, change as more genetic data is interpreted.

Lately research of the mtDNA of the Indian Wolf, formerly known as Canis lupus pallipes, supports the suggestion to treat the Indian wolf as a new species of canid (Canis indica). Probably, the Indian wolf migrated to India about 400 thousand years ago, during the Pleistocene and separated from its common wolf ancestors. But other Indian wolves not from India but from the Arabian peninsula, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are included in the category of Grey Wolf and should be called the Iranian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes).

Appearance and adaptations

The Indian Wolf has a very short, dense coat that is typically reddish, tawny, or buff coloured. It reaches 60-95 centimetres (24-37 inches) in height, and typically weighs 18-27 kilograms (40-60 pounds), making it smaller than the Gray Wolf. Breeding generally occurs in October, after the rains – early compared to the Grey Wolf.

The Indian Wolf is adapted for life in the semi-arid and hot areas that they typically inhabit. Its relatively small size allows it to survive on the smaller ungulates, rabbits, hares, and rodents that roam its territory. The Indian Wolf is a prime example of the canid's adaptability as a species, given that its cousins can be found in areas starkly contrasted to the scrubland, grassland, and semi-arid pastoral environments that the Indian Wolf thrives in.

Though the Indian Wolf and the Indian Wild Dog have been portrayed as mortal enemies by author Rudyard Kipling in Red Dog, studies have shown that there is very little competition between the two species where they share common ground. The fact that the wolf inhabits open spaces and feeds primarily on rodents as a contrast to the dog's habit of living in dense forests and hunting medium sized ungulates is enough to ensure peaceful coexistence.

There are some allegations that they differ from the Grey Wolf by rarely howling.


It is a semi-desert-adapted canid that is exclusive to the eastern Indian subcontinent. In India, The Indian Wolf is mainly distributed across the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. A study released in 2004 estimates that there are around 2000-3000 Indian Wolves.

The Indian Wolf, because it lifts children and preys on livestock, has long been hunted, though it is protected as an endangered species in India under schedule 1 of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The Jai Samand Sanctuary, Rajasthan, is believed to be the only place in which the animal is breeding in captivity.

Attacks on humans

Wolves in India used to thrive on wild prey but humans have largely extirpated the prey through hunting. Now wolves are forced to feed on livestock which brings them close to people, particularly to the many unattended small children on the loose. The regions of India where child lifting occurs today parallels the situation in Europe in past times.

During a 2-year period (1996–1997) in Uttar Pradesh, wolves killed or seriously injured 74 humans, mostly children under the age of 10 years. The attacks were well documented by wolf authorities. One of the worst cases ever recorded occurred in 1878 in British India. During a one year period 624 people were killed by man-eating wolves.

Indian Wolves in popular culture

In Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book, the hero Mowgli is raised by a pack of Indian Wolves, and is one of the most popular of feral children in fiction. Wolves appear in other works by Rudyard Kipling also.

Cited references



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