When you think of a wolf, the likely image that comes to your mind, is any variety in the order of the grey wolf. This is the most widely documented wolf, most widely used in film and documentary too. But there are lots of different subspecies of grey wolf, and they can be very different in appearance from each other.
There are also different species of wolf, that share greater similarity to other canids like the coyote or fox to the typical wolf. With that being said, what is the largest wolf species? And how does geography impact the size? Let’s take a look.
What Is The Largest Wolf Species In The World?
The largest wolf species in the world is the Grey Wolf (Canis Lupus). However, depending on where the wolves live, size can vary greatly. There are multiple subspecies of Grey Wolf that span the northern hemisphere, and there are other wolf species in the canid family that also have to be considered. However, in terms of size, it is the many subspecies of grey wolf that tend to dwarf all others.
The largest subspecies of grey wolf, and thus the largest wolf in the world, is the Northwestern Wolf (Canis lupus occidentalis). It can grow up to 7 ft long and 72 kg in weight! The size and weight of a wolf tends to follow Bergmann’s rule, in that the higher and colder the latitudes that they live, the bigger the wolf. Conversely, the lower and warmer, the smaller the wolf.
There are other contenders for the largest wolf. Examples of Tundra and Alaskan interior wolves for example, may grow larger than examples of the Northwestern Wolf. But the conversation can not be had, without mentioning the Northwestern Wolf, and on average, they tend to be the biggest of all the grey wolf subspecies.
What Are The 5 Largest Wolves In The Americas?
Here are the 5 largest wolves in the Americas, in descending order counting down to the largest. You may notice that the ”largest’ doesn’t necessarily meant the ‘heaviest’. Artic wolves for example, can be heavier in weight than Northwestern wolves, but are not as large in size on average.
5. Hudson Bay Wolf (Canis Lupus Hudsonicus)
The Hudson Bay Wolf is actually one of the tallest on this list. But it is not as long or heavy as the others and therefore sits at number 5 in the list.
It is visually similar to the Mackenzie River Wolf, and the Arctic Wolf only smaller in size and with a flatter skull. These wolves are known to grow to around 28 to 36 inches in height and a length of 48 to 60 inches from nose to tail. They are known to weight between 83 to 155 pounds, which would would expect from a wolf living in this range of northern latitudes.
- Height: 28-36 in (70-90 cm)
- Length: 48-60 in (120-150 cm)
- Weight: 83-155 lbs (38-70 kg)
4. Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis Lupus Irremotus)
The Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf is medium pushing towards large in comparison to other Grey Wolf subspecies. They stand around 26 and 32 inches high and while details of length are not widely documented, they are similar in size to other Wolves native to the northern USA. They are quite a heavy wolf around 32–68 kg, likely due to the large prey that they have access to.
The Northern Rocky Mountain wolf has been known to resort to cannibalism of weak or injured individuals during times of food scarcity. However, their usual prey include beaver, bison, deer and elk.
- Height: 26-32 in (66-81 cm)
- Length: Around 60-65 in (150-165 cm)
- Weight: 70–150 lbs (32–68 kg)
3. Arctic Wolf (Canis Lupus Arctos)
The Arctic Wolf and the Timber Wolf are the only subspecies of the Grey Wolf that still can be found over the whole of its original range, largely because in their natural habitat they rarely encounter humans. They can survive 4 or 5 months without a substantial meal, but can consume up to 9 kilograms 20 lb of meat in a single meal. The Tundra wolf can also do this.
Arctic wolves can grow to around 6 feet long, but the average is between 3 to 5 feet in length (36-60 inches). Their shoulder heights vary from 25 to 31 inches (63 to 79 centimetres). They average between 100-125 lbs (45-57 kg) but males are larger, and have been known to reach up to 80 kg in weight.
In their vast habitat, the Arctic wolf has few predators, and they live from a diet of musk ox, arctic hare and caribou.
- Height: 25-31 in (63-79 cm)
- Length: 36-72 in (91-183 cm)
- Weight: 100-175 lbs (45-80 kg)
2. Alaskan Interior Wolf (Canis Lupus Pambasileus)
Also known as the Yukon Wolf, the Alaskan Interior Wolf is native to the boreal forest, alpine and tundra areas around the Alaskan interior, British Colombia, the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.
According to the Yukon Department Of Environment, these wolves stand around 85 cm tall (33.5 inches) and weight between 30-50 kg. However, the weight of these wolves across different preserves and parks can differ. Across all examples, the average is between 32 and 56 kg, with males being heavier than females. Adult males have been known to reach as large as 179 lbs, in exceptional examples.
Their diet does differ across the vastness of their range, but as with all wolves, they are carnivorous and like large prey when available. They are know to hunt deer, moose, caribou and sheep.
- Height: 33.5 in (85 cm)
- Length: 60-78 in (150-196 cm)
- Weight: Average 66-124 lbs (30-56 kg) Up to 179 lbs (81 kg)
1. Northwestern Wolf (Canis Lupus Occidentalis)
Also known as the Mackenzie Valley Wolf and always in the conversation when talking about the largest wolf in the world. They can be found across the Northwestern United States, Alaska and Western Canada, particularly around the Mackenzie Valley.
The Northwestern wolf can vary in size and weight depending on location. Those that live farthest north are larger than those that inhabit lower areas. In one area study, they have been known to reach 45-72 kg for males (99 and 159 lb), and 36 to 60 kg for females. (79 to 132 lb) While in Yellowstone they appear a bit smaller, reaching around 50 kg for males and 40 kg for females. Examples up to 79 kg in weight have been recorded in adult males.
You can see from the data, that in some cases, the Alaskan interior wolf may be heavier than the Northwestern wolf, but the latter is, on average, a far larger animal.
These wolves have been known to ‘bully’ herd of elk to the point where a young animal is separated from their parents, making for an easier kill for the pack. They also enjoy bison and deer. In recent years, they have been introduced to Yellowstone National Park to regenerate populations there, and are a keystone species in the area.
- Height: 27-36 in (68-91.5 cm)
- Length: 5-7 ft (152-213 cm)
- Weight: Average 79-159 lbs (36-72 kg) Up to 175 lbs (79 kg)
What Is The Largest Wolf Species In Eurasia?
The longest and heaviest species of wolf in Eurasia, or anywhere outside the Americas for that matter, is the Eurasian Wolf. The tallest wolf outside in Eurasia is the Tundra wolf, but these do not grow as stocky or long generally.
Eurasian Wolf (Canis Lupus Lupus)
Eurasian wolves have shorter, denser fur than their North American relatives. Their size varies according to region, although adults measure 41–63 in (105–160 cm) in length from nose to tail, 30-33 inches (76-84 cm) tall at the shoulder and weigh around 70-152 lbs (32-69 kg), with females usually being about twenty per cent smaller than males. Heavier wolves up to 79 kg are reported commonly in Northern Russia, where there is a large population of these wolves.
These wolves were once widespread across Europe, but populations were decimated across the continent as human populations and activity grew. Their current range is mostly limited to the North of Europe, parts of Scandanavia and Russia.
- Height: 30-33 in (76-84 cm)
- Length: 41–63 in (105–160 cm)
- Weight: 70-152 lbs (32–69 kg) Up to 79 kg in Russia.
Tundra Wolf (Canis Lupus Albus)
Tundra Wolves can grow to around 112-137 cm (44-54 inches) in length on average, but larger wolves rivalling the size of the Eurasian Wolf and Arctic Wolf have also been reported. They can stand as tall as 38 inches and weight between 36 and 49 kg. Again, there are examples that have been larger than this but the norm is within this range. Males are generally larger and heavier than females.
The tundra wolf primarily prey on large mammals, with reindeer making up the majority of their diet. Mountain sheep and beaver also make for common prey.
- Height: 32-38 in (82-96 cm)
- Length: 44-54 in (112-137 cm)
- Weight: 79-108 lbs (36-49 kg)
What Is The Largest Wolf In Africa?
African wolves are a completely different species than grey wolves. While grey wolves are known as Canis Lupus, African Wolves are known as the species Canis Lupaster. However, the African wolf, including its various subspecies, is not the largest species of wolf in Africa. That title belongs to the Ethiopian Wolf.
Ethiopian Wolf (Canis Simensis)
The Ethiopian Wolf is one of the rarest and most endangered of all canids. It goes by many names, which reflects the uneasy history of the species in determining it’s precise taxonomy. They share many features that are more aligned with smaller canids such as foxes. However, they are now thought to be related to the wolves of the genus Canis, rather than foxes they resemble.
They stand, on average about 6 or 7 inches taller than the African Wolves of Canis Lupaster, but are much smaller than their grey wolf cousins. They have a longer muzzle and smaller teeth than other species. The male Ethiopian wolves are significantly larger than the females, weighing from 33 – 42 pounds (15 – 19 kilograms) and females weighing from 24 – 31 pounds (11.2 – 14.15 kilograms).
- Height: 21–24 in (53–62 cm)
- Length: 33.1–39.8 in (84–101 cm)
- Weight: 24-42 lbs (11.2-19 kg)
What Is Bergmann’s Rule?
Bergmann’s rule is a rule that aligns with the geographical location of an animal and the impact that has on size and weight variation within species of a particular family or clade. Species of a clade that live in higher latitudes with colder temperatures, have larger, bulkier bodies than those that live in warmer, lower latitudes. This rule can be observed widely in different mammal and bird species. It is particularly evident when observing sub species of the grey wolf.
For more information on the different size of wolves, check out our larger wolf size comparison post!
Large Wolf FAQs
- Grey Wolves are the largest of all the members of the Canis genus, which includes foxes, jackals, coyotes and the domestic dog.
- The Dire Wolf is still considered to have been the largest species of wolf to have ever existed.
- Despite their reputation, wolves are usually shy and reclusive from humans.
- Even the largest wolves – Northwestern Wolves – can run up to 64 kilometers per hour (40 mph). This is fast enough to catch most prey, especially if hunting in a pack.
- The largest wolf is not the fastest though, with some subspecies of grey wolf able to reach up to 70 kph (43.5 mph) and to maintain this in pursuit for up to 20- minutes.
- Despite their size and speed, most hunting attempts end in failure.