Why Do Wolves Howl?


Hearing a wolf howl is one of nature’s most incredible sounds, but do you know the reasons behind it. In this article, we look at what they are saying to each other.

Wolves howl as a means of communication to others. Wolves howl to reassemble pack members, warn off other wolf packs from their territory, and communicate their location to pack members. They can also howl at other members with whom they show affection.

Hearing a wolf howl is a fantastic experience. It gives you the feeling that you among one of nature’s apex predators. If you have ever wanted to know about why wolves howl, this article will answer your questions.

Find out how to stop skunks digging up your lawn here 

Wolf

Communication

Wolves use howls as a means of communicating with other wolves, sometimes over long distances. The wolves that they are communicating with can either be members of their pack or a rival pack.

Want to know more about how wolves communicate? You can find out here in an article I have written.

Communicating Their Location

Wolves howl to communicate their location to the rest of the pack.   When wolves are coming back to the group after being away, such as when they go to find food, they will howl to let the other pack members know that they are coming back to the area.

Warning

Wolves also howl to communicate to other wolves or packs that their area is already occupied. The alpha of the pack that has wandered into their territory then has to decide whether to retreat or enter further. A defensive howl is used to warn wolves to stay in their packs and protect the young.

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Why Do Wolves Howl Back?

Wolves use their howl as a means of communication, and a wolf howling back signals that they have heard and understood the message. Howls can be used to reassemble a pack, warn intruders away, identify other wolves, and signify territory. Other wolves, either from the same group or other packs, will howl back to confirm the message.

How Far Can A Wolf Howl Be Heard?

Wolves can communicate with each other over several kilometers. Wolves have excellent hearing, and this, along with the way they project their voice, allows them to be heard by other wolves over their home territory and beyond.

The exact distance depends on the terrain that they are in when making the call. If in an open space, then the howl can be heard at distances up to 16 km away. In forested areas, this distance may be reduced to less than 10 km.  

Areas with large hills and mountainous regions can also change how far the howl can be heard, with the sound bouncing off different terrain areas. A wolf at the top of a hill can be heard farther than a wolf howling at the bottom of a valley.

Do Wolves Howl After A Kill?

Wolves do howl after a kill, and the reason is now known. Wolves howl after making a kill for a few reasons. The first is to warn other wolves away from the kill site, while another reason is to reassemble all pack members after a kill has happened so that they can feed.

For more information on wolves, I have compiled 101 facts, which you can find here.

Wolf Howling

Do Dogs Understand Wolf Howls?

If you have heard a wolf howl in your area, then you may have heard dogs in your area reply. Dogs do respond to wolves using a similar howl. Although different, dogs and wolves can understand each other.

Many dogs howl to attract attention, and dogs that are left alone sometimes exhibit this behavior.  However, there are differences in the style of communication between a dog and a wolf.

Wolves and dogs share the same body language when interacting with other members of their species. Bowing, chasing each other, pacing, growling, and showing teeth are shared similarities between both species. Howling is another form of communication that dogs and wolves share.

Do Wolves Bark Like Dogs?

Dogs are descendants of wolves, but wolves do not make the same noises. Wolf pups do bark, and this carries over into later juvenile stages. Wolves use barking to warn others in the pack. Cubs are often barked at by their mother as a warning if they sense danger.  A combination of a bark and a howl is used when showing aggression.

Difference Between Coyote and Wolf Howl?

Wolves have a drawn-out howl that rises in pitch. The howl of a wolf starts low then rises over time. The howl can also include barking and growls. Coyotes have a higher-pitched howl that occurs in much shorter bursts that rise and fall. Instead of barking and growling like wolves, coyotes use yips and yaps.

Although wolves and coyotes are both members of the Canidae family, they are very different. Wolves are much larger than coyotes, with some wolves being three times as heavy as a coyote. This size difference also plays a part in the difference between a coyote’s howl and the deeper wolf howl.

Have you ever wondered what wolves eat?  You might be surprised.  Find out more here

Do Wolves Howl At The Moon?

Wolves appear to be howling at the moon. They lift their nose and mouths upwards because by howling at the sky, the sound will travel further. Other wolves will hear the howl much better when the howl is projected towards the sky. 

Wolves were once thought to howl at the sight of the moon, especially if it was a full moon. This is now largely believed to be false. However, wolves do look like they are howling at the moon as they raise their nose and mouths skyward.

Man howling for wolves

Why Do Wolves Howl When Humans Howl?

When a wolf replies to a human’s howl, they are warning you to stay away from their territory. Whether they know it is a human is unlikely, but they will believe you to be a wolf from a neighboring pack, as they know the sound of their pack members.

I have written an article on the evolution of the wolf which you can find here

Which Dogs Howl Like Wolves?

Several breeds make a noise similar to the sound of a howling wolf. Hunting dogs are one of the groups of dogs that howl like wolves.  

Hunting dogs such as beagles, bloodhounds, coonhounds, dachshunds, and foxhounds were bred to trap prey. They use a howl as a means of communication to tell other dogs that they have caught their prey.

Other breeds that howl are Alaskan malamutes, American Eskimo dogs, and huskies. These dogs were bred to pull sleds and to be part of a group of working dogs. They howl as a means of communication with their fellow dogs.

Want to know which wolves are in North America. I have written a guide which you can find here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Nature.

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