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Maned Wolf Facts: An Interesting and Unique Species

Linda Crampton is a writer and experienced science teacher with an honors degree in biology. She enjoys writing about science and nature.

A maned wolf at the Calviac Zoological Reserve in France

A maned wolf at the Calviac Zoological Reserve in France

An Unusual Animal With Interesting Features

The maned wolf has a distinctive appearance. It’s often described as a “fox on stilts” because of its long legs and fox-like face. Its name refers to the band of long, black hair along the back of its neck and shoulders. The mane can be erected to make the animal look larger when it’s threatened.

The animal’s large ears, pointed face, long legs, and mane make it look very different from other members of the family Canidae. This family also contains true wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, and dogs. The scientific name of the maned wolf is Chrysocyon brachyurus. It’s the only member of the genus Chrysocyon and isn’t closely related to any other species in its family. It lives in South America.

The species is classified as “near threatened” on the Red List established by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), although it may be endangered in some parts of its range. The Red List categorizes organisms according to their nearness to extinction.

Though both the gray wolf of North America and the maned wolf belong to the family Canidae, they have different scientific names and are only distantly related. The gray wolf is considered to be a true wolf. Members of the family Canidae are sometimes referred to as canids.

Physical Features and Habitat

An adult maned wolf is about three feet tall at the shoulder and weighs about fifty pounds. Its muzzle is long and pointed. The animal has red-brown or golden-red fur over most of its body, white fur on the inside of its ears, a white throat, and a white tip on the tail. The mane and the lower legs are black. The back legs are a little longer than the front ones.

The canid lives in Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru. A small population is present in Bolivia, Argentina, and perhaps Uruguay. The animal is found on the savanna (grassland with scattered trees) and in a mixed habitat of open woodland and savanna known as cerrado. It's also found in areas of scrub and on marshland. Scrub is an area where shrubs predominate, though herbaceous plants may also be found there.

It's thought that the maned wolf developed its long legs during evolution to help it see over the tall grasses of the savanna. The ears may reach seven inches in length and are believed to help the animal hear the movements of rodents. The ears also release heat to cool the animal down in the hot South American climate.

Maned Wolf Territory

Unlike true wolves, maned wolves don't live in packs. Instead, they are solitary and reclusive animals. They form monogamous pairs. The male and the female share a territory, but the two animals rarely come together except during the breeding season. The territory is thought to have an area of about ten square miles.

The canid marks its territory with its urine and feces, which it deposits on raised areas such as termite mounds. The urine has a strong and distinctive smell that has been described as being similar to skunk spray. Researchers have found that organic compounds called pyrazines are responsible for smell. Sometimes the animal's body releases the same odor. Animals in captivity may be smelled before they are seen.

Diet and Hunting Strategy

Maned wolves have an omnivorous diet. They hunt at night or at dawn and dusk. The animals catch small mammals and occasionally larger ones. They also catch birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. Plants form about half of their diet, which is unusual for a canid.

A maned wolf may cover twenty miles in one night as it hunts. The front and back legs on the same side of the body move almost at the same time, giving the animal an unusual gait. Its prey includes rodents, rabbits, armadillos, and, on rare occasions, pampas deer. The animals sometimes catch domestic chickens but aren't believed to eat other livestock.

The canids stalk their prey and pounce on it when they reach it. They also stamp on the ground to disturb the prey from a patch of grass and then pounce on the animal when it emerges. They dig for underground animals with their legs or with their teeth. Their thin legs are not well adapted for digging.

They (maned wolves) ... are particularly interested in lobeira, whose name means "fruit of the wolf." It is a small tomato-like berry that, along with other fruits and vegetables, makes up 50 percent of the maned wolf's diet.

— Smithsonian Institute

Maned Wolves and the Lobeira Fruit

Maned wolves eat many types of fruits, especially the lobeira fruit. The fruit is also known as a wolf apple. The lobeira (Solanum lycocarpum) belongs to the family Solanaceae, which also contains tomatoes and potatoes. The spiny plant grows as a large shrub or a small tree. Its flowers are blue and very attractive. The unripe fruit is green and hard and looks like a small apple. The ripe fruit is yellow, soft, and aromatic.

The seeds of the lobeira fruit pass through the maned wolf's digestive tract and drop onto the ground with the feces. Researchers have discovered that the journey through the animal's body helps the seeds to germinate. This is important for both maned wolves and the other animals that eat the fruit.

The beautiful flower of the lobeira plant

The beautiful flower of the lobeira plant


Maned wolves are vocal animals that bark, growl, and whine. They don't howl, however. A deep and resonant bark is used for long-distance communication, while an aggressive growl is used for communication over short distances.

If two animals from different territories meet, they may arch their backs and erect their manes in threatening postures. Each animal tries to intimidate the other. If this plan fails, the pair may snarl and attack each other. Zoos have to be careful how they group maned wolves in enclosures in order to prevent unfriendly interactions.

Health Concerns in the Animals

Wild animals are susceptible to the harmful effects of a parasite known as the giant kidney worm (Dioctophyme renale). In fact, the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute says that a "typical" maned wolf has only one functioning kidney because the other one has been destroyed by the parasite.

The parasite can infect other animals, including domestic dogs and (very rarely) humans. The worms are large and infect the kidney, as their name suggests. An infected pet or human should always be treated by a medical professional. It's interesting that at least in the case of the maned wolf, the parasite appears to infect only one kidney.

The Smithsonian Institute also says that maned wolves in captivity often suffer from cystinuria. This is a metabolic problem in which a high level of an amino acid called cysteine is found in the urinary system. Cysteine molecules often join in pairs to form cystine. The chemical may form stones in the kidney or bladder, which may, in turn, cause blockages. Researchers are trying to find the best diet to raise the pH in the canid's urinary tract and prevent the formation of stones.

Reproduction and Lifespan

April to June is the most active time of the year with respect to mating. A female is in estrus (a period of receptivity to the male) for only five days within this time frame.

The female gives birth to a litter of one to five pups after a gestation period of sixty to sixty-five days. Two or three pups seem to be the most common numbers. The youngsters are born in a den above ground, which is created in thick patches of tall grass or in the scrub. The litter consists of one to five offspring. The youngsters have black fur instead of the characteristic colors of the adults.

The pups rely on their mother's milk for about a month and are then introduced to regurgitated food. The adult colors begin to appear when the youngsters are two to three months old. The elongated legs develop a little later.

Maned wolves are considered to be adults at one year of age. In the wild, they probably leave their mother at this stage. They don't reproduce until they are about two years old, however.

In captivity, both the male and the female regurgitate food for the pups after they have been weaned, but it's unknown if the males do this in the wild. Captive animals have lived for up to sixteen years, but the average lifespan in captivity seems to be around seven years.

The three videos below show maned wolf pups Dora and Diego as they grew up at the Houston Zoo. They are only eleven days old in the first video.

Two Litters of Maned Wolf Pups

On December 30th, 2010, two maned wolf pups named Dora and Diego were born at the Houston Zoo in the United States. They were the first members of their species successfully born at the facility in over ten years, Their mother, Lucy, wasn't caring for them properly, so the zoo staff intervened and hand-reared the pups. The zoo created a video record of the animals as they grew. Three of the videos are shown in this article.

On February 7th, 2020, the Abilene Zoo in Texas announced the birth of maned wolf triplets. The group consisted of two females and one male. The zoo said that the group was the parents' second litter since they arrived at the zoo.

Population Threats

The maned wolf population is classified as "Near Threatened" on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. Based on a 2015 assessment, the population is believed to consist of around 17,000 mature individuals. The IUCN defines a "mature" individual as one that is at least two years old. The organization says that over ninety percent of the animals live in Brazil. The population trend for the animal is unknown.

The species is in trouble mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The land is increasingly being cleared for agriculture, shutting out maned wolves completely or restricting them to isolated patches of land. The animals are also being killed on highways. Farmers sometimes kill animals because they think that they will attack their livestock. In addition, domestic dogs have had a negative influence on the maned wolf population by transmitting diseases to the animals.

Maned wolves are generally timid around humans. Their reduced habitat is forcing them into closer contact with us, however, which can cause problems such as increased visits to livestock and roads by the animals.

In the past, the canids were killed for their body parts. These were believed to have mystical or medicinal benefits. Killing the animals for this purpose still sometimes occurs. This activity is thought to be only a minor threat to their population, however.

Maned wolves are protected by law in many parts of their range, but enforcement is frequently problematic.

— International Union for Conservation of Nature

Conservation Efforts

Zoos and conservation organizations are trying to breed maned wolves, but it's not easy. The animals don't breed very well in captivity, and there is a high pup mortality rate. There have been some successes, though, especially recently. Most zoos now keep careful records of how their pups are reared and share their data with other organizations. These steps can be helpful in a breeding plan.

As more pups are born and as more is discovered about the natural lives of wild-maned wolves, more is being learned about how to keep the canids healthy in captivity and how to breed them successfully. Although keeping the animals in zoos isn't an ideal situation, it does have the benefit of maintaining the population. This will be very important if the wild animals become endangered.


  • Maned wolf facts from Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
  • Information about maned wolves from the Endangered Wolf Center
  • Triplets born at the Abilene Zoo from the Big Country media service
  • Red List status of the maned wolf and facts about the animal from the IUCN

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Linda Crampton


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 06, 2012:

You have such interesting stories to tell, Letitia! What a clever tapir - s/he could have fun exploring the neighborhood (although it could have been dangerous for the tapir) and then return to the zoo for food, water and security! Thank you for sharing the story.

LetitiaFT from Paris via California on June 06, 2012:

If the wolf was anything like a tapir from the zoo in the 50s, it found its way home. The tapir figured out how to exit the zoo through a drain pipe and roam the neighborhood. It took awhile for anyone to realize what was happening, despite what the police thought were nightly drunken reports of giant long-nosed pigs...

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on June 06, 2012:

That's a funny story, LetitiaFT! I hope the wolf found its way safely home, though. Ragdoll cats are a lovely breed. I hope my two ragdolls have long and healthy lives. I can understand why you became so attached to your cat!

LetitiaFT from Paris via California on June 06, 2012:

I used to live a block from the San Diego Zoo and my husband (then boyfriend) came home one day a little freaked out and said he'd just seen a giant red fox on stilts. He's French, so I laughed and figured it was a coyote and showed him a picture. He assured me that was not what he saw, insisting that it was red, really tall, with disproportionally long legs. Then I showed him a picture of a maned wolf and immediately he recognized it. Escaped I presume.

P.S. In San Diego I also had a ragdoll before the breed was recognized. I brought her to Paris when I moved here and she lived to be 19. She was the love of my life.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 31, 2012:

Thank you for the comment and all the votes, dmop. I appreciate your visit!

dmop from Cambridge City, IN on May 31, 2012:

Great article about an unusual animal. I'm glad they are being protected. I voted this up, interesting, and useful.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 26, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment, the vote and the share, buckleupdorothy. I agree with you - the maned wolf is gorgeous!

buckleupdorothy from Istanbul, Turkey on May 25, 2012:

Lovely! What a gorgeous animal - and great detail on your part. Thank you. Voted up and shared.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 25, 2012:

Hi, mottieandbander. I enjoy watching wildlife videos and TV shows, too. It's very interesting to see a creature that you might never view in real life. Thanks for commenting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on May 25, 2012:

Thank you very much for the visit, PDX. I appreciate the comment, the vote and the share!

mottiandbander from Chd on May 25, 2012:

I have seen this in discovery....

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on May 25, 2012:

Like all dogs, these are super cute. Never heard of them before. Very interesting and well researched. Up and shared.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 14, 2012:

Thank you for the comment and the votes, sgbrown. It's very nice to meet you. I love learning new things about animals too!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on February 14, 2012:

Hi Alici C. This is a very interesting hub. I knew of the maned wolf, but knew very little about it. I love learning new things about different animals. Very good information here, thank you for sharing it with us. Voted up and interesting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 10, 2012:

Thank you, Karanda. Yes, we do have to be careful. The maned wolf isn't as endangered as some animals that I've written about, but its population does have problems.

Karen Wilton from Australia on February 10, 2012:

Gosh, I'd never heard of the maned wolf. Thanks AliciaC for sharing an interesting Hub about yet another animal that could well end up the endangered species list.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 08, 2012:

Hi, JKenny. Yes, the maned wolf is unusual compared to other members of its family. It's classified differently from both true wolves and true foxes, so maybe we need another common name for this animal!

James Kenny from Birmingham, England on February 08, 2012:

What a beautiful creature, strange how its known as a Wolf, when at first glance it resembles a Red Fox

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 08, 2012:

Hi again, Alastar. It is a difficult situation when wildlife comes close to where humans are living. Thank you for the extra information.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 08, 2012:

Hi, hecate-horus. I know what you mean about the wolf in the first photo - that's a good description of his or her expression! I was very pleased to find that photograph.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 08, 2012:

Thanks for the comment, Augustine. I don't think that many people know about maned wolves, but they are interesting animals and certainly worth studying.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on February 08, 2012:

Ah thanks for the news on the Coyote announcement from Charlotte Tammy. It's a shame they can't be protected but their numbers are exploding as they adapt to the urban with the consequent expanding range. Unfortunately, on occasion they take small animals like free roaming chickens and some people fear-unreasonably, except maybe in rabies season- for their childrens' safety. Its acatch-22 all 'round.

hecate-horus from Rowland Woods on February 08, 2012:

I love that first picture. It's like he's saying "Yeah, I got a mane. I'm cool."

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on February 08, 2012:

This creature is stunning. I had no idea they existed. Such an interesting hub...

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 07, 2012:

Hi, Alastar. That's an interesting thought - a maned wolf as a cloning experiment! I agree, maned wolves are magnificent creatures. Thank you for the visit and the comment.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on February 07, 2012:

This was really cool to find out about the Maned Wolf. I didn't think S. Amer had any animal like this. It sure does look different; to be honest it kinda resembles some bizarre Canidae cloning experiment. A magnificent appearing creature nonetheless. Thanx Alicia, the vids are a great addition too.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 07, 2012:

Hi, tammyswallow. It's nice to meet you! Thank you very much for the comment. Thank you also for the information about the news announcement. I'll have to read more about this. I agree with you, it is a great shame that wild animals don't have more protection.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 07, 2012:

Thank you for the comment, Nell. I appreciate the vote and the share very much! Yes, maned wolves are fascinating animals, and they do have a strange appearance. It will be very interesting to see what else researchers discover about the relationship between the lobeira fruit and the giant kidney worm.

Tammy from North Carolina on February 07, 2012:

This is such a beautiful Wolf! I had to read this. There was just an announcement on the news today that people are now allowed to kill Coyote's in Charlotte, NC under free season. They must be killed with bows and arrows. I wish wolves, coyotes, and other wild animals had more protection. Excellent hub!

Nell Rose from England on February 07, 2012:

Hi, amazing hub, Alicia, I have never heard of the maned wolf before. looking at it I couldn't figure out exactly what mix it looks like, obviously a fox face but the body looks like a mix of so many others, it was interesting to read about the fruit, if they don't eat it they can get bad kidneys, fascinating! up and shared!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Thank you very much, drbj. I agree, the maned wolf does look like it's wearing black stockings - that's a great description!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on February 06, 2012:

Another outstanding hub on an unusual animal, Alicia. Thank you. This maned wolf is a real hybrid resembling not only a wolf but a fox or a long-eared dog wearing long black stockings. It would surely be a loss if they became extinct.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Yes, I think maned wolves are attractive creatures too! Thanks for commenting, Maren Morgan.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on February 06, 2012:

This is a cute critter!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Thank you, CMHypno. Yes, the maned wolf is a strange animal! It's a fascinating creature to study.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Hi, HattieMattieMae. (I love your name!) Thank you for the visit and your comment.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Thank you very much for such a wonderful comment, Wesman! I loved creating this hub, and it's great to get comments like yours.

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on February 06, 2012:

Certainly is a strange looking creature Alicia. Thanks for all the great information, as I had never heard of a maned wolf before

Hattie from Europe on February 06, 2012:

Yes nice job on your hub! Never knew there was this breed of wolf.

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on February 06, 2012:

ABSOLUTELY OUTSTANDING! Thanks friend! I don't think I've EVER even heard of this animal!

Freaking FASCINATING! You're like one of the very few persons that does this kind of thing here, and I'm so happy that you're continually finding the animals to present that I've never even heard of!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Thank you so much for the visit and the lovely comment, Eddy! I wish you a wonderful day, too.

Eiddwen from Wales on February 06, 2012:

A truy beautiful hub which without a doubt I vote up up and away and a bookmark. I will be reading this one every now and then for a long time I think.

I loved it;take care and I wish you a wonderful day.


Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 06, 2012:

Thank you, Pcunix. I appreciate your visit and comment!

Tony Lawrence from SE MA on February 06, 2012:

Another beautiful creature. Thank you yet again!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on February 05, 2012:

Thank you very much for the comment and the vote, Debbie. Yes, I think all wolves are beautiful too! The maned wolf is very interesting to observe as well.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on February 05, 2012:

The Manned Wolf is so beautiful.. I love wolves any way..

great hub. thanks for sharing.

voted up