Although there are significant differences, many people tend to interchange coyote to wolf or vice versa. It could not be denied that coyote looks similar to wolves at first glance but when observed carefully; their differences and uniqueness could be highlighted. What is the difference between a coyote and wolf?
Coyote (Canis latrans), which is also known as prairie wolf or American jackal, belongs to the kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Canidae and Genus Canis. The scientific name of coyote means “barking dog” in Latin. It is commonly seen in North and Central America ranging from Panama until Canada. This specie can also be seen far north as Alaska. Currently, there are 19 known subspecies of Coyote. Majority of which, specifically 16 species, are in Canada, United States and Mexico while three of which are in Central America.
The fur of coyote varies in color. The upper part of its body may have grayish brown to yellowish gray pelt while its throat and belly have white or buff color. The sides of its head, forelegs, muzzle ad paws are reddish brown in color. Its back has tawny-colored underfur and black tipped guard hairs which form a black stripe and dark cross on the shoulder area. Coyotes shed their fur beginning in May with light shedding and increases until July. Coyotes dwelling in the mountain have dark fur while those who live in the desert have lighter fur. The reason for this is adaptation to the environmental temperature where lighter fur is much cooler than darker one which works best for hot places like the dessert.
Coyotes grow to about 30-34 inches or 76 to 86 centimeters in length excluding its tail. Their tail has an average length of 14 inches (size may vary from 12-16 inches or 30-31 centimeters). When made to stand, coyotes have a height of 23 to 26 inches or 58 to 66 centimeters from the base up to its shoulder. The weight range of coyotes is from 15 pounds to 46 pounds or 6.8 kilograms to 21 kilograms. Typically, northern coyotes are larger than southern ones. The largest coyote on record has a weight of 743/4 pounds or 33.7 kilograms and measures 5 feet in length.
The dental formula of Coyotes is I 3/3, C1/1, Pm4/4, M 2/2 (occasionally 3/3, 3/2 or 2/3 X2 = 4-0, 44, or 42). Their upper canine teeth have 1?–1? inches of space while their lower canine teeth has 1–1¼ inches space.
Coyotes are carnivores with about 90% mammalian diet. They primarily consume small mammals like mice, voles, and ground squirrels. They also eat snakes, lizards, birds, javelin, livestocks, large insects and invertebrates. They prefer fresh meat. During winder and autumn, fruits and vegetables becomes a significant part of their diet. Urban coyotes tend to hunt cats, small dogs, and even hurt humans as well.
On the other hand, wolf or grey wolf (Canis lupus) belongs to the kingdom Animalia, Phyllum Chordata, class Mammalia, Order Carnivora, Family Canidae, and Genus Canis. It primarily inhabits greater portion of Eurasia, North Africa and North America. Today, the population of wolf is significantly decreased because of destruction of its territory and frequent human-wolf encounters that may result in extinction. However, according to the International Union for conservation of Nature, Grey wolf is the least concern for extinction though there are steps taken today in order to protect and preserve wolf population.
Wolves are slender animals with large descending ribcages and sloping backs. Their neck is heavily muscled and their abdomens are pulled in. Their forelimbs are pressed into the chest and elbows are pointed inward while their feet are pointed forward. Their limbs are long and strong while their paws are small. Their front paws have five toes while their back paws have only four paws. Female wolves have a smaller body size than males and both sexes are strong for their size. Wolves have the capability to turn over a frozen horse!
The fur of wolves is very dense and fluffy. They have short underfur and long coarse guard hairs. Their underfur and guard fur shed off during the spring and grows back during autumn period.
The size and weight of wolves greatly varies and tend to increase proportionally with latitude. Adult wolves have a range length of 105 to 160 centimeters or 41 to 63 inches and when they are made to stand their shoulder height is about 80-85 centimeters or 32 to 34 inches. Their tail is about 2/3 the length of their head and body which measures 29-50 centimeters or 11-20 inches. Weight of wolves varies. Northern American wolves have a weight of 36 kilograms or 79 pounds, European wolves has a weight of 38.5 kilograms or 85 pounds, while Indian or Arabian wolves have a weight of 25 kilograms or 55 pounds.
The dental formula of wolves is 220.127.116.11 and 18.104.22.168. Their teeth are heavy and large with the capability to crush a bone. Wolves have a crushing pressure of 1,500 lbf/in2 (compared to German Shepherd with only 750 lbf/in2). Their canine teeth are strong and short (about 26mm).
Wolves are not fussy eaters. They even feed on animals 10 times greater than their size. Wolves eat foxes, sheep, hares, badgers, hamsters, voles, rodents, waterfowl, snakes, lizards, and even fruits and vegetables like berries, lily of the valley, melons, apples and pears.