Desert Wolf

Canis lupus arabs

Last updated: December 3, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Jrs Jahangeer/Shutterstock.com

These tiny wolves prefer to cohabitate in pairs or groups of three (generally two males and a female).

Desert Wolf Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Carnivora
Family
Canidae
Genus
Canis
Scientific Name
Canis lupus arabs

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Desert Wolf Conservation Status

Desert Wolf Locations

Desert Wolf Locations

Desert Wolf Facts

Prey
Reptiles, Rodents, Insects, Hares, Foxes , Ibexes, Ariel gazelle
Name Of Young
Puppy
Group Behavior
  • Group
  • Pair
Fun Fact
These tiny wolves prefer to cohabitate in pairs or groups of three (generally two males and a female).
Estimated Population Size
1150 individuals
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Other Name(s)
Arabian wolf
Gestation Period
65 to 68 days
Litter Size
2 to 3 pups
Habitat
Gravel plains, mountainous areas, and desert fringes
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Common Name
Desert Wolf
Origin
Israel, Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt

Desert Wolf Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Fur
Lifespan
5 to 6 years
Weight
45 pounds
Height
2 feet
Age of Weaning
6 to 8 weeks
Aggression
Low

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The desert wolf is the smallest subspecies of the gray wolf family, commonly referred to as the Arabian wolf. These scrappy canines originate from the Arabian Peninsula but also occur in various regions of northern Asia.

While they share many traits with their bigger cousin, Arabian wolves differ in a few notable ways. For example, they do not howl, they live in small packs or pairs, and their middle toes are fused.

Identifying desert wolves is easy; they have brownish-gray fur with a black mantle running down their backs. In addition, these wolves have striking yellow or brown eyes. The reason for the difference in eye color could be due to a lineage that interbred with feral dogs.

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Desert Wolf History and Evolution

The desert wolf used to occur throughout the entire Arabian Peninsula, but at present, they only inhabit small pockets of Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Egypt. Sadly, the reason behind their decline is human activity.

The Arabian wolf adapted to live in the desert. Their coats are much thinner and shorter than other gray wolves. However, the black mantel fur on their backs is longer, which helps repel solar radiation.

In addition, these wolves can’t carry excess weight to survive in those arid climates. Therefore desert wolves are very lean.

Lastly, they have larger ears than those of other Canis species, which they use to dissipate heat and cool their blood.

Three Desert Wolf Facts

  • Farmers often shoot, trap, or poison desert wolves because they kill and eat livestock.
  • Unlike their cousins, these wolves don’t live in large packs; instead, they live in pairs or groups of three to four members.
  • Their breeding season differs from that of the northern sub-species, as it starts in the fall and lasts until the end of December.

Desert Wolf Scientific Name

The Desert wolf’s scientific name is Canis lupus arabs, and they belong to the order Carnivora. Members of this order show a great deal of diversity, as there are 15 families and around 268 species. While most of the species belonging to Carnivora are carnivores, some eat both meat and plant matter.

There are Carnivora species all over the world except for Australia, as the dingo is not native to the continent. It was introduced over 4000 years ago.

Arabian wolves are members of the Canidae family, which consists of 35 species in 13 genera. Species in this family include:

Desert Wolf Appearance

Desert wolf
The desert wolf is a beautiful animal with deep yellow or brown eyes.

©cpaulfell/Shutterstock.com

The desert wolf has brownish-gray fur, a white or beige belly, and a black mantle running down their backs. In addition, some of them have deep yellow eyes, while others have brown eyes.

Arabian wolves grow to around 2 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh approximately 45 pounds. So, when comparing them to Mackenzie or Timberwolves, they are tiny! On the other hand, desert wolves are similar in size and weight to coyotes.

Desert Wolf Behavior

What distinguishes these wolves from other species is their social structure. They prefer to cohabitate in pairs or groups of three (generally two males and a female). In fact, these predators enjoy being alone; because of their independence, they rarely howl.

In addition, desert wolf males do not mark or defend their territory unless they are protecting their puppies.

While these stealthy little wolves adapted to living in arid conditions, they also dig holes to bury themselves in the cool sand during the day.

However, if they are too hot to dig, Arabian wolves will take refuge in shaded areas, caves, and thick bushes. But, once the sun sets and the temperature drops, they will come out to hunt, making them nocturnal creatures.

Desert Wolf Habitat

The desert wolf inhabits one of the toughest environments on the planet, the arid and semi-arid regions of the Middle East. These little wolves are very adaptable and thrive in gravel plains, mountainous areas, and desert fringes. While they are not territorial, they have large home ranges, which they patrol frequently.

Desert Wolf Diet

The desert wolf is a carnivore and likes to prey on animals like:

  • Reptiles
  • Rodents
  • Insects
  • Hares
  • Foxes
  • Ibexes
  • Ariel gazelle

However, Arabian wolves living near urban areas will occasionally eat garbage, pet food, and even small pets. In addition, these sly canines often visit carrion pits and sites used to dump livestock carcasses. These sites are good for the farmers because the wolves usually find enough food, so they don’t need to hunt goats or other domestic animals.

Desert Wolf Predators and Threats

While the desert wolf doesn’t have any documented predators, they share their habitat with carnivores like the Arabian leopard, caracal, and hyena. Therefore, it is likely that these tiny wolves will fall prey to these powerful predators.

Desert Wolf Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Arabian wolf’s mating season starts in October and lasts until December. Mother wolves will carry the pups for 63 to 65 days. Female desert wolves generally have two to three pups in a litter, but there are documented cases of 12-puppy litters.

Having such a large litter is unusual for species living in arid regions; typically, desert animals only have one baby. This increases the chances of survival of both the young and the mother.

Arabian wolf puppies are born blind and depend entirely on their mother, who regurgitates food for them. She will eventually wean her offspring between six to eight weeks.

Desert wolves can live up to 13 years, but their average lifespan is between five to six years.

Desert Wolf Population

These wolves are listed as Critically Endangered, and Oman is one of the few countries that protects them. Therefore, since hunting was banned, the Arabian wolf population has increased.

Sadly, in Israel, there are only 100 to 150 individuals left. While harassing or killing these wolves is prohibited in Israel, there is no livestock damage or predation compensation, so residents take measures into their own hands.

Saudi Arabia has the biggest population of desert wolves, with around 300 to 600 individuals. In addition, there are approximately 450 individuals scattered around Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Unfortunately, they are extinct in the UAE.

Desert Wolf In Captivity

Sadly, there are no national parks or conservation areas for the desert wolf. However, Oman is breeding these wolves in captivity and sending them to breeding projects in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Animals Similar to the Desert Wolf

There are several species that are similar to these wolves in size, behavior, and the habitats they prefer; they include:

Dingo

Despite what many people think, dingos are not native to Australia. They are, in fact, a subspecies of wolves. Researchers believe that dingos were introduced to the land down under from Southeast Asia over 4000 years ago. These dog-like predators can live in harsh desert environments, but they also inhabit dense rainforests.

Mexican Wolf

Mexican wolves occur in southern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona, and northern Mexico, where they inhabit mountainous woodlands and deserts.

Unfortunately, this species faces extinction due to habitat loss and ranchers who shoot them when they kill their livestock.

Mexican wolves have dark rust-colored, brown, or grey pelts, small, narrow skulls, and bushy tails.

African Golden Wolf

The African golden wolf is native to north-eastern and north-western regions of Africa, in countries like Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Senegal, Chad, Tanzania, and Nigeria.

These canids have adapted to living in harsh desert conditions and are commonly found throughout plains and steppe areas with very little water.

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About the Author

I am a 33-year-old creative and professional writer from South Africa. Wildlife is one of my greatest passions and led me to become the writer I am today. I was very blessed to work with an abundance of wildlife (mainly big cats) and captured my unique experiences in writing. But I wanted to take it further, and I ventured into the freelancing world. Now, I get to spend my days writing about animals; what could be better?

Desert Wolf FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are wolves in the desert?

The desert wolf inhabits one of the toughest environments on the planet, the arid and semi-arid regions of the Middle East.

Where do desert wolves live?

These scrappy canines originate from the Arabian peninsula but also occur in various regions of northern Asia.

What do desert wolves eat?

The desert wolf is a carnivore and likes to prey on the following animals:
• Reptiles
• Rodents
• Insects
• Hares
• Foxes
• Ibexes
• Ariel gazelle

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabian_wolf
  2. The UK Wolf Conservation Trust, Available here: https://ukwct.org.uk/files/education/WP_Ed38_Arabian-Wolf.pdf
  3. All Things Nature, Available here: https://www.allthingsnature.org/what-is-the-arabian-wolf.htm

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