The 10 Largest Canine Species

Written by Hannah Ward
Updated: June 20, 2022
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When we think of canines we immediately think of man’s best friend – dogs.  However, canines are actually any of the 34 species in the Canidae family group which includes all wolves, coyotes, foxes, jackals, dingoes, and domesticated dogs.  There is a massive size range amongst canines, with one of the smallest being the tiny fennec fox.  But just how big can canines get? Join us as we discover the largest canine species ranked by weight.

10. Largest Canine: Red Fox

red fox wandering in field
The red fox has beautiful reddish-orange fur making it one of the most lovely orange animals.

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The largest of the true foxes and also one of the most common is the red fox. Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are native to Asia, Europe, North America, North Africa, and have been introduced to Australia, where they are now classed as an invasive species. Red foxes are typically reddish colored with white chins, throats, and chests. They have long, bushy tails but short limbs and weigh between 5 and 31 pounds. Red foxes are extremely adaptable and live in a wide variety of habitats. They are omnivores and eat a range of different food. Red foxes have many predators which change depending on the country. However, in North America mountain lions, bobcats, and wolves are their main ones.

9. Largest Canine: Dhole

Wild Dog Breeds: Dhole
The dhole lives in big, loosely organized groups with several breeding females. The groups usually have about 12 dholes, but some have over 40.

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Also known as Asian wild dogs, dholes are endangered animals that are native to Asia. Dholes (Cuon alpinus) weigh between 22 and 37 pounds and are reddish brown. They have a large skull and slender limbs with a long body. Dholes live mainly in mountainous and forest regions where they live in large clans with little social hierarchy. Litters consist of four to six pups which are born in dens along river banks. During the time that the female is feeding the pups other members of the clan bring her food to the den, rather than her having to go out hunting. Their diet consists of a mixture of berries, insects, rodents, hares, livestock, and deer which are almost always caught during daylight.

8. Largest Canine: Coyote

Types of Wild Dogs
Opportunistic coyotes will take advantage of pet food, garbage, and other food left out by humans, especially in urban environments.

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One of the best known animals on the list is the coyote (Canis latrans). Coyotes are usually light gray and weigh between 15 and 40 pounds. Although they have a similar appearance to gray wolves, coyotes carry their tail down rather than up like a wolf. They are native to North America where they live in grasslands, mountains, deserts, and forests. Dens are made in hollow tree trunks and around six pups are born after a 63 day gestation period. Coyotes are one of the most vocal animals in the US and communicate through a series of howls, yelps, barks, and growls. They have an incredibly varied diet, while their main predators are gray wolves and mountain lions.

7. Largest Canine: Ethiopian Wolf

The most endangered canine in Africa is the Ethiopian wolf. Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) are native to Ethiopia ‘where they are limited to grasslands on mountain ranges at altitudes between 9,800 and 14,500 feet. They weigh between 24 and 43 pounds and are a reddish color with a white chest and throat and white underneath their tail. Ethiopian wolves live in packs of up to 20 adults plus pups. They prey almost exclusively on rodents such as African mole rats, grass rats, and highland hares. They don’t hunt in packs, instead preferring to forage individually during the day.

6. Largest Canine: Maned Wolf

Coolest Animals: The Maned Wolf
The maned wolf derives its name from the characteristic mane on its neck which stands erect when it scents danger.

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The largest canines species in South America is the maned wolf which weighs between 44 and 66 pounds. Maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) are native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay– although they are almost extinct in the latter country. They tend to look like a cross between a wolf and a fox, although they are neither. Maned wolves are a reddish color with a black mane, a white tuft on the tail and white underneath their throat. They also have long legs which are suited to their grassland habitat. Maned wolves are solitary animals and hunt mainly during the twilight hours. They are omnivorous and feed on birds, rodents, fish, deer, and wolf apples (a tomato-like fruit).

5. Largest Canine: Eastern Wolf

tibetan mastiff vs wolf
The eastern timber wolf numbers are currently low, but they inhabit forests in Canada and North America.

Also known as the timber wolf, the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) is native to southeastern Canada as well as the Great Lakes region. Eastern wolves are greyish brown and usually weigh between 50 and 70 pounds, with males being heavier than females. They live in forests and the clearance of their natural habitat for farmland development is a serious threat to them across large parts of their range. They are also seriously threatened by hunting, and a combination of the two means that they are classed as an at risk species in Canada. Eastern wolves are one of the main predators of whitetailed deer, but they also prey on beavers and other small to medium sized mammals.

4. Largest Canine: African Wild Dog

Types of Wild Dogs
The African wild dog is one of the world’s most endangered mammals and can be identified by its long legs and irregular fur patterns.

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The largest canine species in Africa is the African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) which weighs between 40 and 79 pounds. African wild dogs are native to sub-Saharan Africa and there are five recognized subspecies. They predominantly live in open grasslands and are characterized by their large, over-sized ears and blotched black, brown, and yellow appearance. African wild dogs live and hunt in packs which can be as large as 25 adults plus younger animals. They mainly feed on Thompson’s gazelles, impala, springbok, and wildebeest, although they also feed on smaller animals such as hares. African wild dogs are an endangered species and their main predators are lions. Rather than killing them as a source of food, many African wild dogs are killed by lions just because they are seen as a competitor to them.

3. Largest Canine: Red Wolf

Red Wolf
The red wolf is critically endangered according to the IUCN Red List.

Native to the southeastern US, red wolves (Canis rufus) are a critically endangered species.  They are the subject of many captive breeding programmes and have been successfully reintroduced to the wild in several states. Red wolves typically weigh 50 to 85 pounds. They are characterized by their reddish fur, long legs, and light markings around their faces. They occur in a wide range of habitats, although historically their numbers are particularly high in swamp and wetland regions. However, generally they tend to live where prey is abundant and there are fewer humans. Red wolves make dens along stream banks and in hollow tree trunks where they give birth to between two and six pups. Red wolves usually prey on small mammals such as rabbits, raccoons, and rodents, although they also sometimes prey on whitetail deer.

2. Largest Canine: Domesticated Dog

Merle great dane looking back at some sound
Great danes are one of the largest breeds of dog

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In second position with a wide size range is the domesticated dog (Canis familiaris). Dogs are closely elated to wolves. However, they have been domesticated for thousands of years when they were originally used by hunter-gatherers. There are hundreds of different dog breeds which range in size from tiny Chihuahuas weighing only a few pounds all the way up to huge Great Danes and English Mastiffs. Although both of those breeds can sometimes weigh up to 200 pounds, the general consensus is that dogs are not quite the largest canine species, given the vast range of sizes across the number of breeds.

1. Largest Canine: Gray Wolf

Animals That Can See Infrared wolf
Gray wolves are considered to be elegant predators and highly social animals that form tight, nuclear packs. 

The largest canine species in the world is the gray wolf. Gray wolves (Canis lupus) are 31 to 33 inches tall, more than 5 feet long and can weigh anything up to 175 pounds. There are more than 30 recognized subspecies and they are native to Eurasia and North America, with the largest amongst them being found in Alaska, Canada, and Russia. Gray wolves have powerful bodies with a muscular neck and a strong jaw. Despite their name, the color of gray wolves can be variable. Although gray is the predominant color, black, white and reddish colors are not uncommon. Gray wolves are incredibly skilled hunters and are capable of bringing down large prey when they work as a pack – including moose, deer, elk, and caribou. However, they are under constant threat by people who continue to hunt them, often in retaliation for livestock predation.

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About the Author

I'm an avid animal lover, and when not writing I can be found on my farm surrounded by dogs, horses, and sheep.