Do Wolves Howl At The Moon? Facts And Myths Explained For Kids | Kidadl


Do Wolves Howl At The Moon? Facts And Myths Explained For Kids

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Thanks to movies like the 'Wolfman' and 'Twilight', wolves are now some of the most popular animals.

They have also become the main plot in several storybooks and movies. A wolf is a canine belonging to the Canidae family.

It is the largest living member of the family. It is closely related to coyotes and golden jackals. The name 'wolf' is derived from an old English word 'wulf'. The roots of this word come from the Proto-Germanic word 'wulfaz'. The scientific name is derived from Latin where 'canis' means 'dog' and 'lupus' means 'wolf'. The name was given by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist in 1785. Wolves were not always this famous or well-liked. Initially, they were thought to be ugly creatures and were hunted. There have been several stories regarding wolf howls. Wolves and their howls have been used in romantic movies and in all sort of horror movies.

Keep reading to find out the scientific standpoint Once you have finished this article do check out our other interesting articles on are wolves dangerous and why do wolves howl.

Do wolves really howl at the moon?

It is true that wolves always look up at the moon while howling but do they actually howl at the moon?

Not really. This is a general behavior observed in almost all wolves. They look up, point their snout towards the sky, and let out a loud howl. They do this so that other members of the pack can hear them. Wolves, just like dogs, use these sounds as a form of communication. They do this so that they can be heard over a long distance. The wolf has no connection to the moon. It is all just a part of the human imagination.

Did you know wolf pups start howling by the time they reach three or four weeks? The howls get better as they grow along with pack members.

Why do wolves howl at the moon?

We always see wolves looking up, facing towards the moon while howling. For a very long time, it was believed that they had some connection with the moon. We have even seen movies that portray the same. We are sorry to break your bubble, but that is not the case. The moon does not have an effect on wolves and they don't actually howl at the moon.

Wolves, just like dogs, and all other animals use such noises as a form of communication. For instance when a gray wolf spots a large prey or has hunted down large prey that is too big for it to consume it looks up and howls calling other members of the pack. This behavior is associated with sound travel. Usually, wolves live in packs. They might not always stick together. When members of the pack are far away, for the sound to reach a long distance the wolf looks up and howls. They are nocturnal animals and are very active during the night. The moon just happens to be there when wolves howl.

Bright full moon with cloudy background at the night time

How does the moon affect wolves?

Wolves are more active during a full moon or howl more often during a full moon. This statement is a myth that has been heard for ages. Like previously said, the moon has no connection with the wolf. Howls are just a form of communication and nothing more.

All of us have heard about moon madness. Generally, moonlight is said to have an effect on animals. On full moon days, the behavior of animals can be weird, like pet animals get hurt more often or scorpions start glowing. There is no evidence to prove this.

A study found that the only difference spotted on full moon days was that a wolf pack traveled 1.16 mi (1.88 km) less than they normally do. They did not come out to hunt vivaciously as they did on normal days. It was concluded that this had more to do with conservation of energy and food availability rather than the moon itself.

Sounds That Wolves Might Make

Wolves don't just howl. They can produce other sounds to communicate. A wolf cannot just identify the call noises of the group members but also that of other species. Wolves howl to communicate messages when they spot prey, to mark territory, to call their mate, and when they have separated the call to locate other pack members. While howls are typically heard at night during the day they use other types of noises like barking, growling, whimpering, and howling. The language of the wolf is Latin to humans. These are just predictions made by humans based on their behaviors.

Whimpering: This type of noise might be produced by a mother. When the mother is ready to nurse her pups she might whimper. Wolves also use this to express defeat. This whimpering noise can send a give-up message to the other wolves.

Growling: Wolves growl to warn other pack members when they spot predators or see someone entering their territory. They do this to exhibit dominance or while they are trying to defend themselves. They also growl when they find food.

Barking: Wolves rarely bark. It is usually an alarm call when they spot other packs. Barks can be accompanied by howls when they sense danger. The adult members of the family bark to warn the pups indicating them to get to a safe location.

Howling: Barking, growling, and whispering cannot be used over long distances. In open terrain, wolves howl to communicate messages. They can also howl when they are separated from other members of the group or lost in a wild forest. In open terrain, you can hear the howl of a wolf up to 10 mi.

Just like the human language, there is more to a wolf's language. They can tell a whole lot of things with just a howl. Only wolves can confirm if these are true or not. Alpha males are the loudest. These sounds help to attract a mate and to inform the pack of its location.

The History Of Wolf Howling

The history of wolf howling has evolved over the centuries. There were and still are several myths about the howls of this wild creature. Of the several myths, the widely accepted one is the wolf's moon howling.

This idea was developed from Native American mythology. Legends pictured wolves as guardians whose existence protected the moon. Numerous art works by Native Americans pairs the moon and wolves together. This was just a poet's imagination whichever time was believed to be true. This theory was further adopted by people in other parts of the world. People did have their own modified versions. As per Norse mythology, wolves were descendants of the trickster God, Loki. They were predicted to swallow the sun and moon over time. Pliny the Elde, in Roman antiquity, gave a dubious description of lycanthropy, or werewolves, in his 'Natural History'. Wolves have been seen as something devilish and demonic for a long time now. This explains why ancient people pair them up with the natural satellite that lights up the sky at night. There is a connection between moon gods and wolves too. The Greek goddess of the moon, Hecate, hung out with dogs. The Roman goddess of the moon and hunt, Diana, ruled the forest areas where the wolves lives. It is said that she kept a watch over these animals. This is yet another reason why people believed wolves are howling at the moon at night.

Did You Know...

The Wolf moon of January is a name given to the full moon. Starving wolf packs stood outside the Native American villages on a full moon day. This is how the moon got its name.

Wolf is the national animal of Estonia.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do wolves howl at the moon then why not take a look at how fast can a wolf run, or Indian wolf facts pages.

Kidadl Team
Written By
Kidadl Team

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