Scientific Name Chrysocyon brachyurus
Conservation Status Near threatened
Often described as a ‘fox on stilts’ the maned wolf is instantly recognisable for the long legs which are believed to be an adaptation allowing them to easily see over tall pampas grasses.
Their coat is an orangey red across most of the body. Under the muzzle, along the tail and inside the ears the fur is white. The legs have black fur up until the knees.
They have a distinctive mane which is also coloured black. This is raised up when they are threatened to scare off predators.
A maned wolf was caught on a camera trap which was melanistic (had a coat which is fully black).
The average maned wolf has a body measuring 1.2-1.3m (4-4.25ft). The tail adds up to 45cm (18in) to the body length. At the shoulder they stand 74-91cm (29-36in) tall.
Another distinctive feature is the large ears which can stand up to 17.5cm (7in) tall.
Maned wolves can be expected to live for up to 15 years in captivity.
The maned wolf is an omnivore. Up to half of their diet consists of fruit. The rest is supplemented with small mammals, birds and reptiles, insects, palm nuts, eggs and grass.
A particular favourite of theirs during the rainy season is lobiera, or wolf apple which a fruit similar to the tomato.
They have a symbiotic relationship with a range of plants in their habitat. When they eat the fruit they will spread the seeds which have a significantly increased germination rate as a result of this process.
South America is the native home of the maned wolf. Here they can be found throughout Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Uruguay.
Maned wolves make their home in the open areas such as savannahs, swamps, scrub forests and grasslands of this region.
They are decreasing in number across their habitat as a result of ongoing habitat destruction.
Breeding takes place from November to April. They will come together to pair up and mate. While studies on this species in the wild are limited it is believed that the father leaves soon after mating. The mother begins to make a den out of tall grass or thickets.
It is in this den that she will give birth to one to five pups following a two month gestation period. The fur on these pups will be coloured black or a dark brown. At birth they weigh just 450g (16oz).
The pups are reliant upon their mother for food throughout their first year. Initially they will be provided with milk by their mother. Weaning occurs around the 4 month mark.
Once they are weaned she will regurgitate the food which she has hunted so they can feed. This behaviour has been observed in captivity by males who are housed with their young but it is believed that this is rare in the wild.
It takes several months for the long legs and adult colouration to grow in.
Sexual maturity is reached around their first year of age. It is unlikely that these animals will breed until their second year of life.
Maned wolves are nocturnal.
The only predator known to hunt upon adult maned wolves is humans. They will sometimes persecute maned wolves for eating their chickens. There is also a belief in some cultures that their body parts have medicinal properties. When they come across domestic dogs they can catch disease which can lead to them becoming unwell.
Maned wolves have a poor sense of smell instead of using their vision to communicate they use urine. This has an incredibly distinct smell and they use this to mark buried prey or places they hunt.
Sound is also an important method of communication. Three main vocalisations are used. They can bark, growl or they have a high pitched whine.
They are a solitary species. They will only come together for the purposes of mating though a male and female can often have similar territories which they share.
When digging they use their teeth as opposed to their claws.
Their large ears allow them to listen for prey in the grasses.
They are the only members of their genus, Chrysocyon, this name means ‘golden dog,’
Maned wolves are the largest members of the canid family in South America.
The distinctive odour of their urine has led to them being referred to as the ‘skunk wolf.’
In Brazil hearing their call is seen as a sign that the weather is about to change.
Top – By Calle Eklund/V-wolf (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Pup – By Michaelstone428 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom – By Press-office.fc.de (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons