(Last Updated on : 21-12-2013)
Wolf is recognized as a distinct subspecies Canis lupus pallipes, being smaller and shorter-haired than its larger cousins inhabiting the tundra and boreal forest zones outside India. There is however a much larger race C.lupus chanco inhabiting the inner Himalayan regions and Tibet. Fifty years ago wolves were widespread in the drier plains and desert zones of peninsular and north-western India. The increase in human population and spread of cultivated areas has led to a rapid decline in their numbers, accelerated by man's incessant war against an animal which is a threat to his flocks of domestic stock. Wolves now only survive in the remoter, more sparsely populated regions such as in Rajasthan, Baluchistan, Gilgit, Ladakh, Gujarat and Bihar. In these areas they roam over large territories, often hunting in small family parties until the young become fully independent. Their principal prey is domestic sheep and goats but where wild game is abundant they can and do subsist upon hares, gazelle, and even gerbils, and desert locusts.
Wolves cannot tolerate constant human disturbance but in the areas where they do survive they are not particularly shy of mankind and will often stand and stare at the human intruder before loping off. They will hunt in late afternoon and early morning as well as throughout the hours of darkness, traversing distances up to twenty kilometres in a night.
During the day they take shelter in natural rock-caves or in burrow which they are capable of excavating themselves, and in the desert they will excavate a burrow in completely flat ground. The young are born in an underground nest-chamber and litter sizes vary from three to nine, the pups being blind and helpless at birth and taking about eight weeks to be weaned. The gestation period is around sixty eight days and female breed only once a year. In the north-western part of India and in the plains of Pakistan most litters are produced in late winter and early spring. In the Himalayas cubs are born in spring or early summer. In captivity they have lived for fifteen years. The male is attentive when the pups are young, helping to bring food, which is regurgitated by both parents in front of their offsprings.
Adult male desert wolf weighs up to twenty four kilograms and stands seventy one centimetres at the shoulder, but the Tibetan race is much bigger with longer hair and may stand eighty centimetres at the shoulder. They have short tails and a thick ruff of hair around their necks, being grizzled with grey and yellowish buff on their lower parts and predominantly black hairs on their back and the front of their limbs. Occasional individuals that are white or black have been recorded from Baluchistan and Ladakh
and this small variation occurs in the sub-arctic regions. They have pointed upstanding ears, thickly fringed with white hair on their insides and black naked nosepad and lips. The wolves will cross-breed with domestic dogs, and captive specimens are in fact easily tamed.