The Maned Wolf: A Dog with Deer Legs

Not literally. In all seriousness, however, the strikingly unique Chrysocyon brachyurus is the only species in its genus, and you can quickly see why. The Maned Wolf is the tallest of all wild canids and features captivatingly long and spindly legs. It may look like a fox or a wolf, but it is not closely related to them, and has an evolutionary relationship to its distant ancestors that makes it an animal distinct to itself.



The Maned Wolf resides primarily in South America in open grasslands with scattered bushes and trees. It can be found in certain areas in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru. It is the largest canid of South America and is actively being displaced through the loss of habitat- therefore, you may find it in zoos and conservatories elsewhere as well.



Surprisingly, the Maned Wolf does not engage in the typical large-canid behavior of social pack forming. Monogamous pairs may share a territory, but these “wolves” prefer to hunt and exist alone as adults. They hunt between sundown and midnight by rotating their large ears and listening for prey, and will pat the ground with one of their front paws to flush out a small tasty treat. Maned wolves will also eat vegetable matter alongside of fish, rodents, and birds.


“Skunk Wolf”

Maned wolves use their urine to communicate with one another, regardless of their gender. They may mark in order to distinguish a hunting path or a place where they buried a prey. They’ve been nicknamed the “skunk wolf” in some areas due to the fact that their urine has a powerful odor resembling that of a skunk’s spray or cannabis.


A Bleak Future

As with many extraordinary species encroached upon by human need, the Maned Wolf is being endangered by a loss of territory. While organizations like the Smithsonian National Zoo Park have been working to protect the Maned Wolf, it is possible that we will eventually only be able to see it in captivity one day. For now, we can appreciate the elegance of such a creature which has deviated magnificently from the evolutionary path of all other wolves and foxes. A dog with deer legs, indeed.