Wolf Communication – Part 1: Vocalization

Feature - Howling

The truth is that the howl has contributed to the bad rap that wolves have obtained over the years. In the wild, howling is the wolves’ universe and it is involved in every aspect of their lives. For the most part wolves howl because it is the glue that physically binds the pack together.

It is commonplace for wolves to become separated when they hunt due to the vast areas where they roam. Though wolves have many types of sounds, only the howl can travel long distances. It has been documented that some howls travel as much as 10 miles! This is mainly due to the low pitch and the duration of a wolf howl, the sound frequencies are well suited across open spaces and the forest.

Each wolf has its own unique howl which helps the pack identify the other members. It won’t take long for a wolf to start howling if it has been separated from the pack, and they likely won’t stop until the pack communicates back to them.

Wolves can also howl before a hunt, after a successful hunt in which they have consumed their meal and if there is an intruder present. However, a single wolf howling has to be careful because a competing pack may attack the lone wolf.

Sometimes when a pack howls together, there can be a nasty argument at the end of the chorus. It is thought that it is a way to maintain social order, especially to keep the lowest-ranking members in their place.

One thing is certain; the pack that howls together stays together.

PBS’s Nova website has a wide variety of recorded howls, a great place to start understanding more about the various howls.

Better yet, take a tour and see the Wolves of Speedwell and you might just hear the chorus for yourself. At Speedwell we have a number of packs and often when one pack starts howling the other packs join in. It’s an amazing experience to be in the middle of our grounds with dozens upon dozens of our wolves all howling together. Of course we think they are singing thanks for supporting our pack!

If you want to hear just how cool it is to hear a lot of wolves howl, take a look at this video showing some Speedwell Wolves having a howl of a time.

Good times!