Difference between a Coyote and a Wolf

Updated on August 18, 2016

What is a wolf? The dog’s wild cousin. Then what is a coyote? The dog’s even wilder cousin, the one they’d seat at the farthest table at a family get-together. If you’re having trouble telling one from another without needing to make such analogies, then continue reading. You might just find out what difference is between a coyote and a wolf.


A coyote

A coyote is a member of the Canidae family, of the Canis genus. It is a mammal whose distribution covers the territories of North and Central America. It is a medium-sized animal, weighing around 18 to 44 pounds. Its body length can reach from 3 feet 3 inches to 4 feet 11 inches from nose to tail. The fur color can vary according to its geographical location. It can be light gray and darker in the higher regions or red or fulvous in the desert regions. The coyote is known to make a variation of sounds such as howls, yelps or yips.

A coyote’s diet consists mainly of meat: smaller animals such as rodents, fish, deer and birds. They also eat fruit and vegetables on occasion. The coyote’s main enemies are cougars, wolves and humans. Just like in the case of foxes, coyotes rely more on visual cues.

Since they do not necessarily hunt bigger animals, coyotes do not always live in packs. The small family unit consisting of the mating partner will do. When the female is approaching its fertile period, it will give out a powerful scent and its howl will have a higher frequency. Up to seven males can follow the scent of a female before her reproductive period. Although there may be some fighting among the males over the female, once one male has been selected for copulation the others move on. The gestation period is of 63 days and a litter can contain as many as six pups.

A wolf

The wolf is a member of the Canidae family and the Canis genus. It can be found in the wilderness of Eurasia and North America. It is a medium-sized animal whose weight can reach 95 to 99 pounds. Adult wolves can measure in length 41 to 63 inches from nose to tail. The fur can vary in color as it also changes from the cold to the warm season. The color can be white, gray, dark or brown, depending on the geographic location. The sound the wolf makes is called a howl.

Wolves hunt large prey in packs. Their cues are mainly auditory, as they are able to hear up to a frequency of 26 kHz. A wolf’s sense of smell is less acute compared to that of a hunting dog. They are highly territorial animals, covering about 9 percent of their territory each day.

Wolves are monogamous animals and mate for life. The gestation period of wolves takes 62 to 75 days. Pups are always born in summer. Unlike any other species of the Canidae family, wolves give birth to bigger pups in smaller litters.

Coyote vs Wolf

So what is the difference between a coyote and a wolf?

Both the coyote and the wolf are members of the Canidae family and the Canis genus. However, the coyote is found in North and Central America, while the wolf can be found in most parts of Eurasia and North America.

The wolf is twice as big as the coyote. Its features are also rounder, as the coyote’s frame, face and muzzle are all thin. Another important physical trait consists of the fact that coyotes tend to keep their bushy tails downward when they run or walk. By comparison, the wolf holds its tail horizontally.

As far as hunting habits go, wolves hunt larger prey and they do it in large packs. As they are smaller animals, coyotes will only occasionally go for larger prey and prefer smaller animals that they can hunt with their partner. Coyotes will occasionally form packs while wolves’ social behavior revolves around being a part of the pack.

Coyotes have several partners during one lifetime, while wolves mate for life. The litter of the coyote can be as numerous as 6 pups, while wolves have smaller litters yet the biggest pups compared to other Canidae species.

Comparison Chart

Member of the Canidae family and the Canis genusMember of the Canidae family and the Canis genus
Can be found in Central and North AmericaCan be found in Eurasia and North America
Can be grey, red, fulvousCan be white, grey, dark, brown
Can weigh up to 44 lbsCan weigh up to 99 lbs
When walking, a coyote keeps its tail downwardWhen walking, a wolf keeps its tail horizontal
Hunts smaller animals, fish and birds, occasionally hunts bigger preyHunts big prey, as well as small animals
Hunts with its partner, occasionally forming small packsHunts and lives in packs
Mates with several partners in a lifetimeMates for life
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