Maned Wolf, South America’s Bizarre “Golden Dog”

With huge ears and stilt legs, the maned wolf is a unique animal that roams the plains of Brazil and Argentina.

At first glance, the maned wolf looks like a cross between a fox and a dog. Although the name suggests it belongs to the canine family, it’s actually neither a deer nor a fox – and it’s not a wolf either.

Instead, its scientific name – Chrysocyon brachyurus – suggests that it is an animal in a class literally by itself. Although widespread in South America, its existence is threatened by urbanization and is almost extinct in its native Uruguay. And it doesn’t help that parts of her body have been used in traditional medicine — even if there’s no evidence, anecdotal or otherwise, that the treatment is effective.

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Learn more about this magnificent unique creature.

All about the incredible maned wolf

DeAgostini/Getty ImagesThe South American maned wolf is literally a unique creature.

With a thick red coat, long black legs and large ears that protrude from its head, the maned wolf can weigh up to 66 pounds and reach a length of about three feet, according to The Smithsonian. With an omnivorous diet and nocturnal lifestyle, the animal lives in savannah environments, but is mainly found in the northeastern region of Brazil.

Previously, it was found in countries like Argentina and Uruguay, but urbanization in the latter country has driven it to near extinction, forcing it to migrate north.

Chrysocyon brachyurus is a solitary hunter, preferring to hunt alone while foraging rather than in packs. Although it is an omnivorous animal, the maned wolf’s preferred diet includes foods such as seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as small birds and insects.

Due to its nature, the maned wolf is not inclined to hunt wild animals much larger than it is. In addition, its only natural enemies are the domestic dog and the cougar, which have already killed the maned wolf in the past.

Little is known about the mating habits of the animal. Like wolves, the creature is monogamous and guards its mate throughout its life. On average, each pup produces between two and three pups and the average gestation period is around two months.

Unfortunately, threats from urbanization and traditional medicinal practices continued to threaten its existence, and the maned wolf was indeed on the brink of extinction for some time.

Threats of urbanization and traditional medicine

Maned wolf in the forest

gettyA South American maned wolf stands at attention in the forest.

As their natural habitats continue to be attacked by increasing urbanization efforts, particularly in Uruguay, the maned wolf continues to face threats to its existence. In addition to the threat of being killed by domestic dogs, the animal also faces threats from communicable diseases from its distant relatives – diseases known to kill them.

In addition, maned wolves are frequently run over by automobiles in increasingly urbanized areas, posing an additional threat to their existence. Even humans will participate in the action of hunting them – especially if they believe the wolf is going to hunt or has hunted their chickens. Many chicken breeders are known to hunt entire packs of maned wolves for revenge after the loss of their chickens.

In the past, the animal was hunted by native Brazilians for its body parts. Notably, its parts have been used in traditional medicine, although there is no evidence – anecdotal or otherwise – that its parts offer therapeutic benefits. In addition, the maned wolf was hunted for its eyes, which some Brazilians consider lucky talismans.

While the animal has yet to be declared extinct, conservationists are aware that its existence is at risk — and are taking steps to ensure it continues to thrive for years to come.

Efforts to save the maned wolf

The yawn of the maned wolf

Tambako the Jaguar/FlickrA maned wolf yawns in the wild.

Officially, the maned wolf is listed on Appendix II of CITES, US ESA-Endangered and IUCN-Vulnerable. However, their populations continue to decline and experts believe that they will soon be placed on the endangered species list.

To combat the effects of urbanization and other threats, conservationists have taken steps to ensure the species continues to survive – and thrive – in its natural habitat.

Laws have been passed in Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina banning maned wolf hunting, and zoos have even helped critical populations survive and thrive in a protected environment.

Whatever you call it, the maned wolf is an animal that has thrived in the wild for millennia and deserves to continue to thrive despite human activities.


Now that you’ve read all about the maned wolf, take a look at the wolf eel, a grotesque-looking sea creature that lives in the Pacific Ocean but whose ugly appearance belies its gentle nature. Then learn about the Gray Cubs that recently appeared in Colorado for the first time in 80 years.

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