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Why Do Maned Wolves Have Long Legs?

Maned wolves have long legs so that they can see out of tall grasses when they’re out in the field, allowing them to have an advantage over other animals in the same habitat.

It is estimated that a maned wolf will be around 3 feet tall (90 centimeters), which means they’re taller than most wolf species, mainly thanks to their long legs. But even though it looks like a fox and it’s called a wolf, it belongs to neither of the two species.

Why Are Long Legs Useful for Maned Wolves?

Maned wolves live in grasslands where the grasses are tall and are scattered with bushes and trees, which means they’ll need a way to see over the tall grasses and peer out of the grass to see what’s going on outside the grasslands.

So the long legs play an important role for maned wolves: they allow them to see out of the grass and recognize threats or potential opportunities to catch prey.

In their habitat, they face various potential threats, especially from the air, too. So the long legs also allow them to spot potential dangers that might harm them, such as eagles and other airborne animals that attack from the sky.

Because of their long legs, maned wolves are the tallest canid species in the world, surpassing the likes of gray wolf and other types of wolves that are present all over the world.

These legs are the result of their unique evolution. Maned wolves are believed to have been separated from other wolf species millions of years ago and developed only in South America. This meant they had to adapt to their surroundings and grow out tall and long legs so they could see out of the grasslands.

Is a Maned Wolf a True Wolf?

No, maned wolves are their own species because genetically, they don’t belong to foxes nor they belong to wolves. Instead, they form their own genus called Chrysocyon.

There are many misconceptions about maned wolves and that’s mainly because of their appearance.

They look like a fox but have wolf-like behavior, so there is some confusion among those who are interested in maned wolves.

To clear up that confusion, let’s take a closer look at the history of maned wolves and how they developed as a species.

Up until the beginning of the 19th century, it was widely believed that maned wolves were a part of the wolf family, just a rare wolf species that is found only in South America. However, after collecting the fossils of this species from Pleistocene, scientists uncovered an interesting truth: maned wolves are their own species.

This was first confirmed by Charles Hamilton Smith, who first described the species as Chrysocyon. He also found out that the species has had its own evolutionary path, as it was unique and only lived in South America – unlike other wolf species which were found all over the world.

This meant that maned wolves had their own path of evolution and adapted to their habitats, which also meant they grew taller and had a different genetic structure as compared to wolves or foxes. Although it is believed that they do have the same roots, although it’s unclear when maned wolves became their own species.

Read More: Are Wolves and Coyotes the Same Species?

How Tall is a Maned Wolf?

A maned wolf will be anywhere between 3 and 4 feet tall (90-100cm), making them the tallest wild canid species in the world.

It will also weigh around 50 pounds, which is around 25 kilograms. They’re light and tall, which means they’re also athletic as they are able to hide well inside the grasslands, but also run very fast when they need to catch their prey.

They’re up to twice lighter than grey wolves, making them a bit more lightweight but also better movers and more agile, as they are capable of covering more difficult ground as compared to wolves.

Their weight distribution and their proportions allow them to stay hidden and silent when they move through the grasses, as some scientists agree that maned wolves primarily hunt in grasslands stealthily, so they don’t want to scare other animals with excess weight.

Many scientists and biologists from the past had trouble identifying the maned wolf as its separate species.

They look deceptively like foxes but also have wolf-like features and behaviors, so many of the scientists agreed that they either belonged to one or the other group of animals. It was not until the 19th century when it was confirmed through research that maned wolves have their own genetic structure and they’re their own species.

Read More: Do Wolves have Webbed Feet?

Where Do Maned Wolves Live?

Maned wolves live primarily in grasslands of South America, as they are found in various South American countries including Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay, although it’s rare in this country.

They are specific for South America and only live where there’s a lot of open ground with a lot of grassland, so they can search the grassland and hunt for rodents inside and smaller mammals, but it will also leave grasslands when they find prey outside of it.

There are many concerns about maned wolves losing their habitat because of cleared grasslands, which is especially typical for Uruguay.

That’s why some animal lovers call for controlled and lowered interference into the natural habitat of maned wolves, which is becoming more and more threatened each year. At the moment, the maned wolf is a near-threatened species, which is already on the spectrum of threatened species.


To conclude, maned wolves have long legs because they allow them to see out of the grasslands they live in. This makes them better predators as they have a better vision than most animals in their habitat.

The long legs of the maned wolf have always been a mystery, though. They were placed always somewhere between a fox and a wolf, although today we thankfully know that the maned wolf is its own species and that it needs to be preserved and protected so it doesn’t go extinct.

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