Wolf Spider vs Tarantula (Similarities & Differences)

Wolf spiders and tarantulas are two types of spiders that often seem more dangerous than they really are. Because of their looks and their general menacing appearance, many people confuse the two species.

Key differences between tarantulas and wolf spiders include:

Wolf Spider vs Tarantula
  • Tarantulas are hairier than wolf spiders
  • Wolf spiders have more patterns and marks on their bodies than tarantuals.
  • Tarantulas are larger than wolf spiders.
  • The legs of a tarantula appear thicker.

Of course, there are also similarities between the two, which we’ll go over in this article.

Important Note: This is general information for entertainment purposes only. If you have been bitten, seek professional medical attention immediately. Always have professionals identify and manage your pest control needs.

Wolf Spider vs Tarantula

FeatureWolf SpiderTarantula
1. Scientific NameLycosidae.Theraphosidae.
2. SizeMedium – up to 3 inches.Large – up to 10 inches.
3. ColorYellow, Grey, Brown, to Dark Brown.Dark brown to black.
4. VenomVenomous, but not deadly. Venomous, but not deadly.
5. Where They’re FoundAll over USA.Southern Deserts.
6. Web TypeNo web.No, but they do use silk to construct burrows.
7. Carries Young on BackYes.No.

Wolf Spiders Overview (Credit)

Tarantulas Overview (Credit)


There are some similarities between wolf spiders and tarantulas which lead many people to believe they’re the same (or similar species). These are the similarities between a wolf spider and a tarantula.

1. Color

One of the main reasons some people confuse a tarantula with a wolf spider is that they have similar colors on their bodies.

Generally, tarantulas tend to have a dark brown to black body, while the wolf spider will also have a brown tinge.  However, the tarantula is usually also a much darker brown (even black) than the wolf spider.

In addition, wolf spiders have patterns on their bodies that tarantulas don’t. Many wolf spiders may have black stripes down their backs which can set them apart from many tarantulas, but also might be a reason people confuse them with hobo spiders!

2. Habitats

Both spiders have a similar habitat: both usually prefer to live in slightly drier areas.

However, some wolf spiders are also found in rainforests and more densely vegetated areas whereas tarantulas are generally only found in dry areas such as deserts and open grasslands.

Both wolf spiders and tarantulas like to create their nests in similar locations. They like trees and rocks, as well as open holes in the ground and in the terrain, which makes them slightly harder to spot. This is ideal for both spiders, especially the wolf spider, because it likes to pounce on its prey and surprise it.

3. Speed

Both spiders can move quite quickly if they want to, although wolf spiders tend to be slightly faster than tarantulas. In fact, they’re among the fastest spider species in the world. They got their name ‘the wolf’ for their speed and hunting prowess.

Tarantulas are no slouches, either. They can be quite fast if they want to, although they won’t use their speed as often and as profoundly as wolf spiders do. When they need to stretch their legs, it will be because they’re catching an animal of prey that has escaped or if they’re in danger.


There are many differences between the wolf spider and the tarantula.

1. Hairiness

One of the most notable differences that you’ll see between these two spider species is that tarantulas have more dense and thicker hairs than wolf spiders. These hairs are found all over their bodies, while wolf spiders don’t have as many (if any) hairs on their bodies.

There’s a practical reason as to why tarantulas have this many hairs on their body. They use these hairs to detect movement around them, which is crucial for their survival. It’s also one of the best techniques that they use to detect other animals around them that they can catch, which aids them when hunting.

2. Body Patterns

Next, another difference that can be spotted quite quickly is the patterns on the bodies of these spiders.

Tarantulas have little to no patterns, while the wolf spider has many different patterns on its body. These patterns can be seen on the back of the wolf spider, although they can differ from spider to spider.

This might be the easiest and most reliable way to tell a tarantula from a wolf spider. If you can see some brown-black patterns on its back, then it’s highly likely that it’s a wolf spider. If there are no patterns on the back and the whole body is black, then it’s a tarantula.

3. Size and Thickness

Another reliable way of telling the two species from each other is to take a look at the size of both species, and the thickness of their bodies.

Namely, tarantulas tend to be slightly larger than wolf spiders. The biggest tarantulas in the world can be up to 10 inches in size, while the wolf spider might only reach the size of a couple of inches at the very most.

Not only will the tarantula be larger than the wolf spider, but it will also appear to be much thicker. That is mainly thanks to the hairs on its body, but also because the tarantula has slightly thicker legs overall. If you see super thick legs, then it’s probable that you’re looking at a tarantula and not the wolf spider.

4. Mygalomorphs vs Araneomorphs

Another difference between the two is that tarantulas are mygalomorphs, while wolf spiders are araneomorphs. This is a minor difference that is distinguished by spider species.

Mygalomorphs have their fangs facing downwards, while the araneomorphs have their fangs facing forwards. This might not be visible at first sight, but it could be spotted upon closer inspection.

5. Eyes

Lastly, you’ll want to take a look at the eyes of the animal. The eyes of the wolf spider are clearly visible from a distance and are much larger than the eyes of a tarantula.

The eyes of a tarantula are not clearly visible because they’re often covered by hairs. Their eyes also tend to be much smaller than the eyes of a wolf spider, so that can be a good way of telling the difference between the two species.

The tarantula doesn’t rely on its eyes as much as the wolf spider does. The tarantula will instead rely more on its hairs rather than its eyes, which gives it an advantage over flying insects. Wolf spiders, on the other hand, need good eyesight because eyesight helps them hunt and catch their prey much easier.

Which is More Venomous?

Both tarantulas and wolf spiders are not particularly dangerous to humans, although they both carry venom.

This venom is used to paralyze or kill their targets, but because both species don’t tend to attack or prey on humans, they will rarely use the venom on a human being.

And even if they did bite, the venom would not really do much to a human being, except for a few mild symptoms minutes or hours after the bite.

Pain at the bite site and numbness are two very common symptoms for both bites. Wolf spider bites often result in other symptoms, such as:

  • Cramping
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fever

These bites are almost never fatal and the symptoms tend to go away on their own. However, it is helpful to get it examined by a doctor who might prescribe medicines.

Other Spider Comparisons:


Wolf spiders and tarantulas are quite common in drier areas, but they can be distinguished between the two quite easily. Wolf spiders are smaller and have marks on their backs, while tarantulas appear to be much darker and hairier. 

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