Various researchers and scientists believe that wolves do not cry due to grief as humans do, but they do let out howling noises that are used as warning sounds or to locate themselves and let their position be known to other wolves.
Many people mistake the howling noises with crying. If you have ever heard a wolf “cry” out to the moon in the middle of the night, then you’ve probably remembered this moment well. You might have even mentioned it to your friends or coworkers, which is the case for many people that experience this phenomenon.
Because some people experience this at full moon, there’s a common belief that wolves cry at the full moon. However, this is not true. Wolves use their howling voice to either warn other wolves of their pack, or to warn other wolves to back off their territory. It’s also often used as a sign of affection.
Why Do Wolves Cry?
Wolves cry, or let out howling sounds, for three main reasons:
- To let their location be known to other members of the pack
- To warn other wolves to stay off their territory
- To warn other wolves in their pack about potential dangers
A wolf’s crying has nothing to do about grieving or sadness, which is what many people think of when talking about crying wolves.
Howling is rather one of the primary means of communication for wolves. It’s often used even during the day, although it’s more common to hear wolf howling (or crying, as some people call it), during the night.
There’s a myth going around that wolves cry out of sadness, but this is simply not true. It’s also not been proven that howling has something to do with a wolf’s emotions. Instead, the howling is more closely connected to the instinct of a wolf and its surroundings.
A wolf may cry when they are separated from the pack, but that’s not because of sadness, but it might be because it’s their instinct when they want to relocate their pack and reunite with them. Howling is a social “tool” used by wolves to communicate with other wolves and make the pack work as a unit.
Why Do Wolves Howl at the Moon?
Wolves don’t howl at the moon intentionally, but it happens habitually and it’s not connected to the phases of the moon at all.
When a wolf howls, it raises its head into the air to let out the sounds it does. And when the moon is full, this might appear (from a distance) that the wolf is howling or crying at the moon. However, this is simply not true and it has nothing to do with the phases of the moon.
Wolves will howl at any stage of the moon, and they will use the howling sounds for different reasons we’ve mentioned above. In most cases, it’s used to gather pack members together and let other members of the pack know about their location.
However, there appears to be a strong link between wolf crying and the weather. For instance, wolves won’t cry or howl when it’s windy or when it’s raining. Howling is much more pronounced and common when the night is clear. This means that the sound will travel much better when the weather is good rather than when it’s raining.
To compensate, wolves will use other senses to relocate their pack members and to find their bearings. One of the most important senses in that case is their smell, as they use it to locate other wolves and creatures around them, as well as their eyesight.
Do Wolves Cry Tears?
Wolves do not shed tears out of sadness just like we as humans do, although they might have tears in their eyes when a smaller object gets stuck in the eye.
When we think about the act of crying, we usually connect it with shedding tears and crying noises.
That’s why we simply can’t say that wolves will shed tears when crying, as they don’t even cry out of sadness. Many other animals like chimps and gorillas, only let out sad noises when they’re sad. Humans are the only species that cry tears when we are sad.
There’s also no signs of whether wolves show their sadness in one way or another. Only a few rare animals let their sadness be known, even though you might have experienced your dog’s crying sounds when it’s sad. Wolves don’t use those same sounds as dogs do, however.
But it’s also true that there’s still a lot of foggy area when it comes to researching a wolf’s emotions. Some people will say that wolves can have emotions and that they might let them be known to other wolves; however, most researchers agree that wolves don’t show emotions in the same way as we humans do, and that wolves rely on instincts much more.
What Other Sounds Do Wolves Use?
Wolves can use several different sounds to communicate with fellow wolves, including:
- Howling – by far the most common sound that can be used to relay their location to other pack members and to reunite with them
- Whining – can sometimes be used by wolves who want to create a friendly connection with a wolf, and it’s also a sign of submissive behavior or frustration
- Growling – it’s most commonly used against enemies and other potential aggressive animals in its territory, and it’s used as a warning sound
- Whimpering – this is the least common sound let out by wolves, and it’s either used to show submissive behavior, as a playful behavior, or by mates
Wolves don’t cry in the conventional meaning of the word as we humans do, which is used to express sadness. Instead, wolves will let out howling sounds to communicate with other wolves and to let their location be known to other pack members.
So a wolf’s crying has almost never nothing to do with its emotions or sadness, but it’s more of a “utility” sound that can be used for different purposes, along with other types of sounds that wolves make.