Wolves have unique, large paws that have a small layer of webbing between them that extends to around half the size of each toe. They also have large nails, which means they are able to swim rivers quite well, and the webbing also allows them to run faster.
Because of the webbing between the toes and the larger nails, a wolf’s paw might appear as though it’s disproportionately large for the size of the wolf. However, the seemingly big paws play a practical role for the wolves.
They will help wolves swim across even larger rivers and lakes, as they are able to swim up to even 8 miles at once. This gives them a great capacity to move over a variety of territories, and it comes useful when they’re hunting.
The large feet are also useful for being able to cover more ground and to run faster. All of these features make the wolf’s paws look much bigger than that of a dog, as it can be up to twice as large as a paw of a dog.
Why Do Wolves Need Webbed Feet?
Webbed feet can come very useful for wolves, as they are used for swimming over longer distances but also cover more ground than some other animals are able to and dig deeper into the ground.
This makes a wolf a very “versatile” creature that can be found in various habitats.
Their ability to swim over longer distances means they’re able to swim over lakes and rivers, which gives them more flexibility as to what kinds of prey they pursue. They’re also sometimes able to catch fish that are in the water, although fish are not the primary source of food for wolves.
And because they can swim across larger rivers and lakes, wolves are able to cover more ground than most other animals in its habitat.
They also have internal heat “sensors”, or rather a regulation system in their toes that will detect when the air is too cold, which can prevent their toes from freezing. This is another feature that comes useful as snow comes in and when they swim over colder waters.
At the same time, webbed feet allow the wolves to be able to make larger strides and have a better grip on the ground. In turn, this allows the wolf to be faster as it moves but it also gives it the ability to cover more ground in one day.
The webbing can also come useful when wolves are digging deep into the ground, giving them more of a surface to dig with. The webbing essentially becomes a shovel with which wolves are able to dig deeper.
It is unclear whether dogs also had historically this webbing between their toes, although it remains likely that was the case during initial evolutionary stages. Both dogs and wolves developed from a larger wolf species around 15.000 to 40.000 years ago, so it’s highly possible that they shared this characteristic from their ancestors.
How Large Are a Wolf’s Feet?
Thanks to the webbing between their feet and larger toes, a wolf’s feet will be significantly larger than dog feet, as they can span up to 4 inches wide and 4.5 inches long.
When we compare the size of a wolf’s foot to the size of a normal dog’s foot, you’ll see that a wolf can have almost twice the size of a dog’s foot. And that’s even when we put the wolf against some larger dog breeds.
Why is that?
One of the main reasons is the implications of large feet in nature. Dogs have developed in such a way that they don’t necessarily need all of the features needed to survive in the wild. Among other developments are the smaller feet which were thinned down to a smaller size in order to shed excess weight as domestic dogs didn’t move around as much in nature.
Wolves, on the other hand, are constantly on the move and will move across various territories. They will often also swim across larger streams and lakes, which dogs are also capable of, but not as much as wolves are.
Some larger dog species might have paws that are as large as that of a wolf; however, that’s more of an exception rather than a rule.
How Large is the Webbing Between the Wolf’s Toes?
The size of the webbing between the toes of a wolf will vary largely on each individual, although most commonly, the webbing will reach half the size of a wolf’s toe, and will be up to the half the size of the toe.
This webbing might appear invisible at first sight, although it becomes apparent when the toes stretch and when we look at a wolf’s paw more closely.
Sometimes, the webbing might be larger than that and will span all the way to the nails. This is especially typical for wolves living in watery areas where they have to swim a lot to move around.
You might also be already aware that some dog breeds, including labradors, poodles, and several others. However, these breeds have significantly smaller webbings and often only play a decorative role, although they do stem from the same evolutionary pattern as that of a wolf.
Some dog breeds have webbing, but it’s so small or unrecognizable that we tend to ignore it. However, most dog breeds still have this webbing that is typical especially for large dog breeds and wolves.
The webbing between a wolf’s toes has a practical role for the wolves, as it allows them to be better swimmers, better diggers, and better navigators in muddy areas.
The webbing enables the wolf to be a better overall mover in its habitat, and it also makes a wolf’s feet much larger than that of a dog. However, this webbing is still present with some dog breeds, but it plays a much more important role for wolves than it does for domestic dogs.
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