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Why Do Wolves Have Red Eyes?

Wolves don’t have red eyes, and they might appear red in photos because of tapetum lucidum, which makes their eyes glow in the dark and when they’re exposed to light.

Tapetum lucidum is a reflective layer in a wolf’s eyes that makes it seem as though wolves have red eyes, which especially happens in the dark when the eyes are lit.

That’s why you might have seen a wolf with red eyes or with shiny eyes, and you might even see dogs or other animals that have red eyes because of this.

Why Do Wolves Have Red Eyes

Do Wolves Ever Have Red Eyes?

Most wolves don’t have red eyes naturally, but they might have different shades of green or yellow in their eyes. 

Perhaps you’ve seen wolves with red eyes in a video game (Minecraft) or in a movie, but that’s purely fictional. In reality, it’s near impossible to spot a wolf that has red eyes naturally. Instead, their eyes will be green or yellow.

The portrayal of wolves varies heavily in movies or video games.

In Minecraft, for example, angry or aggressive wolves will have glowing red eyes, which is supposed to make them feel more intimidating.

However, that is simply not true in reality.

A wolf’s eyes will have different colors naturally. The colors of their eyes will most commonly be yellow or light-green, while some wolves might also have brown or slightly darker eyes. Rarely, arctic wolves will have blue-ish eyes and slightly lighter colors.

Up to now, no wolf has ever been recorded to have red eyes in nature. So if you see a wolf with red eyes in a movie or video game, know that it’s purely fictional.

Related: Do Wolves See Colors?

Why Do Wolves Eyes Appear Red?

Even though a wolf’s eyes are never red naturally, some wolves might appear to have red eyes when they glow in the dark. That is because of their reflective part of their eyes called tapetum lucidum, which enables them to see better in the dark.

The role of Tapetum Lucidum is to render the darkness into light and enable the wolf to see better in the dark. It is made of special tissue that appears reflective when light is shone upon it.

That’s why a wolf’s eyes will shine or even appear red when they are exposed to light in the darkness. Many people believe that this red glow is because of their eyes and that’s just how they appear naturally, but it serves a purpose.

Because of this mechanism, the wolf is able to see better in the dark. The eyesight of a wolf in the dark will still be blurry, but it might appear as black-and-white as they might not be able to distinguish colors in the dark.

This mechanism is believed to have originated from the original genus of both wolves and dogs, which is why both species have this mechanism still in place.

What is more, wolves use olfaction, which is a special sense that allows wolves to be so effective when hunting. Olfaction is the act of using various senses at the same time in combination to detect animals of prey and hunt them down from several miles away. This allows wolves to spot the prey when it’s up to 4 miles away.

Olfaction is especially important at night when wolves can still see thanks to tapetum lucidum, just not as strong as they can during the day. That’s why they’ll need to combine different senses to spot their animals of prey.

What Colors are Wolf Eyes?

You’ll find various colors in wolf eyes. The most common colors are yellow, green, and light blue.

The vast majority of gray wolves will have yellow eyes, while some wolves will have light-green or yellow-green colors. These colors will mostly depend on the genetics of the wolf, while rare, they’re also conditioned by their environment.

Some arctic wolves will also have light-blue eyes, while it’s rare to see gray wolves with blue eyes.

Up to date, there have been no reports of wolves having red eyes naturally, though.

Blue Eyes Are Common for Pups

Red eyes are not found in any wolf or their stages of development. Blue eyes, on the other hand, are much more common with wolf pups rather than the adult population.

For wolf pups, blue eyes will start to develop very early and most wolf pups will have them, no matter where they live or what subspecies of wolves they belong to.

However, it will very rarely happen that they will keep their blue eyes into adulthood.

At the age of between 1 and 2, wolves will start transforming into adult wolves. That’s when they’ll start to experience behavioral and physical changes, making them better adapted to their habitat. This is also when they’ll start to adopt some genetic features that they might get from their parents.

Blue eyes will very rarely be kept into adulthood. Even when it happens, it is slightly more likely for arctic wolves than it is for other wolf subspecies.

The colors of a wolf’s eyes will vastly depend on its genetics. And because of genetics, wolves mostly develop yellow or green eyes, while rare, they will also have brown eyes. So blue eyes are more common for wolf pups rather than adult wolves, and if adult wolves have blue eyes, it’s more common for arctic wolves than other wolf species.

Final Thoughts

Wolves don’t have red eyes; instead, their eyes will appear as though they are red because of tapetum lucidum, which is a layer inside their eyes that enables wolves to see in the dark.

This layer is reflective when light is shone upon it, and it will reflect or shine when it are exposed to light during the night. Sometimes, their eyes might also appear red because of that, which leads some people to believe that their eyes are just red naturally.

Also, some video games and movies portray wolves with red eyes, but that is purely fictional and highly unlikely, if not impossible, to happen naturally.

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