Wolf School: Species of Wolf

1024 496 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Hello, class! Ah-wooooooooooooooooooooooo. I’m so excited you’ve joined us for the first day of Wolf School. I’m Constance and–

Can I eat them now? 

What? No, Merricat! Of course you can’t eat them. They’re here to learn from us. Really, how many times do we have to go over this? I’m so sorry, everyone. Don’t mind my sister, she’s perfectly harmless. She’s never so much as scratched a human in her life. She’s just going through a bit of a phase at the moment and–

You mean because I’m a werewolf? It’s not a phase and you’d better hurry up and get used to it. 

I’m not talking about this now, Merricat.

Because you don’t want to admit I’m a werewolf. 

You are not a bloody were– Oh goodness, I’m so sorry, class. This is utterly unprofessional of us. Let’s forget this nonsense, shall we? I assure you my sister is a regular old wolf like me, so you’re perfectly safe.

Okay, sure. 

Anyway, you’re all here to learn a bit more about wolves, yes? I understand some of you are authors. Isn’t that exciting, Merricat?

Not really. I’m an author.

You are not.

Yes I am. 

You’ve never written a thing in your life! Well anyway, welcome to day one of Wolf School, authors! We’ve had lots of emails from you over the years asking some excellent questions about portraying wolves–

And werewolves.

–in your stories and trying to get your facts straight, so we’ll be sharing all our knowledge with you here so that you might write about us more accurately and reasonably in future. Today, we’re going to start with outlining the different types of wolves you might come across, because we’re not all the same, you know!

Call me when you get onto the werewolves bit. 

Yes, Merricat. I will. You go watch True Blood.


Thank goodness for that. Now we can hear ourselves think around here! Let’s jump right in.

Red wolves and grey wolves

There are two species of wolf – or canis lupus, if you want to be fancy – that scientists generally agree on: the red wolf and the grey wolf. Merricat and I are grey wolves, as you can probably tell. We’re the bigger ones; our father is about six foot, whereas the red wolves I’ve met never grew above five and a half. The red wolves have a lovely copper tint to their fur, though, and funny long ears. Supposedly they’re a hybrid of grey wolves and coyotes, and I have rather a soft spot for them. In fact I went out with a very handsome one called Harker once; Father was furious of course, we’re not supposed to communicate outside the pack, but he was such a nice wolf.

That boy was stupid. 

Merricat! He was not. He was very intelligent actually. The problem was he always took me to ant hills for our dates – turns out red wolves like to eat insects and small animals, whereas I’m used to slightly more substantial meals. Deer, moose, you know. I’d always end up joining the hunt when I got home and polishing off a second dinner just to keep me going through the night. He even brought me a little bunch of blueberries once. Of course I didn’t tell him that grey wolves are rather more dedicated carnivores than red wolves; it was such a kind gesture. Not many like him left these days.

Yeah, they’re endangered because they’re so stupid. 

They are not stupid. You don’t have to believe everything father tells you, Merricat. Honestly. But she’s right, they are critically endangered thanks to being hunted so relentlessly by humans. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to vilify you all, but you are our only predator so you make our lives difficult. Sorry again, this is a touchy subject for me; there are only about 15 red wolves left in the wild.

Lucky for us.

Merricat! Anyway, it was never going to work out with Harker; red wolves have an earlier mating season than grey wolves so we could never quite get our calendars in sync. Alright, let’s move on.

Eastern wolves

Now, I said there were two species of wolves that scientists agreed on. But there’s a third that many claim is also a species in its own right: the Eastern wolf. It was previously thought they were one of us, a subspecies of the grey wolf,  and certainly they’re very similar. But many experts now think they deserve their own category altogether. I must say I don’t keep up with the scientific journals much so I’m not sure what the official current opinion is on this; you might have to do a little extra reading after class if you’re very interested in the situation. Whatever you do, don’t talk to Merricat about it. She finds the whole matter rather upsetting since her best friend, Rebecca, was reclassified as Eastern. Rebecca’s parents wouldn’t let her fraternise with the grey wolves anymore and it was quite an ugly mess, really.

What was that?

Nothing! Alright, I think we might wrap things up there for today, class. It’s been a pleasure and I’m very excited to talk to you again soon. Until then, Ah-wooooooooooooooooooooooo.

A word from Siobhan:

Thanks so much, Merricat and Constance! It’s a real honour having such busy wolves give up their time to teach us more about their kind. Authors, I hope you find Wolf School will provide some interesting facts and stories about wolves that will help you add authenticity, depth and colour to any you might be writing into your novels; wolves pop up often in fantasy and dark fiction, and if you’re writing a werewolf story you might find understanding more about the animals will help you find a fresh approach to the monster. Author Carrie Vaughn told Tor.com that researching wolf biology allowed her to build a better, more unique werewolf. Constance and Merricat only scratched the surface today with their introduction to wolf species but they’ll be getting into more detail as we go along. Stay tu-uuuuuuuned!

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Siobhan O'Brien Holmes is a developmental editor working with middle grade and YA authors. She specialises in speculative and genre fiction, particularly horror, fantasy, mystery, sci-fi and anything with a dash of magic or macabre. She is a member of the SfEP, EFA, ACES, British Fantasy Society, Horror Writers Association and SCBWI. She has an MA in Novel Writing and an MA in Children's Literature.

All stories by: Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

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