Why do wolves howl

The Phenomenon

The howling of wolves has been associated with the moon, myths and paranormal suggestions since time immemorial, but the scientific details related to the special calls is what we will try to cover here. The howl of a wolf can be heard from as far as 130 km2 under favorable conditions and the sound can only be produced properly by fully grown males and females. Almost indistinguishably similar to the howling of certain species of dogs, wolf-howling however, differs from that of the coyotes.

It has been observed that the male wolf howls in an octave with a stress on “O”, while the females howl with a stress on “U”, in a nasal baritone. Depending on the particular objective of a howl; the length, pitch and frequency will differ. When wolves howl in a pack, the general tendency is to harmonize their calls with each other, instead of everyone howling on the same note. It should be noted that wolves from different corners of the world generally recognize each other’s call, in spite of the presence of minor discrepancies between the howling styles.

Why Exactly Do Wolves Howl?

There are many reasons as to why a wolf might howl and each reason will cause a wolf to produce a different sound. The reasons are listed below.

Rally cry – Simply put, this is a call by the wolves to assemble their pack, generally for a kill or a hunt. These are howls that consist of long, continuous calls with stress on any one note at a time. Those of us, who are accustomed with animal sounds, may find such calls to be somewhat similar to the hooting of a horned owl.

Locating and helping – A member of a wolf pack will try to call to its pack through howling if it finds itself lost or in some sort of a problem (an injury or being caught in a storm for example). The pack might also try to find a lost member by howling and waiting for a reply from their lost member. As the sound of their howling travels a long way, it is indeed a useful way to communicate across large distances.

Chasing and hunting – Wolves howl during stalking, chasing and while going in for the kill, but the type of the sound made will differ according to the exact stage of the hunt. For example, high pitched sounds that primarily vibrate on two notes can be read as a sign that the pack is chasing a prey, but the sound changes to a continuous combo of short howls and barks, just before the wolves descend upon their target.

Warning others – All wolves are territorial by nature and they use howling to make other wolves aware of the fact that it is their territory and thus other packs and lone wolves should stay away from it. A howling session intended to serve such a purpose may go on for hours at a stretch.

Mating – During breeding season, wolves often produce a special kind of noise that tends to have both high and low points with a decline towards the end of the call. It is meant to attract potential mates towards the calling wolf.

Scientists believe that there is still more to know about the reasons behind the various kinds of howls that the wolves exhibit under different settings, but the points mentioned above more or less sums up the general reasons behind the howling of wolves.