The Ethiopian wolf, also known as the Simien jackal or Simien fox, is a canid that looks similar to the coyote.
It is one of the world’s rarest canids, and Africa’s most endangered carnivore.
The species’ current range is limited to seven isolated mountain ranges at altitudes of 3,000 to 4,500 meters (9,850 to 14,800 feet), with the overall adult population estimated at 500 individuals in 2020, more than half of them in the Bale Mountains.
The lifespan for Ethiopian wolves is up to 10 years in the wild.
The Ethiopian wolf is a medium sized canid. It measure 84 to 100 cm (33 to 39 in) in body length, and 53 to 62 cm (21 to 24 in) in height. Adult males weigh 14 to 19 kg (31 to 42 lb), while females weigh 11 to 14 kg (24 to 31 lb).
The legs of an Ethiopian wolf are strikingly long and slender, seemingly suitable for coursing in open country. The muzzle is long, and the ears are pointed and broad.
It has short guard hairs and thick underfur, which provides protection at temperatures as low as −15 °C.
The Ethiopian wolf is generally reddish-brown in color, with white counter-shading on muzzle, throat, and underside, and black markings. Its coloration resembles the red fox.
It is a social animal, living in family groups containing up to 20 adults (individuals older than one year), though packs of six wolves are more common.
They are most active during the day, the time when rodents are most active.
Prey is usually captured by digging it out of burrows. Areas of high prey density are patrolled by wolves walking slowly. Once prey is located, the wolf moves stealthily towards it and grabs it with its mouth after a short dash. Occasionally, the Ethiopian wolf hunts cooperatively to bring down young antelopes, lambs, and hares.
The mating season usually takes place between August and November. After the gestation period of 60–62 days, two to six pups are born. All members of the pack contribute to protecting and feeding the pups, with subordinate females sometimes assisting the dominant female by suckling them.
Ethiopian wolves are believed to have evolved from grey wolves that migrated from Eurasia to Northern Africa around 100,000 years ago.
The earliest written reference to the species comes from Solinus’s Collectanea rerum memorabilium from the third century AD.
The species was first scientifically described in 1835 by Eduard Rüppell, who provided a skull for the British Museum.
It was recognised as requiring protection in 1938, and received it in 1974.
The Ethiopian wolf is listed as endangered by the IUCN, on account of its small numbers and fragmented range.
Threats include increasing pressure from expanding human populations, resulting in habitat degradation through overgrazing, and disease transference and interbreeding from free-ranging dogs.
Its conservation is headed by Oxford University’s Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, which seeks to protect wolves through vaccination and community outreach programs.
Unlike the grey wolf, the Ethiopian wolf is barely touched upon in the folklore or tradition of the human cultures with which it coexists, though the species is mentioned in Ethiopian literature dating back the 13th century.
Currently, the Ethiopian wolf is a national symbol, having been used in two stamp series.
The African golden wolf is the descendant of a genetically admixed canid of 72% gray wolf and 28% Ethiopian wolf ancestry.