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Tibetan Wolf (Canis Lupus Chanco)


The Tibetan Wolf is commonly known by many names, including the Chinese wolf, Mongolian wolf, Korean wolf, Steppes wolf, and Wooly wolf. It is considered a subspecies of the Grey Wolf, with a scientific name of canis lupus chanco. (see classification table below).[1] Though chanco is the most common subspecies name, there are many more awarded by different taxonomists, including coreanus, dorogostaiskii, ekloni, filchneri, karanorensis, laniger, niger, and tschiliensis.[2]

 Kingdom Animalia 
 Phylum Chordata 
 Class Mammalia 
 Order Carnivora 
 Family Canidae 
 Genus Canis 
 Species Lupus 
 Subspecies Chanco 

Species Description

Tibetan wolves, and wolves in general, are notable for their highly structured social groups called "packs." This structure influences many aspects of their behavior. Firstly, the groups are incredibly hierarchical, with an "alpha" male and female leading the pack, and other members subservient to them. In general, the alpha male and female are the only breeders in the pack, and the entire pack raises their pups. Their behavior when hunting is fascinating – all the wolves in a pack cooperate to hunt large prey. Tibetan wolves generally prey on medium sized ungulates like moufflon, chamois, saiga, wild boar, red deer, roe deer and livestock, and their largest prey is the yak.[3] [4]

The Tibetan wolf is smaller than the grey wolves, with notably shorter legs proportional to its body size. Adults measure 30 inches (76 centimetres) at the shoulder and weigh around 70 - 130 pounds (32 - 59 kilograms), with females usually being about twenty per cent smaller than males. Their colour ranges from white, cream, red, grey and black, with just about every combination of these expressed.[3]


Tibetan Wolves are secondary or tertiary consumers, and therefore by definition heterotrophs. They feed on herbivores, and sometimes small carnivores, though the majority of their diet is made up of medium sized ungulates. These species feed mainly on grass and shrubs, which form the primary producers that supply the energy eventually used by the wolves.

Below is a food web showing the diet of the Arctic wolf. While the details are different for Tibetan wolf, the general idea is the same -- wolves can, and will, eat anything. In fact, in this food web, it is possible to trace out chains where the wolf is a quaternary consumer (Artic willow -> Arctic hare -> Ermine -> Snowy Owl -> Arctic Wolf). It is interesting to note that many of the animals on top of the food chain have a very varied diet, as compensation for the 10% rule that limits populations within single food chains.


The Tibetan wolf's habitat ranges from China to India. However, throughout this extensive area, there are only approximately 3000 - 4000 individual wolves – around 2000 in China, and 1000 to 2000 in India.[9] The limiting factors for wolves, because they are a top predator, are almost always availability of prey – however, the current low wolf population is due 


A variety of large mammals can be found in Tibet including leopards, tigers, bears, wolves, foxes and monkeys.  Other animals include musk deer, yaks and Tibetan antelope as well as wild animals such as sheep, goats, and donkeys.[8]

 Month Temperature (C)  Precipitation (mm)
 January  +9 to -13  0.2
 February   +10 to -12  0.5
 March   +13 to -5  2
 April  +16 to +1  5
 May  +20 to +5  25
 June  +25 to +9  77
 July  +26 to +10  129
 August  +27 to +9  138
 September  +21 to +8  56
 October  +17 to +1  8
 November  +12 to -7  2
 December  +8 to -13  0.5

Left is a map of populations of Canis lupus. The grey wolf's range is denoted by the blue dotted area, while the Tibetan wolf's is in purple, covering the trans-Himalayan region and the Tibetan Plateau.[5] Additionally, another subspecies of wolf, called Canis lupus pallipes is denoted by the yellow area.[6] 


  • Adaptations
  • Life Cycle
  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • Cladogram or Phylogenetic Tree (graphic)
  • Ancestors/Fossil Descriptions (graphic)
  • Conservation Status
  • Interaction with humans
There are fewer Tibetan wolves in India than there are tigers, but while the latter species has had significant conservation efforts, almost none are made for the wolves. This is partly due to the difficulty of legal enforcement – wolves in India subsist on livestock, and are hunted mercilessly by small farming communities, for whom the loss of even a single animal can be a significant economic setback.[9]

Works Cited

[1] Busch, R. H. (n.d.). Wolf Breeds (Wolf Species and Subspecies). The Canine Information Library.
          Retrieved March 18, 2010, from

[2] Tibetan Wolf. (2010, January 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 16, 2010,

[3] Eurasian Wolf at Animal Corner. (n.d.). Animal Information at Animal Corner. Retrieved March 18, 2010,

[4] Yak. (n.d.). Welcome to Retrieved March 18, 2010, from

[5] Srivastav, A. and Nigam. P. 2009. National Studbook of Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus
          chanco). Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and Central Zoo Authority, New Delhi.

[6] Spotlight on Zoo Science: Hiding in Plain Sight - National Zoo| FONZ. (n.d.). Welcome to the National Zoo|
          FONZ website - National Zoo| FONZ. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from

[7] Tibet Climate Rainfall. (n.d.). Tibet Travel. Retrieved March 19, 2010, from

[8] Wildlife in Tibet. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2010, from

[9] Honghai, Z. (1999). Population and distribution of wolf in the world. Journal of Forestry Research, 10(4),
    Austin Glaser,
    Mar 30, 2010, 1:34 PM
    Austin Glaser,
    Mar 30, 2010, 1:33 PM