Our Mission
About Wolves
Do you want to own a wolf?
Do you want to own a wolfdog?
Wolves in South Africa

Click on the respective photographs of wolves, wolfdogs and dogs for enlarged images, captions and copyrights.

The wolf in Native American Tradition:
The Wolf as the Teacher

The Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine. Wolf takes one mate for life and is loyal like Dog. If you were to keep company with Wolves, you would find an enormous sense of family within the pack, as well as a strong individualistic urge. These qualities make Wolf very much like the human race. As humans, we also have an ability to be a part of society and yet still embody our individual dreams and ideas.

In the Great Star Nation, the Wolf is represented by the Dog Star, Sirius, which legend tells us was the original home of our teachers in ancient times. Sirius was thought to be the home of the gods by the ancient Egyptians, and is still considered so by the Dogan tribe in Africa. It stands to reason that Native American people would formulate this same connection and adopt Wolf people as the clan of teachers.

The senses of the Wolf are very keen, and the moon is its power ally. The moon is the symbol for psychic energy, or the unconscious that holds the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. Baying at the moon may be an indication of Wolf's desire to connect with new ideas which are just below the surface of consciousness. Wolf medicine empowers the teacher within us all to come forth and aid the children of Earth in understanding the Great Mystery and life.


"Wolves are very resourceful. All they need to survive is for people not to shoot them."
Bob Ferris

"For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack"
Rudyard Kipling

"I'm nothing but a lone wolf, misunderstood and labeled to be dangerous."

"I've always said that the best wolf habitat resides in the human heart. You have to leave a little space for them to live."
Ed Bangs

"Wolf is the Grand Teacher. Wolf is the sage, who after many winters upon the sacred path and seeking the ways of wisdom, returns to share new knowledge with the tribe. Wolf is both the radical and the traditional in the same breath. When the Wolf walks by you - you will remember."
Robert Ghost Wolf

"Perhaps it was the eyes of the wolf, measured, calm, knowing. Perhaps it was the intense sense of family. After all, wolves mate for life, are loyal partners, create hunting communities and demonstrate affectionate patience in pup rearing. Perhaps it was the rigid hierarchy of the packs. Each wolf had a place in the whole and yet retained his individual personality. Perhaps it was their great, romping, ridiculous sense of fun. Perhaps it was some celestial link with the winter night skies that prompted the wolf to lay his song on the icy air. For the native people who lived with the wolves, and the wolves once ranged from the Arctic to the sub-tropics, there was much to learn from them. Is it any wonder that the myths of many tribes characterise the wolves not as killers but as teachers?"

"You ought to follow the example of shunk-tokecha (wolf). Even when he is surprised and runs for his life, he will pause to take one more look at you before he enters his final retreat. So you must take a second look at everything you see."

"But keep the wolf far thence that's foe to men, For with his nails he'll dig them up again."
John Webster (1580-1625?)

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."

"Now this is the Law of the Jungle
- as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper,
but the Wolf that shall break it must die."

Rudyard Kipling (1865- 1936)
'The Law of the Jungle'

"To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul."
Aldo Leopold

"The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty."
Abraham Lincoln

"Sometimes the Moon howls ... and the wolves are silent"
Crimson Moon

"The plight of the wolf is uncertain. The key to survival is understanding. The ability to understand may surely come when each of us shed the fears and preconceived ideas that we have been taught in relation to "wildness." When we take time to ponder the thought of beauty we hopefully will realize that beauty comes as a result of balance and balance is predetermined. We are surely guardians of a world that is changing rapidly and swallowing up wilderness at an unforgivable pace. ... The man or woman who spends time alone in the outdoors will find answers and sense a responsibility for those who cannot speak for themselves."
Ken L. Jenkins (1996)

"In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men."

"In one Italian survey, researchers found that 'The farther we were from the areas in which wolves lived, the more dangerous they were believed to be.'"
Robert H. Busch

"The eyes of a wolf are as deep as the sea, they let your mind dive into a different world. In them you see the sun glistening in the clear water of a forest lake, you smell the scent of the wild, and you hear the freedom. When you return you begin to understand that a wolf is more than just a bundle of fur and teeth"
E.I. Westphal

"Have you ever smelled at a wolf? It is the finest, most valuable perfume - pure, natural, and it never loses its intensity. A pity it can't be bottled."

Yellow Eyes

We've roamed the wild country
My beautiful yellow eyes,
Side by side we've hunted
Shadows dancing on northern skies.

There have been times of plenty
We were content and serene,
Peacefully sleeping
Dangers few and far between.

We've also known much hunger
Ribs protruding from each side,
Mournfully we howled
When our starving cubs had died.

And then there was our first winter
Romping through the glistening snow,
Tasting each crystal snowflake
Falling gently to and fro.

Ah my dear, sweet yellow eyes
I've known no greater love,
Without you, I am nothing
Our wild souls are one.

And now you lay there dying
Steel jaws upon your frame,
Life's blood slowly seeping
I whimper your sweet name.

Helpless, I watch you struggle
Chest heaving with labored breath,
Steel jaws clenching tighter
Winds whisper the song of death.

The blood has now stopped flowing
I know the time is near,
And you will forever leave me
My love, my life, my dear.

And now my world is silent
Your struggles now have ceased,
I lay my head upon you
And know you are at peace.

Perhaps your soul has lifted
To skies where eagles soar,
And there you'll greet your brothers
To run with them forever more.

And someday I shall find you
In the heaven's so far above,
And when our wild soul's unite
There'll be no greater love.

Joan L. van Vels

"Wolves, like all other wildlife, have a right to exist in a wild state. This right is in no way related to their known value to mankind. Instead, it derives from the right of all living creatures to co-exist with man as part of the natural ecosystems."
Paragraph 1 of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Wolf Specialist Group's manifesto, 1973

 Our Mission

South African Friends of Wolves (SAFOW) has been founded by a group of people who not only love wolves but are committed to their protection in general and the well-being of those kept in our country in particular.

It is our aim to educate the interested public about the true nature of the wolf. This is not the wolf of legend and myth, but the wolf that once roamed in substantial numbers the vast expanses from Mexico to Canada, from Spain to Japan, and from Ethiopia to India. In doing so we hope to make a difference in the appreciation of one of the most sophisticated predators that ever graced our planet. We truly believe that wolves have a legitimate right to share earth with us and need our protection. We also believe that our society can learn a lot from their social structures.

Although only comparatively small numbers of wolves (Gray, Russian, ?Arctic) are being kept in captivity in South Africa, there appears to be an unproportionally great interest in them. As a result of persistent misconceptions the animals are often kept in less than adequate circumstances or even misused to achieve dubious aims. The subject of wolfdogs presents another range of problems that must be addressed in this context. By providing a local source of information we strive to make a difference both in the level of education of the interested public and the well-being of the animals concerned.

You may still wonder what the benefits for South Africa and its indigenous wildlife may be. Well, the civilisation-induced "problems" associated with free-ranging wolves are not so different from those posing a threat to our smaller predators. The latter include, for example, foxes, jackals and the wild dog, various wild cats, and many other carnivores. Like wolves, these species frequently find themselves faced with shrinking natural habitats and new potential food sources, i.e., livestock, if they don't happen to be living in protected areas such as nature reserves etc. As a result they may be killed, accidentally or intentionally, in spite of their protected status. By monitoring the efforts to solve these problems for the wolf in the wild we hope to create a database of information that can also be used to improve the chances of survival for these precious South African animals.

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 About Wolves

Wolves roamed the earth long before the first human beings existed. They lived all over the northern half of the globe - from Mexico to Canada, from Portugal and Spain to Japan, and from the northeastern parts of Africa to India.
Many scientists today think that ancient people learned their hunting skills from the wolves, and that they tried to "domesticate" wolves by stealing cubs out of dens to tame and use them for hunting purposes. Some even believe that the first means of human communication are based on the wolf's "language", because they were able to communicate with each other long before humans began to develop communication skills. The details of these studies make for most fascinating reading! However, humans never really understood wolves. Because these animals were supremely skilled hunters, humans felt they were competing with them for the same vital resource, i.e., food, and therefore considered wolves an enemy. The only humans who ever grasped the core being of wolves to a large extent, respected them, even revered them, were the North American Indians (Amerindians) - but they also eventually had to share their destiny.
In the early 1800's the most horrifying tales about bloodthirsty wolves attacking unsuspecting humans and devouring them, started to spread all over the world. These fairytales were constantly nurtured, passed on from generation to generation, and grew taller every time they were retold. As a result the wolf obtained a reputation of the "devil incarnate". Still today, most people believe that wolves howl at the moon, attack and eat humans, are unbelievably large and heavy monsters, and are driven mad by the smell of blood. More often than not the actual culprit was later identified to have been a stray or rabid dog, a bear, a puma, a coyote, or the product of vivid imagination. None of this is true. What we know about wolves is still very little, but what we do not know is a lot, and might never be discovered. This fact and the horrifying stories about the "evil" wolf are the most likely reasons for the wolves having been hunted to the brink of extinction during the last 100 years.
Wolves are predators, yes, and they kill other animals to survive. But in general they kill the weak, injured or sick members of a herd. This actually benefits the herd by leaving the strong and healthy to reproduce. As humans occupied more and more of the former wild land, urbanizing it, turning it into fields, or using it as grazing grounds for their domestic stocks, the natural hunting grounds of wolves became smaller and smaller. Domestic animals turned out to be an easy prey, and this only fuelled the human hatred.
Today, quite a number of wolf species are extinct. But thanks to dedicated wolf protection groups and organisations many have survived, if only in small numbers. In many parts of North America wolves had been placed under strict protection, and were reintroduced to their native environments. They started to recover in numbers, and were again able to lead happy and protected lives. Wolves were also reintroduced to the wild in some European locations, and now thrive under the protection of strict laws.
Unfortunately this is not the happy ending of this story - decision-makers of some government departments in the US obviously regard trophy hunting as a welcome source of filling depleted state coffers. These trophies need not necessarily be the wolves themselves, but their natural prey (ungulates such as elk, moose, caribou etc.). By removing the wolf from the natural equation, more hunting permits can be issued (sold) to trigger-happy citizens. In Alaska wolves are "culled" (= killed) out of the safety of a helicopter or airplane cabin by authorized pilots, who chase them until they are cornered or so exhausted that they can not run any farther and make for easy targets.
The responsible parties call this "predator control" and justify it with the argument that growing wolf populations are a threat to the number of moose, buffalo, and other wild animals (which can thus be reserved for affluent trophy hunters). The truth is that trophy hunters are after the biggest and strongest members of a herd. This in turn weakens the herds by leaving them with the sick and less strong members.
While one may have some kind of understanding for the early reasons to kill wolves out of fear and misunderstanding, the reasons given today are totally unacceptable. The manner in which it is done is cruel, the motivation purely dictated by greed. Their ignorance and disrespect shown toward anything non-human clearly is a step back in human evolution.
During the latter part of the Alaskan hunting season 2003/04 140+ wolves were killed by means of heli-hunting and others for no other reason than a lot of money and "fun". It is only a short time to the start of the next hunting season, and unless public resistance stops the greedy, cruel and shortsighted creatures allowing these murders, the meaningless slaughter may continue until there will be no wolves left.
Today some wolf populations have regained impressive pack sizes which, very unfortunately, led to a downgrading of their protection status. Although it is good to know that they are no longer threatened by immediate extinction, a lower protection status also bears the risk of more "accidental" wolf-killings, punishable by less severe sentences.
Again, after so many years of careful and strict protection, large financial investments in studies, reintroduction and rescue programs, and even bigger efforts to save one of the most beautiful, intelligent and fascinating animals from extinction, the future of the wolves appears uncertain once again. When will humans begin to learn that they are not the only ones with a right to live on this planet?

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 Do you want to own a Wolf

A wolf is NOT just another kind of dog. As a matter of fact a wolf merely bears some resemblance of certain dog breeds, but that is where it all ends already.

Before man began to walk upright and discovered the use of fire, wolves had already ruled the earth for some 200.000 years, at least in the northern hemisphere. What made them so successful, much more successful than any other large land animal like the sabre-toothed tiger or the mammoth, was that they had a social system in place and a language to communicate in. As a matter of fact some anthropologists presume that man discovered the benefits of talking to one another by their example. Wolves lived in packs with a social hierarchy, usually led by the most intelligent and not necessarily by the physically strongest. They had discovered the power of teamwork and did most things necessary for their survival together, like hunting and caring for their young. They often looked after their elders until they became too much of a burden for the pack - and cave man realised all these were the secrets of their success. The rest is modern history, but one should bear it in mind when considering making a wolf one's companion.
It is out of our respect for the wolf that we here talk of "him" and not of "it".

Let's quickly run through a number of possible motives why people most often think they want a wolf:

Why do you want a wild animal?
Don't you think that a wild animal is better off in the wild where it belongs? Do you really think you can provide the necessary security, space, biotope, and right kind of food for a wild animal? Do you have the necessary background knowledge and time to take proper care of such an animal? A wolf needs all of this and more. Being a highly social animal he needs his pack and pack leader, 24 h every day. You cannot just feed him normal dog food, he needs lots of space to roam, climbs walls and fences, and loves to dig. He cannot be trained like a dog, and if you do not know what makes a good pack leader how can you hope to be accepted as such?

Is it perhaps that you want to step up your home security?
Bad choice, your wolf will probably either be scared of any stranger, or, depending on his upbringing, welcome an intruder. He will not be aggressive towards you or your family, simply because you and your family will be his pack. A wolf pack is ruled by reason and justice, not through aggression.

You say, you'll give him manwork training?
Forget about it! Wolves are not, repeat, not aggressive towards man by nature but rather scared of him, no matter what fairy tales and other ancient sources say. The reason why people say he is, is simply because man has always feared creatures that competed with him - and were successful. Blaming the "big bad wolves" for all evil provided merely an excuse to hunt and kill them relentlessly. Forcing him to become aggressive is therefore against its nature and will most likely break him mentally.

Maybe you want to use the wolf for crossbreeding with a domestic dog to get out something strong, big, unafraid of anything and anybody?
Again, a very bad motive. See the section "Do you want to have a wolfdog?" below.

Are you currently keeping a rottweiler, German shepherd, a dog of the bull terrier family, a ridgeback, or a wolf hound?
Then a genuine wolf will have little chance of surviving in your hands. Many dogs were bred (also) to defend herds of sheep and cattle from wild wolves and will, earlier or later, try to kill the wolf. Although Alaskan Malamutes are often used for crossbreeding, sledgedogs are in general a high risk affair.
In a confrontation with a large dog, a captive-raised wolf is rather likely to try and solve their dispute by "discussing" it, as he would with another wolf, but the dog will not understand. On the other end of the scale are those small breeds like the Maltese poodle. Like most larger dog breeds, wolves just seem to hate them and may decide at one stage they have had enough of their yapping and shut them up for good. If you want to keep your wolf in the company of a dog, the most promising choice may be a Groenendael (Belgian shepherd) of first class working dog stock; they are also quite fluent in the wolf's language; a Border Collie may be worth a try. Both are neither too strong to pose a threat to a grown-up wolf nor too small to be considered food, and intelligent enough to realise both. But even in this case it would be of utmost importance that the wolf cub grows up in the presence of the dog.
However, if you ever gave up on a dog because of dominance and/or behavioural problems, you are lacking something and that makes you entirely unsuited for keeping a wolf, sorry.

Do you still want a wolf?
Yes? Really? There was nothing in the above paragraphs that changed your mind? Then there are two fundamentally different ways to go about it, both with their pros and cons.

First, and most important, however - there are virtually no good homes for a second-hand wolf, i.e. one that was given up by or rescued from a previous owner. And an adult wolf rescued from the wild (e.g., injured, a "problem wolf") is the worst possible choice for you. In general, all the different scenarios listed below require that the wolf or wolves in question are still cubs (preferably not older than 7 weeks, and have until then been brought up in a mixed "pack" of wolves and humans. Older cubs or youngsters will have problems to bond with their new owner; younger or even hand-reared animals will not have learned proper pack rules and cannot, at a later stage, be socialised with other wolves.

Scenario 1
You are envisaging your own little wildlife refuge, your own little wolf park. If you have a space of several acres of well-structured land available, the manpower to look after and care for the animals, and the financial resources to run it long-term, that's fine. Almost all wolf parks in existence today once upon a time started like that. If you, in addition, have experience from working at and managing such a park, that's even better. If not, you will have to hire someone who has. The costs for setting up and then running such a place properly are enormous and, more often than not, subject to approval by the relevant authorities. "Properly" here means escape-proof, in accordance with the wolves' natural requirements, and safe for them and for you. In other words, a cage will not do!
The pros of such a project are that the animals will be more or less allowed to lead lives in a way similar to their free-ranging cousins, but minus the usual threats. Certain behavioral studies may be facilitated. If you are situated in a region where wolves live or used to live naturally, then yours may be, or become, a contribution to their protection or/and reintroduction to the area.
The cons are mainly the limited amount of interaction possible between you and the animals (more than one is an absolute must). It is more like keeping fish in a tank. The wolves will probably retain, or regain, a certain degree of shyness, certainly aloofness, and possibly distrust. They will basically do their own thing. In the process you will be reduced to a provider of food who is tolerated as a useful part of their environment.

Scenario 2
You are dreaming of living with a wolf?
Many people have had this dream, and very few have succeeded in turning it into reality. Circumstances are notorious for their changing - what, for example, if a new human partner enters your life, what if you have to relocate, or what if your new job suddenly requires you to be away from home for long periods of time?
Living with a wolf means to be part of his pack, his family, always. It is a lifelong commitment with no chance of a fair divorce. It requires you to respect some rules of living together that may be totally alien to you at first, but actually make perfect sense if you look at them from a wolf's point of view. If your desire is strong enough, you will be ready to make the necessary allowances, but if you consider them sacrifices, you had better go for a dog.
Being the highly intelligent animal that he is, a wolf needs new mental stimuli on an ongoing basis. You will find that he learns very easily and very quickly. He has an excellent memory with regard to places, persons and actions. Very basic obedience training, therefore, becomes a "piece of cake", if you bear in mind that the wolf will be bored of repeating exercises very quickly. It may be extremely useful at times, however, if your wolf is not scared of walking on a leash and riding in a car - just imagine you have to get him to a vet in the case of an emergency! The wolf very soon acquires certain basic ideas of how a pack (=family) functions, what is adequate and what is not. He will tell you so and expect that you understand! Try and learn wolf language (body language plus sounds) as the wolf will try to learn your language (sounds plus body language) where it makes sense to him. Become aware of and be consistent with your body language so as to not contradict your spoken words. This would be utterly confusing to the animal. Learn from the wisdom of the wolf's idea of living together and you may find there is a lot that modern man's society could benefit from. Read as much as you possibly can on other peoples' experiences with a wolf in the house, and do not repeat their mistakes.
The wolf demands some respect - wouldn't you too if you ruled earth for 200.000 years without destroying it? He will, in turn, pay you respect as you are (supposed to be) the pack leader and as such you deserve respect, wolf-style. If you fail in this department, the wolf will tell you, but if you continue not to understand, he might decide one day to take your place (as a dog would, too).
The wolf is a carnivore. He needs meat, not junk food. He will also complement his diet with invertebrates (insects, snails, etc.), vertebrates (rodents, bats, lizards, fowl, birds), and selected roots, herbs, berries and grasses which he hunts, digs up or grazes off itself. Dog pellets of the highest quality and without preservatives (!) are not too bad, but real meat is better (can you find a reliable source?); a combination of both provides variety, and so do some veggies with the food. At one stage your young wolf will put on as much as one kilogram of weight per week - to achieve this he will eat about one kilogram of meat per day. If you say, the best is just good enough for my wolf and I can afford whatever he demands, then maybe you are indeed suitable to have one, at least as far as your finances and the food quality for the wolf are concerned.
Wolves are in principle nocturnal (active at night). They prefer to feed in the evening and do their business at night. If you want your wolf to stay in the house over night, you should educate him to feed during the day so that most of the business has been done by the evening. Even if a foundation to this effect has been laid by the source where he comes from, it will still take some patience from your side; maybe more than a year.
You need to have a veterinarian or two who can take care of your wolf without being scared. In South Africa the greatest threat to a wolf is billiary ("tickbite fever") that may kill an otherwise healthy adult wolf in less than six hours from your first noticing that all is not well. The only really reliable method to keep ticks away is using a fairly costly liquid product (distributed by veterinarians only) that is applied on the skin between the shoulder blades. This must be done religiously every four weeks and also during the dry season. Powders, dips, collars etc. do not work, or not reliably so, with the water and dirt resistant wolf coat.
Your wolf needs the physical contact with you (as he would with the wolves of his pack), and you will want to enjoy it, too. Ideally you are working from home or at least you are not away from home every night and weekend. A pack leader who is never with the pack is not fit to claim leadership. And, what will happen to your wolf when you go away on holidays? The authors of these lines have committed themselves not to go on extensive vacations for the rest of their wolves' lives. They are comfortable with this prospect, but you may think differently and, therefore, you have to have a plan! A dog kennel is no solution whatsoever!
A wolf needs space. 1000 square metres of accessible garden will do as long as it is richly structured to satisfy the natural curiosity of your wolf and its need for exercise. As was said before, he needs plenty of mental stimulation. This area must be proofed against under-digging and over-climbing, and you had better believe it, wolves are Houdinis clad in fur. They quite easily find out how to scale a wiremesh fence or a tree next to it, how to open doors, or how deep a tunnel under the foundation of a wall must be to get to the enticing other side. Digging is also behaviour that serves to unearth edible roots and grubs, earthworms and termites (which the wolf locates by hearing). Don't punish your wolf for this; tell and show him you don't like it, and perhaps he will do you the favour and leave your rosebushes alone, for a while. Generally speaking, don't be shy to talk to your wolf, he will understand much more than you may be willing to give him credit for at this stage.
Here, you are entering a relationship between partners much rather than keeping an animal. If you are not doing it for the right reasons, you will awake from your dream to find you are living in a nightmare.
Cons of this approach include a certain degree of loss of natural behaviour and that there will be captivity-induced alterations to the same. It requires an extreme measure of commitment, and forces upon the "keeper" (for lack of a better word) a certain, unusual lifestyle. If learning and acquiring the "way of the wolf" represents an unwanted effort, this may also be a con, although in principle it surely is a pro. Substantial costs are involved. Your patience may be tested and its limits may need expansion. Damage to your property should not upset you too much.
Pros are such as an experience second to none. Fine details of certain behavioural patterns can be observed up close, and the authors of these lines have over the years discovered a number of points in wolf behaviour and language that do not appear to have been documented in the existing literature.

Another - although in principal only half-hearted - approach would be to live next to a wolf pack. It is basically the existence of two "packs", a wolf and a human one, side by side, with an amount of mutual interaction. Such a situation exists when a pack of wolves live on the same property as you, but rarely come (or are permitted) into the house and you meet them when you choose to leave it. This may work fairly well in some cases, provided the wolves were brought up with intense physical human contact during their early stages of development. It also necessitates that there be more than one wolf, because the required social component would otherwise be missing.
Pros are that "house training" is virtually unnecessary, and that interaction can be fairly intense if you regularly spend a lot of time outside with the pack. Many aspects of wolf behaviour can be observed up close, but finer and more rarely displayed details may easily be missed.
Cons include the risk of a gradual decrease of the contact with the animals that may go unnoticed for a surprisingly long time. The early stages of an approaching illness may be missed and social conflicts may develop. Influencing certain undesirable habits may be difficult. The urge to leave the property may be much greater than in the scenario described before. Suitable shelters must be made available outside.

In principle, we object to wolves being kept in captivity. We object to private people and public enterprises keeping them unless they know exactly what they are doing. We support the conservation of wolves and their natural habitats in the wild wholeheartedly.
We are aware of the fact that quite a number of captive wolves are living here in South Africa. They have been here for quite some time and cannot be flown back to their native countries to reintroduce them to the wild. The only thing that can be done is giving them good homes and dedicated care, but this is by far easier said than done. SAFOW wants to make a contribution to this effect through information and education. Also, if a private person really cannot be convinced that it is not a good idea to keep a wolf as a companion, we hope that the above provides some guidelines that help to make such living together a little more acceptable for all parties involved.

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 Do you want to own a Wolfdog?

What is a wolfdog?
Before looking more closely at why people may want to own such animal and what they may be letting themselves into, we should first define what a wolfdog is. Amongst dog breeders wolfdogs are breeds that were originally created to hunt wolves in the wild. These include breeds like the huge Irish and Scottish Wolfhounds, the Russian Borzoi, and even the Chinese Shar-pei. When "wolfers" talk of wolfdogs they refer to crossbreeds between any domestic dog and a wolf instead. The term "hybrid", often used in this connection, is basically wrong because it does not meet the scientific definition of "hybrid" (usually a cross between two natural species or subspecies), and Canis familiaris, the domestic dog, is not a natural species.

A wolfdog is not like a dog and therefore one should not expect it to behave like one, even if it looks more like a dog than a wolf. In fact, you cannot ever be quite sure of what you are getting when you acquire a wolfdog pup. While certain dog breeds are known to have certain behavioural characteristics, and wolves also follow certain general behavioural rules, the mixing together of the two also mixes up these guidelines, the extent of which then often surprises the owner. The more different the two mating partners are in character, generally and as individuals, the more unpredictable are their offspring.
Most common are wolfdogs obtained from crossing a wolf with a German Shepherd or a Malamute, and crosses with the Rottweiler, Doberman, Boerebull and various others have been attempted. The Malamute is thought by many to be the domestic dog most closely related to the wolf, although some DNA research actually suggests this to be the Groenendael (the black, long-haired Belgian Shepherd), at least as far as the European wolf is concerned. The resulting pups may eventually look either more like the parent dog or the parent wolf, and it is here that a lot of confusion arises as to the "amount of wolf blood" in a wolfdog. One has to understand that there is a difference between genotype (the genetic composition of an organism) and phenotype (the outward appearance of an organism). One simple example may illustrate this: if you cross A with B, the genetic composition (genotype) is 50% A plus 50% B throughout the litter, no exceptions. Depending on which genes dominate over others, the individuals in this litter may either look (exhibit a phenotype) more like A or B or a mix of both. Their genotype, however, is always 50/50, and trying to evaluate each individual of such litter with a percentage as to their "wolf blood" is therefore utter nonsense. If this 50/50 mix is now mated with a 100% wolf or 100% dog, the arithmetical genotype is 75% vs. 25% of this or that. It does not mean, however, that the phenotype shifts accordingly throughout the litter, although statistically it does (visible when the sample size is large enough). As with all statistics there is a range between both near 100 and 0%, so that even a quarter wolfdog (25% wolf genes) may well exhibit the phenotype of a purebred wolf. Its offspring, however, are likely to reveal eventually that it was not purebred at all, because the genotype will again express itself in a range of phenotypes.
The phenotype does not apply to the animal's appearance alone, but also to its disposition, attitude, and instinctive habits. Now consider this: mating partner A has been bred for countless generations to be man's best friend, to be loyal and trusting and do everything to please him. In contrast, mating partner B has been persecuted relentlessly by man for thousands of years, considered one of his worst enemies, and has learnt to never trust but always fear him. Mixing these two fundamentally different attitudes must have some effect, don't you think? Some animal psychologists therefore presume that many wolfdogs embody schizophrenic ("split") personalities of entirely opposite polarization, and many problems with wolfdogs may in fact be explained by just that.
Animals with 50% or more wolf DNA are for all intents and purposes and in their own minds wolves, no matter whether they look like it or not. A wolfdog can look like the perfect example of the dog breed it has been crossed with but still behave like a purebred wolf. The same may apply to wolfdogs with a lesser percentage of wolf DNA.

Now, are all wolfdogs unpredictable "fruitcakes"?
Statistically they are, but again there is a range from near 100 to 0%, and you may just hit it lucky, not so bad, or draw a blank.

So why do people breed wolfdogs in the first place?
There are a variety of reasons. Some dog breeders simply attempt to strengthen the bloodlines of certain precious breeds with the genes of a distantly related animal. As the creation and maintenance of purebred dogs necessitates inbreeding, genetically fixed weaknesses often manifest themselves that cannot be eliminated (bred out) with stock from within that breed. However, to remove the wolf characteristics (phenotypic manifestations) from that bloodline will again necessitate intense inbreeding with the consequent negative effects. Crossing a wolf into a dog breed's bloodline is therefore not really a solution.
Another motivation stems from the general misconception of how wolves are. Their intelligence, power, endurance, boldness, and resistance to hardship, are equally feared and admired. By crossing these characteristics into a dog bloodline breeders hoped to create new dog breeds that showed these attributes, but would still be eager to please their masters. Here the phenomenon of the difference between genotype and phenotype (as discussed above) led to results not quite expected.
Lastly, it is a basic rule of economics that a demand creates suppliers. People saw a tame wolf or wolfdog in a movie or happened to come across one, and they start looking around for one for themselves. But because they take the tale of "Little Red Riding Hood" too literally, they are now scared that the real thing may turn out to be too dangerous. They want to play it safe, they are after a wolf that is "watered down" to something less threatening. They believe that a wolfdog must certainly be more dog-like, with the looks of a wolf, and breeders find themselves tempted with an opportunity to increase their turnovers. Unfortunately most of these breeders lack a proper knowledge of wolves, and therefore buyers rarely get any practical information about what they let themselves into. The sad result is that by far most of the oh-so-cute pups do eventually not die of old age because their owners discover much earlier that this animal is not what they had wanted and expected. The authors of these lines know of one case where it worked out fine (until now), and have heard of another. At the same time they learnt of many others where it did not. For that simple reason it is our opinion that these manmade wolfdogs should not exist in the first place.

What to do if you get a wolfdog by chance?
It may just so happen that you end up with a wolfdog pup. In this case you should brace yourself with the idea that eventually you may be dealing more with a wolf than a dog. If you expect it to behave like one and you treat it accordingly, there will be few surprises and crises. Read the discussion above on keeping a wolf as a companion and you may get an impression of what may be coming your way. Also, read everything you can find on wolf behaviour and learn from the experiences and mistakes others made before you.
In a nutshell, wolfdogs are animals with a behavior one would consider as "odd" in a dog, but for them it is absolutely normal. If you have ever had to child-proof your home because of your kids, then you should make friends with the thought of having your home like this forever. Kids grow up - wolfdogs don't. They may have just enough dog blood in them to lack the good sense of wolves to be afraid of humans, but there is no guarantee for it. But they will always have enough wolf in them to behave like one.

If no wolf and no wolfdog, what then?
If you are after a canine that looks wolfish, but behaves more like a dog, there are a few excellent dog breeds to choose from. The long-haired variety of the German Shepherd is one of them (look out for a specimen from box-rumped breeding stock), the Tervuren (the copper-colored, long-haired variety of the Belgian shepherd) another. The Groenendael (the black, long-haired Belgian Shepherd) would be a prime candidate, too. Good specimens are supremely intelligent and display a lot of wolfish behaviour and habits (training requires a different approach than with most German Shepherds, though). All three breeds are not too difficult to find, but you may want to go for good working dogs rather than show specimens. If you lead a very active lifestyle, a Malamute or Husky may be the right choice as both need daily exercise and love to run long distances. Especially the latter can be quite vocal, though. Rarely seen, difficult to obtain, but surprisingly wolf-like is the Russian Shepherd, a largely unrecognized breed badly neglected in the west. The white German Shepherd, now known as the Canadian Shepherd, may remind you of the Arctic Wolf, especially if you can find a box-rumped, long-legged specimen certified free of hip dysplasia. Large specimens of the Belgian wolfhound with their medium-long off-white coat combine the looks of a tundra wolf with the character of a good family dog.
As you can see, you do have a choice.

As was said before, we strictly oppose the breeding of wolfdogs. We advise people to not even consider buying them. It is senseless and cruel to help create a market for artificial animal creations that are likely to be eventually despised, dumped, and euthanized. There are dog breeds available that combine the looks of a wolf with the temperament of a dog.
If however, after everything you now know about wolfdogs you are still compelled to have one, we cannot help it. All we can do is try and provide you with what you need to know - education is the only answer.
If you will grant us one wish - please get the education first and then the animal, not the other way around.

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 Wolves in South Africa

Using "wolves" and "South Africa" in the same sentence appears somewhat contradictory. The natural distribution of wolves never reached as far south as to the southern tip of this continent. Here, their ecological niche is occupied by the African wild dog, which is incidentally also known as the "African painted wolf". It is only distantly related to the wolves of the northern hemisphere, however.
Yet there are a few wolves in South Africa - in captivity. How they came here and for which reasons are questions nobody seems to have definite answers for. There are a few stories around, though, none of which could be proven beyond doubt so far. Besides those wolves that were inconspicuously imported by private individuals for whatever reasons, it is often heard that it was the South African Defence Force, or the Police, or both, that at one stage imported wolves from North America, probably Canada. They allegedly wanted them for crossbreeding with German Shepherds and other large dog breeds, hoping this would produce a powerful, fear-inspiring crowd control dog. The timespan quoted for when this supposedly happened is often given as "the seventies and/or eighties". However, there is no evidence at present to substantiate such claims.
While, so it is said, the crossbreeding projects failed dismally and all crosses were eventually destroyed, some of the original wolves ended up in zoos or private hands. A few of these really found good homes, and reproduction took place in very small numbers, without any publicity whatsoever. Until today, private wolf owners in South Africa keep a very low profile, act in silence and mostly very responsibly.
However, most South Africans are real animal lovers, be it domestic or wild or both. TV programs on animals are a staple diet for them, wildlife clubs are abound, and the numbers of domestic dogs, cats, horses, birds etc. in this country probably exceed the number of people by far. In this light it is not surprising any more that an animal as magnificent and awe-inspiring as the wolf, exotic or not, enjoys a lot of interest amongst South Africans.
The number of wolves in South Africa is uncertain at present. The attempt of an anonymous, and still ongoing, survey revealed close to two dozen specimens, most of them Gray, but also a few European ("Russian") and even a couple of Arctic ones. Considering that this might represent only the "tip of the iceberg" (an "icicle", rather), it may be safe to presume there are maybe eighty altogether, but surely not more than a hundred or so. As to the number of wolfdogs, it is anybody's guess. And how are they doing here? Just fine! In regions with hot summers their thick winter coats protect them very effectively from overheating, while during the comparatively mild winters they could jus as well enjoy romping around in skimpy "summer dress". Those living in the care of owners situated in more temperate climates, such as on the south coast or in the mountains, need to adjust even less. And generally speaking, their owners look after them very well indeed.
Still, these wolves are kept under circumstances different from those in their natural habitats. Therefore, some of them are better off than others. And although they are bred only in very small numbers, mostly just to keep bloodlines alive, they sometimes end up in the hands of private people who love them dearly, but still lack the huge amount of knowledge needed to give them proper care. We may not have to worry about wolves and their protection in the South African wild, but we still have to be responsible enough to worry about the well-being of captive wolves in our country. As with everything in life, education is the key to success, and it is one of our goals to help the wolves in our beloved South Africa by providing this education.

Recommended Reading

A Headful of Wolves

A Headful of Wolves

A life stranger than fiction. And it all started when Ted and Erin decided to quit Germany and emigrate to South Africa just when the era of Apartheid came to end there. Animal lovers through and through, they eventually ended up sharing their home with a pack of wolves. If this alone were not strange enough, a teacher came into their lives and taught them Animal Communication. Ted took to this like a fish to water and with almost daily training over the years refined his skills to levels he never thought possible – and to dimensions very few people probably know exist. Ted tells how everything evolved, sharing the joys and dramas of being part of a wolf pack in a domestic setting. He leaves no doubts, however, that this requires a lot of dedication, compromising, and a deep understanding of wolf mentality. He describes in detail the fundamental requirements for such a setup to work and why the “normal” person may be better advised to stick to a dog with wolfish looks rather than the real thing. He also takes a look at the difficult relationship between people and wolves throughout history, and discusses why Animal Communication is a skill everybody is born with, but most will unlearn later in life. Told as they unfolded, his realizations have the potential of widely expanding the box humans are generally conditioned to think in – both with regard to the wolf as a physical being and as a spiritual entity of immense wisdom. Ted Ehrhardt (pseudonym) is an author, editor and translator with more than 30 years of experience in various fields of biosciences, at home in the worlds of both scientific literature and fiction.

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Photographs, where indicated, © Monty Sloan / Wolf Park and, where indicated, The Lupus Foundation, as well as Monika Kubierske, Peter Musiol, Thomas Ulber, Robert Miller, Heidi Wilcken

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Just this side of Heaven is a place called the Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies who has been especially close to someone here, he goes to the Rainbow Bridge.

There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.

There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

They are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly the animal begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face, your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your friend, so long gone from your life, but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross the Rainbow Bridge together..."


One prayer: Peace
One hope: Harmony
One dream: Understanding

"The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong."
Keewatin Inuit Proverb

"We humans fear the beast within the wolf because we do not understand the beast within ourselves."
Gerald Hausman

"To look into the eyes of a wolf is to see your own soul - hope you like what you see."
Aldo Leopold

"Throughout the centuries we have projected on to the wolf the qualities we most despise and fear in ourselves."
Barry Lopez

"The wolf is neither man's competitor nor his enemy. He is a fellow creature with whom the earth must be shared."
L. David Mech

"We have doomed the Wolf not for what it is, but for what we have deliberately and mistakenly perceived it to be.. the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer.. which is, in reality no more than a reflexed image of ourself."
Farely Mowat

"Respect the Elders,
Teach the Young
Cooperate with the Pack
Play when you can,
Hunt when you must,
Rest in between.
Share your affection,
Voice your feelings,
Leave your mark."


"Can you taste me in the wind?
I flow with the wolves
They flow with me...
They teach me how to see..."


"Wolves are fiercely loyal to their mates, have a strong sense of family, yet maintain their individualism... qualities we admire in ourselves."

"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty and gratitude, then wolves are better off than a lot of humans."

"His [The Wolf's] eyes generally appear sparkling; and there is a wildness and a fierceness in his looks."
Samuel Williams

"A wolf was persuaded to give up killing animals and lead a saintly life. He did just this for a long time, until one day, as he was walking down the road, a goose came up to him, flapping his wings and hissing noisily. The wolf quickly pounced. 'Geese should not hiss at saints,' he said."
Lithuanian Fable

"It seems almost something abnormal that over a portion of the earth's surface nature should be nothing and man everything." Albert Schweitzer


Free of spirit, body and soul
To her heart there was no key,
Captured by nothing, nothing at all
I wonder even by me.

In her veins ran the ultimate symbol
Of triumph over time,
Her beauty was a picture
Of the perfect design.

Her eyes held the ghost of ancestors
That roamed before,
Strength, courage and grace
She was to the core.

High upon a mountain
She now stands so regally,
A wisp of wind, she fades away
But not from my memory.

Shay Tankersley

"There always are more plant-eaters than there are meat-eaters because plants are the basic form of food. The prey controls the predator because it is closer to the source of life. A predator capable of exterminating its prey soon would be an extinct predator."
David Rains Wallace

"The romantic mind might note that sixty-plus years - the wolves' absence - is how long it would take for ninety-nine percent of the old-time Indian-killers, buffalo-killers, and wolf-killers to die off: as if the wolves could not bring themselves to return to a country where such wanton killers still ruled. There is no other word for our behavior, back then."
Rick Bass

"You may feed the wolf as much as you like, but he will always glance toward the forest."
Russian Proverb

"Intoxicated by too much of the homebrew he had drunk at the village's celebration, a violin player had to make his way back through the deep forest at night. Therefore he did not see the wolf pit and fell into it, only to realize that it was already occupied by a huge male wolf called Geza. Not knowing how else to pacify the predator the man played his violin, and the wolf sang with him all night until both were discovered by the villagers the next morning. Grateful for not having eaten their favorite musician the village council decided to release the wolf unharmed. Since then the song of the wolf is a reminder that too much celebration may end you up in trouble, in particular if you can't play the violin."
Siebenbuergen (Romania)
Folk Tale

"When a dog loves you, you will feel flattered. When a wolf befriends you, you will be moved close to tears."

Call of the Wild

He's been worshiped
And he's been feared,
He's been pushed from state
to state through the years.
But now we know him
Now we understand,
The fragile balance
Between nature and man.

He's the call of the wild
with a spirit strong and true,
And each and every child
Should have the chance
To listen to the call of the wild.

Brother to brother
Father to son,
Have told the stories
Of this noble one.
Proud as an eagle
And free as the wind,
And you can hear him
If you only listen.

You'll hear the call of the wild
With a spirit strong and true,
And each and every child
Should have the chance
To listen to the call of the wild.

Please let them hear
The call of the wild.


"If we could live like wolves, we would never hate our brothers and sisters just for being of different colors. We would live together in harmony, knowing that the wellbeing of the others would be the basis of our own wellbeing. We would care for each other no matter whether young or old or healthy or sick. We would have a sensible order. We would look after nature because we would understand that we need Her to survive, and we would kill for one reason only - for food. What a perfect place earth could be, if only we could be like wolves."
A colorblind South African