The Long Riders' Guild

Wolves in Mongolia

Long Rider Bonnie Folkins has sent The Guild these useful pieces of information regarding wolves.

The chance of being attacked by a wolf in North America is extremely slim. Nearly all cases of wolf attacks in the last 200 years have been from lone wolves, possibly hybrids, which have learned to not fear humans, and habituated to scavenging in human areas.  Even so, such attacks are probably cases of curiosity or desperation. There has never been a documented case of a wild wolf purposely *killing* a human, in North America.

But in Russia and Central Asia wolves are an increasing danger. Should a rider be out alone and sitting by an exhausted or injured horse or isolated - especially at night - a pack of wolves could be a real threat (...unless the rider is carrying a gun and knows how to use it properly). For our ride, this has been a consideration that we have pondered from the beginning. Wolf stories abound in Mongolia. One favorite topic of conversation, when we sit around at meals with a new family, is to say "Chonin twa me twoo? (Phonetics here) - meaning "Tell me a wolf story."

More dangerous are “trekking wolves” that travel and hunt alone without the pack. They have been known to roam into settlements where they demonstrate aggression without fear. These violent animals are so much of a threat that warnings are broadcast on the television stations in Ulaanbaatar. They are not like American wolves that have learned to fear men with guns. The Russian and Central Asian wolves appear to show no fear at all.

Being attacked by a feral dog is equally likely, however, should you encounter a wolf, the same strategy probably applies:

1)  Keep your distance, especially if the animal is scavenging or feeding.

2)  Stay calm; stand up straight, be confident. 

3) Don't wave your arms, shout, behave aggressively, tease, or otherwise provoke the animal. Don't stare directly; most animals consider this a challenge. If threatened, calmly turn around and walk away. Never run, it may decide to chase you.

4)  Call the police; a wolf that does not instinctively fear humans is potentially a problem animal.

5)  If you are attacked, try to roll up into a fetal position, protecting your face and hands; don't move until the animal backs off.


Hybrids display a wide variety of appearances, ranging from a resemblance to dogs without wolf blood to animals that are often mistaken for full-blooded wolves. A lengthy study by DEFRA and the RSPCA found several examples of misrepresentation by breeders and indeterminate levels of actual wolf pedigree in many animals sold as wolf-dogs. The report noted that uneducated citizens misidentify dogs with wolf-like appearance as wolf-dogs. Wolf-dogs tend to have somewhat smaller heads than pure wolves, with larger, pointier ears which lack the dense fur commonly seen in those of wolves. Fur markings also tend to be very distinctive and not well blended. Black coloured hybrids tend to retain black pigment longer as they age, compared to black wolves.  In some cases, the presence of  dewclaws on the hind feet is considered a useful, but not absolute indicator of dog gene contamination in wild wolves. Dewclaws are the vestigial first toes, which are common on the hind legs of domestic dogs but thought absent from pure wolves, which only have four hind toes. Observations on wild wolf hybrids in the former Soviet Union indicate that wolf hybrids in a wild state may form larger packs than pure wolves, and have greater endurance when chasing prey. High content hybrids typically have longer  canine teeth than dogs of comparable size, with some officers in the South African Defence Force commenting that the animals are capable of biting through the toughest padding "like a knife through butter". Their sense of smell apparently rivals that of most established scent-hounds. Tests undertaken in the Perm Institute of Interior Forces in Russia demonstrated that high content hybrids took 15–20 seconds to track down a target in training sessions, whereas ordinary police dogs took 3–4 minutes.


For more information about wolf-dog hybrids, please visit Wikipedia.


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