Published: March 2006

African Wolves

Wolf Grass

Wolves of Ethiopia

Why is the Ethiopian wolf the rarest canid on the planet?

By Virginia Morell
Photograph by Anup Shah

Mornings on the high Sanetti Plateau of Ethiopia's Bale Mountains break cold and spare, the sun's first rays stirring not warmth, but an icy, cutting wind. I pull my neck gaiter over my chin, stomp my feet on the frozen grass, and tell myself again that this is Africa. Then, on a rocky outcrop some 20 feet away, a wolf appears. She throws back her head and yips—five quick, sharp calls that summon four other wolves, all males. They paw and stretch and lick each other's muzzles, tails wagging.

They are red, these wolves, with black-and-white tails, and white blazes on their chests. The fur on their throats is white too, and sweeps in a curve toward their eyes, giving them the look of laughing clowns. But it's the sassy hue of their coats that catches your eye. We're the top dogs here, their color proclaims. And they are. For these are Ethiopian wolves: the only species of wolf found in Africa.

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