A very striking image to see in the wolf is a beautiful black coat offsetting the deep, soulful yellow eyes. The black wolf tends to stand out clearly in a pack of gray wolves. This coat color is well entrenched only in North America as there are no black wolves in Europe or Asia (with the exception of a small group of Italian wolves recently hybridized).

But the black coat is not a naturally occurring color in wolves. It did not exist in the beginning when wolves first evolved many hundreds of thousands of years ago. So where did the black coat come from and why?

The black coat in wolves originally developed from the interbreeding of Native American's companion dogs. The black coat is a mutation that first showed up in dogs around 45,000 years ago. It appears that the wolf picked up this mutation around 12-15,000 years ago. Scientists have found that the black coat in wolves and coyotes is the same genetic mutation as that of dogs. The molecular - clock analysis shows this mutation to be the oldest in dogs, therefore dogs had to have passed it onto to wolves and coyotes.

But why was the black coat beneficial to the wolf? The black coat seemed to establish itself very rapidly among the forest dwelling wolves suggesting that it might have provided a major advantage to them. One frame of thought is that it could have meant improved camouflage to the wolf in the dark forests. This may not be the real reason though since wolves do not hide from their prey but rather run them down out in the open. As for camouflage from human extermination campaigns, these are recent efforts from mankind. The wolves and the Native Americans lived for thousands of years in harmony with each other.

Whatever the original reason for the increase of the black coat among wolves, there is no evidence of recent interbreeding between North American wolves and dogs. The real reason may always remain as a mystery, but the beautiful black wolf is here to stay.

Responses to "The Origin of the Beautiful Black Wolf"

  1. Will says:

    I love this site!

    The Alexander Archipelago Wolf

    Beloved Romeo of Juneau was one...I think they have crossbred down in the lower 48 also,too!
    It would be interesting to start DNA the hair of the wolves and seeing if ALL the black wolves are the Alexander Archipelago Wolf.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This video would have been so much better if the singer did not sing so you can hear the wolves howl.That is such a beautiful sound and in my opinion she ruined.Just saying.....

  4. Anonymous says:

    Que belleza De Lobos..
    Que El Humano, Sea El Peor Bicho Asesino
    Que Hay En La Capa De La Tierra.
    Me Gustaria Que Un Dia
    Se Rebelaran Los Animales
    Para Machacar a Todo. El Humano DaƱino.
    Que Felicidad Mas Grande, Para Nuestros Amigos los Animales.

  5. Anonymous says:

    i once had a full blooded akita, her name was Bessie Lou and her most loyal mate Moondog was half wolf and half white german shepard. the had one litter of puppies, 9 of them. One of the pups ,we called Wolfie, was black but her double undercoat was gray. she looked luminus. very beautiful. she now lives in the n.c. mountains. i pray she is happy and loved and healthy.

  6. Meana says:

    Very beautiful pictures and very true words. Thank you for helping the packs survive. We appreciate your efforts. Be safe (Pads off to the den)

  7. Anonymous says:

    Now I know why I love painting pictures of Wildlife. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing them in their true nature. I think humans could learn a lot by watching them. I always appreciate the efforts that are made to save all these creatures. May we all continue those efforts in any way we can.

  8. timbo says:

    I would love to know who the person is that wrote this article. Wolves do their hunting in the dim light of early morning and late evening and even some hunting nocturnally. In all of these time periods the dark coat becomes an advantage. In addition, hunting is not the only thing that wolves do. They must rear their pups, an activity that requires security from other predators that might threaten the pups, cougars etc. That means a dark place in the forest for the den and the dark coat becomes valuable once again.

  9. JuLane says:

    Didn't domesticated dogs originate from the grey wolf? If so, they passed the evolved black coloration back to the wolf thousands of years later.

  10. Anonymous says:

    They do not stay black, at least the majority. It's called "black phase" because they eventually start phasing to a silver coat.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Beautiful animals. I love them.

  12. Sharon Thomas says:

    Just think how much true music the Indians heard before white man showed up and all the beauty they seen on a daily bases it would have been wonderful to have heard and seen what they did. But now it is a fight just to try and keep them alive what a shame people have to be so dam greedy, what the hell is wrong with them.When your heart is closed and your mind is blind destruction is all you can bring it is time to return to nature unarmed and face all you have done wrong:

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Sharon, white men came, brought illness, greed and murder to the Native people. Now, they want to kill off the wolves. But there are many of us who will not allow this to happen!

  14. Unknown says:

    De mensen met hun hebzucht, uitbreiding landerijen, het kappen van bosgebieden en het onnodig jagen op de wolven voor (sport) de wolven worden verdrongen uit hun leefgebied en worden gezien als overbodig, FOUT DE WOLVEN HOUDEN DE NATUUR GEZOND EN ZORGEN VOOR ELKAAR, MENSEN BLIJF MET JE POTEN AF VAN DEZE PRACHTIGE DIEREN, zorg dat onze nabestaanden er ook van kunnen genieten...

  15. Anonymous says:

    Thank you anonyomous , i am a person of mixed heriateg with native american hetiateg , i have raised wolfs all my life an i would do anything to keep them safe , you are a kindred spirit :)

  16. Anonymous says:

    Yes all dogs are decendents of wolfs , and so there was also black wolfs durring the pre historic time

  17. Anonymous says:

    They do stay black , i have had 3 black wolfs i raised from a pup to adult hood

  18. Anonymous says:

    Thanks White Wolf for sharing.I really enjoy this sight,Thanks again! :)

  19. Jerry/ Wolfwarrior says:

    I always thought the black wolves may serve as decoys on winter hunts, thereby fooling prey into thinking they were the only thing to be concerned with, while the others were getting much closer and it would be they, that made the kill. Just a thought.

  20. Anonymous says:

    interesting, would be even better if the source for the scientific assertion were noted. the only wolf I have ever seen in the wild was black!

  21. Wolf Haven International is a wonderful place here in Washington giving captive born/abused wolves a place to live out there lives in a more natural setting. Also part of the Mexican grey wolf breeding program. Please check them out.

  22. LightHeart says:

    Hi, May I suggest reading "King Solomon's Ring" by Conrad Lorenz, an English Zoologist who tells us that DOGS, descended from the Golden Jackel, (Canis Aureus), & the Wolf, (Canis Lupus). The Lupus dogs, (of which there are only a few species relative to the # of Aureus species), are a step Up in Consciousness. They Mate for Life, & transfer their puppylove to their human master, whom they don't choose until 4-5 months old. If they lose their master, their heartbroken state severs their domesticity, and they return to the Wild State. I have personally seen this occur more tha once. Owning a Lupus dog is a Serious Responsibility if one Truly Loves the animal. LUPUS DOGS: Huskies, Malamutes, Akitas, Norwegian Elkhounds, Samoyeds, Keeshounds, & a few others. Google it. They are Magic....

  23. Janet says:

    I tried Googling Lupus Dogs and could only find the disease Lupus in dogs. Any other way to Google it? I love my Weimaraners, and they are a responsibility too, believe me. But Lupus dogs intrigue me. and thanks for the book recommendation. I highly value it too!

  24. Anonymous says:


  25. Anonymous says:

    Not all stay black. You have true black, and black phase. Mine was jet black at birth. Now at 4 years old he is turning white and silver.

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