|Wolves communicate not only by sound (such as yipping, growling,
and howling), but also by body language. This ranges from subtle signals–such
as a slight shift in weight–to the obvious, like rolling on the back
as a sign of submission.
Dominance – A dominant
wolf stands stiff legged and tall. The ears are erect and forward, and
the hackles bristle slightly. Often the tail is held vertical and curled
toward the back. This display shows the wolf's rank to all others in the
pack. A dominant lupine may stare penetratingly at a submissive one, pin
it to the ground, "ride up" on its shoulders, or even stand
on its hind legs.
Submission (active) – In active submission, the
entire body is lowered, and the lips and ears are drawn back. Sometimes
active submission is accompanied by a rapid thrusting out of the tongue
and lowering of the hindquarters. The tail is placed down, or halfway
or fully between the legs, and the muzzle often points up to the more
dominant animal. The back may be partially arched as the submissive wolf
humbles itself to its superior. (A more arched back and more tucked tail
indicate a greater level of submission.)
Submission (passive) – Passive submission is more
intense than active submission. The wolf rolls on its back and exposes
its vulnerable throat and underside. The paws are drawn into the body.
This is often accompanied by whimpering.
Anger – An angry lupine's ears are erect, and its
fur bristles. The lips may curl up or pull back, and the incisors are
displayed. The wolf may also snarl.
Fear – A frightened wolf tries to make its body
look small and therefore less conspicuous. The ears flatten down against
the head, and the tail may be tucked between the legs, as with a submissive
wolf. There may also be whimpering or barks of fear, and the wolf may
arch its back.
Defensive – A defensive wolf flattens its ears
against its head.
Aggression – An aggressive wolf snarls and its
fur bristles. The wolf may crouch, ready to attack if necessary.
Suspicion – Pulling back of the ears shows a lupine
is suspicious. In addition, the wolf narrows its eyes. The tail of a wolf
that senses danger points straight out, parallel to the ground.
Relaxedness – A relaxed wolf's tail points straight
down, and the wolf may rest sphinxlike or on its side. The wolf's tail
may also wag. The further down the tail droops, the more relaxed the wolf
Tension – An aroused wolf's tail points straight
out, and the wolf may crouch as if ready to spring.
Happiness – As dogs do, a lupine may wag its tail
if it is in a joyful mood. The tongue may loll out of the mouth.
Hunting – A wolf that is hunting is tensed, and
therefore the tail is horizontal and straight.
Playfulness – A playful lupine holds its tail high
and wags it. The wolf may frolic and dance around, or bow by placing the
front of its body down to the ground, while holding the rear high, sometimes
wagged. This is reminiscent of the playful behavior executed in domestic