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Howls and Growls:
Vocal Communication in Wolves

Click on the wolves above to hear a haunting howl!

The sounds on these pages are in the .WAV format.

One of the most important forms of wolf communication is vocalization. There are four kinds of sounds that the wolves make: howl, bark, growl and whimper. The wolf can use one of these sounds or a combination of them to communicate with the other wolves.

The howl is the most well known sound of the wolf, and it seems to have many complex functions. Howls can be heard over long distances. When wolves howl together they harmonize, creating an impression of more animals than there actually are. A lone wolf may howl to communicate its position to the rest of the pack when they become separated from the other wolves. This lets the other wolves pin-point the lone wolf's location. The members of a pack can identify each wolf from its howl.

A pack can also initiate a group howl for social reasons. A group howl can be initiated by one member of the pack, and all others will join in. The howl can be accompanied by playful nuzzling, tail-wagging, and whining.

Barking is another type of vocalization that can be used over long distances. There are two types of barks: an alarm bark, and a challenge bark. The bark of alarm is usually heard when a wolf is surprised at the opening of the den. The challenge bark is a warning for the other wolf to back off when two wolves are in a face off.

The growl has meanings very similar to the bark. It is used at short range to challenge, keep other wolves away, and reinforce dominance. Adult wolves may use it to discipline pups or as a warning signal for them to return to the den. A growl may be used with hair raising and bristling. Growls are also heard frequently when the pups are learning how to hunt and fight by playing with each other.

The whimper is used at short range and portrays a friendly attitude. Pups may use it to receive care, while adults may call pups out of the den in this manner. Also, pups may whine in pain or fear. Adults whimper to each other as a greeting and to show submissive attitudes when meeting a wolf of higher rank.

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