For many years researchers believed that the Himalayan wolf was related to the gray wolf and was not given its own identification. However, the latest research has shown that the Himalayan wolf is a different species than the gray wolf. So much so that scientists have given it its own wolf taxon which means it is recognized as a different species which allows conservationist to form programs to protect it.
Researchers also found that the wolf not only lives in the Himalayans, but in all of the higher altitude regions of Asia including the Tibetan Plateau. This is a very large area of the planet.
The research teams also found that the wolf does not exist on livestock as is believed by the local people, but mainly preys on wildlife. This discovery is important because the wolf has been hunted due to the belief that they were killing livestock as well as for illegal wildlife trade.
With the wolf’s new status, conservation efforts can be initiated, the local population educated and hopefully help with conservation efforts.
The Himalayan wolf is on the critically endangered list because they are so rare. Their existence and plight have become publicized by the efforts of an international research team led by Madhu Chetri, a graduate student at the Hedmark University of Applied Sciences in Norway. He has studied the wolf in the largest protected area of Nepal.
The Himalayan wolf looks quite a bit different then its European cousins. They are smaller in size, have a longer muzzle and shorter, stumpy legs. They are also marked differently with white around their throat, chest and belly and the inner parts of their legs. They also have a wooly coat.
A pair of Himalayan wolves in their natural habitat. Credit: Madhu Chetri; CC-BY 4.0
To me they look more like our modern Husky breeds, especially the Malamute and Siberian Husky. Siberian Huskies have been known to have an occasional wooly coat.
The researches feel that the Himalayan wolf is a separate branch of the wolf-dog family tree, making it especially rare.
As is the case with most wolves, the local farmers, ranchers and livestock owners hunted and killed as many wolves as they could, believing that they are a threat to their domestic livestock.
Hopefully, the researchers will be able to save this rare and unusual member of the wolf family.