Red Wolves’ Grooming and Bathing (Are They Clean Animals?)

Two red wolves with the one in the foreground turning its head.

The red wolf (canis rufus) is native to the United States. These rare wolves are critically endangered and can only be found in North Carolina today. You can identify them with their mostly brown fur with some black and reddish colors.

How do they keep their coats neat with all the dirt and soil they walk through all day and night? Do they take a bath in water? Do they help other red wolves in grooming?

Join Floofmania in discussing how these furry canines groom and bathe themselves in the wild. 

Let’s get started.

Are Red Wolves Clean Animals?

We can say that red wolves are relatively clean animals. However, defining them as such depends on what your standards of cleanliness are. 

These canines are wild animals. They are constantly exposed to dirt, germs, and parasites. Not to mention, they like rolling around on the ground and sometimes on poop or carcasses.

However, red wolves constantly clean and groom themselves. Like other canine species, red wolves like to maintain their fur and coats and keep them free from dirt and parasites. They have specific practices to keep their bodies neat.

And a red wolf just might have a different definition of cleanliness than you do!

Do Red Wolves Smell Bad?

Red wolves do smell bad. Specifically, these canids produce a strong and unique scent that we might not be used to.

Some people who have encountered these animals describe their scent as musky. Others also say that red wolves smell the same as some dogs or even bears, but that their smell can be a little more pungent compared to their canine relatives and other wild animals. But whatever their scent is, it will surely make you scrunch your nose.

Red wolves have several scent glands in their bodies. These scent glands are known to release the chemical pheromone which acts as a form of communication with other animals and is used in scent-marking. Each gland produces a different odor intensity.

Their scent glands are found in the following body parts:

  • Skin
  • Anus
  • Genitalia
  • Tail
  • Toes

In addition, red wolves like other wolf species scent rub. Scent rubbing is done by wolves to hide, or camouflage their scent from their prey. This causes them to be stinky as they roll and rub their bodies against smelly stuff like poop and other strong-smelling materials they can find.

Fun Fact: Male and female red wolves have different scents because of pheromones. Each red wolf also smells uniquely from the other.

How Do Red Wolves Groom Themselves?

There are various ways that red wolves use to groom themselves. Here’s a table enumerating these behaviors:

BehaviorPurpose
Licking their bodiesTo remove dirt on their fur
Biting their fur and skinTo remove parasites and other dirt, and comb through tangled fur
Scratching their skinTo remove foreign objects like debris, and parasites from their coat
Shaking their bodyTo get rid of dirt and dead parasites on their fur, and to remove excess water from their bodies

Red wolves use their tongues to groom themselves. Similar to how cats lick and clean themselves, red wolves also lick their bodies to remove the dirt and other debris on their fur.

Biting their fur and skin is also a wolf’s way of getting rid of parasites and other dirt. They will bite parts between their legs, their tails, their tummies, or wherever they can reach for refreshing grooming, and sort of use their teeth to comb through tangled fur.

Red wolves also use their hind legs to scratch their bodies for the same purpose, similar to how domesticated dogs do. They scratch their face, neck, or their sides with their paws. Some also rub their bodies against rough surfaces like trees. A good scratch always feels nice, doesn’t it?

These wolves also shake their bodies to get rid of dirt and dead parasites on their coats. All these behaviors help the wolves remove loose fur, dead ticks or other parasites, and excess water from their bodies to keep it nice and clean.

Do Red Wolves Bathe In Water?

Red wolves do not bathe in water. As mentioned above, they only lick, bite, scratch, or shake off the dirt and foreign objects from their bodies. They do not go to rivers or lakes to bathe as you may have imagined. On the contrary, excessive exposure to water can cause dryness to a red wolf’s skin. 

These canines also do not possess sweat glands. Hence, there is no need for a bath in water, and no need for soap! But they will gladly take a dip to cool off in the hot weather.

How Long Do Red Wolves Spend Grooming Themselves?

Red wolves are pretty busy animals. They spend their days hunting for food, breeding, taking care of their offspring, fixing their dens, and sleeping. At any time between these activities, these canines groom themselves. Unfortunately, the exact time and frequency have not been recorded, but it’s safe to say that they groom for a couple of hours every day.

These furry animals will lick, scratch, bite or shake their bodies until they feel that they have cleaned off the dirt on their coats or removed the itchy parasites and objects stuck on their fur. They will do this as often as they think it is necessary.

Why Is Grooming Important For Red Wolves?

Grooming helps red wolves maintain a healthy body. By cleaning themselves, they can get rid of parasites like fleas and ticks which are removed by biting or scratching their bodies.

These parasites are dangerous if not removed or left untreated. Ticks on red wolves can cause harmful diseases like tick paralysis which greatly affect their daily activities and survival. 

Keeping their fur in check also helps them maintain the right body temperature. Red wolves thrive in different seasons so shedding their undercoat and some of their guard hair is necessary during warmer temperatures.

Red Wolves Use Grooming As A Social Activity

Red wolves are social animals. They live in packs with their mate and their litter which usually range from 2 to 6 pups. 

Fact: Red wolves are monogamous, which means that a red wolf only has one mate for its entire life!

These canines use grooming as a social activity. They do this by licking their mate’s coat. Likewise, as pups remain with their parents until they are about 1-3 years old, the parents will also lick their pups’ fur. Keeping your offspring’s good hygiene is part of good parenting.

This behavior also improves connections and bonds between the wolves. As they live in packs, having good relationships with each other is beneficial to their survival.

Are you curious as to how that goes? Here’s a video of an adult red wolf licking a cute little pup’s fur.

Do Red Wolves Help Groom Each Other?

Red wolves do help groom each other. As mentioned, they do this as a social activity within their pack. It is not rare to spot a red wolf licking its mate’s or pup’s fur. 

In addition, at times, there are hard-to-reach areas that need to be groomed. Having another red wolf to help with that is really a bonus. An example of this amazing behavior is seen here when a red wolf helps clean its partner’s coat filled with snow while inside their den.

Do Red Wolves Keep Their Dens Clean?

Red wolf dens are well-hidden to keep their pack safe from other predators. It is also a place for them to rest and rear their young offspring. As an important tool for their survival that is used by many generations, red wolves keep them clean.

With this, pooping and peeing in the den is not allowed. Their pooping areas are strategically placed outside and far from their den. However, as pups stay inside the den in their first weeks, the mother eats their poop!

Although, a couple of bones may be seen in the den, especially if it has been used for many years. Red wolves are carnivores and they rely on meat from the prey they hunt for their food.

Author: Jomvie Reyes

Jomvie has been a writer for over 10 years and animals and wildlife are among his favorite topics. Learning and writing about the vast and diverse wildlife from all over the world, is more of a hobby than a job for him. Jomvie loves to watch and observe these remarkable species up close and personal.

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