Hokkaido wolf

Hokkaido wolf

Ezo wolf, Sakhalin wolf


Canis lupus hattai

The Hokkaido wolf (Canis lupus hattai ), also known as the Ezo wolf (Japanese: エゾオオカミ(蝦夷狼)ー, Hepburn: Ezo Ōkami) and in Russia as the Sakhalin wolf, is an extinct subspecies of gray wolf that once inhabited coastal north-east Asia. Its nearest relatives were the wolves of North America rather than Asia. It was exterminated in Hokkaido during the Meiji Restoration period, when American-style agricultural reforms incorporated the use of strychnine-laced baits to kill livestock predators. Some taxonomists believe that it survived up until 1945 on the island of Sakhalin. It was one of two subspecies that were once found in the Japanese archipelago, the other being the Japanese wolf (C. l. hodophilax ).

In Ainu culture

The Ainu revered the wolf as the deity Horkew Kamuy ("howling god"), in recognition of the animal's similar hunting habits. Wolves were sacrificed in "sending-away" iomante ceremonies, and some Ainu communities, such as those in Tokachi and Hidaka, held origin myths linking the birth of the Ainu to a coupling between a white wolf and a goddess. Ainu hunters would leave portions of their kills for wolves, and it was believed that hunters could share a wolf's kill if they politely cleared their throats in its presence. Because of the wolf's special status in Ainu culture, hunters were forbidden from killing wolves with poison arrows or firearms, and wasting the pelt and meat of a wolf was thought to provoke wolves into killing the hunter responsible. The Ainu did not differentiate wolves from their domestic dogs, and would strive to reproduce wolf traits in their dogs by allowing dogs in heat to roam freely in wolf-inhabited areas in order to produce hybrid offspring.


A study of Ezo wolf morphology showed that it was similar in size to the gray wolf of the Asian and North American continents. It stood 70–80 cm at the withers. Soviet zoologist Vladimir Heptner wrote that the wolves (classed under the nomen dubium C. l. altaicus ) of Kamchatka (where C. l. hattai' s range is supposed to have encompassed): p42  are just as large as C. l. lupus, with light gray fur with dark guard hairs running along the back.




Ezo is a Japanese word meaning "foreigner" and referred to the historical lands of the Ainu people to the north of Honshu, which the Japanese named Ezo-chi. The Ainu were to be found on Hokkaido, Sakhalin, the Kuril islands, and as far north as the Kamchatka Peninsula.

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The range of the Ezo wolf was the Hokkaido and Sakhalin islands,: p42  Iturup and Kunashir islands just to the east of Hokkaido in the Kuril archipelago, and the Kamchatka peninsula.: p42  It became extinct on Hokkaido island in 1889. It was reported to be surviving in Sakhalin island and perhaps the Kuril Islands in 1945; however, according to the Soviet zoologist Vladimir Heptner it had not been seen on Sakhalin at the beginning of the 20th century, with vagrant specimens of Siberian forest wolf occasionally crossing into the island via the Nevelskoy Strait, though not permanently settling. Information on the animal's presence on the Kuril islands is often contradictory or erroneous. It was tentatively recorded to inhabit Kunashir, Iturup and Paramushir, while wolves reported on Shumshu were later dismissed as feral dogs. A survey undertaken in the mid 1960s could not find a wolf on any of the Kuril islands but did find many feral dogs.

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Hokkaido wolf habitat map
Hokkaido wolf habitat map
Hokkaido wolf
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1. Hokkaido wolf Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokkaido_wolf

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