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The Arabian wolf is a critically endangered, scrappy, desert wolf that is native to the Arabian Peninsula. Close to the size of a medium-sized dog, the Arabian wolf weighs about 40 pounds (18.1 kg) and is about 2 feet (61 cm) tall at its shoulders. With short gray fur, the Arabian wolf's most distinctive characteristic is its large ears, which help its body cope with the high temperatures of its native habitat.
A type of gray wolf, the Arabian wolf, Canis lupus arabs, differs from other subspecies of gray wolves in a few notable ways. The Arabian wolf does not howl, does not live in packs, and its middle toes are fused. With a grayish-colored fur, most Arabian wolves have yellow eyes, but a significant number of individuals have brown eyes, leading researchers to believe that the variation in eye color indicates a lineage that includes some feral dog ancestors.
Throughout much of history, Arabian wolves could be hunted in their native territories. The Arabian wolf is known to kill domestic animals, including goats, which has resulted in many of the wolves falling victim to death by trapping, poisoning and shooting at the hands of farmers who were aiming to protect their livestock. As the habitat of the wolf has continued to become more urbanized, and as interbreeding with feral dogs becomes more common, the likelihood of this wolf subspecies' survival has become tenuous. Many countries, including Israel and Oman, have passed legislation to protect the wolves, and in some of these areas, Arabian wolf populations are thought to have increased.
Although these wolves will kill and eat smaller livestock and gazelles, their diets consist mainly of small mammals, such as hares and rodents, as well as birds, reptiles and insects. They also will readily feed on carrion. In times of food shortages, the wolves will eat vegetation.
Arabian wolves are specially adapted to deal with desert weather. Although their large ears help disperse body heat, the wolves dig burrows in the sand to protect themselves from sunlight, and they do most of their hunting at night. With coats that are shorter than many other subspecies of gray wolves, the Arabian wolves' coats will get somewhat longer during the winter months.
Arabian wolves usually live and hunt in pairs, or groups of no more than three or four individuals, but this is not the case during mating season. The animals generally form into small packs from October to December. Arabian wolf puppies are born blind, and a litter usually consists of two or three puppies. The puppies will nurse until they are about six weeks old, and parent wolves will then begin feeding them regurgitated food. Not normally a territorial animal, Arabian wolves will defend their area when they have puppies.