Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

Do Wolves Bark? (Vocal Communication of Wolves)

Wolves do bark, but not like dogs do. They also growl, howl, whimper, and produce other sounds that are used in addition to barking. 

Wolves do occasionally bark but it is rare. Their other natural vocalizations are much more effective in communicating with one another.

While there are many forms of communication among wolves, they will sometimes use a dog-like barking sound when trying to communicate.

All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts) x
All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts)

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the vocalizations used by wolves, as well as what these mean.

Do Wolves Bark?

Wolves can bark, but they rarely do so. The vocal communication can be separated into barking, growling, whimpering, and howling. These are all used for different messages.

Vocal communication is often a mix of these, such as barking and growling at the same time. [1]

When it comes to barking, wolves typically use this as a warning signal. If the wolf pups are in danger, the mother may bark. Barking is also used when wolves are threatened or towards invaders in their territory.

Growling is used to send a similar message.

Wolves don’t bark as often as domestic dogs do. Their bark also sounds different than the ones let out by dogs.

wolf bite force

How Do Wolves Bark?

When wolves bark, they do so very quickly. They let out multiple barks in rapid succession, often combined with growling or howling.

Wolves do bark, but it is not a communication method they use often. They do this when they are nervous, threatened, or otherwise in danger. They also use it against other animals who’ve invaded their territory. [2]

Their barks are low pitched, especially the ones let out by males.

Difference Between Dog and Wolf Barking

Wolves and dogs bark differently. In fact, there is a huge difference in how they do it. Wolves bark quicker and in a lower pitch (especially male wolves).

Here’s what it sounds like:

Dogs have more tonality and their barks are more varied than those of wolves. 

They also bark in more situations, for example, when they’re playing, or when they’re excited about something like food. 

Wolves do not exhibit these types of variation in tone and pitch between barks; instead, their vocalizations tend to be less complex and repetitive.

Why Do Wolves Bark?

Wolves bark if they’re in danger. This is the primary use of their bark, either to let other wolves in the pack know, that they’re in danger or to let them know that potential danger is coming.

This can occur in circumstances such as:

  • The wolf pups of the pack are threatened by other animals.
  • Humans, or other predators, have invaded their territory.
  • The wolf barking may also be the one who’s posing danger.

Wolves use their bark as an alarm, signaling for help or to keep the other wolves in the pack on their toes.

Wolf pups will also bark even if they aren’t threatened, simply because they don’t know how to howl yet.

When Do Wolves Bark?

As discussed, wolves bark when threatened. These are often in times where other wolf packs, or other predators, are around. 

Wolves have natural enemies, such as Siberian tigers, bears, and humans. If, or when, they notice any of these in their territory, they may bark to alarm their pack.

aggressive wolf barking

How Often Do Wolves Bark?

There is very little documented evidence of wolves barking in the wild. Wolves do sometimes let out something called a “yip-howl” which can sound like a dog barking at times and other times more like howling.

Wolves do bark when they want to sound an alarm, but it is very rare that we will hear them do so in the wild. 

Where dogs bark to tell their owner almost everything, wolves only bark on rare occasions.

When wolves do bark, they bark a couple of times very fast. They’ll sometimes end their bark in a howl.

Vocal Communication of Wolves

Vocal communication of wolves is a very important part of their lives and helps them in many ways. [2] 

Vocalization allows wolves to communicate with other wolves, express feelings or emotions, show aggression, and authority, or submission and respect. They’ll use it in any situation.

Wolves do not only use vocal communication when they are communicating with one another though. Body language is an integral part of communication between wolves.

Depending on the body language, you can tell a great deal about who’s in charge, and who’s not.

Barking

As discussed in this article, barking is used as an alarm. Wolves will let out a bark if they sense any threats when the wolf pups are in danger, or if there are any intruders in their territory.

They may follow this bark up with a growl or howl, depending on the situation.

alpha wolf against omega wolf

Howling

Howling is used by wolves to communicate over long distances. When wolves howl, they’re telling their pack members their location. At the same time, they do this to keep out any rivaling wolf packs.

Research has also shown that wolves howl to show affection to their family members. [3]

white wolf howling

Growling

Growling is a very common form of communication among wolves. Similar to barking, it’s used as an alarm – but it also has other use cases.

Growling usually occurs during times where there are confrontations between two wolves or a wolf and other animals. By growling, they’re showing the counterpart that they’re aggressive. When wolves growl, they simultaneously show their big, sharp teeth. 

They may also use this form of aggressive communication when they are playing with other wolves.

red-wolf-snarling

Whimpering or whining

Whimpering or whining is another form of communication wolves make use of. 

Wolves whimper or whine as a way to show submission towards another wolf, when they are feeling stressed out, or if they’re anxious. 

Whimpering can also be used by the submissive wolf to show that they don’t want to fight. 

This vocal cue is also used by pups. They will whine and whimper to get their mother’s attention. They will also do this when they’re hungry, or if they have other needs.

Related: How do wolves show submission?

wolves playing together

Conclusion

Wolves do bark, but they do it less frequently than dogs. Wolves have an arsenal of vocalizations they can use in different situations, hence, they don’t need to bark as much.

Wolf vocalization includes barking, whimpering, growling, and howling, all four with different use cases. They can either be used for alarming, submission, aggression or other messages.

When wolves bark, they let out multiple barks in rapid succession, much faster than dogs. The barks are often also in a lower pitch.

FAQs

Can Wolves Bark?

Wolves can bark, but that doesn’t mean they do so often. Wolves use different methods of communication, including four different vocal cues. Since they can let out messages more diversified than dogs, they tend to bark less.

Do Wolves Purr?

No, wolves don’t purr. Instead, they use different methods of communicating, specifically barking, growling, whimpering, and howling. Purring is used to show contentment. Wolves may use a mix of growling and whimper instead.

Do Wolves Bark Like Dogs?

No, wolves don’t bark like dogs. Dogs bark with different tonalities and pitches, while the barking from wolves is more repetitive and quick. Wolves only use barking for alarming, hence, they bark very quickly.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.