A wolf's coat is remarkable, a luxurious fur consisting of two layers: a soft, light-colored, dense underfur that lies beneath a covering of long guard hairs. The guard hairs shed moisture and keep the underfur dry. Much of the underfur and some of the guard hairs are shed in the spring and grow back in the fall. The coat is thick across the shoulders, where guard hairs may be 4-5 inches long, and thins out on the muzzle and legs.
The color of the coat can range from almost pure white through various shades of blond, cream, and ocher to grays, browns and blacks. The shading in a wolf's coat has a discernible and purposeful pattern. Even relatively pure black and white specimens reveal these patterns. The long, dark-tipped guard hairs saddle the shoulders, extend up the neck and down the spine, fading out toward the rump. The underside of the tail, the insides of the legs, the belly, and the underside of the muzzle are usually light. The tip of the tail is dark and there is often a dark spot on the top of the tail marking the location of a scent gland. The head is marked near the eyes and ears to accentuate the features of the face.
Female wolves tend to have reddish tones in their fur. The hair on their legs tends to be smooth, where on a male the hair has a slightly tufted appearance. Pelage changes as the wolves grow older with females generally developing the smoothest coats. Older animals tend to have more white hairs at the tip of the tail, along the nose and on the forehead. Lactating females retain their long winter fur longer than other wolves and show hair loss around the nipples. The hair remaining on the belly usually develops a redbrown stain.
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