Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Narrated by Robert Redford

NHM 003

The actual language and music of the Wolf recorded in his remaining territories. And the true explanation of the Wolf and Man, narrated by Robert Redford, actor and nature lover. (Another project of Natural History Magazine)

Some slightly technical information:

The wolf howl is a long, low, mournful sound. It is continuous--from about half a second to 11 seconds in length. It consists of a fundamental frequency, between 150 and 780 cycles per second, and contains up to 12 harmonically related overtones. The pitch remains constant or varies smoothly, and may change direction as many as four or five times. Total intensity does not vary greatly throughout. Yet there is much variation in the howling of different wolves. The following howls were recorded in Ontario, Michigan, and Minnesota.


Robert Redford narrates The Wolf You Never Knew



Band 1 - Opening Howl


This is the most common vocal communication of wolves: The pack howl. A single wolf starts with a short series of howls, usually lasting 30 seconds. Once he begins, other pack members approach the animal and join in. This wolf starts more or less by himself, beginning with a few low howls and working up to a series of shorter, higher ones, in chorus with other pack members. When a group howl takes place, there is considerable tail wagging, excitement, and general friendliness between the wolves. Toward the end of a howl, wolves often bark.

Band 2 - First Growls of Wolf Pups Inside the Den
(Recorded underground in a wolf's den)

The first sounds heard are those of the mother digging inside the den. She is breathing heavily. She begins licking the pups and continues breathing heavily. Toward the end of the track, if you listen closely, some of the first growls of the young pups are head. These pups are probably two or three weeks old. (When pups are born, they are deaf and blind and weigh about one pound.)

A typical den might look like this: The entrance is usually oval in shape, roughly one to two feet in diameter. A tunnel extends 6 to 14 feet into the ground, ending in an enlarged chamber where the newborn pups are kept. No bedding is used. Many times a den will have several entrances and passageways.

Band 3 - Pup Howls - Spring & Fall - Contrasted with Adult

Wolf pups mature rapidly. At six months their bodies catch up with their feet and they look much an adult. At ten to twelve months, it's very difficult to tell the two apart.

The wolf pup begins howling at 2-3 months, and the first sound you hear is that of a pup howling in the early summer. This is contrasted with the howling of the same pup several months later. The length and tone of the later howl clearly show a developing "howling skill." The track ends with a contrasting howl of a fully grown adult wolf.

Band 4 - Barking

Barking may serve several functions. One may be an alarm and another a threat or challenge to intruders. Also, wolves sometimes end a group howl with barking.

Here a wolf in Algonquin Park begins barking in the distance and approaches to investigate; you can hear him moving around to get a better look. He then returns, barking, to his original position.

Band 5 - Series of 3 Adjacent Single Howls

There's a great difference in pitch, length, and other features of wolf howls, and the patterns in their harmonies are distinct. We can't completely distinguish the pattern of harmonics, but a wolf can.

Because of the harmonic structure, wolf howling could be described as singing, comparable to the human voice or to musical instruments. Harmonics produce the quality of a sound (harmonics make a note played on a guitar sound different from the same note played on a piano); wolves appear to have the ability to discriminate between these harmonics in individual howls. Different harmonics mean various things to wolves, and wolves will respond to specific sounds.

On this track the first wolf is in the distance and the next two are up close. Listen closely, and you can hear differences in their howls. (A wolf will hear much greater differences.)

Band 6 -Comparative Difference in Howls

The following is a comparison of the howls of two different captive wolves which have been studied. The first howl is that of a wolf named Dagwood, the second is that of a wolf called Scamp. Both have two to four harmonics in their howl, but the first harmonic of Dagwood is stronger than that of Scamp.

Band 7 - Single Howls Joined to Give Illusion of Pack Howl

Next is a series of four separate howls. They have been added one on top of the other in order to give you a better idea of the difference in their howls. Also, it offers a contrived feeling of how a group howl might begin.

Band 8 - Combined Sounds of the Wolf

We first hear barking of two wolves, one on the far left and another on the right. They are shortly joined by the howling of a single wolf. Quickly a fourth wolf joins in howling. They continue together until they are joined by an entire group in a pack howl. The chorus continues, until it ends with barking.

Band 9 - Distant and Close-up Howling Ending in Group Howl

The howl lets others in the pack know their location. Here we have a wolf close-up howling (note the bird calls) and he is shortly answered by a wolf in the background. They howl back and forth for a short period, until a group howl begins in the distance, the rest of the pack joining in.

Band 10 - Group howls are one of the most dramatic sounds in all of nature. One wolf begins howling and shortly the rest of the pack joins in.

Here are a series of three group howls. In each one a single wolf begins howling and is shortly joined by the rest of the pack. Notice the precision and the constant shifting of pitch. (Wolves seem to like chords.)

Band 11 - Joint Group Howl

We have brought together two separate group howls to show their differences and similarities. First a single wolf begins howling. Another immediately joins in from the second pack. They howl back and forth until the pack of the first wolf begins howling. A little later the second pack joins in.

Another project of
Natural History Magazine
Our time has come

Natural History Magazine
Central Park West at 79th St.
New York, N.Y. 10024

An American Museum of natural History Special Members' Bonus

We are indebted to Robert Redford for his narration.

Art Director George Lois
Script by Ron Holland
Photo by Stan Wayman
Executive Producers The Editors of Natural History Magazine
Production Supervisor Andrew R. Miele, Jr.
Sound Engineer John Orr 6 West Recording Inc.
Produced by Bob Maxwell

Tonsil Records
10 West 56th Street
New York City
A Division of Lois Holland Callaway Inc.

This record was made with the assistance and recordings of:

Durward Allen
Department of Forestry and Conservation
Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana

L. David Mech
Division of Wildlife Services
U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota

Douglas H. Pimlott
Department of Zoology
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario

Russell J. Rutter
Ontario Department of Lands and Forests
Huntsville, Ontario

John B. Theberge
Division of Environmental Studies
University of Waterloo
Waterloo, Ontario

George Wilson
Amateur Wolf Specialist
Marquette, Michigan

Douglas H. Pimlott and John B. Theberge also served as consultants.

Copyright 1971 US American Museum of Natural History

Editor's note: this is a brilliant record! Oooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Just the sound of animals making their noises should make anybody feel enlightened to be graced with a beast's presence, far or near. Robert Redford's trained voice takes nothing from that experience. If anything, it actually lends a little to it because familiar voices always add a nostalgic tinge to a recording. If only we could get the wolf to talk and Mr. Redford to howl a little!


Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this recording!

the said...

No problem. It's one of my favs.

Unknown said...

Is it so that wolves use ventriloquism to fool other animals and people?

the said...

Robert, it only works on our lord and savior Donald J. Trump.

the said...

Robert, it only works on our lord and savior Donald J. Trump.

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