Despite of its name and look, the Maned Wolf is neither a wolf, nor a fox. It belongs to the canidae family, but it is not closely related to any other living canid. Its evolutionary relationship to the other members of the canid family makes it a unique animal, which is not closely related to any other living canid. However, its closest living relative is the bush dog and has a more distant relationship to other South American canines. Its name owes its origin to its distinctive black mane on its neck, which stands erect, when it scents danger or display aggression.
With its lanky, black legs, the maned wolf is the tallest of the wild canids. In fact, it owes its distinctive and impressive stature to its disproportionately long legs, which probably evolved as an adaptation to the tall grasslands of its habitat. They help the animal to see above the long grass while running and looking for prey. It stands 35 inches (90 cm) tall at the shoulder, has a head-body length of about 39 inches (100 cm), while the tail adding another 18 inches (45 cm). An adult maned wolf weighs around 23 kg. They have long, reddish-brown pelage over their rather large bodies, covering necks, backs and chests, with a whitish tuft at the tip of the tail and beneath the throat. Their ears are large and long and muzzles are black.
The maned wolves can generally be found in open grasslands with scattered bushes and trees in southeast Brazil, northern Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, southeast Peru and rarely in Uruguay. They are omnivorous, eating a combination of fruits, vegetables and meat. Their diet mainly includes tubers and different fruits, particularly lobeira, a small tomato-like berry that, along with other fruits and vegetables, makes up 50 percent of their diet. However, they often prey rodents, rabbits, frogs, birds and even fishes.
The maned wolves are solitary by nature and mainly a twilight animal. However, on cold and cloudy days they can be active throughout the day. They prefer to hunt alone, but mate for convenience, needing a partner to help defend territories of up to 12 to 15 square miles and use urine to mark their territories. Their urine has a very distinctive odor that smells a lot like marijuana smoke. They do not howl, but emit loud barks or roar barks to let their mate know their position and to warn other wolves to stay away.
The maned wolves live in monogamous pairs, but the male and female rarely interact, apart from the breeding season. Vocalizations and scent markings increase before mating. During the breeding season, between April and June, they come together to reproduce and after a gestation period of around 65 days, the female begets one to five pups. The fur of the puppies looks almost dark, which gradually turns to a reddish hue. Females are responsible for raising pups, but sometimes males also pitch in to help. After nursing the pups for four weeks, the mother introduces them to her regurgitated food. The pups generally become mature within a year and leave the parents' territory to find their own.
The life span of maned wolves in the wild is unknown, but in human care, median life expectancy is 6.5 years with a maximum of 12 to 15 years.