When people think of Italy, they think of delicious pasta, strong espresso, and dramatic operas, but mostly, there is no specific animal connected with this country. What is the national animal of Italy?
Italy does not have an official national animal. Many Italians, though, consider the wolf to be the unofficial animal that represents the country.
The Apennine wolf, or grey wolf that lives in the Apennine mountains in Italy and Switzerland, and parts of France, is considered a national animal. The reason why wolves are seen as the symbol for Italy is the legend about the founding of Rome by the twins Romulus and Remus, who a wolf had raised.
Additionally, wolves are the dominant wild animals and the only large predators, aside from the occasional bear. While in Ancient Rome, wolves were highly respected animals, and killing them was taboo. In modern-day Italy, wolves have to be legally protected because farmers kill them to protect their cattle.
Apennine wolves are medium-sized wolves. They can measure up to 59 inches (148 cm) in length and reach a height of 28 inches (70 cm). Their fur is grey, lighter parts on the belly and cheeks, and turns reddish in summer. Due to the scarcity of large prey animals in Europe, Apennine wolves live in small packs of up to seven wolves.
A pack usually comprises a nuclear family, consisting of the reproducing pair, cubs, and young sub-adults that are not yet old enough to reproduce themselves. Packs of six or seven wolves are only found in areas where large prey animals like deer have been reintroduced.
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In folklore, fairy tales, and mythology, wolves have mixed meanings. On the one hand, as seen in Rome’s founding myth and many Native North American cultures, wolves can be connected with positive ideas of strength and power.
Still, in the north and central Europe, on the other hand, where wolf attacks were very prevalent in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, people rather saw wolves as decidedly evil. This view of wolves is mirrored in fairy tales like the famous story of Little Red Riding Hood.
Are Wolves Dangerous to Humans?
Whether fairy tales have spurred on this fear or not, many people – even those who never even saw a wolf before – are terrified of these animals. They are rumored to be dangerous, aggressive, and willing to attack humans.
In truth, wolf attacks are extremely rare – there is a bigger chance to be killed by a domestic dog than a wolf. Like most wild animals, wolves are afraid of humans and avoid them whenever they can.
They do not kill for sport, only for sustenance and survival. In the rare cases in which wolves have acted aggressively towards humans, they have been threatened or cornered by those people. Rabies also used to be an intensifying factor, but rabies has become increasingly rare in the last decades.
Domestic animals can be vaccinated for rabies now, and wild animals are often immunized with the help of the distribution of vaccine bait.
Without a doubt, wolves are fascinating creatures, but to ensure the safety of both oneself and the animals, one should never enter the den of a wolf or lure them with
What Do Wolves Eat?
Italian wolves do usually not have the opportunity to eat large prey animals like their cousins in North America do. When they can, Apennine wolves will eat boars, chamois, and deer. If they do not have access to animals of that size, they also eat smaller prey like hares and rabbits.
Every once in a while, wolves also consume plants like berries and herbs. Many wolves in Italy live close to urban areas and feed on garbage when they can.
The American gray wolf likes to hunt larger animals like elk, bison, or moose. Since they have access to larger prey, they often join together in packs of up to 15 animals. They can consume 20 pounds (more than 9 kilograms) of meat in a single meal, whereas Italian wolves only eat about 6 pounds (3 kilograms) in a day.