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Honshū Wolf
Canis lupus hodophilax
Conservation status
Extinct  (1905)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. hodophilax
Trinomial name
Canis lupus hodophilax
(Temminck, 1839)
  • hodopylax (Temminck, 1844)
  • japonicus (Nehring, 1885)[1]

The Honshū Wolf, known in Japan as the Japanese Wolf (ニホンオオカミ(日本狼) Nihon Ōkami?, Canis lupus hodophilax), Yamainu (ヤマイヌ(豺、犲、山犬)?, "Mountain Dog"), or simply Wolf (オオカミ(狼) Ōkami?), is one of the two extinct subspecies of the Gray Wolf once endemic to the islands of Japan. The Honshū Wolf occupied the islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū in Japan. The other subspecies is the Hokkaidō Wolf, native to the island of Hokkaidō. The Honshū Wolf is thought to have become extinct due to a combination of rabies, which was first reported in Kyūshū and Shikoku in 1732, and human eradication. The last known specimen died in 1905, in Nara Prefecture.

Some interpretations of the Honshū Wolf's extinction stress the change in local perceptions of the animal: rabies-induced aggression and deforestation of the wolf's habitat forced them into conflict with humans, and this led to them being targeted by farmers.[2]

There are currently eight known pelts and five stuffed specimens of the Japanese Wolf in existence. One stuffed specimen is in the Netherlands, three are in Japan, and the animal caught in 1905 is kept in the British Museum. Owing to its small size (the Honshū Wolf is the smallest known variety of wolf, probably due to allopatric speciation / island dwarfing) the Honshū Wolf's classification as a subspecies of the gray wolf is disputed.

The wolf was afforded a benign place in Japanese folklore and religious traditions: the clan leader Fujiwara no Hidehira was said to have been raised by wolves, and the wolf is often symbolically linked with mountain kami in Shinto (the most famous example being the wolf kami of Mitsumine Shrine in the town of Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture).

Sightings of the Japanese Wolf have been claimed from the time of its extinction to the present day, but none of these have been verified[3] (see cryptozoology).[4]


  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (16 November 2005). Wilson, D. E., and Reeder, D. M. (eds). ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd edition ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ Knight, John (2004). "On the Extinction of the Japanese Wolf". Retrieved 2006-06-15. 
  3. ^ Shuker, Karl P. N. (2003). The Beasts That Hide From Man. Paraview. ISBN 1-931044-64-3. 
  4. ^ Hall, Jamie (2005). "The Cryptid Zoo: Japanese Dwarf Wolf (or Shamanu)". Retrieved 2006-06-15. 


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