The truth about the Wolf Moon

The first full moon of 2013 falls on January 26 in North America (or January 27th elsewhere in the world). 

According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, "January is the month of the Full Wolf Moon. It appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages." (

Wolves may assemble more often in winter in order
to bring down bigger game.
"The Wolf Moon" is only one of the many names for the first full moon of the year (which often referred to the month of January itself, not just the actual moon). Each Native American tribe had their own name for it, such as the Frost Moon, the Cold Moon, the Elder Moon, the Moon of Hard Winter, etc. 

Some, like the Algonquins, called it the Wolf Moon because it was the time of year when wolves became the most visible. Others called the month of January the time of wolves running together.

Wulfmonath - the wolf month, according to the Saxons.
The Saxons called January Wulfmonath, the wolf month. According to the writings of Verstigan, “The month which we now call January, they called Wolf-monat, to wit, wolf-month, because people are wont always in that month to be in more danger to be devoured of wolves than in any season else of the year: for that, through the extremity of cold and snow, these ravenous beasts could not find of other beasts sufficient to feed upon.”

The Changelings in my PNR novels
left Scotland to escape the wolf
exterminations there.
The month of January is called Faoilleach in Old Scottish Gaelic. The ancient word comes from faol meaning a wolf. Although wolves don’t live in Scotland at present, they did until 300 years ago. In fact, they were considered such a danger in the 1500s that it was made mandatory by royal decree for every landowner to hunt wolves three times a year. 

Basque Country, a region spanning an area in northeastern Spain and southwestern France, has a wolf month too – but not until February. It’s called otsaila (otsa = wolf). Also, the Dacians, a Celtic tribe, were occasionally referred to as the Wolf Moon People by some of their neighbors.  

It's true - wolves generally mate for life. It's a feature that
they share with my fictional Changelings.
In some parts of Europe it was believed that if you said the word wolf in December, you would be attacked by one in January!

January may have been associated with wolves for other reasons. For one, it’s the beginning of the lupine mating season. Unlike dogs, wolves only breed once a year, and it’s usually only the alpha pair that produces pups. 

The howling of wolves is a sound I've been privileged to
hear often in northern Canadian winters. It is the
most primal sound I know of.

You're certainly more likely to hear wolves in January, or any of the winter months. Sound travels much further in the cold air. Plus the wolves might be more inclined to howl in winter, calling upon the pack to assemble to help bring down larger game. 

Today, the Wolf Moon exists mostly in popular culture. The only "official" titles for full moons in the year are the Harvest Moon, the Hunter's Moon, and more recently, the Blue Moon.

Wolves are more visible in the winter months.
But January is still a good month for wolves, and humans stand a better chance of seeing them then. With the leaves of the underbrush gone, plus the contrast of their coat color against the snow, wolves are definitely easier to spot in winter. They’re bolder too, usually out hunting rather than curled up in a sheltered spot.

Wolves are beautifully designed to
run in the snow.
Winter is usually a time of plenty for predators, and wolves are well designed for running down prey in cold weather. They have a long outer coat that sheds snow and water, and a thick undercoat that insulates them. Wolves have very large feet too, with front feet bigger than their hind feet. The result is good weight distribution on snow – they don’t sink into it the way that a deer or elk would. Plus the hair around each toe pad is very stiff and helps wolves to gain traction on ice.

So will wolves be howling at the Wolf Moon? In actuality, while wolves are often more active on moonlit nights - after all, they can see better - science says they don't howl at the lunar orb at all. Still, no one really knows what it's like to be a wolf, and I like to think that they do sometimes sing to the moon just for the pure joy of it.

Dani Harper is a published author, who writes about wolves and wolf-like creatures called Changelings. 

This is the recently released Black Wolf by Ganz.
Like all Webkinz, it's about 8.5" tall and comes with
secret code for the the "Webkinz World" website.
The code allows the user to own a virtual version
of the pet for online play.
Or, like me, you can just enjoy having this
cute wolf sitting on your desk!
Draw - Leave me a comment telling me what you like about wolves, or what you think about the Wolf Moon, and you'll be entered for a chance to win a black WEBKINZ wolf! 



Thanks to everyone who read my blog and/or left a comment. I truly appreciate it!