Review and photos by Suspsy; edited by bmathison1972
Melanism is a condition that causes an increased presence of dark pigmentation, such as when leopards and jaguars are born black or nearly black in colour. At some undetermined point in time after humans had bred the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) into existence, some of those dogs ended up breeding with their ancestors, grey wolves (wild-type C. lupus), both in Europe and in North America. Due to these interactions, it has been theorized a mutation occurred in certain wolves’ K locus gene that resulted in the development of melanism. Thus black wolves came into being.
The 2013 Safari Ltd black wolf, part of the North American Wildlife series, is a straight repaint of the 2008 grey wolf. It is sculpted with its head raised to the heavens, its eyes closed, and its mouth open in a haunting howl. As you can see, it is coloured black all over save for a pink tongue and white lower canine teeth. As far as accuracy goes, real black wolves often have a bit of white mixed into their fur, but some individuals are indeed pure black.
This wolf measures slightly over 7 cm tall and 9.5 cm long (5.0 cm at shoulder height, so approximately 1:16.5 in scale). It is clearly healthy and in the prime of its life, judging from its muscular build and thick coat of fur, especially on its neck and tail. The fur is beautifully sculpted and the soles of the feet feature visible padding. And given the apparent lack of external genitalia, this individual appears to be female, which is nice.
The only teeth visible in our wolf’s mouth are the aforementioned lower canines. It’s too bad there isn’t more sculpted and painted detail inside the mouth, but that would have been difficult on a toy this size. Unlike bears and big cats, which employ their front limbs to help capture and subdue prey, wolves rely entirely on their powerful jaws to bring down animals as big as muskox, moose, and bison. But, of course, the most crucial key to any wolf’s survival is being part of a strong and devoted pack. Black wolves are no different physically from grey ones, although their colouration appears to suit them far better in forest regions than open tundra. When a black wolf mates with a grey wolf, the resulting litter consists of both black and grey pups, with the former tending to be more numerous.
I deliberately chose to get this black wolf for my son’s extant animal collection because I felt it was a welcome change from the usual grey fare, and because it’s a very attractive and easily affordable toy. And if you’re looking for a bigger one, Safari also offers a black wolf as part of their Wonderful Wildlife series.