Coyotes are well known and thriving members of the Canidae family. This line of canid animals includes the coyote, dingoes, foxes, wolves, domestic dogs, jackals, and other dog mammals. These canids have varying but similar body forms. These characteristics are long pointier muzzles, carnivorous teeth, upright ears (with the exception of domestic dogs with floppy ears), and bushy tails. These tails are often one of the most recognizable differences between domesticated pet dogs and their wild wolf and coyote cousins.
Coyote Tail Features
There are different types of coyote found all over North America, Canada, and Mexico that include the eastern coyote and the western coyote. Though they have some physical and behavioral differences, they have a standard form that makes up their appearance. The male coyote can grow to be 20 – 45 pounds and the female coyote can be 10-40 pounds, with the northern coyote tending to be larger in size than the southern and western coyotes. They have an average length of 3-4 feet for their body. The coyote tail has an average length of approximately 16 inches. The female coyote will typically have a shorter length tan male coyotes.
The fur or coat of the coyote varies depending on the region in which the coyotes lives. Most coyotes are either a tan, blonde, gray, or reddish brown color and will have white bellies and sometimes white chins-most common on eastern coyotes. The coyote can have long coarse fur covering his body that measures up to 5 inches. Guard hairs are also grown, especially during winter, to protect the coyote’s softer under coat. These color patterns on the coyote’s coat will continue along down to their tail. The tail fur is longer in length and will be more bristly in texture than the rest of the coyote’s coat. The tip of the tail will sometimes be darker or black in color. One of the distinguishing features of a coyote’s tail is that it will hang down between the coyote’s legs when they run. Unlike dogs who raise their tail high, the coyote does not lift his tail when trotting, running, or standing.
On the top of the coyote’s tail is the supracaudal gland. This can be recognized by the dark spot of fur usually covering the gland located near the base of the coyote tail. These coarse hairs protect the gland from elements that could cause infection. While it is common on most coyotes, not all coyotes will have this black spot marking over their gland. The secretions produced by the gland can cause the long coarse hairs to fall out, exposing the gland. The supracaudal gland, also known as the violet gland, is found on the tail of other mammals besides the coyote, such as foxes, wolves, and domesticated cats and dogs.
This secretion gland is used for scent marking, an important purpose for coyotes since their territories need to be marked by their particular scent to warn other coyotes to stay away. This gland can produce a strong unpleasant odor that is specific to the coyote and can be recognized by members of their pack.
Unlike domestic dogs and even wolf pups, coyotes do not wag their tail. Matured wolves and coyotes do not wag their tails to express emotion or other behavioral expressions. Coyote’s don’t need to wag their tails, instead they will roll on the ground exposing the top of their tail and supracuadal gland to a surface that they are trying to mark with their scent. They will also rub up against surfaces like rocks or trees to spread their scent from their tail. Perhaps a reason that wolf pups will wag their tail is to spread their scent easier since their scent glands on their tails are not yet fully functional. Matured coyotes and dogs do not need to do this since their supracaudal glands are fully formed.
Prize for Hunters
When coyote hunting, many hunters will save the tail of their kill to preserve for a trophy. Coyote tails are arguably one of the most prominent features of the coyote coat and are easy to cure and display. After removing the meat and any oil left on the tail, it is a simple process of letting the coyote tail dry before placing it up for display. Fly fisherman also use the long coarse hairs of the coyote’s tail to tie and create flies to use while fishing.