Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Tuesday 20 January 2009


Welcome, cryptozoology fans, to ShukerNature!

After long resisting the temptation to enter the frenzied if fascinating world of blogging, I've finally given in to the inevitable. So here, maintaining the unofficial CFZ theme of the week, is my contribution to the "Wolves of the Weird".

My Italian correspondent Igor Festari recently brought the following intriguing snippet to my attention. In Guide des Mammifères d'Europe, d'Afrique du Nord et du Moyen-Orient by Aulagnier et al (Delachaux & Niestle, 2008), a tantalising paragraph states that certain authors consider the big jackals of eastern Egypt not to be jackals at all but, instead, deem them to be little wolves (presently unknown west of the Sinai peninsula), though beware misidentification with free-roaming domestic dogs. Could these enigmatic canids represent a new wolf subspecies, or unknown population, or range extension? A similar situation once existed in Hungary.

As documented in my book Extraordinary Animals Revisited (CFZ Press, 2007), this eastern European country was formerly home to a mysterious wild canid known as the reedwolf. Some authors believed it to be a small but genuine lupine form, others opined that it was a jackal. Sadly, it now seems to be extinct, but museum specimens exist, and even today a degree of controversy remains in relation to its taxonomic status.


Almost two years to the day from when I posted the above account, my very first ShukerNature blog article, it was announced that yes, Egypt's so-called jackals are indeed wolves after all. Here is what I wrote about this exciting discovery in my Alien Zoo column for the April 2011 issue of Fortean Times:

AN IDENTITY CRISIS FOR ANUBIS? One of the most familiar members of ancient Egypt’s pantheon of gods is Anubis, the deity of mummification. For untold ages, Anubis has always been referred to as jackal-headed, on account of being portrayed with a canine head traditionally identified as that of Egypt’s jackal. However, this tradition has now come to a very abrupt end, thanks to the remarkable discovery that Egypt’s jackal is nothing of the sort. Genetic research by a team of researchers led by Dr Eli Rueness has revealed that it is in fact a hitherto-unrecognised form of the grey wolf Canis lupus. As such, it is, therefore, the only form of wolf native to the continent of Africa, has been duly dubbed the African wolf, and is most closely related to the Himalayan wolf. This in turn means that from now on, Anubis should be referred to not as jackal-headed but as wolf-headed.
http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0126-hance_africanwolf.html 26 January 2011.

Statue of Anubis (Dr Karl Shuker)

In July 2015, Dr Klaus-Peter Koepfli and a team of co-researchers verified in a Current Biology paper that the Egyptian jackal was definitely a wolf, having analysed "extensive genomic data including mitochondrial genome sequences, sequences from 20 autosomal loci (17 introns and 3 exon segments), microsatellite loci, X- and Y-linked zinc-finger protein gene (ZFX and ZFY) sequences, and whole-genome nuclear sequences in African and Eurasian golden jackals and gray wolves". Their results revealed that the African wolf had split from the golden jackal more than 1 million years ago, and therefore deserved formal recognition as a separate species in its own right, for which they have proposed the official scientific binomial name Canis anthus ('golden dog' or 'golden wolf').

KOEPFLI, K-P. et al. (2015). Genome-wide evidence reveals that African and Eurasian golden jackals are distinct species. Current Biology, http://www.cell.com/current-biology/pdfExtended/S0960-9822(15)00787-3


  1. Is this the same animal known as The Ethiopian wolf? (Canis simensis) is a carnivorous mammal of the family Canidae. It is also known as the Abyssinian wolf, Abyssinian fox, red jackal, red fox, Simien fox or Simien jackal among other names.
    The numerous names reflect previous uncertainty about its taxonomic position. I know that it had been argued for a long time that it belong to the jackal or fox line of canids than the lupine. But from what I understand more recently they are leaning towards it being in the lupine family of canids rather than the the foxes or jackals that they superficially resemble. What are your feelings on this Karl?

  2. Hi there, Sadly, there is too little info available to attempt a conclusive identification at this point. An unknown population of this highly endangered canid would be very exciting, but in view of its distinctive appearance and 'fame' as an endangered species I feel that if these mystery canids were indeed Canis simiensis, this would have been established long ago. However, I could be wrong... - and would be happy to be so, if these canids are ultimately unmasked as C. simiensis. Thanks for your very interesting comment. All the best, Karl

  3. So this is where it all began...

    The first Shukernature post! I am honoured to be in this sacred page.

  4. This is the first post? That's amazing!!

  5. No, it´s not Canis simensis. It´s a population of ancient wolf subspecies, Canis lupus lupaster. And it´s not endangered, this wolves live in North Africa from Atlas to Egypt, from Egypt to Ethiopia and in subsaharan areas of West and Central Africa. In most areas, natives recognize golden jackal and african wolfs. Ancient Egyptians do this, too - anubis is jackal god, wepwawet is wolf god. And reedwolf is not a mysterious canid at all - is only a subspecies of golden jackal which live in middle and southeast Europe (and is relative common on Balkan peninsula, but rare in Hungary, Slovakia and Austria). Sorry for poor english, i´m from Slovakia:)

  6. Natural History magazine did a good article on this wolf in its February 2013 issue.

  7. Нубийский волк и Сенегальский волк также раньше были описаны .