Coyotes are one of the most common types of wild dogs in North and Central America. From afar, they could look like stray dogs, or even be mistaken for wolves or foxes.
How do these species compare in size?
Coyotes are smaller than most mid- and large-size dog breeds and gray wolves alike. They are also much smaller than humans, although a coyote could cause serious injuries to adults or kill children. From all wild dogs roaming North America, foxes are the only species of canids smaller in size than coyotes.
The table below shows a quick size comparison between coyotes, other canid species, and humans*:
|Height||24 inches||26 inches||15 to 16 inches||33 inches||5.2 to 5.9 feet|
|Length||2.6 to 3 feet||3 to 3.5 feet||1.8 to 2.8 feet||3.3 to 6 feet||n/a|
|Weight||20 to 50 pounds||30 to 75 pounds||10 to 18 pounds||50 to 150 pounds||170 to 198 pounds|
|Paw size||2 x 2.5 inches||3 x 4 inches||1.5 x 2 inches||4 x 5 inches||6.8 to 7.6 inches (hand)|
*Data in the table above was sourced from scientific publications and other official sources. All data refer to average ranges for each species. For comparison purposes, we considered the German Shepherd dog breed characteristics for the domestic dog column, red foxes, gray wolves, and the average height and weight of US nationals. Factors may vary for other subspecies, breeds, or people of different nationalities or races.
Coyote Size & Comparison Facts
Coyotes (Canis latrans) are one of the most abundant species of wild dogs in North America, living in every US state except Hawaii.
Their features are somewhere in-between dogs and wolves, and telling these species apart is sometimes challenging.
An easy way to differentiate between these canids is by size – or measuring the tracks left on the ground.
Coyotes are about the size of a large dog; however, they are actually smaller than most large dog breeds.
Typically, coyotes grow up to 24 inches in height at the shoulder and between 2.6 and 3 feet in length. The weight varies between 20 and 50 pounds; however, they rarely exceed this heft threshold.
Comparatively, some large and giant breed dogs can weigh over 90 pounds.
Coyote Size Compared To German Shepherds
Due to the huge differences in size and weight between various dog breeds, it is difficult to compare coyotes to domestic dogs in general.
One of the most common breeds considered when comparing coyotes to domestic dogs is the German Shepherd.
This is the preferred dog type for comparison because German Shepherds look like smaller wolves. Members of the Canis lupus familiaris species, they share about 99.9% of their DNA with the gray wolves.
As far as size is concerned, German Shepherds are larger than coyotes. According to breed standards, they measure between 3 and 3.5 feet in length and grow to shoulder heights up to 26 inches.
Like most canid species, coyotes included, German Shepherds are subject to sexual dimorphism – males are larger and heavier than females.
Weight-wise, these dogs typically weigh between 30 and 75 pounds on average, although larger males can be heavier. At a glance, they appear to be up to two times the size of coyotes.
Coyote Size Vs. Fox
Another common type of wild canid found in North America is the fox – red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in particular.
Red foxes are about the same size as small to medium-sized dogs and are about two times smaller than coyotes.
Specifically, they measure around 1.8 to 2.8 feet in length and up to 18 pounds of weight. The shoulder height rarely exceeds 16 inches.
Size aside, foxes are easy to differentiate from coyotes thanks to their color. As the name suggests, red foxes have reddish-brown coats with white chins and necks. The legs and paws are black.
Similar to coyotes, red foxes have pointed ears and long muzzles. However, they have longer and bushier tails.
Another fox type that can be encountered in the same ranges as coyotes are the North American gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).
Gray foxes are more similar to coyotes in color, even though they still have red accents on the neck and legs. However, they are still smaller than coyotes, measuring up to 3.6 feet in length, including the tail.
Similar to red foxes, gray foxes reach a shoulder height of up to 16 inches and weigh up to 14 pounds, on average.
Size Comparison Between Wolf And Coyote
While foxes are smaller than coyotes, coyotes are smaller than wolves – around two times smaller. In fact, gray wolves (Canis lupus) are the largest extant wild canids.
These wolves can grow up to 33 inches in height and reach lengths between 3.3 and 6 feet. They also weigh between 50 and 150 pounds, which is up to three times the weight of coyotes.
The two other species of wolves in North America are smaller than gray wolves, but they are still larger than coyotes.
Eastern wolves grow up to 36 inches in height, but they only reach lengths up to 5.5 feet, from the tip of their nose to the end of the tail.
They can weigh anywhere between 50 to 100 pounds, with an average weight of 75 pounds for adult males.
Red wolves measure up to 4 feet in length and grow to shoulder heights up to 26 inches. These wolves weigh between 45 to 80 pounds on average. They are larger than but the closest in size to coyotes from all wolf species.
However, even if they are about the same size as some of the largest coyotes, it’s unlikely to mistake a coyote for a red wolf.
That’s because red wolves are a critically endangered species with a decreasing population and fewer than 50 individuals in the wild.
Coyote Size Comparison To Humans
Coyotes are opportunistic in nature and have been known to take advantage of the proximity to human settlements. They live in rural and urban areas alike, going after livestock, pets, and garbage refuse.
However, even if they are a potential danger to people, the risks are minimal.
That’s because most adult people are a lot larger than coyotes. The average American man measures around 5.9 feet in height. Women are shorter, with an average height of 5.2 feet; however, they are still taller than a coyote standing on its hind legs.
Humans are also heavier, weighing up to 198 pounds – almost four times the weight of the heaviest coyotes. Thus, coyotes are about as dangerous as mid-size stray dogs in their interactions with humans.
The highest threat is posed to children. Yet, coyote attacks on humans are very rare, with only two recorded incidents of people being killed by coyotes in the USA and Canada since the 1980s.
If there are coyotes in your area and you’re concerned for your and your family’s safety, telling between coyotes, dogs, foxes, and wolves is easy by looking at their tracks.
Coyotes are mid-sized wild canids, smaller than wolves but larger than foxes. They are also larger than some dog breeds, even though most mid- to large-size dog types are actually larger than coyotes.
These wild dogs are also smaller than humans, and even though they could potentially kill children, coyote attacks on humans are rare.
However, coyotes living near human settlements could be a threat to livestock and small pets, including dogs and cats.