- Excerpted from Wisdom of Wolves by Twyman Towery, PhD.
There is not a more eerie, mournful, frightening or beautiful sound at night than the musical extravaganza of a howling wolf pack. Campers and hunters who have heard this chorus are filled with wonder, but are also usually immobilized by fear. Because of the melody of voices, it often sounds like they are surrounded by scores of wolves.
In truth, there are usually no more than 5-8 wolves howling in a pack. The secret is that the wolves are always careful not to duplicate each other. Each wolf assumes a unique pitch, respecting the distinctiveness of other members of the pack. While the notes may change, as in any beautiful song, one wolf will not copy the pitch of another.
Interestingly, this respect for the individual only emphasizes the true unity of the group. They are one, but they are individuals, each contributing to the organization in their own unique way. Every wolf has his own voice. Every wolf respects the voice of every other wolf.
While no one knows for sure why wolves sing, nature has blessed them with a talent they have perfected through the generations: They are happy, excited, playful, territorial and sorrowful; they may be simply reaffirming the spirit and unity of their pack.
After all, why do birds sing? Why do we?
An additional reason that wolves may howl is that it provides a time, a place and an event for all social barriers to be broken. Wolves have a strong social order, with each member understanding its role and place. But when wolves howl together, all barriers are dropped, as if to say, “We are one, but we are all unique, so don’t tread on us.”
The wolf symphony makes the pack appear a much more formidable foe than would be the case if they all sounded the same.
So, too, are human organizations and families more formidable when the awareness of each individual is celebrated rather than stifled.