Wolves "look" gray, but their fur is actually made of hairs where each individual hair is one of several colors (black, white and red, IIRC) depending on if you look at the tip, middle, or root.

I'm recalling that I once came across a word that describes this, but can't find it again. Does anyone know the word? (IIRC there is a Wikipedia article on it.)

I believe it is not any of:

  • gray/grey (duh)
  • taupe
  • roan
  • tricolor
  • varicolor

...but it's possible I'm wrong. In any case, a source that matches the above description is appreciated. Googling has been... unhelpful; I either haven't hit on the right combination of terms, or am being buried in unrelated results.

  • The cosmetology industry, as much as it applies to feral individuals, calls this 'frosted'.
    – Mitch
    Mar 12 at 13:31

3 Answers 3


The gray wolf can actually range in color from pure white to solid black, but the most common shade is a tawny brown in which the wolf’s guard hairs are banded with black, white, gold and brown. This banded coloration is known as agouti, and is found in a number of wild species.



A grizzled coat type in various animals that is produced by alternate bands of light and dark color on each hair shaft.


  • Spot on. I know this from cats. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_coat_genetics#/media/… Nov 11, 2019 at 15:21
  • Yes; I'm pretty sure that's what I was remembering. Thank you! (Alas, the Wikipedia article has been ~~deleted~~merged into this inscrutable mess, which probably contributes to my inability to find it again. Argh! Now that I'm on a different computer, it's even in my history!)
    – Matthew
    Nov 11, 2019 at 15:55
  • 1
    I knew the term agouti as the name of an animal only. I've found out that the name of the fur type/coloration comes from the name of the animal. OED definition: "A brindled appearance of the fur in other mammals, resembling that of agoutis and resulting from the individual hairs having banded pigmentation; (also) an animal, esp. one of a domestic breed, with such fur. Frequently attributive or as adj."
    – ermanen
    Nov 12, 2019 at 3:28
  • 1
    TIL, even as a native English speaker. Thank you 😊 Nov 12, 2019 at 14:21

Just in case it wasn't Agouti you were thinking of, it may have also been the world 'Brindle', which is often used to describe the coats of certain domesticated dogs - but it's also something that can be used to describe wolves' coats.

Here's the wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brindle

... and here's a dog with brindle markings.

Wolf with Brindle Coat

  • 3
    A month later, and I'd have probably upvoted for the picture. Nov 11, 2019 at 15:44
  • For some reason, I think that wolf is a chimera, based on the coloring.
    – cde
    Nov 12, 2019 at 22:50
  • (Silver-)sable is also a wolf colour. But I agree, brindle, in your fancier wolf. :-)
    – Dan
    Nov 12, 2019 at 23:28
  • 5
    @DanSheppard - C'mon, Dan - post a third answer with 'Sable' and also include a another pic :-)
    – Kevin
    Nov 13, 2019 at 15:31

A third option, after agouti and brindled, is

tawny - a light brown to brownish-orange color that is applied to some wolves

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