Most young canines, either wild or domestic are called pups or puppies. An older term not used much today is whelp. Young foxes I think are called kits. The young of coyotes, African hunting dogs and dingoes are generally called pups. The young of big cats and bears are called cubs. How did this term come to be used for juvenile wolves which are in the canid genus?
personally, i think pup is better for a baby wolf. in the US, maybe the use of cub has been popularized through Boy Scouts, which based its Cub program on Kipling’s The Jungle Book. i assume that maybe British folks have a more expansive view of cubs, since it looks like the Oxford dictionary explicitly applies cubs to both wolves and seals, whereas i would call both of these pups in the US.
Because English is not a rationally organized language.
My guess is that these terms for young carnivores have been used interchangeably for different animals but perhaps became “standardized” for certain species depending on where in the world English was being spoken and where these animals lived. There are certainly differences in use of common words in the English language among countries like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, etc.
The agency reports I get on the Mexican Wolf recovery and reintroduction efforts in Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico refer to young wolves as pups and not cubs. So the terminology is not all that standardized.
Names of animal young can be odd. Baby rabbits, raccoons, and sometimes cats are all called kits. A quick google search says baby wolves are called pups, and that: “There’s a popular misconception that baby wolves are called cubs, which often leads to confusion, but they’re not. A baby wolf is a pup. Similar to how dog babies are puppies, wolf babies are pups.” (https://animalvivid.com/what-is-a-baby-wolf-called/)
So I think people just accidentally get used to a term and use that. Kind of like calling a koala a koala bear.
As quirky and non-monolithic as the English language is, I’ve never heard baby wolves referred to as cubs, only pups.
When in doubt, the terms juvenile, immature, or neonate are useful for any mammal.
Not that I am well versed on wolves. Cub seems a lot more archaic to me, I feel I hear pup a lot more. But I wouldnt challenge either if I heard them in use.
Unless you are talking about when I was a cub/scout
" The name Wolf Cubs was chosen by Baden-Powell as ‘wolf’ was a Native American name for a good scout and a pack of wolves was the family of the boy Mowgli from the stories in The Jungle Book."
Names for animal young were coined before today’s concepts of taxonomy. This is why “calf” is used for the young of such disparate animals as cattle, elk, elephants, and whales; but sheep and goats, which are more closely related to cattle than are elephants or whales, have “lambs” and “kids.” And then humans also have “kids,” the only primate to do so.
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