One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

One of Hiroshi Yagi's 1996 photos

A newspaper article about the alleged wolf cub

A newspaper article about the alleged wolf cub

The alleged Honshu wolf killed in 1910

The alleged Honshu wolf killed in 1910

Honshu wolf

Canis lupus hodophilax

The Japanese wolf (Canis lupus hodophilax), also called the Honshu wolf, was a species of wolf native to most of Japan except Hokkaido and the Ryukyu archipelago, noted for its small size. Due to them occasionally attacking livestock they were overhunted, as well, a rabies outbreak occurred, leading to their extinction. The last official Honshu wolf died on January 23rd, 1905 in the Nara prefecture. Despite their supposed extinction, sightings continue to this day. 


In 1910, an unusual wolf-like animal was shot at the Matsudaira Agricultural Station in the Fukui Prefecture. Though some dismissed it as a Korean wolf that escaped from a nearby zoo. The staff of that same zoo studied the carcass and believed it to be a Honshu wolf. In the early 2010s, Japanese zoologist and wolf researcher Yoshinori Imaizumi studied a photograph of the carcass (above) and concluded it was a Honshu wolf, due to the animal's thinner frame and rounded tail, features that are unique to them. 


In 1934, Oura Yutaka and his family claimed to have seen a pack of five or six Honshu wolves in the wilderness near Mt. Kumatori, in what is now Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. In 1936, a villager on the Kii Peninsula claimed, not only to have seen but captured, a wolf cub. He released it back into the wild, fearing its mother would come looking for it, but also protect their presumably tiny population.


In the late 40s and early 50s, sightings of surviving Honshu wolves increased, possibly due to additional protected land, with over seven new national parks being created. This would presumably give them more space, more prey, and less human interaction, enabling their population to increase.


The August 18th, 1973 issue of the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper featured an article about a dead wolf cub that was found in the mountains of the Kii Peninsula, on the borders between the Nara and Wakayama prefectures. Mr. K, a zoologist who examined the carcass, believed it to be a genuine wolf cub. Though it was sent for analysis, its current whereabouts, as well as the study's results, are unknown. Further, in 1985, a witness claimed to have seen a wolf from the other side of a dam in the Nara Prefecture.


In 1994, howling wolves were heard by over 70 people in the forests in the Kii Peninsula. In response, some researchers blasted timber wolf calls on speakers and actually got several responses. In 1996, Hiroshi Yagi, a Honshu wolf researcher, took multiple up-close photos of what appears to be a wolf (above), though some believe it could be a misidentified stray dog.


In 1998, several sightings were reported in the Okuchichibu Mountains in the Kantō region. Many wolves were reported being seen scampering through brush or across roads. One person even had their chickens attacked by what appeared to be a wolf. Yipping and howling calls were also recorded. On July 8, 2000, a high school principal by the name of Satoshi Nishida photographed an alleged Honshu wolf in Kyushu while he was hiking. The photos are now considered lost, at least to English speaking cryptozoologists.


In December of 2018, Rina Kambayashi claimed to have encountered a Honshu wolf in her garden on the outskirts of the town of Chichibu. As she stepped out of her house, just a couple of yards away, was a wolf sitting next to a shrub. It had a long, triangular snout, a straight tail, and patchy black and brown fur. Its face was somewhat flat from the top of the skull to the nose, a trait unique to wolves. After staring at it for a moment, she asked her elderly mother to grab a camera. The animal, startled by the sudden noise, took off into a nearby bamboo stand.