In early post-Columbian historical records, distinguishing between coyotes and wolves is often difficult.One record from 1750 in Kaskaskia, Illinois, written by a local priest, noted that the "wolves" encountered there were smaller and less daring than European wolves.The hair's predominant color is light gray and red or fulvous, interspersed around the body with black and white.Coyotes living at high elevations tend to have more black and gray shades than their desert-dwelling counterparts, which are more fulvous or whitish-gray.The animal was especially respected in Mesoamerican cosmology as a symbol of military might.After the European colonization of the Americas, it was reviled in Anglo-American culture as a cowardly and untrustworthy animal.The earliest written reference to the species comes from the naturalist Francisco Hernández's Plantas y Animales de la Nueva España (1651), where it is described as a "Spanish fox" or "jackal".The first published usage of the word "coyote" (which is a Spanish borrowing of its Nahuatl name coyōtl) comes from the historian Francisco Javier Clavijero's Historia de México in 1780.
In spite of this, coyotes sometimes mate with gray, eastern, or red wolves, producing "coywolf" hybrids.
Their fur color is predominantly light gray and red or fulvous interspersed with black and white, though it varies somewhat with geography.
It is highly flexible in social organization, living either in a family unit or in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals.
The coyote's fur consists of short, soft underfur and long, coarse guard hairs.
The fur of northern subspecies is longer and denser than in southern forms, with the fur of some Mexican and Central American forms being almost hispid (bristly).