If you’ve been lucky enough to see wild coyotes up-close, you might have noticed that many have a prominent dark spot on their tails. Just under this spot is a nifty organ called the supracaudal gland or violet gland! It gets its name because it produces a musky oil that smells very strongly like violets.
The oils produced by violet glands are used in communication and scent-marking, and your night see animals rubbing their upper tails against trees or rocks to leave messages for others.
Coyotes aren’t the only animals with violet glands. All members of the dog family have them, as do several unrelated species! Violet glands produce pungent odors in foxes, and are often prominently marked in wolves.
Many breeds of domestic dog also have violet glands, and— as with coyotes— they’re often marked by a dark spot. You might be able to find a spot marking your own dog’s violet gland! Isn’t it neat to see the connections between our own pets and their wild cousins?