Chrysocyon brachyurus is a stunning animal. The largest of all South American canids, it stands almost one meter tall at the shoulder and has a long, golden-red coat. Head and body length ranges from 1245 to 1320mm and tail length from 280 to 405mm. The long thin legs, which may serve to help the maned wolf to see above tall grass, grade from red to black at their lower portions. The anterior part of the erectile mane of long hairs is black as well. The body is narrow and the ears large and erect.
The dentition of the maned wolf reflects its food habits. As this animal does not kill or eat large prey, its upper carnassials (shearing teeth) are reduced, its upper incisors weak, and its canines are long and slender.