Wolf hunting with dogs
Wolf hunting with dogs is a method of wolf hunting
Wolf hunting
Wolf hunting is the practice of hunting grey wolves or other lupine animals. Wolves are mainly hunted for sport, for their skins, to protect livestock, and, in some rare cases, to protect humans. Wolves have been actively hunted since 12,000 to 13,000 years ago, when they first began to pose...

 which relies on the use of hunting dog
Hunting dog
A hunting dog refers to any dog who assists humans in hunting. There are several types of hunting dogs developed for various tasks. The major categories of hunting dogs include hounds, terriers, dachshunds, cur type dogs, and gun dogs...

s. While any dog, especially a hound
A hound is a type of dog that assists hunters by tracking or chasing the animal being hunted. It can be contrasted with the gun dog, which assists hunters by identifying the location of prey, and with the retriever, which recovers shot quarry...

 used for hunting wolves may be loosely termed a "wolfhound
Wolfhound can refer to various breeds of dogs that have been bred to hunt wolves or to established lines of wolf-dog crosses that retain significant characteristics of wolves. Wolf-dog hybrids crossed in recent generations are often referred to as wolfdogs, wolf-dog hybrids or wolf crosses, but...

," several dog breed
Dog breed
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock....

s have been specifically bred for the purpose, some of which, such as the Irish Wolfhound
Irish Wolfhound
The Irish wolfhound is a breed of domestic dog , specifically a sighthound. The name originates from its purpose rather than from its appearance...

, have the word in their breed name.

Irish Wolfhounds

In Ireland, Irish wolfhound
Irish Wolfhound
The Irish wolfhound is a breed of domestic dog , specifically a sighthound. The name originates from its purpose rather than from its appearance...

s were bred as far back as 3 BC
3 BC
Year 3 BC was a common year starting on Wednesday or Thursday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

. Unlike other wolfhound breeds, Irish wolfhounds were bred to kill wolves single handedly. Before their near extinction, good wolfhounds were large and strong enough to seize a wolf across the loins and trot off with it.
After the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
Cromwellian conquest of Ireland
The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland refers to the conquest of Ireland by the forces of the English Parliament, led by Oliver Cromwell during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Cromwell landed in Ireland with his New Model Army on behalf of England's Rump Parliament in 1649...

, Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 imposed a ban on the exportation of Irish wolfhounds in order to tackle wolves.


According to the Encyclopédie
Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers was a general encyclopedia published in France between 1751 and 1772, with later supplements, revised editions, and translations. It was edited by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert...

, wolf hunting squads in France typically consisted of 25-30 good sized dogs, usually grey in color with red around the eyes and jowls. The main pack would be supplemented with six or eight large sighthound
Sighthounds, also called gazehounds, are hounds that primarily hunt by speed and sight, instead of by scent and endurance as scent hounds do.-Appearance:...

s and a few dogues
Dogue de Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Mastiff or French Mastiff or Bordeauxdog is a breed of dog that is strong, powerful, and imposing. The Dogue de Bordeaux is one of the most ancient French breeds. They are a typical brachycephalic molossoid type. Bordeaux are very powerful dogs, with a very muscular...

. Wolf hunting sighthounds were usually separated into three categories; lévriers d'estric, lévriers compagnons (or lévriers de flanc) and lévriers de tête. It was preferable to have two teams of each kind, with each team consisting of 2-3 dogs. It is specified that one can never have enough bloodhound
The Bloodhound is a large breed of dog which, while originally bred to hunt deer and wild boar, was later bred specifically to track human beings. It is a scenthound, tracking by smell, as opposed to a sighthound, which tracks using vision. It is famed for its ability to discern human odors even...

s in a wolf hunt, as the wolf is the most challenging quarry for the hounds to track, due to its light tread leaving scant debris, and thus very little scent. This was not so serious a problem in winter, when the tracks were easier to detect in the snow. Each bloodhound group would be used alternatively throughout the hunt, in order to allow the previous team to recuperate. Because of the wolf's feeble scent, a wolf hunt would have to begin by motivating the bloodhounds with repeated caresses and the recitation; "va outre ribaut hau mon valet; hau lo lo lo lo, velleci, velleci aller mon petit". It was preferable that the area of the hunt contained no stronger smelling animals which could distract the dogs, or that the dogs themselves were entirely specialised in hunting wolves. Once the scent had been found, the hunters would give a further recitation in order to motivate the dogs; "qu'est-ce là mon valet, hau l'ami après, vellici il dit vrai". The scent was usually found at a crossroad
Junction (road)
A road junction is a location where vehicular traffic going in different directions can proceed in a controlled manner designed to minimize accidents. In some cases, vehicles can change between different routes or directions of travel.-Origins:...

, where the wolf would scratch the earth or leave a scent mark. The two teams of lévriers d'estric would be placed at separate points on the borders of the forest, where the wolf was expected to run to. The lévriers compagnons would be concealed on either side of the path, while the lévriers de tête, which were the largest and most aggressive, would initiate the chase once the wolf was sighted. The lévriers de tête would chase the wolf through the path and funnel it toward the other waiting lévrier teams. Once the wolf was apprehended, the dogs would be pulled back, and the hunters would place a wooden stick between the wolf's jaws in order to stop it injuring them or the dogs. The hunt master would then quickly dispatch the wolf by stabbing it between the shoulder blades with a dagger.

Russian Wolf hunting and the Borzoi

Wolves were hunted in both Czarist
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and Soviet Russia
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic , commonly referred to as Soviet Russia, Bolshevik Russia, or simply Russia, was the largest, most populous and economically developed republic in the former Soviet Union....

 with borzoi
The borzoi is a breed of domestic dog also called the Russian wolfhound and descended from dogs brought to Russia from central Asian countries. It is similar in shape to a greyhound, and is also a member of the sighthound family.The system by which Russians over the ages named their sighthounds...

 by landowners and Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

s. Covers were drawn by sending mounted men through a wood with a number of dogs of various breeds, including deerhounds, staghounds and Siberian wolfhounds, as well as smaller greyhounds and foxhounds, as they made more noise than borzoi. A beater, holding up to six dogs by leash, would enter a wooded area where wolves would have been previously sighted. Other hunters on horseback would select a place in the open where the wolf or wolves may break. Each hunter held one or two borzois, which would be slipped the moment the wolf takes flight. Once the beater sighted a wolf, he would shout "Loup! Loup! Loup!" and slip the dogs. The idea was to trap the wolf between the pursuing dogs and the hunters on horseback outside the wood. The borzois would pursue the wolf along with the horsemen and yapping curs. Once the wolf was caught by the borzois, the foremost rider would dismount and quickly dispatch the wolf with a knife. Occasionally, wolves are captured alive in order to better train borzoi pups.

Kazakhstani wolf hunting

Unlike Russian wolf hunts with hounds, which occur usually in the summer period when wolves have less protective fur and the terrain is more favourable for the hounds to give chase, Kazakhstani wolf hunts with hounds depend on favourable snow conditions. The hunts take place either in the steppes regions of the country, or in semi-deserts. The hunters track wolves on horseback, with their dogs in sled
A sled, sledge, or sleigh is a land vehicle with a smooth underside or possessing a separate body supported by two or more smooth, relatively narrow, longitudinal runners that travels by sliding across a surface. Most sleds are used on surfaces with low friction, such as snow or ice. In some cases,...

s. Once a wolf is spotted, the dogs are released from the sled, and give chase.

North America

In North America wolf hunting with hounds was done in the context of pest control rather than sport. George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class...

 enjoyed wolf coursing with dogs, and favoured large greyhounds and staghounds. Of the latter, he took a pair of large, white, shaggy animals which he would turn loose against wolves in the Sioux
The Sioux are Native American and First Nations people in North America. The term can refer to any ethnic group within the Great Sioux Nation or any of the nation's many language dialects...

 sacred Black Hills. In his book Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches, Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

 wrote that greyhound
The Greyhound is a breed of sighthound that has been primarily bred for coursing game and racing, and the breed has also recently seen a resurgence in its popularity as a pedigree show dog and family pet. It is a gentle and intelligent breed...

 crossbreeds were a favourite of his, and wrote that exclusively purebred
Purebreds, also called purebreeds, are cultivated varieties or cultivars of an animal species, achieved through the process of selective breeding...

 greyhounds were unnecessary, sometimes to the point of uselessness in a wolf hunt. Some bulldog
American Bulldog
The American Bulldog is a breed of working dog that was developed in the United States. There are generally considered to be three types of American bulldog: the Bully or Classic type , the Standard or Performance type , and the Hybrid type...

 blood in the dogs was considered helpful, though not essential. Roosevelt wrote that many ranchmen of Colorado
Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses much of the Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains...

, Wyoming
Wyoming is a state in the mountain region of the Western United States. The western two thirds of the state is covered mostly with the mountain ranges and rangelands in the foothills of the Eastern Rocky Mountains, while the eastern third of the state is high elevation prairie known as the High...

, and Montana
Montana is a state in the Western United States. The western third of Montana contains numerous mountain ranges. Smaller, "island ranges" are found in the central third of the state, for a total of 77 named ranges of the Rocky Mountains. This geographical fact is reflected in the state's name,...

 in the final decade of the 19th century managed to breed greyhound or deerhound packs capable of killing wolves unassisted, if numbering in three or more. These greyhounds were usually thirty inches at the shoulder and weighed 90 lbs. These American greyhounds apparently outclassed imported Russian borzois in hunting wolves. Wolf hunting with dogs became a specialised pursuit in the 1920s, with well trained and pedigreed dogs being used. Several wolfhounds were killed in wolf hunts in the warden sponsored Wisconsin Conservation Department of the 1930s. These losses induced the state to begin a dog insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

 policy in order to reimburse wolf hunters. Wolf hunting with dogs is now illegal in the USA.


Dogs are normally fearful of wolves. Both James Rennie
James Rennie
James Rennie FRS was a Scottish naturalist.-Life:In 1815 he graduated M.A. from Glasgow University where he had previously studied natural sciences, and took holy orders. In 1821 he moved to London. From 1830 to 1834 he was professor of natural history and zoology at King's College. From then on...

 and Theodore Roosevelt wrote how even dogs which enthusiastically confront bear
Bears are mammals of the family Ursidae. Bears are classified as caniforms, or doglike carnivorans, with the pinnipeds being their closest living relatives. Although there are only eight living species of bear, they are widespread, appearing in a wide variety of habitats throughout the Northern...

s and large cats will hesitate to approach wolves. According to the Encyclopédie, dogs used in a wolf hunt are typically veteran animals, as younger hunting dogs would be intimidated by the wolf's scent. However, dogs can be taught to overcome their fear if habituated
Habituation can be defined as a process or as a procedure. As a process it is defined as a decrease in an elicited behavior resulting from the repeated presentation of an eliciting stimulus...

 to it at an early age. As pups, Russian wolfhounds are sometimes introduced to captured live wolves, and are trained to grab them behind the ears in order to avoid being injured by the wolf’s teeth. A similar practice was recorded in the USA by John James Audubon
John James Audubon
John James Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats...

, who wrote how wolves caught in a pit trap would be hamstrung
Hamstringing is a method of crippling a person or animal so that they cannot walk properly, by cutting the two large tendons at the back of the knees.- Method :...

 and given to a dog pack in order to condition the dogs into losing their fear.

Dogs typically do not readily eat wolf curée (entrails). The Encyclopédie specifies that the curée had to be prepared in a special way in order for the dogs to accept it. The carcass would be skinned, gutted and decapitated, with the entrails placed in an oven. After roasting, the entrails would be mixed with breadcrumbs and placed in a cauldron of boiling water. In winter, they would then be mixed with 3-4 lbs of fat, while in summer, two or three bucketloads of milk and flour was applied. After soaking, the entrails would be placed on a sheet of cloth and taken to the dogs whilst still warm.


Accounts as to how wolves react to being attacked by dogs vary, though John James Audubon wrote that young wolves generally show submissive behaviour, while older wolves fight savagely. As wolves are not as fast as smaller canids such as coyote
The coyote , also known as the American jackal or the prairie wolf, is a species of canine found throughout North and Central America, ranging from Panama in the south, north through Mexico, the United States and Canada...

s, they typically run to a low place and wait for the dogs to come over from the top and fight them. Theodore Roosevelt stressed the danger cornered wolves can pose to a pack of dogs in his Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches:

The fighting styles of wolves and dogs differ significantly; while dogs typically limit themselves to attacking the head, neck and shoulder, wolves will make greater use of body blocks, and attack the extremities of their opponents.
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