The Library

Animals > Wolves


In this fanciful scene a scantily-clad, winged hunting cherub is blowing the horn to summon up help from the rest of the pack while his dog, a mastiff, still on the leash, is pouncing on a lupine dragon.  As in the previous example some of the foliage is scratch-carved into the background of the panel.

In the Middle Ages the wolf had presented a real threat to the rural economy as it would kill animals up to the size of a cow or horse and was strong enough to run off with a sheep or goat in its mouth without fear of being caught unless, as here, a mastiff gave chase.  Wolves, unlike foxes, lived apart from man and were feared and hated, for not only would they kill deer, pigs and stags but they would take children too.  They were widely distributed in Britain and the rest of Europe but, by the 15th century had become much less common in England though they continued to be a problem in Scotland.  France was one of the few places where wolves were hunted with dogs; elsewhere it was usually deemed too dangerous for the dogs, traps and snares being used instead.  In 15th century Germany the wolffenger worked full-time trapping wolves.

By the 17th century the wolf had largely become a creature that figured in superstitious tales: whores were called she-wolves since they destroyed their lovers’ wealth; the Bible refers to false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing; tax-collectors and bailiffs were similarly named.