One of the most interesting stories about a pet wolf I’ve come across is the story of Captain Hare’s Spanish wolf. The story is a beautiful testament to the loyalty that wolves can exhibit toward those with whom they have bonded, and it is also a tragic tale of what happens when a misunderstood wild creature is brought into captivity.
Captain Hare was an officer in the British army during the Peninsular War, which was one of the Napoleonic Wars. It happened when Napoleon used a coup d’etat to get his brother seated on the Spanish throne and then invaded the Iberian Peninsula in hopes of conquering Portugal, which remained neutral and still traded with Britain. When Napoleon’s troops invaded Spain, they were initially greeted as liberators, then a brutal guerrilla war ensued. Britain sent its own troops in to the Iberian Peninsula to assist the uprising.
Captain Hare managed to tame a wolf pup while in Spain, and it became his comrade- in-arms.
The account of this tame wolf comes from The Eclectic Magazine (January 1864).
Early in the Peninsular War, Captain Hare, of a well-known Devonshire family, came home on absence or from wounds, bringing with him a tame Spanish wolf, caught young in the Sierra Morena, which, by constant familiarity, had become tame as a dog. During many a mountain bivouac, the soldier, his charger, and his pet wolf lay huddled together beneath a spreading cork-tree, or in the sheltered ravine, sharing between them the scanty supply of coarse biscuit, too often the whole of the military rations. During Captain Hare’s sojourn at Bristol, the beast followed him unmuzzled in his daily promenades, to the no small terror of Bristol citizens; and it was amusing to notice what a wide birth they gave him in passing, and how they turned, and at a respectful distance followed him the whole length of a street. But Paterfamilias presently began to murmur at the insatiate maw possessed by his son’s Spanish follower. After many a regretful struggle, the captain therefore transferred his old comrade to the keeping of Sir Hugh Smith, of Ashton Court. There, secured to a wooden dog-house in the kennel-yard, he spent nearly the whole summer’s day in pacing, to and fro at the full range of his tether, in a sort of ambling trot, plainly indicating his impatience of captivity, and sorrow at the abrupt disseverance of old associations. Gifted, like all his species, with a power of scent even beyond that possessed by the blood-hound, he winded a stranger’s presence the moment he got within the precincts of the park. Now the monotonous jog-trot is at once arrested; with ears erect, dilated, quivering nostrils, and flashing eyes, he stands motionless till the expected visitant comes in sight. Satisfied at length that it is not hia much-loved master, he hastily retires into bis lair, where, couchant at full length, with head between his paws, and closed eyelids, he feigns sleep. Rarely does this stratagem succeed, for the wary stranger stands gazing at a very respectful distance. Master Wolf now shakes off dull sleep, rises, shaking his hide and his ponderous chain, recommences his perambulations, but this time far within his limits, the chain lying in a zigzag coil beneath his feet. Still unsuccessful in deluding within his range his wished-for prey, the excited beast, with a hideous snarl, bounds sidelong to the full extent of his tether, and of course is dashed to earth by the recoil. Disappointed and humbled, he hastily retreats far into his dog-house, concealed from view. I noticed that the cunning animal never repeated this his favorite ruse a second time on the same person, but every fresh arrival induced him to repeat the assault (pg. 91).
During the war, the wolf and soldier were largely free.
War is not a beautiful thing, especially a nasty guerrilla war like the one that went on in Spain at this time.
The wolf likely gave Captain Hare a lot of comfort in a place where no one could really be trusted.
But while they were fighting in the war, they ran around in the mountains together, covering great distances as wolves like to do.
That’s why it is such a shame that this poor wolf wound up on a tether. Not only did he lose the person he loved, this poor wolf lost his mobility entirely.
A life on a tether isn’t a particularly good life for a dog, unless it’s given regular exercise and liberty from its bondage.
I can see this poor wolf running out to the end of his chain when a stranger approaches.
His nostrils would be flaring to catch the scent while his ears would perked forward to catch hint of the familiar voice.
And then that hope would be dashed when it became known that the person approaching wasn’t his beloved captain after all.
Pet wolves and dogs that happen to bond very intense with just a few people require owners that are willing to make a lifetime commitment to them.
They can never be truly satisfied living with someone else, and it is almost a great cruelty to expect them to do so.
Especially if they are forever exiled to the end of a chain.