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Wolf Hunting in the 19th century in Russia. Some Interesting Stories and Facts

The author of 'The Three Musketeers' Alexandre Dumas spent two years in Russia seeking adventure and fodder for more stories. (Impressions de voyage: En Russie (Travel Impressions: In Russia, 1860)
On one occasion he made acquaintance with Prince Trubetskoy who invited him to go wolf hunting and told him how last winter Prince Repnin and two his friends had hunted wolves in one of his estates, which bordered the steppe.
The hunters got onto a big sleigh, each of them had two shotguns and 150 bullets. The coachman was brave and experienced, the horses were young and strong. They tied up a piglet to the sled rump, which immediately started screeching out of discomfort.

Nikolai Sverchkov. Wolf Hunting from the Sled, 1860


Prince Repnin sat on the sled with his back to the coachman, his friends got on the sides. It was a moonlit night, very bright, and two dozen of wolves came running when heard the piglet's squeal. They were clearly visible.
When the wolves approached closer to the sled, the hunters opened fire. One wolf dropped to the ground, and a dozen of his congeners tore him into pieces, the others kept chasing the squealing pig, and eventually, more and more of them, hundreds and then thousands of predators appeared as from under the ground. A giant pack ran at great speed, covering the steppe as a huge crescent, threatening to link up around the sleigh. Then the coachman said to cease fire. The wolves slowed down, then stopped. It happened not far from the Prince's estate.

John False. A Dangerous Sleigh RideJohn False. A Dangerous Sleigh Ride

Nikolai Sverchkov. Hunting the Wolf, 1873


The next day, the hunters followed their sleigh traces in the opposite direction. They counted more than two hundred wolf skeletons, completely gnawed by their congeners.
No use to tell what the hunters thought about then. The horses snorted and quivered, and the hunters just squeezed their shotguns without saying a word.
If during the hunt the coachman lost control, or even one horse fell, or the harness broke, only fragments of the sled, gun barrels and skeletons of horses and people would be found at the scene of the accident.

Nikolai Sverchkov. Hunting with Borzois, 1889


Nikolai Sverchkov (1817-1898) was a quite popular Russian artist, whose paintings focused mostly on hunting scenes, troikas dashing through the snow, mounted portraits, etc. His Return from the bear hunt, exhibited in 1863, was bought by Napoleon III. For it and 2 other paintings (The fair and The station) Sverchkov was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor.
The hunt was one interesting social institution in 19th c. in Russia. During the hunt, all usual social distinctions were dropped, a nobleman would defer to a peasant with superior tracking skills. While their borzois were on the scent of the prey, the hunters would go on foot leading their horses. The hunters would mount and commence the chase, when the dogs noticed the prey. As the dogs ran down the wolf, one of the riders would dismount, seat himself on the wolf’s back, and secure his mouth with a chain. Another of the hunters would dismount and dispatch the wolf with his dagger. Using firearms was considered rather unsporting for “small game”.

Nikolai Sverchkov. Hunting

Nikolai Sverchkov.

Nikolai Sverchkov. Hunters in the Steppe, 1873

N. Sverchkov. Bear Hunting

Nikolai Sverchkov. Going Bear Hunting

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