Chicago Wolf Hunt (1-13-1834)

Today the Chicago Wolves are a hockey team.  But once there were real wolves in Chicago.

In 1834 Charles Fenno Hoffman was a young New York writer, traveling through the wilds of the Midwest in search of adventure.  On this date he was staying at the Fort Dearborn garrison in the new little town of Chicago.  Hoffman’s hosts invited him along on a wolf hunt.

Charles Fenno Hoffman

Charles Fenno Hoffman

A gray wolf had been sighted on the river bank the day before.  In this place in those times, hunting wolves was more than sport.  Wolves attacked livestock.  Sometimes they attacked humans.

Ten men set off on horseback for the hunt, accompanied by a pack of dogs.  They arrived at the place where the wolf had been seen, and split into two groups.  Half the party moved north on the frozen river.  The rest fanned out over the open prairie.

Hoffman was in the group on the river.  After a few miles journey, with no success, they clambered up the bank onto land.  They soon came upon a wolf.

The animal was smart.  Instead of running away, he raced through the hunters’ ranks, scampered across the river, and disappeared on the other side.

 It would do no good to chase that wolf.  So the men pressed on overland, through deepening snowdrifts.  The cold sun moved with them, the shadows lengthened.  Suddenly, they heard the faint sound of barking hounds.  And then Hoffman saw what was happening–the other band of hunters was chasing three wolves toward them.
One of the wolves ran toward Hoffman and his mount.  A greyhound from the hunting pack shot forward and knocked over the wolf.  A second dog leaped onto the wolf, sinking his teeth into the wolf’s flank.  Then came a third dog, then a fourth.

The wolf was overmatched.  Hoffman jumped off his horse, shooed away the dogs, and ended the wolf’s suffering.  The hunt was over.

Hoffman moved on from Chicago, getting as far west as St. Louis before he turned back toward civilization.  The next year he published an account of his travels in a best-selling book, A Winter in the Far West. Other literary successes followed.

Then, in 1849, he suffered a nervous breakdown.  Charles Fenno Hoffman spent the last 35 years of his life in asylums, dying in 1884.



4 Responses to “Chicago Wolf Hunt (1-13-1834)”

  1. 1 Garry January 13, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Sorry John, but I’ve read elsewhere there aren’t any documented cases of wolves hunting humans in North America.
    It appears to be an urban legend, brought over from Europe.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt January 13, 2014 at 8:24 am

      Garry– You may be right. But Hoffman thought it was true in the 1830s, so call it a “prairie legend.”

  2. 3 Ralph January 14, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    A while back on my way to work down Devon Ave. I would see a couple of wolves crossing the street in Caldwell Woods. Nice looking animals but I wouldn’t stop for a picture.

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt January 14, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Ralph– I sometimes play golf at Caldwell. Now I may be able to add wolves to my list of “animals I’ve seen on golf courses.”

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