67            Black American Wolf

                       CANIS LUPUS.--Linn.--(VAR. ATER.)

                              BLACK AMERICAN WOLF.
                     [Gray Wolf (color phase).  ENDANGERED]

                               PLATE LXVII. MALE.

     C. niger, magnitudine, formaque C. lupi.

     Size and shape of the Common American Wolf; Canis, lupus occidentalis;
colour black.


     LOUP NOIR DE CANADA, Buffon, vol. ix., p. 364-41.
     BLACK WOLF, Long's Expd., vol. i., p, 95.
     BLACK WOLF, Say, Frankl. Jour., vol. i., p. 172.
     BLACK WOLF, Griffith, Anim. King., vol. 2., p. 348
     BLACK WOLF, Godman, Nat. Hist., vol. i., p. 267.
     CANIS LYACON, Harlan's Fauna, p. 82.
     VAR. E. LUPUS ATER, Black Amer. Wolf, Richardson, Fauna Boreali Amer.,
       p. 70.


     We regard this animal as a mere variety of the Common American Wolf, to be
hereafter described, and need only here observe, that all the Wolves we have
examined, such as the Canis nubiles of SAY, the White Wolf, the Red Texan Wolf
and the Black Wolf, are of the same form, although in size the White Wolf is
considerably the largest.


     Face, legs, point of tail and under jaw, black; body, irregularly and
transversely barred with brackish brown and greyish; sides of the neck, greyish
brown; behind the shoulders, under the belly and on the forehead, greyish brown.
Some specimens are darker than others--we have examined several that were
perfectly black on the whole surface of the body.


                                                             Feet.   Inches.
     Length of head and body  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     3       2
     Length of tail vertebrae .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .            11
     Length including fur  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .     1       1
     Height of ear   .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .             3


     Not an individual of the party saw a Black Wolf daring our trip up the
Missouri, on the prairies near Fort Union, or along the shores of that portion
of the Yellow Stone River that we visited.  Mr. SAY speaks of its being the most
common variety on the banks of the Missouri, but, unfortunately, does not state
precisely where.
     Wolves of this colour were abundant near Henderson, Kentucky, when we
removed to that place, and we saw them frequently during our rambles through the
woods after birds.
     We found a Black Wolf in one of our wild turkey pens, early one morning.
He observed us, as we approached, but instead of making his escape, squatted
close down, like a dog which does not wish to be seen.  We came up within a few
yards of the pen, and shot him dead, through an opening between the logs.  This
Wolf had killed several fine turkeys, and was in the act of devouring one, which
was, doubtless, the reason he did not attempt to make his escape when we
approached him.
     There is a strong feeling of hostility entertained by the settlers of the
wild portions of the country, toward the Wolf, as his strength, agility, and
cunning, (in which last qualification, he is scarcely inferior to his relative,
the fox,) tend to render him the most destructive enemy of their pigs, sheep, or
young calves, which range in the forest; therefore, in our country, he is not
more mercifully dealt with than in any other part of the world.  Traps and
snares of various sorts are set for catching him in those districts in which he
still abounds.  Being more fleet and perhaps better winded than the fox, the
Wolf is seldom pursued with hounds or any other dogs in open chase, unless
wounded.  Although Wolves are bold and savage, few instances occur in our
temperate regions of their making an attack on man; and we have only had one
such case come under our own notice.  Two young negroes, who resided near the
banks of the Ohio, in the lower part of the State of Kentucky, about thirty
years ago, had sweethearts living on another plantation, four miles distant.
After the labours of the day were over, they frequently visited the fair ladies
of their choice, the nearest way to whose dwelling lay directly across a large
cane brake.  As to the lover every moment is precious, they usually took this
route to save time.  Winter had set in cold, dark and gloomy, and after sunset
scarcely a glimpse of light or glow of warmth were to be found in that dreary
swamp, except in the eyes and bosoms of the ardent youths who traversed these
gloomy solitudes.  One night, they set forth over a thin crust of snow.
Prudent, to a certain degree, the lovers carried their axes on their shoulders,
and walked as briskly as the narrow path would allow.  Some transient glimpses
of light now and then met their eyes in the more open spaces between the trees,
or when the heavy drifting clouds parting at times allowed a star to peep forth
on the desolate scene.  Fearfully, a long and frightful howl burst upon them,
and they were instantly aware that it proceeded from a troop of hungry and
perhaps desperate wolves.  They paused for a moment and a dismal silence
succeeded.  All was dark, save a few feet of the snow-covered ground immediately
in front of them.  They resumed their pace hastily, with their axes in their
hands prepared for an attack.  Suddenly, the foremost man was assailed by
several wolves which seized on him, and inflicted terrible wounds with their
fangs on his legs and arms, and as they were followed by many others as ravenous
as themselves, several sprung at the breast of his companion, and dragged him to
the ground.  Both struggled manfully against their foes, but in a short time one
of the negroes had ceased to move; and the other, reduced in strength and
perhaps despairing of aiding his unfortunate comrade or even saving his own
life, threw down his axe, sprang on to the branch of a tree, and speedily gained
a place of safety amid the boughs.  Here he passed a miserable night, and the
next morning the bones of his friend lay scattered around on the snow, which was
stained with his blood.  Three dead wolves lay near, but the rest of the pack
had disappeared; and Scipio sliding to the ground, recovered the axes and
returned home to relate the terrible catastrophe.
     About two years after this occurrence, as we were travelling between
Henderson and Vincennes, we chanced to stop for the night at the house of a
farmer, (for in those days hotels were scarce in that part of the good State of
Indiana.)  After putting up our horses and refreshing ourself, we entered into
conversation with our worthy host, and were invited by him to visit the wolf
pits which he had constructed about half a mile from the house.  Glad of the
opportunity, we accompanied him across the fields to the skirts of the adjoining
forest, where he had three pits within a few hundred yards of each other.  They
were about eight feet deep, broadest at the bottom, so as to render it
impossible for the most active animal to escape from them.  The mouth of each
pit was covered with a revolving platform of boughs and twigs, interlaced
together and attached to a cross piece of timber, which served for an axle.  On
this light sort of platform, which was balanced by a heavy stick of wood
fastened to the under side, a large piece of putrid venison was tied for bait.
After examining all the pits, we returned to the house, our companion remarking
that he was in the habit of visiting his pits daily, in order to see that all
was right; that the wolves had been very bad that season; had destroyed nearly
all his sheep, and had killed one of his colts.  "But," added he, "I am now
paying them off in full, and if I have any luck, you will see some fun in the
morning.  "With this expectation we retired to rest, and were up at day-light.
"I think," said our host, "that all is right; for I see the dogs are anxious to
get away to the pits and although they are nothing but curs, their noses are
pretty keen for wolves. "As he took up his gun and axe and a large knife, the
dogs began to howl and bark, and whisked around us as if full of delight.  When
we reached the first pit, we found the bait had been disturbed and the platform
was somewhat injured, but the animal was not in the pit.  On examining the
second pit, we discovered three famous fellows safe enough in it, two black and
ODe, brindled, all of good size.  They were lying flat on the earth, with their
ears close down to their heads, their eyes indicating fear more than anger.  To
our astonishment, the farmer proposed dessending into the pit to hamstring them,
in order to haul them up, and then allow them to be killed by the dogs, which,
he said, would sharpen his curs for an encounter with the wolves, should any
come near his house in future.  Being novices in this kind of business, we
begged to be lookers on.
     "With all my heart," cried the farmer, "stand here, and look at me,"
whereupon he glided down, on a knobbed pole, taking his axe and knife with him,
and leaving his rifle to our care.  We were not a little surprised at the
cowardice of the wolves.  The woodman stretched out their hind legs, in
succession, and with a stroke of the knife cut the principal tendon above the
joint, exhibiting as little fear, as if he had been marking lambs.  As soon as
he had thus disabled the wolves, be got out, but had to return to the house for
a rope, which he had not thought of.  He returned quickly, and, whilst I secured
the platform in a perpendicular position on its axis, he made a slip knot at one
end of the rope, and threw it over the head of one of the wolves.  We now hauled
the terrified animal up; and motionless with fright, half choked, and disabled
in its hind legs, the farmer slipped the rope from its neck, and left it to the
mercy of the dogs, who set upon it with great fury and worried it to death.  The
second was dealt with in the same manner; but the third, which was probably
oldest, showed some spirit the moment the dogs were set upon it, and scuffled
along on its forelegs, at a surprising rate, snapping all the while furiously at
the dogs, several of which it bit severely; and so well did the desperate animal
defend itself, that the farmer, apprehensive of its killing some of his pack,
ran up and knocked it on the head with his axe.  This wolf was a female, and was
blacker than the other dark-coloured one.
     Once, when we were travelling on foot not far from the southern boundary of
Kentucky, we fell in with a Black Wolf, following a man with a rifle on his
shoulders.  On speaking with him about this animal, he assured us that it was as
tame and as gentle as any dog, and that he had never met with a dog that could
trail a deer better.  We were so much struck with this account and the noble
appearance of the wolf, that we offered him one hundred dollars for it; but the
owner would not part with it for any price.
     Our plate was drawn from a fine specimen, although not so black a one as we
have seen.  We consider the Dusky Wolf and the Black Wolf as identically the
     As we shall have occasion to refer to the characteristics of Wolves
generally again, we shall not prolong this article; the Black, as already
stated, being, in fact, only a variety.  In our account of the Common Gray Wolf
of the North, and the White Wolf of the Prairies, which last is very common, we
shall give farther and more specific details of their breeding and other

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION

     All packs of American Wolves usually consist of various shades of colour
and varieties, nearly black, have occasionally been found in every part of the
United States.  The varieties, with more or less of black, continue to increase
as we proceed farther to the south, and in Florida the prevailing colour of the
wolves is black.  We have seen two or three skins procured in N. Carolina.
There is a specimen in the Museum of the Philosophical Society of Charleston,
obtained at Goose Creek, a few years ago, that is several shades darker than the
specimen from which our drawing was made; and in a gang of seventeen wolves,
which existed in Colleton District, S. C., a few years ago, (sixteen of which
were killed by the hunters in eighteen months), we were informed that about one
fifth were black and the others of every shade of colour--from black to dusky
grey and yellowish white.  We have heard of this variety in the southern part of
Missouri, Louisiana, and the northern parts of Texas.