02 August, 2006

The Last Wolf in Scotland, 1743

This post was prompted by a UK newspaper article about the Wolf Conservation Trust, which led to a bit of web research on wolves in British history. The wolf has a part-mythic place in history and so the boundary between fact and fiction is slightly blurred.

By means of hunting with horses and dogs or trapping in pits, traps and cages, wolves were completely wiped out in England by the early 1500s, in Cardinal Wolsey's time. Wolves may have survived in Scotland until the mid-1700s, when deforestation finally removed their safe havens . The exact time and place date or place when the last wolf was slain is not known, but here is an [edited] account from the page on wolves in Scotland on the website of the now-defunct Glasgow Zoo:

". . One day, in the winter of 1743, in Morayshire, the ruling Laird, of MacIntosh received a message from the chief of clan Mackintosh, that a large wolf had on the preceding day killed two children, who, with their mothers, were crossing the hills from Calder.

The Laird's stalker Macqueen was consequently invited by the chief to attend a "Tainchel", or gathering in the forest of Tarnaway, in Moray, and to bring with him his dogs. A man great stature and of corresponding strength, Macquenn kept the best deer-hounds in the country

On the morning of the tryst, Mackintosh waited eagerly for Macqueen, but he only arrived at noon. As Mackintosh was about to complain of his delay, Macqueen raised his plaid, and drew from under his arm the bloody head of the aggressor. "I met the bit beastie," said Macqueen, "and this is his head...as I came through the sloch by east the hill there, I foregathered wi the beast. My long dog there turned him. I buckled wi him and kirkit him, and syne whuttled his craig, and brought awa his countenance for fear he might come alive again, for they are precarious creatures!"

Mackintosh expressed his admiration, and rewarded his vigorous kinsman with the lands of Sean-a-chan for "meat to his dogs." Macqueen of Pall-a-chrocain died in 1797"

For another link to the history of wolves in Scotland go to the Wolves and Humans site.
Also see Wolf web

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