Lupophobia…the fear of wolves. If you read my blogs regularly, you will soon notice I have an affinity for phobias and their names. I have been afraid of many things over the course of my life, and am now on a quest to conquer these irrational fears by educating myself about them.
Oddly enough, I can honestly say I have never had a fear of wolves. This may be due in large part to the fact that I once owned a pet dog that was part timber wolf and part German Shepherd. I named him Lobo, which means “wolf” in Spanish. He was the best pet anybody could have ever hoped to have. He had a fierce instinct to protect, though. He did actually bite a teenage boy once because the boy was play fighting with one of my sisters. Lobo had no idea the boy was only playing, after all. He was only protecting a member of his “pack” or “family” in his mind. He also bit one of my uncles once when my uncle poured beer into his water bowl. I view this event as Lobo protecting himself, because beer can be toxic to dogs. He was also a bit mischievous at times when he would occasionally get a craving for one of our chickens. Either way, I do not advise owning a wolf hybrid dog as a pet, unless you truly have an understanding of animal behavior, and a very sturdy chicken coop, as well.
People, in general, tend to be very scared of wolves. This is evident by various myths, legends, fables, and fairy tales which have been passed down from generation to generation. A healthy fear of wild animals is not a bad thing. If you examine the message being conveyed by “Little Red Riding Hood”, you will realize that the person who originally created the story was trying to teach us (the readers) that children should NEVER venture into the forest alone. I like to think that the person who created the story was not necessarily anti wolf, although one never knows.
Fearing things and having an unjustified hatred of things are two totally different concepts. It is advisable to have a fear and respect for wild animals, yet just plain ignorant to hate them because you are afraid of them. I feel that the legend of werewolves arose out of the natural tendency of humans to fear wolves.
But, why DO we fear wolves? I have searched and searched and searched for answers to this question. The most logical explanation I can come up with is that most humans mistakenly believe that wolves regularly attack, kill, and eat humans. It appears that a large number of people believe that a wolf would “just as soon eat you as to look at you.” I have found no logical reason as to why so many people think this way.
In all my research, I have only found one reported case of a human allegedly being attacked and eaten by wolves here in the USA. Apparently, a rather petite (4 foot 9 inches tall) school teacher in Alaska was jogging one day, and may have been consumed by wolves in 2010.
Knowing all that I know about wolves, I find this incident to be most peculiar. I tend to think (and this is just my own personal opinion, mind you, as I am biased by my extreme admiration for wolves) that perhaps it were a pack of feral wolf hybrid dogs rather than wild wolves. Feral dogs (dogs that once were pets and ran away from home due to neglect or abuse from their owners) have a natural tendency to dislike and even hate humans. Feral dogs pose a much greater danger to humans than wild wolves because wolves are naturally rather shy and timid in nature, and fear humans, not hate them.
I am posting the web address of the report for you to decide for yourself. http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/static/home/news/pdfs/wolfattackfatality.pdf
Wolves typically eat deer, elk, beaver, and rabbits. When wolves hunt, they tend to attack the weak, young, sick, and elderly animals. This may sound a bit bullyish, but all in all, it helps maintain the natural balance of our ecosystem. Wolves rarely attack animals which are bigger than they are. Humans just do not appear as a main course in the wolf menu. They just seem to be too smart to try to tango with humans. Many animal behaviorists also believe that wolves prefer to avoid humans due to the fact that we are bipedal. Wolves do not attack bears (who often stand on their back legs when they feel threatened), and perhaps associate humans as having the same ferocity and strength of bears. I do not know. If only wolves could speak, so I could ask them personally…sigh.
I also believe that wolves are highly intelligent animals and they know that humans frequently carry guns. If I were a wolf, I would be terrified of humans. This could explain why there are so very few wolf human incidents. Wolves are very elusive creatures. Most humans will go their entire life without ever seeing a wolf in the wild. Wolves have very keen eyesight, hearing, and an extremely well developed sense of smell. This means, most often than not, a wolf will detect your presence long before you even know there was a wolf anywhere near you. The wolf will have seen, heard, and smelled you coming and quickly left the area before you would have noticed anything.
With that being said, I do also want to educate you about some general safety tips to consider when you do venture out into the wild. Wild animals are not like domesticated pets. Wolves do not behave like poodles. Yes, they do have sharp, pointy teeth and claws, and yes they will not hesitate to use them, if they feel they need to. Any animal that feels threatened will attack a human. If you are lucky enough to encounter a wolf in the wild, for heaven’s sake, do not attempt to walk up to it and pet it. If it is a female wolf with pups nearby, she may perceive you as a threat. If it is a rabid wolf, you could be in severe danger. If you are able to see a wolf in the wild, chances are, it is due to one of these two scenarios. Simply leave the area as quickly and as quietly as you possibly can. Never leave home without your cell phone, in case you do encounter a potentially dangerous situation.
Wolves rarely ever catch rabies and are not natural carriers of the disease, but when they do get rabies, as is the case with all rabid animals, they are a real danger. I cannot stress this enough.
I do not advise venturing out into the wild solo. There is safety in numbers. Always travel in groups, whenever possible. If you are camping and need to go to the restroom, take a buddy along with you. I do not like guns, but air horns are very effective at scaring animals away. So, I would advise carrying one of those with you. Also, it may be a good idea to wash your hands thoroughly after eating so that animals do not think you smell like a possible meal. Do not store food in your tent. And, food that you do store should be wrapped tightly and placed in a sealed container. Clean all dishes immediately after eating. Paper plates and cups with food debris should be thrown away immediately. All garbage bags should be tied tightly and placed in waste bins.
I would also like to mention that wolf pups are rarely ever abandoned by their parents. If you see a pack of tiny little puppies all huddled together, looking sad and helpless, leave them be. Mama and papa wolf are most likely out hunting and scavenging for food and will return shortly to care for their precious pups. You may wish to move your campsite and yourselves farther away from that location, as well. 🙂
Wolves are not vicious by nature, but do prefer to be left alone. They would rather run away from you than attack you.
So, where do werewolves fit into this scenario? Humans have always feared wolves. Indeed, many superstitious people used to believe they were associated with the devil himself. Anything with sharp, pointy teeth that can growl could be nothing more than pure evil in their uneducated minds. Humans also tended to fear other humans much more so than we do in modern times back then. Combine the two, and indeed, you have quite a frightful creation. The name werewolf is an Old English term, which is translated as follows; “wer” =man, and “wulf” = wolf. So, therefore, werewolf is literally “man wolf”.
The first reported incident of a werewolf that I could find was way back in 1589 in Germany. An atrocious serial killer by the name of Peter Stubbe had the impression that the devil had given him a girdle made of wolf skin. He believed this girdle (some accounts I read reported it to be a belt rather than a girdle) gave him supernatural strength. He stated that it gave him: “the likeness of a greedy, devouring wolf, strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkled like fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharp and cruel teeth, a huge body, and mighty paws”. He was convicted of killing 13 children, 2 pregnant women, and his own son, all in a very gruesome manner. He mutilated the dead bodies and drank blood from their veins. His son’s murder was especially heinous because he bashed the boy’s skull open and ate his brain.
Psychologists simply did not exist in those days. Anybody reading this story with even an iota of education would not believe for even a fraction of a second that Mr. Stubbe were actually part wolf. It is beyond evident that the man was extremely insane. Yet, for the people of that time period, it did seem possible. And, extremely terrifying. Psychology was a nonexistent field of study, and there was no internet to conduct research with available to them. All they knew was what they had learned from listening to their friends and neighbors, and from reading the Bible.
To ensure that this serial killer, whom they honestly believed to be part man and part wolf, would not resurrect himself after death they executed him in a very volatile (although in my opinion not unwarranted considering the gruesomeness of his crimes) fashion. His skin was peeled off of him. His arms and legs were broken. He was decapitated. Then, all of his body parts were burnt.
Another possible reason for the belief in werewolves is nowhere near as terrifying as the insane serial killer scenario. Native Americans often wore animal skins in ceremonies. I also have a theory (and I may be way off base here) that throughout history people may have witnessed some of the early Native American ceremonies and been scared witless by what they saw. A person dancing around a campfire with a wolf skin draped over top of them may indeed appear to look like a half human, half wolf creature that has risen straight from the depths of Hell.
I remain skeptical on the topic of werewolves. They are more paranormal than cryptozoological, in my opinion. I am not saying that they do not or could not exist. I just do not personally believe in them. I guess I will actually have to see one to believe it.
I find it extremely sad that so many people have such strong hatred of wolves based on a simple fear of wolves, though. In the not so distant past, here in the USA, former President Theodore Roosevelt claimed that wolves were “beasts of waste and destruction” and helped to establish a policy calling for all wolves to be eradicated. This policy offered monetary rewards for killing wolves. This plan almost succeeded in bringing about the complete extinction of wolves.
I thank the Gods that the wolves were strong enough and smart enough to survive such brutal carnage. Their population once dropped to as few as 300 wolves, and is now not a whole lot better than that but slowly improving. There are estimated to be approximately 4 to 5 thousand wild wolves living in the USA today. It saddens me because there once used to be nearly 250 to 500 thousand wolves living here.
Wolves are essential. They are smart, beautiful, sentient beings. They were here long before we (humans) were. Wolves are NOT monsters. I have trouble saying the same for humans, sometimes, given our history of dealing with things which frighten us. Simply because we fear something does not give us the right to eliminate it. Okay, yep, you guessed it. I AM a wolf advocate. And, I DO STAND FOR WOLVES. 🙂 Werewolves? Well, that remains to be seen. LOL.