This section is from the book "A History And Description Of The Modern Dogs Of Great Britain And Ireland. (Sporting Division)", by Rawdon Briggs Lee. Also available from Amazon: A History and Description of the Modern Dogs of Great Britain and Ireland: Sporting Division.
"Recently, a very big wolf, that had been captured with much difficulty, was matched against any two hounds in Russia. The challenge was accepted, and the wolf placed in a huge box in an open space.
The moment the trap was pulled the wolf stood and faced the spectators; on the hounds being slipped on him he attacked them; but they avoided his rush, and pinned him so cleverly that the wolf was muzzled and carried off without the least difficulty; whereupon an enormous price was paid for one of the hounds.
"The Russian style of hunting would not meet all our English views of sport; but there is doubtless a deal of excitement about it Mr. Kalmoutzky's domain is entirely on a plain, with scarcely any woodlands at all. It is all like a "sea of grass," the going being as good as on Newmarket Heath, with here and there the land turned up in cultivation, but looking much like patches in the vast expanse; so also did the reed beds of 300 or 400 acres each, and these are the coverts for the wolves and foxes. These reed beds are mostly eight or nine miles apart, so English foxhunters could see what a gallop could be had here; better than Dartmoor or Exmoor, as the turf is perfect, no rough ground, and the hills little more than undulations.
"Special hunts would have been arranged on my behalf, but, alas! like our own frozen-out sportsmen, I had to be disappointed, as frost and snow interfered. However, one morning I was given an insight into wolf coursing, by one that had been previously captured being let loose on the snow. First a very noted hound was slipped to show how one could perform single-handed. The start given to the wolf was about 200 yards, and in about 600 yards the hound had got up, and in the next instant had taken hold by the neck, and both seemed to turn head over heels in a mass. The next course two hounds were slipped, and these ran up to the wolf one on each side, catching him almost at the same moment; the foe was then powerless, and seemed to be as easily muzzled as a collie dog.
"I remarked to my host that I did not think the hounds seemed to go quite as fast as our greyhounds, and he replied, 'No, they do not. We have tried them, and the greyhound is the faster; but none of your breeds have the hold of our hounds.'
"The plan of a regular hunt was fully described to me. It is decided to draw a reed bed, and very quietly a mounted chasseur with three wolfhounds is stationed on some vantage ground near. Other points are guarded in the same manner, and then the head huntsman rides into the covert with a pack of foxhounds. The oldest wolves will break covert at almost the first cheer given to hounds; but the younger ones want a lot of rattling. However, the keen eyes of the men and hounds soon detect wolves stealing away; the three hounds are then slipped, a gallop begins, and generally, in the course of a mile or less, the wolf is bowled over. The chasseur then dismounts, cleverly gets astride the wolf, and collars him by the ears, the hounds still holding on like grim death. Another chasseur rides up, slips a muzzle on the wolf, which is then hauled on to one of the horses, tightly strapped to the Mexican sort of saddle, and taken off to a waggon in waiting near. Foxes are similarly coursed and killed with foxhounds, the latter being stopped at the edge of the covert."
The following account of a wolf hunt, from the pen of an English officer, will perhaps be found interesting, as it deals with one or two matters not alluded to by Mr. Lowe:
"Some years ago, while I was in the Russian service, the officers of a cuirassier regiment gave 'ours' a chance to see these fine dogs work. We had been trying to hunt wolves with our pack of boarhounds, but with little success. Occasionally we shot one, but, though our dogs could bring the biggest boar to bay, they were useless in tackling wolves. Several of the boldest and fiercest hounds had been crippled by the savage brutes.
"One day a courier rode over with an invitation for all of us to go to Bielowicz two days later. The Czar's wolfhounds were expected to arrive at the lodge at that date, and fine sport was promised. 'Don't trouble to bring any weapons,' the letter ran, 'for these are the dogs we have told you so much about, and they are to do all the work.
"Of course we all clamoured to be allowed to go, and gained our point with our good-natured colonel. As there were fifteen of us then on duty, it was arranged that three parties of five should each take three days off, for it took two days to go there and back. My party got off first, and by riding all day we reached the lodge before night. The cuirassiers gave us the best of welcomes and a fine dinner, to which the chasseur en chef was also invited. The gentleman had for twenty years had charge of the Czar's wolfhounds.
"After dinner he ordered his men to bring in some of the best dogs for our inspection. An attendant dragged them in one at a time, not without some trouble; but as soon as they saw the chasseur they became as quiet as lambs, and did anything he ordered. He was very proud of them, and gave us interesting details of their prowess. One huge fellow, called Dimitri, had the repute of being able to catch and hold the largest wolf single-handed, and the chasseur promised to show him off to us the next day.
"As the coverts to be drawn were seven miles away, we took an early start. Twelve chasseurs, each leading a fine wolfhound, rode in advance; four attendants, with a pack of common hounds, followed. Next came a big iron cage drawn by four horses, in which the captured wolves were to be put; for, while small and inferior wolves are killed, all the largest are kept for the young wolfhounds to practise upon.
"As soon as the common hounds were sent into the underbush, hares and foxes came rushing out, but the boars and wolves were harder to start. The chasseurs had taken up good positions along the edge of the forest, where a stretch of open plain offered a splendid chance to see the fun if any wolves were driven out. I kept with the man who had charge of Dimitri.