October 22, 2019

Wolves in Maine in the 1600s – Part II

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Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

As I wend my way through the book, Early Maine Wildlife – Historical Accounts of Canada lynx, Moose, Mountain Lion, White-Tailed Deer, Wolverine, Wolves, and Woodland Caribou, 1603 – 1930 – by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, I found some rather bizarre, yet fascinating writings that I would sooner categorize as tall tales and damned lies, than I would give much credence to actual historic events. However, I am willing to keep an open mind.

The original recordings were done in 1674 by a John Josselyn, found in Colonial Traveler: A Critical Edition of Two Voyages to New England. The authors of this book, Early Maine Wildlife, point out that Josselyn may have been confused by his use of terminology of the creatures he witnessed. For example, in the very first paragraph, Josselyn describes what he believes to be a “Jaccal” (jackal), which according to earlier European accounts and those of the American Indian, a jackal was commonly referred to as a coyote. So, this “Creature much like a Fox, but smaller”, we might only guess – wolverine?, muskrat?, bobcat?

The authors also warn their readers that Josselyn’s “terminology sometimes is misleading and his descriptions frequently fantastic”; or a kind way of saying the guy was mostly a damned liar and wild storyteller, as you will see in the below account.

Which brings us to his accounting of wolves he dealt with in his travels throughout Maine and probably parts of New England. As you will see, as you begin to read, the spelling is atrocious, the sentence structure abysmal and it all makes it difficult to comprehend and follow, but enough to realize how outlandish his story is. I did the best I could to present it exactly as it was presented in the book.

I’d call it tall tales and damned lies and laugh exceedingly over it as great entertainment.

~~~~~

Jaccals there be abundance, which is a Creature much like a Fox, but smaller, they are very frequent in Palestina, or the Holy-land.

The Wolf seeketh to his mate and goes clicketing at the same season with Foxes, and bring forth their whelps as they do, but their kennels are under thick bushes by great Trees in remote places by the swamps, he is to be hunted as the Fox from Holy-rood day till the Annunciation. But there they have a quicker way to destroy them. See New England’s rarities [footnote omitted]. They commonly go in routs, a rout of Wolves is 12 or more, sometimes by couples. In 1664, we found a Wolf asleep in a small dry swamp under an Oake, a great mastiff which we had with us seized upon him, and held him until we had a rope about his neck, by which we brought him home, and tying him to a stake we bated him with smaller Doggs, and had excellent sport; but his hinder legg being broken, they knockt out his brains. Sometime before this we had an excellent course after a single Wolf upon the hard sands of the Sea-side at low water for a mile or two, at last we lost our doggs, it being (as the Lancashire people phrase it) twilight, that is almost dark, and went beyond them, for the mastiff-bitch had seized upon the Wolf being gotten into the Sea, and there held him until one went in and led him out, the bitch keeping her hold until they had tied his leggs, and so carried him home like a Calf upon a staff between two men; being brought into the house they unbound him and set him upon his leggs, he not offering in the lease to bite, or so much as to shew his teeth, but clapping his stern betwixt his leggs, and leering towards the door would willingly have had his liberty, but they served him as they did the other, knockt his brains out, for our doggs were not then in the condition to bait him; their eyes shine by night as a Lanthorn: the Fangs of a Wolf hung about children’s necks keep them from frighting, and a very good to rub their gums with when they are breeding of Teeth, the gall of a Wolf is soveraign for swelling of the sinews; the fiants or dung of a Wolf drunk with white wine helpeth the Collick.

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