The Winnipeg Wolf

by Hartwell Bowsfield

Manitoba Pageant, January 1960, Volume 5, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The following story of early days in Winnipeg is also about a boy and a wild animal. It too has become almost a legend.

One summer day in 1880, Paul des Roches, was hunting along the Red River north of Winnipeg when he saw a wolf come out of its den in the river bank. He fired and killed it. When he looked into the den, he found eight cubs, and since wolf skins were worth money he killed all of the cubs but one. There was a superstition in those days that it was bad luck to kill all the cubs in a pack so he brought the one cub to town alive and sold it to a hotel-keeper by the name of Hogan who kept the cub chained up in the yard of the hotel. From time to time Hogan would turn dogs on the cub for the amusement of his customers who enjoyed nothing better than to watch the fight that followed.

As it grew up the wolf cub had only one friend. That was the hotel-keeper's son Jimmy. Jimmy had become very fond of the wolf after it killed a dog that had once bitten him. He was the only person who was ever able to get near the wolf. Soon he found he was able to feed it and treat it as a pet. One day when Jimmy's father was angry with him, Jimmy hid in the wolf's kennel which he found was quite a safe hiding place because the wolf wouldn't let his father come near. The friendship between the boy and the wolf grew stronger.

Wolves were always a problem to the farmers who lived on the outskirts of town so one day when a visitor came to Winnipeg claiming that his two dogs could kill any wolf they were delighted. However, they wanted to test the man's dogs first, and decided to use the wolf chained up at Hogan's Hotel.

Without Jimmy knowing the wolf was taken to the open prairie and set loose. Then the dogs were sent out after it. But they were no match for the wolf — they couldn't catch it nor harm it. And just as the men were ready to shoot the wolf, Jimmy rode up on his pony, put his arms around his pet and led him back to the hotel yard.

Not long after that, Jimmy became very sick and was not expected to live. The wolf in the yard seemed to miss his friend and began to howl. When Jimmy asked to see the wolf, it was allowed into the hotel where it sat at Jimmy's bedside. After that the wolf was never kept chained. Three days before Christmas Jimmy died and on Christmas Eve the wolf followed the coffin as it was carried to the cemetery in St. Boniface.

After the funeral, the wolf returned to the hotel yard but wouldn't stay there. It preferred to live in the woods near St. Boniface. Many times at night it came into town and wandered about the streets. Soon it became known as the Winnipeg wolf, and was considered dangerous although people remarked that it never harmed a child. Then two years after Jimmy died, it was killed by hunters along the Assiniboine River. Ever since then the people of St. Boniface said that on Christmas Eve when the bells of the church were rung you could hear the cry of a wolf coming from the cemetery.

Page revised: 30 June 2009