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Main Menu: The Wolf Worldwide » Myth and Reality

Myth and Reality


The conflict between man and wolf has strong roots, originating in the medieval period when the wolf had a reputation as an evil beast, devouring men, women and children. This attitude appears to have come mainly from the Catholic church which portrayed the wolf as a satanic symbol. The great religious fervour of medieval people enabled this idea to assimilate quickly, giving the wolf a mythological and supernatural dimension, expressed in various legends, stories and beliefs, some of which are still alive today in the highlands of the Iberian Peninsula.

The reality of the wolf is quite different, the wolf is a magnificent animal, which plays a vital role in nature...

"The wolves represent, more than any other animal, the wild side of life and freedom that we have lost and now seek to recover with a zeal that only increases the artificiality of what we achieve. It is they who make us feel and see the way that we strayed ... " (Foreword by Francisco Fonseca in "Wolves. ECR")

The economic losses associated with wolf predation on livestock have enhanced the dark symbolism that is associated with the wolf but the wolf’s impact on livestock can be largely attributed to man’s mismanagement of natural resources, which has led to the scarcity of the wolf’s natural prey.

The religious and agro-pastoral mountain communities of northwest Portugal are still relatively isolated allowing the survival of a rich cultural heritage based on the inhabitants’ relationship with the wolf.  This is expressed in various legends, myths, beliefs and traditions, which are not found elsewhere in Europe. An example of the cultural heritage surrounding the wolf are fojos - stone monuments built to trap the wolves in the mountains of northern Iberia which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Other traditions include the use of a potion made from the wolf’s trachea, "neck of the wolf," to cure a disease called "lobagueira" in the domestic pig.


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