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Wolves and Warfare in the History of the Low Countries, 1000-1800

The connection between warfare and an increased wolf presence or even wolf attacks is a recurrent theme in European narrative sources. Many historical studies have also commented on the widespread belief in this connection and suggested that armed conflicts instigated a breakdown of the standard wolf- human relationship. In peacetime, wolves generally avoided humans and remained outside human communities. This article argues that the close link between wolves and warfare in the history of the Low Countries is far more the result of a complex interplay between human perceptions of nature and the ecological impact of combat. Wolves could only profit from human conflict in very specific circumstances, yet these exceptions became part of a widespread narrative since the High Middle Ages, because they confirmed peoples’ association of wolves with wilderness. This narrative also explains why wolf hunting exhibited strong similarities to fighting human enemies.


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