Hunt for the Shadow Wolf [US Edition]

The lost history of wolves in Britain and the myths and stories that surround them

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing UK

“Terrific, life-lit moments come howling out of Hunt for the Shadow Wolf.”—The Telegraph

“One of the most remarkable figures in British conservation.”—The Observer

“There have been several books on the fate of British wolves, but this is the best.”—The Spectator

“[Derek Gow is] a wry, profane truth teller who is equal parts yeoman farmer, historical ecologist, and pirate.”—Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager and Crossings

Renowned rewilder Derek Gow has a dream: that one day we will see the return of the wolf to Britain as it has already returned elsewhere. As Derek worked to reintroduce the beaver, he began to hear stories of the wolf, both real and mythical, and his fascination with this creature grew. With increasing curiosity, Derek started to piece together fragments of information, stories and artefacts to reveal a shadowy creature that first walked proud through these lands and then was hunted to extinction as coexistence turned to fear, hatred – and domination.

What Derek came to realize was that the underlying motives behind our hatred were actually far more prosaic and, like most persecutions, to do with power and profit. We turned the wolf into a savage beast and saw its extirpation as a civilizing mission. But the wolf survived far longer than many thought and Derek tells of his sightings of the wolf through folklore and mythology, the records of grand estates and parish churches as well as wolf heads, both real and recreated.

With bitingly funny but also tender stories, Hunt for the Shadow Wolf is Derek’s quest to uncover the true nature of this creature because, as we seek to heal our landscape, we must reconcile our relationship with it. Before we can even begin to bring the wolf back, we need to understand it.

“I have loved this chase dearly and though what unfolds might be an ending of sorts, I have no intention to let this hunt cease.”―Derek Gow, from Hunt for the Shadow Wolf

“Beautifully crafted, fascinating and unbearably poignant, I totally loved this book.”—Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

Gow reinvents what it means to be a guardian of the countryside.”—The Guardian

Reviews and Praise

  • "A rollicking tale . . . [but] also the sad story of persecution in the name of subjugation and profit. . . Gow’s robust writing style and love of language makes this a real pleasure."


More Reviews and Praise

  • "Terrific, life-lit moments come howling out of Hunt for the Shadow Wolf… Gow is never dull or worthy. Reading this book is like being in the company of a rambunctious descendant of Gerald Durrell."

    —The Telegraph

  • "With his trademark wit and erudition, Derek Gow masterfully weaves history, biology and myth in telling the epic story of the northern hemisphere’s most misunderstood mammal. Hunt for the Shadow Wolf is indispensable for any reader, on either side of the pond, interested in the saga of this iconic carnivore – or its future."

    —Ben Goldfarb, author of Crossings and Eager

  • "Reading Hunt for the Shadow Wolf feels like gathering around a campfire on a chilly night and listening to a ghost story. But this time, the ghosts are just beyond the firelight, listening to their stories being told with accuracy for the first time. Gow has masterfully woven history, biology, social science and legend in a tale about the wolves of Britain."

    —Kira Cassidy, research associate, Yellowstone Wolf Project

  • "Beautifully crafted, fascinating and unbearably poignant; I totally loved this book."

    —Isabella Tree, author of Wilding

  • "Hunt for the Shadow Wolf lays bare the paradox of Britain’s relationship with the wolf. Derek Gow shows, as only he can, the history of a persecuted and maligned species that once shared these isles with us. Told with wit and passion, the many stories of “last wolves” and their superhuman hunters, ferocious sheep and child-killers, and prices paid for wolves’ heads, are all contrasted with personal knowledge and scholarly research that exposes the lies behind the legends. Wolves are often simply the projection of all our fears: a shade that bears little resemblance to the living, breathing animal."

    —Ross Barnett, author of The Missing Lynx

  • "For too long, wolves have been the stuff of nightmares. But, as Derek Gow shows with wit and passion, we should be dreaming of their return. Gow’s anecdotes will leave you howling – and his historical detective work to track down the shadow of the wolf is as gripping as any thriller. Derek Gow offers not just an elegy for the loss of Britain's wolves but also a clear-sighted case for their reintroduction to these shores."

    —Guy Shrubsole, author of The Lost Rainforests of Britain

  • "A wild hunt of a book: savage, romantic yet as unflinching as a wolf’s gaze. Gow slyly asks us to consider which are the monsters – wolves or humans?"

    —Zoe Gilbert, author of Mischief Acts

  • "A fierce, essential interrogation of how nature suffers when we let fear dominate fact. This book bites and snarls with truth yet not without Derek's characteristic warmth and wit. I hope Hunt for the Shadow Wolf sparks the change and vision it so deserves."

    —Sophie Pavelle, author of Forget Me Not

  • "A dazzling romp through the turbulent history of wolves in Britain. Drawing on years of meticulous research and personal experience, Hunt for the Shadow Wolf bristles with trademark wit, passion and pugnacity. We have lived alongside wolves for far longer than we haven’t, and Gow reveals their ghosts lurking in our landscapes, our stories and our psyches, and makes it plain that a nation that kills its wolves is one that kills itself. More than anyone, Derek Gow is the man destined to undo that grievous act of self-harm."

    —Lee Schofield, author of Wild Fell

  • "This is my kind of hunt. Equipped with a fierce compassion for the natural world and an equally ferocious curiosity about everything he encounters, Gow ranges through field and forest and fairy tale in pursuit of the elusive last wolf in Britain. Along the way he corners some colourful prey: cave skulls, church carvings, folk legends, Bronze Age barrows, wolf-head trees, and the found poetry of old laws and chronicles. I found myself underlining something fascinating on every page."

    —Christopher Hadley, author of The Road

  • "Hunt for the Shadow Wolf takes our long, complex, heartbreaking relationship with wolves and lays it all out so that we can see exactly what kind of people we were, what we did, and, given time, what we could put right. Using archaeology, DNA analysis, place names, physical evidence in the landscape, old tales, half-forgotten memories and historical accounts, our dealings with wolves are pieced together to present a picture of humanity’s abject failure to live with animals that challenges us to the core of our being. Like the man himself, this book is direct, unafraid and at times an uncomfortable read. Not for one sentence, though, is it boring or obvious. So take a deep breath, strap in and be prepared for a rollercoaster of a ride."

    —Mary Colwell, author of Curlew Moon and The Gathering Place

  • "This piercingly beautiful, achingly sad yet fundamentally optimistic book is a triumph. One day we will have wolves back in Britain, and it will be in large part due to the work of this wonderful man."

    —Ben Goldsmith, author of God is an Octopus

  • "A chewy gem of a book. It holds more than information: it contains knowledge, even wisdom. Hunt for the Shadow Wolf is a roving beast all of itself."

    —Martin Shaw, author of Smoke Hole

  • "A wonderful book – a real tour de force."

    —Danielle Schreve, professor of quaternary science, Royal Holloway University of London

  • “Gow’s book resists the generic conventions of modern nature writing; rambunctious and vivid, at times it feels as uncontrollably wild as its subject.”

    Helen Macdonald for The New Statesman

About The Author

About Derek Gow

Derek Gow is a farmer, nature conservationist and the author of Bringing Back the Beaver and Birds, Beasts and Bedlam. Born in Dundee, he left school when he was 17 and worked in agriculture for five years. Inspired by the writing of Gerald Durrell, he jumped at the chance to manage a European wildlife park in central Scotland in the late 1990s before moving on to develop two nature centres in England. He now lives with his children, Maysie and Kyle, on a 300-acre farm on the Devon/Cornwall border, which he is in the process of rewilding. Derek has played a significant role in the reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver, the water vole and the white stork in England. He is currently working on a reintroduction project for the wildcat.

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Pages:256 pages
Book Art:Black and white chapter opener illustrations
Size: 5.5 x 8.5 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing UK
US Pub. Date: March 7, 2024
Paperback: 9781915294463

Available In/Retail Price

Paperback, 256 pages, $24.95USD