Cool Stuff in Paris. By Manning Leonard Krull.

The Wolves of Paris

Wolf design on the floor of Sainte-Chapelle.

Les Loups de Paris — the Wolves of Paris — were a pack of man-eating wolves who terrorized Paris during the winter of 1450. Normally, of course, wolves in 15th-century France remained in the forest to hunt and didn't pose a threat to humans, and occasionally when times were tough they might venture toward a farm to poach a sheep or two. But this particular winter was especially harsh and prey was scarce, so the desperate and starving wolves had no choice but to make Paris their new hunting ground. The account of all of this is pretty terrifying and exciting and I have no idea if it's completely true, but a handful of articles and books and websites I've found are all consistent on the basic details of this story...

The hungry pack were able to enter Paris through breaches in the city's poorly maintained outer walls, which had been erected in the early 13th century by King Philippe Auguste to protect the city from invaders of the human variety. (You can still see a few broken remnants of those walls scattered through the Marais! Here's a link to a tiny back street where you can easily find a chunk of the wall.) The walls had fallen into a state of disrepair during more peaceful times, and the wolves managed to get through — I'm unable to find record of any huffing or puffing involved. And throughout that one long winter in 1450, the wolves managed to kill forty Parisians, sending the city into a state of panic. The wolf problem dominated gossip city-wide, and the Parisians even gave a nickname to the pack's leader: "Courtaud," which more or less translates as Bobtail, court being the French word for short. I'm assuming Courtaud was missing part or all of his or her tail.

As the story goes, eventually the besieged citizens of Paris had had enough, and they concocted a scheme to get rid of Courtard and the whole bloodthirsty pack once and for all. A group of brave Parisians lured and prodded the wolves onto the isolated Ile de La Cité in the center of town, and the crowd stoned and speared the entire pack to death right in the public square in front of Notre Dame.

There's a historical fiction novel covering the story of the Wolves of Paris, called, appropriately enough, The Wolves of Paris, by Daniel P. Mannix. I haven't read it myself but I'd love to check it out, just to see if it fills in any of the gaps I've found in all the accounts of the story I've been able to dig up. If you get a chance to read the book, let me know if it's any good!

Related junk from Cool Stuff in Paris:

Musée de la chasse et de la Nature The Museum of Hunting and Nature.

Le Cimetière des Chiens Cemetery for dogs and other pets.

Deyrolle Legendary Parisian taxidermy shop.

Le Café de L'Enfer A Hell-themed café in Pigalle.

Les Catacombes de Paris More skulls than you can shake a femur at.

Les Arènes de Lutece The site of an ancient Roman arena in Paris!

See all Cool and Weird Stuff