The Hexham Wolf

You're a farmer on the wild moors of Northumberland in the winter of 1904 and your sheep are being slaughtered one by one. What's to blame? A fox? A savage dog? Or an escaped beast?

The Hexham Wolf, also known as The Allendale Wolf

The Hexham Wolf, also known as The Allendale Wolf

Winter 1904. A lone wolf is prowling the moors near the Pennine village of Allendale in Northumberland. For the locals, especially those with livestock being slaughtered by a wanton predator not always interested in eating its prey, this is the stuff of nightmares. 

Suspicions soon fall on an escaped wolf belonging to Captain Bains of nearby Shotley Bridge, but at only four months old there was no way the young whelp would be capable of devouring adult sheep. Farmers begin penning their animals at night and fearful locals keep their lanterns burning to ward off the beast. The Hexham Wolf Committee is formed to organise search parties of the windswept moorland.

Sightings continue although, strangely, descriptions of the animal’s colour range from black and tan to dullish grey – perhaps there is more than one? They seek outside help to find the mysterious foe. On 15 December the Haydon Hounds, a renowned pack of tracking dogs led by “the celebrated bloodhound” Monarch pick up the trail. Unfortunately for the people of Allendale, and the celebrity canine’s reputation, the hunt proves fruitless. Similar misfortune befalls human pursuers, among them a Hungarian tracker mounted on a shaggy pony and Mr W Briddick, a game hunter from India. More bloody carcasses suggest that the wolf is still out there.

Finally, in January 1905 the corpse of a wolf is discovered on a train track 30 miles away in Cumwinton. Local newspaper The Hexham Courant isn't convinced this is their monster as it doesn't match the recorded description but over the next few weeks incidents decline and then stop altogether. With famers no longer worried for their animals' welfare, The Hexham Wolf is consigned to distant memory. That is until 1971, when local boys Colin and Leslie Robson dig up two stone heads measuring in their Hexham garden and townsfolk start to report sightings of a werewolf – but that's a story for another day...

Words by contributing editor Duncan Haskell