Lobo, the King of Currumpaw
|Lobo, the King of Currumpaw|
|by Ernest Thompson Seton|
|Genre(s)||Fact-based short story|
|Published in||Wild Animals I Have Known|
|Publication type||Short story collection|
"Lobo, the King of Currumpaw" is the first story of author Ernest Thompson Seton's 1898 book Wild Animals I Have Known. Seton based the book on his experience hunting wolves in the Southwestern United States.
Lobo was a North American gray wolf who lived in the Currumpaw Valley (Corrumpa Creek) in New Mexico. During the 1890s, Lobo and his pack, having been deprived of their natural prey such as bison, elk, and pronghorn by settlers, became forced to prey on the settlers' livestock to survive. The ranchers (at Cross L Ranch) tried to kill Lobo and his pack by poisoning animal carcasses, but the wolves removed the poisoned pieces and threw them aside, eating the rest. They tried to kill the wolves with traps and by hunting parties, but these efforts also failed.
Ernest Thompson Seton was tempted by the challenge and the $1,000 bounty for the head of Lobo, the leader of the pack. Seton tried poisoning five baits, carefully covering traces of human scent, and setting them out in Lobo's territory. The following day all the baits were gone, and Seton assumed Lobo would be dead. Later, however, he found the five baits all in a pile covered by wolf feces to show Lobo's contempt and mockery of Seton's attempt to kill him and the other wolves.
Seton bought new, specialized traps and carefully concealed them in Lobo's territory, but he later found Lobo's tracks leading from trap to trap, exposing each. When an effort that was initially supposed to take two weeks stretched into four months of failed attempts to capture Lobo, Seton became tired and frustrated. While camping out above the creek where snow geese and cranes were wintering, he found Lobo's track strangely following a set of smaller tracks. Quickly he realized Lobo's weakness: his mate, a white wolf nicknamed Blanca.
Seton then set out several traps in a narrow passage, thinking Blanca would fall for Seton's planted baits that Lobo had thus far managed to avoid. Finally Seton succeeded; Blanca, while trying to investigate Seton's planted cattle head, became trapped. When Seton found her, she was whining with Lobo by her side. Lobo ran to a safe distance and watched as Seton and his partner killed Blanca and tied her to their horses. Seton heard the howls of Lobo for two days afterward. Lobo's calls were described by Seton as having "an unmistakable note of sorrow in it... It was no longer the loud, defiant howl, but a long, plaintive wail." Although Seton felt remorse for the grieving wolf, he decided to continue his plan to capture Lobo.
Despite the danger, Lobo followed Blanca's scent to Seton's ranch house where they had taken the body. After spotting Lobo wandering near his ranch house, Seton set more traps, using Blanca's body to scent them. Prior to this point, Lobo had not revealed himself to Seton even once since he arrived at the Currumpaw Valley. But now, Lobo's grief had clearly taken over and dulled his sense of caution. He was now at his most vulnerable, which Seton was well aware of. On January 31, 1894, Lobo was caught, with each of his four legs clutched in a trap. On Seton's approach, Lobo stood, despite his injuries, and howled. Touched by Lobo's bravery and loyalty to his mate, Seton could not kill him. He and his men roped Lobo, muzzled him and secured him to a horse, taking him back to the ranch. Lobo refused to eat or even look at his captors. They secured him with a chain and he just gazed across his former kingdom. Lobo died that night, four hours later, due to a broken heart.
Lobo's pelt is kept at the Ernest Thompson Seton Memorial Library and Museum at the Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico. Until his death in 1946, Seton championed the wolf—an animal that had always previously been demonized. "Ever since Lobo", Seton later wrote, "my sincerest wish has been to impress upon people that each of our native wild creatures is in itself a precious heritage that we have no right to destroy or put beyond the reach of our children."
Seton's story of Lobo touched the hearts of many, both in the U.S. and the rest of the world, and was partly responsible for changing views towards the environment and provided a spur for the starting of the conservationist movement. The story had a profound influence on one of the world's most acclaimed broadcasters and naturalists, Sir David Attenborough, and inspired the 1962 Disney film The Legend of Lobo. Lobo's story was the subject of a BBC documentary directed by Steve Gooder in 2007.
An account of Seton's hunt for Lobo is found in Ernest Thompson Seton: The Life and Legacy of an Artist and Conservationist by David L. Witt. It is based on Seton's personal journal and other historical sources. The story was also featured in a 2010–2011 exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum.
The Academy for the Love of Learning, an educational organization in Santa Fe, NM, stands on Ernest Thompson Seton’s former estate and currently houses the Seton Legacy Project. The Seton Legacy Project, overseen by Academy Historian David Witt, curates Seton’s artwork and writings and explores the vital connections between Seton’s early 20th century vision of wild nature, contemporary environmental issues, and thoughtful stewardship.
The Academy holds an annual Seton birthday event every August. The 2018 event, titled Lobo, The King of Currumpaw: The World's Greatest Wolf Story, centered on the 124th anniversary of this story. An exhibition in the Seton Gallery displayed the original art of more than 50 contemporary artists, each illustrating one part of the Lobo story in their own interpretation, with the collected art published in the form of a graphic novel.
- Located at
- Located at
- McIntyre, Rick (Ed.). 1995. War Against the Wolf. Stillwater: Voyageur Press.
- *Nilsson, Gretta. 2005. Endangered Species Handbook Archived 2008-12-18 at the Wayback Machine. Washington, D.C.: Animal Welfare Institute.
- Seton, Ernest Thompson. 1899. Wild Animals I Have Known. New York: Scribners.
- Wild Animals I Have Known. New York: Scribners.
- "Lobo, the King of Currumpaw". Philmont Scout Ranch. Cimarron, New Mexico: Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved January 6, 2013.
The dreaded wolf Lobo's skin displayed in the Seton Memorial Library.
- Gooder, Steve (2008) A man, a wolf and a whole new world, The Telegraph, 29 March Accessed 2013-02.
- Witt, D. L., Seton, E. T., & New Mexico History Museum. (2010). Ernest Thompson Seton: The life and legacy of an artist and conservationist. Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith.
- Wild at Heart: Ernest Thompson Seton, New Mexico History Museum (2011-01-01) Accessed 2016-07-02.
- "Seton Legacy Project - Academy for the Love of Learning". Academy for the Love of Learning. Retrieved 2018-06-12.
- "Lobo, The King of Currumpaw - Academy for the Love of Learning". aloveoflearning.org. Retrieved 2018-06-12.