Vuk [vu:k] (wolf) is an old Slavic word. Also a word kurjak (kuryak) is used with the same meaning.
Before the coming of Christianity, the wolf was a totem animal in the old Slavs, a mythical ancestor. It played quite a significant role in the Slavic mythology and folklore. The old Slavic religion had many rituals referring to the wolf – rituals that protected from the animal but also those referring to the cult of ancestors. The wolf was venerated and feared. The wolf also had a special place in the pre-Christian religions of other peoples. Many nations considered the wolf as their ancestor, and Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, were fed by a she-wolf. Wolves are also found accompanying mythical Slavic deities. Upon adopting Christianity, folk imagination placed a wolf at the side of the father of the Christian Serbia, St Sava. Wolf, or Vuk is a common name in Serbia. In the ancient times, people believed that whoever had a name of totem animal would be protected from all evil. We can still find such names to be quite common: Vuk, Vukašin, Vučica, Vukica, as well as family names: Vučić, Vujošević, Vukadinović, Vučelić and so on.
In the prehistoric times, the wolf was the most abundant animal in the world: in all Europe and Asia, all the way to North Africa, as well as in North America. Today wolves are almost extinct but larger packs can be seen in the north, in Siberia and Canada, Mongolia and here and there in east Europe. There were wolves in the Serbian mountains and in Bosnia. Once, when Serbia was covered with vast forests, wolves were abundant. Wolves are predators. It is as big as the largest shepherd dog and may weigh more than seventy kilos. Its fur may range from yellowish to dark grey.
Wolves always hunt in packs and all the pack members participate, although only two or four animals kill their prey. Packs are constantly in search for their prey. A pack is usually led by an alpha female, who invariably mates with an alpha male, the strongest animal of the pack. A she-wolf gives birth to her young in a den that she digs out herself or uses a badger’s of a fox’s den. Young females give birth to between 2 and 4 pups and the older ones have between 4 and 6 young. Wolves are caring parents and are ready to attack a man in order to defend their young.
When they prey on cattle or sheep, they do much damage, so the people raising these animals organise wolf hunt parties. Today, such hunt parties are organised mostly by sport hunters, when sometimes more than a thousand people gather from all over. Such hunt parties are organised annually on mountain Zlatibor, on Rtanj near Sokobanja, on Jastrebac mountain, on Radan near Kuršumlija, and on Ozren near Doboj in Bosnia.
You can find wolves in a zoo, but above all in numerous tales which cherish the times when wolf was an omnipresent predator, a mysterious forest animal whose howling brings eerie feelings to people sitting by a warm hearth.
Wolf can also be found in many proverbs:
Speak of the wolf and he doth appear
The wolf changes its coat but not its way
A wolf is a wolf even when caged
Wolves never prey upon wolves
Hunger drives the wolf out of the woods
You’re a wolf, but I’m not a sheep
When you’re visiting a wolf, take your dog with you
If a sheep strays from the flock, a wolf will eat it
Don’t blame the wolf for your bad luck
Everyone’s chasing a wolf, but a fox has eaten, too
Chasing a rabbit, driving out the wolf