Dances with wolves: Running with the pack in Skye's Cuillin mountains

Stunning pictures taken on the Isle of Skye give a rare glimpse into a sight not seen for hundreds of years – wolves roaming the majestic Scottish landscape.

Official records indicate the last Scottish wolf was killed in 1680 near the Perthshire village of Killiecrankie, although other reports suggest the species survived in Scotland up until the 18th century – and perhaps even as late as 1888.

In recent years there has been much discussion over bringing apex predators back to Scotland in a bid to control deer numbers and rebalance the environment.

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But this is still a topic of hot debate and – despite what it looks like – this has not yet happened.

The animals pictured are not real wolves, but rather hybrids, known as wolfdogs, created by mixing domestic dogs with their wild cousins.

Cult drama Game of Thrones and the Harry Potter films have seen their popularity rise in recent years.

Oli Barrington, who lives in Chippenham, Wiltshire, has been involved with the breed for more than a decade and currently has four of the dogs – Lupus, Nizzy, Bella and Danek.

He recently took them to Scotland for an adventure in the Highlands.

Oli Barrington brought his four wolfdogs and three others belonging to a friend to the Isle of Skye recently - here he helps Bella with some unwanted attention from a couple of the males
Oli Barrington brought his four wolfdogs and three others belonging to a friend to the Isle of Skye recently - here he helps Bella with some unwanted attention from a couple of the males

But he warns that taking on a wolfdog is not for the faint-hearted.

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” he says, as they are not aggressive, but “very high-maintenance” and “extremely destructive”.

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“You need to be a particular type of person, who doesn’t put a material value on things,” he said.

Wolfdog Kai in the Cuillins, on the Isle of Skye

“For 99 per cent of people it would be their worst nightmare.

“It’s like having a difficult child that weighs 62kg.

“Mine have tested my patience on many occasions.

“One clawed an expensive watch off my wrist.

Wolfdog Damek - who has Scottish roots after being born in Orkney - enjoys the spectacular scenery of the Cuillins during a recent trip to the Highlands

“I had a beautiful Persian rug which was reduced to threads.

“I’ve also had a lot of shoes chewed up and destroyed over the years.”

Outdoors, however, the dogs are in their element, and Mr Barrington has taken them on expeditions across the UK and abroad.

He recently took them to Skye with a friend and three other wolfdogs.

“I like to make life interesting,” he said.

“I’ve climbed with them in the Pyrenees and the Cuillins.

Damek in the shadow of the Cuillins at Sligachan

“I’ve taken them to Skye before – it really feels like the last bit of true wilderness and I would live there in a minute.

“We were there for a few days and I took them up Sgùrr na Strì, which has the best view in the UK.

“We did a round trip of about 20 miles and didn’t see a soul.

“Taking them up into the mountains is an amazing bonding experience.

“They thrive on challenges and adventure and look to you for guidance.

“Sometimes I have to help them over hairy ledges and things, so they learn to trust you and respect your leadership.”

Mr Barrington is interested in environmental issues and rewilding.

So could real wolves return to Scotland?

“Probably there is not enough room,” he said.

“I don’t think the Scottish Highlands are big enough to keep wolves away from humans.

“Wolves would have a positive impact on the environment by helping to control deer, but would impact on other things too – like sheep.

“In an ideal world we could bring them back, but I think we’ve already damaged the environment too much.”

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Bella and Kai pose with the Cuillin ridge as a stunning backdrop
Damek in the Cuillins, looking out across the Atlantic
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