Buck lives in a big house in the Santa Clara Valley, blissfully unaware that
men searching for gold in Alaska are desperately seeking dogs to pull their
sleds. He is four years old and was born at this house, which is owned by
Judge Miller. He is part St. Bernard and part Scotch shepherd and weighs 140
The year is 1897, the year of the gold rush in the North. Buck does not know
that men are interested in buying dogs like himself and are willing to pay
a good price. He also doesn't know that Manuel, the gardener on Judge Miller's
estate, has accrued a huge debt and will do anything to get money. Buck, who
trusts humans, lets Manuel lead him away. He is led to a flag station where
Manuel receives money and Buck is sold as a work dog. His new owner ties a
rope around the dog's neck, pulling it tight to keep him under control. Not
used to such harsh treatment, Buck jumps in anger and bites the man's hand.
This doesn't achieve anything beyond getting the man angry. Buck is then forced
into a crate and shipped north.
He is finally released when he reaches Seattle but quickly realizes that
his life from now on will be hard. His next encounter with a human is a man
who releases him from the cage but clubs him for no apparent reason. When
he tries to strike back, the man strikes him again until Buck is exhausted.
It is first then, that the man brings him food and water. Buck has learned
his first lesson the hard way and he knows that he cannot fight a man who
swings a club.
Buck watches to see what to expect next. He sees other dogs being led away
by different men. Soon it is his turn and a man named Perrault buys him. He
is taken onto a ship where he meets some other dogs called Curly, Spitz, and
Dave. During the trip, Buck realizes that the weather is getting colder and
when he finally gets on shore, he steps into snow for the first time in his
The story is set against the background of the gold rush. Buck, a huge four-year-old
Scottish Shepherd-Saint Bernard cross-breed, lives a life of ease at Judge
Miller's Santa Clara Valley estate. As the judge's loyal companion, working
with his sons, and guarding his grandchildren, Buck rules over all things
- humans included. Combining his mother's intelligence with the size and strength
of his father, Buck becomes the undisputed leader of all the dogs on the estate.
Buck is personified with human characteristics and compared to a proud, dignified
somewhat conceited young aristocrat in splendid physical condition who loves
His life changes forever when Manuel, a worker on the estate, realizes that
he can supplement his income by a sizable amount by selling Buck. This act
begins the rising action of the story.
The story illustrates greed and the cruel, violent acts that people commit
in order to line their pockets with money.