8 Pieces of Classical Music Inspired by Dogs, Foxes and Wolves

Updated on July 9, 2020
Frances Metcalfe profile image

Frances Metcalfe first learnt to read music at the age of four and is a retired peripatetic music teacher specialising in the violin.


Man's best friend. Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, descended from the magnificent wolf. Loyal, funny, eager to please and downright naughty, dogs are one of the most popular breeds of pets on the planet.

Doctors say that owning a dog is good for your health and disabled people benefit from guide dogs to help them cope with all manner of impairments and illnesses. They are highly intelligent and express a huge range of emotions which we tap into. No wonder so many of us can't live without them.

Frederick Chopin 1810-1849


1 Chopin The Minute Waltz

The Minute Waltz did not originally have this unfortunate title, goading gullible pianists to try and squeeze this delightful piece into sixty seconds of playing time.

Chopin's lover, George Sands, had a dog called Marquis, and his D flat waltz was intended to musically re-enact chasing its tail. This scenario fits perfectly, the round and round motion of the opening bars and the slight holding back whilst Marquis gets ready to have another go. Chopin chose to call his waltz Valse du petit chien (Little Dog Waltz)1 and it's such a pity it has been superceded, for it's by far and away more descriptive of the action.

The waltz should be played with freedom and time to breathe - and just a pinch of mild amusement, wondering why he finds the tip of his tail so irresistible.

Pyotr IlychTchaikovsky 1840-1993

Photograph of Tchaikovsky c1875.
Photograph of Tchaikovsky c1875. | Source

2 Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf

Tchaikovsky was a master of writing for the ballet, and the many short individual numbers that go to creating the Sleeping Beauty ballet make for a smorgesbord of varied folk tales with their respective dances, ripe for showing off the prowess of the dancers.

The carefree tune that begins this folk tale is the cue for Little Red Riding Hood to enter the stage. As the wolf becomes more insistent and closes in, so does the music, the urgent bass becoming denser until the wolf finally carries her off.

Léos Janáĉek 1854-1928

Photograph of Janáĉek in 1890.
Photograph of Janáĉek in 1890. | Source

3 Janáĉek The Cunning Little Vixen

The Cunning Little Vixen is a charming work which, like Tchaikovsky's ballets suites, is immensely accessible to those coming new to opera and a great way to introduce them to twentieth century music.

Filled with not just the vixen, but a menagerie of other animals, folk tunes and a highly descriptive score, Janáĉek created a work that has remained popular ever since it was first staged in 1924.2

However, this is not an opera with a happy ending. The vixen is captured as a cub after she chases a frog into the lap of a forester who takes her home and keeps her as a pet. Eventually she escapes and meets a dog fox. Cubs soon follow.

Sadly the forester is in love with the gypsy girl Terynka who is engaged to Harasta the poacher. Harasta shoots the vixen and gives her fur to Terynka as a wedding present.

Harasta, broken hearted on two counts, returns to the place where he first encountered the vixen when a frog again leaps into his lap, symbolising the cycle of life.

Janáĉek made a suite from the music, exquisite in its orchestration and heartmelting sadness anticipating the vixen's death. But it is also uplifting by the inclusion of dancing rhythms, luscious harmonies and soaring brass he was so adept at writing. The music never fails to feel fresh, every bar holding our interest.

And of course in Janáĉek's vivacious music, the cunning little vixen lives on.

Janáĉek's Cunning Little Vixen Statue

Monument of Bystrouška, Janáček's Opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" at Hukvaldy where Janáček's hometown.
Monument of Bystrouška, Janáček's Opera "The Cunning Little Vixen" at Hukvaldy where Janáček's hometown. | Source

Dog lovers and psychologists frequently recommend putting on classical music for dogs to help with nervousness and separation anxiety.

Charles Lecoq 1832-1918

Photograph of Lecoq in 1880.
Photograph of Lecoq in 1880. | Source

4 Charles Lecocq 1832-1918 Le Corbeau et le Renard (The Crow and the Fox)

Charles Lecoq may not be a household name but Le Corbeau et le Renard is an appealing ditty and well worth a listen. During the later years of the 1800s, Lecoq was a well known composer who enjoyed international success on the operetta scene.

Based on Jean de la Fontaine's recount of Aesop's fable, the disingenuous fox flatters the crow perched on a branch who has a piece of cheese in its mouth. All the while praising its plumage - even comparing it to the Phoenix - slyly he works up to encouraging the cawing crow to show off its 'beautiful' voice. The crow falls for it and opens his beak, and the cheese falls too. The crow, says the fox, has the same amount of brain as the cheese.

It's a jolly little song, and even if you can't understand the French language, you easily get the gist that the fox has outwitted the vain crow. Written in a simple folk style, with commentary by the piano, it's a wonderfully witty poke in the ribs highly enjoyable musical mouthful.

To read more about classical music inspired by birds click here.

Sergei Prokoviev 1891-1953

Photograph of Prokoviev c1918.
Photograph of Prokoviev c1918. | Source

5 Prokoviev Peter and the Wolf

One of the treasured pieces to introduce children to classical music, Prokoviev's Peter and the Wolf is engaging, easy to listen to and has a great storyline. Crucially it teaches children the different instruments of the orchestra and how various sounds have different characters, stimulating the imagination.

Six year old Peter is handed an easy tune, innocent and happy-go-lucky, played by the strings. The duck's nasal quack is the reedy oboe while Prokoviev chooses three horns to warn of the nearby wolf. Grandad, with whom Peter lives, is a bassoon, tall and thin, the cat purrs on the clarinet and the bird, naturally, is the flute. To include all the orchestral sections, gunshots are fired by the timpani and bass drum. A narrator completes the set, telling the apparently simple story of a young boy not doing as he's told and staying inside so as not to come into contact with the wolf.

Of course the boy defies his grandfather's instructions and goes into the forest to try and capture the wolf. Peter meets some hunters and persuades them to take the wolf to a zoo. Prokoviev, whose favour with the Soviet authorities was shaky, uses the grandfather figure to represent the conservative regime, while Peter's defiance takes on the role of youth, pressing for change.

Franz Reizenstein 1911-1958


6 Franz Reizenstein 7 Children's Pieces - Cunning Fox

This is a very confident fox on a mission. Stalking and trotting its way round the countryside, it switches back on itself as if to confuse any watcher, sussing out a possible opportunity for dinner. Rather spiky and with the odd whiff of Prokoviev, Reizenstein's Cunning Fox should delight children. More perhaps, especially if they are very small, than his score for the horror film, The Mummy! 4

Igor Stravinsky 1882-1971


7 Stravinsky Renard

Written during the first world war, Renard is in the same musical style as The Soldier's Tale which came along a couple of years later. The wandering clarinet melodies, string quartet and lively percussion are all pepped up by the exotic cimbalom to make for a happy quarter hour's entertainment.

The piece takes the form of a burlesque. Dancing, spoken and sung dialogue, written by Stravinsky himself and based on Russian folk tales, are all brought together by the mocking tone and an open mesh of intertwined melodic lines.

The fox captures a cock through trickery, but is freed by a cat and a goat. Once more, the fox deceives the cock. This time the fox is not so lucky and is strangled by the cock's rescuers. The three of them dance and sing to celebrate getting one over the wily fox, all to the swagger of the marching band.

8 Crumb Mundus Canis (A Dog's World)

The American composer George Crumb loves dogs, so much so he created a suite to immortalise five of his pets, choosing the unlikely combination of the softly spoken guitar and what could be its antithesis, percussion. But Crumb matches the ringing sound with sympathetically matched percussion instruments that don't overwhelm the relatively understated guitar.

The suite is broken down into five sections to portray each dog:
Tammy. Tammy is slow moving and is in Spanish guitar vein. The players are directed to play elegantly and somewhat freely. The percussionist swishes the maracas - Tammy is rather close to the floor after all, and it mimics the sound of her crossing a wooden floor.

Fritz. When the direction is furioso, you know what you're in for. Crashing and rasping on a drum, knocking on the guitar, this is a dog creating mayhem.

Heidel. The wavelength of the gong introduces Heidel invokes an aura of mystery' putting us in mind of the golden hairs that run through the glossy brunette coat. This is a dog who isn't given to rushing around, instead she concentrates on knowing what beauty she possesses and shows it off. The relationship is most definitely on her terms and as she exits the room, the gong reverberates once again.

Emma-Jean. She has real character. You can imagine her pushing her nose into your hand and bouncing along on her little legs, pushing up on them to find a comfortable spot on the sofa.

Yoda. His name is shouted out, so he's being inquisitive in places he isn't supposed to be. The rasping guiro calls to mind claws on a wood floor, and the twiddles on the guitar could be his attempts to get into the rubbish, and getting told off into the bargain.


1 Psychology Today

2 leosjanacek.eu

3 Operetta Research Centre

4 franzreizenstein.com

© 2018 Frances Metcalfe


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Frances Metcalfe 

      17 months ago

      Hi Flourish. Love the vixen too, my favourite as I just adore Janáĉek. I also love dogs and have one myself, a very naughty Jack Russell.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      18 months ago from USA

      The music is always entertaining and the stories were truly standouts. I especially liked the tune about the vixen.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)