The Wolf, commonly transliterated into English as Volk (Russian: Волк), is initially portrayed as a hooligan who eagerly turns to vandalism, abuses minors, breaks laws, and is a smoker.
On the other hand, many of the Wolf’s attempts to catch the Hare are often characterized by uncanny abilities on his part (including figure skating, ballet and waltzing) for humorous contrast. The Wolf can also play the guitar very well and ride the powerful rocker motorbike.
In the first episode, while climbing a high building to catch the Hare, the Wolf whistles the popular mountaineer song, “A Song About A Friend” (a signature song of Vladimir Vysotsky). In spite of these talents, most of the Wolf’s schemes eventually fail or turn against him. The character was originally voiced by Anatoli Papanov.
During the late Soviet and post-Soviet era, however, the Wolf’s image slowly denigrates into a more cartoonish and less criminal persona. In the latest episode (#20), for example, the Wolf is seen chewing a lollipop instead of smoking and his drawing style is reminiscent of new Russian cartoons (Russian: Новые русские мультфильмы) rather than the old Soviet slapstick genre. The Wolf has also adopted a lot of cowardly attitudes in many situations since the first episodes, which more or less oppose his initial persona and actor’s voice.
Hare from Episode #1.
The Hare, commonly translated into English as Zayats (Russian: Заяц), is portrayed as a supposedly positive hero. He gets much less screen time and is less developed than the Wolf, and most of his actions are simply reactions to the Wolf’s schemes. Therefore, the sympathies of some viewers are more with the Wolf (similar to the premise of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner where the sympathy of the viewers also lies with the “villain”). In later episodes, the role of the Hare becomes more active and developed, and he even manages to save the Wolf on several occasions. The Hare is portrayed as a percussionist in a number of episodes. The character was originally voiced by Klara Rumyanova.
The story also features a supporting cast of animal characters, the most commonly appearing of which is the physically strong and heavy Hippopotamus (Russian: Бегемот Begemot, “Behemoth”), who participates in various roles (e.g., a museum caretaker, shop keeper, passer-by, etc.) and whom the Wolf usually annoys and has to run away from. In Episode #5 (1972), the Hare finds the Wolf hidden among water-melons (the Wolf’s cap camouflages him in the scene). The Hare recommends to the passing Hippopotamus, who’s also looking to buy melons, one which actually winds up being the Wolf’s head. Hippopotamus squeezes Wolf’s head to test the ripeness of the “watermelon”, and inadvertently forces him out of hiding. The episode ends with Wolf (on a washbowl) sliding down into the Moscow Metro and slamming head-on into, and ending up under the Hippopotamus.
Another repeating character is the Cat (Russian: Кот Kot), who is illusionist and appears in several stage performances throughout the series. The Cat is shown to be a good magician, but very self-absorbed and highly sensitive to applause. In Episode #9 (1976), the Cat traps the Wolf in his levitation act (which saves the Hare from being caught). He drops the Wolf twice in his act to acknowledge and accept the applause from the Hare.
Other animals are shown in the series, including bears, red foxes, elephants, beavers and pigs.