The story opens with Buck, a large and powerful St. Bernard-Scotch Shepherd, living happily in California's Santa Clara Valley as the pampered pet of rich Judge Miller and his family. However, he is stolen by the gardener's assistant, Manuel, and sold to finance his gambling addiction. He is shipped to Seattle. Put in a crate, he is starved and ill-treated. When released, he attacks his overseer, known only as of the "man in the red sweater" but this man teaches the "law of the club", hitting Buck until he is sufficiently cowed (but the man shows some kindness after Buck stops). Buck is then sold to a pair of French-Canadian dispatchers from the Canadian government, François and Perrault, who take him with them to the Klondike region of Canada. There, they train him as a sled dog. From his teammates, he quickly learns to survive cold winter nights and the pack society. A rivalry develops between Buck and the vicious, quarrelsome lead dog, Spitz. Buck eventually beats Spitz in a fight. Spitz is killed by the pack after his defeat by Buck, and Buck eventually becomes the leader of the team.
When Francois and Perrault reach Dawson with their dispatches and are given new orders from the Canadian government, the team is then sold to a "Scottish half-breed" man, who is also working the mail service. The dogs must carry heavy loads to the mining areas, and the journeys they make are tiresome and long. One of the team, a morose husky named Dave, becomes sick and is eventually shot
Jack London wird am 12. Januar 1876 in San Francisco geboren und wächst in ärmlichen Verhältnissen auf. Er schlägt sich als Fabrikarbeiter, Austernpirat, Landstreicher und Seemann durch, holt das Abitur nach, beginnt zu studieren, geht dann als Goldsucher nach Alaska, lebt monatelang im Elendsviertel von London, gerät als Korrespondent im russisch-japanischen Krieg in Gefangenschaft und bereist die ganze Welt. Am 22. November 1916 setzt der berühmte Schriftsteller auf seiner Farm in Kalifornien seinem zuletzt von Alkohol, Erfolg und Extravaganz geprägten Leben ein Ende.