For General Zaroff, the hunt is truly the defining aspect of his life. From his earliest days as a boy, Zaroff was an avid hunter.
"God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said. He was a very rich man with a quarter of a million acres in the Crimea, and he was an ardent sportsman. When I was only five years old he gave me a little gun, specially made in Moscow for me, to shoot sparrows with. When I shot some of his prize turkeys with it, he did not punish me; he complimented me on my marksmanship. I killed my first bear in the Caucasus when I was ten. My whole life has been one prolonged hunt. I went into the army--it was expected of noblemen's sons--and for a time commanded a division of Cossack cavalry, but my real interest was always the hunt. I have hunted every kind of game in every land. It would be impossible for me to tell you how many animals I have killed."
When the hunt for big game no longer became a challenge, no longer gave him the thrill as he had experienced in the past, Zaroff invented a new game. After moving to the Caribbean with, at least, a portion of his inherited wealth, he devised a scheme to hunt a human prey--sailors who were deliberately shipwrecked on his out-of-the-way island. This game eventually began to bore him as well, since the men he hunted had little imagination or experience in the art of survival. When Rainsford suddenly appeared, Zaroff realized that he had at last a worthy opponent for his most dangerous game.