During the dinner with Zaroff on his first night on the island after falling off his yacht, Rainsford learns many of the details of the general's life. Zaroff comes from noble heritage and from the time he was five years old he was hunting. Indeed, hunting had become the general's passion from the time he was a small boy. For a time he served in the Russian military and fought for those troops still loyal to the Czar after the Russian Revolution in 1917. After their defeat, he was able to sustain himself because he had invested in "American securities" and remained financially secure, allowing him to travel, hunting big game throughout the world. Eventually, however, he grew bored with hunting animals. He had become too skilled in the pursuit of beasts, so he invented "a new animal to hunt." The new animal, of course, was man, who, like Zaroff, had the ability to reason. In order to pursue his pastime he bought the island off the coast of South America and built a great chateau where he kept the men who were shipwrecked on his island in dungeons before he hunted them. Zaroff describes his island:
"This island is perfect for my purposes—there are jungles with a maze of trails in them, hills, swamps—"
General Zaroff is from the Russian aristocracy. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, there was a bad defeat against upper-class Russians like Zaroff. Like most aristocracy, he then left Russia and spent years hunting in places such as Africa. Later, he heard about the great hunt available in the Amazon, but once there, he realized he was beyond traditional hunting. It was no longer a challenge for him and he was bored. He decided that instead of quiting the sport he would hunt a "new animal" and bought the island on which to do so.