“Come back, you fools! Dogs aren’t dangerous! Come back and fight!”
-Woundwort’s last known words
He is described as a savage-looking rabbit almost as large as a hare, with razor sharp claws and cold eyes. Woundwort was orphaned at a young age when his father was shot by a human and his mother was slaughtered by a weasel. Afterwards, he was rescued and taken in by an elderly professor, who lived in a cottage and owned a cat, which occasionally tormented Woundwort when the professor wasn't looking. Once Woundwort was fully grown, he attempted to kill his first of "the thousand", which apparently began with the cat he lived with. After severely maiming the cat, Woundwort escaped and found his way to a warren. He quickly usurped leadership, killing the chief rabbit and a rival named Fiorin. He then began his authoritarian rule and conquered several other warrens, fighting and killing their leaders personally. He formed a new, larger warren called Efrafa to house the inhabitants of all the conquered warrens, including Nutley Copse, one of the warrens he invaded.
Soon General Woundwort's Efrafa becomes too massive to be maintained as warrens should be, and is transformed into a secretive, strictly-militaristic one, where all rabbits are given over to a strict code for when to silflay, outsiders are forcibly detained, and any rabbit trying to escape is severely punished.
Woundwort is a master schemer, and his strict code stops Efrafa from becoming plagued with a disease or being discovered by predators or humans. Owsla membership becomes the great goal for many of the bucks, with patrols that spread out far and wide, tracking the whereabouts of the thousand, and of various humans. However, many of the does are discontent, since they are unable to breed properly because of overcrowding. As a result, the system is "breaking down" as Hyzenthlay said, one of the does in Efrafa.
When Bigwig infiltrates the warren, he earns the General's respect thanks to his size and strength. When it turns out that Bigwig only came to liberate a number of does and Blackavar, General Woundwort becomes obsessed with revenge against the former Sandleford rabbit. He holds a hatred for Bigwig for the remainder of the book, swearing to kill him personally.
Woundwort loses the respect of Efrafa after the escape of Bigwig, Blackavar, the does, and all the Watership Down rabbits who had accompanied Bigwig. In order to rectify what he sees as a personal failure, Woundwort takes the best of his legendary Owsla to destroy Bigwig and his warren after learning of its location from his most trusted subordinate, Campion. On the journey to Watership Down, Woundwort drives off a pair of stoats that attack Groundsel.
The Efrafan Owsla reaches Watership Down, and is met by Hazel, who offers a peaceful treaty with Woundwort, but the General demands unconditional surrender and threatens to kill every buck in the warren. The Efrafans then besiege the blocked-up warren and when they finally break through the barricades, Woundwort himself goes in first. Bigwig, in a last-minute scheme, buries himself under a thin layer of dirt. When Woundwort passes over him, he jumps up and bites the General's foreleg so severely that Woundwort is forced to hobble on three legs. Despite this crippling blow, Woundwort puts up a tremendous fight against Bigwig, but ultimately succumbs to exhaustion and backs down. When Woundwort asks why he won't surrender, Bigwig reveals that he's not the chief rabbit and is only following orders. This shocks Woundwort, who automatically assumes that the chief rabbit must be even bigger and stronger than Bigwig.
Meanwhile, Hazel leads Dandelion and Blackberry to Nuthanger Farm, to release the dog, Bob and lure him to the Efrafans. Thanks to the speed of Dandelion and Blackberry, as well as the gnawing of the rope by Hazel, the dog is unleashed on the Efrafan Owsla. When Woundwort hears the commotion, he abandons Bigwig and emerges from the warren to find his entire Owsla fleeing in panic. General Woundwort is the only rabbit of Efrafa to stand his ground against the dog while the rest flee. Woundwort confronts the dog as he fears nothing and lunges at it, but is never seen or heard from again. It is unknown what happened to Woundwort afterwards as his body is never found which leaves his fate a mystery, although he might have been apparently killed by the dog following a violent fight or might have survived.
In the film, Woundwort is depicted as a large, brown rabbit with a dark green right eye, while his left eye is blind. He is the only rabbit who is shown with extra sharp teeth. He shares other characteristics of the other Efrafans, including a darker colour, a more ragged appearance, prominent claws, and dark circles under his eyes.
Woundwort serves as the main antagonist of the television series. A brutal and tyrannical leader who sees himself as the one doing everything for the best of his warren, Woundwort strives to destroy Hazel and his 'outsiders' because of the hope for free life they represent for his own subjects.
He is the biggest rabbit in the series and has black, ragged fur, notched ears, a red right eye, and a blind left eye. In season 3, his design changes slightly: his fur is light grey and tan under his chin to belly.
Woundwort is larger and more muscular than most rabbits, making him capable of defeating predators of similar size to himself, like a weasel that he is able to wrestle and toss aside. In particular, his strength was enough to kill a fox, though Campion mentions that the Efrafans helped him away without losing any rabbits. His strength was enough to handle five captains at a time during a training battle, throwing them out with ease. However, during the final battle for Watership Down, Hazel was able to hold off Woundwort's strength by gripping against each other, though it's possible that Woundwort was weakened from fighting his way through most of Hazel's army, running up the hill and taking on Bigwig in single combat before fighting against Hazel. His size can be proved to be intimidating enough for other rabbits and heron to flee.
Woundwort deeply respects Campion, even after his betrayal by him, and he often punishes and threatens Vervain, but still values him as an adviser and loyal subject despite this. He briefly shows a softer side after Pipkin tells him that his parents were killed by a weasel, as this is a fate that Woundwort's mother went through, and for a brief moment before Efrafa's destruction sees himself for what he is and what he has brought Efrafa to. After the destruction of Efrafa, Woundwort becomes obsessed with seeking his destiny of destruction, which leads him to the warren he was born in: Darkhaven. In the end, Woundwort pays the ultimate price for his actions and as punishment, he and his Darkhaven minions are taken away to the Shadowlands.
General Woundwort appears as the main antagonist in the 2018 miniseries voiced by Ben Kingsley. He is depicted as an exceptionally large, muscular rabbit with ragged, dark grey fur, torn ears, and numerous scars, most notably one over his blind left eye, while his good eye is amber. He is more secluded in this adaptation, and most likely leaves the running of Efrafa to the Council or Vervain.
In this adaptation it is revealed that as a younger rabbit, Woundwort's family and fellow warren members were killed by a fox that scratched Woundwort, scarring him and blinding his left eye, though he survived this awful experience.
In the present day, he meets Clover and tells her that he likes her, and that he once lived in a hutch. He then tries to seduce Clover into becoming his "queen." Later, when Hyzenthlay is sentenced to death, Clover tries to make a deal with Woundwort, saying that she will be his queen if he spares Hyzenthlay. However, Woundwort refuses, stating that he doesn't make deals.
During the Efrafans' battle against the Watership Down rabbits, Woundwort laughs when discovering that it is, Hazel, not Bigwig, who is Chief Rabbit. When Hazel lures Bob to Watership Down, Woundwort fearlessly stands his ground against the dog, and after saying the lines "We fear no elil. I fear no dog. I...FEAR...NOTHING!" He is last seen lunging toward the charging dog, leaving his fate unknown.
Compared to other rabbits, General Woundwort is the tallest and most muscular of all rabbits though his appearance resembles hare, his strength being sufficient to handle Bigwig. The intimidation of his size was enough to scare most rabbits into submission, though he had evidenced to be evenly matched in combat with Bigwig. Woundwort's resilience is high enough to take two hits from Kehaar and be able to run away. Even in the long, brutal fight with Bigwig, he still able to move well and continue his approach into the warren as he still wanted to kill Bigwig despite being very weakened. Eventually, Woundwort had enough courage, stamina and strength to start a fight with the large farmer's dog that might have used a good deal of stamina for the long run up the big hill.
General Woundwort is an arrogant, cruel, bloodthirsty and viciously ruthless Chief Rabbit who will slaughter anyone who gets in his way. He refuses to bargain with anyone, offering them the choice of unconditional surrender or all-out war, showing that his viciousness surpasses that of most predators, who mainly kill for food. He nevertheless believes that all his decisions are for the good of the warren. He is utterly fearless, perfectly willing to fight even when the odds are obviously against him.
In the television series, Woundwort is portrayed as a more tragic character and does occasionally show a softer side. Fiver's visions tell him that Woundwort has not always been evil, but is full of hate, fear, and loss after his parents were killed and after spending time in a man's cage with a cat constantly tormenting him. Unfortunately, Woundwort's way of handling his own pain is to make everyone else's lives as miserable as his own. Despite his fearless front, Pipkin sees through it and realizes that Woundwort is actually full of fear, but instead of giving in to it he uses it to make him stronger.
He also realizes how destructive his actions are shortly before the destruction of Efrafa and even contemplates changing his ways. However, when the Watership Down rabbits and their army attack, without giving Woundwort a chance to negotiate and ignoring him when he tries to stop the fighting, he forgets about redeeming himself after falling into a fissure, believing that it is his destiny to cause destruction. In Woundwort's opinion, Hazel is no better than he is, because of the relentless attack that indirectly leads to Efrafa's destruction.
Woundwort is also noted for being a highly efficient military strategist. At some point before the beginning of the TV series, he and his troops kill a fox and use its skull as a warning for other Elil without losing any rabbits. In addition to military strategy, Woundwort is good at manipulation. Whilst he usually gains the loyalty of other rabbits by terrifying them, he actually makes the effort to befriend Pipkin in the hopes of learning where his warren is. However, while he initially only befriends Pipkin to learn the location of his warren, Woundwort quickly develops a genuine attachment to the young rabbit and tells Vervain that if he kills Pipkin he would be "killing part of himself".
Although he says he would "deal with" Pipkin if necessary, he does not specify whether he would kill him or simply try to discipline him as he would discipline members of his Owsla. In fact, Woundwort even suggests that Pipkin would make a fine Captain of Owsla when he is older. He treats Pipkin like a favourite nephew during the short time Pipkin spends in Efrafa, allowing him onto his throne and telling him he has "a flare for command". Additionally Woundwort even opens up to Pipkin about his dark and difficult past, something that he apparently has never told anyone else as he states in an earlier episode, when Fiver has a vision about Woundwort's traumatic childhood, that "Only the Black Rabbit of Inle could know these things". Woundwort even tells Pipkin to leave and go back with the outsiders, so that he would not hurt him, and reveals to Pipkin that he not in a cage anymore and that war is everything he knows and he cannot change his ways.
Woundwort has a good relationship with Campion, which may be why Campion is so reluctant to betray him, despite knowing how ruthless Woundwort can be. When Vervain constantly hurls accusations of treachery at Campion and deprives him of food, Woundwort expresses concern that he would starve and suggests that Vervain might be mistaken. Furthermore after being convinced that Vervain is not only mistaken but has also gone mad, Woundwort personally apologizes to Campion and reappoints him Captain of Owsla. This shows that he can acknowledge his mistakes. Even after learning that Vervain is right and Campion is a traitor, Woundwort still maintains his respect for him because Campion saves him when a boulder is about to fall on him. Woundwort is shocked by Campion's sacrifice but also grateful for it, despite his previous rage at Campion's betrayal. His respect for Campion even causes him to consider abandoning his bloodthirsty ways and trying to live peacefully instead. Ironically Hazel, who has wanted peace with Woundwort all along, destroys any chance of befriending him when he leads the attack on Efrafa shortly before its destruction.
In the final season of the television series, Woundwort's obsession with destruction ultimately drives him into total insanity. While he does tell Campion, Blackberry and Spartina that there was a time when he would have changed his ways, his rage and lust for revenge convinces him that there is no difference between him and Hazel and that war is the only solution. He wishes to build a dark empire in the name of the Black Rabbit of Inle. Ironically, Woundwort is destroyed by the very deity he worships when the Black Rabbit decides that he is going too far.
Woundwort is arguably the deadliest fighter in any adaption of Watership Down, rivaling or even surpassing Elil in some cases. He has fought and defeated a cat, a crow, a stoat, and an Aberdeen puppy, respectively, as well as rats, squirrels and magpies. Also, despite being wounded and exhausted from his fight with Bigwig, he fearlessly stands his ground against a powerful farm dog. Although Woundwort's body is never found, making it unclear if he survives the encounter, the dog survives with minor injuries inflicted by the General. He has also killed the leaders of other warrens personally and "imposed his will" on groups of rabbits all by himself on more than one occasion. Woundwort's massive size gives him a significant advantage over most opponents; it is said that he won almost every fight of his life by using his weight.
The only rabbit strong enough to give Woundwort a real challenge is Bigwig and even he has to use a surprise attack in order to make the fight even. Even with a severe wound limiting his mobility, Woundwort manages to fight Bigwig to a standstill, heavily implying that if the General had not been caught off guard he would have won the fight.
In the television series, Woundwort also fights off two weasels, individually, and slays a hawk all by himself, not even attempting to take cover, but instead facing them in direct combat. In addition, during one of his "daily exercises", Woundwort defeats three members of his Owsla with relative ease. As a show if strength, he also fights and defeats five Efrafan captains at once.
- Woundwort is a name of a herb.
- In the TV series, Woundwort was born in Darkhaven and is also known as 'the Dark One'.
- Woundwort is voiced by Harry Andrews in the 1978 film.
- In the television series, General Woundwort was voiced by the late John Hurt. This was Hurt's second time working on an adaption of Watership Down as he had previously voiced Hazel in the movie, which is ironic since Woundwort is Hazel's enemy. John Hurt was presumably a fan of Watership Down as he was one of only two actors to have played two different characters in two different versions of the story, the other being Richard Briers, who voiced Fiver in the movie, and Captain Broom in the TV series.
- General Woundwort's Dutch name is Generaal Guldenroede.
- General Woundwort is rumored to be a cousin of the Black Rabbit of Inlé.