General Zaroff was a Cossack army general who was an avid hunter. He took up hunting as a boy, and his career in the military only heightened his thirst for blood. After retiring following the Russian Revolution, Zaroff, who had become wealthy by investing in American securities, bought the notorious Ship Trap Island and built a mansion there. He lived alone but for his servant, Ivan. Zaroff hunted all around the world and was disappointed with the sport animals offered him.
After suffering a blow to the head during an encounter with a buffalo, Zaroff hit upon the idea that he should hunt people, as humans with their intelligence would offer far more challenging prey than any animal. Whenever someone was shipwrecked on his island, Zaroff would turn them loose in the jungle and hunt them with his rifle and his dogs. He amassed a great deal of trophies, mounting human heads in a private trophy room. He met his match, though, in the form of American big game hunter and author Sanger Rainsford. Rainsford, as a hunter, proved the General's most challenging quarry yet and eventually beat Zaroff at his own game and killed him, feeding him to his own hunting dogs.