The Land of Footprints
by Stewart Edward White
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

One rhino seemed either peaceable or stupid. He showed no inclination either to attack or to depart, but was willing to back whatever play his friend might decide on. The friend charged toward us until we began to think he meant battle, stopped, thought a moment, and then, followed by his companion, trotted slowly across our bows about eighty yards away, while we continued our long range practice at the lions over their backs.

In this we were not winning many cigars. F. had a 280-calibre rifle shooting the Ross cartridge through the much advertised grooveless oval bore. It was little accurate beyond a hundred yards. Memba Sasa had thrust the 405 into my hand, knowing it for the "lion gun," and kept just out of reach with the long-range Springfield. I had no time to argue the matter with him. The 405 has a trajectory like a rainbow at that distance, and I was guessing at it, and not making very good guesses either. B. had his Springfield and made closer practice, finally hitting a leg of one of the beasts. We saw him lift his paw and shake it, but he did not move lamely afterward, so the damage was probably confined to a simple scrape. It was a good shot anyway. Then they disappeared over the top of the hill.

We walked forward, regretting rhinos. Thirty yards ahead of me came a thunderous and roaring growl, and a magnificent old lion reared his head from a low bush. He evidently intended mischief, for I could see his tail switching. However, B. had killed only one lion and I wanted very much to give him the shot. Therefore, I held the front sight on the middle of his chest, and uttered a fervent wish to myself that B. would hurry up. In about ten seconds the muzzle of his rifle poked over my shoulder, so I resigned the job.

At B.'s shot the lion fell over, but was immediately up and trying to get at us. Then we saw that his hind quarters were paralyzed. He was a most magnificent sight as he reared his fine old head, roaring at us full mouthed so that the very air trembled. Billy had a good look at a lion in action. B. took up a commanding position on an ant hill to one side with his rifle levelled. F. and I advanced slowly side by side. At twelve feet from the wounded beast stopped, F. unlimbered the kodak, while I held the bead of the 405 between the lion's eyes, ready to press trigger at the first forward movement, however slight. Thus we took several exposures in the two cameras. Unfortunately one of the cameras fell in the river the next day. The other contained but one exposure. While not so spectacular as some of those spoiled, it shows very well the erect mane, the wicked narrowing of the eyes, the flattening of the ears of an angry lion. You must imagine, furthermore, the deep rumbling diapason of his growling.

We backed away, and B. put in the finishing shot. The first bullet, we then found, had penetrated the kidneys, thus inflicting a temporary paralysis.

When we came to skin him we found an old-fashioned lead bullet between the bones of his right forepaw. The entrance wound had so entirely healed over that hardly the trace of a scar remained. From what I know of the character of these beasts, I have no doubt that this ancient injury furnished the reason for his staying to attack us instead of departing with the other three lions over the hill.

Following the course of the river, we one afternoon came around a bend on a huge herd of mixed game that had been down to water. The river, a quite impassable barrier lay to our right, and an equally impassable precipitous ravine barred their flight ahead. They were forced to cross our front, quite close, within the hundred yards. We stopped to watch them go, a seemingly endless file of them, some very much frightened, bounding spasmodically as though stung; others more philosophical, loping easily and unconcernedly; still others to a few-even stopping for a moment to get a good view of us. The very young creatures, as always, bounced along absolutely stiff-legged, exactly like wooden animals suspended by an elastic, touching the ground and rebounding high, without a bend of the knee nor an apparent effort of the muscles. Young animals seem to have to learn how to bend their legs for the most efficient travel. The same is true of human babies as well. In this herd were, we estimated, some four or five hundred beasts.

While hunting near the foothills I came across the body of a large eagle suspended by one leg from the crotch of a limb. The bird's talon had missed its grip, probably on alighting, the tarsus had slipped through the crotch beyond the joint, the eagle had fallen forward, and had never been able to flop itself back to an upright position!


The rhinoceros is, with the giraffe, the hippopotamus, the gerenuk, and the camel, one of Africa's unbelievable animals. Nobody has bettered Kipling's description of him in the Just-so Stories: "A horn on his nose, piggy eyes, and few manners." He lives a self-centred life, wrapped up in the porcine contentment that broods within nor looks abroad over the land. When anything external to himself and his food and drink penetrates to his intelligence he makes a flurried fool of himself, rushing madly and frantically here and there in a hysterical effort either to destroy or get away from the cause of disturbance. He is the incarnation of a living and perpetual Grouch.

Generally he lives by himself, sometimes with his spouse, more rarely still with a third that is probably a grown-up son or daughter. I personally have never seen more than three in company. Some observers have reported larger bands, or rather collections, but, lacking other evidence, I should be inclined to suspect that some circumstances of food or water rather than a sense of gregariousness had attracted a number of individuals to one locality.

The rhinoceros has three objects in life: to fill his stomach with food and water, to stand absolutely motionless under a bush, and to imitate ant hills when he lies down in the tall grass. When disturbed at any of these occupations he snorts. The snort sounds exactly as though the safety valve of a locomotive had suddenly opened and as suddenly shut again after two seconds of escaping steam. Then he puts his head down and rushes madly in some direction, generally upwind. As he weighs about two tons, and can, in spite of his appearance, get over the ground nearly as fast as an ordinary horse, he is a truly imposing sight, especially since the innocent bystander generally happens to be upwind, and hence in the general path of progress. This is because the rhino's scent is his keenest sense, and through it he becomes aware, in the majority of times, of man's presence. His sight is very poor indeed; he cannot see clearly even a moving object much beyond fifty yards. He can, however, hear pretty well.

The novice, then, is subjected to what he calls a "vicious charge" on the part of the rhinoceros, merely because his scent was borne to the beast from upwind, and the rhino naturally runs away upwind. He opens fire, and has another thrilling adventure to relate. As a matter of fact, if he had approached from the other side, and then aroused the animal with a clod of earth, the beast would probably have "charged" away in identically the same direction. I am convinced from a fairly varied experience that this is the basis for most of the thrilling experiences with rhinoceroses.

But whatever the beast's first mental attitude, the danger is quite real. In the beginning he rushes, upwind in instinctive reaction against the strange scent. If he catches sight of the man at all, it must be after he has approached to pretty close range, for only at close range are the rhino's eyes effective. Then he is quite likely to finish what was at first a blind dash by a genuine charge. Whether this is from malice or from the panicky feeling that he is now too close to attempt to get away, I never was able determine. It is probably in the majority of cases the latter. This seems indicated by the fact that the rhino, if avoided in his first rush, will generally charge right through and keep on going. Occasionally, however, he will whirl and come back to the attack. There can then be no doubt that he actually intends mischief.

Nor must it be forgotten that with these animals, AS WITH ALL OTHERS, not enough account is taken of individual variation. They, as well as man, and as well as other animals, have their cowards, their fighters, their slothful and their enterprising. And, too, there seem to be truculent and peaceful districts. North of Mt. Kenia, between that peak and the Northern Guaso Nyero River, we saw many rhinos, none of which showed the slightest disposition to turn ugly. In fact, they were so peaceful that they scrabbled off as fast as they could go every time they either scented, heard, or SAW us; and in their flight they held their noses up, not down. In the wide angle between the Tana and Thika rivers, and comprising the Yatta Plains, and in the thickets of the Tsavo, the rhinoceroses generally ran nose down in a position of attack and were much inclined to let their angry passions master them at the sight of man. Thus we never had our safari scattered by rhinoceroses in the former district, while in the latter the boys were up trees six times in the course of one morning! Carl Akeley, with a moving picture machine, could not tease a charge out of a rhino in a dozen tries, while Dugmore, in a different part of the country, was so chivied about that he finally left the district to avoid killing any more of the brutes in self-defence!

The fact of the matter is that the rhinoceros is neither animated by the implacable man-destroying passion ascribed to him by the amateur hunter, nor is he so purposeless and haphazard in his rushes as some would have us believe. On being disturbed his instinct is to get away. He generally tries to get away in the direction of the disturbance, or upwind, as the case may be. If he catches sight of the cause of disturbance he is apt to try to trample and gore it, whatever it is. As his sight is short, he will sometimes so inflict punishment on unoffending bushes. In doing this he is probably not animated by a consuming destructive blind rage, but by a naturally pugnacious desire to eliminate sources of annoyance. Missing a definite object, he thunders right through and disappears without trying again to discover what has aroused him.

This first rush is not a charge in the sense that it is an attack on a definite object. It may not, and probably will not, amount to a charge at all, for the beast will blunder through without ever defining more clearly the object of his blind dash. That dash is likely, however, at any moment, to turn into a definite charge should the rhinoceros happen to catch sight of his disturber. Whether the impelling motive would then be a mistaken notion that on the part of the beast he was so close he had to fight, or just plain malice, would not matter. At such times the intended victim is not interested in the rhino's mental processes.

Owing to his size, his powerful armament, and his incredible quickness the rhinoceros is a dangerous animal at all times, to be treated with respect and due caution. This is proved by the number of white men, out of a sparse population, that are annually tossed and killed by the brutes, and by the promptness with which the natives take to trees-thorn trees at that!-when the cry of faru! is raised. As he comes rushing in your direction, head down and long weapon pointed, tail rigidly erect, ears up, the earth trembling with his tread and the air with his snorts, you suddenly feel very small and ineffective.

If you keep cool, however, it is probable that the encounter will result only in a lot of mental perturbation for the rhino and a bit of excitement for yourself. If there is any cover you should duck down behind it and move rapidly but quietly to one side or another of the line of advance. If there is no cover, you should crouch low and hold still. The chances are he will pass to one side or the other of you, and go snorting away into the distance. Keep your eye on him very closely. If he swerves definitely in your direction, AND DROPS HIS HEAD A LITTLE LOWER, it would be just as well to open fire. Provided the beast was still far enough away to give me "sea-room," I used to put a small bullet in the flesh of the outer part of the shoulder. The wound thus inflicted was not at all serious, but the shock of the bullet usually turned the beast. This was generally in the direction of the wounded shoulder, which would indicate that the brute turned toward the apparent source of the attack, probably for the purpose of getting even. At any rate, the shot turned the rush to one side, and the rhinoceros, as usual, went right on through. If, however, he seemed to mean business, or was too close for comfort, the point to aim for was the neck just above the lowered horn.

In my own experience I came to establish a "dead line" about twenty yards from myself. That seemed to be as near as I cared to let the brutes come. Up to that point I let them alone on the chance that they might swerve or change their minds, as they often did. But inside of twenty yards, whether the rhinoceros meant to charge me, or was merely running blindly by, did not particularly matter. Even in the latter case he might happen to catch sight of me and change his mind. Thus, looking over my notebook records, I find that I was "charged" forty odd times-that is to say, the rhinoceros rushed in my general direction. Of this lot I can be sure of but three, and possibly four, that certainly meant mischief. Six more came so directly at us, and continued so to come, that in spite of ourselves we were compelled to kill them. The rest were successfully dodged.

As I have heard old hunters of many times my experience, affirm that only in a few instances have they themselves been charged indubitably and with malice aforethought, it might be well to detail my reasons for believing myself definitely and not blindly attacked.

The first instance was that when B. killed his second trophy rhinoceros. The beast's companion refused to leave the dead body for a long time, but finally withdrew. On our approaching, however, and after we had been some moments occupied with the trophy, it returned and charged viciously. It was finally killed at fifteen yards.

The second instance was of a rhinoceros that got up from the grass sixty yards away, and came headlong in my direction. At the moment I was standing on the edge of a narrow eroded ravine, ten feet deep, with perpendicular sides. The rhinoceros came on bravely to the edge of this ravine-and stopped. Then he gave an exhibition of unmitigated bad temper most amusing to contemplate-from my safe position. He snorted, and stamped, and pawed the earth, and tramped up and down at a great rate. I sat on the opposite bank and laughed at him. This did not please him a bit, but after many short rushes to the edge of the ravine, he gave it up and departed slowly, his tail very erect and rigid. From the persistency with which he tried to get at me, I cannot but think he intended something of the sort from the first.

The third instance was much more aggravating. In company with Memba Sasa and Fundi I left camp early one morning to get a waterbuck. Four or five hundred yards out, however, we came on fresh buffalo signs, not an hour old. To one who knew anything of buffaloes' habits this seemed like an excellent chance, for at this time of the morning they should be feeding not far away preparatory to seeking cover for the day. Therefore we immediately took up the trail.

It led us over hills, through valleys, high grass, burned country, brush, thin scrub, and small woodland alternately. Unfortunately we had happened on these buffalo just as they were about changing district, and they were therefore travelling steadily. At times the trail was easy to follow and at other times we had to cast about very diligently to find traces of the direction even such huge animals had taken. It was interesting work, however, and we drew on steadily, keeping a sharp lookout ahead in case the buffalo had come to a halt in some shady thicket out of the sun. As the latter ascended the heavens and the scorching heat increased, our confidence in nearing our quarry ascended likewise, for we knew that buffaloes do not like great heat. Nevertheless this band continued straight on its way. I think now they must have got scent of our camp, and had therefore decided to move to one of the alternate and widely separated feeding grounds every herd keeps in its habitat. Only at noon, and after six hours of steady trailing, covering perhaps a dozen miles, did we catch them up.

From the start we had been bothered with rhinoceroses. Five times did we encounter them, standing almost squarely on the line of the spoor we were following. Then we had to make a wide quiet circle to leeward in order to avoid disturbing them, and were forced to a very minute search in order to pick up the buffalo tracks again on the other side. This was at once an anxiety and a delay, and we did not love those rhino.

Finally, at the very edge of the Yatta Plains we overtook the herd, resting for noon in a scattered thicket. Leaving Fundi, I, with Memba Sasa, stalked down to them. We crawled and crept by inches flat to the ground, which was so hot that it fairly burned the hand. The sun beat down on us fiercely, and the air was close and heavy even among the scanty grass tufts in which we were trying to get cover. It was very hard work indeed, but after a half hour of it we gained a thin bush not over thirty yards from a half dozen dark and indeterminate bodies dozing in the very centre of a brush patch. Cautiously I wiped the sweat from my eyes and raised my glasses. It was slow work and patient work, picking out and examining each individual beast from the mass. Finally the job was done. I let fall my glasses.

"Monumookee y'otey-all cows," I whispered to Memba Sasa.

We backed out of there inch by inch, with intention of circling a short distance to the leeward, and then trying the herd again lower down. But some awkward slight movement, probably on my part, caught the eye of one of those blessed cows. She threw up her head; instantly the whole thicket seemed alive with beasts. We could hear them crashing and stamping, breaking the brush, rushing headlong and stopping again; we could even catch momentary glimpses of dark bodies. After a few minutes we saw the mass of the herd emerge from the thicket five hundred yards away and flow up over the hill. There were probably a hundred and fifty of them, and, looking through my glasses, I saw among them two fine old bulls. They were of course not much alarmed, as only the one cow knew what it was all about anyway, and I suspected they would stop at the next thicket.

We had only one small canteen of water with us, but we divided that. It probably did us good, but the quantity was not sufficient to touch our thirst. For the remainder of the day we suffered rather severely, as the sun was fierce.

After a short interval we followed on after the buffaloes. Within a half mile beyond the crest of the hill over which they had disappeared was another thicket. At the very edge of the thicket, asleep under an outlying bush, stood one of the big bulls!

Luck seemed with us at last. The wind was right, and between us and the bull lay only four hundred yards of knee-high grass. All we had to do was to get down on our hands and knees, and, without further precautions, crawl up within range and pot him. That meant only a bit of hard, hot work.

When we were about halfway a rhinoceros suddenly arose from the grass between us and the buffalo, and about one hundred yards away.

What had aroused him, at that distance and upwind, I do not know. It hardly seemed possible that he could have heard us, for we were moving very quietly, and, as I say, we were downwind. However, there he was on his feet, sniffing now this way, now that, in search for what had alarmed him. We sank out of sight and lay low, fully expecting that the brute would make off.

For just twenty-five minutes by the watch that rhinoceros looked and looked deliberately in all directions while we lay hidden waiting for him to get over it. Sometimes he would start off quite confidently for fifty or sixty yards, so that we thought at last we were rid of him, but always he returned to the exact spot where we had first seen him, there to stamp, and blow. The buffalo paid no attention to these manifestations. I suppose everybody in jungleland is accustomed to rhinoceros bad temper over nothing. Twice he came in our direction, but both times gave it up after advancing twenty-five yards or so. We lay flat on our faces, the vertical sun slowly roasting us, and cursed that rhino.

Now the significance of this incident is twofold: first, the fact that, instead of rushing off at the first intimation of our presence, as would the average rhino, he went methodically to work to find us; second, that he displayed such remarkable perseverance as to keep at it nearly a half hour. This was a spirit quite at variance with that finding its expression in the blind rush or in the sudden passionate attack. From that point of view it seems to me that the interest and significance of the incident can hardly be overstated.

Four or five times we thought ourselves freed of the nuisance, but always, just as we were about to move on, back he came, as eager as ever to nose us out. Finally he gave it up, and, at a slow trot, started to go away from there. And out of the three hundred and sixty degrees of the circle where he might have gone he selected just our direction. Note that this was downwind for him, and that rhinoceroses usually escape upwind.

We laid very low, hoping that, as before, he would change his mind as to direction. But now he was no longer looking, but travelling. Nearer and nearer he came. We could see plainly his little eyes, and hear the regular swish, swish, swish of his thick legs brushing through the grass. The regularity of his trot never varied, but to me lying there directly in his path, he seemed to be coming on altogether too fast for comfort. From our low level he looked as big as a barn. Memba Sasa touched me lightly on the leg. I hated to shoot, but finally when he loomed fairly over us I saw it must be now or never. If I allowed him to come closer, he must indubitably catch the first movement of my gun and so charge right on us before I would have time to deliver even an ineffective shot. Therefore, most reluctantly, I placed the ivory bead of the great Holland gun just to the point of his shoulder and pulled the trigger. So close was he that as he toppled forward I instinctively, though unnecessarily of course, shrank back as though he might fall on me. Fortunately I had picked my spot properly, and no second shot was necessary. He fell just twenty-seven feet-nine yards—from where we lay!

The buffalo vanished into the blue. We were left with a dead rhino, which we did not want, twelve miles from camp, and no water. It was a hard hike back, but we made it finally, though nearly perished from thirst.

This beast, be it noted, did not charge us at all, but I consider him as one of the three undoubtedly animated by hostile intentions. Of the others I can, at this moment, remember five that might or might not have been actually and maliciously charging when they were killed or dodged. I am no mind reader for rhinoceros. Also I am willing to believe in their entirely altruistic intentions. Only, if they want to get the practical results of their said altruistic intentions they must really refrain from coming straight at me nearer than twenty yards. It has been stated that if one stands perfectly still until the rhinoceros is just six feet away, and then jumps sideways, the beast will pass him. I never happened to meet anybody who had acted on this theory. I suppose that such exist: though I doubt if any persistent exponent of the art is likely to exist long. Personally I like my own method, and stoutly maintain that within twenty yards it is up to the rhinoceros to begin to do the dodging.


At first the traveller is pleased and curious over rhinoceros. After he has seen and encountered eight or ten, he begins to look upon them as an unmitigated nuisance. By the time he has done a week in thick rhino-infested scrub he gets fairly to hating them.

They are bad enough in the open plains, where they can be seen and avoided, but in the tall grass or the scrub they are a continuous anxiety. No cover seems small enough to reveal them. Often they will stand or lie absolutely immobile until you are within a very short distance, and then will outrageously break out. They are, in spite of their clumsy build, as quick and active as polo ponies, and are the only beasts I know of capable of leaping into full speed ahead from a recumbent position. In thorn scrub they are the worst, for there, no matter how alert the traveller may hold himself, he is likely to come around a bush smack on one. And a dozen times a day the throat-stopping, abrupt crash and smash to right or left brings him up all standing, his heart racing, the blood pounding through his veins. It is jumpy work, and is very hard on the temper. In the natural reaction from being startled into fits one snaps back to profanity. The cumulative effects of the epithets hurled after a departing and inconsiderately hasty rhinoceros may have done something toward ruining the temper of the species. It does not matter whether or not the individual beast proves dangerous; he is inevitably most startling. I have come in at night with my eyes fairly aching from spying for rhinos during a day's journey through high grass.

And, as a friend remarked, rhinos are such a mussy death. One poor chap, killed while we were away on our first trip, could not be moved from the spot where he had been trampled. A few shovelfuls of earth over the remains was all the rhinoceros had left possible.

Fortunately, in the thick stuff especially, it is often possible to avoid the chance rhinoceros through the warning given by the rhinoceros birds. These are birds about the size of a robin that accompany the beast everywhere. They sit in a row along his back occupying themselves with ticks and a good place to roost. Always they are peaceful and quiet until a human being approaches. Then they flutter a few feet into the air uttering a peculiar rapid chattering. Writers with more sentiment than sense of proportion assure us that this warns the rhinoceros of approaching danger! On the contrary, I always looked at it the other way. The rhinoceros birds thereby warned ME of danger, and I was duly thankful.

The safari boys stand quite justly in a holy awe of the rhino. The safari is strung out over a mile or two of country, as a usual thing, and a downwind rhino is sure to pierce some part of the line in his rush. Then down go the loads with a smash, and up the nearest trees swarm the boys. Usually their refuges are thorn trees, armed, even on the main trunk, with long sharp spikes. There is no difficulty in going up, but the gingerly coming down, after all the excitement has died, is a matter of deliberation and of voices uplifted in woe. Cuninghame tells of an inadequate slender and springy, but solitary, sapling into which swarmed half his safari on the advent of a rambunctious rhino. The tree swayed and bent and cracked alarmingly, threatening to dump the whole lot on the ground. At each crack the boys yelled. This attracted the rhinoceros, which immediately charged the tree full tilt. He hit square, the tree shivered and creaked, the boys wound their arms and legs around the slender support and howled frantically. Again and again rhinoceros drew back to repeat his butting of that tree. By the time Cuninghame reached the spot, the tree, with its despairing burden of black birds, was clinging to the soil by its last remaining roots.

In the Nairobi Club I met a gentleman with one arm gone at the shoulder. He told his story in a slightly bored and drawling voice, picking his words very carefully, and evidently most occupied with neither understating nor overstating the case. It seems he had been out, and had killed some sort of a buck. While his men were occupied with this, he strolled on alone to see what he could find. He found a rhinoceros, that charged viciously, and into which he emptied his gun.

"When I came to," he said, "it was just coming on dusk, and the lions were beginning to grunt. My arm was completely crushed, and I was badly bruised and knocked about. As near as I could remember I was fully ten miles from camp. A circle of carrion birds stood all about me not more than ten feet away, and a great many others were flapping over me and fighting in the air. These last were so close that I could feel the wind from their wings. It was rawther gruesome." He paused and thought a a moment, as though weighing his words. "In fact," he added with an air of final conviction, "it was QUITE gruesome!"

The most calm and imperturbable rhinoceros I ever saw was one that made us a call on the Thika River. It was just noon, and our boys were making camp after a morning's march. The usual racket was on, and the usual varied movement of rather confused industry. Suddenly silence fell. We came out of the tent to see the safari gazing spellbound in one direction. There was a rhinoceros wandering peaceably over the little knoll back of camp, and headed exactly in our direction. While we watched, he strolled through the edge of camp, descended the steep bank to the river's edge, drank, climbed the bank, strolled through camp again and departed over the hill. To us he paid not the slightest attention. It seems impossible to believe that he neither scented nor saw any evidences of human life in all that populated flat, especially when one considers how often these beasts will SEEM to become aware of man's presence by telepathy.* Perhaps he was the one exception to the whole race, and was a good-natured rhino.

* Opposing theories are those of "instinct," and of slight causes, such a grasshoppers leaping before the hunter's feet, not noticed by the man approaching.

The babies are astonishing and amusing creatures, with blunt noses on which the horns are just beginning to form, and with even fewer manners than their parents. The mere fact of an 800-pound baby does not cease to be curious. They are truculent little creatures, and sometimes rather hard to avoid when they get on the warpath. Generally, as far as my observation goes, the mother gives birth to but one at a time. There may be occasional twin births, but I happen never to have met so interesting a family.

Rhinoceroses are still very numerous-too numerous. I have seen as many as fourteen in two hours, and probably could have found as many more if I had been searching for them. There is no doubt, however, that this species must be the first to disappear of the larger African animals. His great size combined with his 'orrid 'abits mark him for early destruction. No such dangerous lunatic can be allowed at large in a settled country, nor in a country where men are travelling constantly. The species will probably be preserved in appropriate restricted areas. It would be a great pity to have so perfect an example of the Prehistoric Pinhead wiped out completely. Elsewhere he will diminish, and finally disappear.

For one thing, and for one thing only, is the traveller indebted to the rhinoceros. The beast is lazy, large, and has an excellent eye for easy ways through. For this reason, as regards the question of good roads, he combines the excellent qualities of Public Sentiment, the Steam Roller, and the Expert Engineer. Through thorn thickets impenetrable to anything less armoured than a Dreadnaught like himself he clears excellent paths. Down and out of eroded ravines with perpendicular sides he makes excellent wide trails, tramped hard, on easy grades, often with zigzags to ease the slant. In some of the high country where the torrential rains wash hundreds of such gullies across the line of march it is hardly an exaggeration to say that travel would be practically impossible without the rhino trails wherewith to cross. Sometimes the perpendicular banks will extend for miles without offering any natural break down to the stream-bed. Since this is so I respectfully submit to Government the following proposal:

(a) That a limited number of these beasts shall be licensed as Trail Rhinos; and that all the rest shall be killed from the settled and regularly travelled districts.

(b) That these Trail Rhinos shall be suitably hobbled by short steel chains.

(c) That each Trail Rhino shall carry painted conspicuously on his side his serial number.

(d) That as a further precaution for public safety each Trail Rhino shall carry firmly attached to his tail a suitable red warning flag. Thus the well-known habit of the rhinoceros of elevating his tail rigidly when about to charge, or when in the act of charging, will fly the flag as a warning to travellers.

(e) That an official shall be appointed to be known as the Inspector of Rhinos whose duty it shall be to examine the hobbles, numbers and flags of all Trail Rhinos, and to keep the same in due working order and repair.

And I do submit to all and sundry that the above resolutions have as much sense to them as have most of the petitions submitted to Government by settlers in a new country.


For a number of days we camped in a grove just above a dense jungle and not fifty paces from the bank of a deep and wide river. We could at various points push through light low undergrowth, or stoop beneath clear limbs, or emerge on tiny open banks and promontories to look out over the width of the stream. The river here was some three or four hundred feet wide. It cascaded down through various large boulders and sluiceways to fall bubbling and boiling into deep water; it then flowed still and sluggish for nearly a half mile and finally divided into channels around a number of wooded islands of different sizes. In the long still stretch dwelt about sixty hippopotamuses of all sizes.

During our stay these hippos led a life of alarmed and angry care. When we first arrived they were distributed picturesquely on banks or sandbars, or were lying in midstream. At once they disappeared under water. By the end of four or five minutes they began to come to the surface. Each beast took one disgusted look, snorted, and sank again. So hasty was his action that he did not even take time to get a full breath; consequently up he had to come in not more than two minutes, this time. The third submersion lasted less than a minute; and at the end of half hour of yelling we had the hippos alternating between the bottom of the river and the surface of the water about as fast as they could make a round trip, blowing like porpoises. It was a comical sight. And as some of the boys were always out watching the show, those hippos had no respite during the daylight hours. From a short distance inland the explosive blowing as they came to the surface sounded like the irregular exhaust of a steam-engine.

We camped at this spot four days; and never, in that length of time, during the daytime, did those hippopotamuses take any recreation and rest. To be sure after a little they calmed down sufficiently to remain on the surface for a half minute or so, instead of gasping a mouthful of air and plunging below at once; but below was where they considered they belonged most of the time. We got to recognize certain individuals. They would stare at us fixedly for a while; and then would glump down out of sight like submarines.

When I saw them thus floating with only the very top of the head and snout out of water, I for the first time appreciated why the Greeks had named them hippopotamuses-the river horses. With the heavy jowl hidden; and the prominent nostrils, the long reverse-curved nose, the wide eyes, and the little pointed ears alone visible, they resembled more than a little that sort of conventionalized and noble charger seen on the frieze of the Parthenon, or in the prancy paintings of the Renaissance.

There were hippopotamuses of all sizes and of all colours. The little ones, not bigger than a grand piano, were of flesh pink. Those half-grown were mottled with pink and black in blotches. The adults were almost invariably all dark, though a few of them retained still a small pink spot or so-a sort of persistence in mature years of the eternal boy-, I suppose. All were very sleek and shiny with the wet; and they had a fashion of suddenly and violently wiggling one or the other or both of their little ears in ridiculous contrast to the fixed stare of their bung eyes. Generally they had nothing to say as to the situation, though occasionally some exasperated old codger would utter a grumbling bellow.

The ground vegetation for a good quarter mile from the river bank was entirely destroyed, and the earth beaten and packed hard by these animals. Landing trails had been made leading out from the water by easy and regular grades. These trails were about two feet wide and worn a foot or so deep. They differed from the rhino trails, from which they could be easily distinguished, in that they showed distinctly two parallel tracks separated from each other by a slight ridge. In other words, the hippo waddles. These trails we found as far as four and five miles inland. They were used, of course, only at night; and led invariably to lush and heavy feed. While we were encamped there, the country on our side the river was not used by our particular herd of hippos. One night, however, we were awakened by a tremendous rending crash of breaking bushes, followed by an instant's silence and then the outbreak of a babel of voices. Then we heard a prolonged sw-i-sh-sh-sh, exactly like the launching of a big boat. A hippo had blundered out the wrong side the river, and fairly into our camp.

In rivers such as the Tana these great beasts are most extraordinarily abundant. Directly in front of our camp, for example, were three separate herds which contained respectively about sixty, forty, and twenty-five head. Within two miles below camp were three other big pools each with its population; while a walk of a mile above showed about as many more. This sort of thing obtained for practically the whole length of the river-hundreds of miles. Furthermore, every little tributary stream, no matter how small, provided it can muster a pool or so deep enough to submerge so large an animal, has its faithful band. I have known of a hippo quite happily occupying a ditch pool ten feet wide and fifteen feet long. There was literally not room enough for the beast to turn around; he had to go in at one end and out at the other! Each lake, too, is alive with them; and both lakes and rivers are many.

Nobody disturbs hippos, save for trophies and an occasional supply of meat for the men or of cooking fat for the kitchen. Therefore they wax fat and sassy, and will long continue to flourish in the land.

It takes time to kill a hippo, provided one is wanted. The mark is small, and generally it is impossible to tell whether or not the bullet has reached the brain. Harmed or whole the beast sinks anyway. Some hours later the distention of the stomach will float the body. Therefore the only decent way to do is to take the shot, and then wait a half day to see whether or not you have missed. There are always plenty of volunteers in camp to watch the pool, for the boys are extravagantly fond of hippo meat. Then it is necessary to manoeuvre a rope on the carcass, often a matter of great difficulty, for the other hippos bellow and snort and try to live up to the circus posters of the Blood-sweating Behemoth of Holy Writ, and the crocodiles like dark meat very much. Usually one offers especial reward to volunteers, and shoots into the water to frighten the beasts. The volunteer dashes rapidly across the shallows, makes a swift plunge, and clambers out on the floating body as onto a raft.

Then he makes fast the rope, and everybody tails on and tows the whole outfit ashore. On one occasion the volunteer produced a fish line and actually caught a small fish from the floating carcass! This sounds like a good one; but I saw it with my own two eyes.

It was at the hippo pool camp that we first became acquainted with Funny Face.

Funny Face was the smallest, furriest little monkey you ever saw. I never cared for monkeys before; but this one was altogether engaging. He had thick soft fur almost like that on a Persian cat, and a tiny human black face, and hands that emerged from a ruff; and he was about as big as old-fashioned dolls used to be before they began to try to imitate real babies with them. That is to say, he was that big when we said farewell to him. When we first knew him, had he stood in a half pint measure he could just have seen over the rim. We caught him in a little thorn ravine all by himself, a fact that perhaps indicates that his mother had been killed, or perhaps that he, like a good little Funny Face, was merely staying where he was told while she was away. At any rate he fought savagely, according to his small powers. We took him ignominiously by the scruff of the neck, haled him to camp, and dumped him down on Billy. Billy constructed him a beautiful belt by sacrificing part of a kodak strap (mine), and tied him to a chop box filled with dry grass. Thenceforth this became Funny Face's castle, at home and on the march.

Within a few hours his confidence in life was restored. He accepted small articles of food from our hands, eyeing us intently, retired and examined them. As they all proved desirable, he rapidly came to the conclusion that these new large strange monkeys, while not so beautiful and agile as his own people, were nevertheless a good sort after all. Therefore he took us into his confidence. By next day he was quite tame, would submit to being picked up without struggling, and had ceased trying to take an end off our various fingers. In fact when the finger was presented, he would seize it in both small black hands; convey it to his mouth; give it several mild and gentle love-chews; and then, clasping it with all four hands, would draw himself up like a little athlete and seat himself upright on the outspread palm. Thence he would survey the world, wrinkling up his tiny brow.

This chastened and scholarly attitude of mind lasted for four or five days. Then Funny Face concluded that he understood all about it, had settled satisfactorily to himself all the problems of the world and his relations to it, and had arrived at a good working basis for life. Therefore these questions ceased to occupy him. He dismissed them from his mind completely, and gave himself over to light-hearted frivolity.

His disposition was flighty but full of elusive charm. You deprecated his lack of serious purpose in life, disapproved heartily of his irresponsibility, but you fell to his engaging qualities. He was a typical example of the lovable good-for-naught. Nothing retained his attention for two consecutive minutes. If he seized a nut and started for his chop box with it, the chances were he would drop it and forget all about it in the interest excited by a crawling ant or the colour of a flower. His elfish face was always alight with the play of emotions and of flashing changing interests. He was greatly given to starting off on very important errands, which he forgot before he arrived.

In this he contrasted strangely with his friend Darwin. Darwin was another monkey of the same species, caught about a week later. Darwin's face was sober and pondering, and his methods direct and effective. No side excursions into the brilliant though evanescent fields of fancy diverted him from his ends. These were, generally, to get the most and best food and the warmest corner for sleep. When he had acquired a nut, a kernel of corn, or a piece of fruit, he sat him down and examined it thoroughly and conscientiously and then, conscientiously and thoroughly, he devoured it. No extraneous interest could distract his attention; not for a moment. That he had sounded the seriousness of life is proved by the fact that he had observed and understood the flighty character of Funny Face. When Funny Face acquired a titbit, Darwin took up a hump-backed position near at hand, his bright little eyes fixed on his friend's activities. Funny Face would nibble relishingly at his prune for a moment or so; then an altogether astonishing butterfly would flitter by just overhead. Funny Face, lost in ecstasy would gaze skyward after the departing marvel. This was Darwin's opportunity. In two hops he was at Funny Face's side. With great deliberation, but most businesslike directness, Darwin disengaged Funny Face's unresisting fingers from the prune, seized it, and retired. Funny Face never knew it; his soul was far away after the blazoned wonder, and when it returned, it was not to prunes at all. They were forgotten, and his wandering eye focussed back to a bright button in the grass. Thus by strict attention to business did Darwin prosper.

Darwin's attitude was always serious, and his expression grave. When he condescended to romp with Funny Face one could see that it was not for the mere joy of sport, but for the purposes of relaxation. If offered a gift he always examined it seriously before finally accepting it, turning it over and over in his hands, and considering it with wrinkled brow. If you offered anything to Funny Face, no matter what, he dashed up, seized it on the fly, departed at speed uttering grateful low chatterings; probably dropped and forgot it in the excitement of something new before he had even looked to see what it was.

"These people," said Darwin to himself, "on the whole, and as an average, seem to give me appropriate and pleasing gifts. To be sure, it is always well to see that they don't try to bunco me with olive stones or such worthless trash, but still I believe they are worth cultivating and standing in with."

"It strikes me," observed Funny Face to himself, "that my adorable Memsahib and my beloved bwana have been very kind to me to-day, though I don't remember precisely how. But I certainly do love them!"

We cut good sized holes on each of the four sides of their chop box to afford them ventilation on the march. The box was always carried on one of the safari boy's heads: and Funny Face and Darwin gazed forth with great interest. It was very amusing to see the big negro striding jauntily along under his light burden; the large brown winking eyes glued to two of the apertures. When we arrived in camp and threw the box cover open, they hopped forth, shook themselves, examined their immediate surroundings and proceeded to take a little exercise. When anything alarmed them, such as the shadow of a passing hawk, they skittered madly up the nearest thing in sight-tent pole, tree, or human form— and scolded indignantly or chittered in a low tone according to the degree of their terror. When Funny Face was very young, indeed, the grass near camp caught fire. After the excitement was over we found him completely buried in the straw of his box, crouched, and whimpering like a child. As he could hardly, at his tender age, have had any previous experience with fire, this instinctive fear was to me very interesting.

The monkeys had only one genuine enemy. That was an innocent plush lion named Little Simba. It had been given us in joke before we left California, we had tucked it into an odd corner of our trunk, had discovered it there, carried it on safari out of sheer idleness, and lo! it had become an important member of the expedition. Every morning Mahomet or Yusuf packed it-or rather him-carefully away in the tin box. Promptly at the end of the day's march Little Simba was haled forth and set in a place of honour in the centre of the table, and reigned there-or sometimes in a little grass jungle constructed by his faithful servitors-until the march was again resumed. His job in life was to look after our hunting luck. When he failed to get us what we wanted, he was punished; when he procured us what we desired he was rewarded by having his tail sewed on afresh, or by being presented with new black thread whiskers, or even a tiny blanket of Mericani against the cold. This last was an especial favour for finally getting us the greater kudu. Naturally as we did all this in the spirit of an idle joke our rewards and punishments were rather desultory. To our surprise, however, we soon found that our boys took Little Simba quite seriously. He was a fetish, a little god, a power of good or bad luck. We did not appreciate this point until one evening, after a rather disappointing day, Mahomet came to us bearing Little Simba in his hand.

"Bwana," said he respectfully, "is it enough that I shut Simba in the tin box, or do you wish to flog him?"

On one very disgraceful occasion, when everything went wrong, we plucked Little Simba from his high throne and with him made a beautiful drop-kick out into the tall grass. There, in a loud tone of voice, we sternly bade him lie until the morrow. The camp was bung-eyed. It is not given to every people to treat its gods in such fashion: indeed, in very deed, great is the white man! To be fair, having published Little Simba's disgrace, we should publish also Little Simba's triumph: to tell how, at the end of a certain very lucky three months' safari he was perched atop a pole and carried into town triumphantly at the head of a howling, singing procession of a hundred men. He returned to America, and now, having retired from active professional life, is leading an honoured old age among the trophies he helped to procure.

Funny Face first met Little Simba when on an early investigating tour. With considerable difficulty he had shinnied up the table leg, and had hoisted himself over the awkwardly projecting table edge. When almost within reach of the fascinating affairs displayed atop, he looked straight up into the face of Little Simba! Funny Face shrieked aloud, let go all holds and fell off flat on his back. Recovering immediately, he climbed just as high as he could, and proceeded, during the next hour, to relieve his feelings by the most insulting chatterings and grimaces. He never recovered from this initial experience. All that was necessary to evoke all sorts of monkey talk was to produce Little Simba. Against his benign plush front then broke a storm of remonstrance. He became the object of slow advances and sudden scurrying, shrieking retreats, that lasted just as long as he stayed there, and never got any farther than a certain quite conservative point. Little Simba did not mind. He was too busy being a god.


The Cape Buffalo is one of the four dangerous kinds of African big game; of which the other three are the lion, the rhinoceros, and the elephant. These latter are familiar to us in zoological gardens, although the African and larger form of the rhinoceros and elephant are seldom or never seen in captivity. But buffaloes are as yet unrepresented in our living collections. They are huge beasts, tremendous from any point of view, whether considered in height, in mass, or in power. At the shoulder they stand from just under five feet to just under six feet in height; they are short legged, heavy bodied bull necked, thick in every dimension. In colour they are black as to hair, and slate gray as to skin; so that the individual impression depends on the thickness of the coat. They wear their horns parted in the middle, sweeping smoothly away in the curves of two great bosses either side the head. A good trophy will measure in spread from forty inches to four feet. Four men will be required to carry in the head alone. As buffaloes when disturbed or suspicious have a habit of thrusting their noses up and forward, that position will cling to one's memory as the most typical of the species.

A great many hunters rank the buffalo first among the dangerous beasts. This is not my own opinion, but he is certainly dangerous enough. He possesses the size, power, and truculence of the rhinoceros, together with all that animal's keenness of scent and hearing but with a sharpness of vision the rhinoceros has not. While not as clever as either the lion or the elephant, he is tricky enough when angered to circle back for the purpose of attacking his pursuers in the rear or flank, and to arrange rather ingenious ambushes for the same purpose. He is rather more tenacious of life than the rhinoceros, and will carry away an extraordinary quantity of big bullets. Add to these considerations the facts that buffaloes go in herds; and that, barring luck, chances are about even they will have to be followed into the thickest cover, it can readily be seen that their pursuit is exciting.

The problem would be simplified were one able or willing to slip into the thicket or up to the grazing herd and kill the nearest beast that offers. As a matter of fact an ordinary herd will contain only two or three bulls worth shooting; and it is the hunter's delicate task to glide and crawl here and there, with due regard for sight, scent and sound, until he has picked one of these from the scores of undesirables. Many times will he worm his way by inches toward the great black bodies half defined in the screen of thick undergrowth only to find that he has stalked cows or small bulls. Then inch by inch he must back out again, unable to see twenty yards to either side, guiding himself by the probabilities of the faint chance breezes in the thicket. To right and left he hears the quiet continued crop, crop, crop, sound of animals grazing. The sweat runs down his face in streams, and blinds his eyes, but only occasionally and with the utmost caution can he raise his hand-or, better, lower his head-to clear his vision. When at last he has withdrawn from the danger zone, he wipes his face, takes a drink from the canteen, and tries again. Sooner or later his presence comes to the notice of some old cow. Behind the leafy screen where unsuspected she has been standing comes the most unexpected and heart-jumping crash! Instantly the jungle all about roars into life. The great bodies of the alarmed beasts hurl themselves through the thicket, smash! bang! crash! smash! as though a tornado were uprooting the forest. Then abruptly a complete silence! This lasts but ten seconds or so; then off rushes the wild stampede in another direction; only again to come to a listening halt of breathless stillness. So the hunter, unable to see anything, and feeling very small, huddles with his gunbearers in a compact group, listening to the wild surging short rushes, now this way, now that, hoping that the stampede may not run over him. If by chance it does, he has his two shots and the possibility of hugging a tree while the rush divides around him. The latter is the most likely; a single buffalo is hard enough to stop with two shots, let alone a herd. And yet, sometimes, the mere flash and noise will suffice to turn them, provided they are not actually trying to attack, but only rushing indefinitely about. Probably a man can experience few more thrilling moments than he will enjoy standing in one of the small leafy rooms of an African jungle while several hundred tons of buffalo crash back and forth all around him.

In the best of circumstances it is only rarely that having identified his big bull, the hunter can deliver a knockdown blow. The beast is extraordinarily vital, and in addition it is exceedingly difficult to get a fair, open shot. Then from the danger of being trampled down by the blind and senseless stampede of the herd he passes to the more defined peril from an angered and cunning single animal. The majority of fatalities in hunting buffaloes happen while following wounded beasts. A flank charge at close range may catch the most experienced man; and even when clearly seen, it is difficult to stop. The buffalo's wide bosses are a helmet to his brain, and the body shot is always chancy. The beast tosses his victim, or tramples him, or pushes him against a tree to crush him like a fly.

He who would get his trophy, however, is not always-perhaps is not generally-forced into the thicket to get it. When not much disturbed, buffaloes are in the habit of grazing out into the open just before dark; and of returning to their thicket cover only well after sunrise. If the hunter can arrange to meet his herd at such a time, he stands a very good chance of getting a clear shot. The job then requires merely ordinary caution and manoeuvring; and the only danger, outside the ever-present one from the wounded beast, is that the herd may charge over him deliberately. Therefore it is well to keep out of sight.

The difficulty generally is to locate your beasts. They wander all night, and must be blundered upon in the early morning before they have drifted back into the thickets. Sometimes, by sending skilled trackers in several directions, they can be traced to where they have entered cover. A messenger then brings the white man to the place, and every one tries to guess at what spot the buffaloes are likely to emerge for their evening stroll. It is remarkably easy to make a wrong guess, and the remaining daylight is rarely sufficient to repair a mistake. And also, in the case of a herd ranging a wide country with much tall grass and several drinking holes, it is rather difficult, without very good luck, to locate them on any given night or morning. A few herds, a very few, may have fixed habits, and so prove easy hunting.

These difficulties, while in no way formidable, are real enough in their small way; but they are immensely increased when the herds have been often disturbed. Disturbance need not necessarily mean shooting. In countries unvisited by white men often the pastoral natives will so annoy the buffalo by shoutings and other means, whenever they appear near the tame cattle, that the huge beasts will come practically nocturnal. In that case only the rankest luck will avail to get a man a chance in the open. The herds cling to cover until after sundown and just at dusk; and they return again very soon after the first streaks of dawn. If the hunter just happens to be at the exact spot, he may get a twilight shot when the glimmering ivory of his front sight is barely visible. Otherwise he must go into the thicket.

As an illustration of the first condition might be instanced an afternoon on the Tana. The weather was very hot. We had sent three lots of men out in different directions, each under the leadership of one of the gunbearers, to scout, while we took it easy in the shade of our banda, or grass shelter, on the bank of the river. About one o'clock a messenger came into camp reporting that the men under Mavrouki had traced a herd to its lying-down place. We took our heavy guns and started.

The way led through thin scrub up the long slope of a hill that broke on the other side into undulating grass ridges that ended in a range of hills. These were about four or five miles distant, and thinly wooded on sides and lower slopes with what resembled a small live-oak growth. Among these trees, our guide told us, the buffalo had first been sighted.

The sun was very hot, and all the animals were still. We saw impalla in the scrub, and many giraffes and bucks on the plains. After an hour and a half's walk we entered the parklike groves at the foot of the hills, and our guide began to proceed more cautiously. He moved forward a few feet, peered about, retraced his steps. Suddenly his face broke into a broad grin. Following his indication we looked up, and there in a tree almost above us roosted one of our boys sound asleep! We whistled at him. Thereupon he awoke, tried to look very alert, and pointed in the direction we should go. After an interval we picked up another sentinel, and another, and another until, passed on thus from one to the next, we traced the movements of the herd. Finally we came upon Mavrouki and Simba under a bush. From them, in whispers, we learned that the buffalo were karibu sana-very near; that they had fed this far, and were now lying in the long grass just ahead. Leaving the men, we now continued our forward movement on hands and knees, in single file. It was very hot work, for the sun beat square down on us, and the tall grass kept off every breath of air. Every few moments we rested, lying on our faces. Occasionally, when the grass shortened, or the slant of ground tended to expose us, we lay quite flat and hitched forward an inch at a time by the strength of our toes. This was very severe work indeed, and we were drenched in perspiration. In fact, as I had been feeling quite ill all day, it became rather doubtful whether I could stand the pace.

However after a while we managed to drop down into an eroded deep little ravine. Here the air was like that of a furnace, but at least we could walk upright for a few rods. This we did, with the most extraordinary precautions against even the breaking of a twig or the rolling of a pebble. Then we clambered to the top of the bank, wormed our way forward another fifty feet to the shelter of a tiny bush, and stretched out to recuperate. We lay there some time, sheltered from the sun. Then ahead of us suddenly rumbled a deep bellow. We were fairly upon the herd!

Cautiously F., who was nearest the centre of the bush, raised himself alongside the stem to look. He could see where the beasts were lying, not fifty yards away, but he could make out nothing but the fact of great black bodies taking their ease in the grass under the shade of trees. So much he reported to us; then rose again to keep watch.

Thus we waited the rest of the afternoon. The sun dipped at last toward the west, a faint irregular breeze wandered down from the hills, certain birds awoke and uttered their clear calls, an unsuspected kongoni stepped from the shade of a tree over the way and began to crop the grass, the shadows were lengthening through the trees. Then ahead of us an uneasiness ran through the herd. We in the grass could hear the mutterings and grumblings of many great animals. Suddenly F. snapped his fingers, stooped low and darted forward. We scrambled to our feet and followed.

Across a short open space we ran, bent double to the shelter of a big ant hill. Peering over the top of this we found ourselves within sixty yards of a long compact column of the great black beasts, moving forward orderly to the left, the points of the cow's horns, curved up and in, tossing slowly as the animals walked. On the flank of the herd was a big gray bull.

It had been agreed that B. was to have the shot. Therefore he opened fire with his 405 Winchester, a weapon altogether too light for this sort of work. At the shot the herd dashed forward to an open grass meadow a few rods away, wheeled and faced back in a compact mass, their noses thrust up and out in their typical fashion, trying with all their senses to locate the cause of the disturbance.

Taking advantage both of the scattered cover, and the half light of the shadows we slipped forward as rapidly and as unobtrusively as we could to the edge of the grass meadow. Here we came to a stand eighty yards from the buffaloes. They stood compactly like a herd of cattle, staring, tossing their heads, moving slightly, their wild eyes searching for us. I saw several good bulls, but always they moved where it was impossible to shoot without danger of getting the wrong beast. Finally my chance came; I planted a pair of Holland bullets in the shoulder of one of them.

The herd broke away to the right, sweeping past us at close range. My bull ran thirty yards with them, then went down stone dead. When we examined him we found the hole made by B.'s Winchester bullet; so that quite unintentionally and by accident I had fired at the same beast. This was lucky. The trophy, by hunter's law, of course, belonged to B.

Therefore F. and I alone followed on after the herd. It was now coming on dusk. Within a hundred yards we began to see scattered beasts. The formation of the herd had broken. Some had gone on in flight, while others in small scattered groups would stop to stare back, and would then move slowly on for a few paces before stopping again. Among these I made out a bull facing us about a hundred and twenty-five yards away, and managed to stagger him, but could not bring him down.

Now occurred an incident which I should hesitate to relate were it not that both F. and myself saw it. We have since talked it over, compared our recollections, and found them to coincide in every particular.

As we moved cautiously in pursuit of the slowly retreating herd three cows broke back and came running down past us. We ducked aside and hid, of course, but noticed that of the three two were very young, while one was so old that she had become fairly emaciated, a very unusual thing with buffaloes. We then followed the herd for twenty minutes, or until twilight, when we turned back. About halfway down the slope we again met the three cows, returning. They passed us within twenty yards, but paid us no attention whatever. The old cow was coming along very reluctantly, hanging back at every step, and every once in a while swinging her head viciously at one or the other of her two companions. These escorted her on either side, and a little to the rear. They were plainly urging her forward, and did not hesitate to dig her in the ribs with their horns whenever she turned especially obstinate. In fact they acted exactly like a pair of cowboys HERDING a recalcitrant animal back to its band and I have no doubt at all that when they first by us the old lady was making a break for liberty in the wrong direction, AND THAT THE TWO YOUNGER COWS WERE TRYING TO ROUND HER BACK! Whether they were her daughters or not is problematical; but it certainly seemed that they were taking care of her and trying to prevent her running back where it was dangerous to go. I never heard of a similar case, though Herbert Ward* mentions, without particulars that elephants AND BUFFALOES will assist each other WHEN WOUNDED.

* A Voice from the Congo.

After passing these we returned to where B. and the men, who had now come up, had prepared the dead bull for transportation. We started at once, travelling by the stars, shouting and singing to discourage the lions, but did not reach camp until well into the night.

XXV. THE BUFFALO-continued

Some months later, and many hundreds of miles farther south, Billy and I found ourselves alone with twenty men, and two weeks to pass until C.-our companion at the time-should return from a long journey out with a wounded man. By slow stages, and relaying back and forth, we landed in a valley so beautiful in every way that we resolved to stay as long as possible. This could be but five days at most. At the end of that time we must start for our prearranged rendezvous with C.

The valley was in the shape of an ellipse, the sides of which were formed by great clifflike mountains, and the other two by hills lower, but still of considerable boldness and size. The longest radius was perhaps six or eight miles, and the shortest three or four. At one end a canyon dropped away to a lower level, and at the other a pass in the hills gave over to the country of the Narassara River. The name of the valley was Lengeetoto.

From the great mountains flowed many brooks of clear sparkling water, that ran beneath the most beautiful of open jungles, to unite finally in one main stream that disappeared down the canyon. Between these brooks were low broad rolling hills, sometimes grass covered, sometimes grown thinly with bushes. Where they headed in the mountains, long stringers of forest trees ran up to blocklike groves, apparently pasted like wafers against the base of the cliffs, but in reality occupying spacious slopes below them.

We decided to camp at the foot of a long grass slant within a hundred yards of the trees along one of the small streams. Before us we had the sweep of brown grass rising to a clear cut skyline; and all about us the distant great hills behind which the day dawned and fell. One afternoon a herd of giraffes stood silhouetted on this skyline quite a half hour gazing curiously down on our camp. Hartebeeste and zebra swarmed in the grassy openings; and impalla in the brush. We saw sing-sing and steinbuck, and other animals, and heard lions nearly every night. But principally we elected to stay because a herd of buffaloes ranged the foothills and dwelt in the groves of forest trees under the cliffs. We wanted a buffalo; and as Lengeetoto is practically unknown to white men, we thought this a good chance to get one. In that I reckoned without the fact that at certain seasons the Masai bring their cattle in, and at such times annoy the buffalo all they can.

We started out well enough. I sent Memba Sasa with two men to locate the herd. About three o'clock a messenger came to camp after me. We plunged through our own jungle, crossed a low swell, traversed another jungle, and got in touch with the other two men. They reported the buffalo had entered the thicket a few hundred yards below us. Cautiously reconnoitering the ground it soon became evident that we would be forced more definitely to locate the herd. To be sure, they had entered the stream jungle at a known point, but there could be no telling how far they might continue in the thicket, nor on what side of it they would emerge at sundown. Therefore we commenced cautiously and slowly follow the trail.

The going was very thick, naturally, and we could not see very far ahead. Our object was not now to try for a bull, but merely to find where the herd was feeding, in order that we might wait for it to come out. However, we were brought to a stand, in the middle of a jungle of green leaves, by the cropping sound of a beast grazing just the other side of a bush. We could not see it, and we stood stock still in the hope of escaping discovery ourselves. But an instant later a sudden crash of wood told us we had been seen. It was near work. The gunbearers crouched close to me. I held the heavy double gun ready. If the beast had elected to charge I would have had less than ten yards within which to stop it. Fortunately it did not do so. But instantly the herd was afoot and off at full speed. A locomotive amuck in a kindling pile could have made no more appalling a succession of rending crashes than did those heavy animals rushing here and there through the thick woody growth. We could see nothing. Twice the rush started in our direction, but stopped as suddenly as it had begun, to be succeeded by absolute stillness when everything, ourselves included, held its breath to listen. Finally, the first panic over, the herd started definitely away downstream. We ran as fast as we could out of the jungle to a commanding position on the hill. Thence we could determine the course of the herd. It continued on downstream as far as we could follow the sounds in the convolutions of the hills. Realizing that it would improbably recover enough from its alarmed condition to resume its regular habits that day, we returned to camp.

Next morning Memba Sasa and I were afield before daylight. We took no other men. In hunting I am a strong disbeliever in the common habit of trailing along a small army. It is simple enough, in case the kill is made, to send back for help. No matter how skilful your men are at stalking, the chances of alarming the game are greatly increased by numbers; while the possibilities of misunderstanding the plan of campaign, and so getting into the wrong place at the wrong time, are infinite. Alone, or with one gunbearer, a man can slip in and out a herd of formidable animals with the least chances of danger. Merely going out after camp meat is of course a different matter.

We did not follow in the direction taken by the herd the night before, but struck off toward the opposite side of the valley. For two hours we searched the wooded country at the base of the cliff mountains, working slowly around the circle, examining every inlet, ravine and gully. Plenty of other sorts of game we saw, including elephant tracks not a half hour old; but no buffalo. About eight o'clock, however, while looking through my glasses, I caught sight of some tiny chunky black dots crawling along below the mountains diagonally across the valley, and somewhat over three miles away. We started in that direction as fast as we could walk. At the end of an hour we surmounted the last swell, and stood at the edge of a steep drop. Immediately below us flowed a good-sized stream through a high jungle over the tops of which we looked to a triangular gentle slope overgrown with scattered bushes and high grass. Beyond this again ran another jungle, angling up hill from the first, to end in a forest of trees about thirty or forty acres in extent. This jungle and these trees were backed up against the slope of the mountain. The buffaloes we had first seen above the grove: they must now have sought cover among either the trees or the lower jungle, and it seemed reasonable that the beasts would emerge on the grass and bush area late in the afternoon. Therefore Memba Sasa and I selected good comfortable sheltered spots, leaned our backs against rocks, and resigned ourselves to long patience. It was now about nine o'clock in the morning, and we could not expect our game to come out before half past three at earliest. We could not, however, go away to come back later because of the chance that the buffaloes might take it into their heads to go travelling. I had been fooled that way before. For this reason, also, it was necessary, every five minutes or so, to examine carefully all our boundaries; lest the beasts might be slipping away through the cover.

The hours passed very slowly. We made lunch last as long as possible. I had in my pocket a small edition of Hawthorne's "The House of the Seven Gables," which I read, pausing every few minutes to raise my glasses for the periodical examination of the country. The mental focussing back from the pale gray half light of Hawthorne's New England to the actuality of wild Africa was a most extraordinary experience.

Through the heat of the day the world lay absolutely silent. At about half-past three, however, we heard rumblings and low bellows from the trees a half mile away. I repocketed Hawthorne, and aroused myself to continuous alertness.

The ensuing two hours passed more slowly than all the rest of the day, for we were constantly on the lookout. The buffaloes delayed most singularly, seemingly reluctant to leave their deep cover. The sun dropped behind the mountains, and their shadow commenced to climb the opposite range. I glanced at my watch. We had not more than a half hour of daylight left.

Fifteen minutes of this passed. It began to look as though our long and monotonous wait had been quite in vain; when, right below us, and perhaps five hundred yards away, four great black bodies fed leisurely from the bushes. Three of them we could see plainly. Two were bulls of fair size. The fourth, half concealed in the brush, was by far the biggest of the lot.

In order to reach them we would have to slip down the face of the hill on which we sat, cross the stream jungle at the bottom, climb out the other side, and make our stalk to within range. With a half hour more of daylight this would have been comparatively easy, but in such circumstances it is difficult to move at the same time rapidly and unseen. However, we decided to make the attempt. To that end we disencumbered ourselves of all our extras-lunch box, book, kodak, glasses, etc.-and wormed our way as rapidly as possible toward the bottom of the hill. We utilized the cover as much as we were able, but nevertheless breathed a sigh of relief when we had dropped below the line of the jungle. We wasted very little time crossing the latter, save for precautions against noise. Even in my haste, however, I had opportunity to notice its high and austere character, with the arching overhead vines, and the clear freedom from undergrowth in its heart. Across this cleared space we ran at full speed, crouching below the grasp of the vines, splashed across the brook and dashed up the other bank. Only a faint glimmer of light lingered in the jungle. At the upper edge we paused, collected ourselves, and pushed cautiously through the thick border-screen of bush.

The twilight was just fading into dusk. Of course we had taken our bearings from the other hill; so now, after reassuring ourselves of them, we began to wriggle our way at a great pace through the high grass. Our calculations were quite accurate. We stalked successfully, and at last, drenched in sweat, found ourselves lying flat within ten yards of a small bush behind which we could make out dimly the black mass of the largest beast we had seen from across the way.

Although it was now practically dark, we had the game in our own hands. From our low position the animal, once it fed forward from behind the single small bush, would be plainly outlined against the sky, and at ten yards I should be able to place my heavy bullets properly, even in the dark. Therefore, quite easy in our minds, we lay flat and rested. At the end of twenty seconds the animal began to step forward. I levelled my double gun, ready to press trigger the moment the shoulder appeared in the clear. Then against the saffron sky emerged the ugly outline and two upstanding horns of a rhinoceros!

"Faru!" I whispered disgustedly to Memba Sasa. With infinite pains we backed out, then retreated to a safe distance. It was of course now too late to hunt up the three genuine buffaloes of this ill-assorted group.

In fact our main necessity was to get through the river jungle before the afterglow had faded from the sky, leaving us in pitch darkness. I sent Memba Sasa across to pick up the effects we had left on the opposite ridge, while I myself struck directly across the flat toward camp.

I had plunged ahead thus, for two or three hundred yards, when I was brought up short by the violent snort of a rhinoceros just off the starboard bow. He was very close, but I was unable to locate him in the dusk. A cautious retreat and change of course cleared me from him, and I was about to start on again full speed when once more I was halted by another rhinoceros, this time dead ahead. Attempting to back away from him, I aroused another in my rear; and as though this were not enough a fourth opened up to the left.

It was absolutely impossible to see anything ten yards away unless it happened to be silhouetted against the sky. I backed cautiously toward a little bush, with a vague idea of having something to dodge around. As the old hunter said when, unarmed, he met the bear, "Anything, even a newspaper, would have come handy." To my great joy I backed against a conical ant hill four or five feet high. This I ascended and began anti-rhino demonstrations. I had no time to fool with rhinos, anyway. I wanted to get through that jungle before the leopards left their family circles. I hurled clods of earth and opprobrious shouts and epithets in the four directions of my four obstreperous friends, and I thought I counted four reluctant departures. Then, with considerable doubt, I descended from my ant hill and hurried down the slope, stumbling over grass hummocks, colliding with bushes, tangling with vines, but progressing in a gratifyingly rhinoless condition. Five minutes cautious but rapid feeling my way brought me through the jungle. Shortly after I raised the campfires; and so got home.

The next two days were repetitions, with slight variation, of this experience, minus the rhinos! Starting from camp before daylight we were only in time to see the herd-always aggravatingly on the other side of the cover, no matter which side we selected for our approach, slowly grazing into the dense jungle. And always they emerged so late and so far away that our very best efforts failed to get us near them before dark. The margin always so narrow, however, that our hopes were alive.

On the fourth day, which must be our last in Longeetoto, we found that the herd had shifted to fresh cover three miles along the base of the mountains. We had no faith in those buffaloes, but about half-past three we sallied forth dutifully and took position on a hill overlooking the new hiding place. This consisted of a wide grove of forest trees varied by occasional open glades and many dense thickets. So eager were we to win what had by now developed into a contest that I refused to shoot a lioness with a three-quarters-grown cub that appeared within easy shot from some reeds below us.

Time passed as usual until nearly sunset. Then through an opening into one of the small glades we caught sight of the herd travelling slowly but steadily from right to left. The glimpse was only momentary, but it was sufficient to indicate the direction from which we might expect them to emerge. Therefore we ran at top speed down from our own hill, tore through the jungle at its foot, and hastily, but with more caution, mounted the opposite slope through the scattered groves and high grass. We could hear occasionally indications of the buffaloes' slow advance, and we wanted to gain a good ambuscade above them before they emerged. We found it in the shape of a small conical hillock perched on the side hill itself, and covered with long grass. It commanded open vistas through the scattered trees in all directions. And the thicket itself ended not fifty yards away. No buffalo could possibly come out without our seeing him; and we had a good half hour of clear daylight before us. It really seemed that luck had changed at last.

We settled ourselves, unlimbered for action, and got our breath. The buffaloes came nearer and nearer. At length, through a tiny opening a hundred yards away, we could catch momentary glimpses of their great black bodies. I thrust forward the safety catch and waited. Finally a half dozen of the huge beasts were feeding not six feet inside the circle of brush, and only thirty-odd yards from where we lay.

And they came no farther! I never passed a more heart-breaking half hour of suspense than that in which little by little the daylight and our hopes faded, while those confounded buffaloes moved slowly out to the very edge of the thicket, turned, and moved as slowly back again. At times they came actually into view. We could see their sleek black bodies rolling lazily into sight and back again, like seals on the surface of water, but never could we make out more than that. I could have had a dozen good shots, but I could not even guess what I would be shooting at. And the daylight drained away and the minutes ticked by!

Finally, as I could see no end to this performance save that to which we had been so sickeningly accustomed in the last four days, I motioned to Memba Sasa, and together we glided like shadows into the thicket.

There it was already dusk. We sneaked breathlessly through the small openings, desperately in a hurry, almost painfully on the alert. In the dark shadow sixty yards ahead stood a half dozen monstrous bodies all facing our way. They suspected the presence of something unusual, but in the darkness and the stillness they could neither identify it nor locate it exactly. I dropped on one knee and snatched my prism glasses to my eyes. The magnification enabled me to see partially into the shadows. Every one of the group carried the sharply inturned points to the horns: they were all cows!

An instant after I had made out this fact, they stampeded across our face. The whole band thundered and crashed away.

Desperately we sprang after them, our guns atrail, our bodies stooped low to keep down in the shadow of the earth. And suddenly, without the slightest warning we plumped around a bush square on top of the entire herd. It had stopped and was staring back in our direction. I could see nothing but the wild toss of a hundred pair of horns silhouetted against such of the irregular saffron afterglow as had not been blocked off by the twigs and branches of the thicket. All below was indistinguishable blackness.

They stood in a long compact semicircular line thirty yards away, quite still, evidently staring intently into the dusk to find out what had alarmed them. At any moment they were likely to make another rush; and if they did so in the direction they were facing, they would most certainly run over us and trample us down.

Remembering the dusk I thought it likely that the unexpected vivid flash of the gun might turn them off before they got started. Therefore I raised the big double Holland, aimed below the line of heads, and was just about to pull trigger when my eye caught the silhouette of a pair of horns whose tips spread out instead of turning in. This was a bull, and I immediately shifted the gun in his direction. At the heavy double report, the herd broke wildly to right and left and thundered away. I confess I was quite relieved.

A low moaning bellow told us that our bull was down. The last few days' experience at being out late had taught us wisdom so Memba Sasa had brought a lantern. By the light of this, we discovered our bull down, and all but dead. To make sure, I put a Winchester bullet into his backbone.

We felt ourselves legitimately open to congratulations, for we had killed this bull from a practically nocturnal herd, in the face of considerable danger and more than considerable difficulty. Therefore we shook hands and made appropriate remarks to each other, lacking anybody to make them for us.

By now it was pitch dark in the thicket, and just about so outside. We had to do a little planning. I took the Holland gun, gave Memba Sasa the Winchester, and started him for camp after help. As he carried off the lantern, it was now up to me to make a fire and to make it quickly.

For the past hour a fine drizzle had been falling; and the whole country was wet from previous rains. I hastily dragged in all the dead wood I could find near, collected what ought to be good kindling, and started in to light a fire. Now, although I am no Boy Scout, I have lit several fires in my time. But never when I was at the same time in such a desperate need and hurry; and in possession of such poor materials. The harder I worked, the worse things sputtered and smouldered. Probably the relief from the long tension of the buffalo hunt had something to do with my general piffling inefficiency. If I had taken time to do a proper job once instead of a halfway job a dozen times, as I should have done and usually would have done, I would have had a fire in no time. I imagine I was somewhat scared. The lioness and her hulking cub had smelled the buffalo and were prowling around. I could hear them purring and uttering their hollow grunts. However, at last the flame held. I fed it sparingly, lit a pipe, placed the Holland gun next my hand, and resigned myself to waiting. For two hours this was not so bad. I smoked, and rested up, and dried out before my little fire. Then my fuel began to run low. I arose and tore down all the remaining dead limbs within the circle of my firelight. These were not many, so I stepped out into the darkness for more. Immediately I was warned back by a deep growl!

The next hour was not one of such solid comfort. I began to get parsimonious about my supply of firewood, trying to use it in such a manner as to keep up an adequate blaze, and at the same time to make it last until Memba Sasa should return with the men. I did it, though I got down to charred ends before I was through. The old lioness hung around within a hundred yards or so below, and the buffalo herd, returning, filed by above, pausing to stamp and snort at the fire. Finally, about nine o'clock, I made out two lanterns bobbing up to me through the trees.

The last incident to be selected from many experiences with buffaloes took place in quite an unvisited district over the mountains from the Loieta Plains. For nearly two months we had ranged far in this lovely upland country of groves and valleys and wide grass bottoms between hills, hunting for greater kudu. One day we all set out from camp to sweep the base of a range of low mountains in search of a good specimen of Newman's hartebeeste, or anything else especially desirable that might happen along. The gentle slope from the mountains was of grass cut by numerous small ravines grown with low brush. This brush was so scanty as to afford but indifferent cover for anything larger than one of the small grass antelopes. All the ravines led down a mile or so to a deeper main watercourse paralleling the mountains. Some water stood in the pools here; and the cover was a little more dense, but consisted at best of but a "stringer" no wider than a city street. Flanking the stringer were scattered high bushes for a few yards; and then the open country. Altogether as unlikely a place for the shade-loving buffalo as could be imagined.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse