We reached a position within about 120 yards before the two fools observed us. They at once left off fighting, and having regarded us in astonishment for half a second, one dashed off to the left, and the other to the right, across the open plain devoid of bush, or ruts, or any obstacle to the highest speed.
At that same moment a cheetah that had been held in readiness leapt airily to the ground, and the chase commenced after the right-hand buck, which had a start of about 110 yards. The keeper simply begged us not to follow until he should give the word.
It was a magnificent sight to see the extraordinary speed of both the pursued and the pursuer. The buck flew like a bird along the level surface, followed by the cheetah, who was laying out at full stretch, with its long, thick tail brandishing in the air. They had run about 200 yards, when the keeper gave the word, and away we went as hard as the horses could go over this first-class ground, where no danger of a fall seemed possible. I never saw anything to equal the speed of the buck and cheetah; we were literally nowhere, although we were going as hard as horse-flesh could carry us, but we had a glorious view.
The cheetah was gaining in the course, literally flying along the ground, while the buck was exerting every muscle for life or death in its last race. Presently, after a course of about a quarter of a mile, the buck doubled like a hare, and the cheetah lost ground as it shot ahead, instead of turning quickly, being only about 30 yards in the rear of the buck. Recovering itself, it turned on extra steam, and the race appeared to recommence with increased speed. The cheetah was determined to win, and at this moment the buck made another double, in the hope of shaking off its terrible pursuer; but this time the cheetah ran cunningly, and was aware of the former game; it turned as sharp as the buck; gathering itself together for a final effort, it shot forward like an arrow, picked up the distance that remained between them, and in a cloud of dust for one moment we could distinguish two forms. The next instant the buck was on its back, and the cheetah's fangs were fixed like an iron vice upon its throat.
The course run was about 600 yards, and it was worth a special voyage to India only to see that hunt. The cheetah was panting to an extent that made it difficult to retain its hold. There were a few drops of blood issuing from a prick through the skin of the right haunch, where the cheetah's nails had inflicted a trifling wound when it delivered the usual telling blow of the fore paw, that felled the buck to the ground when going at full speed; beyond this there was no blood, until the keeper cut the throat in the customary manner, and the cheetah, much exhausted, was led to its cage. This was a very exceptional hunt, and a friend who was present declared he had never seen anything to equal it, although he had been all his life in India.
We had several courses, but nothing equalled this exciting hunt. On one occasion the cheetah was slipped at too great a distance, the herd being at least 350 yards ahead. The animal, after a vain effort, was well aware of the impossibility; it accordingly ran up a solitary tree with the agility of a monkey.
From this height the cheetah surveyed the retreating herd of antelopes, and refused to descend when summoned. It was necessary for the attendant to mount the tree, but the difficulty was increased by the cheetah making unamiable faces as the man approached his perch. The wooden ladle was now produced as a lure, and after some hesitation the animal followed the man as he descended; the hood was adjusted over the eyes, and the cheetah was replaced within its cage.
From the description given of the various classes of leopards, the destruction committed by these animals may be easily imagined; fortunately they do not breed like our domestic cats, but they seldom have more than two, or at the most three cubs at a birth. I have always been of opinion that the Government should cease to offer a reward for the destruction of tigers (50 rupees), but that an increased reward should be given for the death of every leopard (25 rupees). The tigers will be always killed by Europeans who do not require the inducement of a bonus, and the sum of 25 rupees would incite the natives to trap and destroy a common pest and scourge (the leopard), which seldom or never affords the hunter a chance of sport.
The cheetah (Felis jubata) should be exempted from this decree, as it seldom attacks domestic animals, but confines its attention to the beasts of the plains and forests.
THE LION (FELIS LEO)
I have left this grand example of the genus Felis to conclude the species, as the tiger is so closely associated with the elephant that I was forced to accord it a place in direct sequence.
In the early days of the world's history the lion occupied a very extensive area; it was common in Mesopotamia, and in Syria, in Persia, and throughout the whole of India. It is now confined to a limited number in Guzerat, and a few in Persia. Beyond these localities it has ceased to exist in Asia. There can be little doubt that, unless specially protected, it will become extinct in Asia within the next hundred years.
Africa is the only portion of the globe where the lion remains lord of the forest, as the king of beasts. The question has frequently been discussed, "Why should the lion have vanished from the scene where in ancient days he reigned in all his glory?" The answer is simple, the lions have been exterminated.
There is a nobility in the character of a lion which differs entirely from the slinking habits of tigers, leopards, and the feline race in general. Although the lion is fond of dense retreats, he exposes himself in many ways, which the tiger seldom or never does, unless compelled by a line of beaters. This exposure, or carelessness of concealment, renders his destruction comparatively easy.
On the other hand, the lioness brings forth a numerous family, generally five or six at a birth, which should keep up the number of the race; in spite of this prolific nature, the lion having from time immemorial been an attraction to the mighty hunter, man has proved too much for him.
The Indian species is considerably smaller than the African variety, and the mane is seldom so dark in colour, or so shaggy. tiger, as the animals differ in form and muscular development. I have never weighed a lion, but I feel convinced that a fine specimen would be heavier than an equally well selected example of a tiger, as the former is immensely massive, especially about the chest and shoulders. The head and neck are larger, although, when boiled and cleaned, the skull does not exceed in size that of an ordinary tiger. It may be safely stated that a lion which measures 9 ft. 8 inches in length would weigh heavier than a tiger of the same dimensions. I have already described that the tiger when springing to the attack does not strike a crushing blow, but merely seizes with its claws. A lion, on the contrary, strikes with terrible strength, at the same time that it fixes its claws upon its victim. The force of this blow is terrific, and many a man has been killed outright as though struck with a sledge-hammer. An instance of this fatal onset deprived me of a most intelligent and excellent German, with whom I was associated during a hunting season in the Soudan.
Florian was a Bavarian who came to Khartoum in the service of the Austrian Mission, employed as a mason. This man had a natural aptitude for mechanical contrivances, and quickly abandoning the Jesuit Mission, after the completion of the extensive convent at the junction of the two Niles, he and a carpenter of the same nation formed a partnership of hunters and traders, establishing themselves at Sofi on the frontier of Abyssinia. They built a couple of circular huts of neatly squared stones, and not only shot hippopotami in the Atbara river, but manufactured extremely good whips from their skins. These were very superior in finish to the ordinary "courbatch" of the Arabs, and they met with a ready sale. Florian excelled as a carpenter, although a mason by profession; he made exquisite camel saddles for the Arab sheiks; these (moghaloufa) were cut from the heart of a tough wood which never warped (Rhamnus Lotus), and were highly prized by the experienced Arabs of the desert. The rainy season was industriously employed in such useful manufactures, and when the dry months arrived, these two excellent men started upon hunting expeditions, and combined business with pleasure.
Although Florian was clever with both head and hands, he was a bad shot; his guns were of a common and dangerous description, one of which burst, and blew his left thumb and forefinger off. After his recovery from this accident he still excelled in work, but he was exceedingly clumsy with his weapons, which were always going off by accident. Upon several occasions these unintentional explosions took place so close to my own head that I suggested it would be safer should he adopt solitary rambles instead of shooting in company.
One night he killed an elephant while watching by moonlight at a drinking-place. On the following morning he sent a trustworthy Tokroori native with an axe to cut out the tusks. The man presently returned with the news that a large lion had eaten a portion of the elephant, and was lying asleep close by, beneath a tree.
Florian immediately gave his man a single-barrelled rifle, and taking a double smooth-bore himself, the two proceeded together towards the spot. Upon arrival at the place where the body of the elephant was lying, the lion was immediately discovered beneath a leafless bush, where it had been seen by the Tokroori. The animal appeared to be thoroughly gorged with elephant's flesh, and, half asleep in the hot sun, it took very little notice of the two men, but remained crouched upon the bare ground, neither grass nor leaves at that dry season existing to form a cover for retreat.
Florian advanced boldly to within about 20 yards, the lion merely regarding him with sleepy astonishment, until he took aim and fired. He missed! The lion instantly assumed an attitude ready for a spring. Florian aimed between the eyes, and again fired. He missed again! The response was immediate: the lion gave a roar, and bounded forward; with a terrific blow upon the head it felled the unfortunate Florian to the ground, and seized him by the neck. Almost at the same moment the faithful Tokroori rushed forward to assist his master, and, afraid to fire lest he should hit him by mistake during the confusion of the struggle, he actually pushed the muzzle of the rifle into the lion's ear and pulled the trigger. The lion fell dead upon the lifeless body of Florian.
Dr. Ori, an Italian in the service of the Egyptian Dr. Ori, an Italian in the service of the Egyptian Government, was at that time purchasing wild animals of the Hamran Arab sword-hunters, and was in camp within a half-hour's march. The Tokroori brought the tragic news, and a party started for the fatal spot. Dr. Ori subsequently described to me the effect of the lion's blow. The skull, which had received its full force, was completely shattered, as if it had been a cocoa-nut struck with a hammer, and several of the lion's claws had penetrated through the bone, as though they had been driven like a nail.
If that had been the attack of a tiger, the skull would not have been injured, although the scalp would have been badly lacerated, and death would have been occasioned by the grip of the jaws upon the neck, not by the blow.
Another instance of the great force of a lion's blow was witnessed by my late friend, Monsieur Lafargue, whom I knew when he was a resident of Berber in the Soudan. This French gentleman was agent to Halim Pasha, the uncle of His Highness Ismail the Ex-Khedive. Halim Pasha was a man of great energy, and he was the first personage in the history of Egypt who sent a steamer from Cairo to ascend the cataracts of the Nile and reach Khartoum. This was accomplished after extreme difficulty in experimenting upon the course of nearly 1600 miles of river, the navigation of which was then unknown to others beyond the native owners of small vessels. Halim Pasha was the first to attempt the commercial development of the White Nile, and Monsieur Lafargue was an admirable representative of his august employer. The steamer arrived safely at Khartoum, and was engaged in the trade of the Blue Nile to Fazocle, and through the White Nile to the unknown, as in those days Khartoum was the southern boundary of Egypt.
Monsieur Lafargue was a charming man, highly educated, with a mind of a peculiar character, that enabled him to lead a happy life in the remote wilderness of the Soudan. It was difficult to understand, when conversing with him in his beautiful house at Berber, or sitting together in his garden on the extreme margin of the Nile, while the desert sands upon the east side of the wall showed the limit of civilisation and fertility, how any man of culture could endure to pass his entire existence in such a narrow boundary—the Nile, the fruitful source, upon one side, and the desert 200 yards beyond; sterile, only because the water could not reach its surface.
He had his books, all the monthly periodicals from Europe, and his newspapers; he also had his private affairs, his agency, which occupied his time; in addition, he had a wife, an Abyssinian lady of great beauty, and of gentle sympathetic disposition. To her husband she was as the moon is to the traveller upon an otherwise dark night. Her story was too romantic and sad to be lightly introduced, but her husband had given up his country, and his family in France, after having made his fortune in the Soudan, entirely upon her account. He described her to me as the "gazelle of the desert, that was contented and happy in its native sands, but would die in the atmosphere of conventional civilisation."
Monsieur Lafargue held a deservedly high position among all classes in the Soudan. He had discovered that no legitimate commerce was possible with the savages of the White Nile; he had therefore advised his employer to that effect, and he had resigned all hope of effecting the original object of his expedition. He was therefore carrying on a business with the native merchants, from whom he purchased gum-arabic from Kordofan, ivory from the White Nile, hides from the Arabs generally, cotton, and cereals, all of which, as opportunity offered, he either sent down the river or across the Korosko desert to Egypt proper.
We were talking about lions, and he told me the following account of what he witnessed as he was returning from the White Nile upon the steamer, then en route towards Khartoum.
The dry season was at its height; all the high grass and other herbage along the river's banks had been burnt by the natives, and the surface of the earth was black and bare. The steamer was going easily down stream, saving her fuel, and as they floated along, with the paddles revolving slowly, a lion was observed upon the dark and lately blackened bank. The vessel was at once stopped, and a trustworthy Tokroori hunter of Lafargue's volunteered to shoot the lion. The man was confident; accordingly he was put ashore, armed only with a single-barrelled rifle.
From the poop-deck of the steamer the whole affair was distinctly visible. They saw the bold Tokroori advance unconcernedly towards the lion, which, although standing when first observed, now immediately crouched. The Tokroori advanced until he was only a few yards distant: he then halted, and fired. With a loud roar the lion flew to the attack, and with a terrific blow it struck the hunter upon the shoulder. The effect was awful; the man was dashed violently upon the ground, and the lion fell across his body; after a few gasps it rolled over and died. The Tokroori never moved.
The steamer was now run alongside the bank, and Monsieur Lafargue, with a number of men, quickly went ashore. Both the Tokroori and the lion were quite dead. The bullet had struck the animal in the chest, and had passed through the heart. The Tokroori's arm was hanging from the hip! It had not only been completely dislocated at the shoulder by the blow, but it had been torn or struck downwards with such extreme force that the flesh had been entirely stripped off the ribs and the side; the arm at the extremity of this ruin was dangling upon the ground, hanging only to the hip by the flesh attached. The Tokroori had been killed on the spot by the shock to the system. This was a remarkable example of force. On the other hand, although the lion frequently uses this dreadful power of striking when in full charge, there are many cases when the animal seizes simply with teeth and claws, like a tiger or others of the race. (A tiger possesses the power to deliver a tremendous blow, but it seldom exercises this force.)
I am of opinion that the act of striking would depend upon the position of the animal or person attacked. There can be no doubt that a lion could fell an ordinary bullock by a blow upon the neck, should it attack from one side, but it would be extremely unlikely that it would strike any horned animal upon the head, as it would risk serious damage to the paw. We have seen that the cheetah strikes the haunch of a black-buck when coursing at full speed, and it is highly probable that the lion would exert its prodigious strength in the same manner, to stun the hind-quarters by the stroke, and, by throwing the animal upon one side, to expose the throat to the grip of the powerful jaws. All beasts of prey occasionally meet with dangerous antagonists, and should the first spring fail, the lion may find an adversary worthy of its fangs in a staunch old African buffalo, in which case the battle would be worth a journey to be witnessed. I once discovered the dislocated skeleton of a buffalo almost intermingled with the broken bones of a lion, the skull of which was lying near, while the skull of the buffalo, devoid of the nasal bones, was lying within a few feet distant, gnawed by jackals and hyenas. The ground had been deeply trampled, showing the desperate character of the recent struggle, which had terminated in the death of both combatants. It is highly probable that two lions had simultaneously attacked the buffalo, who had succumbed after having vanquished one assailant. This is a very common practice among lions, to hunt in company. Mr. Oswell in South Africa had a peculiar example of this when in a day's hunting his friend Major Vardon had wounded a bull buffalo, which had retreated within the forest. The two hunters carefully followed the blood-track, but after a short advance they were startled by a succession of loud roars, which betokened lions close at hand.
There could be little doubt that the wounded buffalo had been attacked; therefore, with proper precaution, they warily approached the spot, until the exciting scene presented itself suddenly on the other side of a large fallen tree, which happily concealed the approach of the two companions.
Three lions were engaged in a life-and-death combat with the gallant old bull, who made a desperate defence, first knocking over one of his enemies, then boring another to the ground, and exhibiting a strength which appeared sufficient to defeat the combination. Suddenly the buffalo fell dead; this was the result of the original wound, as the rifle bullet had passed through the lungs.
The lions were not aware of this, and a quarrel among themselves commenced after their imagined victory. One huge beast reared to half its full height and placed its fore paws upon the body of the prostrate buffalo, while at the head and the hindquarters an angry lion clutched the dead body in its spreading paws, and growled at the possessor of the centre. This formed a grand picture within only a few yards' distance, but a couple of shots from either rifle stretched two lions rolling upon the ground, and the third, terrified at the unexpected reports, bounded into the thick covert and disappeared.
A very good sportsman named Johann Schmidt, a Bavarian who died in my service when in Africa, killed two lions in the act of attacking a giraffe. I saw the skeletons of these animals in the bed of the river Royan a few days after the incident. At that dry season of the year the Royan was devoid of water, except at certain bends where the current had scooped out a deep hole beneath the bank. Johann Schmidt was a poor man, who could not afford the luxury of first-rate rifles; he therefore did his best with most inferior arms, one of which was a light double-barrelled smooth-bore muzzle-loader No. 16. This was a French gun, for which he had given 50 francs at Cairo. By some chance, this common little weapon shot remarkably well with ball and 3 drams of powder. It became his favourite companion. He was strolling one day along the bank of the Royan in Abyssinia, looking carefully down its sandy bed, when he came near to a water-hole in the long intervals, and he suddenly heard the peculiar sounds of a great encounter. The dust was flying high in the air, and as he approached the spot, within the yellow surface of the river's bed, he saw a cloud of sand, in the centre of which was the large body and long neck of a bull giraffe struggling against the attack of two lions. One of these was fastened upon its throat, while the other was mounted upon its hind-quarters, where it was holding on with teeth and claws. Johann concealed himself behind a large tree which grew upon the bank; this abrupt margin was about 20 feet above the river's bed, and not 50 yards from the scene of a hopeless conflict.
The giraffe had no chance; and after a sharp struggle before the eyes of the well-concealed spectator, it was pulled down, and both lions commenced to growl over their contested prey. The position upon a perpendicular bank being thoroughly secure, Johann took a steady shot, and rolled one lion over, close to the dying giraffe; the other looked round for a moment, and sprang up the bank upon the opposite side of the river, but this, being perpendicular, was too high to permit of a direct retreat; a bullet from the remaining barrel struck it through the back, and paralysed the hind-quarters. The animal fell backwards upon the sandy surface of the river, and rolled over helplessly, as the hind legs had lost all power. This gave Johann time to reload, and, seeing that the lion was completely at his mercy, he descended into the river's bed and put a bullet through its head.
The giraffe was still alive, therefore another ball was necessary to complete its despatch; and Johann remained in triumph, having bagged two lions and a giraffe with a gun worth only 50 francs.
I have heard so many tales of lions which have carried away oxen from a kraal, that I have endeavoured to unravel what appears to be a mysterious impossibility. An experienced friend of mine was present when, during the night, a lion bounded over the fence of thorns which formed a protection to the camp, and seizing a full-grown bullock, it jumped the fence, carrying the victim with it.
In the confusion of a night attack the scare is stupendous, and no person would be able to declare that he actually saw the lion jump the fence with the bullock in its grip. It might appear to do this, but the ox would struggle violently, and in this struggle it would most probably burst through the fence, and subsequently be dragged away by the lion, in a similar manner to the custom already described of tigers. It is quite a mistake to suppose that a lion can carry a full-grown ox; it will partially lift the fore-quarters, and drag the carcase along the ground.
Upon one occasion I was strolling through the forest on the margin of the Settite river in Abyssinia, and I suddenly met a large bull buffalo which was exactly facing me, having probably obtained my wind beforehand. It was not more than 20 yards distant, and it threw up its wicked head with the nose pointed directly at me, in the well-known fashion which makes a shot at the forehead utterly impossible. Knowing that my double-barrelled No. 10 with 7 drams of powder would have sufficient penetration, I aimed exactly at the nostril, then fully dilated by the excitement of the animal, and fired. The shot was instantly fatal, as the hard bullet of quicksilver and lead not only passed through the brain, having entered at the nose, but it penetrated far into the neck and cavity of the chest. This was a very large beast, and knowing that the dense covert of nabbuk (Rhamnus Lotus) close by was a great resort of lions, I determined to leave the carcase for the night in the spot where it was then lying.
On the following morning I revisited the place with two of my excellent Tokrooris; we found many fresh footprints of lions in the sandy soil, and a broad trace about 4 feet wide, where the body had been dragged away. This had apparently been effected by more than one lion, as the footprints varied in size.
There was a vast mass of dense green nabbuk growing parallel with the banks of the river. This was an opaque screen of thorny foliage, covering an area of about 200 yards in width, but extending for a great distance. The nabbuk tree bears a small apple the size of a nutmeg, rather sweet, and pleasant to the taste; but the tangled mass, when growing upon the sandy loam near water, is absolutely impenetrable to a human being. Into this secure retreat the lions had crept, forming dark tunnels about 3 1/2 or 4 feet high, for some unknown distance.
The trace of the dragged buffalo led direct to the entrance of one of these obscure tunnels, and there could be no doubt that the carcase was within, and the lions not far distant. I have frequently looked back to absurdities that have been scathelessly committed; among these on more than one occasion I have foolishly ventured upon the exploration of a lion's retreat. With two of my Tokrooris following with spare rifles (all muzzle-loaders) I crept upon hands and knees into the dark tunnel, upon the trace of the dragged buffalo. A light double-barrelled '577 was my companion.
After a few yards the tunnel became much narrowed, and was hardly more than 3 feet 6 inches in height. The bush (evergreen) was so dense that it was very dark, and I could not see any tracks of lions upon the ground over which I crept; cautiously, advancing, with both barrels upon full cock. About 70 yards had been passed in this manner when I distinctly smelt the heavy odour of raw flesh and offal. I looked behind me, and my two men were keeping well together. There could be no doubt that the carcase of the buffalo was not far off, and it was highly probable that the lions would be in forcible possession. We crept forward with extreme caution. The faint and disagreeable smell increased, and was almost insupportable. I presently heard the cracking of a bone, and there could be no doubt that the lions were close at hand. I once more looked round to see if my men were coming on; they were both close up. We crept noiselessly forward for a few yards, and suddenly a dark object appeared to block the tunnel; in another moment I distinguished the grand head and dark mane of a noble lion on the other side of a mass which proved to be the remains of the bull buffalo; another head, of a lioness, arose upon the right, and at the same instant, with a tremendous roar, the scene changed before I had time to fire. We were alone with the remains of the buffalo, and I believe three lions had decamped, never to be seen again in the obscurity of the dense green nabbuk. We were actually in possession, having driven the lions from their prey, simply by our cautious advance, without a shot.
It required some time and trouble to cut off the head of that bull buffalo in the narrow limits of the lion's den, but it hangs upon my walls now as a trophy that might be won from a lion, but never could have been wrested in the same manner from a tiger.
Upon another occasion I crept in a similar manner into one of their dark tunnels, and shot the lion within a distance of four paces, but I never recovered the body, as the animal bounded into the dense thorny substance, which it was impossible for any human being to penetrate. The Hamran Arabs persuaded me to discontinue this kind of exploration, and my Tokrooris having taken the same view of the performance, I gave up the practice, as I did not succeed in actually bagging a lion by the attempt.
In the locality which I have mentioned, the lions, although numerous, were never regarded as dangerous unless attacked; there was an abundance of game, therefore the carnivora were plentifully supplied, and a large area of country being entirely uninhabited, the lions were unaccustomed to the sight of human beings, and held them in respect. During the night we took the precaution to light extensive bonfires within our camp, which was well protected by a circular fence of impenetrable thorns, but we were never threatened by wild animals except upon one occasion.
I was strolling in search of food, with a particular two-grooved single rifle No. 14 which was extremely accurate. Having shot a nellut (A. Strepsiceros), the animal was fixed upon a camel and immediately forwarded to camp, towards which I advanced by a circuitous direction in the expectation of finding other game. The country was perfectly flat in the vicinity of the river, and although much covered with dense bush, it was interspersed with numerous small glades, covered with parched herbage 2 or 3 feet in height. A few Tokrooris accompanied me with spare rifles (all muzzle-loaders, as the breech action had not been introduced in those days), and I was leading the way, occasionally breaking through the intervening bush, with as little noise as possible.
Suddenly, as I was only half emerged from a line of dark green nabbuk, I was surprised by a short roar close to me, and I immediately saw the shoulders and the hinder portion of a lion, the head being concealed by the bush, from which I had not completely emerged. I could have touched it by stretching out my rifle, but personally I was quite unobserved. There was not a moment to lose, and I fired through the centre of the shoulder. With a short roar the lion disappeared; there was a rushing sound in the bushes, and almost immediately another lion occupied the exact position that had been quitted by the lioness. They must have been lying down together when startled by our appearance, or rather by the noise of our approach. This was a splendid chance, but I was unloaded; I stretched my right arm behind me, expecting to receive a spare rifle from my faithful Tokrooris, but they had retreated from the scene, and I remained within 6 feet of a lion's flank with an unloaded rifle and no companion. The lion's head and neck were quite concealed by the dense green bush, and I had no other course to pursue than to reload my rifle. The first tap that I gave the bullet when ramming it home, scared the lion, and with a loud roar it sprang forward and disappeared. My recreant followers now returned, and having administered a few kicks, I took a double-barrelled rifle and we commenced a strict search for the wounded animal. Directed by a low moan, we found her within a few yards, dying; it was a lioness, but there was no trace of her companion, which had been so lately within my reach.
The spare camel was now brought up, and with great difficulty my three Tokrooris, the Hamran Arab, and myself succeeded in placing the lioness across the saddle, having first opened and cleaned the body to reduce the weight.
Blood trickled from the carcase, and dropped upon the ground, thus forming a trace throughout the route until we reached the camp. The lioness was 9 feet 1 inch in length, and, when skinned, the body was dragged to a considerable distance and left for the hyenas.
The fires were blazing after sunset; the horses of my Hamran hunters, and my own, were picqueted within the centre of our enclosure, near the tent, and we were about to retire for the night, when a deep guttural sigh was heard close to the high and impervious fence of kittur thorns. This had been carefully constructed, as life was most uncertain within that questionable district, where the Arab hunting parties invariably killed all natives of the crafty Base tribe whenever met, and they incurred a similar retaliation. The fence was made of entire trees cut off near the roots, and then dragged by the stems into line, with their wide-spreading heads of sharp hooked thorns forming the outside surface; these were locked together by their hooks, entangled, and nothing could possibly have broken through, except an elephant or rhinoceros.
Prowling around this excellent protection was a lion, who was pronounced by my hunters to be the mate of the lioness which I had killed; it was declared that the disconsolate husband had followed the course of his wife's body, denoted by the drops of blood that had dripped upon the ground when carried by the camel towards the camp. My people were of opinion that the lion was determined upon vengeance, and that he would assuredly bound over our fence, although he could not absolutely break through it.
The night was always interesting upon the banks of the Settite river, as vast numbers of wild animals were astir half an hour after sunset, which either came down to drink, or to wander in search of green pasturage, that was only to be found in places from which the water had retreated. The lions were accordingly on the alert, and the threatening sound of their deep voices was to be heard in every direction, until approaching daylight drove them to their thickets.
There is nothing so beautiful, or enjoyable to my ears, as the roar of a lion upon a still night, when everything is calm, and no sound disturbs the solitude except the awe-inspiring notes, like the rumble of distant thunder, as they die away into the deepest bass. The first few notes somewhat resemble the bellow of a bull; these are repeated in slow succession four or five times, after which the voice is sunk into a lower key, and a number of quick short roars are at length followed by rapid coughing notes, so deep and powerful that they seem to vibrate through the earth.
Our nocturnal visitor did not indulge in the usual solo, but he continued throughout the night to patrol the circuit of the camp, occasionally betraying his presence by a guttural roar, or by the well- known deep sigh which exhibited the capacity of his lungs. We could not see to shoot, owing to the darkness outside the fence, and the brightness of our fire within the camp; this my men industriously replenished with wood, and occasionally hurled fire-brands in the direction of the intruder.
At length we went to sleep, leaving the natives to keep watch; they declared that nothing would induce them to close their eyes, as the lion would assuredly carry off one of the party before the morning. To their great discontent, I refused to disturb the night by firing a gun, as I had determined to hunt up the lion on the following day at sunrise.
Upon waking early, we discovered the deep footprints upon the sandy soil, which had marked a well-beaten path around our impenetrable fence, showing that the lion had been patrolling steadily throughout the night. This fact led me to suppose that I should most probably find him somewhere within a very short distance of the camp. I started with some of my best men, and instead of a light single-barrel I carried my '577 rifle.
The position of our camp was exceedingly favourable for game, as the river made a circuitous bend, which had in ages past thrown up a mass of alluvial soil of several hundred acres, all of which was now covered with a succession of dense patches of nabbuk jungle, interspersed with forest trees and numerous small glades of fine dwarf grass, which formed a sward. I felt certain that our visitor of the last night must be somewhere in this neighbourhood, and I determined to devote the entire day to a rigorous search; in this my men were unanimous, as they objected to passing another night in sleepless excitement and anxiety.
Luck was against us. I had numerous opportunities during the day of shooting other animals, but I was devoted entirely to the lion, which we could not find.
I was scratched with countless thorns, as we broke through the thickest bushes, peering beneath their dark shade, and searching every acre of the ground in vain. In spite of the great heat, we worked from early morning until half an hour before sunset without resting from our work; all to no purpose; there were tracks of lions in all directions, but the animal itself was invisible. It was time to turn towards home, and I led the way through low bush and sandy glades not larger than an ordinary room, all of which were so much alike that it was difficult to decide whether we had examined them before, during the day's hard march. In several places we discovered our own footprints, and thus cheerlessly we sauntered homewards, tired, and somewhat disgusted at the failure.
We were within half a mile of the camp, and I was pushing my way through some dwarf green nabbuk about 5 feet high, when, upon breaking into a small open glade, a large lion with a dark shaggy mane started to its feet from the spot where it had been lying, probably half asleep. I instantly fired, before it had time to bound into the thick jungle, and with tremendous roars it rolled over beneath the dense nabbuk bushes, where at this late hour the shade was almost dark. As quick as possible I fired a second shot, as it was rolling over and over, with extraordinary struggles, and it disappeared in the almost impervious bush, dragging its hind legs in such a manner that I felt sure the spine was broken by the bullet. It was so dark that we could not discern the figure of the animal beneath the thorns, although it was only a few feet distant. Having reloaded, I hardly knew what course to pursue; we had no means of driving the lion from the bush, I therefore examined the ground, and we discovered that the nabbuk into which it had retreated was simply an isolated clump, surrounded by narrow glades of sandy turf. From this asylum I felt sure it could not move, and although it would have been more heroic to have crept into the dark cover and have given it a quietus, or more probably to have received it myself, we came to the wise conclusion that if the lion could not move, it would be there on the following morning, when we should have daylight in our favour.
We returned to camp, and the night passed without disturbance. Directly after sunrise we returned to the spot, and we found the lion still alive, although completely paralysed in the hinder portions. A shot in the centre of the forehead terminated the affair, and the joint efforts of ten men succeeded after great exertion in sliding the carcase upon three inclined poles from the ground to the saddle, while the camel was kneeling in a slight hollow, which the people had scraped away for the purpose.
I had no means of weighing this animal, but it was immensely massive, and would according to my estimation have exceeded 500 lbs.
The accounts published respecting the character of lions differ to such a degree that incidents which are considered natural in one portion of Africa may be regarded as incredible in other districts; there can be little doubt that the character of the animal is influenced by the conditions of its surroundings, which renders it extremely difficult to write a comprehensive account, that will embrace the entire family of lions throughout the world. Roualeyn Gordon Cumming gave a terrible description of a night attack upon his camp, when a lion bounded over the thorn fence, and seizing a sleeping servant from beneath his blanket close to the camp fire, carried him off into the surrounding darkness, and deliberately devoured every portion, excepting one leg, which was found on the following morning, bitten off at the knee-joint. This was the more extraordinary, as another man was at the same time asleep under the blanket with the unfortunate victim; this courageous fellow snatched a heavy firebrand from the pile, and beat the lion on the head in the endeavour to save his friend. Instead of relinquishing its prey, the lion dragged the man only a short distance, and commenced its meal so immediately that the cracking of bones could be heard throughout the night.
In southern Africa a night attack by lions upon the oxen belonging to the waggons is by no means uncommon, in books published concerning expeditions to that country, but in nine years' experience of camp life in Africa, both equatorial and to 14 degrees north of the equator, I have never even heard of any actual depredation committed by lions upon a camp or upon a night's bivouac; the nearest approach was the threatening nocturnal visit already described, where no actual damage was inflicted.
There is an instinct natural to all animals which gives them due warning whether man approaches them with hostile intent, and there can be no doubt that every wild animal possesses this discriminating power, and would be influenced according to circumstances. My own experience has led me to an opinion that the lion is not so dangerous as the tiger, although, if wounded and followed up, there cannot be a more formidable antagonist.
Upon several occasions I have seen lions close to me when I have had no opportunity of shooting, and they have invariably passed on without the slightest signs of angry feeling. I was riding along a very desolate path, and a lioness, followed by five nearly full-grown young ones, walked quietly from the jungle, and they crossed within a few yards of my horse's head, apparently without fear or evil disposition. I well remember, at the close of a long march we halted beneath a large tree, which I considered would form an agreeable shade for our tent. I gave my rifle to a servant, who deposited it against the tree, preparatory to my dismounting, when a lioness emerged from the bushes, and walked unconcernedly through our party, within only a few feet of the startled horses. She disappeared without having condescended to increase her pace.
Upon another occasion I had fired the grass, which had left a perfectly clean surface after the blaze. The night was bright moonlight, and I was standing in front of the tent door, when a large, maned lion and a lioness crossed the open space within 10 or 12 yards of my position, and stood for a few moments regarding the white tent; they passed slowly forward, but had disappeared before I had time to return with a rifle.
I once saw a wounded lion decline a challenge from a single hunter. It is possible that a tiger might have behaved in the same manner, but it would be dangerous to allow the opportunity. I had taken a stroll in the hope of obtaining a shot at large antelopes, to procure flesh for camp, and I was attended by only one Arab, a Hamran hunter armed with his customary sword and shield. Having a peculiar confidence in the accuracy of a two-grooved single rifle of small bore, I took no other, and we walked cautiously through the jungle, expecting to meet some animal that would supply the necessary food. We had not walked half a mile when we emerged upon a narrow glade about 80 yards in length, surrounded by thick bush. At one end of this secluded and shady spot an immense lion was lying asleep upon the ground, about 70 yards distant, on the verge of the dense nabbuk.
He rose majestically as we disturbed him by our noise in breaking through the bushes, and before he had time to arrange his ideas, I fired, hitting him through the shoulder. With the usual roars he rolled several times in apparent convulsive struggles, until half hidden beneath the dense jungle; there he remained.
If I had had a double rifle I could have repeated the shot, but in those days of muzzle-loaders I had to reload a single rifle, and as usual, when in a hurry, the bullet stuck in the barrel and I could not drive it home.
In this perplexity, to my astonishment my Arab hunter advanced towards the wounded lion, with his drawn sword grasped firmly in his right hand, while his left held his projected shield, and thus unsupported and alone, this determined fellow marched slowly forward until within a few yards of the lion, which, instead of rushing to attack, crept like a coward into impenetrable thorns, and was seen no more. The Arab subsequently explained that he had acted in this manner, hoping that the lion would have crouched preparatory to a spring; he would then have halted, and the delay would have given me time to load.
I have before remarked upon the extreme danger of despising an adversary, and although I do not consider the lion to be so formidable or ferocious as the tiger, that is no reason for despising an animal which has always been respected from remote antiquity to the present day. It is impossible to be too careful when in pursuit of dangerous game. My friend Colonel Knox of the Scots Fusilier Guards, an experienced and fearless sportsman, very nearly lost his life in an encounter with a lioness, although under the circumstances he could hardly be blamed for want of due precaution. He had shot the animal, which was lying stretched out, as though dead. Being alone, he returned to camp to procure the necessary people, and together with these he went to the spot where he found the lioness in the same position. Naturally he considered that it was dead, but upon approaching the prostrate body he was instantly attacked, knocked down, and seized by the back; he would assuredly have been killed had he not been assisted by his followers. Although he killed the lioness, he was seriously mauled, and was laid up for a considerable period in consequence.
It would be easy to produce cases where lions have caused terrible fatalities, and others where they have failed to support their reputation for nobility and valour; but as I have already observed, there is no absolute certainty or undeviating rule in the behaviour of any animal. The natives of Central Africa, who are first-rate sportsmen, have no fear of the lion when undisturbed by hunters, but they hold him in the highest respect when he becomes the object of the chase. I have known a lion which, when stopped by the nets in one of the great African hunts, knocked over five men, all of whom were seriously wounded, and, although it was impaled by spears, it succeeded in evading a crowd of its pursuers.
Stories of lions are endless, and were they compiled, a most interesting work might result, but my object in producing a few anecdotes, mostly of my own personal experience, is to elucidate the character of the animals by various examples, which prove the impossibility of laying down any fixed or invariable rule.
There can be no doubt that the mode of hunting generally adopted in Central Africa is far more dangerous than the careful contrivances of India, where the tiger, as fully described, is hunted either upon elephants or by posting the guns in secure positions. Even in Rajpootana, where hunting is frequently conducted upon foot, the ground is specially favourable among deep and precipitous ravines, where abrupt rocks and perpendicular banks afford protection to the hunter.
In Central Africa the climate and fodder are so detrimental to horses that the explorer quickly discovers the utility of his own legs, and no experience is so conducive to steady and accurate shooting as the knowledge of an impossibility to escape by speed. We are all creatures of habit, and are more or less the slaves of custom; this is proved AD ABSURDUM by the peculiar feeling when a man who is accustomed to shoot tigers from the secure and lofty position in a tree, finds himself compelled to seek the animal upon foot. In Africa, also in Ceylon, the hunter is so much in the habit of standing upon his own legs that he ceases to fear the attack of any creature, feeling certain of the accuracy of his rifle; but this same individual would begin to feel unnaturally exposed if, after a continuous experience in secure mucharns and mounted upon elephants, he should be suddenly called upon to seek a wounded tiger or lion upon foot. I have never followed lions except on foot. They are killed by the Hamran Arabs on horseback; fairly hunted by two or three of these splendid fellows, and cut down by a stroke across the spine with the heavy broadsword.
The lion is never specially sought for by the natives of Central Africa, but should he be met with in their ordinary hunting expeditions, he takes his chance like all other animals, and is attacked either with arrows or the spear.
Many of the natives are exceedingly courageous, and will advance to the attack upon a lion with spear and shield, or even without the latter safeguard, as they are confident in the support of their companions in case of an emergency. I remember upon one occasion I had wounded a lioness by a shot in the chest from a very accurate but extremely ineffective rifle, which, although '577, carried a small charge of 2 1/2 drams of powder. The animal took refuge in a patch of high grass only a few yards square. Invisible in this retreat, my three hardy natives offered to go in and throw their spears at her, provided I would be ready to support them should she charge into the open when they had failed. This proceeding would have been a reflection upon our superior weapons, and I declined the proposal, as too dangerous to the men. I sent the natives to the summit of a white ant-hill about 7 feet high; from this they espied the animal lying in the yellow grass, but so indistinct that it was impossible to determine her exact position. I accordingly instructed the men to keep a sharp look-out, and to throw their spears should the lioness charge, as I would provoke an attack by firing a shot at hazard into the long grass. Placing Lieut. Baker, R. N., upon my right, with instructions to enfilade the expected attack, I advanced to within 20 yards of the grass, and fired into the spot she was supposed to occupy. The effect was instantaneous. At the report of the rifle the lioness uttered a loud roar and charged directly upon myself, the most prominent antagonist. I fired the left-hand barrel at her chest, but this miserable weapon had no penetration (it was the first and last that I ever possessed with a hollow bullet); the natives hurled their spears, but missed the flying mark; Lieut. Baker fired right and left with a No. 70 small-bore, which hit, but without effect. Everybody turned and ran at their best speed, as the lioness in hot pursuit was within a few feet of us. A native servant of Lieut. Baker passed me with his master's spare gun in his hand. To snatch this from the man, and to turn round and face the still roaring pursuer, was the work of an instant, and I fired into her chest a No. 12 spherical ball with 4 1/2 drams of powder from an ordinary smooth-bore. To my delight, this rolled her over and checked her onset; but she immediately sprang back to her asylum of yellow grass. We were now reduced to our original position, but I knew the wound would be quickly fatal.
The natives recovered their spears, while we all reloaded, and presently one of our people from the summit of the ant-hill excitedly pointed to an object in the high grass; within a distance of about eight yards I distinguished the back of the head and neck of the lioness. She was looking in the opposite direction; this gave me a fatal opportunity, and a shot in the nape of the neck settled the affair, after a well-contested struggle.
It was impossible to carry this animal, we therefore skinned it, and upon opening the stomach we found the sections of a fawn antelope; these when placed in position showed the entire animal, which she must have eaten a few hours previously. This was so fresh that my natives immediately made a fire and roasted the meat, which they ate with great enjoyment as a feast of victory. (We measured this lioness carefully with a piece of string; she was 9 feet 6 inches from nose to tip of tail.)
I shall say no more concerning lions, but I shall always admire the calm dignity of appearance, the massive strength, the quiet determination of expression, and the NOLI ME TANGERE decision, that represent the character of the nation which has selected this noble animal for its emblem.
I do not venture upon the extensive variety of smaller species of the genus Felis; but there is one in India which I have only observed upon two occasions; this is the colour of a puma, rather long in the leg, with pointed tufts of black hair at the tips of the ears, giving it the appearance of a lynx. I have a skin in my possession which I shot in the Central Provinces of India in 1888. The whole of the genus Felis, from the lion to the ordinary cat, have the same number of teeth-six cutting teeth, six front teeth, and two incisors in either jaw. The tongues are invariably rough, and in the lion and the tiger they are prickly to such a degree that flesh could be licked clean off the bone without the preliminary and impatient process of tearing by the teeth.
The often-questioned thorn in the extreme end of a lion's tail is by no means a fallacy; this is a distinct termination in a sharp horny point, which, although only a quarter of an inch or less in length, is most decided. I do not consider that there is any special use for this termination, any more than there would be for the tuft of black hair which forms the extremity, and which conceals the thorny substance.
THE BEAR (URSUS)
This is one of the oldest animals in history, and it has survived the attacks of man far more successfully than the more noble beast the lion. This survival may probably result from the secluded habits of the bear, which cannot be classed among the destroyers, such as the carnivora, although it is dangerous when hunted, and not unfrequently it attacks man without any provocation.
The nature of most animals may be judged by the formation of their teeth; those of the bear declare its omnivorous propensities—
In the upper jaw 12 molars, 2 canine, 6 incisors.
In the lower jaw 14 molars, 2 canine, 6 incisors.
There are so many varieties of the bear that it is impossible exactly to define the food of the species. We see the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), which, living upon seals and fish, differs from all others; the grizzly bear (Ursus ferox) of Western America, which will eat flesh when it can obtain it, but is a feeder upon roots and berries. Nearly all bears are inclined to vegetable food and insects, accepting flesh when they find the freshly killed body of an animal, but not seeking live creatures to kill and eat. The sloth bear of India is an exception to this rule, as it refuses flesh, and lives simply upon fruits, berries, leaves of certain trees, roots, and insects of all kinds, the favourite bonne bouche being the nest of white ants (Termites), for which it will dig a large hole in the hardest soil to a depth of 2 or 3 feet. The molars of bears have a close resemblance to those of a human being, exhibiting a grinding surface for the mastication of all manner of substances. The nose is used as a snout, for turning over stones which lie upon the surface, in search of insects, slugs, worms, and other creatures, as nothing comes amiss to the appetite of a bear.
The claws of the fore paws are three or four inches in length, and are useful implements for digging. It is astonishing to see the result upon soil that would require a pick-axe to excavate a hole. Upon the hard sides of such pits as those made in search of white ants, the claw-marks are deeply imprinted, showing the labour that has been expended for a most trifling prize, as the nest when found would only yield a few mouthfuls. I have never appreciated the name of "sloth bear" given to Ursus labiatus, as it is a creature that works hard for its food throughout the year, and being an inhabitant of the tropics, it never hybernates. This species is very active, and although it refuses flesh, it is one of the most mischievous of its kind, as it will frequently attack man without the slightest reason, but from sheer pugnacity. A full-grown male weighs from 280 to 300 lbs. The skin is exceedingly thick and heavy. The hair is long and coarse, with a bunch upon its back of at least 7 inches in length, but there is a total absence of fur, therefore the hide has no commercial value. The chest is marked by a peculiar pattern in whitish brown, resembling a horse-shoe, which is the mark for aim when the animal rears upon its hind legs to attack. There are five claws upon the fore feet, and the same number upon the hinder paws. Although these are not retractile, neither are they so curved or sharp as those of the genus Felis; they inflict terrible wounds upon a human being, and when the head of a man has been in a bear's grip it has generally been completely scalped. I have heard of more than one instance where the scalp has been torn from the back of the neck and pulled over the eyes, as though it had been a wig.
The Ursus labiatus seldom produces more than two or three at a birth, and the young cub is extremely ugly, but immensely powerful in limbs and claws. I have seen a very young animal which held on to the inside of its basket when inverted, and although shaken with great force, nothing would dislodge its tenacious clutch; this specimen was about six weeks old.
Although many varieties of bears are tree-climbers, there are others which are contented with the ground, and which could not ascend a tree even should they be tempted by its fruit. The grizzly bear (Ursus ferox) belongs to this class, and his enormous weight would at any time necessitate especial care when experimenting upon the strength of boughs. I do not believe that any person has actually weighed a grizzly, but an approximate idea may be obtained through a comparison with the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), which is somewhat equal in size, probably superior. When I was in California, experienced informants assured me that no true grizzly bear was to be found east of the Pacific slope, and that Lord Coke was the only Britisher who had ever killed a real grizzly in California. There are numerous bears of three if not four varieties in the Rocky Mountains, and these are frequently termed grizzlies, as a misnomer; but the true grizzly is far superior in size, although similar in habits, and his weight varies from 1200 to 1400 lbs.
Mr. Lamont, in his interesting work Yachting in the Arctic Seas, gives the most accurate account of all Arctic animals that he killed, and having the advantage of his own yacht, he was able to weigh the various beasts, and thus afford the most valuable information in detail. This is his account of a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) which he himself killed :-
"He was so large and heavy that we had to fix the ice-anchor, and drag him up with block and tackle, as if he had been a walrus. This was an enormous old male bear, and measured upwards of 8 feet in length, almost as much in circumference, and 4 1/2 feet at the shoulder; his fore paws were 34 inches in circumference, and had very long, sharp, and powerful nails; his hair was beautifully thick, long, and white, and hung several inches over his feet. He was in very high condition, and produced nearly 400 lbs. of fat; his skin weighed upwards of 100 lbs., and the entire carcase of the animal cannot have been less than 1600 lbs."
This weight is equivalent to a large-sized English cart-horse. I have seen one of the skins procured by Mr. Lamont, and I can readily appreciate his account of the weight. I have also seen a skin of a grizzly bear killed at Alaska by Sir Thomas Hesketh; this was cured by Mr. Rowland Ward, who showed it to me at his establishment, 160 Piccadilly, and it was very little inferior to the skin of the polar bear. I quite believe the accounts I have received in California are correct, and that the grizzly may sometimes exceed 1400 lbs. in weight. There is a considerable difference in size between the male and female, the former being superior. Like all other animals, the mother is particularly attached to her young, and when in company with them she is more than ordinarily ferocious, as she appears to suspect every stranger of some hostile intentions towards her offspring.
The increase of population in many countries has resulted in the destruction of all animals that were considered dangerous to man; thus the wolf and the bear have both disappeared from Great Britain, and they have become scarce in France.
Thirty-five years ago, I was in a wild portion of the Pyrenees, in the hope of finding bears at the first snows of winter, when by extreme bad luck a fall took place so suddenly and severe that a pass was blocked, which prevented my arrival at a narrow valley, between the lofty mountains named Tram-Saig. I had been assured that the bears would hybernate at the commencement of winter, and that they could only be found at the season when the first snow-fall would expose their tracks.
On the following day I managed to get through the pass, and to my intense disgust, upon arrival, I found that I was a day too late, as the Maire, who was a great chasseur, had killed two bears, a mother and half-grown young one, on the preceding day, thus verifying the information I had received.
I saw the freshly killed skins pegged out to dry, and a few days later I ate a portion of the paws in an excellent stew when dining with the Prefect of Bagneres-de-Bigorre, to whom they were forwarded as an esteemed present.
The larger bear-skin gave me the impression that the original owner must have been the size of a heifer twelve or fifteen months old. This was the ordinary brown bear of Europe, which still exists in Transylvania, Hungary, Italy, and especially in Turkey. The same bear inhabits Asia Minor, and both these varieties hybernate at the commencement of winter. In the extensive forests and mountains about Sabanja, beyond the Gulf of Ismid, I have seen the wild fruit trees severely injured by the brown bears, which ascend in search of cherries, plums, apples, walnuts, and sweet chestnuts. The heavy animal knows full well that the extremity of the boughs will not support its weight, it therefore stands erect upon a strong limb and tears down the smaller fruit-laden branches within its reach. Although bears are numerous throughout the forests, there is only one season when they can be successfully hunted; this is in late autumn, when the fruits are closing their maturity, and the apples and nuts are falling to the ground. The bears then descend from the mountain heights, and may be found late in the evening or before sunrise in the neighbourhood of such food.
Asia Minor and Syria possess two distinct varieties of bears, although the countries are closely connected, and these animals are not inhabitants of the same district. The Syrian bear is smaller than the ordinary brown bear, and would hardly exceed 300 lbs. in weight. The fur is a mixed and disagreeable colour, a dusky gray of somewhat rusty appearance, but blanched in portions as though by age. This species is to be found at the present day upon Mount Horeb, and the natives assured me that, when the grapes are ripe, it is necessary to protect them by watchers armed with guns, to scare the bears during night.
Wild animals which hybernate have a peculiar instinct for selecting hiding-places, which can seldom be discovered; in these they lie, free from all intrusion.
The fruits of late autumn fatten the bear to a maximum condition, and when the harvest is over, and the ground is covered with a dense sheet of snow, it retires to some well-known cave, high among the mountains, in such undisturbed seclusion that it is seldom visited by the foot of man. Within a cave, nestled in ferns or withered leaves and grass, the fatted bruin curls itself to sleep throughout the winter months, and the warmth necessary to its existence is supplied by its own fat, which, being rich in carbon, supports vitality at the expense of exhaustion of supply.
If the fat bear could see itself previous to hybernation in November, and again be introduced to its own photograph upon awakening from its sleep in March, it would be prepared to swear against its own identity. It arises from its winter's nap in wretched condition, having lived entirely upon capital instead of income. Young shoots, and leaves of spring, wild tubers which it scratches from the ground, detected by its keen sense of smell, together with snails, beetles, worms, and everything that creeps upon the earth, now form the bill of fare, until the summer brings forth the welcome fruits that reproduce the condition which the bear had lost through hybernation.
It is impossible to unravel many of the mysteries of Nature, and the cause which prompts the instinct of a winter's sleep will always remain doubtful. I should myself attribute hybernation to the necessity of repose at a period when food was impossible to procure. The body can exist for an incredible length of time, provided that it is capable of undisturbed rest, which appears in a certain degree to take the place of extraneous nutriment. It is well known that every exertion of the muscles is a loss of power, the force of the body being represented by heat. To lift a weight or to move a limb requires a certain expenditure of heat, which means force; this loss of heat and power is recuperated by food; thus in the absence of provisions for the necessary supply, there would be no loss of heat if there is no exertion. Sleep is the resource, as the body is not only at rest, but the brain is also tranquil; there is accordingly a minimum of exhaustion. Human beings have been known to live without food of any kind (excepting water) for a period of forty days, and have then resumed their ordinary course, simply confining themselves to moderate diet for the first few days after their long abstinence. In a time of starvation in Africa I have frequently composed myself to sleep in the absence of my daily food, and I have awoke without any disagreeable craving for a meal. Continued sleep will to a certain extent render the body independent of other nutriment, and I should imagine that the custom of hybernation has been induced by necessity. At a season when the fruits of the earth are exhausted, the ground frozen to a degree that would render scratching for roots impossible, an animal that was dependent upon such productions for its existence must either starve or sleep. The sleep is in itself a first stage of the process of starvation. The creature that can sleep through an existence of four months without food, and lose the whole of its fat during that interval of inaction, has already lost all that supported life during the period of total abstinence—the fat, or carbon. If it were to begin another turn of sleep in its exhausted state, it would be unable to support its existence.
I therefore regard hybernation as the result of the highest physical condition, the animal being thoroughly fat; the food ceases, and the beast, knowing this fact, lays itself down to sleep, and exists upon its own fat, which gradually disappears during the interval of starvation. The bear wakes up in spring with a ragged ill-conditioned skin, instead of the glossy fur with which it nestled into rest; and it finds its coat a few sizes too large, until an industrious search for food shall have restored its figure to its original rotund proportions.
The proof of this necessity for repose during a period of enforced abstinence will be observed in the independence of tropical bears, which do not hybernate, for the best of all reasons, "that there is no winter," therefore they can procure their usual food throughout every season without difficulty or interruption.
The animals of America are all exaggerated specimens of the species, and the grizzly bear, if standing by the side of the ordinary brown bear of Northern Europe, would hardly exhibit any striking difference except in superior size and a slight roughness of colour. I have heard the question frequently discussed when in the Big Horn range of the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming; some of the professional hunters term all bears grizzlies, while others deny the existence of the true grizzly except upon the Pacific slope.
There is no doubt that all the American bears will eat flesh whenever they can obtain it, although they do not pursue animals as objects for food. The usual custom in bear-shooting is to kill a black-tail deer and to leave the body untouched. If this course is pursued throughout the day, three or four deer may have been shot in various localities, and these will lie as baits for the bears.
At daybreak on the following morning the hunter visits his baits, and he will probably find that the bears have been extremely busy during the night in scratching a hole somewhat like a shallow grave or trench, in which they have rolled the carcase; they have then covered it with earth and grass, and in many cases the bears may be discovered either in the act of working, or having completed their labour, they may be lying down asleep half gorged with flesh, and resting upon their own handiwork. In this position it is not difficult to obtain a shot.
When I was in the Big Horn range in 1881 several shooting parties had preceded me on the two previous seasons, and the bears had been worried to such an extent that they were extremely cautious and wary. There was a small party of professional skin hunters who were camped within a mile of my position, consisting of two partners, Big Bill and Bob Stewart. The latter went by the name of Little Bob, in contrast to his enormous companion. Bob was of Scotch extraction; he was about 5 feet 5 inches in height, very slight, and as active as a cat. In his knowledge of every living creature upon the mountains he was perfect; from the smallest insect to the largest beast he was an infallible authority. Bob was a trapper and hunter; he followed the different branches of these pursuits according to the seasons; at one time he would be trapping beavers and red foxes, at another he would be shooting deer for the value of their hides. This cruel and wasteful practice I shall speak of in another portion of this work.
His only weapon was a single-barrelled Sharp's .450 rifle, and he possessed the most lovely mare, beautifully trained for shooting, and not exceeding 14 1/2 hands in height. Little Bob, on his little mare, would have formed a picture. On one occasion I had returned to camp a little after 5.30 P.M., and as the sun sank low, the deep shadows of the hills darkened our side of the narrow glen, and by 6 o'clock we were reduced to a dim twilight. Presently, in this uninhabited region, a figure halted within 15 paces of our tent, which was evidently Bob Stewart, mounted upon some peculiar animal of enormous bulk, but with a very lovely high-bred-looking head. This was Bob's pretty mare, loaded, and most carefully packed with the trophies of his day's sport, as a solitary hunter, quite alone and unaided since 8 A.M. His pony carried the skins of three bears and four black-tail deer, which he had shot, skinned, and packed upon his sturdy little companion.
The bears consisted of a mother and two half-grown young ones of the choice variety known as "silver-tipped." He had come across the family by chance while riding through the forest, and having shot the mother through the shoulder, she fell struggling between her cubs; these pugnacious brutes immediately commenced fighting, and a couple of shots from the rapid breechloading Sharp rifle settled their ill-timed quarrel.
Bob was the most dexterous skinner I ever saw; he would take off a skin from a deer or bear as naturally as most persons would take off their clothes; and the fact of a man, unassisted, flaying seven animals, and arranging them neatly upon the Mexican saddle, would have been a tolerable amount of labour without the difficulty of first finding and then successfully shooting them.
The hide of the largest bear would weigh fully 50 lbs., those of the smaller 25 lbs. each = 100 lbs. The four black-tail deer would weigh fully 50 lbs. Therefore the mare was carrying 150 lbs. of hides, in addition to Bob Stewart, who weighed about 9 stone, making a total of about 276 lbs., irrespective of his rifle and ammunition.
It was a strange country; the elevation of our camp was about 10,000 feet above the sea-level, although we were in a deep and narrow glen, close to a very small stream of beautifully clear water. Upon either side the valley, the hills rose about 1400 feet; at that season (September) the summits were in some places capped with snow. The sides of the hills, sloping towards the glen, were either covered with forests of spruce firs, or broken into patches of prairie grass and sage bush, the latter about as high as the strongest heather, and equally tough and tiresome.
The so-called camp was upon an extremely limited scale; a little sleeping tent only 7 feet by 7, and 5 feet 8 inches in the highest portion; this had no walls, but was simply an incline from the ridge-pole to the ground; it was a single cloth, without lining of any kind, and bitterly cold at night. This was rough work for a lady, especially as our people had no idea of making things comfortable, or of volunteering any service. If ordered to come, they came; to go, they went; to do this or that, they did it; but there was no attempt upon their part to do more than was absolutely required of them. Shooting in the Big Horn range is generally conducted upon this uncomfortable plan. It is most difficult to obtain either men or animals; but, although useless fellows for any assistance in camp, they were excellent for looking after the horses and mules, all of which require strict attention.
We had only four men, all told—my hunter Jem Bourne, the cook Henry (a German), Texas Bill, who was a splendid young fellow, and Gaylord.
Although I have travelled for very many years through some of the roughest portions of the world, I have always had a considerable following, and I confess to disliking so small a party. Including my wife, we were only six persons, and it was impossible to consume the flesh of the animals killed. I cannot shoot to waste; therefore upon many occasions I declined to take the shots, and thus lost numerous opportunities of collecting splendid heads; this destroyed much of the pleasure which I had anticipated. There were no Indians, as they are confined to their reservations; therefore it was almost criminal to destroy wantonly a number of splendid beasts, which would rot upon the ground and be absolutely wasted. Several parties of Englishmen had not been so merciful; therefore the Americans had no scruples, and commenced an onslaught, general and indiscriminate, shooting all animals, without distinction of age or sex, merely for the value of the skins; the carcases of magnificent fat deer were left to putrefy, or to become the food of the over-satiated bears, which themselves fell victims in their turn.
This was the slaughter in which Bob Stewart and Big Bill were engaged in partnership. They never shot in company, but each started upon his independent course at 8 or 9 o'clock A.M., after having employed themselves since daylight in pegging out the skins to dry, that had been shot on the previous day. The most valuable of the deer-skins was the black-tail, which realised, at a price per lb., 11s. This hide is used for making a very superior quality of glove, much prized in California.
I strolled over to the camp of the two partners one morning, as I was on the way to shoot, and I found them engaged in arranging their vast masses of skins, all of which were neatly folded up, perfectly dry, without any other preparation than exposure to the keen dry air of this high altitude.
Upon my inquiry of Big Bill respecting his operations on the previous day, he replied that he "guessed he had been occupied in running away from the biggest grizzly bear that ever was cubbed."
Big Bill was a Swede by parentage, born in the States. By trade he was a carpenter, but he had of late years taken to skin-hunting. He was an enormous fellow, about 6 feet 3 or 4, with huge shoulders and long muscular arms and hands. There was no harm in Bill; he was a first-rate shot with his .450 Sharp rifle, which appeared to be the weapon in general favour; but he had met with an adventure during the previous year which made him rather suspicious of strangers.
Somewhere, not far from his present camp, a mounted stranger dropped in late one evening. The man was riding a good horse, but was quite alone; so also was Big Bill. The camp of the skin-hunter was then the same in appearance as when I saw him and his partner Bob Stewart—simplicity itself; a long spruce pole was lashed at either end to two spruce firs; against this, leaning at an angle of about 45 degrees, were sixty or seventy straight poles laid close together, and upon these were arranged spruce boughs to form a thatch. This lean-to provided a tolerable shelter within the forest, when the wind was sufficiently considerate to blow at the back against the thatch, instead of direct towards the open face. The ground in the acute angle was strewed with branches of spruce, and a large fire was kept burning during night, exactly in front, the whole arrangement exhibiting the principle of a Dutch oven.
In such a camp, Big Bill received the stranger with the hospitality of the wilderness, and they laid themselves down to rest in the close companionship of newly-made friends.
The morning broke, and as Big Bill rubbed his eyes with mute astonishment, he could not see his friend. He rose from his sleeping-place, and went outside in the cold morning air; he could not see his horses. A horrible suspicion seized upon him; he searched the immediate neighbourhood; the animals had vanished, both horses and mules were gone, together with the unknown stranger, to whom he had given food and shelter for the night.
Fortunately there was a particular horse which Big Bill for special reasons kept separate from the rest; this animal was picqueted by itself among the spruce firs at some little distance, and had been unobserved by the departed stranger. To saddle the horse, and to follow in pursuit at the highest speed upon the trail of the horse-stealer, was the work of only a few minutes. The track was plain enough in the morning dew, where ten or a dozen mules and horses had brushed through the low prairie grass. Big Bill went at a gallop, and he knew that he must quickly overtake them; his only doubt lay in the suspicion that there might be confederates, and that a strong party might have joined together to secure the prize, instead of the solitary stranger being in charge. However, at all hazards he pushed on at best speed in chase; at the same time, the horse-stealer, thoroughly experienced in his profession, was driving his ill-gotten herd before him at a gentle trot, thoroughly convinced that it would be impossible to be overtaken, as the owner had been left (as he supposed) without a horse.
At length, after a pursuit of some hours, upon attaining the summit of a broad eminence, Big Bill's eyes were gladdened by the sight of some distant objects moving upon the horizon, and he at once redoubled his speed.
The stranger, innocent of suspicion, trotted leisurely forward, whistling, and driving his newly acquired animals with professional composure, without condescending to look back, as he felt certain of security, having left his hospitable friend of the preceding night with nothing better than his own legs for locomotion.
In the meantime, Big Bill was coming up at a gallop; he was boiling with indignation at the treacherous conduct of his uninvited guest; and being fully alive to the manners and customs of the West, he placed his Sharp rifle upon full-cock to be in readiness for an explanation.
A few minutes sufficed to shorten the distance to 100 yards, when the astonished horse-stealer was surprised by the sound of hoofs upon the stony soil, and, turning round, he was almost immediately confronted with the threatening figure of Big Bill. The dialogue which ensued has not been historically described; there was none of the bombast that generally preceded the combats of Grecian heroes; but it appears that the horse-stealer's right hand instinctively grasped the handle of his revolver, not unseen by the vigilant eyes of Big Bill, who with praiseworthy decision sent a bullet through his adversary's chest from the already prepared Sharp .450; leaving the lifeless body where it fell, he not only recovered all his stolen animals, but also possessed himself of the horse and saddle which only recently belonged to the prairie horse-stealer without a name.
The gigantic Swede returned to his solitary camp, well satisfied with his morning's work, as he had gained instead of losing, and he had saved the State of Wyoming the expense and trouble of hanging a man for a crime which is supposed to deserve no mercy, that of "horse-stealing."
Of course this instance of determination and extreme vigilance gained for Big Bill the admiration of the extremely limited number of people who would be called "the public" in the outlying portions of Wyoming; but although contented with himself, Big Bill was always suspicious of a solitary stranger, as he had an undefined idea that some relative of the defunct horse-dealer might draw a trigger upon him unawares. It was this redoubtable Big Bill who now confided to me that he had been running away from some monster grizzly bear only on the preceding day. He pointed out the spot, as nearly as possible, from where we stood during his narrative. "There," he said, "do you see that low rocky cliff on the tip top of the hill just above us? That was the place just beneath, on that little terrace-like projection with a few spruce firs upon it. There's a steep but not a difficult way down by the side of that cliff, and when young Edmund and I got down upon that terrace, there were a lot of big rocks lying about, and all of a sudden one of 'em stood up on end within 10 yards of me, and sat up regularly smiling at me, with the most innocent and amiable expression of countenance I ever saw. That was the biggest grizzly bear I ever came across; he was as big as the biggest bull I ever saw in the ranche, and there he was, sitting up on end like a dog, and almost laughing. There was no laugh in me, I can tell you; I just lost no time, but turned round, and hooked it; and I don't think I ever ran so fast in all my life."
"But why did you not shoot him?" I exclaimed with astonishment. "Shoot him? Oh yes, that's very likely, when he wasn't farther than 10 yards off, and I should have had such a poor start, and no place to run to! No, I knew better than that, with a single-barrel Sharp .450. If I had had your double-barrel .577, with a big solid bullet, and 6 drams of powder, I shouldn't have run away; but I go hunting for skins with my little Sharp, and I don't want a grizzly to go hunting for my skin; not if I know it. I've left him for you, and d'ye see, if you go up there this morning, there's some snow about, and you'll likely come across his tracks. If you do, you'll be astonished, I can tell you."
Ten minutes after this discourse, I was on my way up the mountain side in the hope of meeting this extraordinary bear.
Upon arrival at the summit, there was a splendid view of the main range of the Rocky Mountains, about 70 miles distant, across a desolate region some 4000 feet below the point upon which we stood. There was a little snow, but only in patches on the mountain top, and, when near the terrace upon which Big Bill had had his interview with the bear, we certainly discovered an enormous track, the largest that I have ever seen.
We attempted to follow this for some hours, but to no purpose; on several occasions I could have taken deadly shots at black-tail deer and wapiti, but I determined to reserve my bullet for the big game, the object of our pursuit. The day passed away in failure. The next day was equally disappointing; from morning to sunset I fagged over the summits and the spruce fir sides of the mountains, without a trace of the big bear. We passed the old traces that we had seen the previous day upon the snow, but they were still more indistinct, and there was nothing fresh. I was determined, if possible, to find this bear, therefore I devoted a third day to the pursuit, discarding all other game. On the third morning I started with Texas Bill and Jem Bourne, all mounted, and we rode by a circuitous route to the summit of the hill above the valley of our camp. The snow had melted in most places, leaving only small half-thawed patches. We had so thoroughly explored the entire hillside for a distance of several miles during the last two days, that I arranged a beat on the other side of the mountain, upon the northern slope, facing the far-distant Rocky Mountains.
There were no spruce forests upon this side, but the long incline was merely a sheet of rough prairie grass about 18 inches high, intersected by deep ravines, filled with dwarf cotton-wood trees, resembling the silver-barked black poplar. These trees grew about 25 feet high, and as thick as a man's arm, but so close together that it was difficult to force a way through on horseback.
There were many isolated patches of this covert in various places upon the face of this northern slope, all of which were likely to harbour bears or other game. My eye caught instinctively a long dark ravine which cut the mountain from top to base, extending several miles; this was intersected about a mile and a half from the summit by a smaller ravine, also springing from the drainage of the highest ridge, and at the point of junction the two formed a letter Y, the tail continuing, widened by the increased flow of water. There was at this season a very slight stream about an inch in depth, which resulted from the melting of the small amount of snow upon the heights.
There could not be a more likely place for bears, and I instructed my two men to ride to the bottom of the ravine, and to force their horses through the thornless thicket, making no other noise, but occasionally to tap the stems of trees with the handles of their whips.
I dismounted, and my well-trained horse followed close behind me down the steep hillside, exactly on the border of the ravine. This was not more than 80 yards across; thus I could command both sides should a bear break covert, when disturbed by my two beaters; there could not have been a more favourable locality.
My men were thoroughly experienced, and the noise made by the horses in struggling over stones and in rustling through the cotton-wood trees was quite sufficient to disturb any animals that might have been there; accordingly they seldom tapped the tree-stems.
Black-tail deer were very plentiful; these were about the size of an ordinary fallow-deer, and they were extremely fat and delicious venison; but their horns were still in velvet, and would not be clean until October. I could have shot several of these animals; but I was full of good resolutions to resist all temptation, and to restrict my shooting to the long-sought bear.
We had followed the course of the ravine for about a mile, when I suddenly heard a tremendous rush among the cotton trees beneath me on the right, followed by excited shouts—"Look out! look out! A bear! a bear!"
I halted immediately, and in a few seconds three splendid wapiti stags broke covert about 100 yards before me, and at full gallop passed across the open ground by which I was descending. My good resolutions crowded upon me as I instinctively aimed at the stag with the finest head, and I resisted the temptation nobly until they were nearly out of sight, passing down a hollow on my left about 150 yards distant. Somehow or other I pulled the trigger; a cloud of dust suddenly arose from the spot where the three stags had disappeared, and I felt sure that the wapiti was down.
At the sound of the shot my men struggled up the steep ascent and joined me. "Why did you shout 'A bear! a bear!'?" I asked.—"It was a bear, wasn't it? I saw a great brown rump for a moment, and I thought it was the bear."—"No bear at all," I answered, "and I have been fool enough to shoot at a wapiti. . . . I think you will find it just in the hollow beneath the ridge."
The men rode to the spot, and sure enough a magnificent stag was lying dead, shot through the shoulder. A wapiti stag weighs about 900 lbs. when fat in August and September. The fat upon the brisket of this animal was 5 inches thick, and that upon the rump and loins was nearly 3 inches. We cut this off in one complete piece, and when cold, within half an hour it stood up like a cuirass. This was one of the finest that I ever saw, and we took the trouble to cut up all the choicest joints, and concealed them in the branches of a species of yew that was growing upon the edge of the ravine. The delay from my folly in taking this shot exceeded an hour, but the head of the stag was a handsome specimen, and we placed it upon a large boulder of rock, to be sent for upon a future occasion.
We again recommenced our search, comforting ourselves with the reflection that "if the bear was in the ravine, the report of the shot would not affect it; and if it was not in the ravine, it would not matter."
As we continued the descent of the mountain slope, the ravine grew wider, and it was now quite 100 yards across; this would increase the probability of finding game, as there was a larger area of covert at the bottom. I was walking carefully in front of my horse, when, without any alarm given by my men from the bottom of the ravine, my attention was attracted by a rushing sound in the dense cotton trees, and I observed several that were in the thickest part shaking in an extraordinary manner, as though an elephant or a rhinoceros was rubbing itself against the stems.
I ran forward towards the spot, and within 15 paces of me I saw a wapiti stag caught by the horns; these were completely entangled among the stems of the thickly growing trees, and the splendid beast was taken prisoner. I could only see occasionally a portion of the horns, and then, as it struggled to escape, I caught sight for a moment of a head and neck sufficient to prove that it was a very splendid beast, with beautiful spreading antlers. The animal was almost within my grasp, and I could have shot it with a pistol; but my good resolutions stood firm. I refused the shot, as we had meat of the finest quality that would keep for a week, and to kill another wapiti would be mere waste of life. In a couple of minutes occupied with this human reflection, yet sorely tempted to take the shot, the stag broke loose, and I heard it crashing full speed down the ravine, and my men shouting loudly that I should "look out!"
Hardly two minutes elapsed before I saw, at about 300 yards' distance, the most magnificent stag that I have ever seen. This splendid beast issued from the ravine, and exhibited a pair of antlers that, large as the animal was, appeared quite disproportioned to its size. They resembled the wintry appearance of a large branch from an oak tree, and this was the prize which I could not distinctly see when entangled in the cotton-wood, within my grasp. This noble stag descended the mountain side at full speed, and I watched it with longing eyes until it was completely out of sight, fully determined that I would never indulge in good resolutions again, that humanity was humbug, philanthropy puerile, and that the rule of success depended upon the principle "Never lose an opportunity."
I was fairly disgusted with myself, and calling my men, I described to them the magnificence of my lost stag. Instead of consolation they said, "Well, if you're come all this way to shoot, and you won't shoot, I don't quite see the use of your coming." That was all I received as a reward for having spared an animal's life which I did not wish to sacrifice wantonly.
"All right; go back and drive the covert to the end; you may depend upon it I'll take the next shot, whatever it may be." The men rode down the steep sides of the ravine, and we recommenced our beat.
Nothing moved for some time, and I mounted my horse as we were approaching the junction of the smaller ravine on my left, which formed the letter Y. I was about 100 yards ahead of my two men, and I descended into the stony depression, crossed the little stream, and ascended the opposite side with some little difficulty, as it was extremely steep, and, together with my 12 lb. rifle, cartridges, and a 26 lb. Mexican saddle, I rode about 18 stone. We reached the top, from which I could look down into the larger ravine on my right, and the lesser on my left, but a number of large rocks, 3 or 4 feet in height, and others of smaller size, made it difficult for my horse to thread his way. Just at this moment I heard the report of a revolver and shouts in high excitement—"The bear! the bear!" Before I had time to dismount in the awkward position among the rocks, I saw a large bear within two yards of me, as he had run at full speed up the steep bank from the bottom of the ravine without having observed me, owing to the rocks; he therefore passed close to my horse upon the other side, only separated from us by the large rock between. In an instant the bear, having seen the horse, turned to the left, and dashed down hill into the smaller ravine which I had just crossed. I jumped off my horse, and ran along the edge, ready to take a shot the moment that I could obtain a clear view of the bear, which I could see indistinctly as it ran along the bottom of the channel, in which was the trickling stream. As I followed, always keeping the animal within view, I felt certain that it would presently forsake this narrow gully, and would cut across the open to regain the large ravine from which it had been dislodged. I therefore raised the 150 yards sight as I ran along the edge, to be in readiness should it try the open. The bear kept me running at my best to keep it in sight, and I was just beginning to think it advisable to fire through the intervening bushes, when, as I had expected, it suddenly turned to the left, ran up the bank with extreme activity, and appeared upon the steep open grass-land, with the intention of cutting across to the larger hiding-place. This was a splendid chance, as the dark colour of the bear looked well upon the yellow grass. I made a most satisfactory shot with the .577 at 150 yards, the bullet passing through the kidneys, and the bear rolled over and over the whole way down the steep grassy hill, until stopped by the thick bushes, which alone prevented it from rolling into the streamlet at the bottom.
My two men came galloping up, and shortly dismounted, and we all descended to the place where the bear was lying, almost dead. In fact, it died while we were standing over it.
"Well done; that was a fine shot, and we've got the grizzly bear at last," exclaimed Jem Bourne. "THE bear? This is not the bear that Big Bill ran from," I replied; "impossible, this is a silver-tip, and not a true grizzly." The argument that ensued over the carcase of that bear was quite enough to make me an unbeliever in the ordinary accounts of native hunters. I calculated that the body weighed about 600 lbs., as my two men were 6 feet high, and exceedingly powerful, and our united efforts could not move the bear one inch from the spot where it had fallen; it may have exceeded that weight, as it was full of fat, and in the finest condition. We skinned it, and had some trouble to induce the horse to permit the hide to be lashed upon its back. Although a fine bear, Big Bill on our return would not acknowledge that it could be compared with the monster which he had seen with such "a smiling countenance." I was quite of his opinion, as the tracks which I saw in the snow were very much larger than the paws of the bear that I have described.
The foot of a bear leaves a print very similar to that of a human being who happens to be flatfooted, but the breadth is larger in proportion to that of a man. It is a curious fact, that a shot through the kidneys of any creature occasions almost instantaneous death, and the animal falls immediately, as though shot through the neck; this proves the terrible shock to the system, as the body is smitten with a total paralysis.
The opinions of professional hunters differ in such an extraordinary manner upon the question of bears, that it would be impossible for a mere visitor to arrive at a satisfactory decision. It is admitted by all that the grizzly bear is the monarch; next to him in size is the cinnamon bear, named from the colour of its fur; No. 3 is the silver-tipped; and No. 4 is the black bear.
The question to be decided remains: "Is the cinnamon bear the grizzly, with some local difference in colour?" My people called the silver-tipped bears "grizzlies," which was an evident absurdity; but, as they were men experienced in the Big Horn range, it was difficult to disbelieve their evidence concerning the occasional presence of a true grizzly. I found, whilst riding through an extensive forest of spruce fir, an enormous skull of a bear, the largest that I have ever seen, except that of the grizzly, compared with which all others were mere babies; what could this have been, unless a true specimen of that variety?