Percy Horace Gordon Powell- Cotton.

A sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien online

. (page 27 of 34)
Online LibraryPercy Horace Gordon Powell- CottonA sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien → online text (page 27 of 34)
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.Abyssinia. Most of the officers spoke French, and were


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Bp - S:.v»^:^^


Native Gunners.

most patient in listening to my attempts at explanation
in that language. I had often been astonished at the
accurate knowledge the different native chiefs had of my
movements, but it was evident that here also my every
action before and since I left Adis Ababa was known,
the only blank being the period occupied by the march
from Gondar towards Metemmeh, when it was reported
that I and all my caravan had been cut up. I gained
much information about the people I had met, and the
curiosity my journey had excited, for none could believe
I made it for sporting purposes only. They asked me
many questions about Simien, and whether the patches
of white were caused by ice or crystals, and seemed

2 !■■


hardly to credit my statement that it was snow. The
Mad Mullah and his doings were discussed, also the
question whether the combined movement of Abyssinian
and British troops would succeed in crushing him.
Making the excuse of an early start, I at length tore
myself away from my kind hosts, and was conducted to
" my house," where I learnt that all my Somalis had left
camp to fraternise with their countrymen in the Italian
service, while most of the Abyssinians had done the
same ; so I thought it best to roll up my bedding and
return to the tents to watch over the safety of my

In the morning it was some time before I could
collect my servants, for most of the Abyssinians were
fuddled with tej, their e.xcuse being that the\' could get
no food the night before. The first part of the cart-
road was well metalled and drained on either side, but
it rapidly degenerated into a series of mere tracks
through liquid mud. In five hours we reached Debarroa
just as a cloud broke, which fairly damped everything
before we could get the tents up. This place had
apparently been a large village at one time, but had
fallen upon evil days, and prosperity had not yet

At daybreak an escort of four men arrived, and a
six-hours' march, during which we crossed several of the
small streams which go to make the Baroa, brought us to
the outskirts of Asmara, under the hill on which Fort
Baldissera stands. Here I had expected one of my
men, sent on in advance, to meet me and point out the
camping-ground. Half an hour went by without any


signs of him ; ihcn ihc rain began : so, fnuling an
Italian non-commissioned officer, I asked his permission
to stand the mules in a military stable hard by, which
was readily granted. As soon as the rain slackened a
bit we pitched camp, and had just got the tents up when
it came down in sheets. During this downpour Major
Elia, the chief of the staff, rode up, and very kindly
insisted on my accompanying him to the club, whence,
in spite of my travel-stained appearance, he took me to
the official residence of H.E. the Governor of Erythrea ;
to him I was introduced, and we had a short conversa-
tion on the subject of my journey.

While we were walking across to the Military Club-
house, my head muleteer, who had stayed behind on
the road, came up with the body of a long grey-haired
monkey, which he had shot on the way, knowing I had
been so an.xious to obtain a specimen. He told me the
police had stopped him and taken away his rille and
cartridges. Major Elia explained that no native, unless
a soldier, was allowed to carry arms in Erythrea, and
gave my man a note to the police sergeant, directing
him to return the weapon. This was only one of the
many instances I noticed of the sensible lines on which
the Italian Government rule their colony — a pleasing
contrast to the French methods at Jibuti.

Major Elia was so good as to offer me a house to
put up in, but I thought it best to remain by my caravan,
which he advised me to break up here, instead of march-
ing to Massowah. I dined with him and several other
officers of the staff at an excellent restaurant, where
their mess was temporarily housed tluring some re-


building operations. At the club I met Mr. Nathan of
the Erythrean Goldfields Company, who have started
work not far from the capital, and also Mr. Hornibrook,
a mining expert from New Zealand, who had come over
to give them his advice. I saw some specimens of ore,
said to be very rich, but did not succeed in learninq;
m.uch about the mine.

Next morning was occupied by selling off all my

D HIS Orderly.

mules, donkeys, and camp-kit. There was very little
demand for anything, except good riding mules, but, as
the only two I possessed had died on the way, this did
not benefit me. Finally, after much bargaining, I sold
all the beasts in a batch to the agent of a transport
company, who ship baggage - animals to Mombassa,
where they fetch large prices. The Gold Company took
over most of the camp-kit and what few stores I had left.
That afternoon I had hard work to sprinkle all the
skins with turpentine and pack them in boxes ready to


t^o to the coast : in fact I had to leave some unfinished
till next morning, when everything was ready by 6 a.m.
to go down to the rail at Sahati, loaded on two
transport - waggons kindly lent me by the military
authorities. After I had seen these away, and three of
my Somalis with them, at 7.30, I spent the rest of the
morning writing letters, including one to the Emperor,
to thank him for the courtesy shown me in his country.
I also wrote out chits for my men, and settled up their
accounts. In the afternoon I heard that Mr. Beru,
interpreter to the British Agency at Adis Ababa, had
arrived, and went to see him at the house of his
sister, who is official Amharic interpreter to the Italian
Government. We had a long talk, he telling me the
news since I left, how I\Ir. Baird had gone to Khartoum,
how my former companions had abandoned the journey
to Fashoda and turned south tcj Mombassa, and about
the plague that had been raging at Aden. Next
morning I paid oft" my men earl)', saw the tents and
camp-kit handed over to their new owners, and the
few personal belongings that I hail kept with me
carried up to the posting-station. When all was done,
I felt a little saddened by the thought that another
chapter of my nomad life was closed, and that soon its
mixture of freedom and responsibility, its joys and
hardships, would have to be exchanged once more for
prosaic civilisation with its trivial round of duties,
pleasures, and annoyances.

Under Mr. Beru's guidance I set out for a tour of
Asmara, which seems destined to be a large and im-
portant place in the near future. My camp, as I have


already mentioned, had been pitched just below the
fort named after General Baldissera, situated on a hill
to the south-west of the town ; it is well planned and
covers a large area. Close to me were great stacks of
government fodder and ranges of stabling now empty.
A short walk brought us to the governor's house, built
in the style of an Italian chalet, a small ornamental
garden separating it from the club premises vis-a-vis.
These two buildings lay at a little distance from the
business quarter of the town, where numerous fine
blocks of stone houses were quickly replacing less
pretentious structures. There seemed to be a fair
number of shops, besides several cafes and restaurants,
also workshops occupied by skilled mechanics. On the
further side were the Roman Catholic Mission build-
ings, and close to the native bazaar the shops of a
number of East Indian merchants. Beyond this stood
what was left of the original village, and the better-class
houses, which were nearly all flat-roofed, surrounded by
their little yards. Close by stood the old church, built
like a log-hut, with massive timbers in its walls, the
interstices filled with stones. In the churchyard still
hung the three old flat stones used as "bells," so often
described by former travellers ; they seemed like the
landmarks of a bygone age, beside the modern metal
bell that has usurped their place. The low, flat-roofed
building with its tiny door reminded me strangely of
some of the village mosques in Kashmir. Behind us, on
a steep hill, stood the old residence of Ras Alula, the
ablest general Abyssinia has seen in modern times, and the
man who so long withstood the advance of the Italians.



After lunch a little ^roup of my friends saw me oft"
by the post-cart, which startetl just before three o'clock.
There was only one other passenger in the little
waggonette drawn by three mules. We drove at a
gentle' pace down a well-made road, with easy gradients
curving down the hill-sides, till the low country was
reached. The road compared very favourably with
those leading to our Indian hill-j)osts, but the slow
pace and dawdling at the changing-stations made one
wish for the native driver and cantering ponies of the
Indian mail tonga. We reached Sabargouma, at the
foot of the hills, at 8.30 ; here the only available dining-
place was a very indifferent restaurant, whose most
striking features were heat and flies. Within an hour
we were ofif again with two additional passengers,
whose room we should, lit(;rall\-, have much preferred
to their company.

At 2.30 .\..M. we reached Sahati, having been eleven
and a half hours doing the 53 miles ! The railway station
was some distance from where we stopped, and when
I got a coolie to carry my things across, I found the
place in utter darkness. By the light of some matches
I found a carriage and piled my things in it, but
discovered later that a cape had been abstracted. The
train left at 4.15, and took an hour and a half to
JNIassowah, where I went to Messrs. Benetfink's office,
to whose care my baggage had been forwarded. From
here I was directed to the steamboat agents, where
I found that a i)ass was required for my Somalis to
leave the colony. This necessitated a further long walk
in the sun ; but at last all was arranged, and, sending


my men on board in charge of the baggage, I set out
in search of breakfast. This time I enjoyed a pleasant
meal, during which I chatted to the proprietor, learning
his views on Erythrea in general and Massowah in
particular, which were not very rosy.

Next I proceeded on board the little mail steamer
Palatina, which makes a weekly voyage to Aden and
back with the European mail for the colony. The news
of the assassination of King Humbert had just been
received, and every one was discussing the sad event.
We sailed sharp at eleven and had a smooth run down
the coast till next morning, when there was too much
sea to suit me, and I postponed attempting a meal till
we called at Assab in the afternoon.

At 8. 30 on ist August, we anchored at Aden, where
1 had a busy two days, trying to discover what the
native agent had done with my baggage and all my
letters, for my last news from home was nearly six
months old. The plague and contradictory instructions,
since I had separated from the party, appeared to have
completely muddled him : my kit for the voyage had
been despatched home long since, and my letters, as they
arrived, had been forwarded to Mr. Harrison in England !
so I had to collect some scratch garments, and, as for
home news, just possess my soul in patience. I heard
that the whole of our trophies sent from Tadechamalca
had been impounded by the Custom-house authorities at
Harrar, as no pass from the Emperor had accompanied
them, and that when they were eventually released, the
plague prevented their getting further than Aden, where
they had lain till just before my arrival.


^RBk|^^H^ -i




Thu I'. & O. Caledonia came in a cou[)l{j of hours
before she was expected, and I had to hurry on board.
I found a few old acquaintances, and we made a pleasant
voyas^e to Marseilles, where we arrived on Sunday the
1 2th, the day on which President Loubet visited the
city. The place was filled with soldiers and a moderate
crowd, but the amount of enthusiasm displayed by the
latter was distinctly meagre, about the only cries heard
being ]^ivc larmde! Next day 1 reached home, where
I had a short three weeks' rest, before joining my militia
regiment in Malta for garrison duty. Before leaving, I
had the melancholy satisfaction of seeing my Tade-
chamalca skins unpacked : all of them were badly
damaged, while of some little remained (except the feet
and a tuft or two of hair.

Before these pages appear in print, 1 hope to be
again on my way to the Dark Continent, to explore
some fresh part of its vast extent and add to my
collection of its big game.

Transport WAGGO^



Nativk Troops

In my journey through the ItaUan colony of Erythrea, from the river
Mareb, which forms the southern boundary, to the Port of Massowah, I
had a good opportunity of studying the organisation of the native troops.
Since then Major ^'ittorio Elia, chief of the staff of the Italian
royal troops in Africa, has kindly sent me a number of details and
Ijhotographs of the different units, in the arranging and revising of
which, together with my notes, Major Leather of the 5th Fusiliers has
helped me greatly.

The strength of the force is as follows : —

Cavalry. — One squadron of native cavalry, with a considerable
reserve of irregular horse, well mounted and available in case of war.

Artillery. — Two native batteries of mountain artillery and a
company of garrison artillery.

Infantry.— T^xtt companies of Italian infantry. .Six battalions
(four companies each) of native troops.

Engineers. — One company of 200 men, half Italian and the other
half native.

Medical, veterinary, commissariat, and armourers' duties arc ail
performed by Italians, and are in the usual proportion to the above.

The Royal Colonial Corps is commanded by a colonel aijpointed
from Italy. Count Tronebi, a distinguished staff-officer, well known
to many British officers, at present holds this position. This officer
acted as military attache on the staff of Lord Kitchener during the
recent e.xpedition to Omdurman. He is assisted by a chief of the
staff (with the rank of major) and a few officers. The headquarters
are situated at Asmara.

Cavalry. — The squadron of native cavalry is 130 strong, and is


commanded by a captain with' -^two subaltern^ under him, all Italian.
There is no lack of irregular cavalry, the natives being, as it were,
born to the saddle, and their horses capable of splendid work across
the rough ground of the plateau, which no doubt explains the weakness
of the establishment in this arm.

Artillery. — The two batteries of mountain artillery consist of six
guns each ; there are a captain and three subalterns (Italians) to each
battery, assisted by two Italian N.C. officers and a farrier. The
remainder of the men are natives, and are carefully selected from the
Mohammedan recruits, who are chiefly Somalis. The commanders of
guns are natives, and the whole working of the gun, such as laying,
graduating the fuse, etc., is performed by natives. There are more
guns kept in store, also a battery of quick-firers, which would be
mobilised in case of war.

Infantry. — -The three Italian companies are each 200 strong, with
a captain and three subalterns. The men are volunteers from the
Italian army, and are enlisted for two years.

The native battalions were formerly seven in number, but the sixth
battalion, which was composed chiefly of Mohammedans, and was
quartered at Kassala, was disbanded when that place was handed over
to the Anglo-Egyptian Government, and many of the men took service
under that Government.

The unit of the native battalion is a buluc, or section consisting
of twenty-eight ascaris or soldiers, and one muntaz or corporal, under
a buluc bashi or native sergeant. Three bulucs go to form a half
company, under a native officer (jusbashi), who acts as second in
command to a white subaltern officer. The whole company is
commanded by an Italian captain.

A major (or lieutenant-colonel) commands each battalion of four
companies, and is assisted by an adjutant-major, a medical officer,
and a supernumerary officer.

A few mounted infantry (on mules) are trained with each battalion
to act as scouts.

In each company two bulucs are composed of Somalis and four of
Tigreans, so that a regiment has two-thirds Christians to one-third

Jusbashi is the only officer's rank to which a native can aspire.
He carries an officer's sword, but is not allowed to give orders of any
kind to a white soldier.


The pay varies from a minimum of one franc for newly enlisted
ascaris to a maximum of five francs for a jusbashi.

The men enlist for two years, but can renew their engagements for
as many subsequent periods of two years as the recruiting committee
think fit to accept them, having in consideration their age, fitness
for service, and conduct.

A gradual increase of pay is attached to each re-engagement.

The only pension paid is one franc a day to soldiers disal)led
during the last wars.

A gratuity is granted on discharge according to service.

All discharged men are passed into the reserve, and are periodically
called out for training. In case of war this reserve would be called
up and used in filling gaps in the fighting line, and in garrisoning
the lines of communication.

Uniform. — Officers wear khdki uniform, with ])utties or leather
leggings of very much the same pattern as is used in the British army.
The head-dress consists of a sun helmet or white cap. The full dress
and mess dress are of dark cloth on the plateau, and white drill on
the coast or in the plains.

The Italian troops wear khaki.

The badges of rank are : — colonel, three gold stars ; lieutenant-
colonel, two gold stars ; major, one gold star ; captains, three silver
stars ; lieutenant, two silver stars ; and second lieutenants, one silver

The native troops are dressed in white, as are the ordinary inhabi-
tants of the country, the Mohammedans in their wide, baggy trousers,
and the Abyssinians in their short, tight-fitting ones. , The only items
of uniform they have are the tarboosh with a tassel, and a woollen
sash tied round the waist, of a distinctive colour for each battalion,
a dark blue cape similar to that used by the bersaglieri for the cavalry
and infantry, and a gray capote for the artillery.

These are served out on enlistment, and have to last, or be made
good at the man's expense, during the whole of his service.

Cavalry men wear an eagle's feather and silk band round the

If a man leaves his lines without his head-dress, he is severely

All the troops are armed with the magazine small-bore rifle or
carbine, carrying si.\ cartridges, in use in the Italian army. Free


ammunition is served out; butthe empty cases must be returned, as a
voucher that it has been expended, not sold. As a point of fact, the
empty - cartridge case passes as small change. The cartridges are
carried in clips, which fix into a square pouch made to receive six of
the latter.

jN.C.O. and cavalry carry a revolver.



Grains Purchased at Adua Market,
14TH July, 1900

For the itiemificatio

n of these my thanks are due to the aulhorit

es at the Royal Gardens, Ivew,

who kindly uiulcrtook the

eNamination and naming of them.

Scicntirlc N.imc.

Common Name.

Native Name.


A.nonium korarima

Korarima Cardauio.n


Grind with chillies and sail,
boil with ghee, and eat
with bread.

Cnrum copticum

Ajowan fruit


Do. do. do.

Cicer arietinum

Grain or Chick Pea

Shorn bura

Roast, grind, and boil with

Coftea arabica

Coffee bean

Eleusine coracana



Grind for bread.

Eragrostis abyssniica



Iniizolia abyssinica


Roast, grind, mix with ghee,
and eat with bread.




( Irind for bread ; brew tala ;
usual corn for mules.

Iriticum sativum


(Sindey (
t In Tigre, SirnarJ

Grind for bread.

Lathyriis sativus '


Mules eat without bad
effect. In men these seeds
produce cramp in legs ;
and if eaten in exces,s
paralysis (hemiplegia).

Linum usitatissiimim



1 Roast, grind, and drink in

I In Tigre, Antarter

/ salt .ind water.

Xigella saliva

I'ennel flower seeds


Grind, boil wilh chillies,
eat with bread.

"(Jciinum basilicum


Grind, boil with salt and
chillies, eat with bread.

Phaseolus vulgaris

French bean


Roast, grind, mix with ghee,
and eat with bread ; or
boil and eat.

I'isum sativum



Boil and eat.

•Rheum sp.


Used in boiling ghee to
clean it.

Scsamum indicum

Seeds of sesamum


Roast, grind, mix with
chillies and ghee, eat
with bread.

.Sorghum vulgare
Trigonella fccnum-

Guinea corn

/ Machelar
(In Tigre, Laqu

( Bockella

- In Tigre, Attu

{ harey

: uncertainty about the icicnt

Grind for bread.

Boil in milk, let cool.



Mammals^ — By the Honourable Walter
Rothschild, Ph.D., F.Z.S.

It was owing to the interest aroused by the question of the identity
of RiippeU's reedbuck, that I undertook to write this appendix on
the mammals collected by Mr. Powell -Cotton. He brought back
specimens of thirty-five species, and in this paper I have enumerated
thirty-seven species more or less in detail. At the end I have also added
a few rough notes by Mr. Powell - Cotton on certain other animals.
Although there were no new species or sub-species in the collection,
it was of the greatest interest, and the task of zoologists in working
out the species sent to them from abroad would be infinitely easier, if
all collectors brought together such magnificent series and made such
careful notes. The collection is essentially that of a hunter and
explorer, and not such a one as a professional zoological collector
might have got together, for there is an entire absence of the smaller
insectivora and rodents, and many well-known small mammals of other
groups are missing ; but the collection is undoubtedly one of the finest
ever brought out of Abyssinia. The most interesting species are
certainly the ibex {Capra walie), the "wolf" (Cant's siiiiensis), and the
mantled baboon (Theropithecus geladd), of all of which the fine series
sent quite cleared up the history, so far as their appearance and

' Measurements in inches ; weights in pounds.

Height. — In a straight line from a stick placed perpendicularly at the withers to the
heel of the fore-foot.

Girth. — Taken directly behind the fore-legs.

Length. — .\long curves from muzzle, to a line drawn across front edge of horns (or
cars, in the case of hornless animals), to root of tail, to end of tail.

Weight. — Taken with -Salter's spring balance ; as the animal fell, if it did not exceed
200 lbs., if heavier, then cut up and the portions weighed.


development are concerned. Many zoologists will find fault with the
nomenclature I employ, but not only do I consider it the only
right one, but I also wish, by drawing attention, by the use of
trinomials, to the existence or possible existence of well - defined
local races in large mammals as well as in small ones, to the fact
that there is much work still left to be done among the well-known
larger mammals for those who cannot hope to get many such startling
novelties to describe as the Okapia johnstoni. I have, therefore, in
every case where I thought it might be of use, introduced key-lists
of the various races of the given species, described from other parts
of Africa. In other cases I have given lists of all the described
species of the genus found in Africa, so as to induce sportsmen and
others to hunt for them all over that continent, and so enable us to
form a correct and final opinion as to the relationship of each of
such species.

Guereza guereza (Riipp.).

(Native name, " Goraza.")

Riippell was the first to describe this exceedingly handsome monkey in

Online LibraryPercy Horace Gordon Powell- CottonA sporting trip through Abyssinia; a narrative of a nine months' journey from the plains of the Hawash to the snows of Simien → online text (page 27 of 34)