David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean online

. (page 7 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 7 of 36)
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of eleven or twelve years, at which the same phenomenon
is reported to have happened on three occasions. An un-
usually large crop of melons had appeared in consequence
We had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. J. Macabo return-


V- .g fVom Lake Ngami, which he had succcodod !n reaching
by going right across the Desert from a point a little to the
south of Koloheng. The accounts of the abundance of
water-melons were amply confirmed by this energetic
traveller; for, having these in vast quantities, his cattle sub-
sisted on the fluid contained in them for a period of no leas
than twenty-one days; and when at last they reached a
supply of water they did not seem to care much about it.
Coming to the lake from the southeast, he crossed the
Teoughe, and went round the northern part of it, and i^,^
the only European traveller who had actually seen it all.
His estimate of the extent of the lake is higher than that
given by Mr. Oswell and myself, or from about ninety to
one hundred miles in circumference. C ^* /

On the 31st of December, 1852, we reached the town of
Sechele, cr.lled, from the part of the range on which it is
situated; Litubaruba. Near the village there exists a cave
named Lepelole; it is an interesting evidence of the former
existence of a gushing fountain. No one dared to enter the
Lohaheng, or cave, for it was the common belief that it was
the habitation of the Deity. As we never had a holiday
from January to December, and our Sundays were the pe-
riods of our greatest exertions in teaching, I projected an
excursion into the cave on a weekday to see the god of the
Bakwains. The old men said that every one who went in
remained there forever, adding, " If the teacher is so mad
as to kill himself, let him do so alone : we shall not be to
blame." The declaration of Sechele, that he would follow
where 1 led, produced the greatest consternation. It is
curious that in all their pretended dreams or visions of their
god he has always a crooked leg, like the Egyptian Thau.
Supposing that those who were reported to have perished
in this cave had fallen over some precipice, we went well
provided with lights, ladder, lines, &c. ; but it turned out to
be only an open cave, with an entrance about ten feet square,
which contracts into two water-worn branches, ending in
round orifices throui^h which the water once flowed. The


only inliabitants it seems ever to have had were bahoons.
1 left at the end of the upper branch one of Father Mathew'a
leaden teetotal tickets.

I never saw the Bakwains looking so haggard and lean
as at this time. Most of their cattle had been swept away
by the Boers, together with about eighty fine draught-oxen ;
and much provision left with them by two officers, Cap-
tains Oodrington and Webb, to serve for their return jour-
ney south, had been carried off also. On their return these
officers found the skeletons of the Bakwains where they
expected to find their own goods. All the corn, clothing,
and furniture of the people, too, had been consumed in the
flames which the Boers had forced the subject tribes to
apply to the town during the fight, so that its inhabitants
were now literally starving.

Sechele had given orders to his people not to commit any
act of revenge pending his visit to the Queen of England;
but some of the young men ventured to go to meet a party
of Boers returning from hunting, and, as the Boers became
terrified and ran off, they brought their wagons to Lituba-
ruba. This seems to have given the main body of Boers
an idea that the Bakwains meant to begin a guerrilla war
upon them. This " Caffre war" was, however, only in
embryo, and not near that stage 6? development in which
the natives have found out that the hide-and-seek system is
the most successful.

The Boers, in alarm, sent four of their number to ask for
peace ! I, being present, heard the condition : — ^' Sechele's
children must be restored to him.'' I never saw men so
completely and unconsciously in a trap as these four Boers
were. Strong parties of armed Bakwains occupied every
pass in the hills and gorges around; and had they not pro-
mised much more than they intended, or did perform, that
day would have been their last. The commandant Scholz
had appropriated the children of Sechele to be his owu
domestic slaves. I was present when one little boy, Khari^
fion of Sechele, was returned to his mother; the child had


been allowed to roll into the fire, and there were three large
unbound open sores upon different parts of his body. His
mother and the women received him with a flood of silent

Slavery is said to be mild and tender-hearted in some
pla^33. The Boers assert that they are the best of masters,
and that, if the English had possessed the Hottentot slaves,
they would have received much worse treatment than they
did: what that would have been it is difficult to imagine.
I took down the names of some scores of boys and girls,
many of whom I knew as our scholars; but I could not
comfort the weeping mothers by any hope of their ever
returning from slavery.

The Bechuanas are universally much attached to children.
A little child toddling near a party of men while they are
eating is sure to get a handful of the food. This love of
children may arise in a great measure from the patriarchal
system under which they dwell. Every little stranger
forms an increase of proj^erty to the whole community,
and is duly reported to the chief, — boys being more wel-
come than girls. The parents take the name of the child,
and often address their children as Ma, (mother,) or Ea,
(father.) Our eldest boy being named Eobert, Mrs. Living-
stone was, after his birth, always addressed as Ma-Eobert,
instead of Mary, her Christian name.




Having remained five days with the wretched Bakwains,
peeing the effects of war, of which only a very inadequate
idea can ever be foi*med by those who have not been eye-
witnesses of its miseries, we prepared to depart on the
15th of January, 1853. Several dogs, in better condition

by far than any of the people, had taken up their residence



at the water. No one would own them ; there they hac

remained, and, coming on the trail of the people, long after

their departure from the scene of conflict, it was plain

Ihey had

" Held o'er the dead their carnival."

Hence the disgust with which they were viewed.

On our way from Khopong, along the ancient river-bed
which forms the pathway to Boatlanama, I found a species
of cactus, being the third I had seen in the country, namely,
one in the colony with a bright red flower, one at Lake
Ngami, the flower of which was liver-colored, and the
present one, flower unknown. That the plant is uncommon
may be inferred from the fact that the Bakwains find so
much difficulty in recognising the plant again after having
once seen it, that they believe it has the power of changing
its locality.

On the 21st of January we reached the wells of Boat-
lanama, and found them for the first time empty. Lopepe,
which I had formerly seen a stream running from a large
reedy pool, was also dry. The hot salt spring of Serinane,
east of Lopepe, being undrinkable, we pushed on to Mashiie
for its delicious waters. In travelling through this country,
the olfactory nerves are frequently excited by a strong, dis-
agreeable odor. This is caused by a large jet-black ant
named "Leshonya.^^ It is nearly an inch in length, and
emits a pungent smell when alarmed, in the same manner
as the skunk. The scent must be as volatile as ether, for,
on irritating the insect with a stick six feet long, the odor is
instantly perceptible.

That the fear of man often remains excessively strong in
the carnivora is proved from well-authenticated cases in
which the lioness, in the vicinity of towns where the large
game had been unexpectedly driven away by fire-arms,
has been known to assuage the paroxysms of hunger by
devouring her own young. It must be added that, though
the effluvium which is left by the footsteps of man is in
general sufficient to induce lions to avoid a village, there


are exceptiong: so many came about oar half-deserted
houses at Chonuane while we were in the act of removing
to Kolobeng, that the natives who remained with Mrs.
Livingstone were terrified to stir out of doors in the even-
ing. Bitches, also, have been known to be guilty of tho
horridly unnatural act of eating their own young, probably
from the great desire for animal food, which is experienced
by the inhabitants as well.

When a lion is met in the daytime, a circumstance by nc
means unfrequent to travellers in these parts, if precon-
ceived notions do not lead them to expect something very
"noble" or "majestic," they will see merely an animal
somewhat larger than the biggest dog they ever saw, and
partaking very strongly of the canine features : the face ia
not much like the usual drawings of a lion, the nose being
prolonged like a dog's; not exactly such as our painters
make it, — though they might learn better at the Zoological
Gardens, — their ideas of majesty being usually shown by
making their lions' faces like old women in nightcaps.
When encountered in the daytime, the lion stands a second
or two, gazing, then turns slowly round, and walks as
slowly away for a dozen paces, looking over his shoulder,
then begins to trot, and, when he thinks himself out of
sight, bounds off like a greyhound. By day there is not,
as a rule, the smallest danger of lions which are not
molested attacking man, nor even on a clear moonlight
night, except when they possess the breeding <tto^;'^, (natural
affection :) this makes them brave almost any danger; and
if a man happens to cross to the windward of them, both
lion and lioness will rush at him, in the manner of a bitch
with whelps. This does not often happen, as I only became
aware of two or three instances of it. In one case a man,
passing where the wind blew from him to the animals, was
bitten before he could climb a tree; and occasionally a man
on horseback has been caught by the leg under the same
circumstances. So general, however, is the sense of security
on moonlight nights, that wo seldom tied up our oxen, bu\


lot thera lie loose by the wagons; wliile on a dark, rainy
night, if a lion is in the neighborhood, he is almost sure to
venture to kill an ox. His approach is always stealthy,
except when wounded; and any appearance of a trap is
enough to cause him to refrain from making the last spring.
This seems characteristic of the feline species: when a
goat is picketed in India for the purpose of enabling the
huntsmen to shoot a tiger by night, if on a plain, he would
whip off the animal so quickly by a stroke of the paw that
no one could take aim; to obviate this, a small pit is dug,
and the goat is picketed to a stake in the bottom ; a small
stone is tied in the ear of the goat, which makes him cry
the whole night. When the tiger sees the appearance of
a trap, he walks round and round the pit, and allows the
hunter, who is lying in wait, to have a fair shot.

When a lion is very hungry, and lying in wait, the sight
of an animal may make him commence stalking it. In one
case a man, while stealthily crawling toward a rhinoceros,
happened to glance behind him, and found to his horror a
lion stalking him; he only escaped by springing up a tree
like a cat. At Lopepe a lioness sprang on the after-quarter
of Mr. Oswell's horse, and when we came up to him we
found the marks of the claws on the horse, and a scratch
on Mr. O.'s hand. The horse, on feeling the lion on him,
sprang away, and the rider, caught by a wait-a-bit thorn,
was brought to the ground and rendered insensible. Hia
dogs saved him. Another English gentleman (Captain
Codrington) was surprised in tke same way, though not
hunting the lion at the time, but turning round he shot him
dead in tne neck. By accident a horse belonging to Cod-
rington ran away, but was stopped by the bridle catching
a stump ; there he remained a prisoner two days, and when
found the whole space around was marked by the footprints
of lions. They had evidently been afraid to attack the
haltered horse, from fear that it was a trap. Two lions
came up by night to within three yards of oxen tied to a
wagon, and a Bhcop tied to a tree, and stood roaring, but


afraid to make a spring. On another occasion, one of our
party was lying sound asleep and unconscious of danger
between two natives behind a bush at Mashiie; the fire was
nearly out at their feet in consequence of all being com-
pletely tired out by the fatigues of the jDrevious day : a lion
came up to within three yards of the fire, and there com-
menced roaring instead of making a spring : the fact of
their riding-ox being tied to the bush was the only reason
the lion had for not following his instinct and making a
meal of flesh. He then stood on a knoll three hundred
yards distant, and roared all night, and continued his
growling as the party moved ofi" by daylight next morning.
Nothing that I ever learned of the lion would lead me to
attribute to it either the ferocious or noble character ascribed
i;o it elsewhere. It possesses none of the nobility of the
Newfoundland or St. Bernard dogs. With respect to its
great strength there can be no doubt. The immense masses
of muscle around its jaws, shoulders, and forearms pro-
claim tremendous force. They would seem, however, to
be inferior in power to those of the Indian tiger. Most of
those feats of strength that I have seen performed by lions,
such as the taking away of an ox, were not carrying, but
dragging or trailing the carcass along the ground : they
have sprung on some occasions on to the hind-quarters oi
a horse, but no one has ever seen them on the withers oi
a giraffe. They do not mount on the hind-quarters of an
eland even, but try to tear him down with their claws.
Messrs. Oswell and Yardon once saw three lions endeavor-
ing to drag down a bufi'alo, and they were unable to do so
for a time, though he was then mortally wounded by a
twc-ounce ball.*

* This singular encounter, in the words of an eye-witness, happened
%a follows : —

*' My South African Journal is now before me, and I have got hold of
the account of the lion and buffalo affair; here it is: — '15th September,
1846. Oswell and I were riding this afternoon along ibo banks of the


In general the lion seizes the animal he is attacking by the
flank near the hind-leg, or by the throat below the jaw. It is
questionable whether he ever attempts to seize an animal by
the withers. The flank is the most common point of attack,
and that is the part he begins to feast on first. The natives
and lions are very similar in their tastes in the selection ot
titbits : an eland may be seen disembowelled by a lion so
completely that he scarcely seems cut up at all. The
bowels and fatty parts form a full meal for even the largest
lion. The jackal comes sniffing about, and sometimes
suffers for his temerity by a stroke from the lion's paw

Limpopo, when a waterbuck started in front of us. I dismounted, and
was following it through the jungle, when three buffaloes got up, anv^,
after going a little distance, stood still, and the nearest bull turned round
and looked at me. A ball from the two-ouncer crashed into his shoulder,
aud they all three made oflf". Oswell and I followed as soon as I had re-
loaded, and when we were in sight of the buffalo, and gaining on him at
every stride, three lions leaped on the unfortunate brute ; he bellowed
most lustily as he kept up a kind of running fight, but he was, of course,
soon overpowered and pulled down. We had a fine view of the struggle,
and saw the lions on their hind-legs tearing away with teeth and claws
in most ferocious style. We crept up within thirty yards, and, kneeling
down, blazed away at the lions. My rifle was a single barrel, and I had
no spare gun. One lion fell dead almost on the buffalo ; he had merely
time to turn toward us, seize a bush with his teeth, and drop dead with
the stick in his jaws. The second made ofl* immediately; and the third
raised his head, coolly looked round for a moment, then went on tearing
and biting at the carcass as hard as ever. We retired a short distance
to load, then again advanced and fired. The lion made off, but a ball
that he received ought to have stopped him, as it went clean through hia
ehouldcr-blade. He was followed up and killed, after having charged
several times. Both lions were males. It is not often that one bags a
brace of lions and a bull-buffalo in about ten minutes. It was an exciting
adventure, and I shall never forget it.'

*' Such, my dear Livingstone, is the plain unvarnished account. The
buffalo had, of course, gone close to where the lions were lying down for
the day ; and they, seeing him lame and bleeding, thought the opportU'
city too good a one to be lost. Ever yours,

"Frank Vardon.


laymg him dead. When gorged, the lion falls fast asleep, and
is then easily despatched. Hunting a lion with dogs involves
very little danger compared with hunting the Indian tiger^
because the dogs bring him out of cover and make him stand
at bay, giving the hunter plenty of time for a good deliberate

Where game is abundant, there you may expect lions m
proportionately large numbers. They are never seen in
herds, but six or eight, probably one famxily, occasionally
bunt together. One is in much more danger of being run
over when walking in the streets of London than he is of
being devoured by lions in Africa, unless engaged in hunt-
ing the animal. Indeed, nothing that I have seen or heaid
about lions would constitute a barrier in the way of men of
ordinary courage and enterprise.

The same feeling which has induced the modern painter
to caricature the lion has led the sentimentalist to consider
the lion's roar the most terrific of all earthly sounds. We
hear of the "majestic roar of the king of beasts.'' It is,
indeed, well calculated to inspire fear if you hear it in
combination with the tremendously loud thunder of that
country, on a night so pitchy dark that every flash of the
intensely vivid lightning leaves you with the impression
of stone-blindness, while the rain pours down so fast that
your fire goes out, leaving you without the protection of
even a tree, or the chance of your gun going off. But
when you are in a comfortable house or wagon, the case is
very different, and you hear the roar of the lion without
any awe or alarm. The silly ostrich makes a noise as loud ;
yet he never was feared by man. To talk of the majestic
roar of the lion is mere majestic twaddle. On my men-
tioning this fact some years ago, the assertion was doubted,
BO I have beec careful ever since to inquire the opinion«s
of Europeans, who have heard both, if they could detect
any difference between the roar of a lion and that of an
ostrich; the invariable answer was, that they could not
when the animal was at any distance. The natives assort


that thoy can detect a variation between the commence-
ment of the noise of each. There is^ it must be admitted,
considerable difference between the singing noise of a lion
when full, and his deep, gruff growl when hungry. In
i^eneral the lion's voice seems to come deeper from the
chest than that of the ostrich; but to this day I can dis-
tinguish between them with certainty only by knowing
that the ostrich roars by day and the lion by night.

The African lion is of a tawny color, like that of some
mastiffs. The mane in the male is large, and gives the
idea of great power. In some lions the ends of the hair
of the mane are black ; these go by the name of black-
maned lions, though as a whole all look of the yellow
tawny color. At the time of the discovery of the lake,
Messrs. Oswell and Wilson shot two specimens of another
variety. One was an old lion, whose teeth were mere
stumps, and his claws worn quite blunt; the other was
full grown, in the prime of life, with white, perfect teeth :
both were entirely destitute of mane. The lions in the
country near the lake give tongue less than those farther
south. We scarcely ever heard them roar at all.

The lion has other checks on inordinate increase besides
-nan. He seldom attacks full-grown animals; but fre-
quently, when a buffalo-calf is caught by him, the cow
rushes to the rescue, and a toss from her often kills him.
One we found was killed thus ; and on the Leeambye an-
other, which died near Sesheke, had all the appearance of
having received his death-blow from a buffalo. It is ques-
tionable if a single Uon ever attacks a full-grown buffalo.
The amount of roaring heard at night, on occasions when
a buffalo is killed, seems to indicate there are always moie
than one lion engaged in the onslaught.

On the plain, south of Sebituane's ford, a herd of buffa-
loes kept a number of lions from their young by the malea
turning their heads to the enemy. The young and the
cows were in the rear. One toss from a bull would kili
the strongest lion that ever breathed. I have beeo in-



formed that in one part of India even the tame buflfalv>efl
feel their superiority to aome wild animals, for they have
been seen to chase a tiger up the hills, bellowing as if they
enjoyed the sport. Lions never go near any elephants ex-
cept the calves, which, when young, are sometimes torr
by them ; every living thing retires before the lordly ele-
phant, yet a full-grown one would be an easier prey than
the rhinoceros; the lion rushes off at the mere sight of
this latter beast.

When we reached the Bamangwato, the chief, Sekomi,
was particularly friendly, collected all his people to *the
religious services we held, and explained his reasons for
compelling some Englishmen to pay him a horse. ^' They
would not sell him any powder, though they had plenty ;
so he compelled them to give it and the horse for nothing.
He would not deny the extortion to me ; that would be
^ boherehere,' (swindling.)" He thus thought extortion
better than swindling. 1 could not detect any difference
in the morality of the two transactions; but Sekomi^s ideas
of honesty are the lowest I have met with in any Bechu-
ana chief, and this instance is mentioned as the only ap-
proach to demanding payment for leave to pass that I have
met with in the south. In all other cases the difficulty has
been to get a chief to give us men to show the way, and
the payment has only been for guides. Englishmen have
always very properly avoided giving that idea to the native
mind which we shall hereafter find prove troublesome, that
payment ought to be made for passage through a country

January 28. — Passing on to Letloche, about twenty
miles beyond the Bamangwato, we found a fine supply of
water. This is a point of so much interest in that country
that the first question we ask of passers-by is, ■< Have you
had water ?" the first inquiry a native puts to a fellow-
countryman is, ^* Where is the rain V and, though they are
by no means an untruthful nation, the answer generally i»,
'^I don't know : there is none : we are killed with hunger
and by the sun." If news is asked for, they commence


With, '< There is no news j I heard some lies only/' and
then tell all they know.

This spot was Mr. Gordon Cumming's farthest station
north. Our house at Kolobeng having been quite in the
hunting-country, rhinoceros and buffaloes several times
rushed past, and I was able to shoot the latter twice from
our own door. We were favored by visits from this famous
hunter during each of the five years of his warfare with
wild animals. Many English gentlemen following the
same pursuits paid their guides and assistants so punc-
tually that in making arrangements for them we had to bo
careful that four did not go where two only were wanted :
they knew so well that an Englishman would pay that
ihey depended implicitly on his word of honor, and not
only would they go and hunt for five or six months in the
north, enduring all the hardships of that trying mode of
life, with little else but meat of game to subsist on, but
they willingly went seven hundred or eight hundred miles
to Graham's Town, receiving for wages only a musket
worth fifteen shillings.

No one ever deceived them, except one man ; and, as 1

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : including a sketch of sixteen years' residence in the interior of Africa, and a journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the west coast, thence across the continent, down the river Zambesi to the eastern ocean → online text (page 7 of 36)