Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

Back log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club online

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for a day or two, as he and his men had all they could
do to take care of the animals shot the two previous days.
But as there were in the vicinity a great many beautiful
birds, which I coveted for our New York museum, and
as some of the men, specially trained to skin birds, had
nothing particular to do, I went out one morning with my
double-barreled shotgun to collect birds, taking some ten
or twelve men with me. The gun bearer was ordered to
walk close behind me with one of my powerful rifles, for
the great charm of hunting in Africa lies partly in the
fact that while the sportsman may start out with the inten-
tion of shooting small antelopes or birds, he may suddenly
and entirely unexpectedly be confronted by a lion, a rhino,
a buffalo, a leopard, or even an elephant, of whose proxim-
ity he had no idea.

After having shot a number of birds, which from time
to time I sent back to camp, I suddenly saw, through a little
opening in the bush, a strange-looking heron, staring in a
certain direction, and moving its head most curiously up
and down, as it intently gazed into the bush. From this
attitude of the bird, I presumed that some other animal



must be stalking in from that direction, and, making a
semicircle around the bird, I discovered a big cheetah care-
fully approaching him, crouching down on bent legs, in
much the same way as the ordinary house cat stalks a
mouse just before it is ready to spring on its prey. The
leopard, which had not yet observed me, was only some
forty yards away. Looking around for the gun bearer to
get hold of the rifle, I found, to my amazement, not a man
in sight !

Not wishing to lose the cheetah at any price, I made up
my mind that it would be a case of either " his skin or
mine." So, emerging from my cover, I fired with the right
barrel of the gun, containing shot No. 5, meant for small
birds. The charge hit the leopard squarely over the heart,
but had not power to penetrate more than skin deep. Just
as I had anticipated, the leopard instantly charged down
on me in big leaps. Deciding to reserve the left barrel,
loaded with only No. 2 shot, I waited until the very last
moment, and just as I thought the leopard was about to
make his last leap for me, I " let go," hitting the base of
his neck.

At such close range, the muzzle of the gun being cer-
tainly not more than, at the most, three yards away from
the leopard's neck, the charge had a tremendous effect, the
shot tearing a big hole in the neck and turning him in an
instant. The moment the leopard received the second shot,
he swayed around sideways, made two more leaps, and
rolled over dead. This was the only time, I am happy to
say, that I lost my patience with my gun bearer, for when
he came forward first after the second shot, I " touched
him " rather unceremoniously, so that he tumbled into
10 125


one of the nearby bushes. Had I not been so fortunate
with my last shot, I might have, through his neghgence,
in not keeping close to me, either lost the beautiful trophy
or else been scratched and possibly badly mauled by the
big cat.

The cheetah is a very wary animal and seems to possess
most excellent eyesight. There are probably no other ani-
mals that can see as well both by day and by night as the
members of the cat family, and so far as my experience
goes, none of the felines is able to detect a sportsman at
a greater distance than the cheetah. I have been seen re-
peatedly by hunting leopards on the plains at distances of
fully eight hundred or one thousand yards, when they have
made good their escape into the high grass before I had
any chance of stalking them. In 1909, however, w^hen
hunting on the Sotik plains, only a few wxeks before Colo-
nel Roosevelt made his shooting expedition to these famous
regions, very early one morning we espied two cheetahs
lying on the grass close to each other. The sun had not
yet risen, and there was just light enough to shoot, when
we detected these two animals at a distance of some six
hundred yards. As I was whispering to Asgar, our brave
lion chaser, and pointing out the leopards to him, the big
cats saw us, and made off in long bounds. In an instant
Asgar flung himself on the hunting pony; and then fol-
lowed a most interesting chase. For the first few moments
the two leopards, probably male and female, ran close
together and seemed to outdistance Asgar and the pony,
but after having run for a few hundred yards they sepa-
rated, Asgar chasing the big male, now gaining on him
more and more. We followed behind as fast as we could,



but to our dismay Asgar soon disappeared behind a small
hill, over which the leopards had sped.

Running along as rapidly as possible, we came upon
a herd of topi, which had been startled by the sound of the
galloping horse, and, in their bewilderment, ran almost
right into us in their mad effort to escape. Believing that
a shot would not interfere with the pursuit of the leopard,
I fired at the finest bull in the herd, which, w^hile galloping
at top speed, was instantly killed with a shot in his neck,
and rolled over in a heap, turning a complete somersault
as he fell. Leaving a few men to take care of the topi, we
ran on as hard as we could.

Soon we reached the crest of the little hill, when, to
our amazement, we saw Asgar in the saddle facing us, and
brandishing his whip in the air. We fortunately took this
to mean that he had the leopard already at bay somewhere
nearby, so we ran down the slope of the hill as fast as pos-
sible. When we came within speaking distance, Asgar
shouted to us that the cheetah was hiding in a hole, made
by a wart hog, only some twenty yards away from the
horse; although we looked in the direction to which he
pointed, it was impossible for us to detect any animal there
at all. With camera and gun in either hand, I approached
within thirty yards of the place, where the leopard hid,
and yet it was impossible to see anything but a little mound
of earth dug out by the pig.

I then looked through my field glasses and discovered
the two eyes of the leopard, just glaring at us from the top
of the hole. As it was impossible to take any photograph
of this, I aimed for the top of his head, which I missed
by the fraction of an inch. The next moment the leopard



bounded out from his hiding place, only to receive shot No.
2 in his right shoulder. The shock of the bullet stopped
him for a moment, and, turning in our direction, he
snarled fearfully, with half-open mouth. Taking advan-
tage of this opportunity, I advanced to within fifteen yards
of the furious cheetah. Here I succeeded in getting two
good photographs of him. Just as I had snapped him the
second time, he decided that he had had enough of " pos-
ing," and made a leap toward us, certainly intending to
charge, when the third bullet, plowing through the heart,
finished him in an instant. In the stomach of this cheetah
we found evidence enough that its last meal had consisted
of a little " tommy," seeing pieces of the peculiarly marked
black and white skin, which showed that the meat must
have been either that of a Thomson's or possibly a Grant's

The habits of the cheetah do not vary much from those
of the other leopards, but he is not often found on such
high altitudes as the latter, and seems to prefer the open
country and bare plains. The ordinary leopard likes the
densest bush country the best. In such places one will
hardly ever meet a cheetah. Although the latter is con-
siderably taller than the ordinary leopard, he does not
weigh so much, being much less solid than his cousin. The
length of the cheetah is also greater than that of the
spotted leopard, particularly if the measurement includes
that of the tail, which is in proportion longer than the tail
of the leopard. My first cheetah measured seven feet four
and a half inches from the tip of the nose to the end of
the tail before it was skinned; the second one, measured
in the same way, was seven feet seven inches long. Much



larger specimens than these have been recorded. One, re-
cently shot in German East Africa, was almost nine feet
long, measured in the same manner.

As the hunting leopards cannot be classed among the
animals which are very destructive or dangerous to natives
and settlers, they are put on the " protected list," and the
hunter is allowed to kill only two cheetahs on the ordinary
sportsman's license, which is now in force in British East



There are not less than five species of rhinoceros in
existence. Of these, Asia claims three. The great, or
Indian, rhinoceros, and the Javan variety, carry but one
horn, whereas the Sumatran, the smallest of all living spe-
cies, has two horns, like his African relative. The Su-
matran seems to be more closely related to the African
rhino than the other two Asiatic species, for he has not
only two horns, but his skin has not the large armor-plated
patches as clearly defined as the Indian and Javan rhino.

Of the two African species, the white or square-lipped
rhinoceros is the larger of the two. This rhino is also
much the rarer, existing only in a few small districts in
South Africa and in the Lado Enclave, to the north of
Uganda, where recently Colonel Roosevelt was lucky
enough to secure several fine specimens. The skin of the
" white rhino " is in reality not white at all, but dark gray,
and only very little lighter than the ordinary *' black
rhino." His front horn attains a height of some thirty
to sixty inches, a good deal larger than any horn of the
common black rhino, while he stands about six feet high
over the shoulders.

The black rhinoceros, usually met with all over East
and Central Africa, is somewhat smaller, averaging five



feet to five feet six inches in height, while one of the larg-
est horns on record measured only forty-two inches in
length. This species is prehensile-lipped and almost black
in color, except that, fron\ wallowing in different colored
mud and clay, the animals appear sometimes red, some-
times dark gray.

The African rhino feeds . xclusively from twigs and
leaves of trees and bushes. He is not as fond of swamps as
his Asiatic cousin, and is often found even in practically
waterless country, where he goes considerable distances
from the nearest stream or water hole. As a rule, he will
return to drink at night, and sometimes he also drinks in
the early morning. It has been said that the black rhino
does not like cool weather, and that he seldom goes higher
than 5,000 feet on plateaus and mountain ranges. This,
however, is a mistake, for he is very abundant on the
Laikipia Plateau, lying at an altitude of over 6,000 feet,
and in 1906 I shot a charging female rhino, accompanied
by a half-grown calf, which I met on one of the foothills
of Kenia, at fully 8,000 feet altitude. It was evident from
the many rhino paths on this side of the mountain that
it was a favorite feeding place for the big pachyderms.

I have noticed that there are two somewhat different
species even of the black rhinoceros, for I have always
found certain differences between those living on the
plains and the rhinos inhabiting bush and forest country.
The rhino of the plains has, as a rule, a much thicker and
shorter fore horn than the bush rhino, whose horn is more
curved backward, much more slender, and very sharply
pointed. I have also noticed that the feet of the rhino in-
habiting the plains are, in comparison, larger than those




of the bush rhino. As to viciousness, I beheve that the
rhino of the bush is much more ^jad tempered than the one
inhabiting the open plains, whicii is said to be true also of

One of the most curious if pachyderms is without a
doubt the African rhinoceros. He distinguishes himself
from his Indian, one-horned cousin by having two horns,
one straight behind the other. Both horns vary a great
deal in size. Usually the front horn is the larger of the
the two, curving slowly backward, much in the shape of a
Turkish saber, and being in most cases round, very thick
at its base, and tapering to a sharp point at the end. The
other horn is generally much smaller and somewhat like a
short Roman sword, being much flatter than the front horn
and almost straight.

The front horn of the male rhinoceros is a great deal
thicker than that of the female, but a good many rhinos
have been seen and killed on which the second horn was
larger than the first. I myself have seen on the Sotik
plains a huge female rhinoceros which had the second horn
very much larger than the first, and curving forward over
the first horn, which was a small, swordlike one, just ex-
actly as the second horn generally is. The curved, second
horn of this rhinoceros protruded at least six inches in
front of the nose and appeared to be almost resting on the
top of the small front horn.

I had told Colonel Roosevelt that I was only going to
stay on the Sotik plains for about a week or ten days, as
he himself had planned to go there right after me, and,
hoping that the colonel might be able to secure this
strangely shaped head for the Natural Museum at Wash-


Two Rhinos Aslf.ep on the Plains to the Northwest of Guaso Narok
Distance about Forty Yards.



The Same Animals.
Note the tick birds on the backs of the beasts.


ington, I did not shoot the beast, which I could very easily
have done, as the rhino, followed by an almost full-grown
calf, passed in front of me at a distance of not more than
fifty to sixty yards; I was fortunate enough, however, to
secure a couple of good photographs of this curious-looking

In 1906, when hunting northwest of Mt. Kenia, I saw
at a distance of some two or three hundred yards an un-
usually large rhino with a long and abnormal-looking horn.
In this case it was the front horn, which had grown up to
a length of probably some forty inches or more, while
almost at its middle it had a sort of extension which, at
that distance, looked as if the rhino had put its horn
through a pumpkin. For hours and hours I tried to get
within shooting range of this queer-looking beast, but
before I could find any cover, the wind being unfavorable,
he scented us and made ofif at a very quick gait, never to
be seen by us again. In 1909 I saw some trophies that
were sent down from German East Africa by way of Vic-
toria Nyanza and the Uganda Railroad, and which be-
longed to a German settler. He had shot, among other
animals, a most curious-looking rhino, having both horns
of about the same size and length, but both curving toward
each other until they met, thus forming a perfect arch over
the nose.

While the skin of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros is
thicker than that of the two-horned African, and divided
in large, armorlike patches, the latter has a more uniform
and much smoother skin, varying in thickness from one
third of an inch under the belly and inside of the hind legs
to fully one inch and more on the sides and back. The



skin is always thickest on the sides, over the shoulders, and
on the back of the powerful neck. It is rather remarkable
that, in spite of the great thickness of the rhino's skin, it
should be possible for parasites to live and feed on these
great pachyderms, some of which are literally covered
with these giant ticks. They seem to be able to find cracks
and soft places in the heavy skin, through which they are
able to suck the animal's blood, and in such places they con-
gregate in great masses, sometimes causing bad ulcera-
tions and sores.

In such circumstances it is a blessing to the rhinos that
the so-called " tick bird " exists. This is a brownish-look-
ing little bird with a strong, straight bill, which always
seems to follow the rhino both in the bush and in the open
country. These wary little friends not only serve the rhi-
noceros as " tick-eaters," but also warn him of any ap-
proaching danger. Many a time I have stalked a rhino
with my camera under the most favorable conditions, and
I would have been able to come within a few feet of the
powerful beast without attracting his attention, had it not
been for the little tick bird, which with its shrill " pt-jaeh,
pt-jaeh," warned the rhino of the approaching hunter,
and, to my disgust, the coveted trophy would either run
away or make a vicious charge.

It must be said, however, to the credit of the tick bird,
that it is sometimes useful also to the hunter. For in dense
bush the sportsman would often not be able to see the
rhino, until almost right upon him, if the tick bird with its
" pt-jaeh " did not warn the hunter of the proximity of this
dangerous beast. One morning when I was encamped
with a large caravan not far from the junction of the


•%:^ Z

« NT


The Same Animals.
The one facing the camera is about to charge at full speed.

At About Ti:x Yards ih, I-ell, Killed Instantly by a Bullet from the
Big .577 Express Rifle.



Guaso-Narok and the Guaso-Nyiro, I started very early for
the jungle with some twenty-five men. Before it was quite
Hght enough to shoot accurately or to photograph, we had
to go through a stretch of very dense bush. As we had not
seen any rhinoceros tracks or other marks of their presence
in that particular place, we did not imagine that there
were any of these beasts around, when suddenly a little
tick bird flew up out of the thicket right in front of us,
and with his shrill " pt-jaeh, pt-jaeh " warned us to be on
our guard.

No sooner had I heard the bird before the angry snif-
fing of a rhino announced that we were in dangerous com-
pany. The moment the tick bird gave the signal, my gun
bearer, of his own accord, reached forward the big .577
Express with the words, " Kifaru karibu, bwana, kamata
msinga " (''A rhinoceros is near, sir, take the ' cannon ' !")
The next minute two rhinos rushed forward and faced us,
right across a small opening in the bush, and for several
seconds we eyed each other at a distance of only some
ten yards or less. It was a big mother rhinoceros with
her half-grown calf, snorting at us from across a low,
red ant-hill. Unfortunately it was still too dark for a

With the big gun at my shoulder, with safety-catch
pushed forward, and finger on the trigger, I was ready for
a " brain-shot," if the rhino had moved forward an inch,
but there she stood for a good many seconds motionless,
except for a few tossings of the head. Then the animal
turned around just as suddenly as she had appeared, and
rushed ofif into the dense bush, crashing down everything
in her wild attempt to escape. I was glad that the *' inter-



view " ended thus, as I did not want to kill another rhi-
noceros unless absolutely obliged to do so to protect my

The strength of the African rhino is almost incredible.
With ease he roots up trees and bushes, and is able to break
down the jungle and go through the thickets so thorny and
dense that one would think it absolutely impossible for any
beast to penetrate. During the construction of the Uganda
Railroad it more than once happened that rhinos took ex-
ception to the invading of their country, routed the work-
men off the track, and upset and destroyed wheelbarrows
and tools. On one occasion a huge rhinoceros rushed for-
ward toward a gang of workmen, who were fastening a
rail to its sleepers, scattered the men, and then made for the
construction car, which stood on the completed track a
few hundred feet farther away. It put its mighty horn
under the car and literally lifted it off the track, after which
performance the beast, sniffing and puffing, departed. It
took the workmen several hours to recover from their
fright and to jack the car onto the track again. Horses
and mules, and even cattle, have often been attacked by
these vicious brutes and tossed many feet up in the air,
horribly gored and mutilated by the powerful horns of the

Much has been said about the poor sight of the rhinoc-
eros, and I have even heard prominent lecturers on Afri-
can topics, and also sportsmen, speak about it as the " blind
rhino." Although I know it is a generally accepted fact
that the rhino is " almost blind," this theory is, in my opin-
ion, not altogether warranted. I do not believe that he
is nearly as badly off in this respect as he is supposed to



be. On my first visit to Africa in 1906 I started out rhi-
noceros hunting with the beHef that the beast was extraor-
dinarily nearsighted and stupid, but a good many of my
experiences, some of which I will relate in the following
paragraphs, have made me change my mind considerably
on this subject.

It is generally said that the rhino cannot recognize an
object at any farther distance than seventy-five to one hun-
dred feet, and it is contended that if a rhino has observed
a person at a longer distance than this, it is probably not
through the sight, but through his wonderful scent that he
has detected the hunter. In a good many instances it may
be hard to say whether this is so or not, but as I had heard
from one man, who had a great deal of experience in big
game hunting in Africa, that he, for one, did not believe in
the bad sight of the rhinoceros, I made up my mind that
I should make as many thorough " tests " in this respect
as possible.

While I have seen that the rhino, like a great many
other wild animals, both in Africa and in other continents,
cannot very well distinguish between a man and a tree
stump, if the former stands perfectly motionless, particu-
larly if he is well or partly hidden by bushes, trees, or long
grass, this may often be the case even with human ob-
servers, if only the distance is increased. As to the rhi-
noceros, I have found that in bush country, when the wind
was such that it was absolutely impossible for the beast to
scent me, he would not detect me, even ten to fifteen yards
ofif, if I stood motionless among the bush. On the other
hand, I have seen how the rhino clearly discovered my pres-
ence when I was moving along in the bush, or even stand-



ing still in open places, at a distance of from two to three
hundred feet.

Both on the Sotik plains and on the plateau to the
northwest of the Guaso-Narok River I have repeatedly
had experiences with rhinos which prove that their eye-
sight is really not as bad as it is generally believed. On
the former plains I saw two rhinos lying down in the open,
just about the noon hour, taking a sleep and exposed to
the burning rays of the equatorial sun. I advanced un-
noticed to within one hundred and fifty yards for the pur-
pose of taking photographs, when the noise made by one
of the gun bearers, as his hob-nailed shoes crashed against
a stone, awakened both animals. They sprang to their
feet, and, although the wind was very strong and blowing
from them to us, so that it was absolutely impossible for the
animals to get our scent, they both saw us. They whirled
around instantly and faced us, sniffing and puffing and
wobbling their heads sideways and up and down, evidently
attempting also to get a " whiff " of the disturbers of their
siesta. We all three stood as motionless as we could, ex-
cept that I tried to focus my lens on them, but just as I
snapped the first picture both animals turned and ran away
at high speed.

One morning on the Laikipla Plateau I had the op-
portunity of seeing no less than eleven rhinos in three
hours, during which time I repeatedly tried to stalk right
up to the beasts. A strong southwest breeze was blow-
ing, and as I approached the animals from the northeast
there was no possible chance for them to get a whiff of our
wind. Time and again, I noticed, to my dismay, that the
big pachyderms had an eyesight good enough to detect



us at distances of from one hundred to two hundred yards
and over, when all of them would run away, with the ex-
ception of one old bull, which was lying down when I
approached him. This rhino remained motionless, with
his eyes evidently fixed on me, as I advanced with camera
in one hand and the big Express in the other. Finally,
when within less than fifty yards of the beast, as I was
trying to make a semicircle around him to the southward,

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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 10 of 26)