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so as to be able to get a better light for the picture, he
followed me with his head, and then suddenly rushed up,
made a couple of angry sniffs, and charged right down
on us, snorting like a steam engine.

In spite of very careful work, great patience, and
strong, favorable wind, I have never been able to approach
a rhino that was awake nearer than about seventy yards
on the open plains before he noticed me. I have several
times actually paced the distance between me and the
rhinos, which ran away, when they saw me even as far
off as from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred
and seventy-five yards. The distance at which the beasts
would either run away or charge us depended doubtlessly
also on the different districts where they were found вАФ i. e.,
whether they had been much hunted or not. If much dis-
turbed, even the vicious rhino learns that man with his
firearms is too dangerous an enemy to encounter. On
the other hand, one of the most sudden and dangerous
charges I experienced was made by an old bull, which had
evidently been wounded a good many times before, as I
found in his skin two Wandorobo arrowheads and several
other wounds from bullets.

Accompanied by a few men and taking only a rifle and

139



THE BTG GAME OF AFRICA

a shotgun, I had gone up into the dense bush near the
Kijabe Railroad station to shoot a small antelope for my
table. We had walked fifteen to twenty minutes, when we
suddenly came across fresh rhinoceros tracks, but, as we
had only gone out for the antelope, we left the track and
went in the direction of an open place, overgrown with
grass, where the natives had told me that they had seen
the antelopes feeding about an hour before. Just before
we reached this place, the vicious old rhino dashed out
at us from the thick bush. My men disappeared as if
swallowed up by the ground, and, although I turned around
as quickly as possible, the rhino's head was not more than
two yards and a half from the muzzle of the gun when
I pulled the trigger of the little Mannlicher. The beast
fell instantly, but the momentum of his charge hurled his
body to my very feet. I assure the reader that it is no ex-
aggeration to say that it was actually less than six inches
between the rhino's nose and my left foot ! Had the bullet
not found the brain, nothing in the world could have saved
me from being killed by the ugly brute. This rhino must
have been very old, for his horn, so powerful at its base,
was worn down until probably only one third of its original
length remained.

The scent of the rhinoceros is very sharp indeed, and
in this respect he is exceeded only by the elephant. I have
tried on the open plains to see how far a rhinoceros would
be able to scent a couple of men if the wind was not too
light. Rhinos that were feeding with their noses to the
ground and evidently not suspecting any danger at all,
scented us often at a distance of from two hundred and
fifty to three hundred yards. When the big pachyderm

140



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

scents a human being, he generally runs forward in the
direction of the place from which the scent comes, to locate
his enemy, and to " investigate," not always meaning to
charge in any vicious way. Eight out of the twelve rhi-
noceros that I have shot, I have had to kill, as they charged
down on me, evidently meaning mischief, although in sev-
eral instances I waited with the fatal shot and gave the
rhinos a chance to change their minds, until they were
within a few yards of me, when I did not care to have
them *' investigate " any closer.

It is impossible to say what a rhino will do in certain
circumstances, for one time he will run away from and
another time he will charge down on his pursuer in exactly
the same situations. I remember once, when our caravan
was marching from the Laikipia Plateau toward Mt.
Kenia, how a large rhinoceros was feeding right in the
little native path, which we were following at the time.
Not wanting to kill the animal, but at the same time not
willing to risk the lives of any of the porters of the cara-
van, I consulted with the gun bearers and nearest men as
to what we had better do. They proposed that we should
make as much noise as possible, shouting and beating with
sticks on empty water pails, to frighten away the rhino.
As we began this terrible " kelele " the rhino, which was
only some seventy-five yards away, tlirew up his head and
tail and rushed away as quickly as he could.

A few months later, however, when we were marching
toward Sotik through the Southern Kedong Valley, we
had an experience of an entirely different character. We
were following along an old Masai cattle trail, close to the
foothills of the Mau escarpment, when, reaching the top of
11 141



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

a little ridge, we discovered two large rhinos calmly feed-
ing close to each other on either side of the little path,
only a few hundred yards away from us. The animals
were walking slowly in the same direction as we, and as
we would have caught up with them in a very little while,
we decided to try our old method of scaring them away
with great noise. On a certain signal, some fifty of us
shouted at the top of our lungs, while others beat empty
water cans and pails. This had the unexpected effect that
both animals instantly whirled around and charged down
on us like a team of horses, running along close to each
other, one on each side of the little path.

I had several times heard that if a large animal is hit
on one side, it invariably turns out toward the other side
to find his pursuer, and not wanting to kill any of the
beasts, I fired, when they had come within some fifty yards,
hitting each of them on the side facing the other. It was
just as if a mighty wedge had been driven in between the
animals, for they suddenly separated and ran away in dif-
ferent directions. The female disappeared on our right
into a clump of bushes, whereas the larger one, an old male
with a fine horn, rushed off to our left into the open.
After making a run for a few seconds, he suddenly changed
his mind, possibly annoyed by the noise and laughter of
the men, and turning around, he charged us again with
uplifted tail and lowered horn, coming on as fast as he
could !

In the meanwhile I had had time to reload the big rifle
and was ready to give him a " warm reception." Between
us and the charging brute was a low, circular anthill, only
some fifteen yards away, and I said to Mr. Lang and the

142



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

gun bearers, who begged me to shoot, that I would wait
until the rhino had reached the anthill, to see if he would
not change his mind before that. It seemed almost as if
the rhino had been a mind-reader, for, having reached
the outer edge of the hill, he suddenly stopped, snorted and
pufifed, and threw up the red clay with his front feet. With
the gun to the shoulder, I shouted, much to the amusement
of my men, " Njoo, Mzee, mimi tayari " (" Come on, old
fellow, I am ready "). He showed his anger in this way
for a few seconds, and then turned around and ran off to
our left, exposing a long flesh wound of about eighteen
inches, from which the blood was trickling, proving that
the big bullet had only plowed through his thick skin for
that distance, causing him no serious injury whatever.

Of the ferocity and courage of the African rhinoceros
many contrary things have been said. While some people
hold that the rhino is an exceedingly clumsy and stupid
beast, which very seldom attacks the hunter, and in most
instances runs away when molested, others consider him
one of the most dangerous animals in existence. I myself
side with the latter, having had, as already mentioned, a
good many narrow escapes from these vicious brutes. Be-
fore I had ever met a rhino, I believed that they were not
to be classed among the more dangerous game animals,
but my first experience with these beasts soon gave me
a different opinion about them. One day when encamped
not far from the Kijabe railway station I had remained
in my tent, as the rain was pouring down, and as I also
had some writing to do. Suddenly a Wandorobo hunter
came running into the camp, shouting that he had located
a rhino, and that he knew from the tracks that it must be a

143



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

very large one. As I had never seen a rhinoceros yet in
his wild state, and was most anxious to secure a fine
specimen for the museum, besides having the excitement
of a rhinoceros hunt, I flung away my writing parapher-
nalia, took a couple of guns, the gun bearer and a few men,
and followed the tracker.

We soon had to go through an almost impenetrable
jungle, where we in places had to crawl on hands and feet
to be able to advance at all. After two hours of such hard
marching in the pouring rain, we finally found the fresh
rhinoceros track. Having followed it for another hour
through similar circumstances, the men suddenly stopped
and consulted with one another. They then all tried to
make me understand that it was no use to go any farther,
because the " rhino had gone too far away." But I gath-
ered enough, from what they had said, to understand that
they were afraid to follow the beast any longer in this ter-
rible jungle. I was sure that they wanted to deceive me,
and that they were simply tired of the pursuit and afraid
to go any farther, as we could plainly see that not only one,
but two rhinos had passed over the same path, one after
the other. I upbraided them for their cowardice, and
told them to go ahead, and that under no circumstances
would I return to camp before we had at least seen the
rhinos.

Now they came straight out and told me that it was a
most dangerous undertaking to follow two of these big
brutes in such dense jungle. They said that if I per-
sisted in going any farther I would have to take the lead
myself and they would follow close behind me. This I
did without hesitation, fortunately exchanging the .405

144



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

Winchester for the heavy .577 Express, which the gun
bearer had been carrying behind me up to that time.

In perfect silence and as quietly as possible we followed
in the tracks of the big beasts, being particularly careful
not to step on any dead branches, nor to make any other
noise, which might disturb the animals. We had not gone
on thus more than perhaps ten or fifteen minutes before
the men stopped again. They now tried even harder than
before to make me give up the pursuit. Again they said
that it was useless to follow the rhinos, as they were much
" too far away " from us to be overtaken. Before I had
even a chance to reply, the rhinos themselves answered
with their peculiar angry sniff, only a couple of dozen
yards or so away from us !

Where we stood, the jungle was so dense that it was
almost impossible to move the arms freely, or to raise a
gun, but I saw a little to my left, and in the direction from
where the noise of the rhinos came, a small opening, for
which I quickly made, thinking myself followed by the
gun bearer and the rest of the men. Louder and louder
sounded the crashing of the trees, as the big beasts came
charging down upon us, and, turning around to see if the
gun bearer was ready with the reserve gun, there was not
a man in sight. It was as if the earth had swallowed them
all!

As I reached one end of the little opening, out shot the
head of a big rhino on the opposite side, only about twenty
feet away. A flash and a tremendous roar from the pow-
erful gun, and the huge rhino rolled over only a few feet
away from me, his brain pierced by the powerful steel-
jacketed bullet! Just as I was gasping for breath, and

145



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

before I had time even to lower the gun, Mabruki's, the
gun bearer's, voice rang out from the top of a nearby
tree, " Bwana, ingine anakuja " ("Master, another one
is coming ").

Hardly had he finished his sentence than I saw Rhino
No. 2 charging down upon me from another side, and,
turning toward him, I gave him the second barrel, with
which I was fortunate enough to hit the head again just
back of the second horn, and down he went, stone dead.
Within less than a minute's time and with only two suc-
cessive shots of the big Express gun, I had succeeded
in felling the first two rhinos which I had ever seen at
large.

It is impossible to describe the joy I felt when I was
resting on the side of one of my fallen " enemies," for if
I had not understood any of the language of the men,
or had I hesitated and returned to camp at their sugges-
tion, I probably would never have had this wonderful ex-
perience. It is in a case like this that the hunter cannot
depend upon anybody else for protection, and in such
dense jungle he has to rely upon his own nerve, swiftness
of decision and good aim, more than upon any fellow
huntsman, be he ever so near at hand. To show how un-
certain it is to count on the stupidity of the rhino, or to
believe, as a prominent English sportsman and author af-
firms, that perhaps only once out of two hundred and fifty
times the rhino means mischief when charging, as he
is coming on only to " investigate," I will here relate a few
facts that certainly speak for themselves.

Dr. Kolb, a German scientist and hunter, was one day
bird-shooting a few years ago in German East Africa,

146




Two Different Types of Rhinos.
The upper one represents the bush rhino, the lower one the rhino of the
plains. Note the difterence in the shape of the lips and relative position
of the eyes. The little " extra horn " between the two horns of the
upper rhino is, of course, unusual.




Another Splendid Trophy.



\



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

when he was suddenly charged by a large female rhi-
noceros. Although not accompanied by any calf, a circum-
stance which often makes these " mothers " vicious, this
rhino, without any provocation whatever, charged down on
the doctor, who at the time was only armed with a shot-
gun. Hearing the angry sniffings of the rhino, and the
breaking down of the bush as she came on, the doctor
tried to run for cover, and for a few seconds raced around
a small but dense clump of bushes, closely followed by
the vicious brute. Having discovered a large tree with a
big cavity near the ground, the doctor unfortunately made
for the same. No sooner had he entered the cavity than
the rhino was upon him, and with its powerful horn killed
him in a few seconds, mutilating him in a most horrible
way, while the cowardly native followers looked on from
nearby trees, without doing anything to distract the atten-
tion of the rhino from the doctor.

Mr. C. Schillings, in his wonderful experiences as a
pioneer wild-animal photographer, relates also in his in-
teresting book, *' With Flashlight and Rifle," a good many
instances of having been charged by a number of rhinos,
which he had not provoked in the least. In fact, he had
several times made regular detours, so as not to come too
near the vicious brutes, which, in spite of all precautions,
had scented him and charged him and his caravan. Once,
Mr. Schillings relates, one of his porters was badly gored
and tossed by a rhino, which suddenly " ran amuck " of
the caravan. Wonderful enough, this particular native,
who had actually had his intestines thrown out of his body
by the rhino, subsequently recovered, without seeming to
be any the worse for his experience.

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THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

An Austrian nobleman, whom I met in British East Af-
rica in 1906, told me of three very narrow escapes from
charging rhinos. Once he himself had had his left shoulder
bruised by a rhino which charged madly down upon him.
In spite of having been twice badly wounded, the beast
rushed so close past the Austrian, who with a side step
tried to save himself, that the rhino's shoulder hit him,
hurling him several feet out of the animal's way, while the
brute fortunately continued straight ahead. On another
occasion a female rhinoceros, accompanied by a young
calf, was encountered in the dense bush country on the
Mau escarpment, as the caravan was moving along in the
early morning. Suddenly there was an outcry among the
porters, who threw down their loads right and left, while
an angry rhino mother made straight for the cook, whom
it unfortunately succeeded in tearing to pieces with its
sharp-pointed horn before the hunter killed it with a well-
aimed bullet from his Mannlicher rifle.

Not even at night is the caravan perfectly safe from
rhino attacks, and a good many times I have myself had
nightly visits from the dangerous pachyderm. Once when
in camp on the western slopes of Mt. Kenia I was awak-
ened during a moonlight night by shoutings and great
commotion in camp. Taking the big Express, I ran out
in front of the tent and came just in time to see the hind-
quarters of a big rhino, evidently a male, which had run
right through the camp between some of the porters' tents,
and had passed within three yards of my own tent, al-
though at the time a strong fire was blazing.

Mr. Percival, the assistant game ranger in Nairobi,
told me of a similar, although much worse experience,

148



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

which he had had a couple of years ago. One night he
was awakened by a feehng of unrest, as if something had
gone wrong in his camp. His incHnation was to get up
immediately to investigate, but being very tired from a
long march the previous day, and seeing that the big camp
fire was blazing, and the Askari awake, he again lay down,
wishing he might be able to go to sleep again. For some
reason it was not possible for him to feel comfortable, hav-
ing again the strong feeling that he should get up and look
around the camp. Finally he decided to do so, took his
big gun, and went out among the porters' tents to see if
everything was all right. Hardly had he left his tent,
when a big rhino rushed, full speed on, through his camp.
Passing right over the fire itself, he ran down Mr.
Percival's own tent, and, putting one of his heavy feet
right on the very couch, which a few minutes before
had been occupied by the sleeping game ranger, broke it
in pieces.

In 1909 I was told of a similar experience in German
East Africa by a Mr. Herman Gelder, of Berlin, who had
made an extended shooting trip through the southern and
western part of the German Protectorate. With over one
hundred porters, Mr. Gelder was encamped at the edge
of a large forest not very far from the eastern shore of
Lake Tanganyika. Having seen a good many rhinoceros's
tracks in the vicinity, before camp was pitched, the pre-
caution was taken of making a small " boma " around the
camp. This was done by heaping cut-ofif branches of thorn
bushes and trees in a circle around the camp. Having ac-
complished this, he ordered a big camp fire to be kept burn-
ing during the night. Suddenly, about 2 o'clock in the

149



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

morning, Mr. Gelder was awakened by a tremendous out-
cry, and, when he had rushed out to investigate, he found
that a rhino had broken through the boma, which was too
low and thin, and had killed one of his Askaris, who had
been sitting at the fire.

In camping in countries infested with rhinos and lions,
the only safe device is to make a strong boma of thorn
bushes all around the camp, or else in a horseshoe form,
leaving a large camp fire to protect the small opening in
the *' wall." If this hedge is made eight to nine feet high
and ten to twelve feet wide, it gives a perfect protection
from rhinos and lions, although instances have occurred,
as before related, where both rhinos and lions did not heed
the camp fire. However, it very seldom happens that any
wild beast ventures too near a blazing fire, particularly if
it is of good size.

According to my own experiences with rhinos, I believe
them to be the most dangerous of African game, as one
never knows exactly what a rhino will do. As one is most
often attacked by these vicious brutes in very dense jungle,
it is impossible to see them before they are within a few
yards. At such close quarters it is rather unsafe to let
the rhino " investigate " any further, and the best thing to
do then is to place a bullet in his forehead, for a heart shot
will very seldom kill a rhino instantly. I have known
of a case where an Englishman shot no less than twelve
bullets from a .500 Express rifle into the body of a rhino,
two of which bullets had touched the heart, and two or
three penetrated the lungs. Yet the hunter was killed by
this rhino, which, after goring his antagonist, walked over
a hundred yards away before he fell.

150



THE AFRICAN RHINOCEROS

As the rhino, in spite of his dangerous character, is
partially protected both in German and British East Af-
rica, and as he not only exists on the open plains, where
he is not nearly so dangerous, and much more easy to kill,
but also inhabits the densest jungles, he will probably be
one of the last big animals to be exterminated.



CHAPTER X

THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

The antelopes belong with right to the bovine family,
and seem to be animals which are a good deal like both
oxen and sheep, either of which species some antelopes re-
semble so much that they are not easily distinguished from
the same. How little radical difference, for instance, be-
tween an eland and an ox, or between a chamois, generally
classed among the goats, and a springbok, a puku, or even
a reed buck!

The large antelope family is characterized from other
animals of their size by their graceful build and their
beautiful heads and horns, carried a great deal higher than
the level of the back. In some species of antelopes both
males and females have horns, but in a good many others
of the finest of those animals only the males carry horns.
The horns of the antelopes may be characterized by their
long, slender, and more or less cylindrical form, and al-
ways by the fact that they are never grown out into dif-
ferent branches as those of the elk or moose. A great
many of the antelopes carry most beautifully shaped horns,
some of them, like the young impala, having horns forming
a perfect lyre, while others, like the greater kudu, have
them grown up in graceful spirals in the shape of enor-
mous corkscrews. Some of the antelopes' horns show

152



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

prominent year rings, running up to within a few inches
of the tip, and all of the horns of the antelopes, with a few
exceptions, grow almost straight upward and then for-
ward or backward.

The bony internal core of the horns of almost all
antelopes is not honeycombed and full of holes, like that
of oxen, sheep, and goats, but hard and entirely solid.
Another characteristic of the antelope, with very few ex-
ceptions, is an easily distinguished gland beneath the eye,
which is entirely lacking in oxen and goats. Then again
while certain antelopes' teeth very much resemble those
of oxen, others are more like the teeth of sheep and goats.

The antelopes have in ages past exclusively inhabited
Southern and Western Asia, from whence centuries ago
they migrated into Africa, through Arabia. With few and
less important species as exceptions, the antelopes proper
now inhabit only the Dark Continent, having almost com-
pletely disappeared from their former home, a fact that
still puzzles zoologians. The whole of South Africa was
once literally alive with antelopes of all kinds, and I have
myself heard tales from a good many old Boers, telling of
how, only a few decades ago, antelopes, such as the eland,
gnu, the oryx, different kinds of hartebeests and others, ex-
isted there in uncountable herds. But, alas ! most of these
antelopes are now very rare, and some of them entirely
exterminated in South Africa.

It is in the countries to the north of the Zambesi River,
in Nyassaland, parts of Portuguese, German, and British
East Africa, that the hunter now meets the largest antelope
herds in existence. In these countries the vast plains at-
tract the antelopes, and they can still be seen there in great

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THE BIG GAME OE AFRICA

numbers. I am sorry, however, to say that in the few years
between 1906 and 19 10 these herds have noticeably dimin-
ished. Where I in 1906 saw Hterally thousands of harte-
beests, wildebeests, and zebra, I found in 19 10 only hun-
dreds. In spite of game laws and large game preserves,
it is probably only a question of time when most of these
graceful animals will be rare, and some of them possibly
exterminated also in the aforenamed countries.

The eland is the largest of all antelopes. Years ago
great herds of this magnificent beast roamed around all


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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 11 of 26)