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Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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over South Africa, but they are now practically extinct
in the country south of the Orange River. They are at
present most plentiful in Nyassaland, German and British
East Africa. In this latter country they are fairly com-
mon, and with the present strict game laws and big, suit-
able game preserves, the eland will probably survive in
British East Africa for a good many decades to come. The
best place to secure a fine eland in the last-named pro-
tectorate is, without doubt, the Kenia-Laikipia region. The
eland seems to develop larger and more powerful horns
in this part of the country than in the southern part of the
protectorate, where he is easily found on and around the
Sotik and Loita plains. Even not far from Nairobi, to the
northeast of the Athi Plains, and down along both the Athi
and Tana Rivers, the eland is still quite plentiful, although
lately he has been hunted there considerably.

The eland is particularly fond of bush and open forest
country, but in places where they are not much hunted
they are quite often found even on the plains; still they
never go very far away from some kind of cover. In dis-
tricts where the eland has been a good deal disturbed he

154
















Ordtxary Bcsh Buck, Shot ox Aberdark Mountains.



"W




Head of a New Variety of Bush Buck Called " Tragclaphus fjaderi."

Compare this with the photograph above and note the difference in the

markings and shape of head.



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

shuns the plains during the day, visiting them only at
night for the purpose of drinking and feeding, returning
at dawn of day to his favorite haunts, where he loves to
stand, or lie down to rest and sleep during the heat of the
day, preferably in the shadow of big trees. Native hunters
have repeatedly assured me that the eland is one of those
animals which are able to go for a long time without
drinking any water, and this has been corroborated by the
experiences of a good many hunters. It is possible that the
eland for days, and perhaps for weeks, at a time may be
satisfied with the water he gets, when he feeds on the dew-
drenched grass in the early morning. Mr. Selous thinks
that in Southern Africa the eland used to feed on melons,
which temporarily satisfied his need of moisture.

As the eland is also one of the many African animals
which is bothered with a great many ticks, he is very often
accompanied by the " rhinoceros bird," which, as in the
case of the rhino, not only helps the eland to get rid of
most of the parasites, but also warns him of any approach-
ing danger. Being, besides this, an exceedingly wary ani-
mal, with evidently very good eyesight, he is most difficult
to stalk, and I have spent hours and hours trying to get
close enough to the eland to secure a good snapshot, but
failed to do so without first wounding the animal.

When a herd of eland is disturbed, the animals are able
to run ofif at great speed, and it is amusing indeed to see
how these heavy creatures are able to make such high
leaps as they do when they stampede. When an eland ob-
serves the hunter at a distance, he generally stands still for
a moment, squarely facing him and switching his tail to
and fro, just a few minutes before he is ready to gallop

155



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

off. A good horse is, as a rule, able to keep pace with, and
even overtake, an average eland, if the ground is not too
rough, the cows being better runners than the bulls.

A full-grown bull eland stands as high as five feet
eight inches and more over the shoulders, while the mighty
horns, spherically twisted, and with a sharp ridge running
along almost to the tip, sometimes measure thirty inches.
This animal is one of the few large antelopes among which
the females also carry horns, although these are generally a
great deal thinner than those of the bulls and have the
ridges much less marked, but in length the horns of a cow
may far exceed those of any male.

The color of the skin of the young eland is a reddish
chestnut, and is often marked with well-defined, white
stripes, which run down along the sides from a dark brown
band on the back. Old bulls very often turn to a dark
slate-color, sometimes appearing grayish blue. Both males
and females carry large dewlaps, and particularly the males
develop a large quantity of dark brown, bushy hair on the
forehead, below the horns. The eland feeds, as a rule, in
small bands of from ten to twenty, but after the close
of the dry season much larger herds may be seen, often
coming down to water holes on the plains. Single bulls,
roaming around alone far from the herd, as in the case
of elephants, rhinos, and giraffes, are rarely encountered.

As already stated, it is exceedingly hard to get up close
to a herd of eland, for if a single animal detects the hunter,
it seems to be able quickly and intelligently to communicate
" the news " to the rest of the band. I found several times,
when stalking small herds of eland, that if only a single
animal could for a moment see me, the whole herd would

156



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

gallop off in another second, with their strange, heavy
leaps, and then sometimes go a long distance before set-
tling down to feed again. On the Sotik plains I once put
up a couple of fine eland bulls, which I succeeded in sep-
arating from a small herd and then stalked for hours, with
a view of getting a good snap shot of them, but all in vain.
The animals had evidently not been much hunted, for
they would let me come up to within some two hundred
yards of them each time. Then they galloped off for an-
other few hundred yards, when they would stop again,
until I had managed to steal up to about the same dis-
tance as before.

My experience this time proved the great vitality of
the eland. At about four o'clock in the afternoon I had
come up again within some two hundred yards of the
animals, and determined that if I could not get a snap shot
of them, I should shoot the largest of the two, both because
we needed the meat and because some of my Kikuju men
had begged me to let them have the tough skin to cut into
straps, with which to carry their loads. This tribe gener-
ally does this in such a way that they let the load rest on
the back, with the sling supporting it from the forehead,
just as the hunting guides in northeastern United States
and Canada. It was impossible to photograph the bulls,
and so I fired with the .405 Winchester with a steel-capped
bullet, aiming for the heart of the largest eland. At the
crack of the gun both bounded off in big leaps, and my
gun bearer expressed his disappointment again in the
words : " Hapana piga, bwana," or " You did not hit, sir."
I felt quite surprised myself, as I thought I had taken a
very careful aim, but being sure that I must have hit the
13 157



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

animal at least somewhere near the heart, I started toward
the clump of big trees, in the shade of which the two eland
had stood when I shot.

There was not a sign of any blood marks on this
spot, but as we followed the spoor of the two, one of the
native trackers observed a few drops of blood on twigs,
which evidently had rubbed against the side of the wounded
eland. From the height of the marks, I understood that the
shot must have hit somewhere in the vicinity of the heart.
After having gone exactly two hundred and twenty-five
paces from the place, where the eland had been when I
fired, I found the big bull dead on the ground. The steel-
capped Winchester bullet had gone in through his right
side, clean through the lower, pointed part of the heart,
broken a rib on the opposite side, and was buried in the
fat under the skin on the left-hand side of the animal,
from where I cut it out. Had I not been sure that I must
have hit the eland in a good place, I might have given up
the chase when we saw the two animals dart away. This
shows how very careful one must be in following up any
game shot at, that the trophies may not be lost, or that the
animals be not put to unnecessary suffering through the
carelessness of the hunter.

In spite of the great size and comparative strength of
the eland, which would make him a terrible antagonist to
either a man or a horse, if he were bent on mischief, it must
be remarked that the eland is of a wonderfully mild tem-
perament. Although it has been said that eland cows,
when accompanied by very young calves, sometimes have
courage enough to attack hunting dogs, and even men, in
the attempt to defend their offspring, I have had several

158



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

opportunities to see how perfectly gentle a big, strong eland
bull is, even if cornered and wounded.

Once while marching along the Guaso Narok River on
the Laikipia Plateau, I was suddenly confronted by a large
eland bull, which was accompanied by two or three cows.
I had been expecting leopards from fresh tracks, seen
only a few minutes before, so that when I saw the bush
move some fifty yards in front of me, I had the gun already
up to the shoulder. When the big eland bull suddenly
emerged, I half involuntarily pulled the trigger, with the
result that the stately beast instantly sank down on his
knees, while the cows galloped away. Feeling very bad
over my mistake, I handed the rifle to the gun bearer, and
took the camera to get a snap shot or two before the mag-
nificent old bull should expire. As I came around the near-
est bush in front of the eland, I faced him not more than
eight or ten yards away. Instantly he got up on his legs
again. I snapped the camera and was just trying to
change the film, when the big bull whirled around and took
a few leaps away from me, after which he fell dead. I
am perfectly convinced that had he wanted to do so,
he could easily have gored me, unarmed as I was, if
he had attacked me at the moment I was trying to take
his picture.

The meat of the eland is perfectly delicious, and dur-
ing the season when the animal has plenty of fresh grass
to feed on, it would favorably compare with the best of
beef. The eland is one of the few African antelopes
which is blessed with a considerable amount of fat. His
mighty leg bones contain a great deal of marrow, which
is delicious to eat on toasted bread, or else very useful

159



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

for the purpose of greasing guns and knives, in which re-
spect eland marrow fat is without a superior.

The eland is quite easily tamed and could, I believe,
with great advantage, be domesticated, and also crossed
with native cattle, which doubtlessly would procure a su-
perior race, for the milk of the eland cow is very fine and
rich. Some government officials have been of the opinion
that the eland should be withdrawn from the list of ani-
mals allowed to be killed without a special license, as they
believe that, if domesticated, it would materially improve
the native stock of the country. Elands have been easily
brought over to the different zoological parks of the civ-
ilized world, and thrive in the open, even in England, if
only protected during the coldest part of the winter.

The Roan antelope is another of the large and beau-
tiful animals of this group. A few decades ago this animal
was found almost all over Africa, from the vicinity of Cape
Town up to the southern part of the Sahara Desert, with
the only exception of the damp Congo forest. To-day the
roan is totally exterminated in all parts of Southern Af-
rica, below the Limpopo River. From this region, how-
ever, as far north as to the Upper Nile, the lovely roan
still exists, although never in abundance, nor in such vast
herds as many other antelopes.

The roan selects his feeding grounds with a great deal
of care and " taste," and being very fond of good water,
he is never found very far from some stream or water
hole. He seems to love a parklike, half-open bush coun-
try with undulating hills. One of his favorite feeding
grounds in British East Africa is the beautiful wooded
valley on either side of the Uganda Railroad, between the

1 60




Head of a Large Bull Eland




Wounded Roan Antelope, just Before the Last Charge,
Shot near Muhoroni R. R. Station.



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

station Muhuroni and Kibigori, not far from the Victoria
Nyanza. Here, on the northern side of the railroad, I
went out for the first time to hunt the roan in January,
1910.

I arrived at Muhuroni railroad station after a long and
tedious march of a whole day, during which I had severely
injured my right leg in a successful attempt to scare off
a number of actually charging Masai bulls. At the station
I met two Englishmen, who had both been out for several
days in the vicinity, looking for roan antelopes, but who
saw only fresh tracks of them. They were very much
discouraged, and told me that I had no chance whatever
to get a roan, particularly as I was not in any condition to
make a very long tour on foot. This part of the country
lies rather low, and is very much hotter than most other
parts of British East Africa. It is also infested by the
dangerous tsetse fly, so deadly to horses that the hunter
cannot with safety use ponies. This news was rather dis-
couraging, but as I had come all the way to this place to
hunt for a roan, I did not feel it fair to myself to give up
before I had at least tried my luck for one day.

The Hindu station master at Muhuroni told me that in
the country to the north of the station, some three miles
away from the track, was a place near a little stream
where I was most likely to find roan antelopes at this time
of the year. With my right leg black and blue, and swelled
to almost twice its size, I started out before four o'clock
the following morning. Guided by the half-moon, shin-
ing down from a clear sky, we started off toward the re-
gion mentioned by the station master, with one of his
private servants as an additional guide.

161



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

Every step hurt me so that it seemed as if it would
have been a rehef to scream, and the progress we made
was rather slow. We had just descended a small ridge
of hills, and were making for the stream of which the
station master had spoken, when the sun rose. First, then,
it became possible for me to scan the lovely parklike coun-
try all around with the powerful field glasses. After hav-
ing searched for a few minutes, I soon discovered, to
my indescribable joy, a big roan antelope all by himself,
proudly walking along with slow strides and erect head,
making for the source of the stream up among the moun-
tains, some three miles farther away to our right. The
roan was about eight hundred to nine hundred yards away
from where we stood, and as there was absolutely no cover
in a straight line between the antelope and us, we remained
motionless, until a few minutes later the beautiful animal
became partly hidden by trees and bushes. I saw that it
was impossible for me in my condition to run down toward
the river in time to get a shot at the animal before he
would be too far away. I, therefore, sent two of my swift-
est Kikuju men to run as carefully and fast as they could
up along our side of the stream, crouching down in the
high grass in open places, so that the roan should not be
able to see them before they had reached the place where
the river emerges from the mountains.

From there I told them to cross the stream and walk
slowly down along the little river, one at fifty yards dis-
tance and the other about two hundred yards from the
water, so that they would head the animal off and possibly
make it return the same way it had come. In an instant
the two light-footed savages ran off and soon disappeared

162



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

among the bush and high grass. The rest of us made a
bee-line for the river, so as to be ready on the other side,
should the antelope return, as I had calculated. As quickly
as I could with my wounded leg, we went down to the
stream, which we immediately crossed. After having ar-
rived on the other side, I left a string of men from the
river up to a thick clump of bushes, some two hundred
yards away from the water, where I sat down to watch
developments.

Everything worked to perfection and exactly as I had
calculated. The two runners had arrived just in time to
turn the roan antelope back again, and as they, strangely
enough, strictly obeyed instructions, and only walked
slowly down without making any noise, the antelope sim-
ply strolled back in the same direction in which he had
come up. I had only watched from behind the bushes
for some four to five minutes, when my gun bearer first
spied the antelope, and whispering " Anakuja " ("He
comes "), pointed out the beautiful roan coming leisurely
along at some seventy-five to eighty yards distance.

First taking a couple of snap shots, which unfortunately
afterwards turned out to be too " thin," the light not be-
ing strong enough for so rapid exposures, I brought the
animal down to his knees with a bullet from the 1 1 milli-
meter Mauser. Thinking that the roan now was too badly
wounded to be able to escape, I exchanged the gun for
the camera and cautiously walked toward the wounded
antelope, the gun bearer, of his own accord, following very
closely with the rifle. I had only gone a few yards, when
the antelope suddenly jumped up and ran away, but after
a few seconds stopped again and sank to his knees. Ad-

163



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

vancing as quickly as I could, so as to be able to secure
another snap shot at closer quarters, and when within some
fifteen yards of the animal, I took two successful pictures
of the stately antelope. Once more he tried to get up,
but this time, to my amazement, not with the intention of
escaping, but with revenge in his mind. With lowered
horns and uttering some strange-sounding bellowlike
grunts, he rushed at me. Once more he went down on his
knees, only a few yards away, when I had time to " snap
him " again. Quickly I exchanged the camera for the
rifle. This was hardly done, before the courageous roan
made a last attempt to attack, but as he struggled to his
feet, another shot put an end to his agony.

A large bull roan will reach five feet in height over the
shoulders. He carries a pair of beautiful, sharp-pointed
horns, curving backwards like a Turkish saber, and show-
ing very marked, round year rings. The color of the
grown-up animals varies from light brown to dark gray.
The face is almost black, with lovely white patches of hair
on the forehead, below the eyes, running down in a wedge-
shape toward the nose. The roan is one of the few ante-
lopes that carries a well-developed mane, which consists
of very straight, coarse hair, about three to four inches
in height. The under side of his neck and lower jaw,
as well as part of his belly, is almost snow-white, which
makes the skin of this animal very beautiful indeed.

The roan antelope goes, as a rule, in small herds of
twelve to eighteen. They are very shy and wary, and
belong to the most courageous of animals. It has often
happened in South Africa, where this antelope was often
hunted on horseback with a pack of dogs, that a wounded

164



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

bull roan finished two or three hunting dogs before the
sportsman got a chance to kill it with a shot at close range.

According to many hunters' opinion, the sable is the
most beautiful of the large antelope family. He is some-
what smaller in the body than his cousin, the roan, but his
horns are considerably larger and more beautiful, not sel-
dom attaining a length of forty to forty-five inches, meas-
ured along the curve. At the base of the same there is
a kind of bump over the eyes, from which the horns grace-
fully sweep backward in the same shape as those of the
roan, and ending also in very sharp points. The year
rings are well developed and beautifully marked, reaching
almost to within three inches of the tips. The sable ante-
lope has even more of a mane than the roan, and the
patches of white below the eyes run out into a point near
the nostrils, where they join the white streaks of the under
jaw. The color of the upper part of the sable antelope's
body is of a rich glossy black, strangely contrasted with
the almost snow-white tint of his belly.

The sable is now rarely ever found south of the Orange
River, and does not go farther north than to the southern
part of British East Africa. In this protectorate he is
only found in the hot and damp coast belt south and
southwest of Mombasa. The richly wooded Shimba Hills,
a day and a half's march from Mombasa, seem to be one
of the favorite feeding grounds of this beautiful antelope.
These hills can be reached either by marching overland
most of the way, or else by hiring a dhow, which may take^
the hunting party for a good many miles southwest over
the Kilindini Bay, from where it is only a short day's
march to the shooting grounds. As the Shimba Hills and

165



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

their surroundings are practically the only places where
the sable antelope can be hunted in British East Africa,
it has been shot over a good deal of late, so that the horns
of the remaining animals are not nearly as large and
beautiful as those from German East Africa and Nyassa-
land. It was around these hills that Mr. Kermit Roose-
velt, in the fall of 1909, succeeded in getting a couple of
fairly good heads.

The sable antelope is one of the most wary animals
and seems to be possessed of splendid eyesight, which
makes him very difficult to stalk. He is nowhere very
plentiful, and seldom seen in herds of more than twenty
to forty animals, but more frequently met with in small
bands of from ten to fifteen, males and females. If pur-
sued, the sable antelope is capable of great speed, and as he
also seems to possess a good deal of staying qualities, he
is very hard, indeed, to overtake on horseback. However,
if the country is not too rough or dense, a good horse will,
as a rule, be able to catch up with this antelope, unless he
has had too much of a start.

The sable, together with his cousin, the roan, are prob-
ably the two most courageous of the antelope family. If
a bull sable is wounded and sees his pursuer at close quar-
ters, he will invariably charge down on him with great
speed and determination, and with his mighty horns he
might be a very dangerous antagonist. In South Africa,
where in former days he was also hunted with dogs, he
often used to play great havoc with the pack, when they
approached him too closely. The natives are very fond
of making flutes of the horns of the sable antelope by cut-
ting a couple of holes in the upper part of the hollow horn.

166










Wounded Sable Antelope.




T'f^-^P'^ y*^



Small Herd of Wildebeests, the White Bearded Gnu, Sotik, 1909.



THE LARGER EAST AFRICAN ANTELOPES

On this improvised flute they sometimes play for hours
two or three notes, which, with the dull sound of the native
drum for an accompaniment, constitutes the only " music "
to the much-liked '* ngoma," or native dance.

Of all antelopes, none is more curious looking and
strangely behaving than the wildebeest, or gnu, as it is
often called. There are a number of very closely allied
species of the wildebeest, distributed from the northern
parts of the Cape Colony up to Uganda and British East
Africa. In the southern part of the latter protectorate
the white-bearded gnu is one of the commonest game ani-
mals, sometimes seen even from the Uganda Railroad in
herds of hundreds at a time. Mr. Selous describes the
beast very characteristically in a few words when he says :
" It appears to have the head of a buflfalo, the tail of a
horse, and the limbs and hoofs of an antelope."

The gnu has a short and broad head, and a very wide
muzzle, fringed with coarse bristles of considerable length.
The nostrils are large and very far apart, and the neck
carries a stifif, erect mane, and is also covered with hair on
the under side. The wildebeest's tail is unusually long
and bushy, and is, both by settlers and natives, used as a
fly switch and duster. The head looks in the distance
just like that of a bufifalo, the horns having nearly the same
shape as those of the latter. They first curve somewhat
downward and outward, afterwards bending the tips in-
ward in a graceful sweep. The inner bony core of the
gnu's horn is not solid, like those of most antelopes, but
porous and honeycombed, like the horns of oxen and
sheep. Both sexes carry horns, those of the males being
much thicker and more rugged than the horns of the fe-

167



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA


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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 12 of 26)