Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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male. In very old bulls the base of the horns grow to-
gether as on the buffalo, forming a strong armor, which
protects that part of the skull.

The gnu is as inquisitive as he is curious-looking. In
places where he has not been much hunted, whole herds
will gallop up to within two to three hundred yards to
view the hunter and his party. There they will stand
motionless for a few seconds, until one of the more wary
and restless cows suddenly whirls around and gallops off
in a semicircle, generally followed by the whole herd.
Their bounds and leaps and " sham fights " are most amus-
ing to observe. Sometimes the bulls will go down on their
knees, fight and lock horns for a while, and then dash
away again with the rest of the herd, switching their
long tails and kicking high up in the air. All of a sudden
the whole company swings around, like a well-drilled cav-
alry troup, and again faces the hunter.

By a little strategy and patience it is quite easy to come
up close enough to a herd of wildebeest to be able to single
out the largest bulls, although this antelope never fre-
quents forest or bush country, where the sportsman can
stalk behind some kind of cover. The gnu does not go
very far away from water holes or rivers, where he often
drinks, not only in the early morning and also at night,
but sometimes even in the middle of the day. Whether
this is unusual or not I am unable to say, for I have my-
self only once witnessed wildebeests drink in the daytime.
It was on the southern Loita plains, not very far from the
border of German East Africa, where I was resting one
day to take lunch in the shadow of some mimosa trees,
which grew along a good-sized water course. This was



rather wide near our place, and still contained a good deal

of water, although there had been no rains in this part of

the country for many weeks. Suddenly my attention was

called to a herd of about forty wildebeests, which were

coming along almost in single file toward the widest stretch

of the water course, and hardly more than eighty to ninety

yards away from us. As they were crossing the water,

a great many of them drank, while two bulls fought fiercely

in mid-stream. As we were hoping to get some more lions

in this vicinity, I did not molest the herd which, totally

unaware of our presence, marched leisurely up on the other

side of the river bed and began to feed again as they were

moving along over the plains.

From the many bleached skulls of wildebeest, which
we saw strewn about on these and other plains, I believe
that the lions are very fond of " gnu steak," and that
perhaps next to the zebra they prefer this kind of meat.
I often noticed that old, stray bulls used to feed among
little groups of zebra, and they always seemed to be on
the best terms with each other. The gnu is a very cunning
animal. When, for instance, he is hunted near the game
preserves, he seems to know, almost to the foot, where the
border of the preserves begins. As soon as he notices
the hunter he gallops off at a great speed until he is within
the protected zone. Then he whirls around and looks at
him in defiance, switching his sides with his beautiful tail,
evidently knowing that he is safe there.

The wildebeest also shows a great deal of vitality. I
had once been trying for several hours to stalk an old bull
gnu on the Athi Plains. When I finally succeeded in get-
ting up to within two hundred yards of this fine-looking



beast I shot at him with my little Mannlicher, " long dis-
tance " rifle. When I fired, the gnu stood on the slopes of
a little hill, and about one hundred and fifty yards from
the top of the same. As soon as he was hit, for I plainly
heard the bullet strike the animal, he galloped ofif over the
crest of the hill and disappeared. We ran as quickly as
possible up to the top of the hill, as I thought the bull
might stop on the other side, as soon as he was unable to
see us any more, but coming up over the ridge we found
him standing on the plains over four hundred yards far-
ther away, with outspread legs and lowered head, his tail
hanging straight down. Here he stood motionless for
several seconds. Understanding that he must have been
very severely wounded, I took the camera and ran down
as fast as I could to photograph the animal before it should
fall. I was really fortunate enough to get a couple of
good pictures of the grand old bull before he fell. When
dissecting the animal we found that I had by mistake used
a steel-capped bullet in the 6 millimeter Mannlicher which,
although it had gone through the heart and one of the
lungs, had only made such a small hole that the animal was
able to go as far as it did before it died.

One of the most curious experiences which I have ever
had with any kind of an animal happened with an old gnu
on the Sotik plains in 1909. Finding a splendid-looking
bull standing alone, I ventured a shot with the small Mann-
licher at the great distance of over three hundred and fifty
yards. As soon as the gun cracked the animal went down
in a heap and we all rushed forward to claim our trophy.
As the horns were rather fine, I wanted to photograph the
animal before we should begin to skin it, so I laid down



the gun and went up with my camera to take a good pho-
tograph of tlie apparently dead gnu's head at only three
yards' distance. Just as I had done this and was changing
my film, I asked the men to turn the wildebeest over on
the other side, which they at once proceeded to do. Some
of the men got hold of the legs, others of the head and
horns, and thus turned the antelope over.

Imagine our surprise when, just as he had been turned
over, the gnu suddenly got up and ran away! The men
and I were so amazed that we did not know what to do
for a while, the old bull galloping off as fast as he could
over the plains! As my gun was several yards away,
the gnu succeeded in getting two or three hundred yards*
start before I could shoot. The third shot broke the ani-
mal's back and he went down never more to move again.
When we came up to the gnu we found that the first
bullet had barely grazed his spine and so only stunned the
animal for a moment. Had it been a rhino or a lion it
might easily have been able to kill me before I could have
gotten hold of the gun. Mr. Selous told me of having
had several similar things happen to him, some of which
I have related in previous chapters, and he argues from his
great experience as a big-game hunter that it is the safest
thing to put an extra bullet into any animal's head at a
few yards' distance, even if the beast is apparently dead.

A great many " stories " have been told of gnus having
attacked hunters, but I myself am unable to believe this
antelope capable of any such ferocity. I have had oppor-
tunity to go up to several wounded gnus which, if they had
been bent on mischief, certainly would have had the chance
of charging, but they never showed the slightest intention



of so doing, contrary to the courageous sable and roan

In spite of the good game laws and other circumstances
favorable for the survival and even the increase of the
gnu, it seems to me that he has either diminished in some
degree in British East Africa during the last four years,
or else been cunning enough to take to the big-game pre-
serves for the greater part of the year, for the number of
wildebeest which I saw in 1906 was far greater than those
I encountered four years later on practically the same



The greater kudu is one of the most coveted prizes for
the East African big-game hunter, not only because he
is such a magnificent looking animal, but also because he
is very hard to bag. The wide range of this beautiful
antelope, so common years ago all the way from Cape
Colony up through Central and Eastern Africa as far as
to the Abyssinian Highlands, has of late years been mate-
rially shortened. Mr. Selous told me that the animal has
now entirely disappeared from Cape Colony and is fast
becoming very rare in all the countries south of the Lim-
popo River.

The kudu is fond of undulating and hilly country, but
is often seen on level ground along rivers and lakes, if he
only finds plenty of trees and dense bush to feed among.
This stately antelope may dispense with the hills, but he
will never be found on the plains or anywhere else where
there is not an abundance of cover, such as wooded and
bush country can afford. In the latter part of the dry
season the kudu feeds chiefly on young and tender shoots
and twigs of trees and bushes, particularly before the
young grass has grown up after the regular grass fires
kindled by the natives.

The kudu is not easily obtained, for he is nowhere very
13 173


numerous. He is generally found in pairs or in very small
herds of six to ten, although I have heard that in certain
parts of German East Africa it is not an uncommon thing
to find as many as fifteen to twenty-five of these beautiful
antelopes in one herd. They are also said to be fairly
numerous in a few districts of Somaliland, where they
are ruthlessly killed by the natives for the sake of the
horns, which are brought over to D Jibuti or Aden, and
sold to the tourists, as the big steamers coal in these

The kudu is next to the eland in size, attaining a height
over the shoulders of from four feet four inches to four
feet seven inches. The magnificent horns sometimes meas-
ure more than three and a half feet in a straight line.
They have very sharp and well-defined ridges, running
almost up to the very tips of the spiral-shaped horns. The
female kudus carry no horns. The color of these antelopes
varies from grayish and reddish brown in young males
and females to a kind of bluish gray in old males, in which
respect they are much akin to the eland. Like the latter,
the kudu's skin is also marked with narrow, white stripes
running down from the back. Its beautifully marked head
carries several white spots, and a white V-shaped chevron
between the eyes.

In British East Africa the kudu is rather scarce. In
the Baringo district he was formerly very abundant, but
was so much shot at there by British officers, garrisoned
at Fort Baringo, and also by " safariing " sportsmen, that
he was finally threatened with total extermination in that
part of the country. The government has, therefore, now
forbidden all kudu-hunting in the whole of the Baringo



district. Another place where the kudu may be found,
and where he is allowed to be shot at present, each sports-
man being licensed one bull kudu, is the vicinity of the
Kiu and Sultan Hamud stations on the Uganda Railroad.
There he is sometimes found among the undulating, park-
like, wooded hills and the dense jungle of mimosa and
thorn trees. He is, however, very seldom obtained in this
part of the country, for he is exceedingly shy and difficult
to stalk, and seems to have learned, like the gnu, that if
he returns into the nearby southern game preserve, he is
safe from the hunters' persecution.

After many hours of tracking two kudus in these re-
gions I once finally succeeded in getting up to the animals
late in the afternoon. The day had been very hot and the
wind rather uncertain, but after the noon hours a steady
southeast breeze sprang up, which made it more easy to
gain on the animals. It had rained quite hard in the morn-
ing, so that the clearly visible imprints of the hoofs made
tracking comparatively easy, although for hours it seemed
impossible to catch a glimpse of either of them. Finally,
when we were almost completely exhausted, I, all of a
sudden, obtained a perfect view of the pair, as I emerged
from behind a clump of thick mimosa trees. There they
stood, not one hundred yards away, both evidently listening
intently, and standing on a small open space between dense
bushes on either side. Unfortunately they were too much
in the shade to be ** snap shot " from where I stood. To
my utter disappointment the pair consisted of a young bull
with only half-grown horns, and a fawn. Although I had
never shot a kudu before, I felt that I did not want to dis-
turb the peace of this pair. After having admired the



beautiful antelopes for a few seconds longer, we retraced
our steps without even having frightened the animals.

The water buck is an entirely different species of ante-
lope. Although not much smaller than the kudu, standing
sometimes fully four feet at the withers, and having power-
ful, sometimes almost lyre-shaped, horns of considerable
size, yet the water buck cannot be compared with the kudu
as to beauty. The skin of the water buck has an abund-
ance of long, coarse hair, and his tail is short and bushy.
The color of his skin varies considerably from light brown
and almost dark red to bluish gray, with white stripes over
the eyes. He has also patches of white on the throat and
muzzle, while on the buttocks there is a large half-moon-
like field of white which extends above the tail, the hair of
which on the sides and the end is often white.

The water buck is, as his name implies, very fond of
water. He is a great swimmer and often stands for hours
belly-deep in the stream eating the tender leaves and shoots
of water plants. Strangely enough, this aquatic antelope
sometimes roams quite far away from his favorite element,
and seems then to prefer steep and stony hills, up and down
which he is capable of running with great precision and
speed. If disturbed, the water buck will instantly make
for the nearest river or lake, and there seek his safety in
hiding among reeds and rushes. I have several times seen
the animal more than a mile from the nearest water hole
or stream; in fact, once a female water buck showed us a
much-needed water hole, so completely surrounded with
high grass and bush that we should probably not have
found it, had not the frightened antelope made its way



Another time in trekking along the Guaso Nyiro we
came upon an unusually large herd of water buck, contain-
ing at least thirty animals, among which I easily singled
out a very fine old bull with magnificent horns. There
were also a great many females in the herd and several
very small " babies." The water bucks were all feeding
a few hundred yards away from the river on the stony
slopes of a hill, but as soon as they observed us they made
a bee-line for the stream. I fired at the big buck, which
brought up the rear of the fleeing herd. As he received
the bullet he tumbled over, making a complete somersault,
but regaining his equilibrium in the next instant, he got
up and reached the water before I had a chance to fire at
him again. When we came down to the river's edge we
could see no trace of any of the animals until one of the
men detected the mighty horns of the wounded bull among
the reeds only some thirty yards away from us. The cun-
ning animal, when it saw that it could not escape with the
rest of the herd, had submerged its whole body in the river
until only the head stuck up out of the water! I believe
that if he had not moved his head he would not have been
discovered, but now he was detected and dispatched with
another shot through the brain. The water was rather
deep; two of the men, however, volunteered to swim out
and bring the buck ashore, for which they received an extra
" bakshish."

There are several kinds of closely allied species of the
water buck, the most common in British East Africa being
the Cobus defassa. On one of my trips to East Africa I
shot a water buck which seemed to be somewhat different
from the ordinary Cobus defassa. The skin of this animal,



which I shot on the Laikipia Plateau, I later presented to
the Royal Swedish Academy of Science in Stockholm to
be mounted for the Museum of Natural History. I men-
tioned at the time to the curator that I thought it might be
a new species. I was more than delighted, therefore, when
a few weeks later I received a letter from Prof. Einar
Lonnberg, inquiring about when and where this animal
had been shot, as he had found that it evidently represented
a new subspecies, which he described in a pamphlet issued
by the " K. Svenska Vetenskapsakademien in Stockholm,
Band 4, No. 3."

As the reader may be interested in the characteristics
of this new subspecies, I will here reprint the Professor's
own description:

" Cohus defassa tjaderi (nezv subsp.)

" The typical Cobus defassa ( Ruppell ) is a well-known
animal, distinguished from its nearest allies (those which
are, like the defassa, provided with a white rump-patch),
by its rather long and somewhat pointed ears, a white
patch on the upper throat, the red color of the forehead
and the general rufous brown coloration of the body.

" The specimen presented by Mr. Tjader, and named
after him, undoubtedly belongs to the defassa group, but
it dififers so much from the typical form that I believe it
must at least provisionally be regarded as representing a
new geographic subspecies. This difference makes itself
known especially in the much dark areas, which later may
be seen on the accompanying figure of the skin.

*' The black of the face extends above the white ring
round the muzzle upward to above the middle of the white
eye-stripe and on the sides to the corner of the mouth. It
has thus a considerably greater extension than in the true


Small Water Jjuck, Killed on Laikipia.

Found to be a new subspecies of the defassa family and subsequently called

" Cobus defassa tjadcri."

Semi-tame Female Water Buck near the Sotik Plains.


defassa. The white eye-stripe is clear and well defined,
but does not extend farther backward than over the an-
terior third of the eye. Above the black face the forehead
is bright rufous, somewhat mixed with black. The sides
of the face behind the lateral extension of the black have
the same color as the forehead, except that the region from
below the eye to the root of the ear is paler, huffish brown,
shading into whitish at the ear. The sides and the under
parts of the lower jaw behind the clear white chin are
dark brown, somewhat mixed with hoary white from the
basal parts of the hair. The back of the ears is rufous,
but with broad white areas on either side; the tip is black
and the inside white.

" The upper side of the neck is rufous with black tips
to the hairs, but the sides and the lower parts of the neck
behind the white throat patch is of a mixed grayish brown
color, produced by the hairs having their distal parts black-
ish and their basal parts light gray and partly rufous. The
color of the body is also mixed in a peculiar manner. It
is dark brown, in some light, almost blackish brown, but
to a certain degree mixed with red. This is effected by
the hairs having long black tips and rufous bases, and be-
sides some scattered hairs are (basally or wholly) whitish.
Toward the root of the tail and at the borders of the white
rump-patch the rufous color is more dominating, but other-
wise the whole animal is much darker than the rufous
brown typical Cobus defassa. The hairs are rather short,
only measuring about 2 cm. on the back and sides.

" The under parts are dark brownish gray, the distal
parts of the hairs being dark smoky brown, and the basal
parts hoary gray. The posterior of the belly, from the
inguinal tract to around the naval, is whitish with long
hairs. At the prepuce a tuft of brown hairs is placed. The
legs and feet are black with a brownish shade in front. A



narrow white line rounds the hoofs. The tail is proxi-
mally colored like the back ; distally it is almost black, and
so is the tuft ; below it is white. Its length without the tuft
is about 32 cm. The length of the ears is about 22 cm.

" The horns appear to be rather short and stout and
less curved when compared with a typical defassa. Their
length along the anterior curvature is about 48 cm. and
their basal circumference about 18.5 cm. They are pro-
vided with 20 rings. This shortness of the horns is not
due to youthfulness, as the animal, to judge from the well-
worn molars, might be termed middle-aged.

" Basal length of skull 374 mm.

Length of nasals 165 "

Distance from gnathion to orbit 253 "

Length of upper molar series 99 "

" This water buck was shot by Mr. Tjader the 5th of
September, 1906, to the west of the junction of the rivers
Guaso Narok and Guaso Nyiro, that is in the northwestern
part of the Laikipia Plateau."

I may mention in this connection that I was fortunate
enough to bring home at least two other new species of
East African mammals, one being a small dwarf antelope,
or dik-dik, the other a different species of bush buck, which
latter has gone to the American Museum of Natural His-
tory in New York and received the name " Tragelaphus

The impala, often also called " Pala " and " Impalla,"
is one of the most graceful of antelopes. A full-grown
impala stands only from three feet to three feet three
inches high, but appears to be much larger, as the animal
carries its head a good deal higher than most antelopes do.
The horns of young males form a perfect lyre, but as the



animal grows older they spread out more, turning first
forward, then in a bold sweep backward, and then forward
again, so that the horns, seen from the side, almost form
an " S." The year rings are few and very widely spread,
and do not reach more than about one half the length of
the horn, which ends in a slender and very sharp point.
The horns of the impala vary from some twenty to twenty-
four inches, measured in a straight line ; the female of this
species has no horns. The color of the impala is reddish,
which in young animals sometimes turns to almost bright
red, which merges at the flanks into a snow-white belly.

The impala is very common in Southern, Central, and
East Africa. It often goes in large herds of from twenty
to one hundred, and sometimes even more. The animal
loves sandy plains dotted with low scrub and thorn bush,
but is fond of water, and never goes far away from
some supply of this kind. In fact, some hunters say that
the very presence of an impala guarantees that there is
water in the neighborhood. I have several times noticed
large herds of impala without a single grown-up male
among them, and I have also on several occasions found
small bands of bucks by themselves, generally following
some old, magnificent animal which, in spite of its beautiful
horns, has escaped the sportsmen.

Every observer of big game in Africa will bear me
out when I say that the impala is certainly one of the
swiftest animals in existence. It is a wonderful sight, in-
deed, to see a herd of impala fall into the most graceful
gallop, when frightened, making leaps over high bushes
and broad streams, throwing, like the race horse, the front
legs almost flat under the belly as they bound. I have my-



self actually measured some of the longest jumps I saw
an impala take and found that one young buck, which I
had slightly wounded, had leaped clear over a bush, the
highest point of which was five feet from the ground, ap-
parently without touching the leaves. I found that this
one leap measured exactly twenty-four feet and three
inches. The next bound of the same animal measured
nineteen feet four inches. I have heard of instances where
impalas have leaped as far as twenty-five and twenty-six
feet, which seems almost incredible for an animal of its

When a herd is suddenly startled, they go ofif in most
beautiful, gliding motions, and they can keep these up for
a great distance, racing over the ground at high speed.
When suddenly disturbed they often eject a certain sharp,
barklike sound, not unlike the cry of a wooing bush buck.
Impalas are hardly ever seen on the plains, and they also
avoid thick forests, being fond of a parklike country with
low scrub, as before mentioned. Once on the Laikipia
Plateau I succeeded in chasing an impala out of cover into
a large open space, when my " lion rider," Asgar, pursued
it on a swift hunting pony in the wildest gallop. Yet it
was utterly impossible for him to gain on the antelope
which, after a few minutes' flight, disappeared among a

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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 13 of 26)