Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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little clump of bush.

Like most of the African antelopes the vitality of the
impala is remarkable. On one of my marches to the gov-
ernment station at Rumuruti, where I wanted to visit a
British official, I wounded a young impala, which bounded
oflf like the wind in front of us. It was, indeed, as if
he had been shot out of a gun, and we all thought that I


Splendid Impala from Laikipia.

Head of Large Bull Oryx.


must have missed him, from the speed he maintained before
he disappeared from our sight. A few minutes after this,
our whole caravan sat down for its lunch and " pumzika,"
or rest, which the porters always enjoy whenever they have
a chance. After more than an hour's rest we took up our
trail again, and when we had marched at least three miles
farther we saw a great many vultures circling close over
the ground some fifty yards away from the little path
which we were following. Being curious to see what kind
of animal the vultures were about to devour, I ordered a
halt and started off to investigate. Imagine my surprise
when I here found the beautiful impala, which we did not
even think I had wounded, and which had run all this dis-
tance before it expired! When cutting the animal open
we found that the bullet had gone right through the cavity
of the chest, severing one of the large arteries, which re-
sulted in the filling up of the whole cavity and intestines
with blood before the animal succumbed.

The meat of the impala, as well as that of the water
buck, is not very appetizing, and is, particularly if the ani-
mal is old, or has been killed at the end of the dry season,
quite bitter. The impala seems to belong to the " exclusive
set," for I have never found impalas feeding together with
animals of any other kind as so many other antelopes do.
Of course it is impossible for me to state positively that the
impala never does mingle with other animals, but it has
never come under my own notice, and none of the sports-
men and natives, whom I questioned on this topic, had ob-
served the same.

The oryx is another beautiful antelope. It is some-
what larger than the impala, standing as high as four feet



one to two inches at the withers. There are five somewhat
different species of the oryx family, all of which have
nearly straight, long horns, slightly curving backward and
growing out almost in line with their straight foreheads.
The neck of some of the species has a small mane and
also tufts of hair on the throat, while the tail is long and
bushy. The oryx family is at present spread over the
greater part of South and East Africa, Somaliland, Ara-
bia, and even as far north as Syria.

The most common of the oryx family in East Africa
is the lovely oryx beisa. This species is distinguished by
not having any tufts of hair on the throat and by its white
face being marked with a large patch of black which covers
the greater part of the forehead under the horns with the
exception of the nose. Then it has two smaller black
patches which surround the eyes, and thence run down like
a wide ribbon to where the slit of the lips begins. The
color of the oryx beisa is a kind of dark bluish gray, sep-
arated from the almost snow-white belly by a wide, raven
black stripe on either side.

The horns of this species are very nearly straight,
only slightly curving backward, and they have well-defined
year rings, reaching up about two thirds of the horn, which
tapers up to a very slender and exceedingly sharp point.
The average length of good oryx horns is from twenty-
eight to thirty-two inches, but horns of a male have been
recorded as large as thirty-six and a half inches, and
thirty-eight inches of a female. The horns of the female
are, as in most cases where female antelopes carry horns,
much thinner. This beautiful oryx loves arid country of
a parklike nature. Like the impala, it never frequents the



plains, neither is it found in deep forests. The animal is
said to be able to get along with very little water, which
explains the fact that it frequents such dry countries as
parts of East Africa, Somaliland, and Arabia.

The oryx beisa are very often seen in considerable num-
bers, herds of forty or more being not uncommonly en-
countered. Like the impala, they sometimes go in great
herds of only females, while small batches of rams roam
around by themselves. It is not an uncommon thing to
find a lone old male feeding away off from the rest of his
family. The oryx is one of the very few antelopes which,
like the roan and sable, shows a great deal of courage and
pluck if wounded and cornered.

My first experience with an oryx beisa was a very
memorable one. It might, therefore, interest the reader
if I quote the same from my diary: " One beautiful morn-
ing in July, 1906, we had left our camp near the southern
end of Lake Hannington, where we had pitched our tents
on the eastern banks of a small, hot stream of crystal-
clear, good-tasting water, which came bubbling up from
under some rocks a few hundred yards away from the
place selected for our camp. After having walked a few
hours without seeing anything worth shooting at, my gun
bearer and two Wandorobo guides simultaneously noticed
fresh oryx tracks. Instantly we took them up, walking
along with a great deal of care and expectation.

" I had never as yet seen a ' choroa,' the native word
for the oryx beisa, and was, therefore, most anxious to
secure a good head or two. After having followed the
track for a few minutes it merged into a whole network
of evidently fresh oryx track, which led down to a large



water hole a little farther to our left. As we approached
it, we saw from the number of tracks that we could easily
make out in and around the shallow water, that there must
have been hundreds of oryx around the place during the
last few days. As it was utterly impossible for us to find
the freshest tracks which led away from the pool, we
started off in a northwesterly direction, following a small
valley, jammed in between two rather high and steep
ridges of wooded hills. After having gone along for
another twenty minutes, looking all the time for fresh
tracks, we heard a noise as that of galloping zebras, and
looking up we saw at a distance of some one hundred and
fifty yards a herd of from fifty to sixty oryx, which swiftly
galloped away at a right angle to our line of march. They
were racing down from the escarpment to our right and
evidently intending to run up on the opposite one.

" Being always ready for any emergency like this, I
aimed quickly, although the gun bearer said it was useless
to try to hit the animals at such a distance. I fired three
shots at two large bulls before they disappeared behind
some bush. We took up the chase ' on the run,' and soon
found that both animals had been slightly wounded. As
fast as we could we ran after the antelopes up to the top
of the escarpment. As we carefully peered above the
highest stones, we saw the herd slowly walking off at a
distance, switching their long tails, while the wounded
animals lingered behind. They were not more than about
one hundred yards away from us, as we emerged from over
the crest. Quicker than I can describe it I fired again with
the .405 Winchester with the result that both animals went
down. One of them was some thirty yards nearer to us



than the other and was killed on the spot by the second
bullet, which had broken his back.

" As soon as I had measured this beautiful specimen
and given it over to the second gun bearer and a couple
of other men to do the skinning, I went with the first gun
bearer and a few other men to the other antelope, which
had fallen a little farther away. This fellow, Mabruki,
was always very anxious to cut the throat of any ani-
mal before it was ' stone dead,' as he otherwise, being
a strict Mohammedan, would not eat the meat. Seeing
that this oryx was not as large as the first one, I told
Mabruki that he could put his knife in the throat of the
antelope, near the chest, while I took up the tape measure
and got the camera ready to take a ' picture study ' at
close quarters. Just as I was examining the camera to
see if everything was ready for a time exposure I heard
Mabruki scream. As I looked up I saw the wounded oryx
trying to spear him with his long and sharp horns. Drop-
ping the camera, I quickly gave the furious animal another
shot, which ended his life. As the oryx was trying to get
at the gun bearer, he ejected some ugly-sounding, barking
grunts, and I am sure that if I had not been so quick with
the gun this time, Mabruki would have been gored by the
courageous beast."

My largest oryx I obtained on the Laikipia Plateau a
couple of months later. The horns of this big bull meas-
ured, the one twenty-eight and one half inches, and the
other one quarter of an inch less, the very tip having been
broken off some time previously. Once I noticed that an
oryx which we secured near Mt. Kenia must in younger
years have had a bad fall from some precipice, for the tips



of both horns had been knocked over so that they formed
ahiiost perfect hooks. Big scratches on the skin of this
oryx and an old wound on his right thigh showed that he
had probably just escaped from a lion or a leopard, when
he tumbled down the precipice in his mad attempt to escape
from the bloodthirsty feline.

In the southeastern part of the protectorate the Oryx
callotis, or " fringed-eared " oryx, is found. The face of
this species is more of a fawn-color than that of the beisa,
and has very sharply pointed ears with black tufts of long
hair. The Oryx callotis is somewhat smaller than the beisa
and is quite common in the Kilimanjaro district, and on
either side of the Uganda Railroad between the stations,
Voi and Simba, where he inhabits the sandy scrub and
thorn country both in the game preserve and in the dis-
trict to the northeast of the railroad.

The Grant's gazelle is without a question the finest-
looking specimen of the smaller antelopes which are gen-
erally classed as gazelles. They are all of medium or small
size and comprise a number of species found both in Asia
and in most parts of Africa. These gazelles are animals
of which both sexes carry horns, except in a few species,
which are all confined to Asia. The gazelles frequent, as
a rule, dry and sandy country. They prefer open plains,
although some of them will occasionally be found in thin
scrub or bush country. They will, however, never enter
dense jungle or large forests.

The handsome Grant's gazelle was discovered some
fifty years ago by the well-known explorers Speke and
Grant, after which latter the species received its name.
This gazelle is found in great numbers in East Africa any-


Fine Head of the Graceful Grant's Gazelle.

Wounded Grant's Gazelle, lioiiiiMi AIabruki, the Gun Bearer.


where south of Lake Rudolph, wherever the country suits
his requirements. Like all true gazelles, he is mostly found
on the vast plains, but is sometimes seen in very open
bush country. They go in large herds, numbering any-
where from a dozen to one hundred and fifty or more, and
are not " exclusive " like the impala, but are often met
browsing together with other animals, such as the zebra,
hartebeest, oryx, and the little Thomson's gazelle, with
which they seem to live on terms of great intimacy. This
latter, a little fellow, generally called " Tommy," is so much
like the Grant's in coloring and general build that he is
often mistaken for the same at long distance. A careful
observer, however, need not make this mistake, for the
horns of the Grant's gazelle are much more developed than
those of the " Tommy," and the latter is always switching
his tail to and fro while he is feeding, which the former
very seldom does.

The Grant's gazelle stands a little less than three feet
above the shoulders. The color of his skin is dull fawn,
separated from the snow-white belly by dark brown bands
on the flanks. The beautiful head is marked with an
almost black rufous band, which runs back from the
upper part of the nose to the base of the horns. White
stripes and other narrow black ribbons separate this band
from the fawn-colored under part of the head and face.
The very regularly ringed horns are most gracefully
curved, bending first a little forward, then backward, and
then again forward, while they also spread out consider-
ably sideways. The local variety, obtained in the central
and southern parts of British East Africa, has the horns
much more spread out than the species the sportsman will
14 189


find on the Laikipia Plateau and other places in the north-
ern parts of the protectorate. There they are more often
seen in open bush country than anywhere else in East

This beautiful antelope is an exceedingly keen-sighted
little chap, and so wary that he is very hard to stalk, par-
ticularly in localities where he has been much disturbed.
In most parts of East Africa he will now, as a rule, run
away long before the hunter comes within two hundred
to two hundred and fifty yards of the herd, but even this
distance is not nowadays to be considered a very great one,
when the sportsman uses such wonderful weapons as the
6.5 millimeter Mannlicher, with which he can shoot with
accuracy from fifty to three hundred yards without having
to change the sights.

The meat of the Grant's gazelle is most excellent and
far superior to that of most other antelopes, with the pos-
sible exception of the eland, oryx, and little " Tommy." If
caught when young, the graceful Grant's gazelle soon be-
comes very tame, and follows his captor around like a dog.
The vitality of these comparatively small animals is
nothing short of marvelous. They require, indeed, as some
sportsman has said, " much lead " before they can be
stopped. I have several times seen Grant's gazelles
wounded in a way that would instantly knock down almost
any kind of deer in Europe or America, and yet keep run-
ning for hundreds of yards before they fall from exhaus-

When I first came out to Africa, I thought that a soft-
nosed bullet would be unnecessarily powerful for these little
antelopes, and that their skin would be too much cut up by



the same, so that I used steel-capped bullets instead. These
seemed, however, to have so little effect upon the animal
that I soon came to the conclusion that it was too cruel and
unprofitable to use anything but the regular, deadly " dum-
dum " bullet. If wounded and cornered the Grant's gazelle
sometimes gives vent to harsh barks, somewhat similar to
those of an angry goat. Each sportsman is now allowed
to kill but three of these lovely little antelopes, but as a
good many settlers shoot numbers of them every year for
food, and some of the best grazing lands are being rapidly
taken up for cultivation or fenced in for cattle, the time
may come when the Grant's gazelle will become very rare
and perhaps exterminated, except in the game preserves.



The hartebeests are certainly the ugliest looking of all
antelopes. They are easily recognizable from all other
game, even at long distance, by their peculiarly shaped
heads, long, straight and narrow faces, and pointed noses.
Another characteristic of the most common, or Cook's
hartebeest, is the singular twist of the horns. When the
animal looks straight at a person, it appears as if it
had a double set of ears, the horns growing out from
the forehead at almost right angles over the ears, leav-
ing a space between of some three to four inches. An-
other thing which makes the hartebeest so different
looking from all other antelopes is his contrast in build,
standing a great deal higher at the withers than over
the pelvis.

There are several species of hartebeest in British East
Africa, of which the Jackson's and Cook's are the most
common. These two differ from each other chiefly in their
color and shape of horns. The Jackson's hartebeest has
a more light reddish brown hue than the Cook's, and his
horns differ very much from the latter's; they first turn
upward a few inches, then curve slightly outward and
again upward, after which they bend in almost a right
angle backwards. I also believe, from specimens that I



have shot, that if there is any difference in size, the Jack-
son's hartebeest is the larger of the two. He is also rarer
than the other, and is only found in the northern and
western parts of the protectorate, where his favorite
haunts seem to be the upper Rift Valley, on the north-
western end of the Naivasha Plateau, and in the Nyando
Valley, to the east of Victoria Nyanza.

The first specimen of Jackson's hartebeest that I was
fortunate in securing, was shot near Lake Hannington,
and had horns that were- over twenty-four inches long.
This bull was by far the largest hartebeest that I killed
during my three expeditions to Africa. The animal
showed a most remarkable vitality. I discovered it one
day when we were returning to camp, after having had a
successful oryx hunt. The big bull stood alone on a little
opening on the sparsely wooded sides of a little hill. As
we were all tired from a long day's tramp, having been
continuously " on the go " from before five o'clock in the
morning, I did not care to go far out of my way, but fired
at the hartebeest at a distance of some two hundred and
fifty yards. As the gun cracked, he bounded off in big
leaps and soon disappeared among the trees. Sending
one of our trackers to the spot, where we had seen the
hartebeest, to examine whether there were any blood
marks on the ground, we sat down to rest for a few min-
utes. Suddenly we heard the tracker shouting : " Damu
mingi, Bwana!" (''Much blood, sir!")

Instantly we made for the place as quickly as we could,
thence following the blood tracks for over two hundred
yards. There, under a good-sized mimosa tree, lay the
big bull, dead. When we skinned him, we found that the



soft-nosed bullet had not expanded, the distance being too
great, but had gone clear through the upper part of
the heart; yet the hartebeest had been able to gallop off
as if nothing had happened. It was in very fine condition,
was carefully measured and skinned, and afterwards given
to the American Museum of Natural History in New York

The most common of hartebeests in British East Africa
is the Cook's, or, as he is very often called, both by sports-
men and natives, the '* Kongoni," which is certainly one
of the most ungainly looking animals. The color of the
kongoni is of a dark reddish brown, merging in the flanks
and belly into an almost ash gray. He stands in propor-
tion higher over the withers than the Jackson's hartebeest,
and has a pronounced '' hump " on the shoulders. This
animal may still be seen in large herds in most parts of
central and southern East Africa, and I have counted as
many as three to four hundred feeding closely together.
The kongoni loves the company of other game, and is
often seen browsing among large herds of zebra and

Few animals are as inquisitive as the hartebeest. In
localities where he has not been much hunted, he will run
up to within one hundred and fifty yards or less of the
hunter, then whirl around and face the two-legged in-
truder for a while, tossing his head quickly up and down.
If the sportsman stands still, the kongoni might remain
in the same position for several seconds, until he again
swings around, makes a half circle, and returns to view
the visitor in the same way. In localities where he has
been much disturbed he will not show as much curiosity


Beautiful Head of the Grant's Gazelle.

An Excf.ptionally Fine Head of Jackson's Hartebeest, Shot near
Lake Hannington.


as cunning in getting away, often running up on ant-hills,
or other elevations, to have a better view of the surround-
ing country.

Few animals are, I believe, as much hated by the hunt-
ers in general as the kongoni, for he is one of the most
wary and keen-sighted beasts in existence. Innumerable
times it has spoiled the day for the sportsman, because it
startled the game, which, until then, he had been suc-
cessfully stalking. I have myself repeatedly been thus
disturbed by this animal, which will always try to play
tricks on the hunter, warning and frightening the other
game. Even if the hartebeest should be several hundred
yards off, and the hunter stalk his game in a different
direction, this bothersome animal will gallop off in a half
circle to intercept the intended line of the attack, and thus
scare off all the game in the vicinity.

This hartebeest also shows great vitality and is capable
of a marvelous speed. Few antelopes are as hard to over-
take, even when wounded. If not wounded, and not taken
by surprise before he can get a start, there is hardly a
hunting horse in existence that can outdistance a full-
grown hartebeest ; for they are not only exceedingly swift,
but seem to be able to gallop with undiminished speed for
almost any length of time. In British East Africa the
hartebeest is also hated by the settlers for different rea-
sons. In the first place, he is said to spread the dreaded
cattle diseases; and then herds of hartebeest have often
broken down and demolished miles of fencing, made to
keep the cattle together. Previous to this year each sports-
man was allowed ten hartebeests on his license, but on
account of their destructiveness to the settlers, each hunter



can now, if he chooses, kill twenty during the twelve
months that his license is in force.

It is remarkable that the hartebeests are able to secure
their feed on the sun-scorched plains, where to the human
observer there is scarcely any grass to be had, and yet they
always seem to be in good condition. And as for water,
I believe the hartebeest can go for days without that
precious liquid, getting perhaps enough moisture from
the dew on the grass in the morning. The kongoni is one
of the antelopes which constitute the principal menu of the
lion and leopard. Several of the hartebeests that I killed
showed unmistakable marks of having had narrow escapes
from the big felines. If these should fail to get hold of
the kongoni in their first leap, they would never be able
to overtake him again. The hartebeest is a pronounced
dweller of the plains. Neither the Jackson's nor the
Cook's hartebeest are fond of real jungle, although both
of them may sometimes feed in very open bush or parklike
country. The meat of these antelopes is, as a rule, very
good, although they have hardly any fat, in which respect
they are like most all other African antelopes, with the
exception of the eland and oryx.

The kongoni is hard to stalk in places where he has
been much hunted. The best method seems to be to con-
tinue to walk straight for him, as quietly as possible. He
will then run away at three or four hundred yards, but
only gallop a short distance, and then turn around again
to look at his pursuer. I have found that if I ran after the
beast, as it turned and galloped off, but instantly stopped
and began to walk slowly at the very moment the antelope
turned around to face me, I could often, with a little



patience and endurance, come up to within two hundred
yards of it, which distance is not very great to a man
armed with modern, long-distance guns. The young bull
hartebeests often fight with each other in the most deter-
mined way, although perhaps not as frequently as the
wildebeests do, I once shot a hartebeest which had evi-
dently been in some kind of a desperate fight, for his left
horn had been broken, but had not fallen off at the time;
afterwards it had knit again in such a way that it pointed
straight downward back of the ear, instead of upward and
then backward.

As the traveler goes up country from Mombasa he
may, if he has luck, see a good many animals from the
track, such as giraffes, rhinos, wildebeests, zebras and
even lions, but it is absolutely certain that he will see herds
of hartebeests on both sides of the railroad before he
reaches Nairobi. From my own observation, I believe it
is correct to say that in the last three or four years the

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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 14 of 26)