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Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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vast numbers of this antelope have greatly diminished.
Whether this is a sign that the Cook's hartebeest is
being threatened with extermination, or if it only shows
his cunning in wandering over to the game preserve, as
the wildebeests are so fond of doing, I cannot say; but
the enormous herds, years ago always found on the
Athi Plains, for instance, have certainly perceptibly de-
creased.

During one of the trips on the northeastern parts of
these plains we very nearly lost our whole caravan. It
happened in the following way:

We had marched that day somewhat over twenty
miles, mostly over open plains, and exposed to the hot

197



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

rays of the sun during the whole time. I had, as
usual, gone ahead of the rest with our naturalist, Mr.
Lang, two gun bearers, and two or three porters who
carried our cameras. We knew that there was no water
to be had except at a certain stream, which we hoped to
reach before sunset. Suspecting that we might be able
to find lions on these plains, we increased our lead more
and more, so that the noise made by the bulk of the men
should not frighten any beasts away from our line of
march.

About two o'clock in the afternoon we went over a
little hill, from where we had a good view over the coun-
try. We now saw the caravan a couple of miles behind
us, but did not worry, being reasonably sure that the men
would be able to trace our steps through the grass and
reach us before the evening. A little after four o'clock
we arrived at a small stream, where we decided to camp
for the night, and made ourselves comfortable, while we
were waiting for the men. We sat down, and I took my
field glasses to see if any game animal was near. To my
surprise I detected only a few hundred yards away from
us five or six giraffes, which were slowly walking off to-
ward the bush north of us.

Although very much tired out, I grasped my gun, asked
Mabruki to come along, and started in pursuit of the
giraffes. A few seconds later Mr. Lang and two of the
other men followed us. After only a few minutes' walk,
during which we had not been noticed by the giraffes,
we had come close enough to shoot. I singled out the
one that we thought was the largest bull, and fired.
The animal fell to its knees, but rose again in a few

198



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

seconds, when it received another bullet, which ended
its life.

When Mr. Lang and the other two men arrived, we
were very much puzzled what to do, as night was coming
on, and the place we had selected for the camp being more
than two miles distant. Having taken the correct meas-
urements of the beautiful giraffe, I proposed that Mr.
Lang, with the assistance of the gun bearer and the two
porters, should skin the animal, while I was to return to
the camping place, whence I should send back men with
lanterns to bring the skin to camp.

When I came near to the place, where we had left the
last of our men, I found, to my great surprise, that he was
still alone, and that not another man of the caravan was
in sight. This porter told me with the greatest excite-
ment that he had seen some of the men of the caravan in
the far distance, marching ofif in a different direction.
He thought that the whole safari was lost, and that we
would now have to sleep without tents, food, or anything.
This was, indeed, not a very bright outlook, as that par-
ticular place was noted for its abundance of lions, leopards,
and other dangerous game.

I took the expedition flag and, ordering the porter to
follow me, ran up on a high ant-hill nearby. From this
place I finally saw with the glasses some four or five men,
with loads on their heads, march off in another direction
about two miles away, soon disappearing among the
bushes. I shouted at the top of my lungs and fired several
shots with the big elephant gun, while I had the men wave
the " Stars and Stripes." After a few anxious moments
I noticed some men standing together in a little opening,

199



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

as if consulting with each other. Again I fired the big
gun several times. To my delight I now saw the men
turn in our direction and move forward. As the sun by
this time had already set and it began to darken, we quick-
ly made a fire with grass and dry branches to further
attract the attention of the lost safari.

About half an hour later our whole caravan was gath-
ered together at the camping ground. Some men were
then dispatched with lanterns to the place where the giraffe
had fallen, whence they returned a couple of hours later
with the beautiful trophy. I found that the reason why
the men had gone astray was that they had seen a small
native path going off in a different direction from where
we were marching, and, not being able to see us, they be-
lieved that we had taken that way. I now learned that if C
we had thought of it at the time, and put a bunch of grasS'^
or some sticks across the path, the natives would not have)
followed it, but kept on straight ahead, looking for our)
tracks in the grass.

The zebra is one of the finest-looking wild animals in
Africa. It is, indeed, very interesting to watch a large
herd of them as they feed, play, or gallop off on the vast
plains. Their black and white stripes make them appear,
in the distance, as if the whole animal were either black
or white, according as they appear in the sunlight or
shadow. It is rather remarkable how the zebra is able to
blend with its surroundings in grass country and among
thin bush, so that, to the unaccustomed eye, it is hard to
make it out at a distance, if it is standing still. The zebra
is exclusively a native of Africa, where there are at present

200



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

three distinct species вАФ the Mountain, the Grevey's, and the
Burchell's zebra.

Of these, the beautiful mountain zebra was formerly
very common in the whole of South Africa, frequenting
the rugged hills and big mountain forests all over Cape
Colony. It has been so decimated during the last decades
of the old century by the settlers of that country, that it is
now almost extinct in the whole of South Africa, except
in a few districts, where it is entirely protected by law.
This species is the smallest of the three, standing hardly
four feet at the withers. It has a comparatively short,
erect, thick mane, long ears, and legs, which are striped all
the way down to the hoofs.

In East Africa only the two last-named varieties are
found. The Grevey's zebra the hunter meets mostly in the
country to the south and east of Lake Rudolph, in a line
toward Mt. Kenia. From here it ranges up to the central
part of Somaliland. It is hardly ever seen to the west of
Lake Rudolph, nor to the south of Mt. Kenia. The
Grevey's zebra is the largest of the family, reaching a
height of almost five feet over the shoulder. It differs
from the more common Burchell's zebra, not only in size,
but also in the color and number of its stripes. Those of
the Grevey's are very much narrower, and, therefore, more
numerous than the stripes of the Burchell's zebra, while
the color of the former is of a much deeper black and
snow-white color than that of the latter. Another differ-
ence between the two species is the stripes on the legs,
which in the case of the Burchell's hardly run below the
knees, whereas in the Grevey's zebra they extend right
down to the hoofs, as in the true mountain zebra. Then,

201



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

the belly and the insides of the upper part of the legs of
the Grevey's zebra are almost pure white, and the ears
are in proportion larger than those of the Burchell's zebra.
The stripes of this latter animal are considerably wider,
and the color of them is often dark brown instead of black,
and yellowish cream instead of pure white. Very often
a darker " shade line " runs down the center of the light
stripes. The ears are, in comparison, smaller and more
rounded, and the lower parts of the legs, above the hoofs,
pure white.

In the northwestern part of Laikipia, not very far to
the east of Lake Baringo, I once shot a zebra which
seemed to be a kind of link between the aforenamed species.
It had larger and more narrowly striped ears than those
of the Burchell's zebra, while it was also larger in the
body, and had the stripes on the legs running almost down
to the hoofs. It may just have been a " freak," or possibly
a cross-breed between the Grevey's and the Burchell's
zebra, for it certainly had characteristics common to both
of these animals.

The zebra is, perhaps, the most common of all African
big game. It is simply met with everywhere, from the
hot, sun-scorched plains in the southern and southwestern
parts of the protectorate to the more temperate Laikipia
Plateau, and even upon the chilly foothills of Mt. Kenia,
where I have found this beautiful animal as high as be-
tween seven and eight thousand feet. From what I have
heard from other big-game hunters, this is probably not
very usual, but I have more than once met zebras at alti-
tudes of over seven thousand feet, and once shot a Bur-
chell's zebra on the southwestern slopes of Kenia, where

202



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

we found a little herd of ten to twelve animals at an alti-
tude of actually somewhat over eight thousand feet!

CThe only places which these two species of zebra seem
to shun altogether are the damp forest regions around the
Indian Ocean and the large forests and dense jungles of
other parts of the Protectorate. The favorite feeding
grounds of these zebras are, without a question, the plains,
and possibly very sparsely wooded country, although on
the Laikipia Plateau I have often discovered them in the
outskirts of the big forests, where they seem to be attracted
to the open grass patches among the cedars, which here
grow, together with a great many deciduous trees. These
often form islandlike patches or clumps of trees, between
which are lovely glades with thick grass, which the animals
seem to enjoy.

[ The zebra is certainly very fond of water, and is rarely,
if ever, found farther than two to three miles from its
nearest source. Sometimes when disturbed, or when wish-
ing to communicate with other members of the herd, the
zebra ejects a kind of sound, which is more like the barking
of dogs than anything else. I often noticed that when
a herd of zebras was scattered in different directions
either by man or some carnivorous beast, they afterwards
" called " to each other by means of their queer-sounding
bark, and that sometimes even wounded zebras will make
the same noise. A few years ago the Burchell's zebra was
so exceedingly plentiful all over the central, southern, and
southwestern parts of the Protectorate that it was not an
uncommon thing to see several thousand of these beauti-
fully marked animals feeding together in companies on
the large plains.

203



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

In 1906 I saw an enormous herd of these animals in
the upper part of the Rift Valley. We were encamped at
a little stream coming down from the Aberdare Moun-
tains, when my attention was called to the animals walking
along in a northerly direction, and only a few hundred
yards from our camp. Not wanting to shoot any of the
animals, I watched them for fully half an hour with my
field glasses, while they were feeding and playing, as they
slowly moved along, until something must have startled
the herd in the rear. As near as I could make it out, there
must have been upward of four thousand together, and
when they were disturbed they galloped ofif briskly, soon
enveloping themselves in a thick cloud of dust, as they
swept through the half-dry grass.

In localities where the zebras are not much molested
they are not very shy, and are easily approached to within
a hundred yards, and sometimes even less ; but where they
have been much hunted, they soon learn to look out for the
sportsmen and are then, at least in the open, quite hard
to stalk. A herd of zebras will act almost in the same way
as the kongoni. They are very inquisitive, and will some-
times come up fairly close to a caravan, to " investigate,"
as it were, and then gallop off, only to make a half circle
and come back again to look at the intruders. For this
reason they are often very much of a nuisance to the
hunter, just in the same way as the hateful kongoni; and
they have often spoiled the day for me by disturbing the
game with their cavorting and queer antics.

The zebras seem to be very fond of the company of
other animals, such as the hartebeest, gnu, and the larger
gazelles. Once I saw them freely and peacefully mingling

204




Herd of Zebra, just Entering a Forest on Kenia.



ib


m






Ib







Wounded Zebra.
Lake Ol-Bolossat and the Aberdare Mountains in the background.



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

with a herd of giraffes on the Loita Plains, not far from
the border of German East Africa. The zebra is one of
the few animals of East Africa that possesses a consider-
able quantity of fat, which often lies in thick, yellowish
layers under the skin. As the natives are extremely fond
of this " mafuta," or fat, they enjoy zebra meat very much ;
and if the animal is young and in good condition it is not
at all an unpalatable dish even for the sportsman. The
lion also seems to be extremely fond of eating zebra, and
it is his chief menu in the greater part of East Africa,
to which the vast number of bleached zebra skulls and
skeletons on the plains bear witness. My first lion, as
previously mentioned, was shot as it was devouring a
zebra, which it had slain on the Athi Plains in broad
daylight.

It seems almost incredible that the zebras should be
as stupid as they are in regard to their protective instincts.
In the dry season, when there are few drinking places, and
the lions of the vicinity night after night have chased and
killed zebras at the same place, they will return to the
identical water pool as if nothing had ever disturbed them
there. I once witnessed how, together with a few other
animals, a small herd of zebras was leisurely walking along
and feeding on the dew-drenched gmss early one morning,
when I detected, and subsequently succeeded in shooting,
a big lion, which was lying down not more than perhaps
fifty to sixty yards away from where the zebras fed. It
could not be possible that the animals were unaware of
the presence of the " King of Beasts," but rather must
have known that it had had its " fill " so shortly be-
fore, that they were not in danger of being disturbed
15 205



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

by " His Majesty." The stomach of this lion gave evi-
dence of the fact that for its last meal it had had zebra
meat, for we found in it a good many pieces of striped
skin.

I have often seen zebras drink in broad daylight, com-
ing down to the river, as if they felt sure that there was no
lion around. Once I was having my lunch under some
mimosa trees near a little water course on the plains, when
I saw a whole herd of zebras of some seventy to eighty
animals slowly coming down to drink, headed for the very
same place where I was sitting. Making the camera ready
for a snapshot, although the light was rather unfavorable,
I waited for the animals to come nearer. Suddenly one
of my stupid and careless porters stood up above the grass,
where they all had been told to lie still, and thus scared
the herd away before I was able to kodak it. If fright-
ened, the zebra is able to bound off at great speed, and it
takes a very good horse to catch up with, or overtake, a
zebra, if on level ground; but if in stony and hilly country,
the best horse in the world would have no chance at all
to outdistance these sure-footed and swift animals, the
deep-hollowed hoofs of which seem to be exceedingly hard
and tough.

If suddenly frightened, a herd of zebras will dash away
in the maddest flight, apparently without looking ahead
in the least. Twice during one week, when encamped
near the beautiful Lake Elmenteita, I had opportunities
to observe this.

One afternoon, in fact just after we had arrived and
begun to erect our camp on the eastern shores of this lake,
I was told by some of the men that a small herd of zebras

206



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

was feeding a few hundred yards away from our selected
camping ground. As we had no meat in camp, and the
porters were clamoring for " nyama," and zebra meat
being a favorite dish with them, I promised to shoot one
of the animals. With only the two gun bearers, I started
carefully to approach the little herd, which was feeding
on an open grass place, surrounded by small trees. After
having stalked the animals for a few minutes, I found that
it was impossible to come unobserved any nearer than
about two hundred yards from our side, and as none of
the animals appeared to be looking in our direction, I
crept along on my knees a few yards beyond the nearest
cover, having told both gun bearers to remain flat on the
ground.

Suddenly one of the nearest stallions saw me. He
must have given some kind of sign to his " comrades,"
for instantly the whole herd stopped feeding and looked
around in different directions. I kept as still as I could
and only raised my gun slowly to take a good aim. I then
fired at the before-named stallion, but missed. I fired
again, but with the same result. The open place, where
the zebras stood, was surrounded on three sides by hills,
so that the echo of the shots from the .405 Winchester
rebounded from all directions. This made the herd
stampede. It fortunately took the direction toward the
place where I had remained on my knees. I did not
move until the nearest zebra was within some forty yards,
when I dispatched two of the animals in quick succes-
sion. I may remark here that during this expedition I
had a special permit to kill a great many more zebras and
other animals than was otherwise allowed on the ordinary

207



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

sportsman's license, as I was collecting for a scientific
institution.

I The other experience, which showed me how imprudent
these animals are, was made a few days later at the ex-
treme south end of the same lake. We had been ascending
and then descending a large, extinct volcano, from the top
of which we had a most wonderful view of the surround-
ing country : to the north of us lay, glittering in the rays
of the tropical sun, beautiful Elmenteita ; to the northwest,
the blue waters of Lake Nakuru, the Uganda Railroad
winding its way between the two like a striped, shining
ribbon ; to the east and west we saw the high escarpments
that limit the Rift Valley in those directions, and to the
south of us we could look 'way down into the Rift Valley,
where the mighty, extinct volcanoes, Longonot and Suswa,
formed the background ! We had just descended the vol-
cano, and were lunching under a little tree in a narrow
valley between two little ridges, when we were suddenly
startled by the noise of clattering hoofs, and, looking up,
we found a herd of several hundred zebras galloping right
down upon us at top speed.

The tree under which we were sitting was too small
to afford any protection from our being trampled down
under the animals' hoofs, so we all ran forward, waving
our arms and screaming at the top of our lungs, to head
off the herd. Yet nearer and nearer they came, until at
about forty yards' distance I dropped two of the animals
in their tracks. The report of the gun, and the sudden
fall of their two comrades, made the rest of the herd
swing off right and left up the sides of the hills. The
herd had probably been badly frightened, and in their

208



THE HARTEBEEST AND ZEBRA

mad attempt to escape had paid no attention whatever to
our hunting party, before two of the animals had actually
been killed ! The skin of one of these was very beautiful.
It almost appeared as if the skin had been doubly marked,
the wide stripes having long, dark-yellow stripes in their
center.

Many attempts have been made to tame and domes-
ticate the zebra, both in German and British East
Africa, but these attempts have not been successful from a
commercial standpoint. It has not been found so very
difficult to tame young zebras, but these liberty-loving
animals do not seem to survive very long when they are
put to work. The weak part seems to be their front legs,
which do not enable the animals to pull loads of any size.
Attempts have also been made to cross the zebra with
donkeys and ponies, which has resulted in a somewhat
hardier animal, but several deserted " zebra farms " in
East Africa show that at present it does not seem to pay
to domesticate the animal.

Not only is the zebra killed by the natives and settlers
for the sake of its meat, but its hide is also often used by
the white man for furniture covering and for mending
harness and boots. By the natives of several tribes, belts
and straps are made of zebra skin, with which the loads
are generally carried by some tribes in a sling over the fore-
head. As the zebra is also said to spread cattle diseases,
and is very destructive in breaking fences and trampling
down the crops of the settlers, they are gradually being
killed or driven away from the inhabited parts of the pro-
tectorate. The time will perhaps not be very remote when
both the Grevys's and Burchell's zebras will be practically

209



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

extinct in the protectorate, except in the game preserves,
like the mountain zebra in South Africa. The govern-
ment of British East Africa is fully recognizing the de-
structiveness of the animals and is allowing sportsmen
and settlers to kill them ofif, permitting now on each license
twenty zebras to be shot, instead of only two animals pre-
vious to the latest game regulations.



4



CHAPTER XIII

HYENAS, MONKEYS, AND PIGS

Of the Hyena family several species exist at present,
both in India and Africa. Unmistakable signs, such as,
for instance, a great many remains of the hyenas and
bones they crushed, show that in earlier ages this carni-
vorous animal, which at present is confined to the tropics
of the Old World, also inhabited southern and central
Europe, where it went as far north as England. In East
Africa there are two species: the striped and the spotted
hyena. Of these two, the striped is a good deal smaller
and less frequently met with than the spotted variety. It
is more common in Abyssinia and Somaliland, where in
many localities they are little or not at all disturbed by
the natives, as they act as scavengers, and in that way
are of some service to the population. They, therefore,
become quite daring and often visit camps, where they
grow so bold as to come close up to the tents to snatch
away anything that they can find in the way of meat
or bones. In fact it is told in one of the narratives of a
shooting expedition in Somaliland, that the sportsmen
sometimes amused themselves by throwing morsels of
meat and bones from their evening meal just to hear
them crunched up by the striped hyena but a few yards
away from the table. This hyena hardly ever attacks

211



THE BIG GAME OF AFRICA

people or cattle, confining its meals, as a rule, to putre-
fied meat.

\ The more common, and much larger spotted hyena is,
indeed, a very uncanny-looking kind of creature. Al-
though not quite as long, it stands somewhat higher than
the lion, on account of its extremely long fore legs, which
make the back of the animal slope down even more than
that of the kongoni. The color of the spotted hyena is of
a grayish brown, with irregular and very dark brown
spots, which sometimes appear to be almost black. The
head of this hyena is not very unlike that of a large dog;
its upper part is very round and thick, and the ears are
comparatively small and rounded; the tail is rather short
and bushy. The jaw muscles and teeth of this beast are
of the most extraordinary strength. I have heard from
reliable sources that bones, which would defy even leopards
and lions, were with ease crushed by the hyena. On visit-
ing one of the places where I had the day before shot a
giraffe, the leg bones of which had been left on the ground,
we found to our amazement that these heavy bones had
been crushed by the hyenas, and the greater part of them
devoured for the sake of the marrow. From the disagree-
able howls in the night, and from the tracks that we saw
around the carcass of this giraffe, we had evidence enough
that its bones had been devoured, not by lions, but by these
scavengers, which would instantly have fled if the " King
of Beasts " had appeared.

It has often been said that this spotted hyena feeds only


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Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 15 of 26)