Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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morning, before the lions generally leave their prey. Many
more hunters, myself included, have again and again tried
this in vain, only to find the carcass undisturbed, or else
eaten by hyenas or jackals.

It is a well-known fact that the lion is just as fond of
eating an already dead animal — even in a state of putre-
faction — as it is of eating its own, fresh " kill." The old
theory, although universally believed, that the lion only
eats the meat of animals it kills itself, has by unmistakable
evidence been proven to be entirely false. Another strange
fact is that where lions abound in great numbers, large
herds of game have existed for ages and still even in-
creased, while the lion itself, although very seldom killed
by another beast, never multiplies so much as to threaten
the game with destruction, even in localities where the
" king of beasts " has never been hunted by white men.



There are two different species of elephants — the
African ; and the Asiatic, or, as he is more generally called,
the Indian. This latter species appears to be more closely
related to the mammoth of past ages than the African ele-
phant, particularly in regard to the shape of the head and
the structure of the molar teeth. These are in the Asiatic,
or Indian, elephant of much finer construction than the
coarse molar teeth of his African cousins, with their
larger plates and thicker enamel, proving that the African
elephant is accustomed to live upon harder and more " sub-
stantial " food than the Indian, a fact that is borne out by
all careful observers.

The heads of the two species differ so much that any-
one who knows their characteristics at once distinguishes
the one from the other. In the African species the fore-
head is much more convex, the base of the trunk wider,
and the ears more than twice as large as those of the
Indian elephant. The same is the case with the tusks,
being in the latter much smaller in bulls, and practically
nonexisting in females, while the African elephant of both
sexes carries splendid tusks, weighing in the males some-
times two hundred pounds apiece, and more. The females
have much thinner tusks, which, although of considerable



length, seldom weigh over thirty pounds apiece. Of the
two species, the African is also considerably larger, aver-
aging fully two feet more in height than the Indian ele-
phant, the same proportions existing if girth and weight
are considered.

In regard to their different dispositions, the Asiatic
species is much milder and more timid. He is therefore
more easily tamed and used for work or " show " than the
African elephant, which, if enraged and charging, is one
of the most terrific foes to encounter. He will then come
on with raised head, with trunk generally held up in a
kind of " S " form, his enormous ears standing out in
right angles against the massive head, forming an ex-
panse of ten feet or more. At the same time he will
often emit short, shrill trumpet screams, that seem to
make the very ground vibrate with their sound, as he
" shuffles " forward, breaking down everything in his

No animal in the world is in reality more deserving to
be called " King of Beasts " than the elephant, the giant
of the forest. Not only is this mighty pachyderm by far
the largest and strongest land animal, but probably also
the most intelligent. It fears no beast. While the lion
has to fear the elephant, the rhino, and sometimes even
the buffalo, and these two latter probably each other, the
elephant is absolutely without a rival. In fact, the native
hunters say that as soon as elephants invade a certain
locality, the rhinos invariably quit, evidently fearing for
their safety.

It is perfectly wonderful to see with what " engineer-
ing skill " the many elephant paths are made, which as-



cend and descend the steepest mountain sides of, for in-
stance, Mt. Kenia, the Aberdares, Kinnangop, and other
places. The beasts not only seem always to find the best
places for their paths, but understand also how to make
them zigzag up the steepest grades, carefully avoiding
any stones and rocks that are not absolutely solid and safe
to step on. In the same way they understand how to
make fine paths through the dense forest, where it would
be almost impossible for any human being to go forward
at all.

To cite only one example of how dense these forests
sometimes are: A certain government forestry official,
already referred to in Chapter III, saw my camp fires on
one of the foothills of Mt. Kenia, just about three miles
in a straight line from his house. He started out in the
early morning, thinking that he could easily reach me
before eight o'clock, and although doing his utmost to
make as good headway as possible, he did not arrive until
after twelve at noon, just in time to partake of my Sun-
day dinner, having had to cut his way through the jungle
almost inch by inch, as there were no animal paths leading
in the desired direction.

The elephant has a much more varied and luxuriant
" table " than that of nearly all other wild animals, for his
meals consist of branches and young shoots of certain
trees, while of others he eats the bark only. He is very
fond of bamboo leaves and twigs as well as of the young
bamboo sprouts, before these open up. The forest giant
probably also consumes a great deal of grass. In certain
parts of the country, where he has been much hunted and
where he spends the greater part of the time in the dense

' 54


forest, or high up in the mountain, he makes nightly trips
down to the plains.

The favorite haunts of the elephant in British East
Africa to-day are either among the foothills or higher
slopes of the before-named mountains, where the bamboo
often grows in mighty forests, intermingled with large,
deciduous trees, and occasionally cedars. I have myself
found elephant tracks on Mt. Kenia at elevations of over
10,000 feet, far above the timber and bamboo line; and I
have no doubt that natives tell the truth when they say
they have known wounded elephants to go almost up to
the very snow line, which here, under the equator, starts
first at an altitude of some 15,000 feet.

Nothing in the way of big-game shooting can be com-
pared w^ith elephant hunting for the danger, excitement,
and amount of real sport. No other hunting taxes to such
an extent the best qualities of the sportsman. He has to
use the greatest amount of precaution, judgment, strength,
endurance, nerve and personal courage, strategy, and skill,
if he desires to bring a fine trophy to bag, without wanting
to bang indiscriminately at the first best elephant he sees
hundreds of yards off without regard to its size or sex,
as, alas ! so many " sportsmen " do to-day. Two Russian
noblemen whom I met in East Africa told me without
hesitancy that they were going to take out licenses enough
to kill three elephants each, this being possible under the
old game laws in force until December, 1909, and that they
would fire at the first elephant they saw, whether big or
small, whether male or female, and that even if the tusks
would be afterwards confiscated by the government for
weighing less than sixty pounds together, they would sim-



ply buy back the ivory, and, as so many others have done,
say that they had shot the elephants in " self-defense ! "

As soon as an elephant track is found, three questions
have to be satisfactorily answered before it is taken up
and followed:

( 1 ) Is the track fresh — i. e., made recently enough to
be worth following?

(2) Is the track large enough to justify being
taken up?

(3) Is the track made by a bull or a cow elephant?
The first question is comparatively easy to answer,

for even a novice will soon see whether or not the track
is a day old or more. This can be easily determined by
carefully observing the leaves, branches, and grass which
have been broken off and trodden down. If these, for
instance, are perfectly withered and dry, it is reasonably
sure that the track is at least twenty-four hours old; but
if they have not had time to wither, and it is evident that
the grass was pressed down after the dew had fallen, the
track has been made late the previous night and, if large
enough, is certainly worth following. Then by going a
few hundred yards farther along, the hunter may find
branches, torn off the trees recently enough for the leaves
to be still fresh, and with the sap perhaps dripping from
the broken limbs. This is a sure sign that the elephant
has passed by only some ten to twenty minutes ago. Then
when also fresh, " steaming " droppings are found, there
can be no doubt that the elephant is very close at hand.
To look at the droppings alone would not be sufficient, for
if the elephant is trekking from one place to another, he
may just have passed the place in question only half an



hour ago, and yet it may be absolutely impossible to follow
him up, if he has not stopped to feed here and there, for
these huge beasts walk very fast, and may go on for
thirty or forty miles before they stop again, if they have
been disturbed.

Then, secondly, as to the size of the imprints of the
feet, there is some difficulty in determining with absolute
certainty if the animal is a large " tusker " or not. With
elephants as with men, big feet are not always the signs
of a very big and powerful " owner." Some elephants
with very large feet have not had large tusks, and some-
times, strange enough, may carry only one tusk or no tusk
at all, even in Africa. In Ceylon and India this is very
often the case. Again, some exceedingly big tuskers have
had remarkably small feet. But, as a general rule, a real
big foot means an old bull, and so the sportsman measures
at once the imprints in the ground after having been satis-
fied that the track is fresh enough to follow. If the diam-
eter of the imprint of the forefoot, which is more of a
circular form than the hind foot, is only twelve to fifteen
inches, it is probably not made by a fine tusker ; but if the
distance across the imprint from front to rear is anywhere
from eighteen to twenty-four inches or more, it is reason-
ably certain that the track has been made by some splendid
old tusker, which very often goes by himself instead of
mingling with the herd.

Somewhat more difficult to answer is the third ques-
tion, as to whether the track has been made by a bull or a
cow elephant. If by careful measurements its diameter is
found to be eighteen inches or over and the tracks of the
hind feet fairly rounded, they have without much doubt



been made by a bull elephant. If smaller, and with the
marks of the hind feet very much of an oval, almost pointed
shape, it is reasonably certain that they have been made
by a female elephant. As elephants often walk one behind
t^e other in each others' steps, particularly when trekking,
the imprint of the feet must be very carefully examined,
for several animals may have used exactly the same track
for some distance. This is, however, not very difficult to
determine, for it is readily seen by the careful observer that
the different imprints do not cover each other altogether.

Imagine that the fresh track of a good-sized bull ele-
phant has been found! Before it is followed up, how-
ever, the direction of the wind must be carefully consid-
ered, for no animal seems to be able to scent a man as
quickly and as far as the elephant. If the wind is " right "
— i. e., blowing in the face of the one following the track —
he may go on as fast as possible, yet taking good care not
to break twigs or to make any other unnecessary noise.
The accompanying gun bearers and others should be for-
bidden to utter a word as the party hastens on, carefully
observing the track. As, strange to say, only a very few
natives of British East Africa are really good trackers,
the hunter is often entirely dependent on his own wood-
craft and skill in this respect. Suddenly another elephant
spoor may join the first one at an angle, then another and
another, until soon there is a whole maze of tracks, in
which the sportsman can find no trace of his old bull!

The new tracks may show that a whole herd of ele-
phants, including a good many females and " babies," have
trekked along, and from the unbroken trees along the
broad " elephant road " it is easily understood that the



herd has been disturbed, and is moving along quickly,
without stopping to eat or rest. The hunter should now
be looking around very carefully, as he hastens along on
this " road," to find the track of the old tusker, hoping
that he has left the herd again, as very often happens.
But all in vain ! The pursuit may have to be given up, and
the party returns to camp, downhearted and discouraged.
The above had been my experience in 1909, when, on
one dreary return march to the camp, having forgotten
to take an emergency tent with us, one of the native track-
ers suddenly stopped and whistled faintly. Looking in his
direction, I saw him nod to us to come on quickly. Before
we reached him, however, we heard the cracking of the
trees all around, and now only about eighty or ninety yards
off we saw a little herd of twelve to fifteen elephants, big
and small, but mostly females with their " babies," without
a single big tusker. As the wind was blowing steadily
from them to us, we noticed their very strong, peculiar
smell, while they themselves were unable to scent us.
After all our men had gathered, we told them to lie down
and be absolutely quiet while I, with one gun bearer and
the man carrying the camera, sneaked forward to try to
secure at least some photographs of the herd at close
quarters. As yet, we were altogether unobserved by the
herd. Some of the " youngsters " ran playfully about,
while others were eating the leaves from a tree, which one
of the adult elephants had broken down for that purpose.
One very small calf stood between his mother's hind legs,
probably getting his meal of fresh milk, although from
where we stood it was impossible to see the little fellow's



Nearer and nearer I stole with still more caution, for
the wind had entirely died away, and, as is very usual in
thick forests, is liable to spring up again in another direc-
tion. The forest was rather dense in this place, the big
trees making the shadow so deep that a snapshot was
almost impossible; but, trusting to good luck, I tried to
approach the herd still nearer. Both my men began to
feel uneasy at about forty yards from the elephants, but
I simply ordered them to follow me as silently as possible.
I must confess that my own heart beat a little faster than
usual at the prospect of this wonderful opportunity of
observing a herd of elephants from such close quarters,
and I was fully aware of the danger of the undertaking.

I had told the " camera man " to walk next to me,
followed by the gun bearer, who was one of the most
courageous natives I have ever employed. We were mak-
ing for a small elevation some twenty yards away from
the herd, from which point I wanted to take the picture.
I was at the time carrying the big .577 express rifle myself,
and was just considering what stop to use, and how
long exposure to give, when all of a sudden there was a
commotion among the elephant herd, the wind having evi-
dently changed its direction. Up went all the trunks in a
kind of " S " form, while with outspread ears the forest
giants began to trumpet furiously, so that the whole region
reechoed with their angry tones, a magnificent, never-to-
be-forgotten spectacle! I turned around for my precious
camera only to see the man, apparently without a thing
in his hands, climbing a large cedar tree, a dozen or so
yards away, while even my gun bearer, shouting, " Wana
kuja " ("They are coming"), ran for another tree.



On they came ! Two big, young bulls, both with small
tusks but otherwise full-grown, led the charge, and when
within some twenty-five yards of me I raised the gun and
pulled the trigger. " Snap, snap ! " That was all that fol-
lowed, both cartridges failing to explode ! As I broke open
the gun as quickly as possible to put in two new shells,
backing at the same time to gain a fraction of a second's
time, I fell into a hole above my knees! Now the two
charging bulls were perhaps within fifteen yards or so,
and just as I raised the gun to fire again, a shot from the
gun bearer rang out to my left. The nearest bull, hit in
the shoulder by the powerful 1 1 millimeter Mauser, at once
turned and ran away sideways to my right, followed by
the others, all vanishing as quickly as they could, crush-
ing through the bush in their wild stampede!

Not wanting to feel that my life had depended upon
my gun bearer's shot, I tried the big gun again, this time
aiming far above the fleeing monsters. Both shots went
off with a tremendous roar, which made the elephants
increase their speed still more. This showed to my satis-
faction that had my gun bearer not returned and shot
when he saw my plight, I could easily have killed both my
antagonists at a few yards' distance. Examining the un-
exploded shells afterwards, I found that they had been
carelessly loaded, although being bought from a reliable
London firm, the percussion caps having been pushed in
so far that the firing pin of the gun could not reach them.

On the following day we found another very large
track of a single bull, which we with few interruptions fol-
lowed for five whole days under the most trying circum-
stances. We had to cross over marshes, rushing mountain
6 6i


streams, up among the bamboo at more than 9,000 feet
altitude, only to have to come down again into the valley
below, until on the fifth day we saw from the appearance
of the tracks and the untouched trees along his path that
we would have to abandon the pursuit, the elephant outdis-
tancing us more and more.

Another time we found fresh tracks of a very large
single elephant on the western slopes of the Gojito Moun-
tains, which we at once followed. From the amount of
recently broken twigs and branches, and from the looks
of the grass and flowers, trodden down by the big feet,
we understood that the elephant had passed only about
one hour ahead of us, and that he was moving along slowly.
Therefore, after finding that the wind was " right," we
pursued our prey as quickly as possible. The grass in the
open places between the bushes and trees was fully twelve
to fifteen feet high, so that it was impossible to see more
than a few yards ahead, and I, therefore, sent a man up
into a large tree along the track to reconnoiter. Quick as
a squirrel he climbed up half the length of the tree and
looked around. In another second he was down again, re-
porting a large bull elephant with big tusks " very near,"
which in the native language may mean anything from
fifty to five hundred yards !

I saw a few paces in front of me a small single rock,
and, climbing upon the same, got a good view of the mon-
strous pachyderm just as he swung around and began to
return the same way he had come, at about two hundred
yards* distance. As quickly as I could raise the big gun to
my shoulder, I fired for his back, the only thing that showed
above the grass. A few angry trumpetings announced that


he was wounded, and with a rapidity that the reader would
think impossible by such a h'lg and clumsy beast as the ele-
phant, he again whirled around and ran off toward the
dense forest to our left. Before he had taken many strides,
however, a second bullet crashed into his left side, fol-
lowed by furious trumpeting for a moment, and then
the giant disappeared, the high grass and bush hiding
the beast completely from our view, as he ran toward the
Gojito Mountain slopes, crashing down trees and bushes
in his way.

Now followed a most wearying chase for hours, up
and down hill, over streams and through jungles, which
would have been almost impenetrable if we had not been
able to follow in the tracks of the forest giant, who was
bleeding profusely from the two wounds. It seemed as if
our pursuit was almost useless, and soon the men had be-
come so tired out that they begged me to give up the chase.
I almost felt like doing this myself, and when we had come
down to another little stream, I decided to take a rest there
for a moment, while I could discuss with the men what
would be the wisest thing to do.

As we sat down to rest, we heard the trumpeting of
the elephant, and, looking up, saw on the mountain side,
some five hundred yards away, the magnificent beast, his
two large tusks glittering in the sunlight! This was the
first time we had been able to see the whole size of the
elephant, and not before that moment had I known that we
had been tracking an unusually large " tusker." This sight
gave us all new courage, and on we went, swifter than
before, in his pursuit. After another half hour we had
evidently come up a good deal closer to the elephant, and



we all began to feel the earnestness of the situation, for
nothing is more terrible to meet in " jungleland " than a
wounded elephant.

Fortunately for us, the wind had been in our favor so
far, so that the elephant had not been able to get our scent,
and, as he himself made a great deal more noise than we,
he could not even have heard us. A few moments later
the elephant suddenly turned completely around, and now
we had to follow him down the wind. We understood that
from this moment we had to be doubly careful, for the
elephant was now able to scent us as we came along.

We stopped for a moment to consult. I told all of the
men to stay somewhat behind, and with only Mabruki,
the gun bearer, and my Kikuju headman, Moeri, I took up
the pursuit again, after once more having examined my
elephant gun and seen that it was loaded with two steel-
pointed bullets. So on we went again, slowly and carefully.
We had not gone thus more than about five minutes before
we suddenly were faced by the huge elephant, which had
made a complete half circle. Turning back close to his
own track, he had stood immovable for some time in the
thick bushes, waiting for his pursuers to come along.

One of the most glorious sights met us ! The elephant,
larger in size than the well-known Jumbo, was almost upon
us, when we caught sight of him ! With his enormous ears
spread out, measuring fully ten feet from tip to tip, and
with his trunk bent up almost in an *' S " form, he made
a wild dash forward, charging down upon us most furi-
ously. For a moment I thought of what I had often heard
about the impossibility of killing an African elephant with
a front head shot, but, as escape was impossible, I aimed





Elephants Coming through High Bush and Elephant Grass, Kisili,


A Splendid Trophy : A Big Bull Elephant Killed near the

GojiTO Mountains, 1906.

The head is now in the New York Zoological Park. It is said to be the

largest mounted elephant head on record and weighs 1,750 pounds.


quickly for the center of his head in a Hne a Httle above
the eyes, and pulled the trigger ! Before the sound of the
gun had died away, the forest giant lay dead at my very
feet ! I was so surprised at the quick execution of the bul-
let that I remained standing for a moment or two with the
gun at my shoulder, ready to fire the second barrel if the
elephant had moved again, but it was all over with him
forever !

My two men had rushed right and left into the jungle,
when the elephant charged. They and the other natives,
previously left behind, now came up to congratulate me
on having had so good luck. The reaction of the moment's
nerve strain was tremendous. Just when the elephant
charged down on us I was as calm as when writing these
lines, and to that and my quick aim is due the fact that
I live to tell the tale ; but after it was all over, sitting down
on one of the tusks of the fallen monarch, I felt quite dizzy
for a moment, and noticed a slight tremor of the hands.

We soon had made a little clearing to enable me to make
some good photographs of the dead elephant. Although
my taxidermist, Mr. Lang, and a good many more men

Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 5 of 26)