Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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had been brought up from the camp, it was impossible for
us to finish skinning the huge beast that day. We, there-
fore, left a number of men at the place to sleep overnight
by the carcass, and to make a big fire to keep away the
lions and leopards, which otherwise would have spoiled
the skin.

The next day was the " glorious Fourth," and, as Mr.
Lang volunteered to take the men up himself to the ele-
phant and bring down the trophy, I decided to stay in camp
and rest, as I had also a good deal of writing to do. The



reader will perhaps bear with nic if I here quote a few
lines directly from my diary, written on this same Fourth
of July, 1906: "Toward evening Mr. Lang and his men
arrived with the elephant skin, head and feet, it looking
very much like a big funeral procession as they all de-
scended from the escarpment into the valley and slowly
and carefully crossed the Meroroni River to the monot-
onous and doleful tunes of their native songs !

" Yesterday, as I for the last time looked around where
the fallen elephant lay, solemn thoughts came to my mind.
There stood, dead and bare, an enormous cedar tree, and
almost at its very * feet ' lay, slain by human hands in an
instant, and with a comparatively small bullet, the largest
of the remnant of the mightiest of beasts! Looking at
both, a great sadness fell over me and I went away silently
toward camp in the light of the shining moon. . . ."

We found when measuring the elephant that his length
was 24' y" ', height from the shoulders, 11' 4''; around the
chest, 18' y" \ length of the trunk, 8' 6" \ circumference
of one of the front legs, 5' 2" \ length of tusks, 7' 2''; and
weight of same, 168 pounds.

A few years later, when tracking elephants through
high grass and partly dense bush in the Kisii country, we
ran into a herd of about two hundred elephants of all sizes
and ages, including two very large bulls. As we were
trying to close in on them to get nearer to these splendid
" tuskers," I noticed to my utter surprise that two of the
young bulls actually sazv us at over two hundred yards'
distance! It is generally believed that the elephant is
very nearsighted, but in this case they must have seen
us, as we walked along, for they could not possibly have



scented us, for a fairly strong wind was blowing from the
herd in our faces. Neither could they at this time have
heard us, for, walking along in the wide elephant tracks,
we went too silently for them to have detected us, even
if at much closer quarters.

These two bulls instantly gave the alarm, and the whole
herd began to move down in our direction. I succeeded
now in dropping one of the big tuskers, when, from the
report of the gun, the whole herd suddenly stampeded,
breaking down everything in front of them in their mad
attempt to avenge themselves on their two-legged enemies.
We could do absolutely nothing but remain where we stood,
the elephant grass being so high, and the bush so dense
that the big animals were now entirely hidden from view.
Hearing how the herd came nearer and nearer, angrily
trumpeting and making a terrific noise, as trees and bushes
were crushed before them, some of my men broke away
and ran. Suddenly a big elephant head shot out of the
high grass right in front of us, but in the next instant the
monster fell in a heap, with a bullet through its head
from the small 6.5 millimeter Mannlicher rifle. I had
exchanged the big .577 elephant gun for this excellent
little weapon, the Mannlicher, having six shots to the oth-
er's two, without reloading. Unfortunately this elephant
proved to be a female, and although the tusks were fairly
long, they were afterwards confiscated by the government,
as they did not together weigh sixty pounds. A few sec-
onds later I again had to shoot in self-defense. This time
it was a full-grown young bull with a pair of fine, although
small, tusks weighing only forty-eight pounds. He also
fell in his tracks, hit by two little Mannlicher bullets, only



at some seven yards' distance from where we stood, which,
fired in quick succession, had entered the center of his

Not quite so lucky was a German Heutenant, who in the
fall of 1909 was out elephant shooting in the vicinity of
the Kivu Lake, to the southwest of the Ruwenzori Moun-
tains. He had, with a few black followers, run into a
small herd of elephants, among which was one large bull,
which he stalked for a few minutes. Suddenly the ele-
phant got a whiff of his wind, and, without even being
shot at, whirled around and charged down on his pursuer
through the grass. Although the lieutenant fired not less
than five shots into the big elephant's head, emptying his
whole magazine, he failed to reach the deadly spot, the
center of its brain. In the next instant the infuriated bull
caught him up with his trunk and threw him high in the
air. As soon as he fell to the ground the elephant rushed
at him again, putting one of its big tusks right through
the unfortunate hunter, who was subsequently crushed into
an unrecognizable mass under its forefeet, while this whole
tragedy was witnessed by his cowardly black trackers and
hunters from nearby trees !

One of the most marvelous escapes ever recorded was
experienced by the famous elephant hunter, F. C. Selous.
It was in the early days, some thirty years ago, when Mr.
Selous was elephant hunting south of the Zambezi River.
He had shot several elephants one day, when on horseback,
and was just returning toward camp, when he espied an-
other big " tusker," which he wanted to bag. At this time
Mr. Selous used a single-barreled breech-loading gun of
very large bore. He jumped from his horse and fired at



the big bull, aiming for his heart. The shot, having missed
the deadly spot, made the elephant charge him at once.
Mr. Selous had to fling himself upon his horse before he
could put another cartridge in his rifle, and with the breech
still open he tried to escape by galloping away, as he had
done so often before. His horse was, however, so tired
out after the hard work of the day that the elephant gained
on him every second.

The last he could remember, Mr. Selous relates, was a
terrific scream right over his head. The next moment he
was knocked unconscious. When he regained conscious-
ness he found himself in a rather peculiar position. He
was actually lying between the two tusks of the elephant,
with the blood of the latter pouring down upon him from
a wound in the chest. Mr. Selous was saved only by the
strange fact that the elephant, when trying to gore him
with his tusks, missed him by an inch or so, and from
the great impetus of the charge these buried themselves
so deep in the ground that he had not succeeded in extri-
cating them. Mr. Selous lay for a second perfectly quiet,
thinking over what would be the best thing to do under
the circumstances. Finally, seeing an opening between the
elephant's front legs, he made a desperate effort to regain
his liberty, squeezed through this " gate " and escaped.
Strange to say, before Mr. Selous could get hold of his
gun, which had been dropped some distance away, the
elephant managed to extricate its tusks and disappeared,
never to be found again.

It was my great privilege to be a fellow passenger with
both Colonel Roosevelt and Mr. Selous when they, in
April, 1909, went cut to Africa. Almost every evening



after dinner Colonel Roosevelt, Mr. Selous, a few other
fellow passengers and myself used to spend some time in
telling our experiences as hunters in different parts of the
world, and it was during these evening hours that we had
the privilege of listening to the wonderful experiences of
Mr. Selous, without a question the most successful lion
and elephant hunter alive. Another of Mr. Selous's
stories, of the truth of which we were all persuaded, ran
about as follows:

" One evening shortly before he returned to his camp
he saw a good-sized ' tusker,' at which he fired. With a
crash the elephant went down, and was lying motionless
on the ground, when Mr. Selous arrived on the spot. Be-
ing very much tired out, he sat down on the side of the
elephant to take a much-needed rest, after which he decided
to go home to camp for the night, it being too late to
cut out the tusks that evening. Before leaving the fallen
monarch, he cut ofif his tail to have something to show
when he would arrive in camp. The next morning he sent
some of his natives back to chop out the tusks, while he
was going out in a different direction to look for other

" Returning in the afternoon to camp, he was very
much surprised and disgusted not to find the tusks of
his elephant. He became still more surprised when the
men told him that they had been at the spot where the
elephant fell, but had failed to find any trace of him. Of
course, Mr. Selous, therefore, at once started for the place
and found, to his utter amazement, that the huge beast,
which he had believed dead, and on which he had rested
the evening before, had not been killed after all, but was



still roaming around somewhere in the vicinity, now minus
his tail."

This and another incident which I will relate in the
chapter on Antelopes, go to show how necessary it is to
put an extra shot into the head of any big and dangerous
beast that has been apparently killed, for there have been
a good many instances where ferocious animals have only
been stunned for the moment by the bullet just grazing
the spine, and then been able to get up again and kill
their assailants unawares, when suddenly awakened to

It is most interesting to watch a herd of elephants feed,
play, or rest when they are undisturbed. The larger ones
often help the " babies " by breaking down branches or
whole trees to make it more easy for them to feed. On
Kenia I once found that a perfectly sound tree, measuring
thirty-three and a half inches in circumference, had been
broken off by an elephant, about seven feet from the
ground! This shows that a man has to climb a good-
sized tree if he wants to be safe from elephants, whose
destructiveness is appalling. Very often a few of these
beasts may, for instance, in a single night spoil a whole
plantation of sugar cane, of a dozen or more acres, tramp-
ling down what they do not devour. Elephants have often
even broken down native huts and killed their inhabitants
in an effort to get at sugar cane and other coveted " deli-
cacies," when they had suspected the presence of such in
the huts.

The wild Wandorobbo and other native hunters kill
elephants in different ways. Sometimes they make big
pits with or without sharp poles, stuck into the bottom,



while the hole is carefully covered over with branches and
grass. The pit is generally dug right in a regular ele-
phant path, so that when the huge beast strolls along in
his old track, suspecting no danger, he suddenly steps on
the frail " roof " and falls headlong into the pit, where he
is then killed by the natives with their long, sharp spears.
Another and more " sporty " way is this : The hunter,
armed only with a short, sharp steel spear, stuck into a very
heavy, wooden shaft, climbs up a big tree, overhanging
the elephant path, where he expects the animal to come
along. When the unsuspecting elephant reaches the tree,
the bushman throws his heavy, double spear with all his
strength down into its back, the spear often penetrating
to the heart. The iron or steel point of the spear, some-
times also poisoned, remains in the body of the elephant,
while the heavy wooden shaft falls off and can be used
again. The elephant, thus wounded by the poisoned spear
or arrow, will, if not hit through heart or lungs, go on for
several hours before he falls, closely followed by his slayers.
These, then, do not only take out the tusks, but feast on
the flesh with relatives and friends, until there is not
enough left of the carcass to attract even hyenas or jackals !
Some natives are courageous enough to track the for-
est giant in an entirely different way. Armed with a
heavy, sharp sword, they follow their intended victim care-
fully, until he is within touching distance, which, for
naked, light-footed savages, is not a difficult task if the
wind is " right." Then with a couple of terrific cuts they
sever the sinews of the elephant's hind legs above the feet,
which make it impossible for the animal to take another
step. The powerless beast is then killed, either by being



hit through its heart by a spear, or by being shot with poi-
soned arrows.

The Wandorobbo, who once acted as my guide in the
Kenia Province, told me of how the rhinos feared the
elephants, and how he had once been an eyewitness to a
fight between a large rhino and a full-grown, young ele-
phant bull. The rhino was a female, which was lying down
together with her small calf. Suddenly hearing the noise
of the elephant near its " baby," the rhino rushed up to
defend its offspring, apparently not knowing what it did.
The next moment the elephant had its trunk round the
rhino's neck, threw it to the ground and gored it to death
in an instant with its powerful tusks. Then he walked oflf,
trumpeting as if triumphing over his victory. Needless
to say, the Wandorobbo feasted upon the dead rhino, and
even killed the young one, as it returned the next day to
look for its mother.

Most people, including even a good many African
hunters, affirm that the elephant never lies down to sleep
or rest. Although I had repeatedly heard natives say that
they had seen elephants lie down, both on their sides and
on their belly, I would not believe it, until so eminent a
naturalist and explorer as Dr. Carl Peters himself told
me that he had actually tzvice seen elephants, that were not
wounded, lying down resting. Another German, the ele-
phant hunter Mr. G. Ringler, tells how his own brother
was crushed to death by an elephant, which he thought
was already dead, when he found it lying motionless on
its side, as he had just a moment before shot at a large
bull. Mr. Ringler went up to the sleeping monster without
hesitation, but as he touched the elephant it started up with



lightninglike rapidity, caught hold of the unsuspecting
hunter, and before his brother, who was only a few yards
away, could kill the brute, the unfortunate sportsman was
dashed against a rock and instantly killed. Mr. Ringler
also confirmed the curious story of native hunters that
the elephants in a certain district in German East Africa
like to eat a kind of root, which makes them so intoxicated
that they lie down and sleep hard enough for the natives
to be able to kill them easily with swords or spears.

Among hunting trophies none can be compared with
a well mounted head of a big tusker. The writer was
fortunate enough to get home a perfect head skin of one
of his big elephants, with tusks over seven feet in length.
The whole head, mounted, weighs over one thousand seven
hundred pounds. The tip of the trunk projects almost
fourteen feet from the wall, and the head measures over
ten feet from tip to tip of the mighty ears! This mag-
nificent and especially well-mounted trophy is at present
on exhibition in the New York Zoological Park, Bronx,
among the National Collection of Heads and Horns.



The tallest of all living creatures is without doubt the
giraffe. When seen in the open or even in thin bush coun-
try, he reminds one very much of the curious creatures of
prehistoric times, exhibited in the museums of natural
history, so queer does he seem. Giraffes exist now only in
Africa, although a good many discoveries of fossils show
that they, like a good many other huge tropical animals
of ages past, were formerly found also among the hills
and valleys of southern Europe, Persia, and India. The
giraffe is a kind of link between the deer family and the
bovine animals, such as oxen and buffaloes, being, like
the latter two, a cud-chewer.

The hairy horns of the giraffe are in young calfs easily
separable from the bone of the skull, but the inside core
grows in time together with the head bones, like the horns
of oxen or buffaloes. The giraffe's eyes are of a deep
brown color, with large pupils and long bushy lashes, and
they are wonderfully soft and beautiful. The tongue is
extremely rough, a very necessary quality, as the animal
feeds chiefly from the thorny desert trees, and it is un-
usually long, measuring from fifteen to eighteen inches.
The upper, prehensile lip is also very long, tough, and
covered with thick, short hair, so as to enable the giraffe



to feed more easily upon the mimosa tree without getting
stung by the sharp thorns.

One of the most curious-looking sights in Africa is a
herd of giraffes trotting off with a sort of rocking-horse,
single-foot motion, with their enormous necks carried a
trifle lower than the line of their backs. The animals stand
much higher over the shoulders than over the pelvis. Al-
though absolutely harmless and mild-tempered, the giraffe
is, on account of its unusual height, sometimes a " menace "
to civilization in British East Africa, for it has repeatedly
happened that a big bull-giraffe has forgotten to " duck "
when crossing the telegraph line along the Uganda Rail-
road, broken the wire with his lofty head, and thus dis-
turbed communication.

The great height of the giraffe enables him to eat the
young shoots and leaves off the topmost branches of the
mimosa and other trees, which constitute his chief
*' menu " ; but it makes it, on the other hand, very awkward
for him to partake of the " salt licks " on the ground, or
drink from a shallow water hole or stream, for he has
then to spread out his front legs so far, to be able to reach
the water, or the ground, that it takes him a considerable
time to get up and away again if disturbed.

Fortunately for the giraffe, he seems to need but little
water, and in this respect he is very much like the camel,
which animal reminds one more of the giraffe than any
other living creature. The natives of different districts
in British East Africa have assured me that the giraffe
can go for many weeks and even months without drink-
ing, and this partly explains the fact that he is mostly
found in dry and practically waterless countries. Such



favorite feeding grounds are, for instance, the Seringetti
Plains, between Kilima-Njaro and Voi on the Uganda
Railroad, and in the thorn and fiber plant deserts around
the latter place. He is also found in the central parts of
the Protectorate, to the northeast of the Athi Plains, which
he occasionally crosses over to the big Southern Game
Reserve. In the northern part of the Protectorate he is
abundant both north of Mt. Kenia and the Guasco Narok
river, in the partly waterless Samburu country, and on the
Guas Ngishu Plateau, southeast of Mt. Elgon. As the
dew is generally very heavy in these districts, he may get
almost all the water he needs from the dew-covered leaves
that he eats in the early morning.

Almost every animal makes some kind of a sound when
angry, wounded, or when wanting to " communicate " with
other members of its family, but the giraffe seems to be
absolutely mute. I have asked several hunters, who have
had opportunity to observe a great many giraffes at close
quarters, about the muteness of this animal, and they have
all assured me that they never heard the giraffe utter a
sound of any kind, neither when pursued, scattered, cor-
nered, wounded, or dying. This native trackers and
hunters all over East Africa have also repeatedly cor-

In 1906, not far from the Maungu station on the
Uganda Railroad, I shot my largest giraffe, which meas-
ured over seventeen feet in height. We had started from
our camp at Maungu long before daybreak in search of
a big giraffe, which was reported as having been seen
the previous day from the railroad. After having marched
for over an hour, feeling our way in the dark, I suddenly
7 yy


stopped in the twilight, seeing a small object falling down
from the branches of a mimosa tree. In the twinkling of
an eye I saw an animal run up in the tree, only to drop
down again the next second like a ball into the high grass.
My first thought was to take the shotgun and bring the
animal down, but fearing that the giraffe might be in the
vicinity and take alarm from the crack of the gun, I whis-
pered to some of the natives to rush forward the next
time the animal fell to the ground and throw themselves
over it. They did so, far quicker than I could imagine,
for the next moment one of the men rose from the grass
holding between his hands a beautiful Civet cat, which
had injured him considerably with its sharp claws and

I was right in my supposition about the giraffe, for
we had only gone forward some fifteen minutes more,
when I saw a large giraffe head towering above a good-
sized mimosa tree some five hundred yards away. By
this time it was light enough both to shoot and to take
photographs, and, as I was very anxious to have this mag-
nificent animal " kodaked " before it should fall, I ordered
my men to throw themselves flat on the ground, and with
only Mr. Lang, the expedition's taxidermist and photog-
rapher, and one gun bearer, I approached the girafife as
carefully as possible. When within about one hundred and
fifty yards, the giraffe had caught a glimpse of us from
his exalted viewpoint and started to walk away with long
strides before it was possible for Mr. Lang to snap him
with his camera. I then raised my .405 Winchester and
fired, aiming at his heart, but the girafife continued his
walk as if nothing had happened. I fired a second and a



k. ^id



Large Bull Giraffe; Shot through the Heart near Maungu
R. R. Station.

Bull Giraffe in the Mimosa Jungle on Laikipia.
Note how his bright coloring blends perfectly with the sunlight and shadow

in the landscape.


third time, but with the same result. I knew that I must
have hit the animal, and said to the gun bearer : *' He must
have a charmed life; give me the big gun." This was
the powerful .577 Express rifle, by the natives called
" msinga " (cannon).

We had in the meantime kept pace with the giraffe, as
he was still simply walking away, and at about the same
distance I fired with the big gun, aiming again for his
heart. Now the big bull instantly stopped and allowed us
to come right up to him. This splendid opportunity was
used by us to make some good pictures of the old giraffe,
which tried in vain to walk away from the spot. He
could evidently only lift one of his front legs a little.
There he stood, without uttering a single sound, looking
straight at us for a few minutes. Then his hind legs gave
away, and suddenly he toppled over backwards and fell

The fact was disclosed, when we were skinning the
animal, that all the three " soft-nose " bullets fired from
the Winchester had only penetrated his skin, which is about
an inch thick, and lodged in the ribs right over the heart,
not more than a few inches apart from each other, whereas
the one steel-capped bullet from the .577 Express had
crashed through the side of the giraffe, penetrated its
heart, broken two ribs on the opposite side and almost pro-
truded through the skin! As the wounded giraffe looked
up at me with his beautiful eyes, I felt that, had it not
been for the sake of the American Museum of Natural His-
tory in New York, for which I was collecting specimens
of big game at the time, I would never have forgiven
myself for killing this magnificent animal. I thought,



however, that he was more worthy of being admired by
thousands of intelHgent Americans in one of the finest
museums of the world, than to continue to roam around,
hidden in the jungles of Africa, and one day to die of old
age, or fall an easy prey to a bloodthirsty lion!

It probably very seldom happens that a full-grown,
healthy girafife is attacked, or killed by a single lion, un-
less suddenly overtaken, when, for instance, in a drinking
position, when old and feeble, or sick. For with his power-
ful front feet he could well beat back and even kill a lion.

Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 6 of 26)