Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

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A cow giraffe was once seen attacking a lion which tried
to kill its calf. The furious mother drove off the lion with
its forefeet, but also unfortunately hit its own " baby "
with one of the blows, instantly breaking its back and kill-
ing it on the spot. A German settler from the country
southwest of Kilimanjaro told me that he had succeeded
in capturing a number of wild animals, which he subse-
quently had sold to the well-known wild animal merchant,
Mr. Hagenbeck, of Hamburg, who near that city has one
of the finest private zoological gardens in the world, which
is well worth a visit. The German settler also wanted to
capture young giraffes, but had, according to his own
almost incredible story, repeatedly been " driven off " by
their desperate mothers, as he was not allowed to shoot
them, according to the game laws of German East Africa.
One day, however, he succeeded in separating a young
giraffe from the herd, and with his black helpers he got
hold of the " baby," which, although probably but a few
months old, stood fully nine feet high. After a hard strug-
gle, during which two of the negroes had been rather
badly hurt by kicks, but during which ordeal, to use my



spokesman's own expression, the " youngster never said
a word," the young giraffe was finally overpowered and
driven into the " shamba," or farm, where it, in a very few
days, became so tame that it followed its capturers around
like a dog, freely mingling with the cattle.

But, alas ! a couple of days before it was to be shipped
down to the coast, it quite suddenly developed some malig-
nant disease, growing thinner and weaker every day. One
evening it did not return home with the cattle, and when
the people went out to look for the giraffe, it was found
dead under a mimosa tree, with two leopards feasting upon
its body. Whether slain by these cunning and powerful
bush animals, before it had died from its disease, or
whether it was found already dead by the leopards, could
not be ascertained, as the big felines had already devoured
too much of it. Later on I shall tell the circumstances
under which these two leopards were subsequently killed.

A British sportsman and settler who keeps a regular
" shooting box " in the lower Kedong valley, only a day's
march from the Kijabe Railroad station, a Mr. Barker,
a great animal lover, succeeded also recently in capturing
a young giraffe, which soon became very tame. Some-
times, when " just playing," this beautiful animal hurt
several of the men by " friendly kicks " from its powerful
hoofs. Even this young giraffe developed some disease
and soon died, in spite of the best of care. These cases
show that, although it may be comparatively easy to cap-
ture and tame a " baby " giraffe, it is very difficult to bring
it up on ordinary cow's milk or artificial food until it is
old enough to make its own '* living " from trees and



There is little or no real sport or excitement in giraffe
hunting, for, as already remarked, the animals are abso-
lutely harmless and will never, even when wounded or
cornered, really attack a man. On the other hand, as
the giraffe is exceedingly wary and has doubtlessly good
scenting qualities, like almost all wild animals, and very
good eyesight, he is most interesting to stalk with a view
of obtaining an insight into his habits and of " taking his

Tales about charging giraffes should not be taken very
seriously, for no really authentic case can be found of
giraffes actually charging a hunter. On my first trip to
Africa I had shot a large bull giraffe near the little Koma
Rock, on the northwestern part of the Athi Plains. As
soon as the bullet hit the animal it went down, and when
Mr. Lang and I ran up to the bull and had got up to
within fifteen yards of him, he gathered all his last
strength, got up and staggered toward us before he, hit
by another bullet, went down, never to move again. We
were both absolutely sure that the wounded giraffe never
intended anything in the way of a charge, but that he was
so bewildered from pain and excitement that he simply
did not know what he did. Mr. Lang remarked to me that
probably a good many " nervous " hunters, with vivid
enough imagination, would be able to construct out of this
occurrence a " terrific charge."

When a fresh giraffe track is found, it is generally not
so difficult to follow, for the great weight of the animal
impresses his large hoofs in the soil deep enough to be
readily seen by any man, even with a limited experience in
tracking. The imprints of the giraffe's hoofs are very



much like those made by the oxen, although considerably
larger and more oval. Some of the giraffe countries are
very " thick " — i. e., overgrown with thorn and mimosa
trees and the strange-looking euphorbia, a cactus-like plant
which grows up into large, often queer-shaped, trees, while
the sharp-pointed seesal, or fiber plant — from which a
superior kind of rope is made — mercilessly stings right
through trousers, leggings, and even the thickest boots.
If the track is quite fresh and the wind " right," one may
soon catch up with a giraffe, if he thinks himself undis-
turbed, and it is very interesting indeed to observe the
huge animal feasting among the top branches of his fa-
vorite trees. He may stroll from tree to tree of apparently
not only the same kind, but also in the very same condi-
tion, and yet some of them he will just only sniff at, while
of the others he seems greatly to enjoy the leaves and
young shoots. Great care has to be taken in the stalking
of the giraffe, for from his exalted position he will very
quickly notice anything that moves anywhere within a
radius of several hundred yards or more, if the stalker is
not well hidden behind some thick cover.

The last giraffe I stalked I found on the beautiful
Laikipia Plateau, not far from the upper part of the Gar-
domurtu River, and southwest of that stream. When I
first noticed his track across our path, it ran down in the
very direction from which we had come. Concluding,
therefore, that we already must have been noticed by the
wary animal — for I was at the time trekking along with
over sixty men — I did not intend to follow this track.
I then told my men to wait a few seconds and then fol-
low at some distance, as quietly as possible, in case there



would be any other giraffes in the vicinity. Hardly had
I given this order before I saw something queer-looking
moving in the top of a mimosa tree, some one hundred and
fifty yards away and right in front of us. At first we
thought it was a marabout stork or some other big
bird, but soon we discovered the two front horns and
the ears of a girafTe. The caravan was now ordered
to sit down on the ground behind trees and bushes
and not to talk or move before I signaled to them to
come on.

With only one of the gun bearers to carry my Win-
chester, I took my camera and began carefully to stalk the
giraffe. It has often been remarked that if the coloring
of animals is supposed to hide them from their enemies,
or to make it easier for certain animals to catch their
prey, the giraffe in that respect would be very unfortunate,
with his bright and strangely checkered coat. I myself had
thought so several times before, when seeing giraffes on
the open prairies, where they are only found when trek-
king between their regular feeding grounds. This time,
however, I had to change my mind. It was just about
eleven o'clock on a cloudless day when, in spite of the
altitude of over 7,000 feet, the sun was very powerful,
for this part of the country lies exactly on the equator.
Now, as the strong, bright sunlight and the deep shadows
of the branches and leaves interweaved into one wonder-
ful " carpet," the big bull giraffe was, even at fifty yards,
hard to make out, except when moving, so perfectly did
his big dark and bright spots blend with the whole sun-
flooded landscape! A passing look at the picture facing
page 78 will prove how protective the giraffe's coat is under



the above circumstances even at twenty-five yards, from
which distance it was taken.

The tall bull now saw me, stopped eating, and looked
carefully around; but as my gun bearer lay prostrated on
the ground behind a tree, and I remained perfectly im-
movable in a kneeling position, from which I had taken
the above picture, the giraffe seemed to think that he had
made a mistake, and soon began to feed again from the
top of the mimosa tree, every second or so looking in my
direction to be on his guard. By being exceedingly care-
ful to watch all his movements, I succeeded in creeping
unnoticed still more forward, until I had taken two more
photos, one at twenty and the other at fifteen yards, both of
which pictures unfortunately became sunstruck in some in-
explicable way, but which show how near it is possible to
creep up even to a wary giraffe, if one uses but a little
patience and cunning. As my roll of films was exhausted,
and it being entirely out of the question to recharge the
camera unnoticed then and there, I quietly rose and walked
with empty hands up toward the giraffe. Still he did not
notice me — a good wind blowing steadily from the animal
to me — before I had got up to within six or seven yards
of the magnificent old bull ! Then he made off at a heavy
gallop, increasing his speed as I shouted my thanks for
his " posing."

There are in East Africa at least two distinctly dif-
ferent species of giraffe, which, however, in reality differ
very little from each other. The only marked difference
between these two species is the shape of their heads, or
rather, the number of horns. The ordinary giraffe found
in the central and southeastern part of the Protectorate



has two horns with a rather pronounced bump in front
below the horns. The other variety, the so-called five-
horned giraffe, which is generally found on the Guaso
Ngishu Plateau, has, behind the ordinary two horns, two
smaller hornlike projections — hardly worth the name of
horns — and the bump on the forehead grown out into a
more hornlike projection than that of the ordinary giraffe.
The height and color of the giraffes vary greatly. The
younger the giraffe is, the lighter is his skin, and it is only
the old bulls that have very dark, brown spots. The height
of giraffes varies a good deal. Full-grown males have
been shot in Africa measuring from sixteen to seventeen
feet six inches. Record bulls of South Africa have been
as tall as nineteen feet and over, but in that part of the
country the Boers have now almost exterminated the
stately animal. The reason for this was that the white
settlers coveted both the giraffe's meat and the skin, which
they use for harness, traces, and whips. The natives also
kill the giraffe whenever they have a chance to, partly
because they are very fond of its meat and the great
amount of marrow in its big leg bones, and partly because
they use the strong sinews of the animal for their bow-
strings, instead of twine, and for the strings of a kind of
rude musical instrument, on which they play their weary
monotonous tunes.



But two species of hippopotamus exist, and both are
now confined to Africa. The Httle Liberian, or pygmy
hippo, Hves, as his name indicates, in West Africa, where
he rarely attains a height over the shoulders of more than
some two feet six inches, while the whole length of his
body does not exceed six feet. The so-called common hip-
popotamus is now only found in the central parts of Africa
— i. e., not farther north than the upper Nile, south of
Khartum, and not below the Orange River, although only
a few decades ago he was very common all over South

Van Riebeck, the Dutchman, reports having seen hip-
pos in 1652 in a swamp, now occupied by Church Square,
in the very center of the present Cape Town, and the
last hippo in that district was killed in 1874. In prehis-
toric times even these big pachyderms were distributed
over a much larger area, well-preserved fossils giving evi-
dence of their existence in lower Egypt and southern Eu-
rope, where exactly the same species roamed around as
far north as England, the river Thames being one of their
favorite haunts.

The hippopotamus, or " river horse," as the name is
to be interpreted, forms a family all of his own. The



early Dutch settlers called him " lake cow," the Arabs
sometimes " lake buffalo." The ancient Egyptians, how-
ever, used the name " river hog " for the huge mammal,
which from a zoological point of view is the most befitting
name of all, for in his habits and general appearance he
is more like the pig than any other existing animal. The
meat of the hippo, and the great amount of fat, which
he generally carries under his thick skin, are also very
much like that of the pig.

The hippopotamus is next to the elephant the " bulki-
est " land animal in existence. It is not unusual for a full-
grown hippo to measure anywhere from twelve to thirteen
feet in length, the line taken from the tip of the nose to the
root of the short, stiff, and flattened tail. Sir Samuel
Baker once killed an old bull which measured fourteen
feet three inches, including a tail of nine inches in length.
A large hippo, which died a few years ago in the London
Zoological Garden, was over twelve feet in length, and
weighed somewhat more than four tons. The color of the
skin varies between almost black to dark brown, dark slate,
pinkish brown on the belly, and sometimes almost light
gray, which latter color has occasioned some naturalists
to give him the name of " white hippo."

Of all animals none is perhaps more hideous-looking
than the clumsy hippo, with his enormous mouth, mam-
moth lips, big tusks, disproportionately small eyes and ears,
ponderous piglike body, and short legs ! His heavy, wob-
bling gait, when on land, he can suddenly change into a
similar trot when frightened, and I have heard hunters
say, although it seems almost incredible, that a hippo is
even able to gallop, when hotly pursued and is trying to



rush into some nearby water. Once there, he feels safe
again, and if the water is that of a good-sized lake or
large river, he is soon practically out of harm's way, for
although the hippo has to put his nose up over the sur-
face of the water to breathe, at least every two or three
minutes, he usually does this with such rapidity, when
alarmed, that it is exceedingly difficult to get a shot
at him.

The only method of instantly killing a hippo is to shoot
him through the brain and, as under ordinary circum-
stances, the whole head of the hippo is exposed over the
water ; this is very easy indeed, unless the wary river horse
knows that he is in danger. Then he is so cunning that
an accurate shot is almost impossible, for the hippo is
able to place his body at such an angle to the surface that,
when he is exhaling the foul air, or inhaling the fresh, he
only shows the mere nostrils above the water, and the
upper vulnerable part of the head is held sufficiently low
so as to make a shot of no effect at all. Another trick that
the wary monster plays is this: Instead of exhaling and
inhaling in quick succession as he usually does, giving the
hunter thus two or three seconds in which to turn in the
right direction and shoot, he just barely brings the nos-
trils to the surface of the water and " puffs " out the foul
air, only to disappear instantly. Then he moves a few
yards away in another direction, before he raises his nos-
trils again, this time a trifle higher, to take a deep breath
of fresh air, before he again sinks out of sight.

It certainly is most remarkable how well the hippo is
able to deceive his pursuers when in his favorable ele-
ment, the water. After he has breathed in a place as



above described, he will often swim a good distance in
the water, until he suddenly " bobs up " where the hunter
least expects him. Sometimes when the river or lake
shores are overgrown with trees and bushes, overlapping
the water's edge, the big pachyderm will try to hide under
such cover, or in the deep shadow of overhanging rocks,
where he lies absolutely motionless, with eyes, ears, and
nostrils just above water, and is thus seldom detected.

Once I came upon a hippo — in fact, the first I ever saw
outside of a zoological garden — in the Athi River, which,
at that particular place, is only about one hundred and
fifty feet across, and where the length of the still flowing
" hippo pool " could not have extended more than eight
hundred to one thousand yards. The wary " river horse "
saw me at the same moment that I discovered him. Our
eyes met for a second, but as soon as I moved to lift the
gun up to my shoulder, he instantly sank out of sight.
With eager curiosity I waited with the gun ready to fire,
expecting the hippo to come up somewhere near the place
where he had disappeared. Instead of that, I suddenly
heard his peculiar " snorting " and " puffing " at least
some three hundred yards farther upstream, while I was
looking in the opposite direction.

I had sent some of my men to a place above the
" hippo pool," where the river was very shallow, to watch
so that the hippo should not be able to get up and disap-
pear that way, and I also dispatched some men to go to
a similar place below the pool, while a dozen or so of the
rest of the porters were strung along on both sides of the
pool, a few yards away from the water. There they could
not be seen by the hippo, while they could watch him, so



that he would not be able to disappear in the bush on
either side.

After almost an hour of impatient waiting, the big
head suddenly appeared right in the middle of the pool.
As I had been ready for an emergency of this kind, I fired
instantly, but it seemed both to me and the gun bearer,
who stood close behind, as if the hippo had sunk at the very
moment I fired, so that the bullet had hit the water right
over the head instead of the head itself. Still, we were
not certain whether I had hit the hippo's head or not, so
the only thing to do was to wait for another hour or two.
If a hippo has only been wounded, he may swim a great
distance away and then put up his nostrils under some
kind of cover, where he lies immovable for hours, breath-
ing as silently as he can. But when he has been instantly
killed, he immediately sinks to the bottom, where the body
remains for from half an hour to two or three hours or
even more, according to the temperature of the water.
The warmer the water is, the sooner the gases form in the
intestines of the dead hippo, and these cause the body to
rise to the surface, when it can be easily dragged ashore.
In this case, however, we waited in vain for over four
hours, from the moment I had shot. Although we scanned
the pool and all the men watched as carefully as they could,
none of us ever saw a sign of the hippo, nor heard any
" snorting," after he had once disappeared. Finally, we
had to give up our coveted trophy, for it certainly looked
as if it had sunk out of existence. The cunning beast had
probably foimd some safe cover, behind which he lay im-
movable, until he was sure his enemies had vanished.

Colonel Roosevelt, whom I had the pleasure of meet-



ing several times in East Africa during 1909, and who
most kindly invited me to join his shooting expedition,
when near Lake Naivasha, told m^e of a most interesting
experience he had had with a big hippo in that lake. As
soon as the beast had been wounded, he charged down on
Colonel Roosevelt, who, with his son Kermit and a few
negro hunters, had gone out hippo shooting in a good-
sized rowboat. With open jaws and terrible snorts, the
big monster made for Colonel Roosevelt's boat as quickly
as he could, only to receive two deadly shots from the
colonel's heavy Express rifle right in his very mouth, ^yhile
Kermit was lucky enough to secure a couple of fairly good
photographs from the charging beast. This incident has
since then been published at length.

A German official, a Mr. C. E. Schmidt, was nearly
killed by a hippo in the Rufiji River in German East
Africa under most curious circumstances. With another
white man and eight natives he was out hippo shooting in
the above-named big stream, at a place where the river
widens out considerably, and where the waters were lit-
erally alive with the big pachyderms.

The whole party had embarked in a good-sized rowboat
to tow ashore the bodies of two large hippos that had been
killed only about half an hour before, but which had
already appeared on the surface. Mr. Schmidt had taken
with him a very long and strong rope, to which they
fastened both bodies. Hardly had the men begun to
row the boat toward the nearby shore, having only about
twenty to thirty yards more to cover, and before they
reached a good landing place, an immense hippo suddenly
rushed for the boat so quickly that before the sportsman




had a chance to fire he had upset the Httle craft with his
big head. Fortunately, both the white men and the na-
tives knew how to swim, so they all made for the shore as
quickly as they could. Immediately one of the men gave
a tremendous scream, and Mr. Schmidt, turning to see
what was the trouble, was horrified to behold the big hippo
just closing his enormous mouth over one of the unfortu-
nate natives, whom he almost cut in two. All the shoot-
ing paraphernalia of the two friends — their guns, cartridge
bags, and hunting knives — were lost when the boat was
upset, and as the river at that place was very deep and had
a muddy bottom, they were never able to recover even the
guns. The natives were so frightened that the two sports-
men could not induce them to go out in another boat of
larger size to righten the upset craft and tow ashore the
two dead hippos.

In Uganda these monsters are so ferocious and so dan-
gerous both to native crops and '' shipping " that they had
been declared a " vermin," the government encouraging
the killing of them as widely as possible. It has repeatedly
happened in the waters of Uganda, particularly in the Nile
and in the Albert Nyanza, that native canoes of good size,
and even small steam launches, have been upset by these
powerful beasts. They seem to have found out that sugar
canes and other " hippo delicacies " are often shipped in
these crafts. Even if the natives, when their boats were
thus capsized, have escaped from the hippos, they have
often been killed and eaten by crocodiles, which are very
numerous in these waters. In British East Africa, how-
ever, the hippopotamus is not so numerous ; there is no lake
or river shipping to be imperiled by them, and the ordi-
8 93


nary sportsman is, therefore, restricted to only two on his

Colonel Roosevelt was probably the last man who had
a chance of shooting hippos in any of the beautiful lakes of
Nakuru, Elmenteita, or Naivasha, in which latter water he
shot several hippos during August of 1909, after which
time, upon the issuance of the new game license, the three
above-mentioned lakes were declared game preserves for

In districts where the " river hog " is seldom or not at
all disturbed, he is often seen resting or sleeping on the
sand banks in the middle of the rivers, or even on the sandy
shores of lakes and streams. He generally lies with his
body half submerged in the water, so that if he scents dan-
ger, he may be able instantly to disappear under the sur-
face. Sometimes, however, he gets up entirely out of the
water, even in broad daylight, to bask in the sun close to
the water's edge. I once saw three big hippos, sleeping
on the northern banks of the Sondo River, in the Kisii
country. They were huddled up very close to one another,
as they so often are seen when resting on dry land. The
one nearest to the water was perhaps only three yards
away from the edge, and all were lying parallel to the river,
facing upstream, although, strangely enough, a strong
wind was blowing the opposite way, much to my delight.
Alone, with an eleven-millimeter Mauser rifle in a sling
over the shoulder, and with camera in hand, I began to
stalk the three sleeping hippos, with a view of doing my

Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 7 of 26)