Oliver Howard] [Wolfe.

Back log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club online

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which frightened the herd. However this may be, the
buffaloes had vanished, and we, sad and weary, had to give
up the chase, reaching camp just as the sun went down.

On another occasion I was more fortunate. We had
found fresh buffalo tracks on one of the foothills of
Mt. Kenia, at an altitude of somewhat over eight thousand
feet. Magnificent cedars, with their straight trunks, in-
termingling with enormous deciduous trees of different
kinds, composed this forest, the undergrowth of which
9 109


contained a great many dense bushes, and here and there
an occasional rubber vine of the Landolphia family. After
more than two hours of difficult tracking we finally sighted
some buffaloes about one hundred yards distant, standing
across a small open grass patch in the midst of the forest.
From where we stood we singled out the one that seemed
the largest bull, as it was impossible to get any nearer to
the herd, there being not the slightest cover to stalk be-
hind, and the grass too short to conceal a man, even if

I fired with the big Express gun, aiming for the buf-
falo's heart. At the crack of the gun the herd made off
in a wild stampede, disappearing in the thicket. My gun
bearer said in a sad tone in his pidgin swahili : " Hapana
piga bwana." (You did not hit, sir.) Indeed, I thought
the same, for the big buffalo, at which I had aimed,
bounded off with the rest of the herd with mighty leaps, as
he vanished in the bush. I decided to cross the open grass
patch to see if there would not at least be some blood
marks that we could follow, feeling certain that the buffalo
must have been hit somewhere, even if not in a deadly
spot. It now became evident how much the natives them-
selves fear the buffalo, for they followed me most unwil-
lingly, saying that if a buffalo is wounded and followed
in the dense jungle, he is much more ferocious and cun-
ning than even the lion ; that he often doubles in his tracks
and hides in the dense bush close by, until his pursuer is
almost upon him. Then he makes a wild dash at him, and
either tosses him to death, or gores him with his powerful

With the greatest caution, therefore, we crossed the



open space and entered the dense forest, where the buffa-
loes had been standing only a few seconds before. With
the safety catch of the big gun pushed forward, and strain-
ing my eyes and ears to the utmost to be fully on my
guard, and ready for any emergency, we went into the
bush. We had gone but a few paces, when we suddenly
heard a loud groan and, expecting a charge at any mo-
ment, we held our breath and stopped to listen and look
around. Another drawn-out, bellowing-like groan fol-
lowed close to our right, and turning in that direction, I
had only gone a few steps, when I saw that the magnificent
buffalo had breathed his last! After skinning the beast
I wanted to see where he had been hit, and discovered now
that the large, steel- jacketed bullet had gone clean through
the very center of the heart and penetrated to the other
side until it had almost protruded through the skin. And
yet with such a wound the buffalo had been able to run
for over fifty yards !

In Uganda, where buffaloes are more plentiful than in
British East Africa, they often become so daring that they
run at night into the plantations of the natives, which they
destroy in a most thorough manner, often killing the sav-
ages who try to chase them away. The government, there-
fore, has recently taken the buffalo off the list of protected
animals and declared it, together with hippos and croco-
diles, to be " vermin." In Uganda anyone can now shoot
as many buffaloes as he wishes and has a chance to, if he
thinks that this is " sport." In British East Africa, how-
ever, where the buffalo is not quite so plentiful — one of
the results of the terrible rinderpest — he was altogether
protected until two years ago; up to that time the sports-



man could only kill one male bufifalo on a special license,
for which he had to pay twenty-five dollars. Then for
two years the hunter was allowed to kill one bull buffalo
on his ordinary sportsman's license. Since the middle
of December, 1909, when the present new game laws went
into effect, a sportsman is allowed tzvo bull buffaloes on his
license, the animals having greatly increased during the
last few years.

Mr. E. C. Selous, who has probably killed more buf-
faloes than any man living, and who has had a great many
narrow escapes from wounded and charging beasts, classes
these as the most dangerous of African game. This opin-
ion is undoubtedly shared by many other hunters. On one
of my trips to East Africa I met a certain Mr. Morrison,
an American, who told me how he, a few years ago, had
lost his left arm in a buffalo hunt. With another white
man, a Portuguese lawyer, he was out buffalo hunting
some sixty miles to the northwest of Mozambique, in Por-
tuguese East Africa. Each of them had already succeeded
in felling one fine, old bull, when toward evening one day,
as they were returning to camp, a small buffalo herd
suddenly appeared within shooting distance. They could
plainly see that there was one very large bull among them.

Both sportsmen fired at this animal, but the wounded
buffalo disappeared with the rest of the herd into the
jungle. Morrison and his friend followed in hot pursuit,
and a moment later they saw a pair of fine horns behind
a bush. Morrison fired at once, mistaking it for the bull
that he had already hit, as the beast rolled over dead at
the crack of the gun. The two delighted friends now ran
forward toward the fallen buffalo, when suddenly, with-



out a moment's warning, the first bull they had wounded
charged down on them with such ferocity that, before they
knew what had happened, Morrison was caught up by the
mighty horns of the enraged beast and tossed high up in
the air. He landed unconscious on his back in a thick bush,
with his left arm broken in three places, and almost sev-
ered from his body. During this time the Portuguese had
just had time to fire before the beast turned on him. He
succeeded in killing the buffalo instantly with a shot in the
brain, from a distance of only about five yards.

Although, as before mentioned, the buffalo is taken off
the list of protected game animals in Uganda, and each
sportsman is allowed at present to kill two bulls a year in
British East Africa, yet with the present excellent and
rigid game laws, and vast, suitable game preserves in many
parts of East, Central, and South Africa, the Cape buffalo
is apt to survive and even increase still more in numbers
for centuries to come, unless another and more serious
rinderpest should threaten the magnificent and coura-
geous beast with total extermination.



None of the big cats is so widely distributed as the
leopard. From the sun-scorched African and Indian plains
and damp tropical forests, as far as Manchuria and Japan
in the north, and up on the lofty Tibetan plateaus, the
leopard inhabits to-day the whole of Africa and the greater
part of Asia.

Of the leopard proper there is evidently only one spe-
cies. The commonly made distinction between the leopard
and the so-called panther is, from a zoological standpoint,
untenable, although a good many sportsmen and hunters
affirm that there is a great difference in size and markings
between the two animals. The panther in such case is
supposed to be the larger and more ferocious of the two,
but from the zoological point of view no real difference
exists, the panther being simply an ordinary, although per-
haps somewhat larger, leopard. Both the ordinary leopard
and the hunting leopard, existing also in India, are there
by the natives called " chita," by most Europeans often
spelled " cheetah," the Hindu word simply designating a
spotted cat.

Then there is an almost raven-black variety, which was
often described as being a different species of leopard.
This black variety, commonly called the " black leopard,"



was formerly believed to exist only in the Malay peninsula
and on the Island of Java, and is, like the snow leopard
of the Himalayan Mountains and other high regions, more
seldom met with than the ordinary black and yellowish
white spotted varieties. Even the black leopard shows,
if examined closely, that his coat is spotted much in the
same way as the ordinary leopard, but the rings of the
spots are more intensely black in color. Of all these dif-
ferent varieties of leopards, the snow leopard is without
a question the least common and the most beautiful.

In many prominent zoological works it is said that the
black leopard exists only in Asia, and this is generally
believed even in sporting circles to-day. The fact, how-
ever, is that although much rarer, the black leopard also
exists in Africa. In 1906 I was told that Mr. W. McMil-
lan, the well-known American, on whose vast estate, " Juja
Farm," Colonel Roosevelt had some excellent shooting in
the summer of 1909, had killed a black leopard in British
East Africa. I could hardly believe this tale, until I, upon
the invitation of Mr. McMillan, visited his beautiful home
in London. There in the vestibule of his house stood a
large, well-mounted, and absolutely black leopard, which
this great Nimrod had actually slain in Africa. That the
black leopard does not form a distinct species, but is a
mere " freak," or but a different variety of the ordinary
leopard, is evident from the two facts that there is, in the
first place, absolutely no difference in its general build or
habits, and, secondly, that we have authentic records of
ordinary female leopards, which have born both spotted
and absolutely black cubs in the same litter.

The ordinary spotted leopard is very much feared by



the natives, more so than even the hon, for he often plays
great havoc with their cattle. Not only does the daring,
bloodthirsty feline kill the cattle or sheep that he wants
to devour, but he also goes in for wholesale and wanton
destruction of the animals. Not infrequently has a single
leopard killed a dozen or more sheep and goats in one
night, without completely devouring a single one ; he may
have drunk the blood from all of them, or eaten a few
pounds of meat from some of the victims, while there may
be still others, which he does not seem to have touched,
after they had been killed.

The leopard often springs upon the back of his prey,
killing it with a single bite in the neck, or by catching hold
of the animal's neck with his paws and biting through the
throat, or by strangling the victim. Then he invariably
tears his prey open with his mighty paws and generally
devours first the heart, lungs, and liver, licking out the
blood in the cavity of the chest, before he begins to devour
the other parts of the body. Leopards often climb up in
trees with chunks of meat in their mouths, which after-
wards they can devour at their leisure, undisturbed by
their mightier rival, the lion, for which they invariably
leave their prey, if on the ground, and instantly disappear,
when the king of beasts approaches. As lions cannot climb
trees, these are the leopards' only safe retreats. When the
leopard is unable to devour the whole animal killed, he
often drags the remainder up in a tree, so as not to have
it eaten by the hyenas.

There have been recorded a good many instances where
leopards have turned man-eaters and killed and devoured
natives, mostly women and children. I once met a Kikuju



man who had lost not less than two children in this way :
One of them, a little girl of perhaps four to five years of
age, had been taken away by the leopard in broad daylight
and but a few yards from the hut, in which the little one's
mother had gone the moment before to prepare some food.
As she heard the screams of her baby, she rushed out, only
to see the leopard dart into the bush with her little girl
between his jaws, disappearing so quickly that no trace
was ever found of the unfortunate baby. One cannot won-
der very much at this audacity of the leopard, when the
fact is known that the Kikuju people never bury their
dead, but throw them out in the nearest bush, to be de-
voured by leopards, lions, and hyenas. But worse than
that, not only do these cruel savages throw out their dead
in this way, but they also do the same with old, sick people,
who they think will not recover. In such cases the old
men or women are led or carried out into the thorn bush,
and there often tied and left to be killed and devoured by
these bloodthirsty, nocturnal animals. Several authentic
cases of this cruel treatment came to my knowledge during
my stay in East Africa.

Being so often bothered and harassed by leopards, both
settlers and natives try all sorts of schemes to get rid of
them; by shooting, by poisoning, and by trapping them in
various ways. The leopard is very rarely seen in. the day-
time, and he is therefore seldom shot by any man, white or
black, for it is a rare chance if the sportsman, in his wan-
derings, comes across one of these graceful and cunning
animals. It is sometimes possible, however, to put up a
leopard In a " donga '* — a river bed, on the sides of which
there are thick patches of trees and bushes — m which both




leopards and lions like to hide during the daytime. Most
of the leopards killed have been either shot on moonlight
nights or at the morning dusk, as they were found lying
on some dead animal upon which they were feeding, or
else they have been caught in traps by settlers and natives,
and then shot or speared.

The savages make good leopard traps by driving strong
poles deep into the ground, and so close to one another
that the beast is unable to squeeze even a paw through.
These poles are then tied together with bark to other poles,
horizontally placed, so as to form a strong roof for the trap,
which generally contains two compartments, a smaller
and a larger one, separated by a strong partition, also made
of poles. In the smaller compartment a live kid or lamb is
placed to attract the leopard with its bleating. The en-
trance to the trap and the whole trap itself is so narrow
that there is not room enough for the leopard to turn
around, and a heavy plank, serving as the door of the trap,
is suspended by a pole over the entrance. The other end
of this pole is held down by a twig so placed that when
the leopard enters the trap and wants to get at the little
kid or lamb he has to push this twig aside. Instantly the
rear end of the pole above is released, and the plank falls
down behind the leopard, thus preventing his backing out
of the trap. As he is also unable to turn around, so as to
be able to lift up the door with his paws, he cannot escape,
and is subsequently killed by spears, which the delighted
natives thrust into him, between the side poles. After the
same pattern I once made a leopard trap and put in a little
kid for bait, but as I had made the larger compartment a
little too wide, the cunning beast first took out the kid,



then turned around, lifted up the door with his paw, and
disappeared with his prey.

Many white people trap leopards, and even lions, by
making a strong and high circle of thorn branches, in the
center of which a kid or some other small live animal is
tied. The only opening to this little circle is a narrow
" alley " between the thorn branches, about six or eight
feet long. In this narrow passageway one or two steel
traps are placed with a small ridge of thorn twigs on either
side of them. In attempting to avoid the thorns, the big
cat steps right into the trap and is caught. The best way
is to have the trap fastened to a strong chain, the other end
of which should be tied to a good-sized log or big branch,
so that the leopard is able to move away a little, otherwise
he may tear himself free or even bite off his own leg in his
attempts to escape.

Great care should be taken in approaching a trapped
leopard or lion, for, seeing their pursuer approach, they
may free themselves at the last moment by a supreme
effort, and woe to the man who is not then ready for such
an emergency ! An El-Moran, or warrior, to whom I had
given a steel trap in 1906, and who had caught a number
of leopards in it, selling the skins for his living, once ap-
proached a trapped leopard rather carelessly. In an in-
stant the big feline, which had been caught by one of the
hind paws, made a wild dash for him, freed himself from
the trap at the cost of half the paw, and badly mauled the
young warrior before he finally succeeded in killing the
brute with his " panga," a long, swordlike, double-edged

Leopards are sometimes caught by placing a piece of



meat on the large limb of a tree not too far from the
gromid. The trap is placed between the trunk of the tree
and the meat, concealed as much as possible under leaves,
and fastened to a chain long enough to reach the ground
with the other end, where it should be fastened to a log,
but it must be well hidden, for otherwise the cunning cat
would be suspicious and not go into the trap at all.

At one time on the Naivasha plateau, when marching
with my caravan from the western slopes of the Aberdare
Mountains toward the Kijabe Railroad station, I saw a
leopard at a distance of some seven hundred yards. The
beautiful beast was walking slowly, almost parallel to us.
On account of the high grass I could only see his back, and
occasionally caught a glimpse of his head and the tip of his
long tail. As there was no cover behind which I could
stalk, I quickly screwed the Maxim gun silencer on to the
6-millimeter Mannlicher, which was my farthest shooting
weapon. In the meantime the caravan had thrown them-
selves flat on the ground, so as not to attract the slightest
attention from the leopard, which up to this time had not
noticed us at all. As I had underestimated the distance
in the beginning, I set the telescope sight of the rifle up to
four hundred yards, and fired.

The leopard, not hearing the crack of the gun, stopped
and looked suspiciously down into the grass as the bullet
hit the ground in front of him. It was then clear to me
that the bullet must have hit the soil right under the ani-
mal's neck, and that I had been aiming too low. Just as
the leopard resumed his slow walk, the second bullet cut
one of his front legs near the paw. Still hearing no noise,
but feeling the sudden pain of the wound, the leopard evi-


Wounded Leopard on the Sotik Plains.

Young Male Leopard.


dently thought that some enemy from underneath had
gotten hold of his leg, so he began to dance around the
spot in the most curious manner, scratching up the grass
and ground with his powerful front paws. It was all we
could do to refrain from laughing aloud at this strange

Suddenly the leopard stopped and looked carefully
around in all directions before he began to resume his walk.
Just then I fired for the third time. Now we plainly heard
a sharp click a fraction of a second later, but as the leopard
had disappeared, my talkative gun bearer remarked that he
had run away, and had not been hit. But from that little
click that we heard, I was rather certain that the bullet
must have struck his head. We ran forward in a straight
line to where we had last seen the leopard, and there, to
our delight, we found the beautiful animal dead, with a
bullet through its brain.

We then found that the second bullet, which had caused
the leopard to dance around and dig up the ground in a
vain effort to find his enemy, had only made a small flesh
wound on his left front leg, some three inches above the
paw. I measured the distance between the leopard and the
spot where I stood when I fired, and found it to be exactly
six hundred and seventy-five yards, which shows the supe-
riority of the Mannlicher for long-distance shooting. Of
course, such a shot would have been impossible, if I had
not had the gun fitted with a very superior telescopic sight,
for with the bare eye the little front bead of the gun would
have entirely covered the animal, and thus prevented an
accurate shot.

To show the cunning of leopards I will here relate the



killing of two of these dangerous beasts by a German set-
tler, previously referred to in the chapter on the giraffe.
One evening a couple of natives reported that the young
giraffe, captured and tamed by the settler, was being de-
voured by two leopards, not far from the farmhouse. The
fearless young German instantly made for the place, armed
only with a double-barreled shotgun and an automatic pis-
tol. As soon as the leopards heard his footsteps they both
stopped eating. When the hunter appeared from behind
the last bush that afforded any cover, and only some forty
yards away, both animals, a male and a female, snarled
at him for a second. The next moment they made a des-
perate attempt to escape by jumping right and left into the
jungle, each receiving a load of buckshot in their sides as
they ran. The male bounded off into the bush, but the
female fell to the ground like dead. While two of the
natives kept watching this apparently dead leopard, the
settler ran after the fleeing male, which he dispatched with
another shot at close quarters.

Just as he was bending over his trophy, desperate
screams rang out from the place where his men were left
to watch the other fallen leopard. The big female had
only feigned that she was dead, for when she heard the
third shot she flung herself upon the two negroes, who
had ventured right up to the supposed " carcass." Both
were badly scratched and bitten, and would doubtlessly
have been killed had not a well-directed bullet from the
splendid Mauser pistol, aimed at the brute's head, and at
only three yards' distance, put a quick end to the fight.

The hunting leopard, or cheetah, as he is often called,
differs a great deal from the ordinary leopard. The chee-



tah is much taller, and his whole form is much more like
a dog's than that of a cat, with the exception of his round
head and extremely long tail. Then, the spots of the two
animals are entirely different, those of the cheetah being
simply solid black or dark brown, while those of the leopard
are like irregular, sometimes open, rings of mostly black
color, with the center of an almost pure white, making the
markings of the ordinary leopard much more beautiful
than those of the plain-spotted cheetah. Another distinct
difference between the two is that the cheetah is not able
to draw in the claws of its paws as the other cats do. One
can, therefore, at once see the difference between a track
made by a leopard or by a cheetah, the claw marks in the
latter's track showing plainly, like those made by hyenas
or dogs.

The hunting leopard is found almost all over Africa
and India, but does not seem to go east of the Bay of
Bengal. In India he is captured, tamed, and often used
by the native princes for sport instead of hounds. This
has doubtlessly given the cheetah the name of " hunting
leopard." He is one of the swiftest mammals, being capa-
ble of remarkable speed for a couple of hundred yards, but
after that distance he soon gets out of wind, and may
easily be outdistanced by a good horse.

The natives have practically no reason to fear the hunt-
ing leopard, which usually preys on the smaller antelopes,
and very seldom tackles a kid or a lamb. I have heard
from " reliable " natives that the cheetah often kills and
eats the larger game birds, such as the goose, the partridge,
the guinea fowl, and even the giant bustard, measuring
sometimes as much as ten feet between the wings. I have



never heard or read of any authentic case where human be-
ings have been attacked or killed by the cheetah, although
when wounded and cornered, this animal puts up a deter-
mined fight, and may then be a very dangerous antagonist.
I have twice had the pleasure of facing wounded hunting
leopards, who were certainly bent on mischief, and both
of which showed great courage.

After a couple of days' very successful hunting in the
country southwest of Lake Baringo my taxidermist asked
me one day not to bring home any more skins of big game

Online LibraryOliver Howard] [WolfeBack log and pine knot; a chronicle of the Minnisink hunting and fishing club → online text (page 9 of 26)