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of the desert, associated often in countless herds, supplied Mr. Cumming with recreation, during (what we may call) his leisure hours, spared from the more exciting, and often more profitable, pursuit of the larger and rarer game. His accounts of the long streams of antelopes on their annual migrations are really marvellous. The havoc, that he made among them, may readily be imagined. Darting through the herd, firing right and left, or singling out a fine specimen, and “stalking" it, or perhaps knocking it down, or seeing it escape after a long chase—this was the best of the sport with which this species of game sup: plied him. Here is his description of one of the finest and most remarkable of these antelope tribes:
The Oryx, or gemsbok, to which I was now about to direct my attention more particularly, is about the most beautiful and remarkable of all the antelope tribe. It is the animal, which is supposed to have given rise to the fable of the unicorn, from its long straight horns, when seen, en profile, so exactly covering one another, as to give it the appearance of having but
It possesses the erect mane, long sweeping black tail, and general appearance of the horse, with the head and hoofs of an antelope. It is robust in its form, squarely and compactly built, and very noble in its bear. ing. Its height is about that of an ass, and in colour it slightly resembles that animal. The beautiful black bands, which eccentrically adorn its head, giving it the appearance of wearing a stall collar, together with the manner in which the rump and thighs are painted, impart to it a character peculiar to self. The adult male measures 3 feet 10 inches in height at the shoulder.
The gemsbok was destined by nature to adorn the parched karroos and arid deserts of South Africa, for which description of country it is admirably adapted. It thrives and attains high condition in barren regions, where it might be imagined that a locust would not find subsistence; and, burning as is the climate, it is perfectly independent of water, which, from my own observation, and the repeated reports both of the Boers and Aborigines, I am convinced it never by any chance tastes. Its fleshis deservedly esteemed, and ranks next to the eland. At certain seasons of the year they carry a great quantity of fat, at which time they can more easily be ridden into. Owing to the even nature of the ground, which the oryx frequents, its shy and suspicious disposition, and the extreme dis. tances from water to which it must be followed, it is never stalked, or driven to an ambush, like other antelopes, but is hunted on horseback, and ridden down by a long, severe, tail-on-end chase. Of several animals in South Africa, wbich are hunted in the manner, and may be ridden into by a horse, the oryx is by far the swiftest and most enduring. They are widely diffused throughout the centre and western parts of Southern Africa.
Touching what is here said as to the origin of the fable of the unicorn, we suspect that the unicorn of heraldry dates from times, when the gemsbok, or oryx, of South Africa was unknown to Europeans. More probably the composite animal, which figures so prominently in coat-armoury, is entirely an ideal creation, suggested, by the reference to the unicorn in the book of Job, to men who knew nothing of the rhinoceros.
But eré long our wild hunter came on nobler game than these elegant and gentle antelopes. We must make room, at some sacrifice of space, for the record of his first impressions of, and subsequent experiences with, the royal tribe of Leo. Few have had Mr. Cumming's opportunities of observing and studying the nature and habits of the terrible king of beasts in his native deserts : and the account here given is on many points novel, and in all highly interesting :
The night of the 19th was to me rather a memorable one, as being the first on which I had the satisfaction of hearing the deep-toned thunder of the lion's roar. Although there was no one near, to inform me by what beast the haughty and impressive sounds, which echoed through the wilderness, were produced, I had little difficulty in divining. There was no mistake about it; and, on hearing it, I at once knew, as well as if accustomed to the sound from my infancy, that the appalling roar, which was uttered within half a mile of me, was no other than that of the mighty and terrible king of beasts. Although the dignified and truly monarchical appearance of the lion has long rendered him famous amongst his fellow quadrupeds, and his appearance and habits have often been described by abler pens than mine, nevertheless I consider that a few remarks, resulting from my own personal experience, formed by a tolerably long acquaintance with him both by day and by night, may not prove uninteresting to the reader. There is something so noble and imposing in the presence of the lion, when seen walking with dignified self-possession, free and undaunted, on his native soil, that no description can convey an adequate idea of his striking appearance. The lion is exquisitely formed by nature for the predatory habits which he is destined to pursue. Combining in comparatively small compass the qualities of power and agility, he is enabled, by means of the tremendous machinery with which nature has gifted him, easily to overcome and destroy almost every beast of the forest, however superior to him in weight and stature.
Though considerably under four feet in height, he has little difficulty in dashing to the ground, and overcoming the lofty and apparently powerful giraffe, whose head towers above the trees of the forest, and whose skin is nearly an inch in thickness. The lion is the constant attendant of the vast herds of buffalos, which frequent the interminable forests of the interior; and a full-grown one, so long as his teeth are unbroken, generally, proves a match for an old bull buffalo, which in size and strength greatly surpasses the most powerful breed of English cattle. The lion also preys on all the larger varieties of the antelopes, and on both varieties of the gnoo. The zebra, which is met with in large herds throughout the interior, is also a favourite object of his pursuit.
Lions do not refuse, as has been asserted, to feast upon the venison that they have not killed themselves. I have repeatedly discovered lions of all ages, which bad taken possession of, anå were feasting upon, the carcases of various game quadrupeds, which had fallen before my rifle. The lion is very generally diffused throughout the secluded parts of Southern Africa. He is, however, nowhere met with in great abundance-it being very rare to find more than three, or even two, families of lions frequenting the same district, and drinking at the same fountain. When a greater number were met with, I remarked that it was owing to long-protracted droughts, which, by drying nearly all the fountains, had compelled the game of various
districts to crowd the remaining springs; and the lions, according to their custom, followed in the wake. It is a common thing to come upon a fullgrown lion and lioness associating with three or four largo young ones nearly full grown. At other times, full grown males will be found associating and hunting together in a bappy state of friendship ; two, three, and full-grown male lions may thus be discovered consorting together.
The male lion is adorned with a long, rank, shaggy mane, which in some instances almost sweeps the ground. The colour of these manes variessome being very dark, and others of a golden yellow. This appearance has given rise to a prevailing opinion among the Boers, that there are two distinct varieties of lions, which they distinguish by the respective names of - Schwart fore life” and “ Chiel fore life :" this idea, however, is
Tbe colour of the lion's mane is generally influenced by his age. He attains his mane in the third year of his existence. I have remarked that at first it is of a yellowish colour; in the prime of life it is blackest; and, when he has numbered many years, but still is in the full enjoyment of his power, it assumes a yellowish-grey-pepper-and-salt sort of colour. These old fellows are cunning and dangerous, and most to be dreaded. The females are utterly destitute of a mane, being covered with a short, thick, glossy coat of tawny hair. The manes and coats of lions, frequenting open-lying districts utterly destitute of trees, such as the borders of the great Kalabari desert, are more dark and handsome than those inhabiting forest districts.
One of the most striking things connected with the lion is his voice, which is extremely grand and peculiarly striking. It consists at times of a low deep moaning, repeated five or six times, ending in faintly audible sighs; at other times he startles the forest with loud, deep-toned, solemn roars, repeated five or six times in quick succession, each increasing in loudness to the third or fourth, when his voice dies away in five or six low muffled sounds, very much resembling distant thunder. At times, and not unfrequently, a troop may be heard roaring in concert-one assuming the lead, and two, three, or four more regularly taking up their parts, like persons singing a catch. Like our Scottish stags at the rutting season, they roar loudest in cold, frosty nights; but on no occasions are their voices to be heard in such perfection, or so intensely powerful, as when two or three strange troops of lions approach a fountain to drink at the same time. When this occurs, every member of each troop sounds a bold roar of defiance at the opposite parties; and when one roars, all roar together, and each seems to vie with his comrades in the intensity and power of his voice. The power and grandeur of these nocturnal forest concerts is inconceivably striking and pleasing to the hunter's ear. The effect, I may remark, is greatly enhanced, when the hearer happens to be situated in the depths of the forest, at the dead hour of midnight, unaccompanied by any attendant, and ensconced within twenty yards of the fountain, which the surrounding troops of lions are approaching. Such has been my situation many scores of times; and, though I am allowed to have a tolerably good taste for music, I consider the catches, with which I was then regaled, as the sweetest and most natural I ever heard.
As a general rule, lions roar during the night-their sighing moans commencing, as the shades of evening envelop the forest, and continuing at intervals throughout the night. In distant and secluded regions, however, I have constantly heard them roaring loudly, as late as nine and ten o'clock on a bright sunny morning. In hazy and rainy weather they are to be heard at every hour in the day ; but their roar is subdued. It often happens that when two strange male lions meet at a fountain, a terrific
combat ensues, which not unfrequently ends in the death of one of them. The habits of the lion are strictly nocturnal ; during the day he lies concealed beneath the shade of some low bushy tree, or wide-spreading bush, either in the level forest, or on the mountain side. He is also partial to lofty reeds, or fields of long rank yellow grass, such as occur in low-lying vleys. From these haunts he sallies forth, when the sun goes down, and commences his nightly prowl. When he is successful in bis beat, and has secured his prey, he does not roar much that night, only uttering occusion. ally a few low moans—that is, provided no intruders approach him, otherwise the case would be
different. Lions are ever most active, daring, and presuming in dark and stormy nights; and consequently on such occasions the traveller ought more particularly to be on his guard. I remarked a fact connected with the lions' hour of drinking peculiar to themselves: they seemed unwilling to visit the fountains with good moonlight. Thus, when the moon rose early, the lions deferred their hour of watering until late in the morning; and, when the moon rose late, they drank at a very early hour in the night. By this acute system many a grisly lion ' saved bis bacon,' and is now luxuriating in the forests of South Africa, which had otherwise fallen by the barrels of my Westly Richards.” Owing to the tawny colour of the coat, with which nature has robed him, he is perfectly invisible in the dark; and, although I have often heard them loudly lapping the water under my very nose, not twenty yards from me, I could not possibly make out so much as the outline of their forms. When a thirsty lion comes to water, he stretches out his massive arms, lies down on his breast to drink, and makes a loud lapping noise in drinking, not to be mistaken. He continues lapping up the water for a long while, and, four or five times during the proceeding, be pauses for half a minute as if to take breath. One thing conspicuous about them is their eyes, which, in a dark night, glow like two balls of fire. The female is more fierce and active than the male, as a general rule. Lionesses, which have never had young, are much more dangerous than those which have. At no time is the lion so much to be dreaded, as when his partuer has got small youug ones. At that season he knows no fear, and, in the coolest and most intrepid manner, he will face a thousand men. A remarkable instance of this kind came under my own observation, which confirmed the reports I had before heard from the natives. One day, when out elephant-hunting in the territory of the • Baseleka,” accompanied by two hundred and fisty men, I was astonished suddenly to behold a majestic lion slowly and steadily advancing towards us, with a dignified step and undaunted bearing, the most noble and imposiug that can be conceived. Lashing his tail from side to side, and growl. ing haughtily, his terribly expressive eye resolutely fixed upon us, and displaying a show of ivory well calculated to inspire terror amongst the timid • Bechuanas," he approached. A headlong flight of the two hundred and fifty men was the immediate result; and, in the confusion of the moment, four couples of my dogs, which they had been leading, were allowed to escape in their couples. These instantly faced the lion, who, finding that by his bold bearing he had succeeded in putting his enemies to flight, now became solicitous for the safety of his little family, with which the lioness was retreating in the back ground. Facing about, he followed after them with a haughty and independent step, growling fiercely at the dogs, which trotted along on either side of him. Three troops of elephants baving been discovered a few minutes previous to this, upon which I was marching for the attack, I, with the most heartfelt reluctance, reserved my fire. On running down the bill side, to endeavour to recall my dogs,
I observed, for the first time, the retreating lioness with four cubs. About twenty minutes afterwards two noble elephants repaid my forbearance.
Among Indian Nimrods a certain class of royal tigers is dignified with the appellation of "man-eaters.". These are tigers, which, having once tasted human flesh, show a predilection for the same; and such characters are very naturally famed and dreaded among the natives. Elderly gentlemen of similar tastes and habits are occasionally met with among the lions in the interior of South Africa; and the danger of such neighbours may be easily imagined. I account for lions first acquiring this taste in the following manner; the Bechuana tribes of the far interior do not bury their dead, but unceremoniously carry them forth, and leave them lying exposed in the forest or on the plain, a prey to the lion and hyæna, or the jackal and vulture; and I can readily imagine that a lion, having thus once tasted human flesh, would have little hesitation, when opportunity presented itself, of springing upon and carrying off the unwary traveller, or • Bechuana,” inhabiting his country. Be this as it may, man-eaters occur; and, on my fourth hunting expedition, a horrible tragedy was acted one dark night in my little lonely camp by one of these formidable characters, which deprived me, in the far wilderness, of my most valuable servant.
In winding up these few observations on the lion, which, I trust, will not have been tiresome to the reader, I may remark that lion hunting, under any circumstances, is decidedly a dangerous pursuit. It may, nevertheless, be followed, to a certain extent with comparative safety, by those who have naturally a turn for that sort of thing. A recklessness of death, perfect coolness and self-possession, an acquaintance with the disposition and manners of lions, and a tolerable knowledge of the use of the rifle, are indispensable to him, who would shine in the overpoweringly exciting pastime of hunting this justly-celebrated king of beasts.
The “tragedy,” to which Mr. Cumming here briefly alludes, was truly a horrible one. It is noted at great length, and with soul-harrowing minuteness, in a subsequent part of the book. The poor wretch was actually dragged by the terrible brute from among his companions sleeping by the watch fire; and the lion lay all night, growling over the prey, which he was devouring, within forty yards of Mr. Cumming and his terrified followers. We must confess that we were somewhat surprised to find Mr. C. so soon assuming that his unfortunate servant was beyond the reach of aid, and postponing his attack on the man. eater till next morning. He was not usually so much averse to a contest in the dark, even with lions more than one. When day-light came, however, he amply revenged the death of poor Hendrik by that of his destroyer :
The lion held up the river's bank for a short distance, and took away through some wait-a-bit thorn cover, the best he could find, but nevertheless open. Here, in two minutes, the dogs were up with him, and he turned, and stood at bay. As I approached, he stood, his horrid head right opposite to me, with open jaws growling fiercely, his tail waving from side to side.
On beholding him, my blood boiled with rage. I wished that I could take him alive, and torture him; and, setting my teeth, I dashed my steed forward within thirty yards of him, and shouted, “ Your time is up, old