When in their prime they may grow horns of from 28m. to 33m., and the former is an average head, the latter quite exceptional.
The cows have usually longer and much thinner horns than the bulls, and two I have near me as I write measure as follows :
Horns of a large and old bull
Tip to tip
Horns of a large cow in her prime
Tip to tip
The above measurements show the great difference in the girth of the horns. The weight of the two heads, without lower jaws, were, the bull's 241b., the cow's 131b. Thus the bull's skull and horns weighed almost twice as much as the cow's, but I must say this was an exceptionally heavy bull, in fact the most bulky eland I have ever killed, and his neck and body measurements were phenomenal, as I have mentioned in Chapter II.
His horns, when shot, measured 26in., and in the course of six months or so they had shrunk half-an-inch, which is usual with most horns ; and ivory, also, dries up and gets lighter after being kept for some time.
Some elands have whitish tips to their horns, and this is sometimes seen in kudu and bushbuck horns. Situtunga and inyala also often grow white tips, I believe. Although I write " white," the colour is more of a light amber.
The cows and young animals have pretty reddish brown hides with stripes, and there is great difference between the weight of an old bull and a big cow.
At times elands can be found in enormous herds of from 100 to 300 animals. I recently saw a herd of about 200 of all sizes, but did not see any really old bull among them, and I think, like buffaloes and elephants, the very old stagers mostly lead a solitary existence, only consorting with big herds at intervals.
Elands are easy beasts to track, as, being heavy, they leave a prominent spoor, especially if the earth is damp or wet. At certain times of the year they pack together, and they probably do this before leaving for some well-known haunt. Lions kill a good many of them, and they must find them much easier to kill than buffaloes. In South Africa it was considered an easy task to run down elands with horses, but in this country they are shot on foot.
In conclusion I may say that when elands are in good condition they yield a quantity of nice fat, which, when cut into small pieces and boiled, makes most excellent dripping for cooking purposes. It should not be cleaned in water, which is inclined to make it rancid. It is better not to keep it in tins for the same reason, and native pots made of earthenware are the best receptacles.
Chinyanja - Chilembe.
Chingoni - Twacambwa.
Good average horns,
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This animal evidently got its name from its colour, which is usually strawberry roan, although some animals are a blue roan, and I think the old animals are usually the latter. Roan are fine beasts, but their horns are insignificant compared to the fine trophies that sable antelopes grow. A roan has very large ears, and his hair is longer than most other antelopes, except waterbuck, or the water-loving situtunga and the inyala. They seem to fight more with one another than do most antelopes, and I never saw roan consort much with other species as do zebra, sable, and hartebeest.
The roan is a good deal localised, but where they exist they are numerous, and they are particularly so in Central Angoniland and North-Eastern Rhodesia; they are also found away to the north in British East Africa and the Sudan.
They seem to dig with their horns, as I have often seen places where the ground had been routed up by them, and the horns of the oldest animals are often chipped and broken. Their flesh is pretty good eating, if the animal is not too old, but not so good as eland flesh, or even hartebeest. The roan, sable, and gemsbuck have the reputation of being the fiercest antelopes ; and I have often seen the eyes of wounded roan and sable gleam with rage when approached closely, so it is better to finish a wounded beast of either of these species with a bullet. If an animal is sitting up it will often have the strength to rise again, and a stab from roan or sable horns would be equivalent to a dig with a blunt spear, and forced by the power of their necks it would go right through a man's body. When a beast is stretched on its side it seldom gets up again, so if a roan or sable is in this position one can approach carefully and seize the uppermost horn, and put one's foot on the lower one and press it down strongly against the ground. Then the operation of cutting the animal's throat can be performed, but a very strong grip should be kept while this is being done. Roan are found in herds, and the old bulls are not so inclined to lead a solitary existence as are old sable bulls and other animals. An ordinary herd will consist of from ten to fifteen animals, although I have at times seen larger herds.
Chinyanja - Mpala-pala.
Chingoni - Nyambuzi.
Good average horns,
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Most sporting writers give the sable antelope a high place in the list of African antelopes, and he is certainly a splendid looking animal with his long curving horns and black coat with snow white belly. He is a much bolder animal than the kudu, which prefers to keep to fairly thick cover, but the sable is very fond of wide, open spaces, although he retires to the bush when the sun gets hot. I have mentioned that in Nyasaland few sable grow horns longer than 43m., but in North-Western Rhodesia this is a common length, and heads have been procured there close on 50m.
This species was first brought to the notice of naturalists, about the year 1838, by the late Sir Cornwallis Harris, and it was long known as the " Harrisbuck." The Boers of South Africa have a very descriptive name for the sable, as they call it " Zwartwitpens," which, in Dutch, means " black, with white belly."