Any medium-bore high-velocity rifle, such as a .350, .360, or .375, would be infinitely better, as they shoot heavy, blunt bullets.
One of the largest bags of lions made in British East Africa is that of Mr. Leslie Tarlton, and I believe he has shot fifty-four. He liked the .350 old pattern, with 310 grains bullet, but found that the new .350 Magnum had the same fault as the .280, as the bullet is too light and it breaks up too readily. However, in a letter to me, Messrs. John Rigby and Co. said that they had now improved the bullets for this rifle. Very wisely they make the solids for the .350 Magnum with the ordinary blunt points ; but 225 grains is rather light tor the bore.
A good rifle has lately been brought out by Messrs. Holland and Holland of -375 bore, with a very high velocity, but at the same time plenty of striking energy, and blunt nosed bullets can be used from it as well as sharp pointed projectiles.
In a few years the best gunmakers will stop supplying sharp pointed bullets for sporting purposes, and really " the sooner the better," for the most practical men object to using them, as they are unreliable.
Even when using a good type of rifle and bullet an accident may happen, and Mr. George Garden, of Mlanje, in Nyasaland, was badly damaged by an elephant a few years ago in the Barue country, in Portuguese territory, south of the Zambesi. An elephant charged him, and, as he did not wish to kill it, the tusks being poor, he fired at its mouth with a .450 No. 2 nitro rifle. The shock neither stopped nor turned it, and he was knocked down and his rifle sent flying. The elephant pommelled him badly with the base of its trunk and forehead, but, fortunately, did not trample on him or seize him with its trunk. It then left him, and was found dead some time afterwards. My friend had a bad time, as he was far from civilisation when the accident occurred, although he eventually recovered, and has killed several good elephants since with the same rifle. It is only necessary to read old sporting books to see that the heaviest rifles that can be procured will not necessarily stop an animal like an elephant.
In Central Africa all hunting is done on foot, as horses cannot be taken into tsetse-fly country, and, moreover, the country is not suitable for these animals, as they soon die of sickness.
It also costs a great deal to import them and get them transported from the deadly climate of the coast to the higher and more healthy country of the interior, so, except for a few animals found here and there, such as in Zomba, Blantyre, or Fort Jameson, none of these quadrupeds are used. There are a good many donkeys in the country. These animals being much tougher than horses in resisting bad climates and disease, they are more commonly used.
A very serious accident happened to a Mr. de Fries, on whom a wounded buffalo inflicted most severe injuries. He was ill for a long time, and he must have had a good constitution to recover from the bad wounds he received on that occasion.
A short time ago I read of the death of Mr. Hubert Latham, who won a great name as a daring aviator. He seems to have been one of those plucky men who live for nothing but excitement. He was killed in the French Congo, and, owing to his daring and reckless nature, he doubtless took risks that may not have been necessary. Still, he was a very experienced big-game hunter, and in such cases it is very difficult to get the full details. In thick country it is often impossible to move at all, and the surrounding reeds or thick jungle may prevent a man using his rifle quickly in an emergency. Again, a misfire may occur or a cartridge may jam in the chamber at a critical moment, and leave a man practically unarmed and unable to defend himself.
In a fairly recent copy of the Field was the news of the death of Mr R. P. Fuller-Maitland, who was killed by a bull elephant in British East Africa, not far from Lake Baringo. He was a very young man, and it is most unfortunate for the sufferer and his relatives that such a life should be cut off in such an untimely fashion ; but this is the price we pay for our love of wild sport, and those may be termed the lucky ones who live through many dangerous adventures with wild beasts.
A German officer, Lieutenant O. Graetz, who travelled by a motor-boat through some of the rivers and lakes of Central Africa, was tossed by a wounded buffalo while passing through the Chambesi River. He sustained a severe and painful wound in his cheek, which was torn open by the buffalo's horn. Worse luck, however, befell his companion, a young Frenchman named Mr. Octave Fiere, for the buffalo killed him at the same time, after mutilating his body in a dreadful manner.
Naturally, Lieutenant Graetz now considers the buffalo the most dangerous animal in Africa, although authorities such as Selous put it third ; giving first place to the lion, and second to the elephant.
To decide such a matter a man would need to have shot equal numbers of all these animals, and also keep detailed notes of their behaviour under varied conditions. I cannot say I have had a sufficient experience to decide, although I agree with Selous that the lion should come first, as he is naturally possessed of a more ferocious temperament than elephants or buffaloes, and, moreover, he is a flesh eater. Further, his capability of taking cover is much greater than either of the former animals. As to the elephant and buffalo, the former is more likely to charge, I think, but he is easy to stop or turn, even with a very small bore rifle ; but once a buffalo means mischief he has to be killed or knocked down, if his charge is at close quarters ; and very few buffaloes charge at a greater distance than fifty yards.
I think on this account that the buffalo might come second, leaving third place for the king of beasts—the elephant. As the term " king of beasts" is usually given to the lion, I think that it should be transferred to the elephant, if by "king" we mean an animal that surpasses all others in strength, and which is invincible in the haunts of wild beasts.