The air seemed to vibrate with the sound, and the rats, crickets, and other tropical insects were evidently frightened, as they kept quiet. A dog I had in the hut with me was fairly well scared out of his wits, for he shivered and trembled, although he was a very plucky terrier, and eventually met his death by running out at night to tackle a leopard singly. The lionsI think there were fivetook up the chorus, and I could hear the long sigh after each roar. In wild places one will sometimes hear lions roaring at a distance, and I have often listened to the sobbing grunts of lions as they were prowling round ; but, though I sometimes went to try to find them next day, they were somewhere else. As Mr. F. C. Selous and other authors have written so much on the lion, it is needless for me to write more about this fine animal.
Approximate weight, ♂
Good average skin, ♂
7ft. 3in. straight.
The leopard is one of the wariest animals in the world, and he seems to know how to look after his skin, which is a very handsome trophy, and really much prettier than a lion's, unless he has a fine mane. Leopards are fond of hilly country and thick bush wherever it is found, so as the country I write of is covered in parts with trees and bush, there are plenty of leopards, but they are most difficult to get a shot at, as they seem to have most acute hearing. Usually, when disturbed, all one will see is a flash of yellow, and they disappear into the bush or grass. They are very plentiful in the Mlanje range of mountains in the south of the Nyasaland Protectorate, and they find plenty of food there in the shape of bushbuck, pig, and klipspringers on the higher parts.
They are easily obtained by putting out a set-gun baited with part of their kill, or, better still, with a dead dog. Dog-flesh seems to be most attractive to them, and many a fine terrier has been taken in Africa and India by a leopard. In their habits they must resemble eats, and, like them, they eat great quantities of field rats and mice, and are not above filling up corners with lizards and anything they can catch. In the breeding season they are said to become bad-tempered and liable to attack man, and I have heard of several man-eating leopards which haunted districts near villages and killed the natives at night, usually a young boy or girl, which the leopards probably know are easier to kill than fully grown adults. I lately treated a man who was mauled by a leopard, which jumped on his back and gave him a few scratches. This man was so grateful that he brought me a fowl, which is rather unusual, as natives do not, as a rule, show much gratitude; although the Angoni and Yaos do occasionally. Natives are averse to offering thanks, but I think that in their hearts they are often grateful.
If a sportsman wishes to shoot leopards, the best plan is to sit up over a kill, or try to find out where the leopard goes to rest during the hours of day, and take up a position to intercept it as it comes out for its nightly prowl. Leopards cannot be systematically hunted by walking about, even in rubber shoes, as being so close to the ground they seem to be able to catch the slightest sound, not only of the legs and boots rubbing against branches, grass, and stones, but the vibration in the ground, which must carry for some considerable distance.
Leopards and hyaenas must kill a great number of fawns which are unable to run, as these are left by the mother in some cover when she is feeding.
Hill leopards, at least those found in Mlanje, seem to be smaller bodied and more profusely spotted than those inhabiting lower levels, and the natives say that the smaller kind are fiercer when wounded than the larger variety.
Leopards will often be heard grunting at night, as they move about, and their grunts are sharper and quicker than a lion's, and at times sound just like a saw being worked in hard timber.
They often break into goat kraals, and, like lions, they will then kill much more than they can possibly eat, and it is apparent that the lust for killing comes over them. Lions kill their prey by biting the upper part of the neck behind the ears, and leopards nearly always grip the windpipe under the throat. When in India I saw the carcases of several bullocks and cows killed by leopards, and this was how they acted. Tigers kill like lions by gripping with their claws, and biting the neck behind the head. I heard of a case in Mlanje district of a small lot of bushpig chasing a leopard into a tree, and my friend George Garden saw the place and told me that the pigs must have remained for some time round the base of the tree, as the earth was much trampled by their feet. On another occasion I heard some bushpigs grunting, and also the grunts of a leopard, and I found the spoor and noticed that, instead of the leopard hunting the pigs, he was being hunted, as in places the pigs' tracks covered those of the leopard.
I have only seen one skin of this animal in Nyasaland, and it was obtained from natives near Dedza, in the southern part of Central Angoniland. As far as I remember, it was about 6ft. in length, and much whiter coloured and less profusely spotted than a leopard's skin.
These animals are plentiful in the more open parts of British East Africa, and they doubtless exist in the big plains near Lake Bangweolo. The spoor of the cheetah is slightly longer than that of the leopard, and the back part " of the pads is convex in the centre instead of concave as in the leopard. Cheetahs are very fleet for a short distance but they soon get winded, and cases have been known of a horse overtaking them. In India, as most sportsmen are doubtless aware, they are used for hunting the blackbuck, although they are not always successful in killing, unless they manage to stalk near enough to get close with the first rush.