Smell is the strongest sense in elephants, and I am sure they will scent human beings at about three-quarters of a mile if the wind is strong and steady. Such being the case, the direction of the wind has to be carefully studied before trying to approach elephants for a shot. Their sight is very bad indeed, and if a man moves slowly, and keeps still when the animal is looking in his direction, he can go up and smack an elephant's body on occasions. Some tribes—such as the Ndorobo of British East Africa —kill elephants with poisoned spears, and to do this they approach within a few feet.
When near elephants one will often hear the flapping of their ears ; also strange rumblings made by their digestive organs, I think. At times they emit shrill cries, and I once heard a wounded bull crying like a child.
If an elephant had been wounded and closely approached, and becomes aware of the proximity of the hunter, he will often give vent to several piercing shrill cries, at the same time flapping his ears violently, and on occasion stamping his feet ; then it is advisable to shoot very straight or get out of his way. An elephant can run very fast when he means mischief, and a man on foot would find it quite impossible to get away unless there was cover about. A good horse can outpace an elephant in open ground, as a rule ; but if the horse was tired, or a sulky animal, it would go hard with the hunter. Long ago, when unlimited elephants could be shot, it was the custom of the best hunters to run them down on foot, and Mr. Selous told me that in hot weather he has sometimes run elephants almost to a standstill.
When carrying a heavy rifle in soft, sandy ground, this must have been the hardest physical exercise it is possible to imagine. Of course, old hunters did not dress, like some of the modern sportsmen do, in tight breeches, with leather gaiters, and their coats or shirts decorated with bright leather patches, and, in some cases, their belts covered with an assortment of knives and odds and ends, like a Christmas tree. No, they simply wore a hat, shirt, small pants (although these were often not worn), and a pair of shoes. It is a good thing for men to inure themselves to going about in bare legs, for they will move unhampered, and, if the occasion arises for a bolt, they will be able to run hard. A few scratches will not hurt anyone ; in fact, after a time, one hardly feels them at all. Without doubt, elephant hunting is the finest sport in the world, and, when these fine beasts disappear—which I hope will not happen for a very long time—the finest beast on the earth to-day will have vanished.
The best shot at an elephant is, undoubtedly, the heart, as most accurate shooting and great experience is necessary to hit the brain. The heart, too, is very much larger than the brain and much more easily reached.
A 7.9mm. bullet will sometimes go right through the heart of an elephant and be found near the skin on the opposite side, and, as penetration is the great desideratum, solid bullets should always be used.
Chinyanja - Chipembere.
Chingoni - Chipimbere.
Approximate weight, ♂ .........
Good average front horn, ♂......
The rhino, as he is generally called, is fairly abundant in some parts of the country where there is a good supply of thorn trees and bushes, as this variety does not eat much grass ; in fact, some naturalists say he never eats any grass, although, judging from the contents of the stomach of one I opened, I think that on occasions he feeds on it. His food is bark and twigs torn from thorn bushes, and he must have extremely powerful digestive organs to thrive on such food.
He has a fussy appearance, and, as he has the habit of knocking about his dung, the natives think this proves him to be bad-tempered. He has certainly a weird, antediluvian appearance, with his armed head and small, pig-like eyes, and.his mouth has what one might term a dyspeptic look ; and I can hardly blame him, for a breakfast, lunch, and dinner of thorn and bark must be a most unsatisfactory diet. Perhaps the rhino feels annoyed that Nature has not given him an appetite for more succulent vegetation, like the eland, sable, and kudu.
As thorn bushes are often found on rough, stony hills the rhino is frequently seen in such places, and they are interesting beasts to track, as on hard ground they sometimes leave a very faint spoor. The Machinga Mountains in North-Eastern Rhodesia are full of rhino, and they wander down to the valley of Luangwa River, where their footprints will often be seen. Here they are very easy to follow, as the soil is soft and sandy. Unlike elephants, they do not form herds, and it is usual to find them singly or in couples—a male and female—and sometimes such a pair will be accompanied by a calf.
Why Rhinoceros bicornis should be termed the black rhino I do not know, for I carefully examined a white and black specimen in the Cape Town museum, and I failed to notice that there was much difference in their colour; and, moreover, neither follow their names, as they both appeared to be a slaty grey colour.
The black rhino walks with his head held high, and I have read that the white variety holds his head low, and close to the ground.
The latter is a much larger and heavier beast, and measures much more at the shoulder, and he also grows much larger horns.
In the country I write of a 2oin. front horn is quite a good one, but in British East Africa the black rhino grows much larger horns than this.
They are very easily killed with modern rifles, and any small bore high-velocity rifle will account for a rhino quite easily. In fact, one only realises the power of such rifles when he sees how easy it is to kill elephants and rhinos with them, and it seems to me that it requires a really big and heavy-boned animal to fully bring out the power of such weapons.