How I Made The lion Roar & Other Hunting Adventures

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Oct 1, 2007
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How I Made The lion Roar & Other Hunting Adventures
by Paul Kruger


Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (10 October 1825 - 14 July 1904), better known as Paul Kruger and affectionately known as Uncle Paul (Afrikaans: "Oom Paul" ) was State President of the South African Republic (Transvaal).

How the Ex-President made the Lion Roar
IT is of course quite impossible that I should be able to tell to-day how many wild beasts I have killed. It is not to be expected—especially as I have not been present at a big hunt for nearly fifty years—that I should remember the exact number of lions, buffaloes, rhinoceroses, giraffes, and other big game. Nor can I recall to my mind all the details connected with those hunts. But I know that I must have shot at least thirty to forty elephants and five hippopotami. And I know that I have killed five lions myself. When I went hunting I always took a companion with me, as well as good horses ; and I made it a rule, whenever we went on a big hunting expedition, to allow two or three waggons of our poor people to accompany us, so that they might have the game.

How Young Kruger made the Lion Roar
I shot my first lion in the year 1839. I was then fourteen years of age. A lion had attacked our herds and robbed us of several head of cattle that were grazing by the banks of the Rhenoster River in what has since become the Orange Free State. Six of us started (I was the seventh, but did not count) to find that lion. We were all mounted and rode in parties of three, with a good distance between each two parties. The lion sighted us before wc were face to face with him, and came on with a wild rush. The three adults with whom I had come, my father, my uncle, and my brother, quickly tied the horses together, then turned them round with their heads in the opposite direction to that from which the lion was bearing down upon us. This is the regular procedure at a lion hunt; for if the horses catch sight of a lion, there is always a danger that they may get frightened and bolt.

My relatives placed us. I was told to sit behind—or, from the lion's point of view, in front of—the horses, with my rifle covering him. His last bound brought him close to me ; then he crouched, with the intention, it seemed to me, to jump right over me -on to the horses. As he rose, I fired. * And so fortunate was my aim, that I killed him outright, and he nearly killed me in his turn, for he almost crushed me as he fell. My companions ran to my assistance ; but I needed no help, for the lion was dead. It was a fine beast.

Hearing the shot, the other three hurried up, and then we all stood round the lion and talked the adventure over. A certain Hugo knelt down to measure the lion's teeth, which were extraordinarily big. Thinking no harm, I jumped on the lion's stomach. As I did so, the air shook with a tremendous roar, which so frightened Hugo that he forgot his teeth measurements and fell down flat upon his back. The others laughed loudly, for every hunter knows that if you tread upon a lion's body within a short time of his death, he will give a short last roar as though he were still alive. The breath still in him being forced from the stomach through the throat produces the roar. Hugo of course knew this, but he had forgotten it, and was greatly ashamed of his fright. In fact, he was so angry that he turned on me to give me a good hiding. But the others stepped good-naturedly between us and made him see that it was only my ignorance and not my bad intention which had given him so great a fright.

I shot my second lion behind the Magaliesberg on the Hex River. My uncle Theunis Kruger and I were after a herd of antelopes when, my horse being done up, I was left behind, alone. Walking him, I came upon a herd of lions. Escape on a tired horse was out of the question. Suddenly one of the lions left the herd and made a dash for me. I allowed him to come within twenty paces and then shot him through the head. The bullet passed through the head into the body. The lion fell, his head turned from me; but rose almost immediately and returned to his companions, whilst I reloaded my rille. However, when he had reached the herd, he fell down dead. Encouraged by my success, I fired upon the others. But in vain. They escaped to the nearest mountain, and I was not able to follow them. A few years later I had another encounter with a herd of lions, which had killed several of our oxen on this very spot. These also escaped into the same mountain ; but I had the good luck to shoot two. My companions, who were not so swift of foot, lost their quarry.

I shot my fifth lion in the Lydenburg District on a trek towards the Elephant River. We were pursuing one that had robbed us of several oxen. I at that time possessed a good and faithful dog, who was my constant companion, and very useful when we went hunting. When he had found a lion in the bushes, he wonld bark and bark till the lion roared angrily back at him. When the dog saw me coming, he stood aside a little. Now the lion got ready for me ; but at the moment of springing, the dog seized him from behind, and a bullet at close quarters despatched him quickly. This was the fifth lion which I have killed singlehanded, although in company with others I have of course shot a great many more.

Elephant Hunting
During a march against Moselikatze, who, a short time previously, had surprised and cut down our people, I was ordered to set out with a strong patrol from Womlerfontein, where we left our waggons, to reconnoitre the enemy's position. At Elephant's Pass, in the neighbourhood of Rustenburg, we came across a big herd of elephants. The pass owes its name to this encounter. My father hunted them, but Commandant Potgieter prevented him from shooting, as the enemy might be nearer than we knew. These were the first elephants I saw.

A Race for Life or Death. I once nearly lost my life in a race with an elephant. One day, Adrison van Rensburg and I were in the veldt looking for elephants. Van Rensburg was behind me, when the first herd came in sight. I galloped on to get a good shot at them. I could not wait for van Rensburg, for the horse I was riding that day was a particularly spirited animal, and had the habit of running round me in a circle after I dismounted. This necessitated my quieting and holding him, and so some time was lost before I was ready to shoot. As I jumped down, one of the elephants caught sight of me, and came through the bushes as fast as it could go. At the moment of dismounting I knew nothing of my danger, and had not the least idea that an elephant was after me. Van Rensburg, however, saw everything, and called out as loudly as he could to warn me. I turned and saw that the elephant was flattening the bushes behind me with his heavy weight as he broke through the underwood. I tried to mount, but the elephant was already upon me, and the weight of the underwood, trodden down and held together by the bulk of the elephant, pinned me to the ground. I found it impossible to mount. I let go of my horse, freed myself with a tremendous effort, and sprang right before and past the elephant. He followed, trumpeting and screaming, hitting out at me fiercely with his trunk. Now came a race for life or death. However, I gradually increased the distance between us; but that was a race I am never likely to forget.

The Kaffirs, who were with us, were at that time about a hundred yards away. When they saw what was happening, they too commenced running ; so there we were : the Kaffirs Hist, I after them, and after me the elephant in furious pursuit. Whilst running, the idea came to my mind that I would catch the Kaffir who proved the poorest runner, and as the elephant bore down on him, step suddenly aside and kill it at close quarters. I had kept hold of my rifle, a big four-pounder. But the elephant was so tired out by this" time, that he himself put a stop to the hunt by standing still. Just then van Rensburg came up, but his horse, putting a foot into a hole, grown over with grass, both rider and horse came down, for van Rensburg's foot had caught in the stirrup. Meanwhile the elephant had disappeared. After van Rensburg had found his legs again, I said to him—

" Hunt in that direction," pointing to it with my finger, " and try to catch my horse ! "

The elephant in making his escape had first turned towards the north, then towards the west, the direction in which the herd had moved on. I said to van Rensburg—

" When you have found my horse, bring it after me. I will meantime follow the herd of elephants, and not lose sight of them till you join me."

I soon came up with the female elephant that had pursued me. The calf ran a little way behind her. I A'o. 231. December, 1902.

Passed it quickly to get near the mother; but it screamed when it saw me, and the mother, who turned round quickly at the cry, just caught sight of me as I jumped into the bushes. I ran as fast as I could through the underwood, and came suddenly upon van Rensburg, who had caught my horse.

" Here are tsetse flies," he said ; " we must turn back."

" Very well," I answered, " you go on, but I must get a shot first at these elephants, who have given me so much trouble."

The mother and her calf had meanwhile disappeared, but before I made my way back I was so lucky as to shoot two of the herd. Unfortunately my horse, whose name was Tempus, had been stung by the poisonous flies, and shortly after our return, at the commencement of the rainy season, sickened and died.

A Panther Hunt
When quite a youth I encountered a panther. My uncle Theunis, his son, and I were hunting antelopes (elands), near Tiger Fontein Farm, in the neighbourhood of Ventersdorp, and we soon found an antelope in the cover. My cousin rode in front and my uncle followed him ; there was a distance of about forty yards between them. Suddenly a panther appeared and made for us at a furious rate, although we had given him no provocation whatever. He overtook my uncle, but a well-aimed shot from his rifle brought him to the ground at the very moment when he was leaping on to the horse which he was riding.

The Dog and the Lion
A big lion hunt, in which we all took part, gave me the opportunity of witnessing a remarkable instance of fidelity on the part of a dog. We had a whole pack of hounds with us. When they had found the herd of lions, they surrounded it, barking furiously. One of the hounds would go no further from us than about twenty paces. There he remained barking ; but nothing could induce him to join the hounds—he was too frightened to do that, and too faithful to leave us. One of the lions made for us, and then—the poor terrified hound was the only one who did not run away. He stuck to his post. He trembled and howled with fear—to say nothing of more visible signs of distress —and every second he looked round anxiously at his master to see if he were still there, hoping, I dare say, that he would fly, and that the dog might follow at his heels But the master stayed, and so the dog stayed. The lion was within ten paces of the dog when we shot him. And even now the timid dog was the only one of all the noisy pack who attacked him as he fell under our fire. He nearly died of fear, but remained at his post for love of his master.

How Paul Kruger did not Drown the Buffalo
I brought down my first buffalo very near the spot where I first met the elephants. A flying herd of buffaloes came up from the valley by the bank of the stream. We hunted them, and I led. A buffalo-cow left the herd and made a rush for me as I jumped from my horse in order to shoot. I was ready, however, and when she had come very near I shot her through the shoulder. The impetus of her onset knocked me down, and she rushed on over my body, fortunately without stepping on me. She took refuge on the opposite bank of the river, where we killed her. My next adventure with buffaloes took place near Bierkraalsspruit farm. The underwood was from four to five feet high, and contained a number of buffaloes. Six of us came to hunt them. I forced my way alone through the bushes to see if it was possible to get a shot there, and passed a herd of buffaloes without being aware of them ; but before long I came right upon a second herd of the beasts. A big buffalo at once turned his attention to me, but fortunately his horns were so wide apart that in butting, trees and bushes got mixed up between them, which not only broke the force of his attack, but hid me very effectually, if only for a few moments, from his sight. Trying to get out of the wood, I found myself suddenly amongst the herd which I had passed a little while ago, without noticing them at the time. Even now I only realised the position when I ran right up against a buffalo that was just getting up from the ground. Angered at being disturbed, the beast tore my clothes from my back. My comrades took the hoof of the buffalo for his horns, as they stood outside the wood, so high did he raise it in attacking me. . Fortunately I escaped with a fright.

My brother-in-law, N. Theunissen, and I wr.-e hunting near Vleeschkraal in the Waterburg District, when I had a most unpleasant encounter with a buffalo. I had hit one, and he had escaped into the densely growing thorn-bushes. As it was impossible to follow on horseback, I gave my horse in charge of my brother Nicholas, and followed the buffalo on foot. The great thing was not to lose sight of him in the thick undergrowth. Believing myself to be the pursuer, I was unpleasantly startled to find him suddenlv facing and attacking me. I got ready to shoot, but my flintlock missed fire, so I had to run for it. The rains had been heavy, and just behind me was a big swamp into which I fell as I jumped out of the enraged beast's way. The buffalo fell in after me, and stood over me threateningly before I had time to rise.

My rifle was in the water and useless ; but, fortunately for me, as the buffalo butted at me he rammed one of his horns fast into the ground of the swamp, where it stuck. I got hold of the other and tried with all my strength to get the animal's head under the water and so suffocate him. It was a difficult thing to do, for the horn was very slippery on account of the slimy water, and I needed both hands and every atom of strength had to keep his head under. When I felt it going I disengaged one of my hands to get at the hunting-knife, which I carried on my hip, in order to rid myself of my antagonist. But if I could not hold the brute with two hands, I certainly could not hold him with one, so he freed himself with a final effort. He was in a sad plight, however, nearly suffocated and his eyes so full of slime that he could not see. I jumped out of the swamp and hid behind the nearest bush, and the buffalo ran off in the opposite direction. My appearance was no less disreputable than that of the buffalo, for I was covered from head to foot with mud and slime. Theunissen, hearing the row we made, knew there was something amiss, but he could not come to my assistance. It was impossible to get through the undergrowth of thorns on horseback.

When I had cleaned myself down a little, I got on the track of the rest of the herd, and was lucky enough to shoot two.

Concerning Rhinos
My first rhinoceros I encountered on a patrol-ride during our expedition against Moselikatze. As I was slightly in advance of the others, my uncle Theunis Kruger gave me permission to fire, and I was so fortunate as to bring him down with the first shot. I had an ugly experience the next time that we hunted rhinoceros. I must mention here, that we had made an agreement by which the one who behaved recklessly or allowed game which was merely wounded to escape through cowardice should receive a sound thrashing. There was something wrong with my rifle on the morning we started, and I was obliged to take an old two-barrelled gun, one barrel of which was injured, consequently its range was considerably lessened. I knew that a shot was thrown away on a rhinoceros unless you managed to send it through the thin part of its skin. We came across three of them, a bull and two cows. They were Withanwsters,* most dangerous brutes. I told Theunissen to follow the two cows and not to lose sight of them. It was my intention to kill the bull, and then join in pursuit 1 f the cows. My comrade fired from time to time to let me know where he was, for he was soon out of sight in the thick undergrowth of the wood. When I had passed the rhinoceros I jumped from my horse to shoot him. I placed myself so that he had to pass me within ten paces ; this would give me a good opportunity to hit him in a vulnerable place. One bullet killed him outright. I mounted and rode as fast as I could go in the direction whence I heard Theunissen's gun, loading my rifle as I galloped. He had just sent a second bullet into one of the cows as I came up. The brute stood quite still. I saw that the second animal was trying to get away through the underwood, which was less dense here than anywhere else, and I went after her. As I rode past my comrade he called out—

" Don't dismount in front of the beast; she's awfully wild, and can run like anything."

I did not pay much attention to the warning, knowing Theunissen to be over-cautious, but jumped off my horse and ran obliquely past the rhinoceros. She had scarcely caught sight of me before she was in hot pursuit. I allowed her to come within a distance of three or four yards. The percussion-cap missed fire, and there was no time for a second shot, since the animal was close upon me, and nothing to be done but to turn round and run for dear life. In attempting to do so, my foot struck against the thorn roots, and I came down flat on my face. The beast was upon me ; the dangerous horn just missed my back ; she pinned me to the ground with her nose, intending to trample me to death. But at that moment I turned under her and got the contents of the second barrel full under the shoulder-blade, right into her heart. I owed my life to not letting go my hold on the gun during this dangerous adventure. The rhinoceros sprang away from me, but fell dead within a few yards.

' Rhcnostcr is the Afrikander for rhinoceros. Withavnoskr is a white rhinoceros.—Transtator's Sotc.

My brother-in-law hurried up as fast as he could, for he thought I had got mortally wounded by my own gun in this deadly combat. When he saw, however, that I was standing up safe and sound, he took his sjambok, and "according to agreement" commenced to belabour me soundly, because I had, according to him, acted recklessly in disregarding his warning. Good words and attempts to justify my conduct were thrown away on him ; I had to take my hiding. But it was the first and the last time that he had occasion to thrash me.

How the Rhino, got away, but the Hunter lost his Thumb
In the year 1845, my two brothers and I were making a halt near Sekukuni's " town," not far from the place where the Spekboom River joins the Steelport River, in the northern Transvaal. We outspanned, and I went in the course of the day on to the veldt to shoot some game. I was mounted, and carried my big four - pounder. After about an hour's ride I came across a rhinoceros and fired, but only succeeded in wounding the animal, which fled into the wood. I dismounted quickly, ready to shoot again, but moved only a few steps away from the horse, as in case the rhinoceros should turn, intending to attack me, it would be necessary to remount at once. I succeeded in getting a second shot, but at that very moment my rifle exploded just where I held it with my left hand. The lock and the ramrod lay before me on the ground and the barrel of the gun behind me. I had no time to think, for the furious animal was almost upon me ; so I jumped on my horse and galloped away as fast as I could, the rhinoceros in fierce pursuit, until we came to the ford of a small brook, when my pursuer came to the ground and so allowed me to ride quietly in the direction of our waggons. During the next day our people, guided by the traces of my horse, went to the spot, and there thev found the rhinoceros still alive, and, following the trail of blood, discovered the remains of the rifle and my thumb.

My hand was in a horrible state. The great veins were torn asunder and the muscles lay exposed. The flesh was hanging in strips. I bled like a slaughtered calf. I had succeeded in tying a big pocket-handkerchief round the wound whilst riding, to save the horse from being splashed with blood. When I got to the waggons my wife and my sister-in-law were sitting by the fire, and I went up to them laughing to prevent their being frightened. My sisterin-law pointed to my hand, which looked like a big piece of raw meat, the handkerchief being saturated with blood.

" Look what fat game brother Paul has been shooting ! " she said.

I called out to my wife to go to the waggon and fetch some turpentine, as I had hurt my hand. Then I asked my sister-in-law to take off my pouch-belt, and she saw that my hand was torn and noticed how white I was, for I had hardly any blood left in my body. I kept on renewing the turpentine bandages, for the turpentine contracts tlrveins and so stops the bleeding.

I sent my youngest brother—he was still really young at the time—to borrow as much turpentine as he could get from the nearest farm. They were about half an hour's distance from us. Herman Potgieter, who was afterwards so cruelly murdered by the Kaffirs, came over to us with his brother. The former got into the waggon, and when he saw the wound he cried out—

" That hand will never heal; it is an awful wound !"

He had to get down again as quickly as possible, (or he was nigh fainting. But his brother said, possibly to comfort me—

" Nonsense, I have seen worse wounds than that ; get plenty of turpentine."

We inspanned and got to the farm, and every one there advised me to have the hand amputated ; but I would not let myself be mutilated of my own free will. The two joints of what was once my thumb had gone, but it turned out that it would be necessary to remove a piece of bone. I took my knife, intending to perform the operation, but they took it away from me. I got hold of another a little later and cut across the ball of the departed thumb and removed as much as was necessary. The worst bleeding was over, but the operation was a very painful one. I had no means to deaden the pain by narcotics, so I tried to persuade myself that the hand on which I was performing this surgical operation belonged to somebody else.

The wound healed very slowly. The women sprinkled finely-sifted sugar on it, and from time to time I had to remove the dead flesh with my pocketknife, but after all mortification set in. Every means we employed seemed useless, for the black marks had got up as far as the shoulder. Then they killed a goat, took out the stomach and cut it open. I put my hand into it whilst it was still warm. This Boer remedy succeeded, for when it came to the turn of the second goat, my hand was already easier and the danger much less. The wound was hardly healed in six months' time, and before it was quite healed I was out hunting.

I account for the healing power of this remedy through the fact that the goats usually graze near the Spekboom River, where all sorts of herbs grow in abundance.
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