The spiral slam and a buffalo on one hunt? What is a spiral slam?

Red Leg

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Part taken out from the thread: Euro vs shoulder: https://www.africahunting.com/threads/euro-vs-shoulder.55116/ on the request of the @Hank2211. This new thread was created by @AfricaHunting.com.

Perhaps we can get @BRICKBURN to post this as a new thread to avoid messing up the OP's thread. It might make for an interesting discussion, not least because I've been on a variant/species/subspecies kick recently!

I too was more than a bit taken aback when I first saw an outfitter in South Africa advertising a "spiral horn slam." Early in my hunting career I decided to pursue the "traditional" nine spiral horned antelope - and it took me many years and visits to some pretty inhospitable places to achieve it.

Far be it from me to get in the way of someone's marketing efforts, but I do think it devalues what I think is a pretty meaningful accomplishment to use the expression "slam" in this way.

The "spiral slam" and a buffalo on one hunt? Educate me on what is meant by the spiral slam. I have one acquaintance who, after many years of hunting and enormous expense, has taken representatives of all African's spiral horned antelope (the Lord Derby Eland and Mountain Nyala would be particularly tricky on a single hunt.) So, I am clearly missing something. What is a spiral slam?
 

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It might make for an interesting discussion, not least because I've been on a variant/species/subspecies kick recently!

I too was more than a bit taken aback when I first saw an outfitter in South Africa advertising a "spiral horn slam." Early in my hunting career I decided to pursue the "traditional" nine spiral horned antelope - and it took me many years and visits to some pretty inhospitable places to achieve it.

Far be it from me to get in the way of someone's marketing efforts, but I do think it devalues what I think is a pretty meaningful accomplishment to use the expression "slam" in this way.
 

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There are at least two spiral slams, southern and all the rest. Most of us have the southern which is nyala, kudu, eland, bushbuck. To make it tricky one should add sitatunga;) to that list as it is available in a couple places south of the equator. Then you have to add the mountain, nyala, all the bushbucks, sitatunga's lesser kudu, Lord Derby eland, and don't forget bongo, I may be leaving something out?
If one can do all of that its a real accomplishment, one I wont ever achieve nor really ever aspired to, in fact after I had taken my bushbuck in RSA in '09 my PH bragged to his wife, that I had completed my "southern slam", I was like wait what?o_O
Boddingtons book, "In Search of the Spiral Horn" is a must have for this pursuit.(y)

Just realized I have the 5 southern on my front room wall, including my Zambezi sitatunga from 1990. Got mine in Botswana and they may never be on license there again unfortunately. Hunting them in the Okavango from a makoro is a hunt to be remembered. Truly wild and astounding.(y)
 

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I've seen the 4 species "slam" used untold times in marketing for South African hunting and I'd venture most first time safari hunters have no idea what a bongo, mountain nyala, or sititunga are, no knock on them they're just not exposed to those animals they way you would be to an impala. I'd also bet the number of people with the financial means to complete the 9 species slam is less than 1% of African hunters.
Maybe saying they completed the South African spiral slam gives them joy in their accomplishment, or maybe it will peak an interest in the other spirals and stoke embers of a fire they never knew existed setting them on a journey to seek out all the African spirals. I'll likely never complete the 9 species slam but we can always dream.
 

Hank2211

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If it was up to me, the word slam would be used to represent "all" of something - so a springbok slam would be the four natural colour phases of springbok, but wouldn't require, for example, a Kalahari as well as a common. There are at least two reasons for this limitation - first, I don't think the Kalahari is actually a separate species, or even a subspecies, but just a regional variation and secondly, it looks exactly the same as the common, but a bit bigger. If you want to include only some of whatever in your grouping, then call it something else, like a Macnab.

This leads to the question of whether there should be more than 9 spiral horns in the "real" slam. If you include all of the (huntable) subspecies of every animal in the real slam, you could get to a substantial number: there are multiple (valid) subspecies of the eland (two of which are represented), the sitatunga (some easier to get than others), maybe the kudu, and certainly the bushbuck. There are two species of the bongo, but only one is huntable, and I believe only one species of lesser kudu, nyala and mountain nyala.

I suggest we reach a consensus on what we mean by a spiral horn slam. My vote goes to the 9. But I'll look into the bigger number.

I can't vote for a smaller number on the basis that they're the ones easily available in one country or introduced into a small ranch to allow people to have a realistic chance of taking four or more in 10 days. These are special animals and they deserve better!
 

Red Leg

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This was the first time I had ever heard of a four animal spiral horn "slam". I get the marketing - one can accomplish it on a single trip to the "right" South African game farm. I never begrudge marketing. However, just to get the basic nine or ten (the 19th century identifications included two different bushbuck), requires an enormous dedication of time, effort and resources. Normally, usually, most of the time whenever I hear a spiral horned slam discussed it was that list. I should note that slam includes species like bongo, Lord Derby Eland, and mountain nyala - animals which most hunters will never see. Hence, that "slam" is a real achievement. The modern list contains as many as 28 or 29 spiral horns, including as many as eight different bushbuck. Several, such as the mountain bongo, are protected. I think around 25 or so can be hunted. I have one acquaintance who has made it his life's ambition to hunt all those which legally can be.
 

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This is fascinating me! I thought it was only 8 or 9! Another grand achievement I will never manage! Hmmm, maybe, just maybe I might get the big 5...naw, maybe half the tiny ten? Or more likely just a bunch of fine beasts! Starting to late in life.:cry:

I do so admire those that can focus on such a grand pursuit as the Africa spiral slam. Quite an achievement for certain!
 

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When I started my way to the nine with a bushbuck on my second hunt to Africa, I had no idea that it would test me to my limits. The hunts for bongo, mountain nyala and LDE proved to be mental and physical challenges that almost did me in. But they are also the hunts I will remember on my death bed. (I think hunt reports for all three are available here).

I have taken four of the big 5 (no rhino, and unlikely to add one) and perhaps unfortunately for me, none of those hunts was as challenging as these.
 

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I am enjoying this thread. I have a hunt coming up and no set plan of what I really want to hunt, other than hippo. I’ve been reading about what species are in the different areas to not miss a chance I might not return to.
How does one come about the decision to pursue all 9?

I agree that a “slam” should actually be complete. Just like how I hate it when people refer to a 1/2 marathon as a marathon. There is a big difference and it is more than twice as hard.
 

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I agree that a “slam” should actually be complete. Just like how I hate it when people refer to a 1/2 marathon as a marathon. There is a big difference and it is more than twice as hard.

I think the marathon is a good analogy but then I think that "slam" is probably the most overused term in the hunting world. When I was a child a Dr. friend completed his "Grand Slam" of North American sheep, he invited me to his office to see them all together. While looking at those four shoulder mounted sheep on his wall I thought to myself, why would anybody compare such a great hunting achievement to something as silly as baseball. Don't misunderstand, these are in fact significant and in some cases monumental hunting achievements and deserving of recognition (in my humble opinion) but don't they deserve a little better comparison? I like the "Big Five" and "Tiny Ten" much better than whatever "slam". If we are going to compare hunting to professional sports how about a "Hat Trick" of hogs, Wart Hog, Bushpig and Giant Forest Hog.
 

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What is a spiral slam?
My understanding, but I am also sure we all know that, is following:

"Spiral slam" is commercial - marketing name or offer of south african outfitters on: nyala, eland, kudu, bushbuck.
Personally, i call that a "a small spiral slam", and is achievable with many of south african outfitters, of which some are on this forum.

True spiral slam, I am not sure if there is anybody in the World who has achieved it, considering nuomerous subspecies, but main species are:

Nyala
Bushbuck
Greater Kudu
Common Eland
Lesser Kudu
Sitatunga
Lord Derby Eland
Bongo
Mountain Nyala

And those have been achieved only by most dedicated hunters. But as said, with all subsepcies, probably not.
To complete this in one hunt, and in one country is absolutely impossible.

Now, there are subsepcies of common eland, subspecies of greater kudu, but most noumerous in number of subspecies (I think) is bushbuck.
These animals inhabit practically all (or most of) african countries open to foreign hunter, but true, really true spiral horn slam with all subspecies can easily take a life time of a hunter to achive, not to mention costs involved.

Looking at the list of spiral horns, most probably achieving big 5, or big 7 would be more easier to accomplish, and all can be done in one country. Namibia or South Africa, or with combination with hunting in adjoining countries. I have seen few offers on big 5 packages. Not many, but have seen few. Costly, but probably doable in one hunt only.

 
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Very interesting. How about the "Beast Slam"? Same thing with it as far as marketing and varying opinions or "levels"?
 

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As some have pointed out, to get every conceivable species and subspecies of the spiral horns would be an enormous challenge. It may also be impossible, at least until we agree on what animals constituted the entire number.

If this seems easy, it really isn't. For example, how many subspecies of bushbuck are there? SCI recognizes eight varieties for record book purposes, which matches up with Peter Flack's numbers in his excellent volume of his spiral horn series dedicated to bushbuck (Bushbuck - The Little Big Buck). On the other hand, the IUCN states that "numerous" subspecies have been recognized (without saying how many), but that these have usually been based on "morphological" characteristics - in other words, how they look. (In fact, the IUCN states that recent DNA analysis tends to suggest that there may be two distinct species of bushbuck, but they retain the one species for the time being.) To complicate things even more, the Stuarts in Game Animals of the World suggest that 29 different subspecies have been "recognized." They do acknowledge that this is based not on genetic factors but on how bushbuck look - what they call "geographical variations that do not warrant subspecies status."

Of the eight that we can name, I have taken what I believe are generally called the Cape bushbuck (in the Eastern Cape); the Limpopo bushbuck (in, you guessed it, the Limpopo); the Chobe bushbuck (in Zimbabwe) and the harnessed bushbuck (in Benin and Cameroon). I will allow that these vary greatly in both colour (from almost black (Cape) to light brown (harnessed)) as well as in average horn size. However, apart from those fairly superficial characteristics, I wouldn't bet real money that these are different subspecies of the same animal, anymore than a freckled red haired person is a different subspecies of human being from a darker complexioned brown haired person.

So, to finalize the point, are there two species of bushbuck? Are there 8 subspecies of one species? Are there in fact 28 subspecies in all? Who decides?

The bushbuck of course may be the most numerous in terms of suggested subspecies, but many of the other spiral horns also present the same problem.

Given that, I suggest it's reasonable to hold that anyone getting one subspecies or another of each of the nine "traditional" spiral horns has met the challenge. You may well suggest that I stand to benefit from this conclusion since I've met that test, but feel free to suggest another which is logical and around which there is both general agreement and certainty.
 

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As some have pointed out, to get every conceivable species and subspecies of the spiral horns would be an enormous challenge. It may also be impossible, at least until we agree on what animals constituted the entire number.

If this seems easy, it really isn't. For example, how many subspecies of bushbuck are there? SCI recognizes eight varieties for record book purposes, which matches up with Peter Flack's numbers in his excellent volume of his spiral horn series dedicated to bushbuck (Bushbuck - The Little Big Buck). On the other hand, the IUCN states that "numerous" subspecies have been recognized (without saying how many), but that these have usually been based on "morphological" characteristics - in other words, how they look. (In fact, the IUCN states that recent DNA analysis tends to suggest that there may be two distinct species of bushbuck, but they retain the one species for the time being.) To complicate things even more, the Stuarts in Game Animals of the World suggest that 29 different subspecies have been "recognized." They do acknowledge that this is based not on genetic factors but on how bushbuck look - what they call "geographical variations that do not warrant subspecies status."

Of the eight that we can name, I have taken what I believe are generally called the Cape bushbuck (in the Eastern Cape); the Limpopo bushbuck (in, you guessed it, the Limpopo); the Chobe bushbuck (in Zimbabwe) and the harnessed bushbuck (in Benin and Cameroon). I will allow that these vary greatly in both colour (from almost black (Cape) to light brown (harnessed)) as well as in average horn size. However, apart from those fairly superficial characteristics, I wouldn't bet real money that these are different subspecies of the same animal, anymore than a freckled red haired person is a different subspecies of human being from a darker complexioned brown haired person.

So, to finalize the point, are there two species of bushbuck? Are there 8 subspecies of one species? Are there in fact 28 subspecies in all? Who decides?

The bushbuck of course may be the most numerous in terms of suggested subspecies, but many of the other spiral horns also present the same problem.

Given that, I suggest it's reasonable to hold that anyone getting one subspecies or another of each of the nine "traditional" spiral horns has met the challenge. You may well suggest that I stand to benefit from this conclusion since I've met that test, but feel free to suggest another which is logical and around which there is both general agreement and certainty.
Nope Hank. In this modern "diverse" world of ours, I think you are only a third of the way there. :( I mean, how can you look yourself in the mirror without acknowledging all the work still to do? How many of the kudu do you have.? The Western Greater Kudu requires a pretty significant expedition alone. And all those sitatunga? I believe there are six at last count and maybe at least five can be hunted - though three in particular, not without some effort. No, I'll congratulate you upon achieving a solid baseline, but you still have lots of work to do. ;):whistle:
 

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I got taken in by a "Marketing" scam. But the good thing is that I did enjoy the hunt. Shame on me for not "checking out" the Spiral Slam being offered. Red Leg, thanks for asking the question. You live and you learn.
 

Red Leg

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I got taken in by a "Marketing" scam. But the good thing is that I did enjoy the hunt. Shame on me for not "checking out" the Spiral Slam being offered. Red Leg, thanks for asking the question. You live and you learn.
Still a great group of animals to have!
 

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Ok, for the purpose of this thread, can somebody more knoledgable then me try to list all 28-29 species, and subspecies of spiral horns? (by any standard, SCI, IUCN. etc?)
 

Red Leg

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Ok, for the purpose of this thread, can somebody more knoledgable then me try to list all 28-29 species, and subspecies of spiral horns? (by any standard, SCI, IUCN. etc?)

Below is the alternative taxonomy based on Willows-Munro et al. (2005)[5] and Groves and Grubb (2011),[6] with species and subspecies names following Castelló (2016) from Bovids of the World:[4]

  • Tribe Tragelaphini Blyth, 1863 sensu Sokolov, 1953 – spiral-horned antelopes
    • Genus Ammelaphus Heller, 1912 – lesser kudus
      • Ammelaphus imberbis (Blyth, 1869) – northern lesser kudu
      • Ammelaphus australis Heller, 1913 – southern lesser kudu
    • Genus Nyala Heller, 1912
    • Genus Taurotragus Wagner, 1855 – elands
      • Taurotragus derbianus (Gray, 1847) – giant eland
        • Taurotragus derbianus gigas Heuglin, 1863 – eastern giant eland
        • Taurotragus derbianus derbianus (Gray, 1847) – western giant eland
      • Taurotragus oryx (Pallas, 1767) – common eland
        • Taurotragus oryx ivingstonii Sclater, 1864 – Livingstone's eland
        • Taurotragus oryx pattersonianus Lydekker, 1906 – East African eland
        • Taurotragus oryx oryx (Pallas, 1767) – Cape eland
    • Genus Strepsiceros Hamilton Smith, 1827 – greater kudus
      • Strepsiceros strepsiceros (Pallas, 1766) – Cape greater kudu
      • Strepsiceros zambesiensis (Lorenz, 1894) – Zambezi greater kudu
      • Strepsiceros chora (Cretzschmar, 1826) – northern greater kudu
      • Strepsiceros cottoni (Dollman & Burlace, 1928) – western greater kudu
    • Genus Tragelaphus de Blainville, 1816
      • Tragelaphus scriptus group (Pallas, 1766) – kéwel
        • Tragelaphus scriptus (Pallas, 1766) – western bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus phaleratus (Hamilton Smith, 1827) – central bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus bor Heuglin, 1877 – Nile bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus decula (Rüppell, 1835) – Abyssinian bushbuck
      • Tragelaphus sylvaticus group (Sparrman, 1780) – imbabala
        • Tragelaphus meneliki Neumann, 1902 – Menelik's bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus fasciatus Pocock, 1900 – eastern coastal bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus ornatus Pocock, 1900 – Chobe bushbuck
        • Tragelaphus sylvaticus (Sparrman, 1780) – Cape bushbuck
      • Tragelaphus buxtoni (Lydekker, 1910) – mountain nyala
      • Tragelaphus euryceros (Ogilby, 1837) – bongo
        • Tragelaphus euryceros isaaci (Thomas, 1902) – mountain bongo
        • Tragelaphus euryceros euryceros (Ogilby, 1837) – lowland bongo
      • Tragelaphus spekii group Speke, 1863 – sitatungas
        • Tragelaphus spekii Speke, 1863 – East African sitatunga
        • Tragelaphus sylvestris (Meinertzhagen, 1916) – Nkosi Island sitatunga
        • Tragelaphus larkenii (St. Leger, 1931) – Nile sitatunga
        • Tragelaphus ugallae Matschie, 1913 – Tanzanian sitatunga
        • Tragelaphus gratus Sclater, 1880 – western sitatunga
        • Tragelaphus selousi Rothschild, 1898 – Zambezi sitatunga
 

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