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Title: Seventeen trips through Somáliland
       A record of exploration & big game shooting, 1885 to 1893

Author: Captain H. G. C. (Harald G. C.) Swayne

Release Date: September 14, 2018 [EBook #57907]

Language: English

Character set encoding: UTF-8


Produced by MFR and the Online Distributed Proofreading
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images generously made available by The Internet Archive)





The Author and his Escort.

From a Photograph taken at the noon bivouac, Ambal River, Habr Toljaala country, March 1891.

The exposure of the plate was carried out by a Somáli.



Image of the illustrated title page


SHOOTING, 1885 to 1893





All rights reserved







Somáliland, the new British Protectorate, is in some respects one of the most interesting regions of the African Continent. In the present daily life of its natives we have represented to us something of the wandering patriarchal existence of Biblical times. The country contains ruins which probably date back to a period of very ancient civilisation. It is, moreover, the threshold to the mysterious nomad Gálla tribes who inhabit the land between the Gulf of Aden and the Great African Lakes. Somáliland is the home of most varieties of African large game, and affords one of the best and most accessible of hunting-grounds to be found at the present time.

In the intervening years, between 1884 and 1893, professional duties necessitated my undertaking several journeys in Somáliland, with the object of exploration. In the intervals between these journeys I devoted my periods of leave to hunting in that country. During a period of nine years I undertook seventeen separate journeys to the interior, and so became familiar with the chief elements of interest to be found there. At the outset of my travels my age was twenty-five. I enjoyed absolute freedom of movement, and at this period had full control of a small escort of Indian cavalry. The[x] sense of responsibility, and the prospect of exploring new country, filled me with delight and awakened my faculties. When I first entered the interior of Somáliland, in 1885, it was practically an untraversed country; and hitherto, though unjustly so, it had always borne the reputation of being the desert home of bigoted and ferocious savages.

My principal object in writing this book is to present phases of life in nomadic North-East Africa, and to supply detailed information of a nature that might prove useful to travellers and sportsmen who wish to visit that country. As my brother and I have always been pioneering, the men who have followed in our footsteps have naturally had better opportunities for sport than we had, and I only give such of my more successful sporting experiences as will assist me in my main object of giving a general portrait of the country.

With reference to the following pages of my book, I would say that I merely present a collection of facts. To write a continuous narrative of my movements, in a manner to hold the interest of the reader throughout, requires a special literary gift such as I do not possess. The careful notes of all that came within the observation and experience of my brother and myself, during our ten thousand miles of wanderings with camel caravans, are here collected and presented in their most simple form. Most of the illustrations are direct reproductions of my own drawings, representing incidents I have seen, for the artistic merit of which I must beg my readers’ indulgence.

My thanks are due to Brigadier-General J. Jopp,[xi] C.B., A.D.C., British Resident at Aden; and to Lieut.-Colonel E. V. Stace, C.B., Political Agent and Consul for the Somáli Coast; and to many officers of the Aden Political Staff under whom I have been employed, or with whom I have been associated, for many kindnesses and hospitalities extended to me in Aden and the Somáli Coast ports; and to my brother, Captain E. J. E. Swayne, 16th Bengal Infantry, for the use of his journals and sketches, for all his valuable and indefatigable assistance, to say nothing of his saving my life in a plucky and skilful manner under circumstances the difficulty of which only sportsmen can fully appreciate. My best thanks are also due to Prince Boris Czetwertynski and Mr. Seton Karr for having given me permission to reproduce some of their beautiful and artistic photographs; to Captain H. M. Abud, Assistant Resident at Aden, for many hospitalities, and for his kindness in having supplied me with the historical notes given in the first chapter.

I am also greatly indebted to Lieut.-General E. F. Chapman, C.B., Director of Military Intelligence, and to Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Trotter, and other officers of the Intelligence Staff, for having permitted me to use and to copy a reduction of my routes, which was made under their direction; and also to Mr. W. Knight for the excellent manner in which he has designed and drawn the maps which accompany this book. My third chapter is rewritten from articles which have already been published in the Field in 1887, and I have to thank the Editor of that paper for his courtesy in having allowed me to make use of them here.


I have to thankfully acknowledge the kindness of Dr. P. L. Sclater, Secretary of the London Zoological Society, for having permitted me to rewrite and amplify, in my supplementary chapter, two papers upon Antelopes which were written by me for that Society and published in its Proceedings.

Finally, I would express my gratitude to Mr. Rowland Ward, who has devoted so much valuable time and experience to the production of my book.

The Author.



Division of classes in Somáliland—The trading caravans from Ogádén and Harar—Habits of the nomad tribes—The Somáli brokers—The outcaste races and their characteristics—The settlements of the mullahs—The Somáli, his character—Religion—Costume and weapons—Condition of women—Marriage laws—Industries of women—Blood money—Feuds—Native councils—Respect for the English—Somáli vanity—The dibáltig ceremony—Influence of religion—Influence of civilisation—Religious observances—Superstitions—Carelessness—The origin of the Somáli race—Tracing descent for twenty-two generations—Arab descent—Tribal customs—Plurality of wives—Adoption of prefix Ba to name of children—Somáli nomenclature—Nicknames—Tribal divisions—“Brothers of the shield”—Ruins, cairns, and graves—Frontier raids between the Gállas and the Somális—Boldness of southern tribes—The Golbánti Gállas-The Wa-pokómo negroes of the Tana—Origin of the Gállas—The Esa tribe—The Gadabursi tribe—Evidences of former highly-organised races in Somáliland—Interesting remains—Old Gálla ruins—Curious legend to account for cairns—The robbers’ cover—Baneful influence of feuds 1-28
Varieties of camel—Somáli camel willing and gentle—Method of loading camels—On the march—Weight of loads—Marching hours—Scourges, gadflies, ticks, and leeches—Firing camels—Sore back—Camel food—Grazing customs—Breeding habits of Somáli camels—The milk-supply of she-camels—Description of Somáli ponies—Fodder—Ticks—Donkeys—Their usefulness in Somáliland—Cattle—Cow’s milk—Ghee—Hides exported to America—Sheep and goats—Powers of subsisting without water—Camel meat and mutton the favourite meal of Somális—The annual movements of trading caravans governed by seasons—Duration [xiv]of seasons—Great heat—Movements of the nomad tribes—Caravan marauders—Tribal fights—Gangs of highway robbers—Methods of the raiders—English scheme of protection popular—Trade greatly injured through insecurity of routes—A peculiarity of the Somáli guide—Mysterious strangers—Remarkable faculties of adaptability in the Somáli—Baneful effect of civilisation 29-44
Start from Berbera—The first koodoo—First herd of elephants seen; elephant bagged with a single shot—Fresh start with another caravan—Waller’s gazelle bagged—Mandeira; delightful headquarters—The Issutugan river—Herd of elephants found—Elephant hunt at Jalélo, and death of a large bull—Our night camp—Camp at Sobát—Elephants heard trumpeting at night—Interesting scene; a herd of sixty elephants—Two elephants bagged—Camp at Hembeweina; lions round camp—A herd of elephants in the Jalélo reeds—Long and unsuccessful hunt—Tusks stolen by a caravan—Lions roaring round the Hembeweina camp at night—Visit of Shiré Shirmáki and thirty horsemen—Interesting scene—A row in camp—News of a solitary bull at Eil Danan—Exciting hunt; horsemen manœuvring a vicious elephant, and death of the bull—Return to Berbera 45-76
Early trips to the coast—Disturbed state of Bulhár—Stopping a fight—Two skirmishes—First exploring trips—Hostility of the natives—An unlucky trip—Start with my brother to explore the Habr Toljaala and Dolbahanta countries on duty—Camp on Gólis Range—Theodolite station at 6800 feet—Enter the waterless plains—Advance to the Tug Dér—News of raiders ahead, and of Col. A. Paget’s party—Dolbahanta horsemen—Advance to the Nogal Valley—Constantly annoyed by the Dolbahanta—Prehistoric tank and buildings at Badwein—Advance to Gosaweina—More horsemen—Insecure border, and scene of a raid—Explore Bur Dab Range—Robbers’ caves—Exploration of my brother on Wagar Mountain—Lovely scenery—Return to Berbera—Start on a second expedition to the Jibril Abokr country—The top of Gán Libah—A new hartebeest—Death of a leopard—Hargeisa—Natives clamouring for British protection against Abyssinia—Bold behaviour of a leopard—Advance to the Marar Prairie—Camp at Ujawáji—Extraordinary scene on the prairie—Quantities of game—Gadabursi raid—Jibril Abokr welcome of the English—A shooting trip on the plains—News of three lions—Vedettes posted over lions—Advance to the attack—Savage charge; unconscious and in the clutches of a lioness—My brother’s account of the accident—His own narrow escape, and death of a fine lion—Civility of the Jibril Abokr—Abyssinian news—Return to the coast—Recovery [xv]from wounds—Third expedition; to the Gadabursi country—Great raid by the Jibril Abokr on the Bahgoba—Curious adventure with robbers—Betrayed by vultures—Raiding tactics—First meeting with the Gadabursi—Meeting with Ugaz Núr—The rival sultans—Construction of an Abyssinian fort at Biyo-Kabóba—Esa in a ferment—Speech of Múdun Golab—My brother bags a large bull elephant—March to Zeila 77-118
First news of Abyssinian aggression—Start for Milmil—Unfortunate Bulhár—Across the “Haud” waterless plateau—Extraordinary landscape—Sudden meeting with the Rer Ali—Their consternation and pleasant greeting—News of a raid—Water-supply statistics—Great display at Milmil in honour of Au Mahomed Sufi—Agitation against Abyssinia—Unsuccessful lion hunt—Display in honour of the English—Interesting scene—The vulture-like elders—Success of an Arab pony—Our camp at Túli—The “Valley of Rhinoceroses”—Two rhinoceros hunts—Four bagged—Death of a bull rhinoceros—The Waror wells—Abbasgúl complaints against Abyssinia—First meeting with Abyssinians—Disturbed country—English sportsmen met at Hargeisa—Fresh start from Hargeisa—Incessant rains—Thousands of hartebeests near Gumbur Dúg—Scouting for the Abyssinians—Visit to the Abyssinian fort at Jig-Jiga—We approach Gildessa—The caravan imprisoned by the Abyssinians—Embarrassing situation—A letter to Rás Makunan of Harar—Exciting time at Gildessa—We retire by night—The answer of the Rás—March to Zeila 119-154
Project to explore Gállaland—News of Colonel Carrington’s party—A Bulhár feud—Start from Bulhár—Gadabursi dance to the English—Esa raid—A rival sportsman—Awálé Yasín breaks his leg—Native surgery—Adventures with leopards—Following a wounded leopard by moonlight—A plucky home charge—Exciting encounter—An oryx hunt—On the Marar Prairie again—Quantities of game—Arrival at Jig-Jiga, and visit from Abyssinians—Attempted arrest of the caravan by an Abyssinian general—Exciting adventure—Arrival of Gabratagli—Character of Banagúsé—A letter to the Rás—Interviews with Banagúsé—Bertiri complaints against Abyssinians—An answer from the Rás—Picturesque journey to Harar—Hospitality of Basha-Basha, an Abyssinian general—Enter Harar—Meet Signor Felter—First interview with the Rás in the audience-room—Entertained by Allaka Gobau Desta—My servant wounded—Meet Count Salimbeni, M. Guigniony, and the Archbishop of Gállaland—Interviews with the Rás and exchange of presents—Farewells in Harar—Leave Harar for the [xvi]Webbe 155-186
Form an ambush over the pool at Kuredelli—A rhinoceros wounded—Unsuccessful hunt after the rhinoceros—Two lions seen—Another rhinoceros wounded at the pool; three lionesses arrive; interesting moonlight scene—A lioness drinks, and is wounded—Death of the lioness—Follow and bag the rhinoceros—Exciting hyæna hunt with pistol and knife—Abbasgúl fight—Unsuccessful rhinoceros hunt—We march into the monsoon—Walleri buck wounded by me and pulled down by a leopard—Death of the leopard—Camp again at Túli—Two rhinoceroses bagged; furious charge—The Sheikh Ash, a friendly tribe—A leopard in camp—Ambush at the Garba-ali pool; leopard and hyæna bagged—Abundance of game—First enter zebra country—Man-eating lions at Durhi—Malingúr at Durhi—Elephant-hunting in Daghatto Valley; a bull bagged—Large number of elephants—Interesting scene in Daghatto—Leopards seen—Uninhabited country—Difficulty in finding the Rer Amáden tribe—Halt at Enleh and send out scouts 187-212
Our camp at Enleh—Success of the Lee-Metford rifle—An oryx hunt—Abundance of game—A night alarm—Attempt to catch a zebra foal—Strange voices in the bush—News of the Rer Amáden—Jáma Deria—Advance into the Amáden country—Meeting with Sheikh Abdul Káder at Dambaswerer—Friendly reception by the Rer Amáden—Decide to make a dash for Imé—Fine view of the Webbe Valley—Difficulty and expense of a Somáli outfit—Close to Imé; doubtful as to our welcome—Cordiality of the Adone or Webbe negroes—Council of the elders; desire for an English treaty—Kind hospitality of Gabba Oboho, chief of Imé—A word for British management at the coast—Invited to return to the Webbe—Shoot two waterbuck—Return to Dambaswerer—Jáma Deria at home—Gálla raids—Extraordinary vitality of a Somáli—Jáma Deria’s avarice—Reputation of Rás Makunan—Oryx shot—A lion roars at night—Lion surprised stealing the carcase—Exciting hunt, and death of the lion—Sit up for lion at Durhi—Melancholy episode; Daura Warsama killed by a man-eater—Unsuccessful hunt—Clarke’s gazelle bagged—Oryx bull bagged—Artificial tanks—Form a camp for koodoo-hunting at Mandeira 213-241
Our hunting camp in the mountains—The “Rock of the Seven Robbers”—Exciting [xvii]koodoo hunt; death of a splendid koodoo—My shooting costume—Triumphant return to camp—Unsuccessful koodoo hunt—March to Henweina—Unsuccessful hunt after four bull koodoos—Bag a fine bull—A charming spot—Dog-faced baboons—Alarm note of the koodoo cow—Picturesque bivouac—Cedar-trees in Mirso—A leopard caught with a piece of rope and speared by the Somális—March to Armáleh Garbadir—The great Massleh Wein bull—Exciting hunt; success of the Martini; a glorious koodoo—Return to the coast 242-257
The new caravan—Pass Lord Delamere’s party—Captain Abud in camp at Hargeisa—Sheikh Mattar—Cross the Haud, and arrive at Seyyid Mahomed’s town in Ogádén—Holy reputation—Why the Somális have no Mahdi—Scene at the Seyyid’s town—Native impression of some European travellers—Every European a doctor—Malingúr mission to Harar—Ruspoli’s men seized—Jáma Deria’s Englishman—Reach the Webbe and bag a waterbuck—Friendly Gilimiss Somális—First news of the Webbe bushbuck—Shooting a crocodile—Great beauty of our camp on the Webbe banks—Gálla raids on the Gilimiss—The crossing of the Webbe at Karanleh—Unexpected Gálla news—Entertain Gálla chiefs in camp; a defiant speech—A Gálla trip planned—Fresh hippo tracks in the reeds—A waterbuck swims the Webbe; a noble buck—Sad death of a horse—The Aulihán—A row in camp—Unsuccessful buffalo-hunting—Wounded waterbuck struck down by a lion—Starving negroes eat the carrion—Disturbed country; the Gálla trip impracticable—Recross the Webbe—Driving for bushbuck—A fine wart-hog bagged—A man seized by a lion; extraordinary story—A leopard bagged—A buck killed by leopards before our eyes—A row at Garbo—Success of the Lee-Metford—The Awáré pan; beautiful hunting-ground—Lions roaring at night—Unsuccessful lion hunts—Magnificent lion shot; a surprising leap—Abundance of lions—Return to Berbera; and go to England 258-291
Notes on the Wild Fauna of Somáliland 292-329
Appendix I.—On Fitting Out Somáli Expeditions 331
II.—Physical Geography 361
III.—Notes on Somáli Trade 375
Index 379




The Author and his Escort Frontispiece
Group of Somális (White Esa) 1
Somáli Camp Followers and a Horseman from the Bush 5
A Camp Servant with Lesser Koodoo Skull and Horns 13
Somáli Scouts halting in a Sandy River-Bed to look for Water 29
A Herd of Plateau Gazelle 45
Elephants 49
“Flying the Bushes” 55
Elephant and Calf 61
Lesser Koodoo and Aloes 76
♂ Waterbuck Head 79
Somáli Horseman 81
“Sakáro” Antelope 89
Jungle of “Hig” Aloes and “Gudá” Thorn-Trees 107
On the Mule-Track, near Harar 118
Game on the Plains 123
Dik-Dik Antelope 124
Waller’s Gazelle 125
Oryx Fighting—“A Trial of Strength” 133
A Slumbering Lion 135
Greater Koodoo Head 145
♂ Sœmmering’s Gazelle Head 153
A Herd of “Aoul” 155
A Herd of Hartebeest 164
Jungle of “Wádi” Thorn-Trees and “Hig” Aloes; Subul Odli, Haud 179
♂ Sœmmering’s Gazelle Head 186
“Aoul” Bucks at Play 187
Rhinoceros at Pool of Kuredelli 190
[xx]A Herd of Oryx 203
A Sounder of Wart-Hog 212
A Herd of Gerenúk 213
Greater Koodoo on the Look-out 242
Rock Rabbits 256
A Herd of Water Antelope 258
Waterbuck Swimming 269
Central African Buffalo, Skull and Horns 274
Lion—“A Snap Shot” 289
Vultures 292
Black Rhinoceros Head 296
“Oryx beisa” Head 298
Lesser Koodoo Head 304
Somáli Hartebeest 305
Bushbuck Head 309
Clarke’s Gazelle Head 311
Clarke’s Gazelle 312
Waller’s Gazelle Head 313
♂ Pelzeln’s Gazelle Head 317
♀ Pelzeln’s Gazelle, Skull and Horns 317
Klipspringer, Head and Skull and Horns 318
Dik-Dik Antelopes, Heads and Skull and Horns 319
Dik-Dik and Aloes 320
Wart-Hog Head 324
♂ Speke’s Gazelle Head 325
♀ Speke’s Gazelle Head 328
Hunting Map of Northern Somáliland.
Map of the Horn of Africa.


Group of Somális (White Esa).

From a Photograph by the Author.


Division of classes in Somáliland—The trading caravans from Ogádén and Harar—Habits of the nomad tribes—The Somáli brokers—The outcaste races and their characteristics—The settlements of the mullahs—The Somáli, his character—Religion—Costume and weapons—Condition of women—Marriage laws—Industries of women—Blood money—Feuds-Native councils—Respect for the English—Somáli vanity—The dibáltig ceremony—Influence of religion—Influence of civilisation—Religious observances—Superstitions—Carelessness—The origin of the Somáli race—Tracing descent for twenty-two generations—Arab descent—Tribal customs—Plurality of wives—Adoption of prefix Ba to names of children—Somáli nomenclature—Nicknames—Tribal divisions—“Brothers of the shield”—Ruins, cairns, and graves—Frontier raids between the Gállas and the Somális—Boldness of southern tribes—The Golbánti Gállas-The Wa-pokómo negroes of the Tana—Origin of the Gállas—The Esa tribe—The Gadabursi tribe—Evidences of former highly-organised races in Somáliland—Interesting remains—Old Gálla ruins—Curious legend to account for cairns—The robbers’ cover—Baneful influence of feuds.

“He who dines alone, dines with the devil.”—Somáli proverb.

The inhabitants of Somáliland may be divided into four separate classes:—The nomad Somális, who keep sheep, goats, cattle, and camels, and who breed ponies; who live almost entirely upon milk and meat, and follow the rains in search of[2] grass for their animals. The settled Somális, who form a comparatively small community, living in or near the coast towns, and who are principally occupied as abbáns or brokers. Certain outcaste races, living in a precarious way, scattered about among the different Somáli tribes, engaged principally gathering gum and hunting. The traders, who bring large caravans from the interior to the coast at certain seasons.

The most important trading caravans are those which come to Berbera from Ogádén and Harar. They bring hides, ivory, ostrich feathers, rhinoceros and antelope horns, prayer-skins, honey, coffee, ghee (clarified butter), and gum; exchanging these products and loading up for the return journey with the beads, dates, rice, cotton goods, and other articles which form the cargoes of dhows visiting the ports. The traders have portable huts (gurgi) which are packed on the camels, and can be pitched or struck in about an hour. These they erect on long halts, and when staying at the coast towns in the trading season. The rer or kraal (karia in Arabic) is formed by unpacking the gurgi and pitching them in a semicircle, surrounding the whole by a thorn fence or zeríba. The huts are carried on camels in sections, and consist of a framework of bent gipsy poles, over which mats and skins are sewn when a halt is made. While on the march the mats do duty as packsaddles for the camels, the skins being tied over the loads to protect them from sun and rain. While the caravans are at the coast, generally during the greater part of the cold weather, the camels are placed under the care of the nomad Somális, to be fed and tended until the return journey to the interior in the spring.

The nomadic tribes also form zeríbas during their constant wanderings, staying in camp for a month or two at a time. Each nomad clan wanders in an orbit of its own, and reoccupies its former zeríbas at the different pastures year after year. Their zeríbas differ from those of trading caravans by being made in a double ring, the outer circle of which is often twelve feet high, to keep out lions. Inside the double brushwood fence the space is divided into pens for cattle, camels, sheep, and goats, the ponies being hobbled and allowed to graze abroad by day, while at night they are tied to the outside of the huts or to thorn trees, and for their further protection fires are lit[3] round the inside of the zeríba and in the huts. At the coast towns the arrangements are not so formidable, a low single fence to keep in the animals being deemed sufficient. The huts are put up by women, while the men form the zeríba and cut logs for the watch-fires, using an axe (fás) consisting of a block of soft iron, worked into a ring with a forked stick inserted—much like the axe of jungle tribes in India. The men are extremely lazy, and consider that their dignity is lowered by tending anything but camels, cattle, and ponies. Thousands of sheep and goats are looked after by a few women and small children; while the donkeys and water-vessels which they carry are the particular care of the oldest and most decrepit women.

The neighbourhood of nomad encampments and watering places is always noisy and dusty, the ground being worked into powder by the feet of thousands of animals. Most of the bushes are denuded of their branches for firewood, and the grass is eaten and worn away. At the important wells watering is done by sub-tribes, to each of which is allotted a certain well at a certain hour. When watering is going on, the groups of naked men singing in chorus as they pass the water up to the troughs, the lowing of the cattle, the countless flocks and herds moving to and fro half veiled by clouds of dust, go to form a very remarkable scene. The nomads who live about the Gólis Range draw near to the coast during the cool trading season, and return to the high Ogo country to remain there during the summer months. They form no large caravans, but are engaged in a good deal of petty barter with the coast and in the export of sheep.

With reference to the class engaged in brokerage, they are people settled permanently at the ports of the North Somáli coast. Until a short time ago the office of abbán or broker was considered to be important. When a trader arrived off the coast in a dhow, or with a caravan from the interior, he was obliged to engage an abbán to transact his business, to protect his interests, to act as general agent, paying in return for such services a small commission on all purchases and sales.

Of the outcaste races the most important are the Tomal, Yebir, and Midgán. They are not organised in tribes, but live in scattered families all over Somáliland. The Tomal are[4] the blacksmiths, who fashion all kinds of arms, axes, and general ironwork. The Yebir are workers in leather, such as saddlery, scabbards, and so forth. The Midgáns are probably the most numerous of the outcaste people. They are armed with the mindi (a small dagger), bow, and poisoned arrows, carrying the latter in a large quiver. They keep wild and savage pariah dogs, which they train to hunting, their chief quarry being the oryx (Oryx beisa), the large bovine antelope with the rapier-like horns.

I have often been out oryx-hunting on foot in the Bulhár Plain with Midgáns and dogs. When a bull oryx is killed a disc from fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter is cut from the thick skin of his withers and sometimes from the rump: these are worth from one to four rupees at the coast, and are used by the Midgáns for making shields. The Midgáns are a hardy race, used to living away from karias, stealthy and perfect trackers, and they are sometimes, in intertribal warfare, engaged to act as messengers, scouts, and light skirmishers. There appears to be no physical difference between them and other Somális, except that the average stature of the Midgáns may be slightly shorter. I have on more than one occasion come upon a party of Midgáns pegging out the fresh skin of a lion which they had just killed; many of these animals are brought to bag every year with no other weapons than their tiny arrows. The lions are found asleep under the khansa bushes at midday, or are shot from an ambush at night over a living bait, or when returning to a “kill.”

In the interior of Northern Somáliland there are no permanent settlements except those founded and occupied by religious Mahomedans, called sheikhs, mullahs, or widads. These[5] settlements occur, on an average, about seventy miles apart. The two largest which I have seen are Seyyid Mahomed’s Town in Ogádén, and Hargeisa in the Habr Awal country. There are about a dozen others of minor importance, all inhabited by mullahs, scattered over several degrees of latitude and longitude, and Hargeisa may be taken as the type of them all.


Somáli Camp Followers and a Horseman from the Bush.

From a Photograph by Prince Boris Czetwertynski.


Mullahs are enabled to settle down and form permanent villages, and cultivate, on account of the respect in which they are held by all tribes. A looting party must be driven to the last extremity of hunger before it will attack them, and generally in such a case only as many animals would be looted as are needed to provide food. The mullahs are drawn from various tribes, and being cosmopolitan, have very extended influence. They are a quiet, respectable class, generally on the side of order, and are civil to travellers.

Hargeisa, a compact village of a few hundred agal or permanent huts, is surrounded by a high mat fence, and a square mile or two of jowári (Holcus sorghum) cultivation belonging to different mullahs. Sheikh Mattar, the chief of Hargeisa, is a pleasant mannered man affecting Arab dress; he reads and writes Arabic, and is a steady supporter of British interests. Like many of the more important mullahs in Somáliland he has a very dark complexion, almost black, in fact, with well-formed, intelligent features. With the exception of these mullah settlements, a few graves dotted about the country, and some cairns and ancient remains of former races, there is nothing permanent to show the presence of human beings. The caravan tracks are mere paths made by the feet of camels and passing flocks, crossed by game tracks in every direction. For countless years long lines of baggage camels have gone aside from the straight course in order to wind round some stone or bush that a child could remove. The work is left to the next caravan, or to Allah, who is made responsible for everything, good or bad, in Somáliland. There is no social system, but patriarchal government by tribes, clans, and families; no cohesion, and no paramount authority; and the whole country has been from time immemorial in a chronic state of petty warfare and blood feuds.

The Somáli has a many-sided character. He is generally a good camelman, a cheerful camp-follower, a trustworthy, loyal, and attentive soldier; proud of the confidence reposed in him, quick to learn new things, and wonderfully bright and intelligent. He is untiring on the march, and he is often a reckless hunter, and will stand by his master splendidly. I know of one Somáli who, to save his English master, hit a lion over the head with the butt of his rifle; and quite lately, under similar circumstances, another Somáli caught hold of a lion by[8] the jaws. Occasionally, however, he relapses into a state of original sin; he becomes criminally careless with the camels, breaking everything in the process of loading, from leather to cast steel; he can be disrespectful, mutinous, and sulky. He is inordinately vain, and will walk off into the jungle and make his way home to the coast, leaving two months’ back pay and rations behind him, if he considers his lordly dignity insulted. If he sees a chance of gain he is a toady and flatterer. His worst fault is avarice.

The Somáli, although by no means a coward, is much more afraid of his fellow-man than of wild animals,—a fact which is possibly due to the general insecurity of life and property. Above all things he dreads crossing the frontiers of his country, holding his hereditary enemies the Gállas in great abhorrence. He has a great deal of romance in his composition, and in his natural nomad state, on the long, lazy days, when there is no looting to be done, while his women and children are away minding his flocks, he takes his praying-mat and water-bottle, and sits a hundred yards from his karia under a flat, shady gudá tree, lazily droning out melancholy-sounding chants on the themes of his dusky loves, looted or otherwise; on the often miserable screw which he calls faras, the horse; and on the supreme pleasure of eating stolen camels.

The summer and winter rains are his great periods of activity. There is then plenty of grass, and pools of water are abundant throughout the country; and he bestrides his “favourite mare,” and in company with many dear brothers of his clan, leaving his flocks and herds in the charge of his women and young children, he rides quietly off a hundred miles into the heart of the jungle to loot the camels of the next Somáli tribe, the owners of which are perhaps away doing exactly the same thing elsewhere. There is tremendous excitement, and the camels are driven across miles of uninhabited wilderness, trailing clouds of dust behind them; and so back to the home karia, where he finds his own herds have perhaps been looted in his absence. He at once goes off on a fresh horse, smarting under his wrongs and intent on vengeance; and if in the spear and shield skirmish that ensues a man has been killed, he and his companions ride back covered with sweat and glory,[9] the tired nags showing gaping spear wounds and mouths dripping with blood from the cruel bit. This is life! In the intervals between expeditions the Somális, when not sleeping, sit in circles on the outskirts of their karias, talking, drinking camel’s milk, and eating mutton, and doing nothing else for days together. Every adult male has his say in the affairs of the tribe, and is to a certain extent a born orator.

Somális are Mussulmans of the Shafai sect, and use the Somáli salutation “Nabad” or the Arab “Salaam aleikum,” which is answered by “Aleikum salaam” and touching of hands. The men are nearly all dressed alike, in long “tobes” of white sheeting of different degrees of dirtiness, from brown to dazzling white; and not a few of the tobes have been dipped in red clay and are of a bright burnt-sienna colour, making the wearers look like Burmese priests. A long dagger (biláwa) is strapped round the waist, while a shield and two spears are carried in the hands. A grass water-bottle and Ogádén prayer-carpet are slung over the shoulders of some, and on the feet are thick sandals, turned up in front, and changed every hour or so to ease the feet. Many of the men wear a leather charm containing a verse of the Koran, a lump of yellow amber, or a long prayer chaplet (tusba) of black sweet-smelling wood around the neck. The camels are often adorned with cowrie necklaces.

The tobe is a simple cotton sheet of two breadths sewn together, about fifteen feet long, and is worn in a variety of ways. Generally it is thrown over one or both shoulders, a turn given round the waist, and allowed to fall to the ankles. In cold weather the head is muffled up in it after the fashion of an Algerian “burnouse.” When sleeping round a camp fire the body is enveloped in it from head to foot, as in a winding-sheet; for a fight the chest and arms are left bare, the part which was thrown over the shoulders being wound many times round the waist to protect the stomach. In the jungle the tobes are worn till they are brown and threadbare; but at the coast towns they are generally of dazzling whiteness. Elders, horsemen, and those who wish to assume a little extra dignity, discard the common tobe and affect the khaili, a gorgeous tartan arrangement in red, white, and blue, each colour being[10] in two shades, with a narrow fringe of light yellow. On horseback it is a very becoming dress, and it is often affected by a favourite wife. All khaili tobes are about the same in appearance, so that practically the white tobe or khaili, shield, and spears, is a uniform that seldom varies much in the whole country. There is very little distinction in the dress of different tribes. The Esa seldom wear the tobe, having only a small cloth hung round the loins. The Dolbahanta, Ogádén, Esa, and the Ishák[1] tribes differ from one another in the shape of their spear-blades; and the Midgáns carry bow and quiver instead of spear and shield. The biláwa or sword is a long two-edged, sharp-pointed knife with soft wrought iron blade, about two feet long and an inch broad at the broadest part; the weight is well forward for hacking. The hilt, too small for an European hand, is made of horn, ornamented with zinc or pewter, and the scabbard is of white leather, sewn crossways to a long white thong which goes round the waist. The gáshán or shield is a round disc of white leather, of rhinoceros, bullock, or preferably oryx hide, from fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter, with a boss in the centre and a handle behind. It is easily pierced by a pistol bullet. Two kinds of spears are used throughout the country, each man among the Ishák tribes, near Berbera, carrying one of each kind. The small spear, plain or barbed like a fish-hook, is for throwing at a distance of from twenty-five to thirty yards, but the aim is not accurate much over thirty yards, though I have seen it thrown as far as seventy-five yards on foot in competitions at Bulhár. The Somáli grasps his spear firmly in the fingers, and gives it one or two quick jerks against the palm of the hand before casting, the vibration being supposed to keep the point straight when in flight. The best spear-shafts come from Eilo, a mountain in the Gadabursi country near Zeila, and round the butt is twisted a bit of soft iron to balance the spear-head. The ponderous laurel-leaf shaped spear, bound with brass wire, is used for close quarters, being especially useful against horses. The men of the Esa tribe generally carry one of these and no throwing spear. They fight on foot and charge home, stabbing at close quarters, while most Somális prefer light skirmishing.[11] Some spears are scraped bright, others are blackened and polished. The Somáli is often a great dandy in these matters, and keeps his shield in a white calico cover.

The water-bottle (karúra) is a wonderfully neat affair, plaited by the women from the fibres of a root, or from grass, and made watertight by applying fat or other substances to the inside, and is corked with a wooden plug. The prayer-carpet generally comes from Ogádén, and is a small piece of very thick tanned leather. On this the Somáli makes his regular prostrations at dawn and sunset, and during the day, as becomes a devout Mussulman, and when not put to this use, it is hung over the shoulder to afford protection from the chafing of the spears. The sandals are very heavy; they are of several thicknesses of white leather, sewn together, rising in a knob in front. They make a great noise, so when stalking game the wearer carries them and goes barefoot. The club or kerrie is a foot and a half long, made of the hard wogga wood, and is thrown with dexterity.

Somális have generally good Arab features, with particularly smooth skins, varying from the colour of an Arab to black. Among certain tribes those who have killed a man wear an ostrich feather in the hair. Originally it was only worn for enemies killed in a fight, but now this is not always necessary. Little boys carry miniature spears and shields as soon as they can learn to use them, and many an Esa youth of sixteen can show an ostrich feather which has been earned in the orthodox manner.

The hair is worn in various ways according to sex and age. Old men shave the head, and sometimes grow a slight beard. Men in the prime of life wear their hair about an inch and a half long, and periodically smear it with a gray mixture, apparently composed of ashes and clay, leaving it for a day or two to dry. It is then dusted out and the hair becomes beautifully clean and highly curled. My followers have always gone through this performance a day or two before reaching Berbera at the conclusion of a trip. Young men and boys grow their hair in a heavy mop, often of a yellow colour, like the mane of a lion. Married women wear it in a chignon, enclosed in a dark blue bag. Young women and girls wear a[12] mop like the young men, but carefully plaited into pigtails. Small children have their heads shaven, three cockscombs of short hair being left, giving the skull the appearance of a crested helmet.

Women are of very little account among the Somális, every small boy appearing to lord it over the female members of his family, of whatever generation. The father of many daughters is rich in that while they are young they herd his sheep and goats, and when they marry he receives from the husband of each her yerad or price, in return for which he has to provide a new hut and furniture for the pair. When a man marries he pays the father of the woman, say, two or three horses and about two hundred sheep. Often this is given back to the woman by her father, and sometimes a dowry is given by him. In the Rer Ali tribe we once passed a drove of about fifty camels being driven by a pretty young woman, who stopped to proudly tell us that they were her dowry, which her father was sending along with her to her husband. One favourite way of obtaining a wife is to loot her in a foray, along with a lot of sheep. Often when I have asked a man where he got his pretty wife, he has answered, “Oh, I looted her from the Samanter Abdallah,” or the Rer Ali, naming a neighbouring tribe. A nod and a laugh from the wife has corroborated the story, and she does not appear to be at all unhappy about it. Marriage with aliens is, I think, looked upon with favour by Somális, because it brings new blood into the tribe; and it has the additional advantage of extending diplomatic relations, a man who has married into a tribe being tolerably safe when in its territory, even in disturbed times.

Some rich women, who have brought a large dowry to their husbands, only perform light work in the huts, and make mats. Others tend sheep and cattle, draw water, hew wood, and work all day long, with no reward but blows. I go by what Somális themselves say, for I have never seen any cruelty to support the statement. Women work very hard. From every watering-place old women are seen struggling to the karias with heavy háns full of water, often containing three or four gallons. They carry the háns and bundles of firewood in exactly the same manner as they do their babies, slung on their backs.[13] The water háns are composed of plaited bark. They are easily broken, and on every march one or two may become useless, owing either to contact with thorn branches or to the tired camels sitting on them. A little water must always be lost by slight leakage. My own experience of háns has been somewhat unfortunate, chiefly because my caravans being composed almost entirely of men, their management has not been properly understood.

Another industry practised by the women is the plaiting of camel-mats; these are made by chewing the stripped bark of the Galol tree, weaving it into a mat, which it takes them a week to make. They also extract the fibres from the Hig or pointed aloe plants, by beating them between stones, the fibre then being twisted into ropes. The Somáli women lead the camels on the longest marches, and exhibit wonderful powers of endurance, marching sometimes the four hundred miles from the Webbe to Berbera in about sixteen days. From constantly loading camels they become nearly as strong in the arms as the men.

A Camp Servant with Lesser Koodoo Skull and Horns.

From a Photograph by Mr. Seton Karr.

The mag, dia,[2] or blood money for a man killed is one hundred milch-camels. Among the Habr Yunis, Habr Gerhajis, if one man of the tribe kills another the blood money is one hundred she-camels and four horses, half this number being considered enough for a woman. For the loss of an eye or permanent disablement of a limb fifty camels have to be paid, and for the loss of both eyes or disablement of both limbs the[14] full blood money, as for murder, is demanded. If blood is drawn from the head about thirty camels are demanded, and even for a bruise the demand is for three or four camels. Such minor cases, however, are, as a rule, specially referred to the mullahs for decision. As a matter of fact, in most cases the blood money actually paid is far below the nominal amount. If a man captures his wife during a raid on another tribe, he generally sends a present afterwards to her parents to secure peace; should, however, a married woman be carried off, or one to whose parents cows have already been paid by another man, the offence is a grave one, and the tribe of the woman must fight. One of the most unpardonable offences is the striking of any one with a shoe or whip, or the open hand, and theoretically this act can only be wiped out by blood.

There are always innumerable blood feuds going on in Somáliland, but as a rule the tribal fights are not very serious, a dozen men killed in every thousand engaged being a fair proportion. The men slain in these combats are buried on the spot, and then begins a long series of negotiations for the settlement of the amount of blood money, which generally lasts months, or even years, before any result is arrived at. Often at a council all the old men on both sides will get up in a fury and leave hurriedly for their kraals with angry shouting, showing that diplomacy has failed.

This sitting in council discussing tribal politics appears to be the principal occupation of Somális, and at Berbera, in the native town, they may generally be seen sitting in circles holding protracted discussions. They appeal to our courts to decide the greatest and most trivial cases, delighting in arbitration; and tribes from very great distances inland, even from Ogádén or the Marehán country, come to the Berbera Court with cases, a great number of which have to do with raids of some sort, which have been committed either upon grazing flocks and herds or upon caravans.

Although a good deal of intermittent fighting is prevalent all over the interior, the Somális have no quarrel whatever with the English. They hold respect for the English as being their natural protectors and arbitrators. The chronic fighting which goes on throughout the country is only looked upon by the[15] elders as healthy blood-letting, giving the young men something to do. It is only considered serious when it occurs on the main caravan routes, thereby damaging trade. In Guban quarrels and raids have practically ceased within the last five years, a fact which is entirely due to British influence.

The Somális love display, and do honour to their own sultans[3] by the performance of a ceremony called the dibáltig. When this function is to be gone through a body of horsemen is collected, and line having been formed, the tribal minstrel or gérára sings, while sitting in the saddle, long extempore songs in praise of the sultan and the tribe, the most atrocious flattery being the leading feature of the song. At every great hit scored by the minstrel the song rises to a shriek, and all the horsemen turn and gallop away, returning and reining up in a dense mass, crying “Mót!” (Hail to thee). The men are generally dressed in the red khaili tobes, and the saddlery is covered with red tassels. Among the Esa tribe the dibáltig is represented by a dance on foot, with shield and spear. In this dance the warriors go through the performance of pretending to kill a man, crowding in a semicircle round him, and stabbing him again and again, all the while yelling “Kek-kek-kek! Kek-kek-kek!” as they gasp for breath. I have the authority of Captain Abud, the assistant Resident at Berbera, for stating that the dibáltig is never performed except on the election of a sultan or in honour of an English traveller, whom the people recognise as a representative of the paramount authority in the country. It may be performed in honour of Europeans other than English who visit the country, but only when they do so under the ægis of the British Government. Among Somális themselves it is the open recognition of the authority of a sultan, and notifies the acceptance of his rule by the sub-tribes or jilibs performing it. It may therefore be looked upon as a species of coronation ceremony. The word mót is the royal salute. The assistant Resident at Berbera had a case brought before him in which a part of the Eidegalla tribe had thrown off allegiance to Sultán Deria, and when Captain Abud’s intervention was successful, one of the terms proposed by the delinquents themselves was that they[16] would dibáltig before him as a recognition of their return to his control.

The influence of the Mussulman teaching is apparent in many of the predominating customs throughout the country. The Somális are as a rule clean and decent in their dress, and of course such a thing as a drunken Somáli in Somáliland is practically unknown. I have seen a man dangerously ill with snake-bite, and believed to be dying, refuse brandy when offered to him as a medicine, saying that he would rather die than take it.

In speaking of Somális I do not, of course, attempt to describe the Aden hack-carriage driver or boatman. These products of civilisation are not found in the interior of Somáliland; they are, to my mind, the only true Somáli savages. The Aden Somáli as a boy diving for silver coins in the harbour is a delightful little fellow, but when he grows up he becomes odious. As a cabman or boatman he sees too much of the weaknesses of Europeans, and as a result of the familiarity he loses his respect for them. To cite an instance of the familiarity which breeds contempt, Aden Somális have been known to call visitors from passing ships “damned fool passengers”! The real jungle Somáli from the African side of the Gulf never quite gets used to Aden life. After having made his money there, he returns to his own country to invest his savings in cows, camels, and sheep, and a wife or two to tend them. He lives the old pastoral life, and soon shakes off every trace of his sojourn among the white men. Give him a fine house in Aden, and he will build a round gurgi of mats and skins inside it.

In the far interior I have more than once met a horseman, looking quite like a jungle Somáli, tricked out in all the finery of a mounted warrior, yet whose salutation has been “Good morning, sir,” in excellent English, and I have found that he has been to Marseilles and London, having done his spell as a fireman on a steamer; and he has come back at last to his country, disgusted with civilisation, and worse in many ways than when he started on his travels. With such a man the jungle Somáli will often refuse to eat, saying he is no longer a clean Mussulman, that he is a Frinji, and must eat alone.


Whatever faults a Somáli may have, lack of intelligence, and what, for want of an English word, may be called savoir faire, are not among them. His bringing up, in a country where every man has his spears ready to hand to answer an insult on the moment, tends to make him keep his temper and maintain a diplomatic calm. Once that calm is broken through, however, he becomes a veritable madman. From laughter to rage is the transition of a second. Luckily he keeps his infrequent tantrums for black men. The rich white man is a privileged person, being allowed the eccentricity which may be excused in the great. If a white man, in pyjamas and slippers, unfortunately loses his temper, and kicks a lazy Somáli all round his zeríba for breach of contract, the latter sulks for a time, but soon gives way before the ridiculous; yet he will permit no Somáli to insult him.

There is no written Somáli language, so only a few mullahs who are learned in Arabic can read the Koran. The bulk of the people who cannot read are more prejudiced than the mullahs, wishing to be on the safe side, and having all sorts of complicated rules which mullahs know to be unnecessary. For a long time we could not get our men to eat game which had had the throat cut low down, although the customary bismillah had been said as the knife was drawn. On going to Hargeisa I appealed to Sheikh Mattar and his mullahs, who explained to them that they might eat the flesh of game bled in this way, and after the sheikh’s decision we never had any trouble on this point. It is an important one, for a gash in the skin from ear to ear is very unsightly in a valuable trophy when set up in England.

The fastidiousness of Somális varies according to circumstances. They say all game is dry, and will not generally eat birds or fish, and they will despise all other food if there is a fat sheep to be procured. Not eating birds, their ignorance about them is extraordinary, and I believe very few varieties have distinctive names.

The life of a Somáli includes many interesting observances, which unfold themselves day by day in the course of a journey. Some are very regular in their prayers and prostrations at the orthodox hours, praying for all they are worth, in season or out[18] of it; others seldom or never pray. When on the Gálla frontier, however, I noticed that every one of my followers, in view of approaching death, became very devout, and mustered in great force in line for the daily church parade at sunset, no one being absent; and all day on the frontier the Somáli looks for a prowling enemy under every bush, fingering his tusba or chaplet to keep away evil.[4]

When the new moon appears he plucks a tussock of grass and holds it in flattering compliment between the slender crescent and his eyes, to keep them from being dazzled by the light. If he sees a tortoise he stands upon it, first casting off his sandals, believing, I think, that the soles of his feet will thereby be hardened; but whatever the motive may be, the act is very commonly practised.

One of the chief faults of the Somáli is carelessness. When a caravan moves off in the early morning there is generally a forgotten camel or straying sheep to be hunted for, which has perhaps wandered miles away into the bush. The men who have not to lead camels linger round the camp-fires warming their spears, thereby storing up heat for ten minutes longer to comfort their hands on their cold morning march. There is a great deal of shouting to the stragglers to bring along things which have been left behind. On our Abyssinian frontier reconnaissance our men temporarily lost, at different times, our goats, three Arab riding camels, the horse, a flock of sheep, and one or two baggage camels, besides two boxes of Martini-Henry ammunition. The man who loses or forgets a thing generally remembers the omission after travelling about fifteen miles, and he then cheerfully trots back to get it, returning perhaps at noon next day. He is philosophical as to results, for if he loses your property, is it not his fate? and no man can fight with fate or with the will of Allah! He has lost your property, and there is an end of it.[5]


Although I have made many jungle trips in India and elsewhere, yet in no country have I had such obedient and cheerful followers and such pleasant native companions, despite their faults, as in Somáliland. In my earlier and later trips I have often been from one to four months in the interior with no other companion than the Somális; and I cannot say there has been a dull moment.

Captain H. M. Abud, who has for some years lived in, and had the immediate administration of Berbera and Bulhár, and the greater part of the Somáli coast protectorate, and who is doubtless the best authority on the intricate intertribal relations of the Somális, has very kindly furnished me with a few notes on what he knows about their early history. He says: “The real origin of the Somális is wrapped in mystery. They themselves say that they are descended from ‘noble Arabs,’ who, having had occasion to fly from their own country, landed on the Somáli coast and intermarried with the aboriginal inhabitants, many of whose descendants still exist, though they now mingle with the Somális.

“The Somális, although none of them, except a few mullahs, can write, know their genealogical descent by heart, and, although the custom is beginning to die out, nearly every youngster is made to learn the names of his forefathers in their order. Out of at least a thousand elders examined by me while working at the genealogy of the tribes, none could trace their descent further than twenty or twenty-two generations; and if this number is correct the dawn of the Somáli nation would be placed about twelve or thirteen hundred years ago, nearly coinciding with the rise of Mahomed, on whose account the Arabs were obliged to fly from Mecca. This coincidence in time is so much in favour of the Somáli claim; but, on the other hand, it is difficult to believe that ‘noble Arabs’ would knowingly give their children the barbarous names some of them have. In any case we must seek away from the true African races for the origin of the Somáli, for he bears no trace of the negroid type. It is supposed by some, from a resemblance, fancied or real, in the languages, that the Somális may be allied to the races of Hindustan. So far, however, the subject has not been thoroughly worked out, and for all practical purposes the[20] descent from ‘noble Arabs’ may be assumed as a convenient starting-point.

“The two great tribal groups of the Somáli nation are named Ishák and Dárud from their supposed progenitors, Sheikh Ishák bin Ahmed and Sheikh Jaberti bin Ismail, whose son Dárud is said to have been. The Habr Awal, Habr Gerhajis, and Habr Toljaala tribes, with whom we have most dealings in Berbera, belong to the Ishák group; and the Ogádén, Bertiri, Abbasgúl, Géri, Dolbahanta, Warsingali, Midjerten, Usbeyan, and Marehán belong to the Dárud group. The descent of the Esa and Gadabursi tribes is unknown, but it is more than probable that they are offshoots of a great tribe called Rer Afi.

“The tribal collective prefixes Rer, Habr, Ba, and Ba Habr are often met with. The Somális are a nomad race, and the tribes wander about, each in an orbit of its own, in search of pasture for its flocks and herds. A wealthy Somáli surrounds his huts, cattle, sheep, and camels by a zeríba of brushwood, and one of these, with the contents, is called a rer, being the kraal or temporary village. It will easily be understood, therefore, that all the descendants of a man called, say, Ibrahim, may be called the ‘Rer’ Ibrahim after him.[6]

“Every Somáli, being a Shafai Mussulman, can have four wives at a time, and it is each man’s object to have as many children as possible, to increase his own power and that of his tribe. Plurality of wives being allowed, the children of one wife must be distinguished from those of another. This is done by the prefix Ba. For an example of this, we have the case of the Rer Dahir Farah sub-tribe of the Habr Toljaala. The children by an Ibran woman were called the Ba Ibran; those by a Habr Awal woman were called the Ba Awal, and those by a woman named Gailoh, the Ba Gailoh.

“There are comparatively few names used among the Somális, the changes being rung on different combinations of Mahomed, Ali, Hassan, Esa, Samanter, Ismail, Gadíd, and others, many of which are names used in every Mussulman country. Owing[21] to this scarcity of names, and to the vast number of people consequently named alike, the use of nicknames is very prevalent. A Somáli will, as often as not, when asked his name, tell you his nickname, and I have known many a man at a loss when asked his real name. For instance, the descendants of Daud Gerhajis are called the Eidegalla, meaning ‘he who rolls in the mud,’ while those of Said Harti are known by his nickname, and are called the Dolbahanta tribe.

“Somáli children are, as often as not, named after the circumstances of their birth, unless they receive ordinary Mussulman names: for instance, Wa-berri means that the man bearing this name was born in the morning, from berri, morning. Similarly, the bearers of the name Gédi, ‘a march,’ were born while the rer or kraal was shifting to another pasture. Gadíd denotes a man born at noon, and Róbleh, from rób, rain, a man born in wet weather. Descriptive nicknames are suggested by some personal peculiarities, as Afhakam, Afweina, ‘big mouth,’ Daga-yéra, ‘small ears.’ Even Europeans do not escape, and such names as Gadweina, ‘big beard,’ Gudani, ‘small stomach,’ Madah weina, ‘big head,’ have been bestowed on English officers without any disrespect being intended; and the bearers of these nicknames are known by them, especially when Somális are speaking among themselves.

“The usual divisions among Somális are the tribe, the sub-tribe, the clan, and the jilib or family. Thus the chief of the Eidegalla, Sultán Deria, would describe himself as Habr Gerhajis (tribe), Eidegalla (sub-tribe), Rer Mattan (clan), Rer Guléd (family). If further asked he would describe himself as one of the Ba Ambaro, or sons of Ambaro. In the event of a man having a large number of sons, he is entitled to call himself a separate family; for instance, Shirmáki Adan, a man still living and still procreating, has already twenty-three sons and twenty-nine daughters, and these are now called the Rer Shirmáki Adan. A weak clan is likely to be looted and absorbed by a stronger, and thus the weaker clans join together for protection. When whole families so unite the members combine under the name ‘Gáshánbúr,’ or ‘brothers of the shield.’ Somális have no surnames in the English sense, and when a distinction is to[22] be made, the name of the man’s father is added to his own. Thus the son of Shiré Shirmáki is Deria Shiré, and he again might have a son called Hussein Deria.”

Without myself having gone so deeply as Captain Abud into evidence on historical questions, I have been led, in a long intercourse with the natives at the camp-fire and on the march, to draw my own conclusions on certain points.[7] From ruins, cairns, and graves which have been pointed out to me to be of Gálla origin, I have been led to believe that before the Arab immigrations what is now called Somáliland, even to the northern coast, was owned by the Gállas. The immigrant Arabs and their followers with “friendlies” on the spot, becoming strong, began to seize the coast, driving the original Gállas inland towards the parts of their country which lie round Harar and beyond the Webbe. On the frontier between the Somális and Gállas there are periodical raids still in active progress from one side or the other. These raids were occurring at Karanleh on the Webbe when I went there in 1893, and put me to much inconvenience; and in 1889, when I visited a mission station called Golbánti on the Tana River, not far from Lamu on the east coast, I found a Somáli encroachment taking place.

The Gállas at this place a few years before my visit numbered between one and two thousand souls, rich in cattle, but latterly they had been annually raided by the Masai from the south and the Somális from the north, till the village of Golbánti had dwindled down to about one hundred and fifty inhabitants, and it had been only kept going by the exertions of, and protection afforded by the representative of the United Methodist Mission who was stationed there. Three years before my visit the former missionary and his wife, an English lady, had been murdered there by the Masai, and less than two years later the German station of Ngai, a few miles up-stream, had been burnt by a party of over a thousand Somális, who came to within a short distance of Golbánti, but were unprepared to attack the fine stockade[23] and house which had been built by the missionaries, the upper verandah having been thoughtfully lined with a few rifles.[8] The German missionaries from Ngai had taken refuge in the Golbánti house, and saw the flare of their own mission burning a few miles away. The Gállas at Golbánti said they feared the Somális even more than the Masai, as the former being good swimmers, the Tana River was no obstacle to them.

The southern Somáli tribes are very bold, and are said to raid cattle from the Gállas and take them to the mixed Gálla and Arab town of Lámu, on the east coast, to sell them again. As they have horsemen, they are said to be able to cope with the Masai, whom they sometimes meet when both are raiding the Gállas near the Tana. I saw a few of the southern Somális walking about Lámu. They appear to be rougher, more savage, and finer men than the northern Somális.

The Gállas of Golbánti were well-featured men, very quiet in manners, brown in colour, with thin lips, and slightly built.[9] The Somális are very like them, but rather bigger and better built, and the only difference that I could observe was that there appeared to be some Arab blood in the Somális. The little I saw of the nomad Gállas at Imé and Karanleh on the Webbe tended to strengthen me in the belief that the Somális are Gállas with a very slight strain of Arab in their blood. The Somális themselves, of course, deny this, and claim their descent to be from the higher race. The Gállas and Somális, though such bitter enemies, are much alike, and both are utterly different from the negritic and mongrel Swahili races to the south.

On the Tana I found a river population called the Wapokómo, negroes of fine physique, lorded over and held in bondage by the warlike Gállas; and on the Webbe Shabéleh a river race called the Adone, who were also negroes, were working in the fields and punting rafts on the river for their masters, the Somális.

My theory is that the Gállas seem to be wedged in between[24] the continually advancing Somális from the north and the Masai from the south, the apex of the wedge being somewhere near the Tana mouth, and the base at the sources of the Juba. The effect of this pressure is perhaps driving the Tana Gállas up the river, to the country where they are more numerous and can hold their own.

Monseigneur Taurin Cahaigne of Harar, who probably knows as much as any man living about the Gállas, hinted, so far as I can remember, that the origin of the Gálla nation was probably near the mouth of the Tana, and that they spread northward and westward from there.

The tribe occupying the coast round Zeila is the Esa, and those about Bulhár and Berbera are the Habr Awal, and farther east Habr Toljaala. The nearest inland tribe to Zeila is the Gadabursi, and those on the Berbera side are the Habr Gerhajis and Dolbahanta. The six above named are the tribes with which the British authorities have most directly to deal. Of these the most capable in war is probably the Esa. The Gadabursi and Habr Awal fear them, and it is only because the former tribes are mounted and the latter have no horses that the balance of power is maintained. The Esa are chaffed by the Ishák tribes for being uncouth and barbarous. The men go about dressed in a simple short cloth round the loins, while eastern Somális generally wrap themselves in a full tobe. The Esa women do not necessarily cover up the breast, while among the Ishák tribes all but the oldest and most destitute are well dressed from head to foot. In no tribe that I have seen do the Somáli women cover the face.

The Gadabursi tribe is rich in ponies of a poor stamp. The Jibril Abokr sub-tribe of the Habr Awal is, I think, the best mounted among the tribes named, and the Dolbahanta also have enormous numbers of good ponies, and are wild and addicted to raiding on a very large scale.

It is certain that Somáliland has at different times been occupied by highly-organised races, whose habits of life have been quite different from those of the present nomadic tribes. Widely distributed over the country are traces of permanent settlements, many of them probably of great antiquity. Some appear so ancient that they might belong to any time, of which[25] all record has been lost. Many of these ruins are traced to Mussulman occupations by the Arabs from Yemen, some hundreds of years back, but other older remains are assigned by tradition to a people who were “before the Gállas.” There are no writings, and many of the remains are scarcely recognisable as being of human origin. Sometimes blocks of dressed stone are found lying in a rectangular pattern on the ground, overgrown and half buried by grass and jungle; a series of parallel revetment walls on a hill overlooking a pass is occasionally to be met with, and frequently one may observe the scanty evidences of an ancient tank to catch rain-water. It is possible to travel for weeks in Somáliland without coming on these remains; they are met with by chance, and it seldom occurs to the natives to think of pointing them out to travellers.

Near the mullah village of Guldu Hamed, at Upper Sheikh, are the remains of a very large ruined town, and close by there is a graveyard containing some five thousand graves. I believe these remains are not very ancient, but are traced to early Mussulman settlements from Yemen. West of Hargeisa is an old fort of considerable size, crowning the detached hill called Yoghol. In the Gadabursi country there is the ancient ruined town of Aubóba, and at the head of the Gáwa Pass, on a hill to the west, and about four hundred feet above it, are some massive ancient ruins, which must have once been a fort, commanding the pass. They are called Samawé, from the name of a sheikh whose tomb crowns the ruins. The hill-top is surrounded by parallel retaining walls built of dressed stone, rising in steps from the bottom. In some places the walls were six or eight feet high, and there were remains of extensive ancient buildings filling the enclosure. Surmounting the whole in the centre was the ruin of a building of cut stone, which appeared to be the sheikh’s tomb.

The position of the Samawé ruins would favour a supposition that some power holding Harar, and having its northern boundary along the hills which wall in the southern side of the Harrawa valley, had built the fort to command the Gáwa Pass, which is one of the great routes from the Gadabursi country up on to the Marar Prairie. On the other hand, the fort may[26] have been built by a power holding the coast, to close the pass on the Harar side.

Within half a mile of the Samawé tomb, on the sloping ground to the south, we found a curious stone enclosure, half buried in jungle. It was in the form of a rectangle measuring fifty-seven yards by fifty-eight yards, marked by long rows of dressed stones, each about nine inches by a foot, lying loosely on the ground. Some of these were blocks of limestone, and some apparently basalt.

Near Hug, in the mountainous Jibril Abokr country, my brother found many signs of old “Gálla” habitations and graves, and some well-made pathways down the hillsides. His followers told him that the hills having in the olden time been used as places of refuge by the Gállas, these roads were made to enable the cattle to be quickly driven up in case of alarm—the custom being for a part of the clan to camp on the top of a hill, in order to hold it, while the rest looked after the flocks and herds grazing below. He was told that the Gállas on the Abyssinian border, and the Abyssinians themselves, still do this.

All over the territory of the Ishák tribes, and in the Dolbahanta country, we found many old Gálla graves and cairns. At Kirrit there is a well in which a very ancient cross has been carved in the face of the rock. Crowning nearly every prominent hill in the countries named is a cairn or pile of stones, each stone being, roughly speaking, about the size of a man’s head. They are made up of many hundreds of such stones, and are generally about twelve or fifteen feet high and eight yards in diameter. Each one is circular, having in the centre a depression, suggesting that there may have been a tomb beneath, which has fallen in. I never cared to dig one up, not wishing to offend the susceptibilities of the natives. Some of them are of immense size, and are called Taalla Gálla or Gálla cairns.

There is a curious legend accounting for the origin of these cairns, which was told me by one of the Esa Musa tribe, while I was camped on the Golis Range, and by others of the Habr Awal at different times.

The drift of his story was that when the Gállas were in the country there once lived a great and powerful queen, called[27] Arroweilo. She was very wicked, and was the origin of all evil in women at the present day. For some reason she conceived a ferocious prejudice against all male children, and a mother, to escape from her tyrannies, fled into a far country with her baby boy. As years went on this son grew, and when he had become a man he returned into Arroweilo’s country armed with a sword. He attacked Arroweilo in a lonely pass, and hacking her to pieces, tied her remains on a camel, and sent it off with a parting cut. The camel trotted in mad career all over the country, and wherever a piece of Arroweilo fell, the pious native, as he passed, said a prayer and threw a stone “to keep her down.” The chief use of these cairns now is to form cover for robbers when watching for caravans; and my brother and I found they made very recognisable points when seen through the telescope of a theodolite.

At Badwein (i.e. “Big Tank”) in the Dolbahanta country, one hundred and fifty miles, as the crow flies, from Berbera, we found a tank forty feet deep and a hundred and twenty yards in diameter, evidently excavated by human labour. Near it was a temple or large house with walls still standing at a height of ten feet, and the space enclosed was so large that a party of horsemen could ride into it.

The Dolbahanta told us that before the Gállas a race of men occupied the country who could read and write. Unfortunately none of their literary work was visible, as we examined many remains for inscriptions, but found none. One man, for a small fee, took us four miles out of our way to read an inscription, but the result was not promising, for we only found on a tombstone some scratches, perhaps twenty years old, evidently made by an idle sheep boy. All these discoveries of ancient remains go to prove that the elevated parts of Somáliland (not semi-desert Guban) have once been capable of permanent settlement under a more secure form of society than at present exists.

The deserted village of Dagahbúr in Ogádén is an example which shows how settlement and cultivation have been successfully begun, and abandoned because of the insecurity resulting from intertribal feuds. At Dagahbúr there were formerly many square miles of jowári cultivation, which have been[28] abandoned within the last few years, and now there is only left an immense area of stubble and the ruins of the village. Dagahbúr used to be a thriving settlement of one thousand five hundred inhabitants, with trade caravans plying regularly across the Haud to Hargeisa and Berbera; and now not a hut is left.

The fact is, that although the natural conditions are suitable to the settlement of large tracts of country, and though many of the people are willing enough to engage in cultivation, yet the tribes and sub-tribes are so incessantly at feud, that the religious mullahs or widads, who enjoy a certain immunity from raids, alone dare settle down and cultivate; and now that many of the old wells and tanks have fallen into disuse and ruin, the water-supply could only be restored by a great expenditure of capital, for which there would perhaps be no adequate return for some generations.


Somáli Scouts halting in a Sandy River-Bed to look for Water.

From a Photograph by Prince Boris Czetwertynski.


Varieties of camels—Somáli camel willing and gentle—Method of loading camels—On the march—Weight of loads—Marching hours—Scourges, gadflies, ticks, and leeches—Firing camels—Sore back—Camel food—Grazing customs—Breeding habits of Somáli camels—The milk-supply of she-camels—Description of Somáli ponies—Fodder—Ticks—Donkeys—Their usefulness in Somáliland—Cattle—Cow’s milk—Ghee—Hides exported to America—Sheep and goats—Powers of subsisting without water—Camel-meat and mutton the favourite meal of Somális—The annual movements of trading caravans governed by seasons—Duration of seasons—Great heat—Movements of the nomad tribes—Caravan marauders—Tribal fights—Gangs of highway robbers—Methods of the raiders—English scheme of protection popular—Trade greatly injured through insecurity of routes—A peculiarity of the Somáli guide—Mysterious strangers—Remarkable faculties of adaptability in the Somáli—Baneful effect of civilisation.

There appear to be two distinct varieties of camel in Somáliland,—the Gel Ad, or white variety, sold mostly on the Berbera[30] side, and the Ayyun or dark Dankali one, which is common on the Zeila side. Both have the single hump. The Esa themselves admit the superiority of the Berbera camel, and offer a higher price for it. There are certain camels fattened for the butcher, which are never used for carrying loads. They can be recognised by their hairiness and the great development of the hump, but they are not, I believe, a distinct variety. Somális know their animals individually by name. A fine large camel may often be christened “Maródi” (the elephant); another, noted for its pace, is sometimes flatteringly called “Faras” (the horse).

The Somáli camels, as contrasted with those of India, are willing and gentle; and although whilst being laden they will generally complain, and make feints at biting, yet I have seldom known them injure any one. In moving about the camp at night one has often to pass among them as they kneel in rows, sometimes stepping over them, or stooping under their outstretched necks, but I have never had experience of a vicious camel in Somáliland. Even when undergoing firing operations they rarely bite, although the head is left free. This accommodating disposition I attribute greatly to the manner in which they are treated by the natives, who, though rather cruel to their ponies, will never ill-use a camel. Many Somális are utterly ignorant of loading, this work being done largely by the women. When a camel is intractable it is generally through ignorant handling. The Somális talk and sing to their animals when loading and unloading, and whistle while they are drinking, some of these songs used upon such occasions being of very ancient origin. During loading the camels are made to kneel, and the head-rope is passed round the knees and made fast there.

When marching with loads they need to be watered every fifth day, though upon emergency we have often worked them for ten days without distress. While on the march they are tied head to tail, as in Northern India. In rocky places, where the caravan animals are liable to stumbles and sudden stops, the tail is sometimes torn off.

The usual load is not less than about two hundred and seventy-five pounds, exclusive of mats, but it varies according to the nature of the load. Dates are bad to carry, being compact and heavy in proportion to their size, and the date load is generally[31] two gosra, or two hundred and fifty pounds. European baggage comes under the same category. The marching hours are from about 4 A.M. to 9 A.M., and from 1 to 5 P.M. The camels are allowed to graze during the midday heat, and for half an hour before sunset. It takes three-quarters of an hour to load up, from the time of rounding in the grazing camels to the start off, and unloading takes about fifteen minutes. In stating these particulars I am giving our own average with complicated boxes, tents, loads of trophies, and so forth, a Somáli caravan taking probably less time. The usual rate of marching is from two and a quarter to two and three-quarter miles an hour, not counting short halts to adjust loads. The fastest rate, for a short distance, which I have tested has been three and a quarter miles an hour. The loaded Somáli camel will not trot as a rule, though sometimes the Midgáns train them to do so, leading them by a string.

Camels are always delicate, and I have considered myself lucky when I have not lost more than five per cent of my camels on a three months’ expedition. In Ogádén the Balaad, or small gadfly, is a terrible scourge to them, and, to a lesser extent, so is the large gadfly, or Dúg; they are also infested with ticks, which swell to the size of a date-stone, and are seen clinging round the eyelids. In drinking the camels often take in small leeches, which fix themselves to the root of the tongue, growing to a great size and filling the mouth with blood.

Should a camel show stiffness, he is at once fired, either by raising small blisters with a red-hot ramrod or spear, or by striping with hoops of red-hot iron. Open sores have glowing stones strapped over them, followed by an application of moist camel-dung; and when off his feed, he is dosed with melted sheep’s tail. Thorns are excised from the foot with the biláwa or dagger, and the spike—often two inches long—having been extracted, camel-dung is applied, and as a general rule the cut soon heals.

A great cause of sickness is a sore back, brought on by the chafing of a load. The worst place is in front of the hump. A camel when let out to browse is likely to bite such a sore until it festers and becomes full of maggots. There is a fly which is on the look-out for these sores, and instead of laying eggs deposits lively maggots, which crawl about briskly directly[32] they leave the body of the fly. A red-beaked bird, very common in Ogádén,[10] then attacks the sore, plunging its sharp beak again and again into the hole, picking out the maggots and decayed mass, and even the good flesh, until there is a cavity into which a man’s clenched fist may be thrust. When in this condition it should always have a strip of calico, steeped in carbolic solution, tied over the wound when sent out to graze, to protect it from the birds, a dozen of which can be often seen clinging flat to its shoulders, giving out at intervals their long-drawn, discordant, shrill note.

The Somáli camel does not require grain, but thrives entirely on whatever it can pick up by the way. Except at certain seasons in Guban, the coast country, there is always an abundance of food for them everywhere, in the unlimited expanse of grass and acacia forest, as they feed and thrive on many grasses that ponies will not touch. When grazing, or browsing on the leaves of the mimosa jungles, they roam about in enormous droves, attended by a few men and women. In Ogádén and the Dolbahanta country I have seen driven past a succession of herds, each containing over a thousand camels, as they were taken to pasture in the mornings or back to the karias at night. They often have to graze at a distance of six miles or so from home, for, as the food near the karias is eaten up, they are driven farther out daily, and after a month or two the mat huts themselves are packed up and the tribe marches on, perhaps ten miles, to a fresh pasturage. Horsemen are constantly scouring the surrounding country to watch the next tribe, or to bring early news of a pasture having received heavy rain.

Camels can be much more quickly rounded up and driven to the home karia than cattle or flocks, so they are trusted much farther afield, and the number of camels sometimes seen is astonishing, the whole horizon being covered with them. When camped at Gagáb by the Milmil river-bed we daily saw between ten thousand and thirty thousand driven to water past our tents, belonging chiefly to the Rer Ali tribe. In Ogádén even an outcaste Midgán will sometimes own three or four hundred, and the only limit to their numbers is the capability of their owners to water and protect them. When a tribe[33] becomes rich every man’s eye is covetously turned to this accumulation of camels, and it is not long before attempts are made to raid them in a mass. We were told of instances in the Dolbahanta country where ten thousand had been looted at one swoop. When unladen they can be driven at great speed, and as the raiders are nearly always on horseback, the attack is very sudden.

When grazing, in dry weather, they are watered every six days or so, but when men are lazy, or animals very numerous, much longer periods are allowed to elapse. When rain has fallen, and the grass is green, camels, sheep, and goats are sometimes not watered for three months. We often found tens of thousands of camels and sheep grazing at least forty miles from water. The men and horses attendant on them live almost entirely on camel’s milk, a little water being carried over these great distances for the women and children.

Mobs of camels are generally led by an old one of immense size, a large wooden bell (kor) being hung round his neck to indicate the position of the mob after dusk. When returning from a good pasture, they show the exuberance of their spirits by cantering and kicking their heels in the air. A man running at best pace can with difficulty overtake one which is bent on avoiding him, and for a greater distance than two hundred yards the man is nowhere. They may often be seen scampering about the sands at Berbera, the men following them for hours trying to catch them.

According to the Somális, camels have a young one every second year, generally in the Gu or monsoon. They begin to foal when three years old; the foal—black, tawny-yellow, or white as a well-washed sheep—soon gets on its legs, and in a few days can scamper about. They are called Gódir, Gel-Ass, or Gel-Ad, according as they are born black, reddish yellow, or white, and they retain these shades through life. Yearlings, older camels, and she-camels with their young are kept in distinct mobs. The Somális object to the firing of a gun near, or otherwise startling the she-camels when about to foal, as they gallop away in panic, injuring stock. A she-camel, besides nourishing her foal, will daily give milk for two men who have no other food, and in the event of more being[34] required, the young one is killed, and the skin removed, and whenever the mother is milked its skin is rubbed against her nostrils. She becomes quite tractable, and will follow the man who carries the skin. If the foal is allowed to live, as soon as it can browse the udders of the mother are tied with bits of string, and the milk reserved for human beings.

Somáli ponies average about thirteen hands and a half, and are bred by every tribe except the Esa and Géri. Of the tribes I have met on different expeditions, those having the most ponies are the Dolbahanta, the Rer Ali, the Rer Amáden, the Habr Gerhajis, and the Jibril Abokr sub-tribe of the Habr Awal. In the Nogal country we saw enormous numbers, one man sometimes owning one hundred and fifty. The Somáli pony carries a light weight splendidly; his feet are harder than even those of an Arab horse, and, indeed, unless well shod the latter would make poor work on the rocky ground over which the Somáli animal, which is never shod, will gallop at full speed. He is handy among bushes, and will go for three days, or even longer, without water, eats nothing but grass, and requires no care. I have never seen a Somáli pony covered up or groomed; it is exposed to all weathers, and is usually infested with ticks. The Kud-kudaha is a tick about half an inch in diameter, with a tortoise-shell back, its bite being venomous and drawing blood. Ponies are bred solely for intertribal fighting, the mares being considered the best.

Sir Richard Burton, in his First Footsteps in East Africa, gives an admirable description of the Somáli pony and his rider, not very flattering to either. But he could not have seen the best stamp of pony among the Gadabursi, and we have noticed that the tribes farther to the east were not so cruel as the Gadabursi, a man often dismounting and walking to save his animal.

The few ponies which are kept in waterless tracts, as a guard for the grazing camels, receive each a daily allowance of the milk of two camels mixed with a quart of water, the latter being brought from great distances. They are never used as pack animals, being too valuable in the eyes of the Somáli to be degraded by doing donkey’s work. Mules are sometimes[35] used on the Zeila-Harar road, but are found nowhere else in Somáliland, to my knowledge.

We tried the best Somáli ponies ridden by their owners against an ordinary 14.1 “Gulf Arab” which I imported from Bombay, and which was ridden by my brother. The Somáli invariably jumped off with a good start, keeping it for about one hundred and fifty yards, and then dropping hopelessly behind when once the advantage of the start was lost.

Donkeys are not much used for transport except on the Zeila-Harar roads, where the nature of the country is stony. They are largely employed in taking salt and rice from Zeila to Harar, a bag of rice weighing one hundred and seventy pounds, or half a camel load, being carried by each. Only women ride donkeys, the Somáli man considering it beneath his dignity to do so.

When surveying in 1886, with a small escort of Bombay Infantry sepoys, I provided each man with a donkey, either to ride or to carry his valise and water-bottle on, according to inclination. There were twelve men so mounted, and the experiment proved a great success. The donkeys were driven herded together by two little boys. The escort was composed partly of these men and partly of Hindustáni policemen mounted on ponies, carrying carbines in saddle-buckets. In my later journeys, however, finding that the natives of Hindustán, being used to plenty of water, were at a great disadvantage when crossing waterless tracts, I formed the escort purely of well-drilled Somális, and this arrangement proved less expensive and better adapted to the requirements of the country.

Cattle are kept chiefly by the tribes inhabiting hilly country where water is plentiful, and by the mullahs in their settlements. Cow’s milk is generally tainted by the smoked vessels in which it is kept, and to obtain good milk it is necessary to see the cow milked. Ghee, or clarified butter (subug), is prepared from the cow’s milk which is left after the people have drunk their fill, and this ghee is sent down for sale to Berbera, where the coast people, who live chiefly on rice, consume a great quantity. Somális need fat or butter, and when not eating mutton or camel’s flesh, or drinking large quantities of milk, they insist[36] upon a plentiful allowance of ghee to mix with their rice. The cattle from the interior are largely exported to Aden for the supply of the garrison, and vast quantities of hides are annually exported to America. It is possible that the Aden supply has been affected of late years by the great drain caused by the Abyssinian foraging expeditions into Ogádén.

Sheep and goats constitute the ordinary Somáli meat food. Camel meat is preferred, but it is considered a luxury, and cattle are seldom killed. The common sheep are of the black-headed variety (dumba), with fat tails, and they are seen whitening the hillsides wherever tribes are encamped. In the rains they get very fat, their tails becoming flabby masses. At this season the Bur Dab raider hurries back to his family, to luxuriate on the delicious meat. Sheep are given as presents to caravans, and, like fruit in India, “they represent in the bountiful East the visiting cards of the meagre West.” In many places a chief is not supposed to be officially aware of a stranger’s presence till he has received his gift of a sheep or two, or a piece of cloth. Sheep and goats can ordinarily go a week without water, but when grass is green they require none. We saw thousands of sheep grazing in the Haud pastures, forty miles away from water, and we were told they would remain there for three months.

Somáli sheep have no wool to speak of, and are never sheared. A few goats are herded with every flock of sheep, and the goats, being by far the more intelligent animals, take the lead when the flock is moving. The shepherd walks in front, calling to the goats, and they are followed by the sheep. Sheep are imported in large numbers to Aden. In 1891 there were sixty-eight thousand exported chiefly to feed the garrison. Amongst the tribes quantities of sheep are killed daily, and devoured at the evening meal in the karias, with singing and dancing. Mutton only ranks second to camel meat as the favourite food of a Somáli.

The annual movements of the trading caravans and the nomad tribes of Somáliland depend, of course, on the seasons. Roughly the duration of the seasons is as follows:—

(1) Jilál—January to April—the driest season; great heat.


(2) Gu—May, June—the heavier rains (little felt on the coast).

(3) Haga—July, August, September—the hot weather. The karíf wind, or south-west monsoon, blows furiously. It is hot in Guban, with sand-storms, but cold on the Haud and other parts of the high interior.

(4) Dair—October, November, December—the lighter rains. Heavy on the coast.

(5) At the end of Jilál is a short season of greatest heat just before Gu, called Kalíl.

Of these seasons the Haga is the most unpleasant on the coast, the karíf, a strong south-west gale, sweeping along with great fury, blowing the dust and stones in the face of any caravan so unfortunate as to have to march against it, and making it impossible to keep a tent up. The wind generally commences at midnight and blows till 2 P.M. on the next day; the remainder of the twenty-four hours, from 2 P.M. till midnight, being a time of great heat, which is even more unpleasant than the wind, unless tempered by a slight north-east breeze, coming as a reaction after the fourteen hours’ gale. My usual plan was to make the longest marches in the mornings, in spite of the wind, and on halting, to camp under the shade of a tree till the wind should have stopped sufficiently for us to pitch tents. Then at night a bivouac was made by piling all the baggage and camel-mats into a steep wall, all of us sleeping under the lee of it in the open, by which means one could get a comfortable sleep till morning; but I never kept up a tent during the wind-storm.

At this season coast communication by dhow is very uncertain; dhows cannot beat against the karíf, but while sailing before it they make about eleven knots an hour. Dhows for Aden cannot leave the Berbera harbour during the Haga season until evening, when the lull occurs, and then they sail out to near the lighthouse, three miles west of the town, waiting till midnight to cross towards Aden; on getting thirty-five miles out to sea they are usually clear of the karíf. This wind seems to cease above the level of Guban, and above Gólis the heat of July is mitigated by cool south-west breezes which are not very violent. As one descends again to the Webbe[38] Shabéleh valley in the far interior, one comes into the karíf again; it is much worse at Bulhár, Berbera, and Karam than it is on the Zeila side.

In the Kalíl season, the intense heat just before the rains, I have registered 118° Fahrenheit under the shade of a double “Cabul” tent at midday, in my camp at Malgui in the maritime mountains. As we marched to the camp where this heat was registered, several of the men were bleeding from the nose, and on my asking them the reason, they said cheerfully, “Oh! Allah makes our noses bleed to cool our heads.” The Somális do not wear anything on their heads, and the close-shaven skulls of the older men are entirely exposed to the hot sun.

Caravans coming down from a distance of ten or twelve days’ march—that is, from Milmil or from this side of Gerlogubi—generally make two trips to the coast each year. For the first trip they come down from the interior late in the Haga, or about September, leaving Berbera again for the interior in the Dair, about December. They then come on a second trip in Jilál, bringing down animals, hides, ivory, feathers, gum, and ghee; and return in Kalíl, taking up chiefly rice and cloth.

From distant parts of Ogádén, or the Webbe, caravans make one trip a year, coming down at the end of Haga and returning in Kalíl or the beginning of Gu. Many smaller caravans, coming from the nearer parts of the Haud and Ogo, and engaged in petty barter, make more than two journeys to and from Berbera. Those coming from Fáf in Ogádén make the journey in, say, fifteen days’ fast marching without halts. The gédi, or march, is usually from four to five hours, ten to twelve miles being covered. The start is made at 4 A.M., marching goes on till 9 A.M., the midday halt giving the camels time to feed till 1 P.M., when another march is made till about 5 P.M.[11]

Eastern tribes make longer marches than the Gadabursi[39] and Esa. The longest are made over waterless or uninhabited country, while in the inhabited tracts the caravan dawdles at every encampment. Our own men used to advise us to make one long march instead of two short ones, but we found it did not benefit the camels, the only saving being in trouble to the men, as the camp had to be formed once instead of twice.

In the hot weather on the Berbera maritime plain, the best time to march is at night, especially if there is a moon; the caravans swing along at a great pace in the cool of the night, especially if the paths are good and there is not too much jungle. Caravans leaving Berbera in the evening march throughout the night, reaching Laferug, thirty miles from Berbera, before halting.

At Berbera the camels are handed over, by arriving caravans, to the Esa Musa sub-tribe of the Habr Awal, or other nomadic people similarly situated, who tend them till such time as they shall be required for the return journey to the interior.

In Haga the Esa Musa and similar tribes are to be found at or near the base of Gólis Range, and in Dair they climb up this step into the Ogo country, which is vacated by the Habr Gerhajis tribe, who in their turn have retired far into the Haud, where the pastures are good at this season. In Jilál, the dry season, the Haud, having neither green grass nor surface pools, is uninhabitable, and the Habr Gerhajis being obliged to come north into their Ogo pastures and about Gólis Range, the Esa Musa are apparently pushed down into Guban and the maritime plain, which is their own country. In the Gu, or heavy rains, the best season for grass, the Esa Musa have only their own sheep and cattle to look after. They are then found in Ogo, the Habr Gerhajis being far out in the Haud, taking advantage of the green pasture.

All the nomads belonging to the coast tribes go into the Haud when there is green pasture and surface water, each tribe moving generally north and south, and keeping to its own strip of the plateau. Their best pastures are in the Haud, but they all have to leave in Jilál, and are then sure to be found north of the Haud edge. Sometimes the Habr Awal cross the Haud nearly to its southern edge, and at others the Ogádén come[40] northwards till about half-way across. In this way what may be called the “orbits” of tribes overlap. In the Gu, or rains, when the Habr Gerhajis are far away in the Haud, and competition at the coast is at its lowest ebb, the Esa Musa export their cattle and sheep to Aden. They have agents at Berbera, and as opportunities offer, batches of, say, ten oxen or two hundred sheep are brought down for export, marching by easy stages. Coming from Bur’o, eighty miles from the coast, cattle or sheep reach Berbera in four to six days, while caravans generally cover the distance in three days.

Overlooking the Berbera-Bulhár coast track, at a spot about twenty-four miles west of Berbera, is a low spur of bare sandstone hills, called Dabada Jiáleh, ending at a single jia thorn-tree, and it is known as a spot which has till a few years ago been used by Esa Musa marauders as a watching-place when on the look-out for Ayyal Ahmed or Ayyal Yunis caravans passing along the track. There are similar spots all over the country, known as watching-places, sometimes a sandy hillock, sometimes a “boss” of rock (dagah, the South African kopje); and many have descriptive names, such as “Dagaha Todoballa” (rock of the seven robbers), showing the use to which they have been put.

Annually when wandering in search of rain, tribes which are at feud are liable to meet where their orbits overlap, and so often is there a fight, and a few graves on the scene of action are left to mark the event. The country is further rendered unsafe by raiding and plundering parties which surprise caravans, and gangs of highway robbers, who do not disdain to attack small parties, or single men and women in charge of a camel or two.

In the Gu, when the coast tribes are in Ogo and Haud, and there are pools of surface water everywhere and green grass for the ponies, and the tribes, moreover, have all their numbers present, a great deal of petty warfare and raiding goes on. Large mounted bands of young men go out from the tribes and travel great distances in search of caravans, or of grazing flocks. When out on raid the cavalier ties a grass water-bottle to his saddle-bow, together with a quantity of sun-dried meat, and thus provided he will often cross seventy miles[41] of thorn forest to surprise his neighbour’s flocks and herds. The attack, made at dawn or in the afternoon, is arranged to take place suddenly, and it is timed when the male owners are scattered far and wide, sleeping in zeríbas or under the shade of trees, wrapped up in their tobes, and the flocks are only attended by boys and girls. The looted animals are hastily driven off, urged by gentle spear pricks, and the raiders return to their tribe to the musical strains of lowing cattle, bleating sheep, and screaming camels. If the enterprising horsemen are pursued in force the captured flocks are relinquished, but the camels, travelling faster, are clung to as long as possible, at the risk of a human life or two. A looted horse is a great prize, and the happy gainer will boast long and loudly of his deed.

In my several expeditions we were constantly crossing the tracks of these looting parties, which muster from thirty to four hundred mounted men. We actually fell in with a Dolbahanta troop, which was returning from an unsuccessful raid on the Habr Toljaala herds, having covered a journey of one hundred and forty miles.

Sometimes when resting at night the men sleep in line on the ground, the bridle of each pony being passed round the man’s wrist and the pony standing over him. In fighting order the troops are in single or double line, extended at an interval equal to the breadth of one pony.

The tribes near the northern coast most addicted to raiding appear to be the Jibril Abokr sub-tribe of the Habr Awal, the Mahamud Gerád Dolbahanta, and the Eidegalla, Habr Gerhajis. Late caravans, going into the interior in the beginning of Gu by the Mandeira route, are liable to be raided by the Jibril Abokr, parties of whom come from Arabsíyo, by Argán, to the low Assa Range, an extensive tract of broken country, and there wait for several days together on the chance of catching caravans on their way through the Murgo and Jeráto Passes. The time is chosen when the Esa Musa and Habr Gerhajis are absent in Ogo and Haud searching for pasture, and have left unoccupied the stretch of country below the passes. The marauders, hiding in broken ground and deep ravines, will subsist for a long time on stolen camels, picked up[42] here and there, until a sufficiently large caravan yields a rich harvest of camels and property, with which the robbers then decamp to their own country.

Caravans going from Berbera to Hargeisa, Milmil, and the south-west, fearful of danger, will go directly south by Sheikh, and thence round by Toyo Plain, to Hargeisa. The Sheikh Pass is also used by caravans fearing to go into the interior by the Gaha and other eastern passes, which are annually threatened by the Mahamud Gerád; but both the Sheikh and Jeráto Passes have been greatly improved, both in point of safety and practicability, by the British authorities within the last three or four years.

When water and grass are to be had for the horses, the Mahamud Gerád, Dolbahanta, and the coast section of the Habr Gerhajis organise strong mounted bands, which sweep through the Duss and Gaha Passes, and raid sometimes as far as Biyogóra and the Berbera maritime plain, carrying off everything they can steal, and retiring at once. They often make raids in the Waredad Plain above the Huguf Pass in the Habr Toljaala country, and few are the caravans which have the hardihood to come through this country by the Haliélo route. In fact, the Mahamud Gerád raids from the east, across the caravan routes to the Ogádén and Marehán countries, do immense harm to the Berbera trade.

In the Dolbahanta country we found many natives with hides piled in their karias ready to be taken to Berbera, but fearing to risk them on the road. One caravan took advantage of the protection afforded by our escort to pass through the disturbed Bur Dab district. That caravans have persisted in crossing the country at all in face of the dangers to which they have always been exposed, speaks well for the value of Berbera as a port, and for the trading enterprise of the Somális. The British system of furnishing armed “biladiers”[12] for the protection and at the expense of caravans has given great encouragement to trade.

Men of caravans on meeting in the jungle will halt to exchange the news, and with one’s own caravan it is difficult to make a guide pass his own karias. I have often been led five or[43] six miles out of my way because the guide’s karia lay in that direction. His ambition is to bring the caravan to his home, to show off his own importance to his relations, and to be able to play the host with a liberal distribution of his master’s presents. On the march our men have constantly shared their allowance of food with strangers who have been going our way, and we have sometimes been astonished, when loading up at dawn, to see half a dozen natives warming their spears over the dying embers of our watch-fires, who have turned up in the night from no one knows where. In many cases these are women, and being industrious, they save the men a good deal of work.

Somehow or other there is nearly always a woman or two in camp, generally young, pretty, and respectable, with the hair enclosed in the regulation dark blue bag, denoting that she is married. When I ask where she has sprung from I always hear, “Oh, one of Mahomed’s cousins,” or “Jáma’s sister.” Generally “Jáma’s sister” was going to a karia on ahead, to see about a stolen sheep. These relatives are always quiet, cheerful, and thrifty, eating little and doing the work of two men, besides inducing half a dozen youngsters to work harder at camel-loading to show off their muscles. They appear whenever we come to a karia, and disappear mysteriously at another farther on, just as passengers get into a train at one station and leave it at another. Often my men have told me that the new-comers were people who had been waiting to make a journey, but, fearing to do so till we came by, they had joined us for the sake of our protection, working for us in return.

Sometimes I have been standing over a fire in the cold wind an hour before dawn, waiting for the cook to bring me my cup of coffee, without which I never march, when a youth, whom I have never seen before, has put down his shield and spears on the grass, and going to my bedding, has brought my ulster, saying, “Oh, Sircal![13] here is your coat,” in the most natural way, as if I had paid him for a month.

It is wonderful how quickly these strangers worm themselves into one’s service. An unlicked cub of a karia dandy[44] comes up with shield and spear and joins your caravan. In a few days he has shown some special qualification, for tracking or camel-loading, for helping the cook, or carrying the theodolite. An accident deprives you of one of your men, and he receives the sick man’s rifle and cartridge belt, and is numbered among your escort. In a fortnight he has come to the front as one of your best men, and on the next expedition he may be head camelman, and perhaps on a third or fourth he may be interpreter and caravan leader. When he first joined you a year before he knew no language but Somáli and a little Arabic, but while in your service he has picked up a fair amount of Hindustáni. A few years later you meet him again as a merchant, who has in the interim accompanied half a dozen European sportsmen on shooting trips, and has now invested his savings in merchandise, trading with tribes which he would never have dared to visit except in the service of his white masters. Many a time have I wished that I could transform the complacent, shaven-headed, sleek-looking scoundrel back into the original unsophisticated cub with the well-oiled mop of hair who came into my camp two or three years before!


A Herd of Plateau Gazelles


Start from Berbera—The first koodoo—First herd of elephants seen; elephant bagged with a single shot—Fresh start with another caravan—Waller’s gazelle bagged—Mandeira; delightful headquarters—The Issutugan river—Herd of elephants found—Elephant hunt at Jalélo, and death of a large bull—Our night camp—Camp at Sobát—Elephants heard trumpeting at night—Interesting scene; a herd of sixty elephants—Two elephants bagged—Camp at Hembeweina; lions round camp—A herd of elephants in the Jalélo reeds—Long and unsuccessful hunt—Tusks stolen by a caravan—Lions roaring round the Hembeweina camp at night—Visit of Shiré Shirmáki and thirty horsemen—Interesting scene—A row in camp—News of a solitary bull at Eil-Danan—Exciting hunt; horsemen manœuvring a vicious elephant, and death of the bull—Return to Berbera.

In January 1887, after having previously made six exploring expeditions to the interior of Somáliland, I started upon my first sporting trip after big game, my caravan consisting of eight Somális with four camels. Marching thirty-five miles inland from Berbera, we pitched our first shooting camp at Hulkabóba, and the following day we ascended the Golis Range by the Sheikh Pass, halting in Mirso, a ledge two miles wide, situated two thousand feet above our last camp, and about half-way up the mountain, where there is excellent pasturage. We here formed our bivouac beside a spring of clear water, and in the[46] sandy torrent beds which formed its approaches we found many lion and koodoo tracks. Before leaving the coast I had sent two Somális on horseback to the cedar forests which clothe the flat top of Gólis to search for fresh elephant tracks. On this evening they arrived to report having found no recent sign, so I decided to go to Sheikh, twelve miles to the east, and thence to try Wagar Mountain.

At about 3 P.M. we loaded up and started on our march. The path led over rocky country along the side of Gólis, through thick belts of jungle and across sandy torrent beds, which in many places showed the fresh tracks of lion and antelope, but not of elephants. It was very hot and the sharp stones were fearfully trying to the camels, nevertheless we had to push on in order to reach water while daylight lasted; we failed, and night overtaking us, we were compelled to camp on the hillside without it.

Next morning our march took us through a maze of ravines, about the worst ground I have ever traversed with baggage animals; then descending abruptly to Lower Sheikh, we found a plot of green turf bordering a stream and surrounded on all sides by steep mountains. The Sheikh Pass takes its name from the tomb of a sheikh built in the form of a sugar-loaf plastered with a white substance, which forms a very conspicuous landmark at the top of the pass. While forming camp at Lower Sheikh we were passed by a large caravan, which was fording the stream on its way with hides, gum, feathers, and other commodities, from the Ogádén country to Berbera, and soon afterwards my trackers arrived with the welcome news that they had struck the path of a herd of elephants,—a bull and four cows,—two marches to the south of the sheikh’s grave. They had followed and marked down the elephants to a jungle where they were likely to stay, at the back of Wagar, and they further reported the bull to be a fine tusker. I engaged three horsemen from among the Habr Gerhajis, whose pastures were at Lower Sheikh, to take up the tracks, and on sighting the herd to send one of their number back to guide us to the spot; meanwhile I waited at Lower Sheikh, looking about for koodoo. Soon afterwards my people led in a shepherd boy, who had seen a bull and cow koodoo retire up one of the steep gorges of the Sheikh valley to[47] take their noon rest under a large tree. A hot walk along the banks of the Sheikh river, at this time a mere brook, brought us to the karia where the boy had first seen the koodoos. On the left bank of the river a gorge ran up into the mountains, and opposite to its mouth stood the karia, a circle of half a dozen poor-looking huts.

I waited here while my Midgán hunter and the boy went to the foot of the hills; soon they reported that the position of the game was unchanged. The koodoos were still under the large tree at the head of the gorge some four or five hundred feet above us. The only way to get at them was to go up another gorge parallel to the one which contained the tree, and to leeward of it. On nearing the tree, after a tedious climb, I happened to crack a stick, and immediately there followed a crash and stampede below us. All noise soon ceased, but I caught sight of something moving down the gorge in front. Stooping cautiously, I looked through a thorn-bush, placing the muzzle of my express within the network of twigs; after a second or two I could make out one large brown spiral horn and a bit of striped skin lying somewhere over the shoulder, so taking a quick aim a little below this, I touched the trigger and a beautiful bull koodoo rolled twenty feet down into the torrent bed in the centre of the gorge, and was stopped by a large mass of rock. The cow galloped madly away, loosening a shower of stones with her hoofs, and soon there came from below the sound of two shots from a Snider as she raced past my camelman, Núr Osman, who had been posted at the mouth of the gorge; but crossing the Sheikh stream, she took to the hills on the opposite side of the valley and escaped. Leaving orders at the karia for a camel to follow us with the koodoo meat we started home.

The return walk in the evening down the valley was as wild and picturesque as one could wish. Núr Osman and the Midgán led the way, carrying the head and skin of my first koodoo, at which I could not help looking admiringly from time to time, for it was a great prize. Our path led close to the stream, over dark slippery rocks, with here and there a plot of rich turf running down to the water’s edge. At our backs the sun was setting behind the crest of Golis, and in front rose[48] gigantic precipices, the hills having been quarried out by the river into a deep canon. As it grew dusk my reflections were disturbed by a wart-hog boar, which had come down to drink in the cool stream after a hot day, but I had no reason for firing at him, his tusks being poor.

The next day one of the three horsemen came back to tell me that he had marked down the herd of elephants, and that it was being watched by his companions. He carried in his hand pieces of half-chewed aloes with the saliva still damp upon them, which the elephants had torn up a few hours ago. Leaving most of the baggage behind in the camp at Lower Sheikh, and posting Núr Osman and another of the men in charge, I mounted the Sheikh Pass the next morning at sunrise, accompanied by two camels and five men. At the top of the pass I shot a spotted hyæna, to the delight of the mullahs living at the village of Guldu Hamed close by, as it had stolen several of their sheep.

Half an hour before sunset two horsemen came racing over the plain from the Wagar direction, and poising their spears circled round us at full speed. They pulled up shouting “Mót!” (Hail!) and reported the latest tidings about the herd. I learned the melancholy news that it had got away in the night. My men, however, tried to comfort me by saying, “Insh’ Allah Bukera” (Please God, to-morrow). We camped at an empty zeríba in a strip of bush near Soksodi, where there was firewood and water, intending to search for the elephants next day. We lit a roaring fire and threw ourselves down on the sand to sleep. At dawn, while my men were preparing coffee, I took a stroll[49] round camp, and saw by several broad footprints in the sand that a large lion had been prowling round our bivouac all night Later on my men pointed out old tracks of elephants, broken branches, and aloe clumps, indicating the course of a herd which must have passed two or three days before. I sent all the men into the covert to look for fresh tracks, but at noon they returned unsuccessful.



At two in the afternoon some shepherds came to water a flock of sheep on their way to the Berbera market, and they said that they had passed a herd of elephants only an hour ago in a valley to the south. On my asking for a guide they refused, hoping to get me to pay heavily for their information, so I shouldered my double four-bore rifle and started with the two Midgán trackers on the back trail of the sheep, hoping to find the elephants without a guide. The path led past two small sandstone hills, and we then entered a sloping valley, down the centre of which ran a sand-river bordered by dense jungle. Heavy masses of armo creeper draped the branches of the trees, and as we advanced fragments of creeper, which had evidently been torn down by the elephants, lay across our path.

We soon came to the fresh tracks of a herd which must have passed early in the day, and the Midgáns began to follow the footprints with great interest. The signs became every moment more distinct; at one spot the elephants had taken a long halt, rolling in the sand; and after half an hour’s tracking we found evidences that we were quite close to them. Sitting down with one of the Midgáns, I sent the other up a small hill to look around; he soon returned, whispering “Maródi, Maródi!” (elephants). Having joined us, he shaded his eyes to have another look, and then stretching out his hand, he pointed to two reddish brown spots among the lower branches of a clump of high trees on the farther side of a glade. As we looked six large elephants and four calves walked solemnly by twos or in single file out into the open. Even in this moment of excitement, for I had never seen a wild elephant before, I noticed the huge ears of the African species, the high fore-quarters and quick, active pace, and a beautiful sight it was! Swinging their heads from side to side, they crossed the glade and entered a clump of trees. Here they stopped and began feeding about, the swaying and snapping of the branches, and the peculiar low rumbling which they give out when feeding, indicating where they stood, though we could not see them.

The Midgáns, who were new to the work of attacking elephants on foot, did not quite like the prospect of going with me into the middle of the herd, so taking the four-bore, and telling them to watch from a low hill, I began creeping into the jungle alone. In thick forests the chief difficulty of elephant hunting consists in picking out the one with the best tusks, and then getting close up to it without being winded or seen by the others.


I threw up some sand to try the direction of the wind, and then advanced very silently for a hundred yards into the thickest jungle. I heard the rustle of some creepers in front of me, and then peeping through the underwood I saw three elephants fanning themselves with their ears under a very large camel-thorn-tree, whose branches rose to a flat fan shape high above their heads. It was from this thorn-tree that one of them had just been pulling down the creepers. From my left came the rumbling sound made by a fourth elephant, but I could see nothing there. I had on entering the jungle unconsciously walked into the very centre of the herd, and there was now no time to be lost in making my choice, because one of them might at any moment get down wind of me and sound the alarm.

The elephants I had seen were standing about forty yards away, one being a little apart from the other two, close to a tree, and I could see that a pair of tusks protruded from its lips. I advanced to within fifteen yards of the foremost one, which looked quietly at me for some moments, its trunk feeling the wind, as if wondering whether I might or might not be the stump of a tree. Raising my rifle I fired at the centre of the temple, half-way between the eye and the ear. The smoke obscured my view, but I the next instant could hear the jungle stirring all round me as the elephants made off. Then every living thing seemed to have left the place. As the smoke cleared away it disclosed, fifteen yards off, the body of the elephant sitting motionless with its knees tucked under its chest, a single hole in the temple showing where the bullet had entered. This turned out to be the largest cow in the herd, and I afterwards found, by a thorough examination of the tracks in the neighbourhood, that there was not a single bull.

Satisfied with my success so far as it went, I did not follow the herd, and in answer to my whistle the Midgáns came up, astonished to see that a single bullet had done the business. The camels were brought up, and we formed our bivouac by the dead elephant, and at dusk the tusks lay beside the camp-fire. Next day we marched to Sheikh, and found the camp safe, and in the evening began our march back to Berbera.

Two months later I set out again, beginning by a dhow[53] voyage of one hundred and fifty miles across the Gulf of Aden. I hired four camels and two camelmen at five rupees a day, or about £10 for a whole month.[14] I also engaged a caravan leader, three servants, two Somáli trackers, and a Midgán, not a large party to go into an unknown country with. To guard against the possible attack by robbers at a time when the English even at the coast were very little known, I lent my three servants a Snider carbine each. The remainder of the men had their spears and shields, and the Midgán, Adan, carried his bow and arrows. My “butler,” Núr Osman, had been a camelman in the Nile expedition for the relief of Gordon, and had become a very fair shot.

By the light of a full moon we started across the Berbera Maritime Plain, going south-west; and at 1 A.M. we reached a small tree called “Nasíya” (the resting-place), sixteen miles from the coast. Early in the night we passed several karias of trading caravans which were halted round Berbera for the trading season, each circle of mat huts pouring out a crowd of Midgán dogs to give us a surly salute. At the last karia I fired at a spotted hyæna, but missed him. At Nasíya we threw ourselves down on the sand, and unloading the camels took a short sleep to refresh ourselves for the work yet before us, and at 4 A.M. we pushed on again towards the first water, Deregódleh, which is twenty-two miles from Berbera. As we advanced the bare-looking Maritime Plain began to break up into stony watercourses and thorny bush. We passed, to our right, a detached flat-topped hill of trap formation called Sýene, part of the first low Maritime Range.

Near Sýene I saw two buck Sœmmering’s gazelles, looking large and white by the light of the rising sun, which was at my back. The wind was blowing from the front, and I made a careful stalk, but on raising my head from the last watercourse the aoul had removed themselves three hundred yards distant, and were stopping to gaze. They had seen my camels coming along. Then with whisking tails they trotted away, and I never saw them again. Very nearly related to this gazelle is the Cape springbuck. Sœmmering’s gazelle carries a pair of[54] graceful, lyre-shaped black horns, about fourteen inches in length and well ringed. When still scarcely clear of Sýene, catching a glimpse of dark red in a watercourse two hundred yards to my left, I walked towards it, put up a Waller’s gazelle, and bagged him with my Martini-Henry rifle.

At 10 A.M. we reached Deregódleh, a watercourse which has cut its way deep into the limestone rock of the interior plain and hollowed it out into caves, in which sheep, when waiting at the wells, take shelter from the sun. There is some very low cover on each bank, in which hares and the little Sakáro antelopes are to be found.

We left Deregódleh and marched to Mandeira, a delightful headquarters. It is a valley about three miles wide, under Gán Libah mountain, a bluff of the great Gólis Range. The mountains overlooking this valley rise to about six thousand feet above sea-level. The high country beyond them is called Ogo, the interior and Maritime Plains below them are called Guban. The Ogo climate is much cooler than that of Guban, and the grass and jungle more luxuriant. At Mandeira, all along the foot of Gólis, is more or less dense forest of the large gudá thorn-tree, with a thick undergrowth of aloes and thorny bushes. Here are found leopards, lesser koodoo, Walleri, and wart-hog. The pugs of an occasional lion may be seen, and in the gorges of the mountain is to be found the large koodoo, with his splendid spiral horns, and the Alakud or klipspringer. In the stony interior plains between Gólis and the Maritime Range are found oryx, wild ass, the ubiquitous Walleri, the lowland gazelles, and a few shy ostriches. Spotted hyænas are common, striped hyænas rare.

We camped near the water at Mandeira at midday, and found the valley occupied by a section of the Habr Gerhajis tribe, who were friendly. While here I shot a buck lesser koodoo and missed a splendid bull koodoo, which crossed a ledge of rock two hundred feet above us. The buck lesser koodoo is, I think, the most beautiful wild animal in Somáliland; his coat is fairly long, of a French gray colour in old males, and nicely marked with white bands across the body. The horns are spiral, and about twenty-five inches long, and he has a bushy tail tipped with white. When disturbed he goes away in great[55] bounds, flying the bushes and clumps of aloes, and presenting a most difficult shot.

“Flying the Bushes.”

Hearing that there were elephants near Little Harar (Hargeisa), we went on to Gulánleh, about twenty miles short of that place and ninety south-west of Berbera. At Gulánleh the country became open and undulating, the Gólis Range having ceased, and Guban rising gradually to the level of Ogo. Hargeisa is situated in the district between Ogo and Guban, which is called Ogo-Gudan.[15] The country immediately north of Hargeisa is called the Damel Plain, a vast plateau of rolling ground covered with gravel or red earth, and low thorny scrub, and traversed by tributaries of the Issutugan river-bed. The Issutugan is a sand-river at places from one to five hundred yards wide, which, rising near Hargeisa, cuts through the Maritime Range and sends its freshets over the Maritime Plain to reach the sea near Bulhár or Géri. The tributaries are generally dry and sandy, with patches of dense reeds, and are bordered by belts of high tree jungle about a mile wide. These reeds, generally ten feet high, were at that time infested by lions, which did not appear in the daytime, but left plenty[56] of tracks in the sand, showing where they had prowled up and down the river-beds at night. In May, June, and December elephants used to come down these rivers to feed on the creepers and aloes of the forest belts along their banks, often leaving the shelter of the trees to stand in the patches of reeds.

I had determined to make Gulánleh my headquarters for elephant-hunting, and to send my two Somáli trackers, who were mounted, together with a Habr Gerhajis horseman who had joined us at Mandeira, into all the large elephant jungles within twenty miles. Meanwhile I remained at Gulánleh, going out shooting every day. Here I was lucky enough to bag two very fine bull oryx and two cows, all four having long, straight horns. A few buck Walleri and plateau gazelles followed, and on the second day of my stay we put up nine ostriches, there being two cocks and seven hens. I fired at them with the Martini-Henry at three hundred yards as they sailed away, but only knocked up the dust around them. Three times we fell in with ostriches, but always found their vision too good for us. They look like gigantic fowls as they go streaming away over the plains. At Gulánleh we also saw a herd of wild asses, which halted fifty yards away to gaze at us. We, however, held our fire, not considering them fair game. They were splendid animals, very well marked with stripes on the legs.

On 13th May my patience was rewarded by the arrival of the three horsemen, with the news that they had found a large herd of elephants at Jalélo, about twelve miles away to the west; so we packed a few blankets, axes, tinned provisions, and other necessaries on a camel, and filling my pockets with dates, I set out at 8 A.M. for the Jalélo covert, accompanied by two mounted trackers, the Midgán, and two other men, leaving the Gulánleh camp in the charge of Núr Osman. The forest at Jalélo consists chiefly of the heavy gudá timber bordering the Hembeweina river, which lower down is called Issutugan. There are extensive tracts of reeds in the river-bed, and these are so dense it is hard work forcing a path through them, and once inside, it is impossible to see anything except at a distance of a few feet. After a hot march we struck the Hembeweina river at Jalélo, and, sending the mounted trackers[57] and all the other men to hunt up the elephants, I sat under a wild date-palm, and lunched off sardines, dates, and the contents of my water-bottle.

The midday sun had been fearfully hot, and I was just dozing off to sleep under the grateful shade of the date-palm, when my head tracker, Hussein Debeli, came bounding up in a wonderful state of excitement, brandishing his big stabbing spear and dancing round me in circles. I knew at once that his news was good, and, after a pause to take breath, he said he had suddenly seen a very large bull elephant in the bed of the river only half a mile below my palm-tree. Packing everything quickly on the camel, and leaving orders for it to be brought on slowly after us, I took Hussein Debeli as guide, and shouldering my four-bore rifle, which weighed over twenty pounds, I started off to look up the elephant. As we rounded a spur he came into full view, walking quickly down the centre of the river-bed below us, turning his head from side to side as he swung along, his great ears sticking out at right angles like studding-sails. He looked rather disturbed in his mind, and as a breeze was blowing from us down the river towards him, he had no doubt winded us, or one of the men who had been sent to look for him.

Going as fast as we could, we ran along the high bank to intercept him, and if possible to get below and to leeward of him before beginning the attack, but as we got nearly abreast he saw us and broke into a shambling trot. Seeing that he was escaping us I opened fire with the four-bore, though the range was at least seventy yards. At the shots he spun round and turned up stream again at a great rate. Bathed in perspiration from the hot sun, and desperately thirsty, I followed as fast as I could, and at last, in the distance up the river, appeared the two horsemen, with red tassels flying and spears flashing in the sun, galloping down at full speed to head the elephant. This had the effect of forcing him to plunge into the broad bed of reeds, where he pulled up, comparatively secure from attack. It so happened, however, that he had chosen a spot where the steep river bank overlooked the reeds, so that on going to the edge and peeping over, I could see his head and the ridge of his back just rising above them. The[58] range was far, over sixty yards, but firing from where we were was preferable to the impossible task of trying to approach him noiselessly in the reeds, so, aiming for the temple, I opened fire again. A right and left were answered by an unmistakable crack as of a big bullet hitting bone, and by a “swish” as the second shot, going over the mark, went innocently through the tops of the reeds. The first shot, however, had told, boring a clean hole through the flap of the ear and entering the skull rather far back. The elephant gave a shrill trumpet, spread out his ears, and spun round facing us, then he swung back into the original position.

Another shot, fired at the place where I guessed his shoulder to be, made him throw up his trunk and subside into the reeds, but he was up again in an instant, looking very sick. This would never do, so climbing down the steep scarp to the lower level, and edging carefully round the margin of the reeds till nearly opposite him, and then going in a little way so that I could see his temple above the reeds some thirty yards away, I took a very careful aim and fired. The elephant dropped at once, and when my Somális, who were standing on the bank beyond him, raised a hunting-song, I knew that he was dead. We now went in, following the path he had made into the reeds, and found him lying on his side, one tusk being four feet long and fairly thick; the other had lost a foot from the point, possibly broken off while uprooting a tree. He was a fine fellow, and when we brought a tape later on, we found he measured ten feet six inches perpendicular height at the shoulder.

The camel coming up, we got down axes and at once set to work to cut out the ivory. I found the Somális very feeble at this work, as it was sunset by the time they had removed one tusk, and they seemed thoroughly exhausted. Then a heavy rain-storm burst over us, and when it had stopped the setting sun left us wet through, shivering under a thorn bush, the river valley turned temporarily into an immense marsh, and, worst of all, no moon. We had seen many fresh lion tracks in the river-bed during our hunt, which fact did not tend to improve the outlook, and my five men declared themselves too exhausted to collect dry firewood, and lay like logs, looking the picture of misery.


After ten minutes wasted in trying to coax them to help me, during which I was only answered by grunts, I tried the effect of storming at them, and seeing I was annoyed and fearing for their precious salaries, they sulkily began to look about for scraps of bark which might have escaped the general wetting. They considered a fire unnecessary, saying that Allah would keep the lions away, and that they were too wet and miserable to care whether they were eaten up or not. Not being bad fellows, however, they afterwards began to warm to their work, and collected a goodly pile, and digging out a box of matches from my bag, we soon had a cheerful blaze, and made a thorn zeríba round our bivouac. The place now looked fairly comfortable, with our clothes hanging upon the surrounding branches.

The Somális were before long snoring under some of my blankets which I had to lend them, but I had no intention of going supperless to bed, and sat up for two hours longer, cooking a formidable dish of soup and a pot of cocoa, and on the whole thoroughly enjoying myself, with the tusk of my first bull elephant lying on the grass before me. The consequence was that when we were roused up next morning by the sun shining into our eyes, I felt quite fresh, while my companions did nothing but grunt and shiver under the blankets. By noon we had cut out the other tusk, and packing everything on the camel, we set out to march three miles down the river to Hembeweina.

During our short march we saw lesser koodoo, oryx, and Waller’s gazelles, but I was unsuccessful with these, and we formed a second bivouac without having found the main herd of elephants of which we had been in search. Next morning we marched back to Gulánleh, intending to bring away our main camp which had been left there, and to strike the river again at Sobát, twelve miles above Jalélo. This plan we carried out, forming an encampment at Sobát near the great rocks through which the Issutugan trickles at this spot. Below our camp the river-bed opened out into a broad, dry, sandy wádi without reeds, and bordered by dense forest with aloe undergrowth. The banks of this river from Sobát to Hembeweina were carpeted with grass and there was a good supply of water; moreover, the nearest Somáli karias were those of the Abdul Ishák, Habr Gerhajis, at least twenty miles to the south-east.[60] These are the conditions most favourable for the presence of game.

On the morning after our arrival at Sobát I was rudely awakened from my second sleep by Núr Osman poking me up with the butt-end of a Snider, and informing me that elephants had been heard trumpeting in the forest a short distance from the tent, where they had been quartering about, afraid to come to the water. It was still dark, but by the time I had lit a candle and had a wash and breakfast, a long red line in the east showed that the dawn was just beginning to break, and we sallied out. We expected to come on the fresh tracks at once, but we had searched the jungle round camp for at least half a mile in every direction before one of the men, who had gone farther afield, came running back saying he could show me the herd. Pushing forward to the top of the next rise, we looked about us, and in the thickest part of the forest we saw several dark masses, which in the growing light we made out to be the ears of elephants moving backwards and forwards as they stood listening. Walking cautiously round them, we reached a small hillock which overlooked the jungle to leeward of them, and made a careful examination of the herd. While so doing we discovered that it was a very large one, some of the cows which we had at first overlooked being actually down wind of us.

None appeared at first to notice us, but we must have concealed ourselves carelessly whilst moving about looking for a good tusker, and I think one or two of them later on became aware of our presence. We had been watching them for nearly half an hour, and a very pretty sight it was; the herd numbered about sixty, and seemed to be made up entirely of cows and young ones. Hitherto they had been browsing comfortably and had seemed quite at home, as if the forest belonged to them; now, however, they slowly but surely began to prepare to move off the ground. Whether they had discovered us, or were merely contemplating a change of quarters, was not quite clear. In a short time a line began to be formed, and they filed away in full view, travelling down wind, so that we did not quite know, since we could see no bull, what was the next thing to be done. They were moving at a steady walk, and we amused ourselves counting them and examining each individual, as I did not wish to shoot cows. I regretted[61] much not having the means to photograph them as they solemnly went by without fuss or noise, treading carefully, each small calf hurrying along under its great mother’s hind legs. All the cows of above medium size seemed to have tusks.


Elephant and Calf


Whilst I stood admiring the herd disappearing among the trees like a dissolving view, I was reminded by the bloodthirsty Hussein that we had come to destroy elephants, and not to stare at them, so, the temptation being too much for me, we took up their tracks through the heavy timber, with bad aloe undergrowth, the crash, as an elephant now and then playfully broke a tree ahead of us, being carried to our ears. Once we followed too close, for a prolonged crash in our direction told that an old cow was investigating the taint in the air. We, of course, gave her plenty of room, as I wanted to have another look for a bull before advancing to the attack, and when all was quiet we resumed our tracking. The jungle was very fine, so that while we were following the elephants we were generally in the shade. We found the small Sakáro antelopes very numerous, standing behind the aloes to gaze at us and then darting off with their whistling alarm-note. Sometimes we came on several tortoises, some of their shells measuring quite two feet long and a foot wide. They seemed to live in small families of four or five, and are very common in the aloe jungles.

At last, after a walk of little more than a mile, we again sighted the elephants standing at the edge of the forest belt, crowded together in three large groups, looking uncommonly suspicious. Some high ground overlooked the jungle, and circling round as far as possible under cover, we reached a position very open and exposed, but otherwise good, being down wind and sixty yards from the nearest group. We were standing on a spur of the Damel Plain, covered with loose gravel and sprinkled with a few small bushes. After a rapid examination of the ground I opened fire at the biggest elephant, and with indescribable commotion and clouds of dust the three groups dissolved into a long string, rushing past us headlong through the forest, only intent on escape.

The big cow which I had fired at was hidden in dust for a[64] moment, and then spinning round in a semicircle, she made off after the others, her stern quite closing up the path. Following on in her wake we caught up with some of the herd which were lagging, and I fired at one which appeared to be a young bull, bringing it down stone dead on its side, the bullet having caught it behind the shoulders while going by at full speed. Unfortunately, on inspection it proved to be a cow. Then, continuing in the direction taken by the herd, we at length saw the cow which had been first hit standing within forty yards of a large tree, and stalking up to the tree, which was to leeward of her, I fired at her temple. She went down and rolled over on her side, the men, delighted at my success, running up to jump on her back. Suddenly I shouted “Look out, she’s getting up!” and I had scarcely time to cover her temple with the foresight from where I stood, twenty yards away, before she was on her legs again, with ears stuck out at right angles. Another shot from the four-bore, and she fell dead.

The severe kick of the rifle generally sent me back a couple of yards, and I must have been standing wrong, for as I fired something gave way in my right leg, and I came down in a sitting posture on to a clump of aloes, unable to rise at once, and wondering whether the elephant was dead or not. I was laid up in camp for three days, but on the fourth I could limp about very creditably, and killed a fine wart-hog boar near camp, besides firing at five striped hyænas, which were prowling about at dusk among the rocks. When we had cut out the tusks of the two cows we resolved to try fresh ground, and getting astride of my mule I marched with my caravan to Hembeweina, sixteen miles lower down the river. Here we found in the sand the tracks of six lions of different ages, which had been prowling about in the river-bed and in the bordering reeds. Close to camp we found the half-eaten carcase of a spotted hyæna which they had caught. They must have been badly off for food to have eaten a hyæna; indeed, from the absence of fresh tracks, we thought the rest of the game must have been frightened from the vicinity by the lions.

The day after our arrival at Hembeweina I was again disturbed before dawn by Núr Osman, with the report that a[65] lot of elephants had been heard trumpeting near the water during the night, and after a good breakfast we started in search of them. After going up the river bank for about three miles, we came to the large patch of reeds at Jalélo where I had killed the first bull eight days before, and getting on to the identical spot on the high bank from which I had fired at him, we examined the expanse of reeds. The air was much tainted by the dead elephant as we approached the edge of the bank, too much so to make us care to go into the reeds to investigate farther. Looking over the sea of yellow stems we suddenly saw two cow elephants with one large calf in company, standing under a date-palm well out in the reeds some two hundred and fifty yards distant from the spot on which we were standing. Wishing to get a bull, I decided not to attack them.

My Somális were advising me to advance upon these three herd elephants, and we were sitting on the edge of the bank intently gazing at them, when an indescribable feeling that something was behind me made me look round, and there, standing right over us, not twenty yards away, was an enormous tusker quietly blinking his eyes at us and balancing his right leg, undecided whether to go on along the top of the bank behind us or to take a path straight down into the reeds. He must have come up very quietly, for no one had heard a sound, and my looking round seemed to have been accidental. Meanwhile, as we were in the open on the edge of the scarp, in a bad position to withstand a charge, especially as I was still lame, we waited, crouched as we were, keeping as still as mice, and watched the enormous brute making up his mind. We were so much in the open that had I raised my rifle he would have made us out at once. Perhaps I ought to have fired, but when first seen his head was towards us and his trunk down, so that he offered no certain shot. After swinging his foot once or twice he took the path down into the reeds, treading softly, as if afraid of cracking a stick, and looking curiously towards us out of the corner of his eye, evidently unable to make out quite what we were; when he was round the bank I stood up ready to fire at him as he passed below.

On reaching the lower level he seemed to scent the dead elephant, and began walking swiftly out into the reeds. There[66] was no time to be lost if I wanted those big white tusks, so aiming quickly as he moved, I fired the heavy rifle at the root of his ear, hitting him just a little too far back. A fiendish change came over him, until now so calm and solemn. Out went his great ears, and with his trunk curled up tightly in front of his chest, giving a shrill trumpet he raised his head and went crashing through the dry reeds, going up the river-bed and presenting his side to us. Aiming for the shoulder, I again fired, and struck him fairly in the ribs; this turned him across the river straight away from our bank, and he dropped into the wake of the three cows, which on hearing the shots had left the palm-tree in alarm, and were already sailing away through the reeds in fine style.

I was still very lame, and until the mule came up had to content myself with watching the game disappear into the forest on the farther side of the river. While they were crossing the reeds the wounded bull gave an occasional squeal and charged off at a tangent, pounding imaginary foes, and looking the picture of annoyance. As the four elephants disappeared among the trees they were joined by two strings of cows and young ones which we had not seen before, followed by two very large tuskers. I felt that I had made a mess of the business, and regretted then that we had left the horses in camp, as they would have been most useful in turning the elephants. We had to wait some minutes for my mule to be brought up, and it was 9 A.M. before we took up the tracks of the wounded elephant.

The sun was beginning to get very powerful, making doubly hard the work of advancing over the masses of fallen reeds which obstructed the ground even in the path made by the elephants. The tracking, however, was not difficult, as a wide lane had been opened through the reeds everywhere bespattered with blood. When we reached the forest on the farther side of the river the blood had almost ceased, and following became a difficult matter, as the footsteps of the wounded elephant were becoming mingled with those of the other two bulls. It was dreadfully hot, and for more than two hours we toiled along over aloes and thorns and through tree jungles, covering about six miles of ground before we again sighted our game.


The herd was standing taking shelter from the midday sun under three large trees which grew close together, and we advanced to the attack. We could not make out the wounded bull, so I fired at the head of the largest elephant I could see, and the explosion of my rifle was followed by a loud answering crack and a squeal from the herd, which soon became enveloped in a dense cloud of dust. We ran on in pursuit, but they slipped away and crossed half a mile of open stony ground, passed a group of rocks which overhung a sand-river, and stood half a mile off, in moderately high jungle. Climbing the rocks I could see them, but following farther with my lame leg was out of the question, so my two trackers offered to go round and drive them to me if I would lend them my Martini rifle and express and some cartridges.

Meanwhile I seated myself on a rock and watched the herd. There was one very sick elephant in it, which seemed to be continually rolling, surrounded by a group of sympathising friends. I afterwards found this to be the bull first wounded—the one which had surprised us on the river bank—and he appeared to be in a dying state. While I was gazing over the forest at them they suddenly began to move in my direction very fast, and a moment later the breeze carried to my ears the reports of musketry fired at a distance from beyond the elephants. The herd disappeared for a minute and then emerged from the high jungle and came over the open, straight for my position; they then turned into the river-bed and came past me at a great pace, at over eighty yards’ distance. I fired right and left at the shoulder of an old bull, the biggest of the three, carrying fine long tusks. He fell and kicked about for a second or two in a cloud of dust, and then turned up stream with the others, going very fast. They then passed round my rock at about a hundred yards, too far for straight shooting with such a rifle, and got out of range, the badly wounded bull being no doubt among them. There was one bull throwing sand over its back, which I concluded must be the sick one.

My leg was now beginning to feel the strain of the day’s work, and at the second discharge of the heavy rifle I was sent flying, and subsided into a sitting posture among the rocks,[68] the rifle dropping out of my hands. The elephants now sailed gaily away over huge boulders and torrent beds with the activity of monkeys, and soon disappeared over the brow of a low hill, leaving me sitting on the rocks utterly fagged out. When the trackers came up we went to examine the place where the largest bull had fallen. The aloes were crushed to bits and the sand was much scraped about, but we did not notice any blood. The elephants had quite beaten us, and we made the best of our way home, reaching camp at dusk after a very tiring day.

For two days I had horsemen dogging the footsteps of the wounded bulls, but they returned and reported that the herd had gone past Little Harar and might not pull up for days, having been thoroughly disturbed by the hunt. They had followed the tracks of the sick bull for twenty-five miles, and he had separated from the herd, halting to roll many times, and at last his tracks had become mixed with those of a fresh herd of bulls, cows, and young ones, and they had then left them. Rain having recently fallen had made the tracking more difficult.[16]

On the night after this long elephant hunt we were awakened at about twelve by two lions keeping up a deep roaring, repeated at short intervals, which seemed to be uttered only thirty yards from our fence, though in reality the distance was at least a hundred, as was shown next morning by the pugs in the sand. Luckily, neither my mule nor the three Somáli ponies were at all nervous, or we should have had them breaking away. One lion kept up wind, giving at first low grunts, growing louder and ending in a roar, then dwindling down again to nothing. After a bit he would be answered by a rumbling sound on the other side, from a lioness concealed in the reeds down at the river-bed close by. There was absolutely no moon, so we could do nothing but replenish the fires with a stock of grass and sticks which I always keep for this purpose. My men jeered the lions, saying they were not in earnest or they would not make so much noise. We had left some meat out within twenty yards of our fence, but found it untouched in the morning, the[69] lions evidently fearing to come in so close, and only hoping to stampede our animals.

I found Hembeweina very pleasant, and never tired of wandering about near camp examining the fresh elephant tracks in the river-bed. A herd which had lately passed had made several wells or large holes in the sand, into which water had trickled from the stream, and over these holes they had stood to drink and throw water over their bodies.

One day I was out quite alone on one of these rambles, and after crossing the river had ascended to the top of a plateau half a mile from camp. The summit was a level plain covered with black stones and occasional tufts of very green feathery grass. Finding fresh oryx tracks I began to cross the plateau, but the tracking was rendered difficult by the number of stones. All at once I caught sight of a large animal moving slowly among some bushes, evidently grazing and unsuspicious of danger; and thinking that it might be an oryx, I began to stalk up to it. This was not easy because of the transparent nature of the bush; however, I got up to three hundred yards, and imagine my surprise to find that the animal was a Somáli pony alone in this bleak spot. This plateau had a bad reputation—the nearest tribe to the north-west, seventy miles away, being famous for raiding and lifting the cattle of the Abdul Ishák.

By the side of the horse there was something on the ground, which might be a man or a small ant-hill. Having on a former trip had my caravan dogged by scouts from a tribe, I thought I would cautiously investigate. So I crept up and found that there was no man, while the horse, left to run quite wild without bridle or rope on him, gave a whinny and trotted round me in a circle with arching neck, nodding his head up and down. He had evidently been abandoned by his rider, and I determined to catch him, use him for work with elephants, and then take him to the coast to be publicly claimed. Returning to camp I brought up my people, and using the mule as a decoy, we at last got a rope over his head and led him quietly to camp. The day after the capture of the horse two men rode in to give me news that Shiré Shirmáki, one of the Habr Gerhajis wise men, was on his way from his karia, fifteen miles distant, to[70] visit me, bringing thirty horsemen with him, who, my informants said, were his children. Then I witnessed the dibáltig, or equestrian display, given in my honour, as the first English visitor to their country.

In the distance, over the plain, arose a thin wreath of dust, and from beneath it appeared first one or two horsemen, and then about thirty, following each other in single file, and coming on at a trot. Presently, as they approached the camp, they formed line and broke into a canter, the spears flashing vividly in the sun, and the bright red trappings of the horses flaring out against the green thorn jungle. Each horseman wore a khaili, which is a tobe of scarlet dashed with blue in two shades, the colours being arranged tartan-wise. They approached to within a hundred yards of the camp, and then halted. Accompanied by my nine men, I left the zeríba and advanced to meet them. Sitting on his pony in the centre of the group was Shiré Shirmáki, a dignified-looking old man with a white beard, and on either side of him were his sons, two or three fine fellows in the prime of life. There were also one or two boys, armed, like their seniors, with spears and shield, and most of the men had slung round their waists the biláwa, or short, close-quarter stabbing sword. All my visitors looked a sturdy lot, up to lifting cattle or any other kind of devilry.

I exchanged with them the usual Mahomedan greeting, and one of Shiré Shirmáki’s sons urged his pony up in front of the rest and sang a long extempore song. When at last it had come to an end I complimented the old fellow upon his warlike-looking turn-out, and then waited in silence for him to explain his visit. He said that, being encamped with his people and their flocks and herds at a spot some fifteen miles to the eastward, and having heard of my presence on the Issutugan, he had come with some of his young men to visit me, sing songs, and have a good time. “Yes,” I thought, “and to eat our rice!” This was all very well, but our stock of food was scanty, and I resolved to get rid of my friends on the first opportunity.

I now asked the old chief to show me what his children could do in fancy riding; and at once two or three impatient spirits galloped forward and threw their spears, picking them up again by leaning over the saddle-bow while at full speed,[71] and then, pricking towards me over the turf, they pulled their quivering ponies back on to their haunches with a jerk just as they reached me, the mouths bleeding from the heavy bit. Soon the plain around my zeríba was covered with rushing ponies, their excited riders throwing their spears in every direction and dashing forward to pick them up. Every pony raised a cloud of dust to himself, and the confusion had reached its height when the old man raised his hide whip as a signal, and one by one they galloped up to me, till I was the centre of a semicircle of horses’ heads, pressing upon me, their eyes aflame and nostrils distended. Every man as he came up raised his spear and shouted, “Mót! io Mót!” (Hail! and again hail!) and I answered, with my men, “Kul-leban” (Thanks).

Many of these fellows can throw the spear about eighty-five yards from the saddle or seventy-five yards on foot. They guide their animals skilfully, but ride almost entirely by balance, with very little grip on the saddle. After the display on horseback we all went into the zeríba, and I gave orders to have a big meal of rice prepared for our self-constituted guests.

Soon from across the plain came two more horsemen, and a shock-headed boy leading a cow, which was brought in front of my tent as a present, with Shiré Shirmáki’s compliments. We killed it ten minutes later, and my men joined the strangers in a big feed, followed by a firelight dance, the men clapping their hands to the strains of a reed flute, advancing and retiring as in a quadrille, and jumping up and down like men in a sack-race. Then followed a few interesting step-dances and songs in praise of the English or of the Habr Gerhajis. The burden of one song was, “There is nobody like us; our horses are the best and fly like the wind, and none can fight like we; our old men are wise, our young men are brave as lions, and there are no girls so beautiful as ours.” When I retired to my tent at midnight the clamour was still going on, and I was roused at 3 A.M. by the leave-taking. By the genial glare of our camp-fire Shiré Shirmáki made an impressive speech, laying great stress on my having seen his country, and asking me to tell the English that his tribe, being very good people, never molested caravans; to which I replied that, so far as my having seen his country was concerned, he was perfectly free to come[72] and see mine, and I promised him a new khaili from Berbera and some snow-white bafta tobes for his men.

They recognised the horse which I had caught to be one which had been abandoned by one of their fellows three months before while engaged in a raid on the Jibril Abokr tribe, among the mountains to the south-west. I promised, if they would send a man to Berbera, that I would give up the horse to the Resident there, and their tribesman might then claim it. Finally, I apologised for not having shown them any equestrian games on our part, as the mule was sick! After the joke had been handed round and duly appreciated we parted with a great deal of handshaking, and they trotted off into the darkness.

While shifting our camp next day back to Gulánleh, we were constantly in sight of game, either oryx or one of the three sorts of gazelle, and we caught sight of a leopard sneaking across a nala three hundred yards ahead of us, but he disappeared among some rocks, where tracking became impossible. On arriving at Gulánleh I sent horsemen for a grand tour to all the elephant forests around, and remained in camp, ready to march to any point of the compass at a moment’s notice. Besides my own trackers I had two parties of Habr Gerhajis horsemen also searching for elephants, each party consisting of three men.

While in camp at Gulánleh I was suddenly roused at noon by shouts in Hindustáni of “Máro, Sahib! Máro!” (Shoot, shoot). So pulling out my revolver, I looked round the fly of the tent, and found my whole camp in an uproar; men were running for their spears, and backing into one end of the zeríba stood the Midgán, fitting a poisoned arrow to his long bow and glaring viciously at one of my camelmen, who, surrounded by his friends, stood at the other end of the zeríba poising his spear. The situation was decidedly theatrical. First I walked up to the Somáli and made him give me his spears, and then returning to the Midgán I bundled him ignominiously into my tent, poisoned arrows and all, and threw him an oryx skull to clean, telling him not to leave the tent without permission. Having thus satisfactorily disposed of the centres of disturbance I held an inquiry, when it appeared that the quarrel had arisen through my having persuaded my[73] Somális to allow the Midgán, who belonged to the outcaste race, to eat with them out of the same dish. A young camelman had, during a hot argument, told the Midgán that such as he should not be allowed to eat with respectable Somális, whereat sturdy little Adan rejoined, “Who are you to talk? You’re only a baby; you have not learned to eat at all yet; go back to your mother and drink milk.” The youth, having no more arguments left, stooped, and picking up a spear which lay beside him, leant over and prodded Adan gently in the back, causing blood to flow. Rice, dishes, and men scattered in all directions, and I had only come out of my tent just in time to prevent the Midgán sticking an arrow into his assailant. The Midgán was clearly in the right, and calling the camelman to my tent, I ordered a slight compensation to be paid, and then persuaded them to shake hands. These duels arise out of almost nothing, and if a man should be killed, a blood-feud between tribes, perhaps lasting for years, is the result. Luckily the Somális, although quick to resent an insult, as quickly cool down again.

About nine o’clock one morning one of my trackers rode in to say that his party had struck the fresh tracks of a solitary bull elephant in a nala some twelve miles to the westward, and that they had followed him along its banks for eight hours, at last finding him, feeding and standing about, at Eil Danan. My informant went on to say that he had left his two companions to watch the elephant. At Eil Danan a sandy river-bed bordered by high reeds winds through a deep square basin formed by the sides of the Eil Danan plateau, which is two or three hundred feet high, and strewn with black stones like most of the Damel Plain. Between the river-bed and the precipitous edges of the plateau is black stony ground intersected by watercourses, and sparsely dotted over with thorn bushes and a few tufts of thin feathery grass, so that there is no cover for an elephant to stand in except the reeds bordering the river-bed. These are very dense and usually ten feet high, some of the side gullies being choked with them, though in the main channel, through which a small stream runs, they merely form a fringe fifty to one hundred yards wide. Here and there near the edge of the reeds grow a few large trees covered with armo[74] creeper, on which elephants delight to feed; the leaves are very green and juicy, heart-shaped and thick, having a smooth surface like india-rubber.

Taking with me one camel and two or three men, I at once set out for Eil Danan, and after a hot march we struck the wádi at 2 P.M., and followed in the tracks of the two watchmen until we found them. Then, after resting for lunch under a tree, I went forward with my gunbearer, Deria Hassan, to explore the reeds where the elephant had last been seen. After some trouble we at length saw him standing under a tree on the farther side of a belt of reeds forty yards wide. He seemed to be a very large bull, and had a nice pair of tusks. Beyond him the ground was quite bare. I crept up to the edge of the reeds, and getting on the roots of a fallen tree, could see his head above them. He was swinging it slowly from side to side and looking quietly in my direction, though he did not appear to see me. At last he presented his temple, and I fired as well as possible from my insecure perch, hitting him a loud smack, while Deria Hassan fired from the bank behind me. Instantly the beast gave a shrill trumpet and charged, coming straight at me through the reeds. Being in the open I did not wait for his head to appear, but ran down the edge of the reeds to leeward and dropped under a bush, Deria disappearing with equal promptitude in the other direction. Then the three horsemen, according to previous orders which I had given them, rode up, and seeing them the elephant turned again into the reeds and made off, keeping down the centre of the belt, the horsemen riding parallel to him along the outside. I followed on foot at best pace, and came up, a mile farther down, just in time to see him charge viciously out at the horses, scattering them. This manœuvre was repeated twice, and then the elephant went up a side gully three hundred yards wide, choked by an unbroken expanse of very high reeds. We here lost sight of him for a time, and taking up his tracks we found a good deal of blood.

On reaching the main channel I sent the horsemen on after the elephant, and being parched with thirst I lay down flat and drank from the rivulet. Before I had finished drinking Deria said, “Look out!” and I heard galloping and loud shouts,[75] and sprang up just in time to see the elephant break back and cross the stream two hundred yards below me, taking up his former position in the reeds, and followed by my three horsemen, who were working admirably. When I came up the horsemen were collected on some rising ground overlooking the reeds, hooting at the elephant, which stood with the top of his head just visible, listening to them.

Advancing to a small knoll in front of the horses, I fired right and left at his head. He disappeared among the reeds for a moment, and then some one called out that he was coming. Out he came, very silently, and I slipped away to leeward and crouched under a thorn bush to watch him. Off he went after the horsemen, and singling out Hussein Debeli, following every turn of the horse, he kept close behind its tail for two hundred yards, till it seemed the plucky fellow would be caught, and they disappeared among the trees together. I soon noticed, however, that the elephant, having finished his charge, was stealing back again towards the gully which he had first tried. Back came the horsemen, and after a short race headed him, and brought him to a standstill fifty yards from me, giving me a good chance for a shot. I was standing in the open, and knowing that I should have the watchful and angry brute down on me at once if I failed to disable him, I fired at his head. On receiving the shot he dropped his tail and trunk and held for the gully, looking demoralised, but before he could reach the shelter of the reeds I ran in close and gave him another shot in the shoulder at twenty yards, while he was going at a good pace. Swerving at this he plunged into the reeds, and we heard him crashing about in them for some time, then a long-drawn bellow, and everything became still.

Before going in I fired two shots with the express and listened, but hearing nothing, we started to examine the reeds. We were not long in finding the great cutting he had made through them, and with rifle on full cock and every sense on the alert, I entered, followed by my two trackers on foot. On either side rose what looked like an impenetrable yellow wall; wherever we looked we saw nothing but reeds, and as we advanced we had to climb over the mounds of fallen stalks. Yard by yard we pushed on, now and then stopping to listen.[76] Along the floor and sides of the lane of reeds blood was plentifully sprinkled, and at length we began to approach the place where we had last heard him bellow; then I peeped round an angle and saw him lying on his side quite dead, and we walked up to examine our prize. He was an old bull, ten feet six inches at the shoulder; we measured him with bits of reeds which we afterwards laid beside a tape; and he had a beautiful white pair of tusks without a flaw, four feet long, and thick for Somáli ivory. Somáli elephant tusks are, as a rule, nothing like the size of those found in the centre of the continent.

By the time the sun had gone down we had out one tusk, and returned up the river to search the plateau for a camping ground with good grass for the horses. Leaving the main river, we formed our bivouac near a small grassy nala. The arrangements for the night were quickly made, and, spreading our blankets under the lee of a thorn bush, we were soon all fast asleep. We had no fence, and at midnight I was awakened by a lion roaring a short distance up the nala. Rubbing my eyes, I awoke Deria, and told him to watch and keep the fire alight, then I dozed off again, and when we awoke next morning Deria was fast asleep by the fire, which was nearly out. We cut out the other tusk and returned to Gulánleh, when, my leave having expired, after skirting the foot of Gólis for five days, we marched by easy stages to Berbera, then by dhow to Aden, being becalmed for twelve hours in sight of the volcano before getting in.

Lesser Kudu & Aloes



Early trips to the coast—Disturbed state of Bulhár—Stopping a fight—Two skirmishes—First exploring trips—Hostility of the natives—An unlucky trip—Start with my brother to explore the Habr Toljaala and Dolbahanta countries on duty—Camp on Gólis Range—Theodolite station at 6800 feet—Enter the waterless plains—Advance to the Tug Dér—News of raiders ahead, and of Col. A. Paget’s party—Dolbahanta horsemen—Advance to the Nogal Valley—Constantly annoyed by the Dolbahanta—Prehistoric tank and buildings at Badwein—Advance to Gosaweina—More horsemen—Insecure border, and scene of a raid—Explore Bur Dab Range—Robbers’ caves—Exploration of my brother on Wagar Mountain—Lovely scenery—Return to Berbera—Start on a second expedition to the Jibril Abokr country—The top of Gán Libah—A new hartebeest—Death of a leopard—Hargeisa—Natives clamouring for British protection against Abyssinia—Bold behaviour of a leopard—Advance to the Marar Prairie—Camp at Ujawáji—Extraordinary scene on the prairie—Quantities of game—Gadabursi raid—Jibril Abokr welcome of the English—A shooting trip on the plains—News of three lions—Vedettes posted over lions—Advance to the attack—Savage charge; unconscious and in the clutches of a lioness—My brother’s account of the accident—His own narrow escape, and death of a fine lion—Civility of the Jibril Abokr—Abyssinian news—Return to the coast—Recovery from wounds—Third expedition; to the Gadabursi country—Great raid by the Jibril Abokr on the Bahgoba—Curious adventure with robbers—Betrayed by vultures—Raiding tactics—First meeting with the Gadabursi—Meeting with Ugaz Núr—The rival sultans—Construction of an Abyssinian fort at Biyo-Kabóba—Esa in a ferment—Speech of Múdun Golab—My brother bags a large bull elephant—March to Zeila.

In order to show the state of Somáliland when the British Protectorate[17] was first established after the departure of the Egyptians, I propose to give a short account of my trips into the interior prior to 1887.


Soon after I had joined the Aden garrison in 1884, two English officers returned from a shooting trip to the Gólis Range south of Berbera; this was, I believe, the first journey to the Somáli interior undertaken by any Englishman since the attack on Sir Richard Burton’s expedition thirty years before. Accompanied by a friend, I was the next to make a short but unimportant shooting trip to Gólis—in January 1885.

The first exploring party—that of Mr. F. L. James—had preceded us by about a month, and was already at Gerlogubi in distant Ogádén. The Egyptians had a few months before evacuated the coast, the Pasha leaving with about half a battalion of soldiers and a few field-pieces, and Mr. L. P. Walsh, one of the assistant Residents at Aden, had taken over charge of Berbera and Bulhár with a few Aden policemen. At the same time Zeila was, so far as I remember, handed over by the Egyptians to a British Consul, with a French Consul also living in the town. My next visit to Somáliland occurred two months after my return from the shooting trip to Gólis.

The Egyptian military quarters at Bulhár had been reported flooded by a freshet from the Issutugan river, and I was sent over from Aden to meet Mr. Walsh and go with him to Bulhár, in order to choose a site for hut barracks, to be put up by the Indian Sappers who were under my command. I chose the site for the huts and returned to Aden. I arrived again at Bulhár on 27th September 1885, with thirty Sappers and all the material for constructing the huts, and camped near the site which we had chosen. For the first three weeks there was no chance of leaving camp even to go aoul shooting on the plain. Several native reports had reached us that the hill tribes, especially the Habr Gerhajis, were likely to come down and attack us, and not knowing the nature of Somáli information at that time I was inclined to believe these rumours.


♂ WATERBUCK (Cobus ellipsiprymnus).

Average length of horns on curve, 20 inches.

When the work was, however, fairly under way I took a few strolls into the plain. On one occasion, when out, attended only by my hunter, Ali Hirsi, we blundered within half a mile of a large party of raiding Habr Gerhajis horsemen from the hills, whom the police from Berbera were trying to catch. Not knowing anything about the locality of the band I fired at a bustard, with the result that the robbers bolted for the hills, thinking the police had come up with them.

Bulhár was now getting full of people, the clans coming[80] down into the plain. Two of these clans had a feud in active operation, and a large tree near Elmas Mountain was about this time the scene of a ghastly murder. Eight men and as many women and children of one of the clans were attacked when asleep under a tree by their enemies, and all had their throats cut. My hunter, Ali Hirsi, who belonged to the clan which had suffered, promptly asked leave to go to the interior and see his father, who, he said, had been suddenly taken ill. I afterwards found that this was incorrect, and that Ali Hirsi, being the son of an ákil, had found it incumbent on him to answer the family call to arms.

Shortly afterwards my friend the late Mr. D. Morrison, Mr. Walsh’s assistant, arrived from Berbera to take charge of Bulhár, and he at once found his hands full with this feud between the two clans of the Shirdone Yunis, Habr Awal, called respectively the Boho Shirdone and the Ba-Gadabursi Shirdone. British interests suffer sadly by these feuds occurring near our ports, as for the time being all trade is liable to be stopped.

A few days after M⸺’s arrival a messenger came running in at dawn one morning to say that the Boho had taken possession of the Bulhár wells, three miles west of the town, and were that morning going to be attacked by the Ba-Gadabursi from Elmas, each side being about five hundred strong. M⸺ at once decided to ride out with his interpreter and try to dissuade the Ba-Gadabursi from attacking. I accompanied him on one of the Sapper mules, taking with me Khoda Bux, a Panjábi muleteer, also mounted. After going three miles, at the Bulhár wells we came upon the Boho Shirdone halted, awaiting the attack. Here I found my hunter, Ali Hirsi, sporting a khaili tobe, with a good nag grazing close by. He came up cheerily to me, with nothing of the servant about him, and shook hands. I asked him after his sick father, and with a bland smile he said he had got well again, and was going to fight the Ba-Gadabursi.

We rode on, and crossed a bare, undulating plain, which in the evenings is sometimes covered with sand-grouse, and where I had often hunted aoul, and a mile beyond the Boho we came upon the Ba-Gadabursi, not halted, but already advancing in line to the attack!


Somáli Horseman.

It was a stirring scene. About two hundred horsemen and three hundred spearmen on foot were advancing in a long line facing to the east, coming to meet us. The horsemen formed the left wing, marching along the flat sandy plain which stretched down to the raised sea-shore on our right, which, though we could hear their roar, hid from our view the white breakers of the Gulf of Aden. On our left the plain rose to low sand hillocks covered with grass and scrub, and along these came the right wing on foot, the men extended at about a pace apart, keeping a very good line, each man carrying his spears and shield and wearing his white tobe wound round his waist. Most of the horsemen wore the khaili, or red and blue tobe. The plain over which we had ridden stretched between us and Bulhár, which lay four miles behind us.

Our little party of four cantered to meet this array. Now and then a horseman darted out from the line, and galloping round in a circle, threw his spear, and picked it up again while at full speed. As we approached they set up a song, but stopped when M⸺ rode up to one of the aukál, or elders,[82] and demanded a parley. There was a good deal of angry shouting at first, and the horsemen pressed round us in a dense mass, so that we could only extricate ourselves by drawing our revolvers. Seeing we really had some serious business on hand, one or two of the leading Ba-Gadabursi elders, prominent among whom was a well-known firebrand called Warsama Dugál, entreated the horsemen to wait and hear what “the Government” had to say. M⸺, by the aid of his interpreter, quietly explained that if they would only put off the attack for a day he would try and settle the feud satisfactorily to both parties. While the interpreter was explaining this, M⸺ asked me to try and bring out the thirty Sappers, to be ready on hand if required. I told Khoda Bux in Hindustáni, and, like the sporting Panjábi that he was, he was delighted with the errand, and kicking up his mule, he started off at a gallop. A Shirdone galloped in pursuit, shouting and brandishing his spear, but M⸺ quickly headed him, and persuaded him to get back into the line and not make a fool of himself.

The elders, who had seen the force of my friend’s sensible argument from the first, soon quieted down the horsemen; while I rode off with Warsama Dugál and persuaded the infantry to stop, for they were quietly creeping ahead among the sand-dunes. When they saw me riding on a kicking Panjábi mule, with a revolver which I had forgotten to put in its holster, and old Warsama in company excitedly yelling at them, they began to laugh, and good-naturedly squatted down on their heels, with the butts of their spears planted in the ground, glowering over their shields at a line of hillocks in front which hid the Boho from view. At their earnest request I allowed them to advance fifty yards to the top of the hillocks, “so that they might see the Boho.” They said they were thirsty, and the sight of the wells would do them good! The people told us that it was very hard being stopped in this way. They did not want to touch a hair of any white man’s head, they only wanted to wipe out the Boho. However, the elders agreed to send back the clan to Eil Sheikh, and themselves to come into Bulhár with M⸺ and see what they could do to settle the feud. The Sappers at last came into sight, and about a dozen of the elders accepted our escort to get them safely through[83] the Boho lines. I extended my men, a section on either side, marching in single file, while M⸺ and the elders rode bunched together in the space between. We passed the Boho line in this order, having first sent the interpreter on to explain. The Boho looked savagely at our protégés as we passed, but were too sensible to attack us for the sake of slitting the throats of a few elders, so not a horse was mounted and all went off quietly. Arrived in Bulhár, my friend rode out with his interpreter and brought in the Boho elders. After two days’ talking the feud was settled for the time being, though it broke out again a week later, and gave M⸺ an immense amount of anxiety and trouble. Twice my little party was called out in aid of the civil power, but not having to act in self-defence, we were able to keep the peace for a time without firing a shot. M⸺ ordered the tribes to live apart, the Ba-Gadabursi fourteen miles to the west at Eil Sheikh, the Boho fifteen miles to the east at Géri, and every few days or so he would persuade the elders to meet in Bulhár for a conference. It was only a question of blood-money, but what a question! We always knew how things were going, for when the relations were strained the two semicircles of old men who were seated on the ground would shroud their faces in the ends of their tobes, only allowing a slit to look through, and they would add the supreme insult of shading their eyes with their hands; when things were improving they looked their enemies frankly in the face.

Soon after the cessation of hostilities at Bulhár I was sent surveying up the Issutugan river with an escort of fifteen sabres of the Aden troop, a body of Indian cavalry which is permanently stationed at Khor Maksar, the outpost near Aden. This was my first exploring trip.

After this trip I returned to Aden to prepare for further explorations in the Habr Awal country, and at the end of December 1885 I arrived at Bulhár with three sowars of the Aden troop, twelve mounted Panjábis, enlisted in Aden as policemen for this special purpose, and ten sepoys of the Bombay Infantry,—in all an escort of twenty-five men. Although we were ready to start the survey by 1st January, the Bulhár tribes were in such a disturbed state that M⸺, finding it[84] necessary to utilise whatever troops came to his hand, was obliged, in his official capacity in charge of Bulhár, to ask me to remain, and to give him the benefit of the services of my escort till the tribes should become more settled.

The Shirdone feud had broken out again, and some of the Boho having managed to get into Bulhár to buy food, the Ba-Gadabursi were reported to be coming in from Eil Sheikh to attack Bulhár. M⸺ sent out notice that if they did come in they would be fired at. One morning, while at breakfast, we received news that the Ba-Gadabursi were actually in sight, and advancing to the attack. I jumped on my pony and rode out alone into the plain to reconnoitre; and seeing that this was true, cantered into Bulhár again, and on my way to M⸺’s quarters I called to the daffedar to turn out my fifteen mounted men. When M⸺ and I came out again, both mounted, we found my police ready and in the saddle, attired rather curiously, for most of the men had only found time to put on their turbans, and had their cartridge belts strapped over whatever clothes they had worn when lounging about inside their huts.

As soon as we had got beyond Bulhár we saw the Ba-Gadabursi advancing slowly over the plain, about seven hundred yards away, and reining in we fired a couple of rounds from the saddle, and returned the carbines to their buckets, then, drawing swords, we advanced at a gallop. The Ba-Gadabursi, of whom there were over a hundred mounted and about ten on foot, bolted at the first shots, and the horsemen were soon lost to sight in the haze of the Maritime Plain, while the men on foot, seeing themselves abandoned, tried to hide in the grass, but were all caught by my men and brought in as prisoners, only one being slightly wounded by a sword-point through the arm. With the men were brought in seventeen spears and some shields, which M⸺ gave to the prisoners when he released them next day.

The Ba-Gadabursi were quiet for a week after this; and then, on another morning, a runner came to report that they were again coming in, in force, this time on foot. Our ponies had all been knocked up by scouting for hill raiders in the Selei direction on the previous day, so we called our available[85] men out on foot. M⸺ took command of the fifteen dismounted policemen, while I collected my own sepoys and an Infantry guard which was then stationed at Bulhár; they amounted to about thirty rank and file, all belonging to the Bombay Infantry. While the Ba-Gadabursi were still quite a thousand yards away, M⸺, having drawn up the police along the sea-shore, gave the signal which we had agreed upon, firing two volleys at the distant line of a few hundred natives. They bolted at once, and I had a running skirmish with them for half an hour over two or three miles of grassy plain, after which we lost touch of them altogether. We found, however, some fifteen men hiding in the grass or diving about in the surf, and one wounded man, and brought them all in, with a collection of some thirty spears which had been thrown away in the retreat. Most of these were given back next day.

There was a lull after this, but on the following day half a dozen elders of the offending tribe came in and called upon M⸺, and we held a council with them outside his quarters, a large crowd of spectators coming from Bulhár village to look on. The elders, led by Warsama Dugál, explained that they had no quarrel with the Government, but only with the Boho. Their young men had, however, been boasting a good deal, not seeing why they should be kept out of Bulhár, saying that they didn’t care for the Government, and would go in and burn the town. The elders had then given them Punch’s advice, “Don’t,” but they had not listened to it. “Now,” said the elders to M⸺, “you have fired upon our boys; that was bad of you, but next time they will listen to our advice.” After we had shaken hands cordially with them, for they were all personally known to us, they rode away to Eil Sheikh. The wounded man, who had only received a bullet through the foot, was put under medical treatment, and in a few days limped out to his tribe. Soon after the second skirmish M⸺ brought the Boho and Ba-Gadabursi to a settlement, only to break out again some months later.

Meanwhile, on 1st February I was free to start for the interior on my survey trip. I had arranged to go in by So Midgán and Eil Ánod to the Interior Plains, and thence to[86] strike through the Maritime Range to Bulhár. My caravan consisted of eighteen Aden hill camels[18] with Arab drivers, seventeen sabres of Indian mounted police, and ten Bombay Infantry sepoys. We drove with us a small herd of Aden donkeys, so that the sepoys could either ride or pack their valises on them. We arrived at So Midgán, twenty-three miles from Bulhár, at dusk, and next day we marched to Eil Ánod, ten miles farther. We expected to come upon the Habr Gerhajis tribe, which was supposed to be slightly hostile to the British, and was noted for raiding; and as we passed the spurs of the Sarar-awr (camel-back) plateau, on the way to Eil Ánod, we saw the tops of the hills white with sheep and lined with men, who were in a great state of alarm, shouting down at us. Later we found a karia with only a few women in it, who said all the men had run away, thinking we had come to loot them! Knowing mounted men cannot climb hills, they had taken the precaution to drive the flocks up, taking charge of them for the time being, and leaving the women to mind the rest of their property below.

We reassured these women, who then ran up and brought down the men, and after a short conference the flocks were driven into the plain again. The owners of the karia turned out to be a jilib or family of the Habr Gerhajis, and soon an intelligent-looking young man who had lost one leg came forward mounted on a pony and shook hands. He was Deria Shiré, the son of an important elder of the Habr Gerhajis tribe named Shiré Shirmáki, whom I afterwards met and made great friends with during the elephant-hunting trip described in the last chapter. The latest news I have heard of Deria Shiré, who, although a well-mannered young man, is rather a scoundrel, was to the effect that two or three years ago he speared his old father in the leg, nearly killing him. I found him very polite, and he accompanied us to the wells, at the same time remarking that he had not the slightest knowledge why we had come, and that his tribe were very suspicious. No other white man had ever been to Eil Ánod before, and he did not quite see why we had come now.


We found a few men at the Eil Ánod wells, who received us with black looks, and we took possession of one of the old zeríbas and put a sentry over a well, which was reserved for our own use. Deria Shiré left us, saying that he could not be responsible for what his tribe might do; we had come armed with guns and were strong, and he hoped we would leave him alone. Meanwhile, as we were pitching camp, my interpreter, Samanter, went down to the wells and got into conversation with some of the tribesmen who were lounging there. He came back to me in a great state of excitement, saying he had reliable information that we were to be attacked that night, and that I was to make a strong zeríba, and not leave camp myself nor allow any of the men to do so.

There was plenty of game in the Eil Ánod plain, and as I thought, if I followed Samanter’s advice, the Habr Gerhajis would only be strengthened in their belief that we meant harm to them, I decided to fortify the zeríba, and leaving fifteen men inside, to sally out myself with the ten others, and beat the jungle for game. We made a circuit of the bush within two miles of camp, firing at the tiny Sakáro antelopes and hares, and getting a mixed bag of three hares and six antelopes. At dusk, carrying our game, we returned to the zeríba, on the way passing a large tree where about a hundred and fifty men were collected, all having their spears with them, and a few saddled ponies were grazing round the tree. These people took no further notice than to scowl at us as we passed.

After we had reached the zeríba I came out again with two sepoys and the interpreter, and walking up to the tree where the tribesmen were collected, I called out “Salaam aleikum” (Peace be with you). There was no answer for some time, and then an old man with a white beard and a wicked-looking, clean-shaven skull, treated me to a surly stare and mumbled; “Salaam.” Then he looked down and spat on the ground, and began absent-mindedly scratching the earth with a bit of stick, and then smoothing out the marks with his hands. The rest of the crowd remained silent, all looking sulky and mischievous. Some were gazing at us with a rude stare, others were shading their eyes with their hands, or hiding behind their tobes. My interpreter harangued them, asking why I was received so[88] coldly by the tribe. There was a long pause till two old men cleared their throats and looked at each other, and without rising one of them spoke. “Warya ninki Frinji” (I say, foreigner) was the beginning of his speech, and it was translated into Hindustáni by Samanter as the old man went on.

The gist of his remarks was that the tribesmen wanted to know why I had brought all these soldiers into the Habr Gerhajis country, and whether we had come to steal cattle, for if so, we had better go back again, as they had none. There was plenty of cattle among the other tribes.

We had come, my interpreter said, on a peaceful mission, to report upon the trade routes, and to ascertain whether they were safe for caravans coming to trade in Berbera and Bulhár. There was a good deal of loud discussion among the assembled men, and then the old man who had first spoken, becoming more friendly, said that he and his tribe knew nothing about the looting of caravans. He accused all the sub-tribes around of looting, but said the Abdul Ishák never looted, and I was to tell the Government. At that time the Abdul Ishák, Habr Gerhajis, were well known as the most persistent looters of caravans, but I promised to convey the message to the authorities, and made the old man happy. Peace was now restored, and we spent a quiet night, the Abdul Ishák sending us several vessels of milk; and in the morning we parted amicably, and continued our trip, eventually reaching Berbera.

This incident at Eil Ánod, only thirty miles from the coast, shows how little Europeans were trusted or known in the early days of the British Protectorate. Many shooting parties have been through the Habr Awal and Habr Gerhajis countries of late years, but at that time the country was quite unexplored, even close to the coast.

About a month after the Eil Ánod incident we set out from Berbera on another trip, this time going to Mandeira, and thence up the Jeráto Pass to Syk, in the high Ogo country.

I heard that the Kásin Ishák, a clan of the Habr Gerhajis, were at Syk, and expected trouble; but when we reached the Syk fig-tree we found only a few of the elders, who said that they had received a good report of us from the Abdul Ishák clan, which had met us on the former journey at Eil Ánod, and[89] so they had been waiting to receive us hospitably. I had left my camp at Mandeira, about fifteen hundred feet below, and had come up the Jeráto Pass with seven troopers as an escort. On reaching Berbera we marched to Bulhár along the coast track, and on 26th April we made another exploring trip to the Interior Plains, returning at the end of it to Berbera and thence to Aden, where I completed my map of the Habr Awal country for Government.

A Moonlight Drink

“Sakaro” Antelope.

In the following autumn, although not actually sent on duty, I obtained six weeks’ leave to Somáliland, on condition I would do a map of my route for Government. I was very anxious to go to Zeila and make an exploration through the Gadabursi hills, coming out at the coast again at Bulhár. So far the hills between Zeila and Bulhár had been quite unknown. On this trip I was in company with three friends, two of whom, finding the game scarce, soon returned to Zeila. I held on, however, and we struck without guides through the mountains, finally reaching Dímis, near Bulhár, having traversed the last sixty miles with only three pints of water per man. This caused some suffering from thirst, which the men were able to partly alleviate at Eil Sheikh by jumping into the sea and moistening their skins. One pony died from the effects of this march the day after we reached Bulhár.


We had timed our trip at a bad season for game, and the only satisfaction which I got for fitting out a very expensive expedition, and for a good deal of hardship, was a map of hitherto unexplored country.

In 1887 I made the two big game trips recorded in the last chapter, and in 1889 a short shooting trip to Gólis, which was of minor importance. In 1891 I was ordered to place myself at the disposal of the Resident at Aden in order to reconnoitre the trade routes in the Dolbahanta, Habr Toljaala, Jibril Abokr, Esa, and Gadabursi countries. My brother, Lieut. (now Captain) E. J. E. Swayne, 16th Bengal Infantry, whom I will call E⸺, was deputed to assist in the survey, and joined me at Calcutta as I passed through that place on my way from Mandalay to Aden. We reached the Somáli coast in February, and started with thirty-two Somális and one Madras “boy.” There were twenty-six baggage camels, and we each rode a camel led by a Somáli at walking pace. Going by Dubár and Sheikh, we arrived after eleven days at Alla-uli, a watering-place in a narrow valley just behind the crest of the highest bluffs of the Gólis Range, at an elevation of six thousand feet above sea-level.

On the following day, after establishing a small camp on the top of Fodwein Bluff, we chose our theodolite station within a short distance of the edge of Fodwein, which falls several hundred feet sheer to the Mirso ledge below. This was the first of a long chain of stations for fixing the main positions on our route, by observations of the stars for azimuth and latitude, with a six-inch transit theodolite.

We remained here four days, and obtained a good azimuth on to a point on a small hill called Yirrowa, fifty-five miles away to the east of south, on the main route to the Dolbahanta country. Looking towards Yirrowa from the top of Gólis we could see only one immense expanse of dark brown bush, becoming quite blue in the distance and looking like a sea-horizon, broken only by the small hill Yirrowa, and a long, light blue line, dancing high above the horizon in the heat haze and mirage, which indicated the Bur Dab Range, two days’ march beyond Yirrowa.

The whole of the country ahead was unmapped, the first[91] European caravans to go so far south being those of Colonel Paget to the south-west of us, and of Mr. Clarke, which had gone to the interior a few days before towards the south-east. Eventually, however, we left both these caravans far to the west.

From our elevated position, which was now 6800 feet above the sea, we had a fine view of the Maritime Ranges and Berbera Plain, and we obtained a back azimuth on the Berbera Masjid tower, thirty-five miles distant. It was very cold at night, the thermometer going down to 58°, with a chilling drizzle and clouds of mist which often enveloped us, making observations impossible.

On the 22nd we marched back to Upper Sheikh, and while we were camped near the graves at night, the mullahs from Guldu Hamed ran to us crying that looters were coming down on us. Men were seen running by, who said they were Habr Gerhajis, and that their cattle had been lifted by a neighbouring tribe. We remained under arms for a while and then turned in. Next morning it transpired that the camels had only been allowed to stray, and had afterwards been found.

We marched six miles to Dubbur, the last water before we should reach Bér, about sixty miles farther, and filled up our casks. Now we entered the great wooded and undulating waterless plains, crossing the Habr Toljaala boundary soon after leaving Dubbur, and always holding south-east. On the east a long low range of hills shut in the view, but west and south of us was one immense forest of small thorn-trees, except on the margin of the sand-rivers, where some of the gudá thorn-trees reached a height of fifty or sixty feet. In a river-bed, called Goité, horsemen of the Habr Gerhajis, from Bur’o, came to hold a mounted parade in our honour.

On 27th February we reached Yirrowa, and chose another theodolite station. There were several curious flat hillocks and cairns of stones, called Taalla Gálla, perched about the corners of the Yirrowa Hill, and here we got an azimuth on to Bur Dab Range, still blue in the distance.

At a thickly wooded pasture called Bér, five miles farther, in the valley of Tug Dér, we found water at a depth of ten feet in twelve wells. Very heavy floods sometimes come down this valley, as can be seen by the large trunks of trees everywhere[92] stranded along the cut banks of the watercourse, which is at places one hundred and fifty yards broad. The Tug Dér freshets, coming from Bur’o, pass east into the Nogal Valley, and so to the Indian Ocean.

We were told that there were always from fifty to five hundred robbers in the Bur Dab Range, and passing caravans were often looted. It has been the custom of these robbers, who belong to the Mahamud Gerád, Saad Yunis, and Músa Abokr tribes living near the coast farther east, to loot across this Bér Plain every year, going right up to Guldu Hamed. When raiding they only water their ponies once in three or four days. Near Bér we found tracks of forty horsemen, and ascertained that they were those of a Dolbahanta force, which a month before had gone to loot the Habr Gerhajis pastures at Bur’o, but had been driven back, losing three ponies.

Several very ragged-looking Somális, with the usual spears and shield, came into camp and insisted on being fed; they had gone to Bur Dab to recover some camels looted from them three days before, but on reaching the mountain they had first seen vultures hovering about, and had then discovered the robbers in great force sitting over a feast of the carcases of the stolen camels; and being afraid to attack, they had returned disheartened, hungry, thirsty, and tired. They told us that Colonel Paget and his brother had their camp near Wadama-go, ahead of us, where they were shooting lions. The Pagets had already had one sharp skirmish with Bur Dab robbers, being obliged, we heard, to use their rifles freely in self-defence.

We reached Kirrit well, near Wadama-go, on 3rd March. There were numbers of old graves here, and the well, supposed to have been dug out of the gypsum rock by ancient Gállas, is very curious. At the mouth it is a hole twenty feet in diameter, narrowing as it descends, with a rude cross quarried out of the face. To get water, one has to descend twenty feet, and then crawl along a narrow rocky passage for thirty feet to a very deep pool, six feet wide and thirty feet long. It is quite dark, and there is a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen, with which the water is impregnated from the gypsum rock. The water is disagreeable to drink, and causes diarrhœa. Robbers from Bur Dab often use this well when on their raids. The[93] gypsum rock is very smooth and white, and in some places presents the appearance of the flagstone flooring of a cathedral, being split up into squares. The graves, which are made of these rocks, are generally plastered over with powdered gypsum.

Next day we marched across a broad tributary valley of the Nogal to a flat-topped hill called Daba Dalól, eight miles to the east. We crossed the tracks of Colonel Paget’s caravan, and the next day we received a note from him concerning some robbers whom he had taken prisoners.

Near Daba Dalól was a mullah’s village named Kob-Fardód, with a little cultivation. These people told us that the Mahamud Gerád were out against the Arasama, another sub-tribe of the Dolbahanta, and that there had been a fight, two days’ march ahead on our route.

Next day we had a scare among the camelmen. At noon, while the camels and horses were watering at the well, two miles from camp, under a weak guard of three riflemen, one of them ran in to say they had been attacked and the camels looted. E⸺ went out with a portion of our escort to search for the missing camels; but they had only gone half a mile when fifteen horsemen, the supposed enemy, cantered up and shouted that they were Arasama, and that they had come three days’ march to welcome us into the Dolbahanta country. They told us that more than a dozen caravans were in their country, afraid to go to Berbera on account of the Mahamud Gerád. One caravan had even gone round to Berbera by way of the Haud, preferring to go through waterless country and to carry ten days’ water on the camels, rather than run the risk of being looted. They also declared that we were the first Europeans in this country, and denied all knowledge of some Italians who were reported to have already come to Bur Dab. Here we met gum-pickers, wandering about the jungle, collecting gum in sacks. They seemed very poor, with old and rotten tobes.

The Arasama, to whom we had given presents at Daba-Dalól, followed us through the Ain valley, giving great annoyance by loud-voiced demands for more. Wherever we halted we were at once surrounded by a crowd of elders, clamouring[94] for tobes. They were dragged from hand to hand, with a chorus of angry shouts, the bald-headed old chiefs looking like human vultures.

We halted at a steep, flat-topped hill called Kabr Ogádén, or the Ogádén graves, where a great Ogádén army once perished at the hands of the Dolbahanta. The whole country was dotted with Gálla cairns, one of these curious structures being visible on every hill-top. From the summit of the hill we got a splendid view of the broad Nogal Valley, and chose our theodolite station at a Gálla cairn on the highest point.

Next day, followed by the Arasama headmen, still clamouring for tobes, we marched to their great watering-place, Eil Dab (rocky well). The tribe was here in strength, with enormous droves of camels and ponies and flocks of sheep. For a mile round the wells there were clouds of dust, kicked up by the thirsty animals. The water in the wells, which are caves in gypsum rock, was very foul. Vulturine guinea-fowl abounded. We marched due south, crossing to the south side of the Nogal, but we could not shake off the Arasama, who followed us on their ponies, continually demanding presents and refusing to be satisfied with what we gave. One old chief presented us with a sheep, but not liking my return present of two tobes, he crept into our zeríba at night and stole his sheep back, while a friend of his engaged the attention of our sentry.

At our Biyo Ado camp more elders from other tribes joined the Arasama, and while E⸺ and I were up the hill with the theodolite, they issued forth and looted some camels of the Allegiri tribe which were seen passing four miles out on the plain. They also took three men prisoners, but we eventually forced them to release both camels and prisoners. The Allegiri brought us news of a fight between the Arasama and Barkad Gerád on one side and Mahamud Gerád on the other, in which the latter were successful.

Next day, while we were away watering our ponies, the Arasama issued from our camp, and chasing two Allegiri, whom they had seen from the hill, they brought them in as hostages for exchange with some looted camels. Finding the prisoners on our return we released them, and after turning all the Arasama elders neck and crop out of camp, we gave out that[95] we intended to be friends with all tribes and would not be mixed up in their quarrels.

Followed by a large number of avaricious elders, we marched north-east to Badwein, where we found more wells, and a large tank of water, four hundred yards in circumference, with perpendicular sides forty feet deep, supposed to have been excavated in the limestone rocks by ancient Gállas; but the water was utterly unfit for human consumption. Ruins, which rise half smothered from among a tangle of aloes and thorn jungle close by, cover an area of forty thousand square yards, and in some of the houses the walls are still ten feet high. E⸺ rode into a large house or temple, to find it two hundred feet long and one hundred feet wide, divided by a number of partition walls. They are built of limestone and very much decomposed by rains, and are supposed to be the work of the Gállas, but no one knows who built them. Some of the Somális say they date back to the time of some race before the Gállas. The people at Badwein had just come from Gosaweina, driven from there through fear of the Mahamud Gerád, and we were assured we would most certainly be attacked by that tribe if we held to our determination of going to Gosaweina. We were further told that the plains were very open and the horsemen “as numerous as the sand,” and that some years ago a force of natives armed with one hundred matchlocks had been completely wiped out there by a night attack.

Marching eastward, we soon entered the open grass plains, where we saw the smouldering zeríbas of the Arasama and Barkad Gerád sub-tribes, which had fled before the Mahamud Gerád. The next day we held across the open plains to Gosaweina, and scarcely had we started when a party of horsemen was seen halted on some low hills to the north! We, however, kept straight on, and the horsemen, constantly increasing in numbers, followed us, moving parallel to us on the higher ground.

Without halting the camels, we whistled the men up and they formed line, and moved out to protect the caravan. The horsemen came towards us at a gallop, but pulled up on our running with a few men towards them. On getting up to them my men were greatly relieved in their minds to find that instead[96] of the terrible Mahamud Gerád, they were a detachment of the Arasama and Barkad Gerád, who had been out protecting their flocks and herds at Eil Dab and Badwein by scouting for the Mahamud Gerád. They followed us to Gosaweina, clamouring for cloth, and hobbling their horses, they made a bivouac on the plain with us at night. We did not light fires, not wishing to attract the Mahamud Gerád. The horsemen told us that rain had fallen in the plain to the north of us, below Bur Dab, and that at Waredad there was a pool full of water.

We had now mapped the Dolbahanta country to the head of the Nogal Valley, and the time had arrived for our return to the coast.[19] We ran the gauntlet of the begging Arasama elders back to Eil Dab, and then struck due south, crossing Bur Dab Range by a pass called Laba Gardai, which descended into the Waredad Plain below. While we were in camp at Eil Dab some of our escort, losing patience, began firing with blank cartridge at the excited mob of Arasama who were pressing round camp demanding tobes. The elders brought in what they declared to be a wounded man, and made the occurrence the text for a further demand that we should pay blood-money or fight the tribe; but we found it was only an old half-healed scar, and laughed at them.

A trading caravan, anxious to go to Berbera, but fearing the robbers who infest Bur Dab, took advantage of our protection for the next few days. In this caravan the women were to the men as six to one, and had it been attacked when alone it would have fallen an easy prey to a small party of raiders. To place so much valuable property almost entirely in the charge of defenceless women is putting temptation in the way of the robber bands, and often the owners have only themselves to blame.

We reached Arregéd, a deep ravine in the middle of the Bur Dab Range, and during the night two men were seen skulking in the bush near camp. On the 20th, taking three men and a theodolite, I ascended Bur Dab, and choosing a station for star observations, spent the night on the top of the hill. In the[97] morning before descending to camp we explored the interior of the range, and found that all the plateaux of which it was formed dropped sheer down into a large basin seamed by watercourses and tunnelled everywhere by caves. The regularity of the strata and their water-worn appearance led us to believe Bur Dab to be composed of stratified limestone rock, and not a volcano, as stated by some Italian travellers. Possibly they confounded Bur Dab and Bur Dáb, the former meaning “rocky hill,” and the latter “hill of fire.” The caves inside afford a secure retreat for robbers, who, indeed, are said never to leave the mountain.

On going down to camp I found that E⸺ and his own followers had been kept on the alert throughout the night by men prowling round them. They were distinctly visible in the moonlight, but E⸺ would allow no firing, as they made off whenever he went out to see who they were. On our return to Berbera we heard that fifty robbers had reconnoitred our Arregéd camp, and had made off westward for Kirrit, thinking we had come to Bur Dab to look for them. For having been severely handled in their attack on Colonel Paget’s party, they did not care to come into collision with Europeans again. Further native information was given us regarding this attack, it being reported to us that the robbers had lost three killed and ten wounded. As we did not actually visit Colonel Paget’s camp, however, we could hear no reliable account of what happened.

Marching through the Habr Toljaala country, we reached the eastern continuation of Gólis Range and descended by the Huguf Pass. Near Huguf we divided our caravan into two parts; I marched to Berbera via Karam, while E⸺ ascended Wagar Mountain, two days’ march to the west of Huguf, to take observations. He marched over very steep and rolling ground, gradually ascending, and then through a narrow gorge to Sisai, at the back of Wagar. Sisai is a grassy hollow between the two principal peaks of Wagar, which are called by different names, the peak to the east being Bakáwa, and the one to the west, and highest, Tawáwur (nearly seven thousand feet). Everywhere the hills are clothed with thick vegetation, and the grass is succulent and green, and many fat cattle of the Mahomed[98] Esa were seen. The trees are chiefly mountain cedar and hassádan, a kind of euphorbia, affording a dense shade. The party ascended Tawáwur from Sisai by a good path, passing through heavy timber of cedar and hassádan, the soil everywhere being hidden by the rich vegetation. About half-way up the party reached a long glade of green grass two feet high, which wetted them to the knees as they walked through it. At the side of this glade the cedar-trees were straight, and starting with a girth of from ten to fifteen feet, rose to a height of ninety to one hundred feet, the hassádan trees also attaining a height of about seventy feet. Opening out from this glade in all directions were excellent paths through the forest made by elephants, and plunging into one of them, they reached the top of Tawáwur. They climbed on to an enormous boulder capping the top. Looking over a vast expanse of white clouds, they waited for them to clear away, but after four hours a dense fog came up and necessitated a retreat. E⸺ saw countless varieties of birds, and heard the voice of a panther come up from the valley below, and at times koodoo antelopes could be heard crashing through the jungle as the party advanced. About thirty varieties of flowers were gathered, of great beauty.

E⸺ made two ascents of Tawáwur and one of Bakáwa, and working down the spurs of Bergéli, he reached camp at Asseil. It was very cold at night at Sisai, and the temperature throughout the day was 70°, except at noon, when it rose to 78° Fahr. E⸺ then descended again with his caravan to the plain below Huguf, and marching to the coast, reached Berbera a few days before I arrived by the coast route from Karam.

The expedition to the Dolbahanta country was followed by a second to the Jibril Abokr sub-tribe of the Habr Awal, living in the hills north-west of Hargeisa and in the open plains near the Harar border. We took twenty-three men, of whom sixteen carried rifles, and there were twenty-four camels. The caravan left Berbera on 21st May, going south-west. We made a moonlight march to Nasíya tree in the Maritime Plain. Next day we came upon an immense cloud of locusts, which were seen daily till the 26th,[20] often darkening the sky.


On the 28th we ascended a plateau just under the crest of Gán Libah,[21] which is the farthest west of the Gólis bluffs, and a most conspicuous landmark; and it was on the highest point of Gán Libah, at an elevation of six thousand feet, that we chose our theodolite station. We climbed the mountain to a point some four miles south of the edge of the bluff, and camped; and next morning I made an exploration through the cedar forests to the highest point, from which the whole of the low country to the north can be seen, including Berbera and Bulhár. I found, however, that owing to the steep nature of the ground, it would be impossible to get the theodolite uninjured to the station which we had chosen. We subsequently found the three points, Berbera, Bulhár, and Gán Libah, very nearly formed an equilateral triangle, with a side of about forty-two miles.

The distance covered by the exploration was only eight miles, but it occupied five hours, as the mountain was fearfully cut up by deep ravines, while the high trees, growing close together and festooned with creepers, thoroughly obstructed the path. At the edge of the bluffs are cliffs on every side, and a beautiful jungle with a great variety of flowers and plants, especially nastertians, maiden-hair fern, and mosses. We struck camp and made for the lower plateau, losing ourselves among a network of steep ravines, but eventually we reached a plain from which stood out a rounded rock called Dagah Kaburáleh, and we camped in a grassy hollow at its foot.

Later on we struck south through the khansa jungle to Bér in Khansa. E⸺ saw a lioness, but she bounded into the long grass before he had a chance of getting a shot at her. Leaving him at the Bér camp, I made a reconnaissance into the open prairie of Toyo, sleeping out two nights without a tent, and shooting for the first time two hartebeests, which were afterwards found to be new to science, and being submitted to Dr. Sclater, Secretary of the London Zoological Society, they were described, and named Swayne’s Hartebeests (Bubalis[100] swaynei). Returning to Bér, and finding E⸺ had gone, I followed in his tracks, and halted for the night at a pasture called Taláwa-yér, among the karias of the Kásin Ishák, Habr Gerhajis. As I was riding ahead of the caravan, towards sunset, looking out for a dead tree near which to camp, and so save labour in collecting firewood, some karia people came running to report that a panther had just struck down a goat, and had then been driven off by the herdboys. I ordered the men to pitch camp and walked over to the body of the goat. We built a screen of boughs two feet high, taking ten minutes over the work, and then, with the setting sun scorching our backs, I sat down with my two hunters behind the screen, and only five yards from the goat. Several men, who had helped us to make the brushwood screen, then walked away towards camp, purposely talking aloud to lead the brute to suppose we had all gone together; and while they were yet only a hundred yards away I looked towards the goat and saw the panther was standing over it, his tail towards me. I fired, and hit him high on the left side, the bullet raking forward, and he rolled over, and looking under the smoke I finished him with a second shot as he lay twisting and growling in the grass; and we carried him to camp and skinned him by firelight. This was the first panther I had ever bagged, though I had seen many. At dawn I continued the march, and arrived at my brother’s halting-place before noon.

We made several marches westward, and on 8th June we reached Hargeisa. This town is built some five hundred yards from the right bank of the Aleyadéra nala,[22] and at an elevation of thirty or forty feet above it. Round the place is a patch of jowári cultivation (Holcus sorghum), two and a half miles long and a quarter of a mile broad. Quantities of live stock of all kinds graze on the low undulating hills for half a mile from the Aleyadéra nala on either bank. Hargeisa is situated on two important caravan routes, one from Ogádén and the other from Harar. There are good direct camel roads to Berbera and Bulhár. Supplies of rice, tobacco, and dates can sometimes be bought here in the trading season. Some four hundred people are employed looking after the jowári fields, and can be seen sitting on platforms, shouting and throwing stones to scare away[101] the birds from the crops. There is abundance of good water in the bed of the river, and a masonry well has been built, and is kept in order by an Arab from Aden. The town is full of blind and lame people, who are under the protection of Sheikh Mattar and his mullahs. The soil is red alluvial earth with a thin layer of fine sand on the top, and it is not better than that which we had seen in the Tug Dér valley, at Bér, and in the Haud. Jowári crops flourish here as they would in most of the higher tracts of Somáliland, if the people were not in a chronic state of petty warfare, and cared to cultivate.

At the time of our visit great anxiety was felt because the Abyssinians occupying Harar had threatened to attack Hargeisa, and had already exacted tribute of cattle from some clans of the Jibril Abokr, Habr Awal. Sheikh Mattar told us that he thought if the Abyssinians came down they would choose the time of the harvest, six weeks later.

From Hargeisa we continued our journey westwards, camping at Abbárso. Our tents were pitched five yards apart at this camp, and as I was sitting outside in the balmy air, enjoying the quiet moonlight scene, I observed a panther crouching under the outer fly of E⸺’s tent, evidently stalking something in the centre of the camp. Diving quickly into my own tent for a loaded rifle, I came out again, only to find the panther had sprung into the centre of camp and seized a milk goat. There had been a crowd of men sleeping round the goat, and to get at it he had leaped over them, placing his paw upon the face of my brother’s cook, without, however, injuring him. On the sentry running towards him with the butt of his Snider rifle raised to strike, the brute dropped the goat and discreetly sprang over some more men and out of the zeríba, and then sneaked away. The same goat was killed by another panther springing into camp a few nights later.

We separated our caravans on 14th June, meeting again at Ujawáji on the 17th, among the karias of the Rer Yunis Jibril, Jibril Abokr. The great subject of conversation among the natives here was the expected approach of an Abyssinian force, mounted scouts having been thrown out by the tribes, and news coming in daily.

Near Ujawáji the country gradually became more grassy[102] and open, the thorn bushes being only thinly scattered about the plain. We passed a tree called “Mattan,” and two miles beyond this tree, which was a conspicuous landmark, a long hazy yellow line marked the commencement of the ban or open grass plain, which is called the Marar Prairie. It was first crossed by Burton, and is mentioned in First Footsteps in East Africa. A conspicuous rock, called “Moga Medir,” or “Jifa Medir” (Moga’s eye-tooth of Burton), lay ten miles to the west of us on the edge of the bush. On the evening of our arrival at Ujawáji we went out to shoot some hartebeests to provide meat for the men. As we left camp the bushes gave place to low scrub, and this presently ended also. Then a curious scene presented itself to us. As far as the eye could reach was an unbroken plain of rolling yellow grass, rising gradually towards the north, and bounded twenty miles off in that direction by a waving blue line of hills running along the horizon, and here and there disappearing below it.

The plains were covered with the camels and ponies of the Rer Dollol and Rer Yunis Jibril sub-tribes, the number of animals giving one the idea of a swarm of young locusts moving over the ground. Everything showed up dark against the background of yellow grass; and single bull hartebeests, knee-deep in grass, were seen wandering about between the droves of camels, looking like black dots in the distance. Beyond the masses of domestic animals we could see, far out on the plains, long dark lines, which, by using the glasses, we made out to be vast herds of hartebeests, oryx, and Sœmmering’s gazelles. The rich soil, of a reddish brown colour, is here and there undermined by burrowing animals and caved in, making galloping dangerous. The white ants had built up the earth into ant-hills, whose spires, from ten to twenty feet high, were dotted over the plain. We shot two hartebeests, both good bulls, and returned to camp with the meat and trophies, being caught by a heavy downpour of rain on the way.

Early next morning we had to witness a great equestrian display by the Rer Dollol and Yunis Jibril horsemen, given in our honour. After the dibáltig they told us there had been fighting at some wells near us the day before, the Gadabursi having attacked them from the west, killing one man and[103] wounding another; and also that an elephant had been killed, not far away, by Midgáns, with poisoned arrows.

We had promised the Jibril Abokr that we would wait at Ujawáji to hear further news of the Abyssinians, and to record the complaints of the elders, for submission to Government; meanwhile, having been told by the horsemen in the morning that lions were numerous in the Jifa bush, we resolved to go and look for them there, taking the camp with us. The Jibril Abokr lent us horsemen to help us search for lion tracks, and we started ahead of the caravan, sitting on camels which were led by our gunbearers.

We got away from camp late in the morning, and besides the men we had engaged, we were followed by a crowd of horsemen, who were anxious to witness our shooting, and to come in for a share of any venison we might obtain on the plains between Ujawáji and Jifa. Soon we found ourselves out in the open, masses of game giving way before us as we advanced. The size of the party prevented our coming within close range, but we wounded a bull hartebeest, and E⸺, mounting one of the Somáli ponies, gave chase, with an Indian hog-spear in his hand. The hartebeest is known to be the most enduring of the antelopes, having a long and untiring stride, and though E⸺ circled round the horizon, followed by two horsemen, at a great pace, it gradually increased its distance, and finally disappeared into one of the great wave-like dips of the ground.

Presently a party of horsemen appeared galloping towards us, now and then hidden by the rolling ground, and arriving in front of our party they circled their ponies, and giving the complimentary “Mót!” they came up and shook hands. They informed us that they had marked down three lions in the grass, on the open plain, eight miles away in the Jifa direction; and they assured us the lions would be found in the same place, as six horsemen had been placed to form a cordon round them, and they would be afraid to move from the shelter of a patch of rather high grass. The men said that these lions must have been living within the edge of the Jifa bush, prowling out on the great plains at night in order to stalk the herds of antelopes, and that they must have killed something the night before, and[104] being gorged and lazy, the break of day had caught them while still in the open, on their way back to the bush to lie up for the day. These horsemen had been on their way to Ujawáji from Jifa to perform the dibáltig at our camp, but seeing the lions, and knowing that we were keen to get at them, they had circled them in, and compelled them to sit down on the plain and wait for us. Posting six vedettes, they had then come to give us the news.

It was now about one o’clock and very hot, but we pressed on, resisting all temptation to fire at any of the game around us for fear of disturbing the lions; for a shot can be heard at a great distance on these plains. Towards four o’clock we saw one of the vedettes looming out of the haze, and then another. It was, however, a long time before we could make out the lions, which these men were trying to point out to us. They were five hundred yards away, trying to take shelter from the pitiless sun in a patch of grass about two feet high; all we could see being two indistinct dark spots half hidden in grass, and on one of these moving slightly, we recognised it to be the head of a remarkably fine lion. Beyond the lions, more than half a mile away, was another horseman, sitting motionless in the saddle, and looking like a waving palm-tree, the horse’s legs appearing to be elongated in the haze and mirage.

The Somális who had been watching the brutes said they had been in this spot all day, getting up to roar now and then, but, knowing by experience the powers of the Somáli horsemen in the open, they had not attempted to make a bolt of it towards the distant bush, which loomed up in a quivering blue line some ten miles to the north of us. Considering the heat of the sun, and that they had neither food nor water, these horsemen had stuck to the lions with great perseverance, and we felt that we owed it to them to crown their hard work by straight shooting.

We guessed that the brutes must be in an uncommonly bad temper after having been kept out in the full glare of the sun for ten hours; for lions like to sleep under the shade of dense bush during the heat of the day. The grass in this part of the plain was fresh and green, and looked almost like an English lawn, there having been rain about three weeks before. We[105] dismounted, and my brother and I, each accompanied by one Somáli, walked towards the lions.

The account of what followed is taken partly from what I saw, and partly from E⸺’s verbal description; for, being unconscious part of the time, I was not in a condition to know all that passed.

As we approached within two hundred and fifty yards there was a commotion in the grass—a fine black-maned lion sprang out, and was immediately followed by another, nearly as large, but with a yellow mane. They both stood up and looked back at us for a moment and then trotted away. We walked after them, hoping they would lie down again; but as we passed to the right of the patch of grass where they had been lying, and at about a hundred yards’ distance from it, I saw a lioness stretched out flat, with her head between her paws. She was facing us, and as we passed her she rose for a moment, and then glanced towards the retreating lions, but she crouched down again, her head just visible above the grass, and never ceased growling savagely. We went straight on at the same pace, till we were between her and the line of retreat. She was growling louder and louder, and I walked across her front to get a chance at her left shoulder, while E⸺ stood ready, when she rose, to fire at her chest. We stood seventy yards apart, the lioness being seventy yards from each of us, our three positions thus forming an equilateral triangle. The lioness moved, and E⸺, calling out that he could see her chest, immediately fired.

The bullet hit her too high, and, as we afterwards found out, in the withers clear of the spine, the wound causing her to spin round like a top several times in a cloud of red dust, as if hunting her own tail, so that I could see nothing to fire at. From the disturbance in the grass and the savage growls, we decided she must be mortally hit, and were preparing to walk up to her, when suddenly from the obscuring dust she came out, charging for me at full speed. She ran extended along the ground, like a greyhound, and came so fast that I had only time to raise my rifle, and when the bead of the foresight was somewhere under her chin, I fired. Quickly shifting my finger to the left trigger when she was only five[106] yards away, I pulled again, and then jumped to one side, the rifle still at my shoulder. I remember nothing more, except that her head came through the smoke and I was half conscious of being lifted off my feet and sent flying through the air, with the lioness hanging on to my shoulder, growling horribly!

On coming to, I found that I was standing up streaming with blood, and E⸺ and the two hunters were helping me off with my shirt, the lioness lying dead on the grass at my feet. There were eight deep fang wounds in my right arm and shoulder.[23] My brother probed them with a bit of stick wrapped in a shred of tobe; and then we looked around for the lions, and saw that they were no longer visible; but E⸺ said that all the horsemen had followed them, intending to ride them to a standstill and force them to come to bay.

My wounds, owing probably to the severe shock and weakness from loss of blood, gave me no pain, and when a Somáli came galloping back and offered my brother a pony, saying that the lions had come to a standstill, I begged him not to bother, but to try and bag the big black one. I remember hearing E⸺ gallop away, and then I must have fainted.

When I came to again, I saw my hunter, Jáma, sitting near me on the body of the lioness, unconcernedly scrubbing his teeth with a bit of athei stick, which he must have brought from Ujawáji. He said he had been waiting for me to wake, and to tell him what was to be done next. The other “Sahib” had gone away, but Jáma had heard a very distant shot, and concluded he must have come up with the lions again. But he advised me to wait for the caravan, which he could see coming over the plain from the east, and mount a camel before trying to go any farther.

When it came up, all the men crowded round, with horror on their faces, and asked which of the Sahibs had been killed, but I got up and said, “Neither,” and mounting a camel, directed[107] the camelman to follow the hoof-marks of the ponies in the turf. How I managed to sit on the camel in my weak and dazed condition, I do not know. I must have dozed, for the next thing I saw was a group of dismounted horsemen in front of my camel, and my brother standing over the most splendid black-maned lion I have ever seen.


Jungle of “Hig” Aloes and “Guda” Thorn-Trees.

Henweina Valley, Gán-Libah Mountain in the distance. (From Photograph by the Author.)


I attribute my not having stopped the lioness to the fact that I had been shooting with a very good .577 double rifle, but in the course of our journeys the triggers had become rather stiff, making me jerk them off; and both my bullets, going low, had passed through the brute’s right foot, making small clean wounds, without expanding. E⸺, who had his gun open and was pushing in a fresh cartridge, had been horrified to see both my shots strike up the ground beyond the lioness.

Our two hunters, unlike most Somális, who are not generally a bit afraid of lions, had retired to a little distance. E⸺ said that after firing the second shot I had jumped to the right in a perfectly collected manner, but the lioness had slewed round her tail like the rudder of a boat, and slightly changing her course, she had hit me like a battering ram and sent me head over heels. The stock of the rifle was afterwards found to be badly smashed, either against my shoulder or by falling on the ground, and a patch of skin off her nose showed where the muzzle had apparently caught her as I held the gun at the “present” after firing. There was also an extensive bruise, about the size of the recoil-pad, on my right shoulder. The lioness lay on me, shaking me savagely and grabbing at my arm, and E⸺, finding he could not fire without the chance of hitting me too, decreased his distance at a run from seventy yards to only five; and she then came for him with a grunt, and he stretched her dead at his feet with a bullet in the chest.

When my brother, having left me in the care of my hunter Jáma, galloped after the other horsemen, he found them halted round a tuft of high grass, having run the lion to a standstill. The horse was the same which he had ridden when chasing the hartebeest, and it had become very lazy from the heat of the sun. The saddle was an uncomfortable doubled-peaked Somáli one, and the stirrups being only intended for the big toe, were of course useless to him. Thus sorrily equipped, E⸺ walked the horse forward cautiously towards the tuft of[110] grass, and while he was still sixty yards from it, the lion poked up his great head to have a look at him. E⸺ pulled in, and, dropping the reins, took a shot into the grass where he judged the lion’s chest to be. The brute promptly came on, and E⸺ had only time to pick up the reins in a bunch and turn the pony round, and try to get him to move by belabouring him over the quarters with the barrels of his rifle, when the lion arrived! My brother escaped unharmed, however, for before he could get into position to fire, the lion pulled up, and fell over on his side gasping; and the next moment he was dead.

When we cut him open we found that the shot fired at him when in the tuft of grass had entered his chest, and when we held the heart up to the light a jagged hole showed where a piece of lead had passed through it. Yet he had galloped fifty yards, and nearly made good his charge before giving in.

We sent a camel for the lioness, and laying the two carcases side by side, we pitched camp close by. Some starving people, who had wandered from Harar, were glad to make a meal off the carrion. The third lion escaped, as the Jibril Abokr horsemen, feeling that while we were in this country they were responsible for our safety, and shocked at the state I was in, refused to take my brother after him. On the day after the accident we were delayed in the morning by the bandaging and doctoring which I had to go through. The only thing we had with us was cocoa-nut oil, which we had brought for the lamps of the theodolite, and I don’t think its application did the wounds much good. In the plain round the tents, a quarter of a mile away, were brown and gray masses entirely composed of hartebeests and oryx, and nearer were a few solitary bulls, which loomed up on the swelling ground and disappeared in the hollows, like ships on the horizon, and their shoulders being much higher than the quarters, and the legs hidden in the grass, they appeared to be sitting up. We counted seventeen ostriches as they suddenly appeared out of the haze, and passed in single file, at a great pace, half a mile off.

In the evening, the sky being overcast and the air cooler, we marched five miles towards Bottor wells, on the direct road[111] to Gebili. Next day we got off the open ban into the thorn jungle, and descended into a grassy hollow at the head of the Bottor Valley. Here there were numbers of high birch-trees covered with kites’ nests—a noticeable feature of this valley and easily seen from a distance, the upper branches being bare and the nests looking like globe signals.

The Ujawáji people, on hearing of my accident, sent several messengers to inquire how I was getting on, and horsemen came from most of the Jibril Abokr clans which were pasturing in the neighbourhood, to dibáltig to us before our start for the coast. We held a council of the elders, when the complaints against Abyssinia were taken down by us for transmission to Government.

All these elders professed great personal friendship for ourselves. They said they had been asked for tribute by the Abyssinian leader Banagúsé and had refused it, and were now expecting that a force would be sent against them. The tribe had therefore retreated across the Marar Plain from their pastures, near the curious conical Subbul hills, which could be seen twenty miles away rising out of the plain; and they had been obliged to graze their animals on the poorer pasture at Ujawáji. The elders said that the Abyssinians had pushed out and built a fort at Jig-Jiga, about forty miles south of us, within the farther edge of the Marar Prairie.

On 21st June we passed through Gebili, and reached a spot in thick jungle with aloe undergrowth, called Armadader. On pitching camp here in the evening we found fresh elephant tracks, and E⸺ followed them, returning after dark, having killed a bull with one shot from my four-bore.

We continued our survey through the very mountainous Jibril Abokr country towards the coast, running the gauntlet of the Rer Haréd clan, which was at that time very turbulent and defiant towards the British. We had several night alarms, being surrounded by Rer Haréd spies during our march, but we were not attacked.

By the end of June my wounds were beginning to become very troublesome, my right arm swelling to the size of a small sand-bag, from the shoulder to the wrist, and giving me great pain. Travelling became almost unendurable, the sterile, broken[112] hills being fearfully hot, the temperature rising to over 110° in the shade at certain places. We had now descended to the low coast country, where the south-west wind of the Haga season was at its height, blowing day and night with great fury. It was impossible to put up a tent at night, and the sand got into eyes and ears, and stung our faces and necks in a most disagreeable manner as we marched along. The only way to obtain any sleep was to pile the baggage into a heap and lie under the lee of it.

Since leaving Ujawáji E⸺ had sole charge of the survey, as I was unable to take observations. When we were still ninety miles from Bulhár, fearing that any longer delay in getting medical help might bring on blood-poisoning, I left E⸺ in charge of the expedition, and mounting a camel, accompanied by a few of my servants, I made for Bulhár by forced marches, reaching the village on 1st July, twelve days after the accident. Here I was glad to find an hospital assistant, a native of India, who looked after the wounds and put me in a fair way to recovery, so that the necessity of going to Aden was obviated. I was never under the care of a qualified doctor, and was able to go on with the mapping at Berbera, and to start on an expedition to the Gadabursi country on 10th September, the wounds having just healed. This record of our Jibril Abokr trip shows what an advantage it is to have another European with one in the interior, for I feel sure the lioness would have finished me if my brother had not come promptly to the rescue, and but for his unremitting care after the accident I think I should never have reached the coast.

On our next expedition for the survey of the Gadabursi country, our route, skirting to the north of Hargeisa, passed through Gebili. We crossed the path taken by a powerful force of the Rer Haréd, Jibril Abokr, who were out raiding the Bahgoba sub-tribe, and I came upon some of the robbers in rather a curious manner.

Our caravan was marching from Gebili to a small hill called Bohol-Káwulu, while with four hunters I took a short cut across a deep valley, the direct distance being four and a half miles. We had passed the Gebili sand-river and were working our way up some low foothills, intersected by deep narrow ravines having[113] perpendicular sides, and choked with thorn jungle, when I observed about fifty vultures circling over a tributary gully. Thinking a lion might have killed a koodoo, we made our way towards the place, and found ourselves at the foot of a platform of ground having nearly perpendicular sides, about forty feet high. It was above this little plateau that the vultures were circling, and climbing noiselessly up I peeped over, expecting to see some dead game.

Instead of this, about thirty yards away were about fifteen men sitting in a circle round a fire eating camel meat, which they had been roasting, the carcase of a camel lying close by. One of the men saw my head above the edge of the platform, and all of them, giving a look of horror, snatched up their spears and shields and bolted, only a few having the presence of mind to take away pieces of meat! I jumped up and shouted to them to stop, but they disappeared; and soon afterwards we obtained a glimpse of their white tobes as they topped a crag a mile away, still running hard; and after that we never saw them again.

We saw vultures several times during the next two marches, and once again I came to a smouldering fire and roasting meat, which had been thrown down in a hurry. The vultures had been circling and screaming above the place, but as we approached they all slanted down one after another, wings extended and motionless, and legs hanging perpendicularly, showing, in the language of the jungle, that human beings, or perhaps a lion, had been keeping them from the meat.

Two of our men, who had lagged behind the caravan, saw another party of twenty men running along with camel meat slung over their shoulders. All these parties were Rer Haréd robbers who had been engaged in the late raid, and were retiring in groups with the stolen Bahgoba camels. The raiding tribe always attacks unexpectedly in a concentrated force, but on the return journey through the enemy’s country it splits up into small parties, taking to the most hilly ground, and hiding in the deepest gullies to avoid observation. Our men were always very nervous while in the neighbourhood of these robbers; and at our night camp at Bohol-Káwulu our Jibril Abokr guide, rattling his spears together, shouted out a long speech into the[114] darkness, telling any lurking robbers that we had guns and, being very powerful, were not fair game. The performance was gone through quite gravely, all the other men maintaining silence; the flames of our camp fires glinting on the rifle-barrels and spears of our followers, and throwing fitful lights and shadows on the surrounding jungle, and the guide’s speech to the night, had a very weird effect.

When we entered the Gadabursi country we were visited in camp at Egu by a party of Gadabursi elephant hunters, who rode up and said they had taken us for looters and had come up to reconnoitre us. We reached the Harasáwa Valley, which was very beautifully wooded, the undergrowth of red and yellow flowering aloes harmonising with the light green masses of the ergín plant, the dull yellow-ochre of the dry grass, and the darker blue-green of the thorn and hassádan[24] trees. On the evening of 25th September we passed, near Sattáwa, the karias of Ugaz Núr, till lately the paramount chief of the Gadabursi tribe. This was the most suitable place we had yet seen for experimental cultivation, the Sattáwa Valley having a fertile appearance, with deep alluvial earth and very rank vegetation.

As we halted at Sattáwa, at sunset, to form camp, there appeared on the scene Ugaz Núr, his son, and forty spearmen. He stayed in camp all night, and told us not to go to Biyo-Kabóba in the Esa country, which lay ahead of us, as he said the place was full of Abyssinian soldiers, who were building a fort there, and would be likely to attack us. Núr was believed to be an arch scoundrel, and intriguing with the Abyssinians, and we were inclined to think he gave us this advice to prevent our inspecting the fort. He was then in great disgrace with the British authorities because he had captured an Italian traveller and held him to ransom. He had just been displaced from the Ugazship, and his brother Elmy had been made paramount chief of the Gadabursi in his stead. While we were in his camp we heard that his brother Elmy was marching against him with a force from Zeila; and soon afterwards I received an Arabic letter from Elmy himself asking me to help him attack Núr, or, at any rate, lend some rifles. One of the Ugaz’s sons a youth with a large shield, a mop of hair, and two shovel-headed[115] spears, gained some importance in camp by strutting about taking frequent oaths that he would kill Mr. Sala, an Italian traveller, when he met him.

We left the Gadabursi and entered the Esa country, cautiously skirting Biyo-Kabóba without going to the wells. We found the Esa tribes in a great state of ferment because of the fort which the Abyssinians were building.

At 3 P.M. on 30th September, at Arroweina, there arrived a grizzly-bearded old patriarch called Múdun Golab, an Akil of the Odahghub, Rer Gédi, Esa Ad.[25] He made an impressive speech, saying, “It is a lie that any of the Esa countenance the Abyssinian occupation of Biyo-Kabóba. We all hate them and do not want them. The English and the Esa are brothers, and we are the subjects of your Government. So we ask you now to rid us of these intruders. They wish to treat us as they treated the Géri, to seize our flocks, kill our people, and burn our karias. They wish to settle in our country and oust us. We will not have it.” He said that the Esa were encamped round the Biyo-Kabóba fort, and that they were holding a council, one party, consisting chiefly of young men, wishing to attack at once. He asked us to wait and hear the result of the council, and convey news to the British authorities.

On 2nd October, the council not yet having come to a decision, we continued our journey through the sterile trap country to the north, and then turning to the east, we skirted the Bur Ád Range as far as Ali Maan before again turning north for the march to Zeila.

On 5th October, as we were arriving, late on a dark night, at Hemál under the Bur Ád Range, we got into very dense and high gudá forest, bordering the edge of the Hemál sand-river. Our camels were pushing their way through the centre of this when we heard the scream of an elephant about a hundred yards to our left, followed by that of another a little in front. The caravan bunched up in the narrow path, and we all held our breath to listen. Our elephant rifle was carefully packed up in one of the camel-loads; the jungle was stirring all round us as the herd moved off. They seemed to have gone[116] away, and the camels had begun to resume their march, when we were thrown into confusion by hearing a crash, as some old cow, for it is generally these that are the most vicious, charged up towards us with a scream, and then stood a short distance away behind a tree. Some of the men whispered that they could see her, but though my brother and I strained our eyes to the utmost, we could see nothing. At last we moved away from the uncanny spot, and as no further incident happened, we concluded the elephant which last trumpeted must have been covering the retreat of the herd, and have stolen away silently after the others.

Next day my brother went after these elephants, and stalked in amongst them by creeping through a high grass glade, but finding they were all cows and young ones he did not molest them. Meanwhile half a dozen sword-hunters, of mixed tribes, came to our camp. One of these was a Gadabursi, another a Habr Awal, and the rest Ogádén. Their ponies were excellent, and better than any we had yet seen among the Gadabursi.

They were after the elephants which my brother had been stalking; and while in our camp they described to us their method of working.

Like the Hamran Arabs described by Sir Samuel Baker in his Nile Tributaries, they ride after the elephant and hamstring him with a sword, one man keeping in front on a white horse to attract the elephant’s attention. I believe the Somális use the sword while at full gallop, without springing to the ground, but of this I am not certain. The sabres we saw seemed to be light single-handed ones, an old Egyptian blade being strapped to a bone handle by means of raw hide. These men said they had killed twelve elephants during the last two months,—eleven bulls and one cow,—and that since their party began hunting the year before two men had been killed by the elephants.

We continued our journey from Hemál to Ali Maan, where I shot a fine koodoo bull. At Ali Maan we separated into two parties. I marched to Bulhár by Kabri Bahr, while my brother marched to Zeila, reaching that port on 19th October. At Buk Gégo he bagged, with one shot, a bull elephant, a very fine tusker.


The record of these Government explorations undertaken between 1885 and 1891 shows how steadily British influence has been advancing. At the time of my first visits to the coast none of the routes in Guban were safe to travel on without a powerful escort, except the track along the sea-shore from Bulhár to Berbera. All this is changed now, for such is the confidence which Somális have in our countrymen, that Englishmen exploring in the interior make small payments for sheep, milk, or other supplies, by writing on scraps of paper, to be afterwards presented at the coast; and these “chits” have all the value of money, although they may have been given by an Englishman who is a perfect stranger, at a distance of two hundred miles inland. The possession of a bit of paper written on in English is believed to guarantee the safety of the bearer’s life, and we have often been begged for scraps of paper by men who wished to go alone by a short cut over disturbed territory.

The Somális have no quarrel with the English; even should a serious cause of dispute ever arise, there is far too much hereditary jealousy between tribe and tribe for them to combine. It is true the Esa caused trouble a few years ago by their raid on Bulhár, but this raid was directed against the Habr Awal, and not against the British. The punishment which they received from us, by their own showing, turns out to have been greater than was at first supposed, and they now declare themselves to be our firm friends.

In the surveying trips the opposition to our progress by the tribes was practically nil, unless the extreme avarice and rapacity for presents on the part of a few Dolbahanta chiefs may be called opposition. In fact, the only occasion on which I have been treated with the slightest want of cordiality by Somális was on my second surveying trip in 1886.

I think there are three reasons why the British Government is so much respected in the interior of Somáliland. The first is undoubtedly the possession of Aden, about half the population of which is composed of Somális, who return to their own country after a time and spread the fame of the Government far and wide. Also, a few Somális go to London as firemen in English steamers. Another reason for the rapid extension[118] of British influence is the wise and impartial way in which our coast ports have been administered by experienced political officers from India. The third reason is constant contact with English sportsmen, who visit the Somáli tribes in their own homes.

On the Mule-Track, near Harar.

From a Photograph by the Author.



First news of Abyssinian aggression—Start for Milmil—Unfortunate Bulhár—Across the “Haud” waterless plateau—Extraordinary landscape—Sudden meeting with the Rer Ali—Their consternation and pleasant greeting—News of a raid—Water-supply statistics—Great display at Milmil in honour of Au Mahomed Sufi—Agitation against Abyssinia—Unsuccessful lion hunt—Display in honour of the English—Interesting scene—The vulture-like elders—Success of an Arab pony—Our camp at Túli—The “Valley of Rhinoceroses”—Two rhinoceros hunts—Four bagged—Death of a bull rhinoceros—The Waror wells—Abbasgúl complaints against Abyssinia—First meeting with Abyssinians—Disturbed country—English sportsmen met at Hargeisa—Fresh start from Hargeisa—Incessant rains—Thousands of hartebeests near Gumbur Dúg—Scouting for the Abyssinians—Visit to the Abyssinian fort at Jig-Jiga—We approach Gildessa—The caravan imprisoned by the Abyssinians—Embarrassing situation—A letter to Rás Makunan of Harar—Exciting time at Gildessa—We retire by night—The answer of the Rás—March to Zeila.

The capture of Harar by the Abyssinians in January 1887 was an important event to the Somális, because, under the Emir Abdillahi, Harar had hitherto been a very effective little “buffer state” against Abyssinian encroachments. When the British Government first took over the Somáli coast in 1884 there was no Abyssinian question, and the authorities had only to deal with the Somáli tribes, which, although turbulent, were in fair equilibrium as regards power. Of late years, however, the Abyssinian question has risen into some importance, as will be seen by the narrative of later trips. The Abyssinians import large quantities of breech-loading small-arms from ports west of Zeila and outside the British Protectorate, while the Somáli tribes are only armed with spears or bows and arrows, and are not allowed to import firearms, of any sort whatever, from their own coast, which is administered by the British. Hence the equilibrium of power is affected, the Abyssinians help themselves to Somáli cattle when they like, and the owners, who[120] are all Mahomedans, turn their eyes towards us for protection against their natural enemies. They place the most implicit faith in the British, and are quite persuaded in their own minds that our Government will never stand by and see them seriously pushed by the Abyssinians without giving them, at any rate, moral help of some sort. They turn to us as their natural protectors, as they would have turned to the Egyptians had that Government continued to hold the coast.

As related in the last chapter, we received the first news of Abyssinian interference with the Jibril Abokr when surveying in June ’91. A chief named Banagúsé had demanded tribute in cattle, and had also sent out marauding parties from Jig-Jiga, the fortified post which had been pushed out by the Abyssinians into the Marar Prairie, to lift cattle from the Jibril Abokr. This tribe, which is really a sub-tribe of the Habr Awal, who are under British protection, appealed to us for help from Aden, at a meeting of the elders held by me at Ujawáji, June ’91, in front of my tent. The elders there told us that the principal authors of the trouble were Banagúsé and Basha-Basha, two Abyssinian generals, the former being the responsible person at Jig-Jiga and the latter in western Ogádén.

It appears that these two chiefs had been using the Bertiri tribe, who live in the Harar Highlands, as a “cat’s paw” in making requisitions for cattle on the Habr Awal and Ogádén tribes. The tribute of cattle was always collected at Jig-Jiga and then sent up in a great mob to Harar, where the people were reported to be starving, and where the large number of Abyssinian soldiers occupying the place required to be rationed.

The fortified post of Jig-Jiga was also a constant menace to the large village of Hargeisa, within the British Protectorate, and the elders said that every year the trouble between the outlying Abyssinian chiefs and the nomad Somáli tribes near the coast would increase, unless something could be done to make the former cease their buccaneering raids.

The substance of the statement made by the spokesman at the meeting in my camp was as follows:—

“The Bertiri come from Jig-Jiga armed with rifles and demand tribute of cattle from us, and in certain cases have looted our live stock when out grazing. We cannot make[121] reprisals on the Bertiri, as they are protected by the Abyssinians. Ordinary feuds with our neighbours we think fair-play, but these Bertiri raids are a losing business for us all round. We are not allowed to import firearms, the only effective weapons against the Abyssinians; and we ask the British, who have occupied our ports, either to protect us, or to allow us to import guns with which we can protect ourselves.”

Owing, I believe, to action from Aden, the trouble was stopped, to the lasting satisfaction of the tribes on the northern side.[26] On the east, however, in Ogádén, the Abyssinians became more active than ever; and on another journey, in 1890, this time through Milmil, we again had to listen to complaints against them.

We arrived at Berbera for the Milmil trip, which was the first exploration of the eastern Abyssinian border by Europeans, on 1st July 1892. The Haga wind was at its height, and as nothing could be done during the first half of each day, owing to the storms, it was fully a week before we got our caravan under way.

The day before we left Berbera an enormous column of black smoke, which we estimated to be over two thousand feet high, was seen to rise from the sea-level in the west, over the site of Bulhár, forty miles away. Soon the news arrived that Bulhár had been burnt to the ground. This has always been an unlucky place. It has been burnt three times since the British occupation, and in 1892 was depopulated by cholera; and three years before that it was raided by the Esa in a dust-storm, and sixty-seven of the people killed.

We marched by easy stages to Hargeisa, by following the Aleyadéra nala, the home of the beautiful lesser koodoo, of which I managed to bag a couple of bucks the day before we reached Hargeisa, which we entered on 17th July, and found deserted. Sheikh Mattar had gone to Haraf, four miles up the river, according to his custom at the Haga season, because of the better pasture there; he, however, came with a lot of religious mullahs to meet us, and was very pleasant, giving us letters[122] of introduction to the chiefs of the Rer Ali and Abbasgúl, Ogádén tribes to whose country we were bound.

For the first time we had to face the crossing of the waterless Haud plateau, there being a hundred miles between Hargeisa and Milmil without a drop of water. To accomplish this we took up two hundred and fifty gallons in the háns of plaited bark which we had brought for the purpose.

This was the first time my brother and I had had an opportunity of crossing the Haud plateau, which is here some five thousand feet above sea-level. I have traversed it many times since, and the description of this our first crossing will give an idea of the peculiar nature of the country. I will not give an account of our daily sport, but I may mention that in feeding our thirty men we shot many oryx or Sœmmering’s gazelles in the bush country, and hartebeests when crossing the open ban.

On the 20th of July we marched up to the level of the plateau behind Hargeisa village, over thorn-covered rolling ground, the soil being red earth. We did eleven miles and halted at Bombós, in a splendidly grassed hollow, just beyond some Habr Awal karias. Hearing from the karia people that there had been rain at Garabíss, near here, at about 9 P.M. we sent a camel with four háns, and the men returned with the water at 1 A.M.

The next day we made a morning march of twelve miles to Dobóya, over rolling ground, which is stony on the elevations and has good grass in the depressions, the whole country being covered with flat-topped thorn jungle about twenty feet high. Near our midday camp some Midgáns were skinning an oryx which had been killed by a lion the night before, and at Garabíss we crossed the tracks of a number of Eidegalla horsemen, who had come north to loot the karias which we had passed through the day before.

In the evening march, after going a little over five miles, we came to the end of the thorn-trees, and emerged on to a great open plain of short grass called Ban-ki-Aror, about five miles across, and stretching far away to the east and west, without a bush. Our caravan travelled through abundance of game, chiefly oryx, hartebeests, and Sœmmering’s gazelles, which followed our steps while we were in the ban. The sight of these open grass[123] plains covered with wild animal life was always a source of the greatest pleasure to me.

Our caravan had now swelled to a long procession, as a number of people had come with us from the last karias to take advantage of our protection past the Eidegalla country.

Game on the Plains

We camped on the farther side of this great plain, near some Samanter Abdalla karias. Here we heard that a lion roared nightly round them, and next evening, at Gudaweina, we saw his pugs in the path. Thus we had found lion, ostrich, oryx, hartebeest, and Sœmmering’s gazelle, all living at least forty miles from water. The effect of thirst on our domestic animals was to make them abnormally tame. Often as I lay in my tent at the noon camp the donkeys and ponies would force their heads within the tent door, and the goats would walk straight in, putting their muzzles into every cup to look for water. As we arrived at one halting-place at dusk, a wild fox came trotting like a dog behind the caravan, a few yards from the last camel, having smelt the water which we carried in the háns on the camels’ backs.

Travelling constantly over rolling, densely-wooded country, we were now entering the part of the Haud which is grazed over by the Ogádén from the south, and struck the Warda-Gumaréd,[124] one of the great trade arteries between Berbera and the Webbe Shabéleh. The track here, for thirty miles at least, over red powdery earth, is so well worn and smooth that a bicycle might easily be ridden at full speed on it. On either side of the path all was thorn forest and grassy glades. The grasses were chiefly the darémo, growing in tufts to about a foot, and durr, growing to six feet, both very fattening for live stock. The umbrella mimósa, called khansa, grows to a height of ten feet, the bushes spreading out till their tops meet, forming shady tunnels which are the favourite haunt of lions and leopards during the heat of the day. They come out at night into the great plains and feed on the herds of game which live in the open. Sometimes, when gorged and lazy, the lions are caught in the early morning returning over the plains, and are ridden to a standstill by the Somális, and killed with poisoned arrows and spears.

Dik-Dik Antelope (Sakdro gussuli).

After passing Garodki Mayagód, an ancient clearing in the thorn forest, we came to the usual caravan halting-place, a zeríba of thorns, occupied occasionally by the nomads or by caravans as they pass along the road. At the side of the track were shallow depressions in the soil where rain-water had rested, and round these dry pools were rows of small pits six inches deep,[125] dug by Somális in order to stand up the water háns to be filled.

The jungle now began to get more open and the glades wider, the durr grass growing in beautiful feathery clumps. Huge red ant-hills appeared at every hundred yards or so, often twelve feet thick at the base, and with a pinnacle twenty-five feet high, looking like a giant hand and beckoning forefinger.

Buck Gerenúk feeding

Waller’s Gazelle.

On the evening of the third day we got on to high ground almost imperceptibly, and camped at the southern side of an old fire clearing near Gudaweina. Looking back we could see, in the clear air of the elevated Haud, beyond the tops of the nearer thorn-trees, the various gradations of tint—yellow, brown, green, or blue—on the several bits of jungle or grass glades which we had come through; and beyond all a high rim of deep indigo blue, looking like a sea-horizon, running without a single landmark, showing the great expanse of the Haud forest stretching in every direction in everlasting dips and rises of[126] ground. All the hills about Hargeisa had long ago sunk out of sight.

On the fourth day we marched on to Kheidub-Ayéyu. For a mile we went slowly in the dawning light through thorny jungle, and then we came out into a glade of durr grass, the camels swinging along faster as the path became more visible. We passed a chief’s grave, encircled by a stockade of trunks of thorn-trees twelve feet high.[27] We afterwards emerged on to open rising ground, where we saw oryx and Waller’s gazelles feeding, and in the centre of the path a wart-hog had been rooting up the ground.

The open pasture here was dotted with the old zeríbas of the Samanter Abdalla, Habr Awal, who come from the north for a season every year. They were here six weeks before us, but the rain falling, they had returned to Aror, where we had seen them a few days previously when crossing the open ban. These were also the most northern pastures of the Ogádén tribes, none of which we had ever visited, and we were doubtful as to the nature of our reception.

We entered a patch of bush, when suddenly the jungle became alive with camels and sheep, and several young women rushed at the caravan with their hands spread out and eyes flashing, screaming loudly for help, while others plied sticks and stones to drive off the flocks, in a deafening clamour and clouds of dust; and boys ran off in haste to summon the fighting men of the tribe.

I sat down in the path, trying to look as amiable as possible, for I realised what our sudden appearance must have been to these natives. Several of my men, more ready, raced forward and caught the flying messengers, and brought them back to me as prisoners. The women were sure we were Abyssinians, for we carried guns; but finding we were English, a revulsion of feeling set in, and the boys went off to tell the tribe the joyful news, and the women to get milk for our men.


The mounted guard soon galloped up to us, a sturdy-looking lot, some twenty of the Rer Ali tribe; they expressed their delight by circling their horses, shouting, “Mót! Mót! io Mót!” and coming up again and again, bending down in the saddle to shake hands with us; and their steaming ponies formed a dense circle round us as we endeavoured to do justice to the hands.

The people asked us to stop for a few hours to shoot rhinoceroses, but of course we were unable to spare the time, as we were carrying on a rapid survey, and also had too little water to be able to loiter here in the centre of the Haud. We passed enormous flocks of fat sheep, and near camp we met a pretty young woman driving along her dowry of a hundred camels. Our men said this Rer Ali wealth was good to look at, and that a few determined horsemen armed with guns could have taken off ten thousand camels at one swoop.

While camped at Kheidub-Ayéyu we observed a long strip of jungle-fire creeping along the ridge of thorn forest in our front. Clouds of smoke were floating far ahead of the fire, and it must have been driven by a strong south-west gale, judging by the pace. The Habr Gerhajis and two sub-tribes of the Habr Awal had at different times taken advantage of this solitary occupation by trying to loot the karias, but were always driven off. Although living in only two, there were a large number of fighting men in proportion to the women and children in this clan; and they were some of the best mounted of the Rer Ali, always a warlike tribe. The chief of the clan was called Mahomed Liba.

We marched through patches of burnt jungle, with the trees still smouldering, and pits left in the ground full of white ashes, where the roots had been burnt out.

Near Yoaleh we came to stony ground, the first since leaving Aror. On 25th July we left the Haud and descended into the valley of the Tug Milmil, a sandy nala wooded with gób[28] trees about eighty feet high, fringing the river-bed and growing on islands in the centre of the expanse of sand, some seventy yards wide at this point. We found ponies, sheep, and camels of the Rer Harún and Rer Ali, Ogádén, watering at Milmil[128] wells. One continuous stream of camels marched up and down the river-bed, and we must have seen some twenty thousand in all.

There had been a quarrel just before our arrival between the Rer Harún here and Mahomed Liba’s clan which we had met at Kheidub-Ayéyu, in which two men had been killed and two hundred camels had changed owners.

On the day of our arrival at Milmil, at the end of the Haud crossing of one hundred and five miles, I had still seven full háns in my portion of the caravan, nine having been expended, say forty gallons of water for fifteen men for five days. About fifteen gallons of this had been spilt from various causes, so that fifteen men, one Arab fast camel, and two goats drank only twenty-seven gallons, or a little over five gallons a day, including cooking water. I attribute this moderation partly to the coolness of the weather in the elevated Haud. We had crossed in five days, thus doing twenty-one miles a day; this fact will indicate the good state of the caravan track over the red stoneless soil. Indeed, as I have stated before, a bicycle might have been ridden at speed over nine-tenths of the distance.

The Haud ends at Milmil in a succession of bluffs a hundred feet high, and as one descends between them to the Milmil nala, one emerges on to the general level of Ogádén, and farther on at the wells the country opens up, disclosing several hills; two of these, called Firk-Firk, resemble the remarkable twin hills at Hargeisa which are called “Náso Hablod,” or the “Maiden’s Breasts.”

Soon after we had pitched camp at the part of Milmil which is called Gagáb an important travelling sheikh arrived. The Somáli so-called sheikh is a religious mullah who has gained a great and wide-spread reputation for piety, and being intelligent, even among mullahs, can often read and write Arabic, although he is generally as black or brown in skin as any other Somáli.

The horsemen of the Rer Ali came down in scores, attired in all their finery of red-tasselled saddlery and red and blue khaili tobes, to go through the usual dibáltig before the great man, whose name is Au Mahomed Sufi. They formed a large crowd on the sand of the river-bed below our tent, which was pitched under some large trees overhanging the Milmil nala. The sheikh’s own bivouac was on the same bank of the river[129], about five hundred yards to the north of us. I joined the crowd of onlookers with my brother, and Au Mahomed Sufi, the recipient of the honours of the day, came forward and shook hands with us, and gave us a place by his side.

This man was travelling through Ogádén, and was, I afterwards learnt, part of an organised plot for rousing the Somáli tribes to combine against the Abyssinians. After the dibáltig he lifted his spear and addressed the assembled people, beginning by himself singing what appeared to be a composition of his own.

In the evening, taking my hunters, I followed the tracks of a lion which had stolen a sheep from the Rer Ali flocks in broad daylight. Getting into broken country at the base of one of the bluffs, we put up two lions. We could not see them, although we heard them roar significantly, as though they had seen us. We found their lair, and part of the carcase of the sheep, close by, and within a yard of it was a dead vulture, which the lions had just killed, no doubt, by springing out of the ambush from which they had kept watch over the meat. Several vultures were perched on the branches of the trees around, looking wistfully down, but not daring to come to the feast. The lions eventually got on to stony ground and we lost them.

Next day a large number of horsemen came to welcome us at our own camp, and said they had come to dibáltig to us as representatives of the English Government. We appointed midday for this ceremony.

Meanwhile I went after a lion, climbing one of the bluffs, which are two or three hundred feet high; and after hunting through thick high grass for some time, I sat down to rest below the edge of a bluff. While my men were wandering about, the lion got up with a low grunt, a few yards above the rock on which I sat, and made off into the grass. Following, I found his lair, and the half-eaten carcase of a young camel, about as large as a donkey, which the lion had dragged to the top of the hill, afterwards going to sleep by its side. It was within a few yards of the sleeping lion that I had been unconsciously sitting for ten minutes. He went down the stony, bush-covered hill, and eventually escaped us.

It was during the early part of the afternoon that some five hundred horse and foot came to our camp for the promised[130] ceremonies. Au Mahomed Sufi attended, and we gave him a place beside us. On a signal being given, the horsemen drew up in line in front of us, and the chief tribal minstrel of the Rer Ali, while sitting in the saddle, sang a refrain in honour of the English, and of myself and my brother, who had “deigned to visit their poor oppressed country.” A splendid array they made, well mounted and warlike, the biceps standing out on some of the men’s arms in a way that is seldom seen on these sparely-built Somális.

On the conclusion of the song the horsemen gave a series of shrill yells, and with arms and legs flying, they started off at full gallop in pursuit of an imaginary enemy up the river-bed; and the pounding of the hoofs could be heard long after they had been lost to sight in clouds of red dust. Presently they came back again, the glinting of the sun on their spears being first fitfully seen in the pall of dust; and darting up furiously, they brought their ponies on to their haunches with the cruel bit, forming a dense semicircle of horses’ heads within a foot of me, the riders crying, “Mót!” and being answered by “Kul leban” and a hand-shake.

Au Mahomed Sufi began a long speech, which was heard in dead silence by the crowd, saying that now the white men had come it was time to attack the Abyssinians, and that if we would lead them with our thirty rifles, they could soon collect a large force and march on the Abyssinian chief, Basha-Basha.

We interrupted him, broke up the meeting, and retired to our tents, saying we had come to survey caravan routes and not to be mixed up in their quarrels.

In the evening we gave a performance in return, parading the thirty camp-followers in line, armed with their Snider carbines, advancing and retiring in skirmishing order, and forming rallying groups; and we fired off blank cartridge, each volley being echoed by an answering yell from the delighted tribesmen.

They said that now the English, their masters, had come, the Abyssinians would leave off raiding their camels and carrying off their women. Many of the chiefs came to our tents begging for written testimonials, saying that they were sure a scrap of paper written on by an Englishman was enough[131] alone to keep back an Abyssinian army. The women and children hung round my camel and my brother’s pony in crowds, crying out, “Now it’s all right; the English have come.”

Then came the question of presents. The people had brought us a few sheep and a donkey, and long rows of their milk-vessels, which are prettily decorated with white shells. We picked out an ákil to whom Sheikh Mattar of Hargeisa had given us a letter of introduction; then we put into his hands several white tobes and two khaili tobes, and asked him to settle with the chiefs of clans. There arose a tremendous clamour, each clan having sent an advocate to represent it in the scramble for tobes, which occurred in the river-bed below. An indescribable uproar continued until nightfall, the clamouring “wise men” squatting on the ground in circles, looking for all the world like vultures with their skinny necks and shaven skulls, clawing with lean fingers at the presents spread out on the sand. There was a scuffle down at the wells, across the river, where two men had retired to settle an old feud. After throwing their spears, they closed and stabbed at each other, the spears striking the shields with a hollow thud, which we could hear from our tents three hundred yards away; but they were subsequently parted by a posse of relations.

One of the things which pleased the Rer Ali most was my Arab pony, which I had taken from Abdul Kader’s stables in Bombay to test the Somáli climate. My brother mounted him and tried a friendly gallop with one or two of the tribesmen in succession, and he proved, to their great wonder, faster than any pony which the Rer Ali could bring against him. He afterwards beat many Somáli ponies all over the country, and gained a great reputation, although I had only bought him as a useful animal up to weight, and he would be considered quite slow among Arab ponies of his height, which was about 13.3. I have often since been identified by Somális as the owner of “that Hindi pony which could gallop like the wind.”

By nightfall we were glad that the long dusty day of ceremony was over, and next morning, when a number of Rer Harún horsemen arrived and asked to be allowed to repeat the show, we found ourselves obliged to decline the honour, and continued our survey westward towards the Abyssinian border.


Our men, on the night of the Rer Ali dibáltig, went to the karias and danced till nearly daylight, the women clapping their hands and jumping up and down, keeping up a monotonous refrain. Next day half our men were ill, having gorged themselves upon the mutton and camel meat which had been generously provided by the Rer Ali.

We passed the deserted village of Dagahbúr and reached a rounded grassy hill called Túli, and it was while encamped here that we shot the first Somáli rhinoceros, an animal which for many years we had expected to come upon, but which up till then had never been seen or shot by an European. We found plenty of game at Túli, and as I rode up to the rounded hill to choose a site for my camp, a troop of ostriches went racing away into the sea of bush and grass to the north-west.

To the west of Gumbur Túli lay a valley covered with dense dark mimósa forest, called Dih Wiyileh,[29] or Rhinoceros Valley. Between Dagahbúr and Waror, an interval of fifty miles, the country was waterless at this season, and hearing that Waror was occupied by Abyssinian soldiers, I deemed it advisable to arrive there with a supply of water on the camels; so finding the háns rather low, I had to wait at Túli a couple of days while we sent back to Dagahbúr for more water.

The time had come when I hoped to make the acquaintance of the long-sought rhinoceroses; and I left camp in the early morning with my two gunbearers Géli and Hassan, and another man called Au Ismail, who led our one camel and acted as guide.

Taking a line to the south-west across the Dih Wiyileh from Túli Hill, we presently came on fresh rhinoceros signs. These we took up till nearly midday, the two beasts we were following having made a maze of tracks there while feeding in the morning. At last Géli pointed to our game—two rhinoceroses standing, apparently asleep, under a shady thorn bush. I advanced to forty yards, and opened fire with the four-bore, putting a four-ounce bullet into the shoulder of each with a right and left, making them tear away at a gallop through the jungle. I followed at best pace, putting in two more cartridges as I ran, and so finishing one of the rhinos. Passing[133] this one, I found the other standing in thick bush broadside on, listening and looking for its fellow. Feeling for cartridges, I put my hand into empty pockets, the rest having fallen out in my haste, so I ran back to the camel to snatch more out of a haversack. Au Ismail saw me running back away from the rhinoceros, and jumped to the conclusion that I was running away! So he began to bolt with the camel. I ran harder and harder, shouting to him to stop, and at last I got hold of him and explained what I wanted. Then, rearmed, I returned to the rhinoceros, which had been standing meanwhile in the same place, apparently unable to make out what I was about, and too sick to charge. Another shot finished it. Unfortunately they were both cows, but I was very pleased at the result of my first rhino hunt.

A trial of strength

I returned with the two heads to camp, and sent half a dozen men to cut off the shields, of which we obtained thirty-five from the two skins. These men arrived in camp next morning, and said that while they had been cutting up the rhinos by the light of torches, several more had come round them, and a lion had roared to the westward.

On our second day at Túli we were unsuccessful with the rhinos, and when the water came from Dagahbúr we marched to Gumbur Wedel, a small hill four miles to the north-west across the Rhinoceros Valley. Here we found oryx, ostriches, and Sœmmering’s and Waller’s gazelles very plentiful, and rhino tracks numerous. My brother was very keen to get a rhino, but had so far had no luck.

At 5 A.M. on 6th August we left Wedel, and for three miles[134] struggled through thick grass and jungle, and then struck a good path running north-west. After going a mile along this I saw fresh rhino tracks where a pair had crossed the path during the night, and so going on with the caravan, I left my brother to take up the pursuit. At our evening camp he arrived with the heads of both, a very fine bull and a cow, and we skinned them by firelight.

On the morning of the 7th August the caravan marched sixteen miles to a karia of the Rer Gedi, Abbasgúl, to us a new sub-tribe, at a place called Haddáma. Early in the day, while walking along the path, I came on the fresh tracks of a large bull rhino, so, as it was my turn, leaving the caravan and traversing work in charge of my brother, I left the path on these tracks, followed by Géli and Hassan. The rhinoceros had taken a straight line for a ridge of low hills to the south, which are a continuation of the Harar Highlands, and after following for several miles through thick jungle and over burnt clearings, the sun getting hotter and hotter, we at last put him up at about noon, making him rush off through the forest without our even getting a sight of him. I took up the tracking patiently for an hour more, and then we heard the trampling and snorting and smashing of thorn-trees again. Following at a run, we saw him standing broadside on, listening, in the centre of several acres of very transparent but dense and thorny wait-a-bit cover. We at once lay down. Not hearing our footsteps any more, the rhino trotted forward, head held high, for fifty yards, and then stood and listened again. He looked decidedly vicious. We crawled up to a small evergreen shrub, and I sat up behind it, and taking a steady rest upon my knees, fired for his ear at a range of seventy yards with my ten-bore rifle.

The bull dropped in his tracks, an inert mass. Going up, we found that the ten-bore had hit him exactly where I had aimed, the bullet entering under the left ear and stopping under the skin of the right temple.

I was twenty-five miles from camp, and as the camel was fully occupied in carrying the massive head and a few shields, I had to tramp the whole way. This, added to the hot tracking work of five hours before we got the rhino, and the fast[135] run after putting him up, made a long day’s work, and I was right glad at sunset to meet some men whom my brother had considerately sent back with water and dates to bring us on to my half of the caravan, which he had halted for me at Haddáma. He had himself gone on to Waror, for we never allowed shooting to delay the rate of progress, and I came up with him there next morning; as usual, we reformed the double camp, with our “Cabul” tents side by side. The camp was pitched near the wells in a beautiful glade, covered with green grass, kept short by the Abbasgúl herds. We found an immense number of cows watering here, the chief wealth of the Abbasgúl being in cattle. The wells at Waror are narrow, circular funnels seventy feet deep, sunk through the red alluvial earth of the Jerer Valley. Steps were cut all the way down, and water was passed to the surface by a chain of nine naked men, standing one above the other, their feet resting on these steps, the full and empty leather buckets being passed up and down from hand to hand to an accompaniment of singing in chorus.[30] We showed the Abbasgúl how to do it with a large bucket and a long rope, whereat they were greatly pleased.

The Waror pasture, with its closely-cropped grass, under open thorn jungle, looked like an English orchard; and the wind blowing coldly with a leaden sky, heightened the resemblance.[136] There was plenty of game about here. Round the base of a small rock called Dubbur, perched on the top of some high ground five miles from Waror, oryx and ostriches abound. At one place, near Waror, my brother found the ground pounded up, where some Midgáns’ dogs had brought an oryx to bay, and in the grass the blood of the animal and a broken arrow; close by were the pugs of a lion. A lion roared at night while we were at Waror. The people said one was in the habit of showing himself about once a day in broad daylight, and that he had killed twelve men, the last of whom fell a victim the day before we halted at the wells.

The Abbasgúl headmen came to us and gave us quantities of milk, calling us their protectors. They said that their tribe was once rich, but was now poor, because of the Abyssinians. They were unfortunate in being next to the east of the Bertiri, whom the Abyssinians had already absorbed.

The only Somáli tribes which may be said to be under Abyssinian influence are the Géri, Bertiri, Abbasgúl, a few of the Esa, and Malingúr. But they are all unwillingly so, and have at various times clamoured for help from the British. They all trade with Berbera.

The Rer Amáden and the riverine negro population of the Webbe are well disposed to the British, though not much connected with Berbera except to the east in the Shabéleh district, whence a large proportion of Berbera caravans are derived.

These headmen said that the Abyssinians every now and then came from Jig-Jiga with rifles, and did what pleased them best; that they killed Abbasgúl sheep and cattle for food, entered the karias and used the huts; that they forced even the old chiefs to hew wood and draw water, and interfered with the women; and that many Abbasgúl who had tried to defend their homes had been shot down.

This tribe seemed utterly cowed, and quite unlike the warlike and independent people whom we had met at Milmil. I noticed very few horses, and the tribesmen said that all their best had been taken by the Abyssinians.

The Abbasgúl told us that, three years before our trip, the Abyssinians came from Harar and overran all this country,[137] even as far as the Sheikh Ash and Rer Ali tribes; and going into the Rer Harún country beyond Milmil, they came back by way of the Rer Amáden and Adan Khair to the far south, to Imé; here they were among the Gállas and the Adone, or riverine negro population of the Webbe Shabéleh. The Abyssinians are said to have got by threats or violence a tribute of camels, cattle, or sheep from every tribe passed through on this far-reaching raid. We were beginning to get very curious about these Abyssinians, whom neither of us had ever met in all our wanderings.

One of our men stupidly told a crowd of people at the wells that we had come to attack Banagúsé, the commander of the Jig-Jiga outpost, and it was not till we heard shouts of delight from the men, women, and children collected, that we discovered this foolishness, and put a stop to it.

An Abbasgúl ákil,[31] to whom Sheikh Mattar had given us an Arabic letter, came to our camp. He said the Abyssinians were at Jig-Jiga, about thirty miles in our front, and that there were quite a hundred soldiers and a disorderly mob of Harar people there. So, as the object of our journey was the construction of a route map, without coming to blows with any one, we decided to defer our visit till a more fitting opportunity.

So far we had done three hundred miles of route in twenty-nine days, or ten and a half miles a day including halts, all of the road having been carefully traversed with prismatic compass, the main points being fixed by observations of the stars with a transit theodolite. We had travelled sixty-four miles without water between Dagahbúr and Waror, so that between Hargeisa and the latter place we had gone over two hundred miles of unexplored route with only two intermediate watering-places; yet all this country had been very fertile and subject to a considerable rainfall. With a proper system of tanks, involving, of course, a great initial outlay, combined with a steady, cultivating population, instead of the lazy, strife-loving Somáli nomads who now own the soil, much of this tract could, I believe, be made to rival some of the best parts of India. People who visit only the arid sandy Maritime Plain of the low coast[138] country near Berbera, or see it from ships, can get little idea of the fine soil, good rainfall, and cool, healthy climate of these interior plateaux.

About the middle of August we broke up our Waror camp and marched to Abonsa, in the Harar Highlands, the elevation being six thousand feet, whence a fine view was obtained over the distant Marar Prairie to the north. On the way, at Koran, we passed six men carrying Remington rifles, three of whom were Abyssinians, the first we had seen. They were very civil and shook hands. Our guide said this was a party going to Gerlogubi, in Central Ogádén, to get “tribute.”

We had now gone as near to Jig-Jiga as we dared, and we proposed to return to Hargeisa to pick up some stores which we had left with Sheikh Mattar, and to make a fresh start for the Harar border on the Gildessa side, hoping to be able to include Jig-Jiga in the map if it should turn out to have been vacated by the Abyssinians.

The whole of the country south of Waror and Abonsa was much disturbed by a feud between the Ahmed Abdalla, Habr Awal, and the Rer Farah, Abbasgúl. We divided our camps at Dubbur in order to survey more ground, and my brother, in returning to Hargeisa across the Marar Prairie, passed through the fighting tribes, and saw many of their mounted scouts, who were uniformly civil to him. Meanwhile I struck across the Haud bush, forty miles to the east of my brother’s route.

While I was encamped on 16th August among the Ahmed Abdalla karias at Karígri, in open jungle, a surprise was attempted on them by the Rer Farah, Abbasgúl. A hue and cry was raised, and the plain was soon swarming with men, who came out of the karias with spears and shields to repulse the attack. The enemy upon seeing this retired. The affair was so sudden that the Gerád or Sultán of the Ahmed Abdalla was with his headmen drinking coffee in my camp at the time. On the first news their horses were brought up ready saddled from the karias, and they mounted without delay and rode to the south, disappearing in the clouds of red dust raised by the flocks and herds which were being driven in by the women.

We again met and formed the double camp over the wells at Hargeisa, and during the few days we were there we had[139] pleasant company; for two sportsmen’s caravans—those of Col. R. Curteis of Poona, and of Captain Harrison, 8th King’s—passed through Hargeisa on their way to the Haud hunting-grounds.

The first fifty miles from Hargeisa being perfectly safe country, we made our fresh start on 24th August in two half caravans, and as the climate during this part of our wanderings was somewhat peculiar, showing that the Haud and Marar Prairie share in the great rainfall of the high Abyssinian plateau, I will give a short account of the first portion of the journey, the facts being taken from our Diary.

24th August.—We had only gone three miles when a deluge of rain came on, and having taken refuge under some very thin bushes for half an hour, we were drenched through. The storm showing no signs of abating we went on again, splashing through water up to our ankles; and so on for another mile, till we came to the banks of a small watercourse, down which rushed a yellow torrent which we tried to cross, but were obliged to beat a retreat; one camel rolled over and over, and the bags of rice were scattered along the bed of the stream, and fished out by the men going breast-deep. So we looked out for a little sandy rise, and camped under pelting rain, which continued till 7 A.M. next day. By 10.30, having waited for the stream to become passable and for our kit to dry, we were able to march, reaching Dofaré at 3.30 P.M. The karias of the Rer Samanter were found all along the way from Haraf, and we met hundreds of cows and thousands of camels. It rained all night long; and another storm, with thunder and lightning, came on at 8 A.M. next morning, just as things were beginning to get dry.

26th August.—We started off in pouring rain at 9 A.M. It rained more or less the whole day, and everything was soaked. My brother went on ahead with his half of the caravan towards Dubburro, but the caravan twice lost him and the guide, and he was on foot from 9 A.M. till 4.30 P.M. in a deluge of rain. Luckily we had before surveyed this ground. At last he gave up trying to find the tracks of his caravan, and walked to Dubburro, where he found it halted, after a march of twenty-five miles under continuous rain. I had halted some[140] miles in rear of him, but had not the least notion where I was. The whole country seemed flooded.

27th August.—My brother arrived at 7.30 P.M. at my camp, his own having gone on. He had lost his caravan, so I lent him my pony, and he at last reached his men, after having gone thirty miles, all but the last two miles being on foot, in rain-soaked boots, with violent toothache added to his other miseries. The last hour was in the dark, but he was kept from falling asleep at the roadside by the roaring of a lion.

Élinta Kaddo, 28th August.—It rained during the night. We had a few days of pleasanter weather after this, but it rained, more or less, daily during the whole of this trip till we reached Gildessa.

We marched across the beautiful Marar Prairie, to Gumbur Dúg, halting at several of the high conical hills which rise out of the elevated plain to nearly seven thousand feet above sea-level, as we wished to get a base from which to triangulate in points of the Harar Highlands which we were not able to visit.

We reached Gumbur Dúg on the morning of 1st September. Gumbur Dúg is a low, grass-covered hill of white limestone. Jig-Jiga was now close to us. Next morning vast herds of hartebeests were seen on the plain, comprising several thousands; and when we shot one, the plain was covered with a line of swiftly galloping animals, a mile or two in length, half obscured in clouds of red dust and flying turf.

To the south was a karia of the Bertiri tribe, and we sent two scouts on in the evening to find out whether Jig-Jiga was still occupied by the Abyssinians. These men returned late at night, reporting the karia deserted, but that they had found men tending camels. The Bertiri karias were all at Jig-Jiga, and the Abyssinians were encamped some miles off in the Gureis Hills, coming to Jig-Jiga every morning to water cattle and horses, and returning to their villages at night. The scouts reported that they met some Midgáns near the water, and that these men ran at them and would have attacked them, but were afraid of the two rifles. It afterwards transpired that my men had been telling a lie; they had really met a large crowd of Bertiri, who had run at them, thinking they were robbers; and my two scouts, in their fright, had fired a round of buckshot[141] into their faces. They afterwards confessed to having knocked down a woman with a pellet in the lip. On my instituting an inquiry among the Bertiri next day, the elders said, “It is so, and she is dead; she is only a Midgán woman, and has no relations, so it doesn’t matter.” Asking them to show me the grave, they said it didn’t matter, and that the Abyssinians would have killed fifty instead of one, and that the English were good people! Failing to get any sensible answers to my questions, I explained the heinous nature of the offence, and advised them to complain at the Resident’s Court at Berbera. But no complaint was ever made, so I think that though a woman was really knocked down by a spent pellet, she was not killed; and the elders reported her death in the hope of a present.

On 2nd September we marched over some rolling and open ban to the Jig-Jiga Valley, and camped at the water within three hundred yards of the ill-famed Abyssinian stockaded fort, which had been such a thorn in the side of the Jibril Abokr tribe. We found it untenanted; and as the Bertiri made no objection, we went over it and took some photographs.

The Jig-Jiga post is a work pushed out by the Abyssinians into the Bertiri part of the Marar Prairie, and it commands the route from Berbera to Harar. It is a strong redoubt surmounted by a rough stockade, the thin tops of the interlaced branches being about thirteen feet from the ground outside. The earthwork is a banquette four or five yards wide, rising in two steps to seven feet above the ground. The banquette and stockade are continuous round the enclosed space, which is a circle of about one hundred yards in diameter. It is strong enough against attacks by spearmen, but would give imperfect cover against musketry fire. On the outside the small branches of the stockade are bent outwards to form very flimsy chevaux de frise. There is one doorway, with a platform above on which a sentry can stand. Inside the enclosure were some very good circular huts, with perpendicular sides and conical thatched roofs.

A small watercourse, about eight feet deep, which would give cover for men running along the bottom, goes half-way round the stockade on the east side, at about fifty yards’[142] distance, so that men could collect there at night, and with the help of straw and kerosene oil the place might be burnt down and the inmates stabbed while trying to put out the fire. The work stands on the southern side of the Jig-Jiga Valley within three hundred yards of the usual wells, the Jig-Jiga Valley here being merely a depression in the open grass plains of the Marar Prairie.

The Abyssinian garrison varies in strength; sometimes the work is left deserted, as on the occasion of our visit, when the garrison had gone to the Harrawa Valley for a few days, leaving the wells to the Bertiri and their cattle.[32]

We were glad to have hit off our visit to this post so fortunately, and without having come into collision with the Abyssinians. Our men were very disinclined to come here, but we had been cautiously feeling our way since leaving Milmil to avoid any chance of a hostile attack. The Bertiri were very civil to us, bringing us more milk than our men, with all their great capacity, could drink. Crowds of the people came to our camp and begged us not to go away, but to stay with them, as they said the Abyssinians would never return while we were camped here.

Having satisfied our curiosity, in the evening we marched to Eil Bhai wells, arriving there as night closed in during a rain-storm. Hartebeests abounded everywhere, and between Jig-Jiga and Eil Bhai I shot a beautiful wild goose, which I afterwards found common in Ogádén.

On the 3rd September, having halted for two hours to let things dry a little, we marched at 8.30 to Makanis Hill, arriving there at midday, the whole march being over the open grass plains. Vast squadrons of hartebeests and of Sœmmering’s gazelles, and some herds of oryx, were passed by us. We also saw thirteen ostriches. It rained as night fell, and on the 4th of September a high wind blew, with rain and sleet, keeping[143] us in camp all day. On 5th September we descended into the Harrawa Valley in the Gadabursi country, and back on to the high ban again at Sarír, four days later. We then marched along the base of the Harar Highlands, reaching Sala Asseleh on 13th September. We had experienced heavy thunder-storms with deluges of rain daily, and had found the whole country deserted.

At Sala Asseleh we met a few Esa Somális who had just left the Abyssinian post of Gildessa, now only half a day’s march distant. They said that the Abyssinians were there in force. We could get no one to go forward to warn the garrison of our approach and peaceful intentions, the only native who knew the country being required as a survey guide.

The next morning we made our final march into Gildessa. We started early, and winding up a watercourse we entered low trap hills, and after going four miles we came in sight of an Abyssinian sentry-hut, perched on the top of a rocky hillock, at a place where the path emerges from the hills and makes an abrupt turn to the right into the Gildessa Gorge, down the side of which it runs towards Zeila. On the rocks around us was a large troop of dog-faced baboons, and there was no evidence, beyond the small hut, that we were approaching a town.

I was marching a little ahead of the caravan, with my brother and five or six camelmen; and turning to the right, round a shoulder of the hill, we suddenly found, only one hundred paces in front of us, the town of Gildessa—a group of some hundred mat huts, with a few thatched ones and stone houses. In the middle of the town is a stone zeríba sixty yards square, with walls ten feet high, having an opening five yards broad to allow of the ingress and egress of laden animals.

The hut we had noticed was the Abyssinian guard-house, on a mound overlooking the two converging roads from Harar and from Abósa to Gildessa, the latter being the road we had traversed. On the west of the guard-house was the bed of the Tug Gildessa, by the side of which wound the road to Zeila, and this channel now contained a stream of running water, which flowed to the east of the town.

The village through which we walked was very dusty, and a swarm of people of mixed Eastern races blocked the way,[144] bartering cloth, tobacco, coffee, and other articles of trade; and among the Abyssinians, Gállas, Somális, and Hararis I observed several men of the black Soudánese type. We found the assembled crowd very entertaining, and although the people looked surprised at our sudden arrival they evinced no want of friendliness. We sat down under some large shady trees on the north side of the town, and were presently joined by the elders, who were followed by several villainous-looking retainers carrying Remington rifles and swords.

Taken up with this interesting crowd, we did not at first notice the non-arrival of our caravan, which had only been a few hundred yards behind us during the march; at length missing the caravan, and inquiring the reason of delay, we were told that the men and camels had been seized upon by the Abyssinian soldiers who garrison the place, and taken into the stone zeríba; they had been made to unload inside, and a sentry had been put over the entrance to stop them from coming out again.

This would not do! So running to the spot, we entered a small house on the right side of the entrance; and there we found, seated on carpets, writing, one Dágo, who was pointed out to us as the Abyssinian in authority over the town. We demanded an explanation, and Dágo said that he had seen our caravan coming, and had decided that this would be a suitable spot for our camp, and he had therefore ordered our men to unload the camels.

We now strolled in to look at the place. Outside the zeríba entrance, to the left, was a barrack; and on a wheezy bugle sounding, about twenty soldiers, in white Soudánese uniforms and armed with Remingtons, ran out and fell into line. Another bugle, and they presented arms in rather a fantastic fashion. They were then dismissed, and stood loafing about outside the entrance.

We looked into the stone square and found our camels sitting unloaded, our kit and boxes scattered about, lying where they had been thrown from the camels on to the ground. Our men were standing about, looking sullen and sheepish. The zeríba was quite bare, without tree or shelter, exposed to a powerful midday sun, and the ground was caked with camel’s[145] dung. We were told that this camping ground had been chosen for our advantage, that we should be received with honour, and that water and camel’s milk would be brought for the use of the caravan. We thanked Dágo for his kind intentions, but said we preferred camping under the trees by the river.


Greater Koodoo (Strepsiceros Koodoo).

Length of horns on curve, 52½ inches. Straight, 37¼ inches.


Dágo and his friends made a thousand objections, and the native officer in charge crowded the soldiers in front of the stone enclosure. Our caravan had meanwhile been quietly loading up the kit by our orders, but upon the camelmen trying to lead out the camels, they were stopped by the soldiers, each of whom carried his rifle loaded, with a few more cartridges held between the fingers of the left hand, taken out of the belt ready for instant use. One big Soudánese soldier stood across the entrance with his rifle at the “port.”

We now saw the intention of the Abyssinian leader, and, as it would never do for our Somális to suppose that we could be detained against our will, we decided to take the next step; and going up to Dágo, who was still sitting on the carpet inside the little hut, I threatened to complain to Rás Makunan, the Governor of Harar, if this attempt at our arrest should be persisted in.

Dágo said that we ourselves might go where we liked, but that our Somális, camels, and property must remain inside the enclosure. We refused this separation, and told the officials simply that we were going out. Some of the soldiers became excited, and began shouting, but were silenced.

Again I walked over to Dágo, and he said the caravan could not go without the order of the Rás; that it would take till to-morrow at noon for a horseman to go to Harar and get this order, and our party must be detained in custody till then.

I stayed talking to him for a moment, while my brother quietly told off an advance and rear-guard, passing the word round for each of our followers to mark his man, and to put a bullet into him should an attack be made upon us. I then finally told Dágo that we were going, and walked to the entrance, where my hunter Géli silently put into my hands the double four-bore elephant rifle, loaded in each barrel with fourteen drams of powder and fifty SSG slugs. This rifle, so[148] loaded, scatters a good deal, and would have been quite equal to the occasion.

We had not mistaken our friend Dágo. The forces were exactly equal, not counting the Gildessa crowd, some of whom would have been for, and some against us, and seeing we were capable of carrying our point, and afraid of the great responsibility he would incur by using force, he called me back and consented to our leaving, with our men, our camels, and our baggage, provided I would write a letter to Rás Makunan, to state why we had come to Gildessa. With my brother and half a dozen men, all having their rifles ready, I entered Dágo’s hut, and we sat down on the carpets in a circle, and he pushed me a reed pen, ink, and paper.

I wrote a short note to the Rás in English, stating that we had come to examine caravan routes for the Aden authorities, and meant no harm. That we had also had some shooting, and wished to go to Zeila; and I begged him to accept, as an accompaniment to my letter, a pair of rhinoceros horns, those of one of the two cows I had shot in the Dih Wiyileh.

The Abyssinian Dágo said he was sure Makunan would be pleased at the trophy, which would be a very suitable compliment, because only important Abyssinians are allowed to be in possession of rhino horns. They make sword handles and drinking-cups of them; the latter are supposed to neutralise the effect of any poison poured into them. He sent our letter to Makunan at once by a mounted messenger, at the same time begging that we would wait encamped here till noon the next day, when the answer might be expected.

We said we could leave Gildessa whenever we chose, but that, as we wished to be on friendly terms with the local authorities, and to respect their rules, we would camp under the trees outside till the afternoon of the next day. We now marched out and camped half a mile to the north of the town, on the right bank of the river, at a spot where it was overlooked by some low hills from a distance of a hundred yards.

In the afternoon the Abyssinian officials took us into their own huts, in the town, and gave us tea, sitting on rugs. The soldiers also were very friendly, and, now that business was over, they forgot the late awkwardness, and tried to show us[149] that they bore no ill-will, but had only tried to do what they believed to be their duty to Rás Makunan. In the evening I received them in my hut, giving them tea, which they seemed to prefer to coffee.

When the Abyssinians were gone a large concourse of Gildessa people came to camp, amongst them many Esa and Arab merchants. They carried presents, among which were three large sugar-cane stems, with spreading leaves, Indian-corn cobs, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, and two sheep; all the vegetables having been grown at Gildessa by the Abyssinians. The Arab merchants were, some of them, Aden people; they came clad in their best yellow and green silks; and being versed in the tastes of the white man, heading the procession, they brought us gravely, as an acceptable gift, a bottle of absinthe carefully wrapped up in a wet cloth! Apparently this and breech-loading small-arms form the chief articles of commerce between the French port of Jibúti and Harar. Neither Abyssinians, Esa, nor Arabs would accept any return present, saying that we were their guests and not expected to give anything.

The Esa insisted, before the Abyssinians, that they were British “subjects.” One old man had been to London and Bombay as a ship’s fireman; he advised us to send down to Zeila and let the assistant Resident, Mr. Walsh, know of our whereabouts, as “something might happen” if we were to try to leave Gildessa.

Next morning a score or two of young warriors, with the large Esa spear and shield, gave us a dance in honour of the British Government, but it was cut short by a mounted Abyssinian, Dágo’s son, who rode up on a pony from the town and ordered them to desist. My own men all flew to arms and stood ready for a row, and Géli handed me my four-bore, suitably loaded as usual.

The Esa were silent for a moment; then, giving a derisive roar of laughter, they went on with their dance, which was the dibáltig, or acknowledgment of sovereignty, in our honour. The Abyssinian galloped back to Gildessa, and returned with the soldiers, marching two deep with loaded rifles; so the Esa suddenly stopped dancing. A young Esa, of splendid physique,[150] came forward and asked whether we would like them to go on, for, as he courteously put it, “the Esa were the obedient slaves of the English.” Thanking him and his comrades, we said they were under Abyssinian control here, and they must do as they were bid.

They replied that they were sorry, for they felt great friendship for us. The situation was for a moment awkward. The Abyssinians and my own men stood drawn up opposite to each other near my tent, the young Esa warriors in a sullen group between the two, and a large crowd of Esa, Abyssinian, Arab, and Gálla townspeople, armed with long guns, swords, and spears, had collected on one side.

The Abyssinians were satisfied by my answer that I had no intention of insulting them, and without further word the commander marched them back to the town.

This was already the second hitch, and we were anxious to get from Makunan the answer to my letter. We could not foresee what trouble might arise with these sensitive Abyssinians if we stayed long in Gildessa. We also thought that instead of a letter reinforcements might be sent from Harar, and our camp was in a spot difficult to defend.

By noon on the day of the Esa dance no answer had as yet come from Harar; we had delayed over twenty-four hours to please the Abyssinians, but now, the stipulated time having expired, at 2 P.M. we began loading up.

Some Abyssinian scouts, who had been posted along the road between our camp and Gildessa, reported our preparations for departure to their commander, and a crowd of Arab merchants and Esa elders came in haste to our camp to prevent a quarrel; for they said that if we went without permission we would certainly be attacked by the Abyssinians. They put our staying so much in the light of a personal kindness to themselves, that we agreed not to stay, but to march a mile or two to a more defensible position, and camp for the night, going on in the morning towards Zeila. If a large force should by any chance come from Harar, our present camp was very unfavourably situated.

The Esa elders said they were sorry, as if they were ordered to seize our camels, and we used force, a fight would[151] ensue; and a fight with the English was the last thing they wanted.

We answered that we would also deplore this, but would not allow our free right to go to Zeila to be questioned. So we marched off, with most of the men formed into a rear-guard thrown across the camel track and extended at about two paces.

We followed the path which goes to the north between the low hills and the forest which fringes the right bank of the Gildessa stream. My brother afterwards crowned the hills with part of the rear-guard, while I kept with the remainder in the fringe of the woods covering the retreat till the caravan should be clear of Gildessa.

A number of the Abyssinian and Soudánese soldiers ran out with their rifles to stop us, but when they had come a quarter of a mile they were recalled by a bugle from the barrack.

We camped after two miles, as we had promised our friends the Esa and Arab merchants. It rained as we halted, but we spent the first two hours of the night in fortifying our camp with piled boxes of stores and rough timber from the thorn-trees, so as to make them bullet-proof. We sent back word notifying to the Abyssinians that we had camped, but that we should make a very early morning march for Zeila; and we asked that the Harar letter might be sent after us.

The messenger, on his return, reported that there had been high talk among the Abyssinians of punishing our Esa guides Boh and Hadji Adan, who had shown us the way to Gildessa, but the other Esa in the town had said that if a hair of their heads were touched the Abyssinians would have to deal with themselves also. The Esa had then been driven out of the town by the soldiers, who had formed line and charged them.

The Esa are accounted the bravest of any of the Somáli tribes; they seldom or never use light throwing-spears, but run up and stab at close quarters with the large, heavy, broad-bladed spear. On a certain punitive expedition which occurred in 1890,[33] it is well known that they managed to get into a zeríba full of regular troops, and, although beaten off, to leave their mark inside; and as fighting men they are by no means[152] to be despised. But having no guns they are obliged in Gildessa to give in to the well-armed and numerous Abyssinians.

My brother and I watched by turns at this camp during the whole night, and with the transit theodolite we took several pairs of stars for latitude.

Sending three men half a mile back along the road to Gildessa, to keep a look-out, we loaded by moonlight and marched at 4 A.M., and by dawn we had gone five miles along a good track through thick jungle. At daylight we came to Arrto, where Count Porro’s scientific expedition, including nine Italian travellers, was destroyed in 1886. We crossed a wide nala to the foot of a small hill, which was the last camping-place of Porro’s party. Half a mile farther we came to the Garasleh stream. The banks were beautifully wooded on both sides by large thorn-trees covered with creepers, with an undergrowth of aloes.

At dawn next day, at our camp at Warrji, where we had put twenty-five miles between our caravan and Gildessa, a number of Abyssinians came riding after us on mules, bringing letters from Rás Makunan of Harar. The letters were written in Amháric, and were couched in the most polite terms. The Rás expressed himself glad to hear of the nearness to Harar of British officers, and invited us to come to see him. The bearer of the letter, who was the commander of the guard at Gildessa, further said that one Gobau Desta had been sent to Gildessa to arrange for the journey, and that by Gobau Desta the Rás had courteously sent his own riding mule, with embroidered state saddlery, for my use on the way. The Rás thanked me also for the rhino horns. Alluding to our affair with the Gildessa soldiers, the Rás significantly wrote, “If they have been discourteous to you they shall reap their reward.”

I sent an answer to this, saying our time was not our own, but that I hoped at some future opportunity, when on leave, to pay him a visit. I said that the soldiers had naturally rather lost their heads at our sudden arrival, but that they had treated us with great hospitality.

On 20th September we arrived at Biyo-Kabóba fort, the small post pushed out by the Abyssinians into the Esa country. And as we approached the guard of fifteen men fired a salute in[153] our honour. Strict orders had come from Harar that we were to be given sheep, milk, and vegetables, that we were not to be molested in any way, and above all, that the Odahgub White Esa might dance to us if they liked. This they did, and I took a photograph of them. I have never seen finer men in any Somáli tribe than some of these Esa.

At So Madu, on 22nd September, a mail bag arrived from Mr. Walsh, from Zeila, now about a hundred miles distant. News contained in these letters necessitated my leaving my brother to finish the traverse. I started for Zeila with two attendants and my three Arab trotting camels. We slept on the side of the track for two nights, arriving in Zeila on the evening of the second day.

♂ Sœmmering’s Gazelle (Gazella sœmmeringi).

Length of horns on curve average 16 inches.

My brother marched down to Loyi-Ada, between Jibúti and Zeila, to have a look at a palm-tree which is supposed to mark the boundary between the French and British spheres of influence. Here he had an amusing conversation in the pitch darkness with[154] a French officer, who thought he was trying to break the cholera quarantine, the two parties of twenty men or so standing opposite each other under arms; this awkwardness was followed by explanations, my brother expressing regret that, through long absence in the interior, he had no knowledge of the quarantine, and the Frenchman apologising for having received him en troupier under a misapprehension; and there followed a pleasant breakfast with this official, who said he lived at Jibúti.

A few days before reaching Zeila my brother’s caravan was struck down with sickness, caused by bad water, several men having to be left at Ambós police-hut, and many more coming into Zeila strapped on camels. I rode fifty miles on a very hot day, with a native Indian hospital assistant and medicines, in pursuit of my brother, but found he had come to Zeila by another route.[34] Arriving at Zeila, we paid off the caravan and returned to Aden. This was the last trip made in company with my brother.


A Herd of Aoul

Sœmmering’s Gazelle.


Project to explore Gállaland—News of Colonel Carrington’s party—A Bulhár feud—Start from Bulhár—Gadabursi dance to the English—Esa raid—A rival sportsman—Awálé Yasin breaks his leg—Native surgery—Adventures with leopards—Following a wounded leopard by moonlight—A plucky home charge—Exciting encounter—An oryx hunt—On the Marar Prairie again—Quantities of game—Arrival at Jig-Jiga, and visit from Abyssinians—Attempted arrest of the caravan by an Abyssinian general—Exciting adventure—Arrival of Gabratagli—Character of Banagúsé—A letter to the Rás—Interviews with Banagúsé—Bertiri complaints against Abyssinians—An answer from the Rás—Picturesque journey to Harar—Hospitality of Basha-Basha, an Abyssinian general—Enter Harar—Meet Signor Felter—First interview with the Rás in the audience-room—Entertained by Allaka Gobau Desta—My servant wounded—Meet Count Salimbeni, M. Guigniony, and the Archbishop of Gállaland—Interviews with the Rás and exchange of presents—Farewells in Harar—Leave Harar for the Webbe.

In the winter of 1892 I found myself able to undertake a project which I had long formed,—that of spending my long leave in Somáliland, and penetrating through the country to explore Gállaland and the sources of the Juba, five hundred miles inland. Having thought for several years of undertaking this journey, when I was at last in possession of the opportunity I had all the arrangements in my head. It occurred to me that Rás Makunan’s invitation, received by me at Gildessa, might be very useful, because such a visit would ensure respectful treatment from any marauding Abyssinian soldiers whose path[156] I might cross on my route to the Webbe. On the other hand, there was a chance that Rás Makunan might put obstacles in my way; but as he would get news of my journey in any case, whether I went to Harar or not, I considered it best to visit him, and laying before him my project, to trust in his intelligent co-operation. I, moreover, thought Harar would be an interesting place to visit, and I knew that Rás Makunan would be glad of such a chance of exchanging ideas with a British officer. I mentioned my project to the political authorities, who, though not in a position to use my services, kindly allowed me to go in from British ports. Eventually I started for Harar, armed with eighteen Snider carbines, which were my own property, a letter of recommendation to “all tribes whose countries I might pass through” drawn up at the Residency, Aden; a note to Rás Makunan from Signor Cecchi, the Italian Consul-General; and a “round robin” in Arabic, from Sheikh Mattar of Hargeisa, to all the mullahs, widads, and chiefs of the Malingúr and Rer Amáden Somális, and of the Geriré Gállas beyond Imé.

The caravan, which I got together at Berbera on this occasion, was the best equipped and manned that I have ever done work with. The men were twenty-four picked Somális, all of whom I had had under my command on many expeditions, and they were chosen from among some two hundred applicants for this particular trip.

In Aden I bought three Arab trotting camels and at Berbera thirty-three Somáli baggage camels. I engaged Adan Yusuf as caravan leader and interpreter, Géli and Hassan as hunters, Dowra Warsama as guide, a cook, butler, and eighteen camelmen—in all twenty-four men.

To Adan Yusuf I lent a Martini-Henry carbine, my hunters carried my own spare big-game rifles, and the rest of the men carried two Martini and eighteen Snider carbines. I took one hundred and fifty rounds of ball ammunition per man, a box of buckshot cartridges, and a box of blank ones for firing salutes and signals, and for skirmishing drill. Fifty rounds per man of the ball ammunition I expended in Bulhár and during the journey in field-firing at targets.

Organising the caravan at Berbera, I marched to Bulhár, and there remained a week to drill the men and put them[157] through their target practice, during which time I was the guest of Mr. Malcolm Jones, the political officer. While I was at Bulhár Mr. Seton Karr arrived on a shooting trip, and left for the south-west on the same day; I also heard that Colonel Carrington of Poona was starting from Zeila into the Gadabursi country to look for elephants.

My own private weapons were a double four-bore elephant rifle carrying fourteen drs. of powder and a spherical ball, and weighing twenty-one pounds; a double eight-bore Paradox, a double .577 Express, all by Holland and Holland; and a long Lee-Metford magazine rifle, a Martini-Henry, and a double twelve-bore pistol.

There was a row going on among the coast people while we were at Bulhár. Near Eil Sheikh, on the shore, fourteen miles west of Bulhár, two men had fought in the jungle, a man of the Ayyal Gadíd being killed by a man of the Rer Gédi section of the Ba-Gadabursi Shirdone clan; after the duel the Shirdone man had run away to his karia.

The whole of the Ayyal Gadíd sub-tribe who were in Bulhár at once assembled to drive the Shirdone out of the town, and Mr. Jones promptly shut up five of the slayer’s relatives in the lock-up to prevent their being lynched. Next day he sent half a dozen police, mounted on fast camels, to catch the murderer, and in the evening I walked out with my host to a crowd of Gadíd, who were burying the dead man wrapped up in a white tobe, and we found that he had already been partly eaten by hyænas before being brought in, as one fleshless arm-bone was standing out from under the tobe.

We left Bulhár on 16th February, marched about twelve miles, and camped at Eil Sheikh, between Elmas Mountain and the sea. We took up eighty gallons of water at Eil Sheikh for the waterless march of fifty miles to Kabri Bahr. On the following day I got an aoul buck with the Martini-Henry while on the march, the meat being very welcome. I saw a good many oryx and followed a pair of ostriches, but both without success, the flat-topped khansa bushes being very thick and thorny, and difficult to get through. We reached Kabri Bahr on the 19th, and Digan on the evening of the same day.

Here one of Colonel Carrington’s men came into camp from[158] the west, he having been sent to look for elephants. I sent a note to the Colonel, whom I had met in India, giving him notice that I was on a trip to the far interior, and would not therefore interfere with his hunting ground; and I marched to Ali Maan, where I found the country very much dried up, and water scarce, owing to a very dry Jilál season and the failure of the Dair or winter rains. The Rer Nur, Gadabursi, gave a dance of fifty men, on foot, with spear and shield, in my honour; and, as a return courtesy, I took a photograph of them. There were two large karias here. The men professed themselves, as usual all over Somáliland, to be English ryots (subjects),[35] and they made complaints against their neighbours, which they wished me to settle. While I was at Ali Maan the Esa attacked some Gadabursi and killed one of them, and in leaving I passed a party of young men going out to try and find an Esa to kill, and so square off the score.

In the Dibiri-Wein country, by a beautiful reed-margined river-bed, in the wet sand I found the footmarks of a herd of elephants which had passed about twenty-four hours before. Following these for a mile I discovered, to my horror, imprinted over them the uncompromising outline of an European boot! The herd had been followed, not by Colonel Carrington, but by another traveller. I left these footprints in deep disgust, without even inquiring the name of their owner, and marching on in haste I reached Gebili a few days later.

I was riding at noon ahead of the caravan, and had just stopped to look at some old stone ruins half-buried in rocks and grass, when my guide Daura ran up and reported, “Awálé is killed,” and when the caravan came up it was headed by Awálé Yasín strapped on a camel, in great pain, with his leg broken below the knee, the tibia sticking out of the flesh for two or three inches. He had been fixing a loose load when the camel had fallen on him, crushing his leg. I gave him chlorodyne to try and alleviate the pain. Then as we neared the camp we lifted him off the camel, and four men bore him down the steep descent of fifty feet to the Gebili watercourse, to the south of which I pitched my tent. Following a sheep track, we soon found a few shepherds of the Jibril Abokr, who were returning[159] from watering their flocks. They sent a mounted messenger to their karias, lying ten miles to the south, and next morning a native expert at bone-setting arrived on the scene. I explained I was not a doctor, and that the sick man might choose between us; and he chose the Somáli, while I stood by to help and to see fair-play. I am not responsible for the following method:—

First they washed the leg with warm water. There was a gash some two inches wide, where the bone had come through. The limb was pulled violently to get it straight, and the knee was then bent till the calf pushed against the back of the thigh; more pulling was done to get the broken bones in a straight line, and then the bandaging began.

Cutting a tobe into strips we wound it round and round the bent leg, a neat hole being made with the point of a spear wherever the bandage came over the gash in the flesh, so as to keep the wound exposed and thus allow of future inspection. The whole of the bandage was covered with subug, or clarified butter, as the work progressed.

Over the tobe bandage was wound a final wrapping of soft keirán leather. The whole of this dressing was to remain on for seven days, and then to be opened; if the bones had not joined at the end of that time they were to be reset by the aid of a wooden splint. If they had joined, a light bandage would be again put on, and in a month he should be able to walk.

Awálé bore the pain without a sound, under circumstances which would probably have caused an Asiatic or European to yell, and next day I sent him off to the Jibril Abokr karias strapped on a camel, with about two months’ rations of rice and dates, and plenty of cloth to buy more; but it afterwards transpired that the hákim, native-like, had bolted with the whole of this and left Awálé to shift for himself. However, he managed to get attended to by a good Samaritan from a passing caravan, in the shape of a distant relation, who took him to Berbera, where I found him four months afterwards; he was then able to walk, but rather lame. A broken leg may not seem a great matter, but happening away from any transport except a baggage camel, and perhaps miles away from water in an uninhabited wilderness, it becomes a terrible misfortune.

I went out for a stroll on the evening of 1st March from[160] Camp Gebili, quite alone, and walked along the sandy river-bed, which is surrounded by rocky and bush-covered country; and here I saw a hyæna rolling about in the sand, one hundred and fifty yards away; and pitching up my rifle I hit him, breaking his back, and walking up I finished his violent struggles with a ball from my pistol. As I reached my tent a large panther was heard coughing in the jungle to the east, no doubt prowling round camp looking for one of my goats; so we tied up a kid a hundred yards from my tent on the slope of the river bank, and raising a small screen of thorn branches, I sat up with my hunter Géli, five yards from the goat, to watch for the panther by the light of the rising moon. After an hour, just as we had begun to get tired of watching, and were nodding off to sleep, the panther charged the goat and carried it away. The loop-hole which we had prepared in our brushwood screen had been too small, allowing no room laterally for a moving shot.

The panther carried away the kid at a gallop, and we rushed after him in the moonlight over the rocky ground and scrub, and made him drop it when he had gone some two hundred yards from camp; we then dragged the carcase back and secured it in the same place, tying its leg with a stout rope to a stake hammered into the ground, the rope being smeared with muddy water to make it less conspicuously white. We also fastened a live goat by the side of the dead one.

After another wait of half an hour Hassan the Midgán, who sat on my left, touched me gently and pointed. Looking up I saw a panther’s head five yards from the goat, gray and ghostlike, and next second in a flash he had sprung on the live goat’s neck, but finding it fastened to the stake he let go and bounded on, giving no time for a shot. I searched all next day in the thick ergín jungle round camp, but failed to put him up, but we found a cave which had evidently been his lair.

On the next night I again went for a walk along the river-bed alone, and saw the mate of the hyæna I had killed the night before; but I held my fire for fear of driving away any panthers or leopards from the neighbourhood.

I sat up again, and at eight o’clock, while it was still nearly dark, a large leopard charged the goat at full gallop, and I fired without looking along the sights, the light being too dim for[161] me to see the platinum bead. I fired a snap-shot with my eyes thrown upon the bait as the grey silhouette of the leopard pounced on to it, and pulled the trigger at random as it for a moment obscured the white form of the goat; the leopard left the goat struggling and bounded away across the river. The smoke hung heavily, and even when it had cleared away I could only make out the white outline of the goat in front, lying in its death throes; beyond that the black silhouette of the bush-covered hill, and the white light in the sky which would soon be replaced by the disc of the rising moon. I distinctly heard the leopard spring up the hill on the other side of the river; and then she stopped, growling at intervals, and evidently badly wounded, for I could hear the cracking branches of the thorn bushes and the sound of displaced stones as she rolled about.

I went to camp and fetched a lantern and several men; and taking up the tracks, holding the lantern close to the ground, we found a great deal of blood and shreds of her stomach which had been dropped as she had galloped across the river-bed. We held a whispered conference, and decided that if we waited till the morning to follow her up, with this fearful wound she might die in the night and hyænas would spoil the skin. Several men then began throwing small stones up on to the hillside amongst the bushes where we thought she must be lying, but she refused to show her hiding-place.

The Somális offered to form line and drive her out by the light of the moon. I tried to show them the foolhardiness of this; but as they were bent on it, and further hesitation on my part would have been misinterpreted, I arranged a line of twelve men with Snider carbines, and placing myself at its head, we cautiously worked up the hillside. The leopard was very quiet now, and gave no sign. The moon was getting brighter, as it had risen well above the horizon clear of the hill and bushes, shining down into our faces as we ascended.

The men were straggling and would not keep proper line, in spite of my constant directions. We had made three unsuccessful casts up and down the hill, when the leopard charged down from the top, with a coughing roar, right in our faces. The men bunched up round me and I could not fire,—indeed[162] no one had time to fire. She came down the hill in three or four tremendous bounds, and the next second her shadowy form had sprung on Esmán Abdi, who was next to me on the left, and leopard and man, locked together, rolled down the hill, brushing past my leg. Libán Gúri, the man on the farther side of Esmán Abdi, placed the muzzle of his carbine against the leopard’s shoulder, actually singeing the skin, the bullet passing through the leopard and ricochetting within a few inches of my foot, scattering the gravel over me; the brute let go Esmán Abdi, or rather Esmán let go her, for he had had her safe by the throat from the first; and she rolled over in her last agony, fixing her claws into everything within reach, until I fired with the muzzle against her ribs and settled her.

Esmán ran down the hill, and we all followed him, calling out to know how much he was wounded; and when we overtook him he said he wasn’t running from the shabél, but was very much afraid of our bullets! He was badly clawed about the arms, but having caught the leopard by the throat in the first rush, and never let go his hold, he had got off without feeling her teeth, although he had several abrasions from falling among the rocks.

We took the leopard to my tent and skinned it by firelight, while by the same fire I dressed Esmán Abdi’s wounds with carbolic oil. The first shot fired at the leopard as she charged the goat had taken her in the centre of the belly, and torn quite half of the intestines away, and with this wound she had waited quietly for us, and had died game!

On the 3rd of March we left Gebili, and at the end of an afternoon march of three and a half hours halted at noon on the northern edge of the great Marar Prairie, at Ujawáji, near the spot where I had been mauled by a lion a few months before. A glorious view lay before us, the row of conical hills called Subbul rising out of the plain some twenty-five miles away; and another twenty-five miles beyond could be seen the long blue line of the Harar Highlands, at the edge of which lay Jig-Jiga the Abyssinian post by which I must pass before marching to the city of Harar. By the evening of the 4th of March we had reached Júk, a grassy bottom in the undulating bush-covered country leading up to Subbul Odli, which is[163] a dome-shaped hill, the top being two or three hundred feet above the surrounding ground and some six thousand feet above the level of the sea. Between Bulhár and Júk the whole country passed over had been under the influence of a very severe Jilál, or dry season, but at Júk we found that recent rain had fallen, and young grass was just shooting up all over the plain, the thorn bushes being already a mass of green.

On the evening of our arrival at Júk I left the three trotting camels in camp and strolled out on foot; I found oryx abundant here, and after a careful crawl through old high grass, hit two mortally with a right and left, but, to my sorrow, night closed in while I was following them, and I had to leave them to die in the bush.

At dawn the next morning the caravan marched on for Subbul Odli, while I went back on foot with Géli and Hassan to look for the oryx wounded the night before. I found one, a large cow, still standing, and gave her a finishing shot; and two or three hundred yards farther I found the other, a bull, already killed and eaten by hyænas; but the skull, carrying a very fine pair of horns, I took away, and as much of the meat of the cow as we could carry.

Soon after overtaking the caravan I started a large herd, followed by what is perhaps the greatest meat delicacy, a young calf oryx; and as the meat of the cow was scarcely enough for my followers, I shot him. At noon we reached Subbul Odli and camped half a mile from the hill, in open park-like country. There was at the foot of Subbul Odli a beautiful forest of the wádi, a thorn-tree with an upright light gray or lemon-yellow stem, bare to about ten feet from the ground, and then spreading out flat at the top into small stems in the form of an inverted cone. It is a tree of great beauty, and is covered with thorns two or three inches long. This tree gives out a gum which the Somális eat. It was now the Kalíl, or great heat before the monsoon, and we experienced the first thunder-storms while at this camp.

Continuing our journey towards Jig-Jiga, I saw immense quantities of hartebeests on the open plains, one herd containing quite a thousand individuals, and three herds of about five hundred each; and plenty of smaller herds and solitary bulls[164] were scattered about near the horizon. All the game was rather wild, but I shot two buck Sœmmering’s gazelles by a right and left, as a long line of these animals galloped past me extended at full speed, the setting sun glancing on their sleek hides; and we camped where they had fallen, on the short grass of the open plains, my tent being within half a mile of Gumbur Dug, a small rounded hillock which takes its name from the Dúg, or large gadfly. Four Ayyal Yunis traders came to me here, to lay before me, as a representative of the English, complaints against the Abyssinians; and some of the Jibril Abokr tribe joined us, with their flocks, for protection while passing the frontier.

Hartebeest (Bubalis swaynei).

Marching into Jig-Jiga on the side of rising ground, opposite the Abyssinian stockaded earthwork, I was promptly visited by a Shúm, or petty officer, and twenty Abyssinian soldiers, who all carried sabres and Remington rifles. Rumours were afloat that the Abyssinian leader, Banagúsé, having heard that an English force was marching up to take Jig-Jiga, was bringing an army against me from his place at Gojar in the hills. The Bertiri said that the soldiers at Jig-Jiga had been on the point of leaving in a fright, but that we had come unexpectedly early in the day, and so caught them in the stockade.


I sat up for a panther in the evening, in a wretched shelter, when it was pitch dark; and a spotted hyæna charged my goat and took it away from under my very nose; but the light was too bad for me to fire, and I returned much disgusted to camp, picking my way home in the dark.

At midnight my caravan leader, Adan Yusuf, woke me up to say that he had received news that Banagúsé was coming to-morrow with two hundred soldiers, and had sent for a reinforcement of two hundred more; and that Banagúsé had said to his people that he would arrest me, whoever I was, and find out the reason of my coming afterwards.

Accordingly, next morning Banagúsé marched into the Jig-Jiga Valley with the large escort of nearly four hundred horse and foot, armed chiefly with Remington rifles. The force was one of organised troops, so far as the Abyssinian military system goes, and the rifles were superior to the Snider carbines of my escort. I watched them for many miles as they advanced over the plain, by the aid of a large astronomical telescope, which we set up on a tripod in camp. The force halted outside the Abyssinian zeríba, eight hundred yards from my camp, a dip of open grass-land, forming the Jig-Jiga Valley, lying between us. Banagúsé went into the zeríba, the bulk of the soldiers squatting down outside, gossiping and holding the horses of those Abyssinian chiefs who had been mounted.

Soon Banagúsé’s headman or Shúm, Abadigal, came spurring across the valley to my camp, mounted on a beautiful gray Abyssinian mare, with a message to the effect that the great man was “at home” in the zeríba, and that he had sent for me. Remembering what had been told me of Banagúsé’s intention to arrest me, I sent back Abadigal to say I would meet Banagúsé half-way if he would go into the valley with a few men only; and I pointed out a conspicuous red ant-hill where we might meet. Abadigal soon returned, saying his master expected me to go to the zeríba, and that he would wait for me there.

Mounting my Arabian trotting camel, and followed by all my nineteen men, leaving only one sentry in camp, I rode out to the ant-hill, and sat there for ten minutes; but Banagúsé not arriving, being tired of the hot sun, I trotted back again; and[166] on Abadigal coming on one of his frequent errands across the valley, I sent him to tell Banagúsé that he might go back to Harar if he liked, but that I should stop where I was, and unless he behaved civilly I would prefer not seeing him at all; moreover, I warned him that my men were few, and that if he brought his crowd with him to my camp I should take it as a hostile act, but that if he came with only a small party I should be glad to welcome him, and give him a reception befitting a man of such rank.

I waited another half-hour, and then I saw through the telescope that the people squatting round the zeríba began to stir, and Banagúsé and his chiefs came out and formed the whole force into a long line facing my camp. The chief mounted, and the line began to cross the valley in my direction; and very picturesque they looked. I longed for a shot at them with my “Ideal” hand camera, but not anticipating such a subject I had put in no plates the night before. As they got nearer I could see the silver-mounted shields and black sheepskin capes of the men, and the rich trappings of the horses, some of the bridles being hung with rows of silver dollars, glittering in the sun. Banagúsé rode in the centre on a white horse, and the line was an irregular formation about two or three deep. On my right a large crowd of Bertiri Somáli horsemen had assembled to watch the expected disturbance, and the whole picture was one of the brightest and most exciting I have ever seen in Somáliland.

I was determined that if Banagúsé wanted to arrest me he would have to use force; and I knew he could not do this because, after the attempted arrest of my brother and myself at Gildessa the year before, Rás Makunan had given strict orders to his frontier generals to treat British travellers with courtesy; so on the whole I decided that if in the game of “bluff” I preserved a tolerably firm attitude, Banagúsé would simply have to give in, and my expedition to Ogádén would be saved from failure.

Calling my men, twenty in all, and forming them into an irregular line, I went out on foot into the valley to meet Banagúsé, hoping devoutly that he would halt his people and come on with two or three in a proper manner. But[167] the Abyssinians continued to advance! I was intensely annoyed that Banagúsé should insist on bluffing, and we all determined not to give in. A few seconds only would decide the matter now, as the array had come to within a hundred and twenty yards, and was every moment getting nearer. I now ordered my men to lie down, and advancing with two of them I waved to Banagúsé to come forward to meet me, and to halt his people. My signs being taken no notice of I blew a whistle, and the men ran up and formed round me into a rallying group, outer circle kneeling and inner circle standing, and a cartridge was shoved into the breech of every rifle. Several of the Abyssinians dropped down ready to fire at a word from their chief, and my Somális made ready, on the order, to aim at the little man on the white horse, riding in the middle of the throng.

Banagúsé wheeled his horse quickly and addressed his people. He had at last been beaten in the game, and a wave passed along the opposing line which we had been watching with such concentrated interest, and they all sat down. Banagúsé trotted forward on his white horse, followed by Abadigal and two others, and I walked towards him with my interpreter, Adan Yusuf, and two men. Banagúsé took the sheepskins from the shoulders of the two soldiers and spread them on the ground; and we sat down side by side on the open plain, near my original ant-hill, the dark Abyssinian force being eighty yards in front, and my camelmen ten yards behind; and about a hundred Bertiri horsemen, sitting in the saddle, formed a picturesque group on my right.

Banagúsé complimented me on my military movements, and asked the reason of them. I asked why he had advanced with all his force, against my wish, distinctly made known to him through Abadigal. “Oh!” he said, “this crowd was brought in your honour; it is the custom.” So, not to be behind him with a soft answer, I said, “This is also an English custom, to do you honour;” and so we parted, shaking hands; and I marched back my own men to my camp, and Banagúsé crossed the valley to his zeríba, followed by his little army.

In the afternoon an Abyssinian named Gabratagli came to me with a small escort, having just arrived from Daríma, a[168] village in the Highlands about a day’s march distant. He was an agent of Menelek, and had been appointed to inspect routes and regulate caravan fees. He reported that Rás Makunan had just arrived at Harar after his visit to Shoa, but had not yet had time to hear of my coming. Gabratagli had, however, heard of it, and had come in haste from Daríma to bid me welcome to the country on his own responsibility, as he knew of my correspondence with the Rás at Gildessa last year, and of Makunan’s wish to know British officers. Gabratagli behaved with great courtesy, and assured me that Rás Makunan would be delighted to hear that I had come at last. He said that the people on the frontier were all mad, and suspicious of the English, but that now he had come all would go well with me. Gabratagli and his friends finished my small stock of whisky and cigarettes; and cheered by the comforts of my table, they became very friendly and communicative.

It appears that Banagúsé is a Taurari or “general commanding the advance guard.”[36] He is in some ways an able man, and is setting up a place for himself at the advanced post of Gojar under Gureis Mountain, just inside the Harar Highlands; and it is said he wishes to found another Harar there. He has the reputation of being disobedient to his superiors and tyrannical to the Géri and Bertiri Somális. He is unpopular in Somáliland, and, if all reports are true, he is[169] not likely to forward British interests. He is the worst of those who extract cattle from Somáliland without paying, under the pretence of collecting tribute for the Emperor; he has made many requisitions on the Habr Awal tribe, which is under British protection; and, moreover, his raids on the Ogádén cattle are likely to damage our meat-supply at Aden in the near future.

According to a story which I have heard on fairly good authority, Banagúsé’s history is as follows:—A few years back, in Shoa, he somehow incurred the displeasure of the Emperor Menelek, and the latter ordered that he should be disgraced and punished. When the Abyssinians took Harar, Banagúsé so distinguished himself that Rás Makunan gave him charge of Jarso District, in which lies the village of Gojar, commanding the Hilindéra Pass; and the fort of Jig-Jiga, commanding the Karin Marda Pass, both of which lead from Berbera and Hargeisa to Harar; he appears, however, to have done nothing for the country, taking quantities of horses and cattle away to feed the troops, and exacting double road fees from Berbera caravans. The Emperor Menelek, who had in the meantime almost forgotten Banagúsé’s existence, hearing the Somáli complaints, sent Gabratagli to Daríma to check the caravan fees; so naturally the two officials were not exactly friends.

Gabratagli was a cheery old man, wearing a tobe, a pair of white calico drawers, and an immense straw hat. He kept a piece of calico soaked in butter over his shaven skull, under his hat, “to keep his head cool,” as he said he was a martyr to neuralgia. He rode a white mule, and had an athletic soldier, dressed in calico drawers, constantly at hand with his drinking-cup and a mysterious bottle, which did not contain water. I took a great liking to this old man.

Gabratagli had travelled much, and had often visited Aden; and he asked me concerning the health of English officers whom he had met many years before, whose names I had never heard; and on my admitting this, he remarked, “If you don’t remember these you must be very young.” Before he left my camp he sent a mounted messenger to Harar with a letter from me to the Rás, and he asked me[170] to stay at Jig-Jiga for three or four days till the answer should have had time to arrive.

It was not till nearly sunset that Banagúsé came over, bringing his whole force across the valley to my camp. I fired a salute as he came in, my men being very pleased, and thinking themselves great soldiers after the morning’s display. I insisted on his halting his people two hundred yards from camp, and bringing only twenty men with him; and to show him that I did not like his methods, I ordered my men to squat down in a circle round the door of my reception tent, and leading Banagúsé and a few chiefs through a lane of my men, I sat down among them with my loaded rifle leaning against a chair and my revolver on. The few soldiers whom Banagúsé brought with him were allowed to wander about the camp at will, one sentry keeping a watchful eye over them. They treat their long Remington rifles shamefully, leaning on them with the muzzles half buried in the earth. Their custom is to keep these rifles loaded while on the Somáli frontier, but not, I believe, in Harar.

I found Banagúsé very intelligent, and his features are well cut and regular, very unlike those of the coarse-featured soldiers. I noticed the Somális have much better features than the Abyssinian soldiers, and smaller hands and feet. I should think Banagúsé must have Arab blood in his veins; although polite, he was not at all disposed to be friendly to me; he knew that I had taken photographs of his stockade on my last visit while he was away, and complained of him to the British Government.

There was a report in my camp that the force he had collected at Gojar was getting ready to attack an Italian who was said to have settled down on the Milmil-Imé route at Sassamani, in Ogádén. At the time I thought of Prince Ruspoli, but subsequently found that the object of the attack, which never came off, was to have been Colonel Paget, who had, I afterwards heard, with great justice restored some looted camels to the Ogádén while on a shooting trip in their country.

During my interview with Banagúsé, Mahomed Ahmed, the poor Gerád or sultan of the Bertiri Somális, sat in my tent looking dejected and never daring to utter a word; it appears[171] his dignity had suffered at the hands of the Abyssinians during the last few months, he being obliged to “trot about like a dog” between the karias to fetch cows for the soldiers to eat. The Gerád was slightly built, and had the intelligent face and well-cut features of the best kind of Somáli, a great contrast to the coarse-featured soldiers who were allowed to hector over him. Despite his old, worn-out tobe he still looked dignified. Before the arrival of these Abyssinians, who came into the Bertiri country like a swarm of locusts when they took Harar, the Gerád had been a man of some repute. But the Abyssinians took away all his power, and he is now of little consequence.

My intercourse with Banagúsé depended on several interpreters; he spoke Amháric to Gabratagli, who passed it on to my interpreter, Adan Yusuf, in Arabic, and the latter translated into Hindustáni for my benefit. By the time a sentence reached me Banagúsé was thinking of something else, so we did not make much progress.

The Abyssinians preferred tea to coffee; and I noticed Banagúsé rather craned at his cup, and handed it to a friend first, suspecting poison. But my headman, Adan Yusuf, full of tact, said quietly, “Mafish khoff” (No fear), and giving a short laugh, he took a long draught from the cup, and filled it again for the great man.

On 9th March, in the early morning, Banagúsé sent over Abadigal to say he was leaving for Gojar, and requesting that I would visit him in the stockade; so posting a sentry in camp I took nineteen of the men in line, rode across the valley, and drew up at the Abyssinian zeríba. Leaving most of the men outside I entered with four, passing a sentry who saluted me by presenting arms in Abyssinian fashion; and walking across the zeríba, I entered Banagúsé’s hut. Here I found his notables assembled, all seated on the ground. I was invited to take my place on a raised platform with Banagúsé, while Adan Yusuf and the other interpreters squatted in front. Banagúsé was polite, but having little to say, he left Gabratagli to do all the talking.

After a somewhat embarrassing leave-taking I trotted back to camp on my camel, and Banagúsé issued from the stockade;[172] and, followed by his army, he marched over the plain towards Gojar; and looking with my telescope from camp an hour later, I made them out in the far distance, and it was pleasant to have seen the last of them.

I was glad to halt at Jig-Jiga for a few days, as the plains were dotted all over with game. My men were a thoroughly good lot of fellows, and I was particularly pleased with the way in which they had enabled me to show a bold front to Banagúsé.

One day I went out into the plains with three or four men, and found immense herds of hartebeests and Sœmmering’s gazelles; but the day being windy, they were very shy. The gazelles were always galloping about and starting the masses of oryx and hartebeests. They would draw up in front of the larger game, appearing to know that I did not want to fire at them, sometimes giving me very easy chances. At last, seeing no chance of the larger game, and being in want of meat, I shot two Sœmmering’s gazelles right and left, one a very good buck with a thick winter coat; and on the way to camp I saw a bull hartebeest standing, as he thought, out of range, some four hundred yards away, so I lay prone and brought him down with a careful shot from the Martini-Henry.

Returning to camp, I found messengers from one Farur Gerád Hirsi, a relation of the Bertiri Sultán, who was at his karia two miles away, and had “pains all over his body,” so he had sent his sons to call me. I gave him twenty drops of chlorodyne and half a dozen quinine pills, one to be taken daily. I was received with great enthusiasm by a crowd of some two hundred of his womenfolk and male relations, all calling out “Nabad” (Welcome). The Gerád said he would have had himself carried to my camp, but not while the hated Abyssinians remained there. The elders flocked around me to lay complaints before me of the treatment they had received from the Abyssinian invaders. They said that Banagúsé was lazy, and did not administer the country a bit; that he and his mob were neither good at fighting nor governing, and that the only thing they could do was bullying the karias for the extraction of cattle, which his soldiers eat raw. The Gerád told me that ten cows were taken last month from his karia alone. Another man,[173] Ibrahim Gúri (Rer Ali), lost seventy-six camels, two hundred sheep, and five huts in one day; and he and his wife were arrested and taken away by the Abyssinians towards Harar. These are samples of the arbitrary behaviour of frontier officials.

At night I returned to my camp from the Gerád’s karia, across torrent beds and wait-a-bit thorns, and learnt the lesson that it is much better to cross one deep ravine low down than the twenty or more tributary ravines from which it is formed. We got to camp at last, relieved in our minds, because the presence of a man-eating lion in this neighbourhood had made us feel rather uncomfortable when stumbling about amongst the ravines in the darkness of the night.

Next morning I sent a haunch of venison to Gabratagli, done up with clean white foolscap paper pinned round it, with a pencil memorandum in English conveying my compliments, as it seemed to me it would do no harm to be polite. My armed Somáli camelman who took it seemed to think it a great joke, and trotted across the half mile of valley to the Abyssinian zeríba in pouring rain, singing cheerfully; and he returned saying my friend was delighted, but, my Somáli asked, “Why did I waste my good venison on such pigs?”

At midday on the 11th came news that Rás Makunan had returned to Harar from Shoa; and at eight o’clock at night Gabratagli sent over the Rás’s letter, with an interpreter. The Rás expressed himself very pleased that I had carried out my promise, made last year, to visit him, and hoped I would come at once, adding that Gabratagli had received orders to make all arrangements for my coming.

On the 13th March we left Jig-Jiga and crossed the plains to Hádo, just inside the Harar Hills; and we camped at Abadigal’s own village. We had now left the Marar Prairie, inhabited by Somáli nomads, and had crossed the border of the Harar Hills, descending by the Marda Pass into undulating country occupied by the cultivating Géri and Bertiri, whose permanent villages are clustered about everywhere, and are controlled by Abyssinian magistrates, whose title is Shúm.

The Shúm who was my host was Abadigal, Banagúsé’s right-hand man, whom I had seen lately at Jig-Jiga; he was a good fellow, broad-shouldered and good-natured, and looked[174] very imposing in his military dress, with a black sheepskin cape and a long curved sabre; and although the Bertiri villagers detest the Abyssinian occupation as a principle, Abadigal enjoys the personal respect of those under him.

The pass by which we entered the mountains is called Karin Marda, and is very prettily wooded, the road having a greatest elevation of about six thousand five hundred feet above sea-level. A great change came over the landscape as we topped the pass. Behind us lay a thickly-wooded slope descending to the immense Marar Prairie, covered generally with short grass without a single bush, which is a thousand square miles in area, and has a greatest length of fifty miles and a greatest breadth of thirty-six miles, with a mean elevation of five thousand five hundred feet above sea-level. In front of us, at our feet, the road wound through picturesque forest for half a mile, and then the whole face of the country was covered with jowári cultivation and clusters of substantial villages. Beyond, to the south-west, rose ridge upon ridge of blue hills and deep valleys, among which, some forty miles away, lay the city of Harar. To the right towered the tremendous mass of Kondurá (or Kondudo) to about ten thousand feet, and beyond Harar a similar mass, called Gara Muláta, shut out the view to the west.

At this season we found the signs of cultivation to consist only of old stubble; the land was being ploughed up to receive the new seed, the dry season being nearly at an end and the monsoon rains expected shortly.[37] Everywhere, in pairs or singly, oxen were drawing the primitive Bertiri plough, and the country had a peaceful look after the thorn forests and open grass plains of the nomad Somális, where sheep and camel paths, and zeríbas, had been almost the only evidences of human occupation.

The Shúm kindly gave me his house, a very substantial dwelling fifteen feet high and eighteen feet in diameter, made in a circular form, of stout saplings and jowári stalks, with a beehive-shaped roof of the same material, covered by ten inches of neat layers of thatched grass; and altogether it formed as clean, well-built, and comfortable a dwelling, for the climate, as one could wish. As we got intensely cold night winds at this[175] elevation (five thousand five hundred feet), I was glad indeed to exchange my “Cabul” tent for Abadigal’s hut. The state of the thermometer, which sometimes can go down to 49° and 50° Fahr. in the early mornings, does not accurately describe the cutting nature of a Somáli night wind, the more keenly felt when one has been travelling all day under a burning Jilál sun.

An Abyssinian soldier brought me a present of fifteen fresh hen’s eggs; I offered payment, but he refused, saying that eggs were of no value, and a great many good ones were daily thrown away as refuse. Somalis do not keep fowls, so I was delighted at the change of food.

Mahomed Ahmed, the Gerád of the Bertiri tribe, visited me at Abadigal’s hut, with the same old story; he said that the Bertiri wished for the arrival of anybody in European shape who would administer the country and save them from the Abyssinians. He said, as an inducement, that any Europeans taking over the country would make plenty of money; he added that ever since I had come to Jig-Jiga he had been kept on the run, carrying messages to various villages many miles away, or looking for cattle, because the Abyssinians wanted to prevent his coming to me. He had crept to my hut stealthily by night; and of course I warned him of the danger he exposed himself to. He said that my arrival threw the Jig-Jiga garrison into a great state of alarm. My friends the Bertiri, I found, loving to make mischief, had magnified my difficulties with Banagúsé into a great British victory over the Abyssinians! I believe that half the Abyssinian suspicion of English designs on the frontier is due to Somáli gossip.

We set out from Hádo at daylight, and leaving cultivation after an hour, we descended by a road, bad for camels, into the beautiful valley of Helmók, camping by the margin of a running stream. This valley, which leads into the Tug Fáfan to the south-east, is covered with forest and dense undergrowth, where the latter has not been burnt off by jungle fires. It has been a favourite resort of elephants and rhinoceroses, but since the Abyssinians came to Harar their numbers have diminished, and we only saw the track of one bull rhinoceros, which had come to drink at the stream two nights before.

Marching from Helmók in the afternoon, we arrived at the[176] village of Kanyasmatch Basha-Basha, which lies on the saddle between two very remarkable hills called Eilalami, the village itself being called Bakaka. To the west of the Eilalami ridge is Feyambiro, and to the east is Bursúm.

The country between Helmók stream and the Eilalami ridge is a beautiful, well-watered valley, covered with forest, uncultivated and used as pasture by the Géri and Bertiri flocks at the proper season. The ascent to the saddle on which Bakaka village stood was steep for camels, and we wound through this large village after dark, threading our way through a crowd of Abyssinian, Gálla, and Harari villagers, and yelping pariah dogs, till we reached Basha-Basha’s house.

The rank of Kanyasmatch may be described as that of General commanding the right wing of an Abyssinian army. Fi Taurari Banagúsé and Kanyasmatch Basha-Basha are the two commanders who respectively lead the Abyssinian advance into the Bertiri and Habr Awal countries to the north, and the Ogádén to the east.

I was led into a large stockaded enclosure behind Basha-Basha’s house, where a tent had been prepared for me. This tent was fourteen feet in diameter across the floor and of bell shape, with perpendicular walls seven feet high hanging to the ground all round. The centre pole was twelve feet high, of male bamboo grown, I think, in Abyssinia, and the material of the tent was a single thickness of American shirting. We had to wait outside a while, among a crowd of gaping villagers and dogs, while the tent was being prepared with carpets for my reception. On entering it I met Basha-Basha, who welcomed me to his village. He was a little man, sparely built, and had lost his left eye. He had an abrupt, peremptory way of talking, but he was said to be very popular and to have a great reputation for straightforwardness, being kind to his inferiors and “very terrible in war.” Fortunately I had not to test his fighting powers, but I found him everything that could be wished for as a host, and he impressed me more favourably than any of the Abyssinians whom I had met. He apologised for not being in his dress of ceremony on the ground that he was in mourning; but next day he very kindly condescended to put on his cape of lion-skin and a black velvet waistcoat covered with embroidery, to show[177] me the costume. He admired my big-game rifles, being much delighted with the double four-bore, weighing twenty-two pounds, which he said was the right gun to kill elephants with. I heard that Basha-Basha when a child was adopted by the wife of Rás Makunan, and through this connection with the family of the Rás and his own ability he had advanced to his present post.

On the 15th I remained all day in Basha-Basha’s tent, occasionally appearing at the entrance to show myself to the crowd which had come to see me. In the evening I wanted to go for a walk, so, as an excuse, I proposed to visit Feyambiro. I had the greatest difficulty in persuading Basha-Basha and Gabratagli that I was not going to choose the site for an English fort there. They thought it most extraordinary that I should want to go for a walk, and Basha-Basha quietly ordered a detachment of soldiers to go with me! I carried out my intention, going four miles along a very uninteresting public path covered with people passing to and fro, between cultivated fields, and we came to a few huts belonging to a caravan of Berbera traders; and this, I was told, was Feyambiro, where all caravans from Somáliland unload and change to donkey transport, leaving the camels to graze at Feyambiro, as the road ahead, over the twenty-five miles to Harar, winds through deep gorges and is too rough for camels. Gabratagli asked why I should want to see Feyambiro, when I would pass it on the morrow while going to Harar. I got the exercise, but did not enjoy the trip, because I was dogged the whole way by a hundred Gálla peasants and Abyssinian soldiers.

We set out from Basha-Basha’s on the morning of the 16th March at seven o’clock. I left all the camels and camp at Feyambiro, taking on with me only my servants and a little personal baggage, the transport of mules and porters being supplied free of charge by Gabratagli. Passing over very hilly country intersected by deep gorges, we arrived at Harar at 2 P.M., being escorted for the last two or three miles by several companies of the soldiers of the Rás, in clean white dress, to the number, as I subsequently ascertained, of about a thousand.

As we arrived at the head of each company, the men presented arms in the Abyssinian way, and were marched off in front or in rear of the procession according to the place[178] assigned to them, the whole being under the command of a Gerasmatch, or General of the Left.

Near Harar I caught sight of an European white helmet, and was met by Signor Felter, an Italian merchant, who spoke French fluently, and very kindly offered to come with me as far as Makunan’s house. Count Salimbeni and Signor Felter and another gentleman formed the Italian community at Harar at the time of my visit. The former had represented the Italian Government, but was shortly leaving for Aden.

I had an interview with the Rás at his audience-house in the centre of the town, the members of his household and leading men of Harar being present. The audience-room or shed was decorated with carpets, a raised dais at one end being reserved for the Rás; an European easy-chair or two occupied one side of the room, while the natives squatted on their heels on the carpets. The interview was short, as is the custom on first meeting, the visitor being supposed to be tired after his journey. Rás Makunan asked me a few questions about Aden. It seems that he not long ago went to Rome, where he received a decoration. He is well informed on European subjects.

After this interview I was taken to the house of Alaka Gobau Desta. He appeared to be a learned man, and his position in England would have been something similar to that of a college “Don,” though I think Alaka simply means “chief.” He spoke excellent English, and said he was a native of Gondar in Abyssinia. In the trimming of his hair and beard he called to mind pictures of Spanish gentlemen about the time of Queen Elizabeth. He was formerly in a mission at Zanzibar, where he learnt English; and he married a Goanese from India, since dead, who could paint in water-colours,[179] and whose sketches were hanging on the walls of his house. My friend had furnished it as far as possible in the English style, and while there I enjoyed the comforts of an English lodging free of cost, besides good champagne and roast beef cooked by the wife of an Armenian who works for the Rás. I have nothing but pleasant recollections of the very graceful and kind hospitality of the Abyssinians at Harar, and of Signor Felter and his charming wife.


Jungle of “Wádi” Thorn-Trees and “Hig” Aloes; Subul Odli, Haud.

From a Photograph by the Author.


My baggage not arriving on the 16th, I rode out five miles, on a mule, along the road, to look for it. When it at last arrived in the evening, I found my servant Ibrahim, a Somáli boy of nineteen, had met with an accident; an angry Abyssinian, armed with a spear, had been chasing his own servant, when the latter ran to Ibrahim for protection; the aggressor turned on Ibrahim and threw his spear, and trying to ward off the blow he received the spear through the palm of his hand. It was a very bad cut, severing an important vein, so that the hand had been bleeding at intervals for nearly two days; and Ibrahim arrived in a very weak state. I complained to the Rás, and the culprit was caught and put into prison, Ibrahim receiving the small compensation of twenty-five piastres, or about three rupees. I told the police officials that all my servants had orders to use their carbines, if necessary, in self-defence, and I expressed astonishment at Ibrahim’s forbearance.

On 17th March I had a long interview with Rás Makunan, when he expressed great friendship for the British; and I conveyed to him the kind regards of General J. Jopp, C.B., Political Resident of Aden, and the Italian Consul-General Cecchi, and of other officers known to him personally or by correspondence. After the audience I met Count Salimbeni at dinner at the house of Signor Felter.

On the following day I called on M. Gabriel Guigniony, a French merchant, and Monseigneur Taurin Cahagne, officially “Vicaire Apostolique des Gálla.” He has been many years in the country, and probably knows more about Gálla history than any man living.

In the afternoon I spent a long time with the Rás, and gave him a photograph album of Indian scenes, and also a tiger skin mounted on red cloth. The Rás was very much struck with some of the photographs, which represented Indian elephants in a “khedda”; and he asked me whether he could get experts from India to try their hands at taming the African elephant.

I showed him Sir Richard Burton’s book, First Footsteps in East Africa, which contains such a graphic and true description of Harar, and in which there is a sketch of the city. Gobau Desta read Burton’s historical account of Harar to the Rás, translating as he went along; and he said it was true in every[182] detail. I also showed the Rás my photo of two rhinoceros heads. He is said to have been a keen hunter, and he sent for my Express rifle, by Holland, and took down the number, saying he would like to order one like it to shoot lions with, as “he preferred English rifles for big game.”

I took a ride with the Italians to Jebel Hákim and round Harar; and in the evening I dined with M. Guigniony, who proved a charming host.

On the 19th I called on Count Salimbeni, and in the afternoon had another interview with the Rás. Having come to the city only as a private visitor, I was careful to steer clear of politics in our conversations. But the Rás insisted on looking on my visit as partly political, and seized the opportunity of stating his ideas, through Gobau Desta, to an English traveller. After the interview I took down notes, from Gobau Desta’s dictation, concerning Abyssinian ideas, which were read to the Rás and approved of. He particularly wished me to get them published in England.

The notes referred chiefly to Abyssinian dealings with foreigners.

It appears that during the last few years Abyssinia has imported immense quantities of breech-loading firearms, and has become, so far as the Abyssinian feudal organisation goes, a military Power; and Abyssinians are beginning to remember that once their country included parts of Yemen and the Soudán. Since Theodore’s time they have been trying to gain possession of a seaport, and now they dream of absorbing the Somáli tribes till they reach the coast, either of the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, or the Indian Ocean. They declare that they will not be content till they have full control of one of the seaports to which their merchandise goes, preferably Massáwa, Jibúti, or Zeila. They hint that now the African coast-line is being divided among the Europeans the Africans are entitled to their share. The Abyssinians say that the expeditions which annually advance farther into Ogádén are undertaken for the purpose of exacting tribute, thus establishing the Abyssinian claim to suzerainty over the Somáli tribes; and that, if possessed of one of the northern ports, their Ogádén expeditions would naturally cease.


However impracticable these ideas may sound to Europeans, they seem to me interesting as showing what are Abyssinian ambitions, and what may be the mainspring of the eastern movement which began with the absorption of Harar, formerly a buffer state between Abyssinia and the Somális.

The Abyssinians regard the European Powers with mixed feelings. They say that they are wishing for the internal improvement of their country according to European methods, and promise commercial privileges to the Power which can bring about such improvement. They are, on the other hand, shy of the word “Protectorate,” and naturally wish to be recognised for ever as an independent State. Abyssinians claim to have authority as far as the confines of the Equatorial Province, and even claim lately to have done something against the Central African slave trade.

According, therefore, to my friend’s statement, Abyssinia would appear to be the Power on whose progress the future enlightenment of Central Africa largely depends. My own hopes fall far short of this; for though enlightened and honourable Abyssinians, of whom Rás Makunan may be taken as the type, may have high ambitions, yet the ruck of the people, from the specimens of soldiers whom I saw at Harar, appear to be certainly no better than the nomad Somális, except in their possession of rifles.

The Rás was unwell on the 19th, and could not see any one. I received visits from the Archbishop and M. Guigniony. The medium of conversation with Europeans in Harar was French; curiously enough, the only person who could speak English fluently was Gobau Desta, the Abyssinian who generally acted as my interpreter with the Rás.

On 20th March I received a visit from Count Salimbeni, and after dinner I had a long farewell interview with the Rás, when he gave me the following presents:—

(1) The Rás’s photograph.

(2) The Rás’s own drinking-cup.

(3) Three other cups of buffalo and rhinoceros horn.

(4) A buffalo-hide officer’s shield decorated with silver.

(5) Two Abyssinian spears.

(6) A gray riding mule and embroidered equipment.


The mule, which was a strong, pretty, and very useful animal, was sent to Desta’s house for me, and afterwards accompanied me twice to the Webbe.

The interview of the 20th March, which was held at 8 P.M. by lamplight, was the last I had with the Rás in his house. As it was a farewell visit, he had sent for his household and elders, and I amused them by showing the various English positions in use with the match rifle, several attempting them on the floor of the audience-room.

The Rás again asked me about taming elephants, a subject which appears to have impressed him. The presents for me were laid out in front of us all amid a buzz of admiration from the courtiers. I thanked Makunan for them, and said that it would crown his kindness if he would give me a letter to his frontier generals providing for my safe passage through districts occupied by his soldiers. I had the greatest difficulty in getting this out of him, as his suspicious officers strongly advised him to put nothing on paper. By insisting, however, I at last got the letter.

On 21st March I called on Wandi, chief of police, as he had sent a message to say he was sick and unable to come to me. I found him in bed with fever.

I then had the presentation mule dressed in all its state satin embroidery, and, myself clothed in a canvas shooting hat, kháki drill coat, with a high starched collar, drill breeches, and brown leather Elcho boots, I sat on the mule and went to meet the Rás, who was leaving for Jarso on an inspection. Riding half a mile down a path, I came on the usual procession of soldiers, and found the Rás at its head. We dismounted and bade each other a final good-bye, the Rás going off to Jarso and I returning to Harar.

In the evening I rode out with the Italians to Jebel Hákim, and visited some wonderful caves in the limestone rock, which have their openings in the top of the hill. They are formed by rain-water collecting in natural pans on the open grass-covered summit and sinking into the hill, chemically eroding the limestone, and producing immense well-like chasms. This water finds its way to the surface round the base of the hill, where good water is always to be found at every mile or[185] so. This hill overlooks Harar from a distance of about a mile.

On 22nd March I called on an Armenian and his wife who are employed by the Rás; and after saying good-bye to the Europeans I took the road to Feyambiro, with my servants and a dozen soldiers who had been told off as porters to carry my baggage. Felter and Guigniony came some distance to see me off, the latter riding a beautiful little Abyssinian horse. These horses are very pretty and graceful, but restive; in shape they resemble the Arab, and are about fourteen hands high.

My wounded servant was so weak that he had to ride on a mule. Count Salimbeni had, however, by careful treatment, stopped the bleeding and put him in a fair way to recovery, though he was still very weak.

I reached Feyambiro on the same day, being entertained by the Shúm, Basha-Gisáo; and while encamped here I had a curious adventure, probably unique in the annals of camping out. I was, as usual, sleeping on the ground inside a Cabul tent. After nightfall I was awakened by a disturbance going on outside, men running to and fro through the camp and shouting. I ran out and could see nothing at first, it being a dark night, and the only forms visible were those of my men and camels, which loomed out against the sky, and they seemed to be all rushing about wildly. At my tent door I found Adan Yusuf, who said a Bertiri bull had gone mad and had broken loose from a cattle-shed in the village, and was charging about through my camp knocking over everything in its way. It had already knocked over two men. Presently the bull rushed past me; I could just make it out, but soon lost its form among those of the running men. I jumped out of the way, and in another charge, having made a circle among the camels, he came straight back full tilt into my tent! All the men rushed for the tent, and I followed, and heard cries inside. Coming up, I saw an Abyssinian soldier run at the tent door with a drawn sword, and then there was a confused jumble of shouting men and the bellowing of the bull. Some one at last produced a torch, and a curious scene was disclosed. The bull had charged through my tent and entangled his head in the closed back of it, which had been firmly laced up; and Adan Yusuf had run in and caught[186] him by the horns. The Abyssinian soldiers had then hamstrung him with sabre cuts and had cut his throat, so that he had fallen upon my bedding, a pool of clotted blood from his throat standing an inch high, covering my pillow, blankets, and all my kit. Taking hold of his hind leg they had then dragged him out by the front door, carrying the blankets along with him.

The curious part of the adventure was that with all this disturbance of my kit, two spring candlesticks with their glass globes, which had been rolling about under the bull’s feet, were uninjured!

On the 23rd I marched to Hado, and was again the guest of Abadigal. We then marched to Jig-Jiga, where I rejoined part of my caravan which I had left behind during the Harar visit. After waiting here for two days to reorganise my expedition, I started for the Jerer Valley on my way to Ogádén and the Webbe.

♂ Sœmmering’s Gazelle (Gazella sœmmeringi).

Length of horns on curve, 16¾ inches.


Aoul bucks at play


Form an ambush over the pool at Kuredelli—A rhinoceros wounded—Unsuccessful hunt after the rhinoceros—Two lions seen—Another rhinoceros wounded at the pool; three lionesses arrive; interesting moonlight scene—A lioness drinks, and is wounded—Death of the lioness—Follow and bag the rhinoceros—Exciting hyæna hunt with pistol and knife—Abbasgúl fight—Unsuccessful rhinoceros hunt—We march into the monsoon—Walleri buck wounded by me and pulled down by a leopard—Death of the leopard—Camp again at Túli—Two rhinoceroses bagged; furious charge—The Sheikh Ash, a friendly tribe—A leopard in camp—Ambush at the Garba-ali pool; leopard and hyæna bagged—Abundance of game—First enter zebra country—Man-eating lions at Durhi—Malingúr at Durhi—Elephant-hunting in Daghatto valley; a bull bagged—Large number of elephants—Interesting scene in Daghatto—Leopards seen—Uninhabited country—Difficulty in finding the Rer Amáden tribe—Halt at Enleh and send out scouts.

I left Jig-Jiga for the Jerer Valley and Ogádén country on 26th March 1893, with the whole of my caravan, consisting of three fast Aden camels, thirty-three baggage camels, and the mule which Rás Makunan had given me; and I had still my following of the twenty-one faithful Somális armed with Snider carbines. I had finished my visit to Harar; and now, armed with Rás Makunan’s passport, I was free to strike across Somáliland to the Webbe Shabéleh river, four hundred miles inland, and to shoot big game unmolested by Abyssinian soldiers, and, what was more important, in hunting-grounds hitherto untouched by Europeans.


We should have started early on the 26th, but had great difficulty in getting guides to the Rer Ali tribe, because the Bertiri at Jig-Jiga were afraid that if they assisted us they would be made to regret it by the Abyssinians. But on my showing Makunan’s passport to the Shúm in charge of the stockade, he promised the timid people that they would receive no harm on my account, and I marched with two Bertiri guides at 9 A.M.

We threaded our way through grass plains and jungle to Kuredelli in the Jerer Valley, which runs south-east towards the Webbe Shabéleh; and on reaching this place in the evening, I was delighted to find a pool of water in the rocky bed of the river, the edges of which were literally covered with tracks of large game. Among other animals a lion and a rhinoceros had come to drink on the preceding night.

The river-bed was very rocky, and sunk some fifteen feet below the level of the surrounding plain, which was covered with dense mimósa jungle. Half a mile up the channel, to the west of the pool, was my camp, pitched under some large shady trees in a glade of good but rather dry grass. There had been a very severe drought during the Jilál season, as is usual, but the drought this year had been particularly severe because the previous Dair or light winter rains had failed, so that Kuredelli was one of the few pools of surface water left in the whole of this elevated country, and there was not a drop to be got for many miles round. The water was covered with duckweed, and was of a bright emerald green colour throughout, and had almost the consistency of pea-soup; but, curiously enough, it was perfectly sweet and good, and we drank it for a week without its doing us any harm.

The pool was not more than fifteen yards long by five wide, its longer axis pointing up and down the river-bed; and on the northern side it was overhung by a steep scarp of rock some five feet high, where the limestone had been undermined by the swirl of the river when in flood. Above the rocky scarp were thick thorn-trees, whose branches overhung the river-bed, and under these branches, on the edge of the scarp and overlooking the pool, I constructed a small bower, bearing a rugged resemblance to a box at an European theatre. Nothing could spring on us from behind because of the interlaced branches of the[189] trees which made our roof, while the floor was a smooth slab of limestone rock, and in front and at the top of the small precipice were piled thorn branches breast-high, so that I could fire over them. The front of the box was otherwise quite open, and the field of view embraced two right angles.

We made this retreat in an hour, and I took up a position, as night fell, in the bower with my two hunters Géli and Hassan. We carried my three rifles and spare ammunition, and four more men brought my bedding, blankets for my hunters, a lamp, matches, and my water-bottle full of coffee. We did not forget a waterproof sheet each, to be used in case of rain.

My four carriers had also brought a donkey with them, which they tied up to a heavy block on a flat slab of limestone which shelved down into the pool on the farther side, for we hoped thereby to attract lions; the carriers then went off to camp, and left us squatting silently in our shelter.

I describe our arrangements thus in detail because I have in this way sat out for game on scores of nights, and one description will serve for all. There is one thing I never omit, when about to spend a night in one of these jungle shelters, or when marching by night, and that is to decorate the centre rib of each of my game rifles with a long strip of snow-white foolscap paper, to assist the aim; for, however good the moonlight may be, it is impossible to see the tiny ivory foresight at night.

I sat over this pool on five successive nights. On the first night three hyænas came, but no lion or rhinoceros. The hyænas invariably came silently down to drink till they saw the living bait, and then at once took fright and galloped away; on the succeeding four nights I therefore dispensed with the bait. For two hours, after the moon rose, several wild ducks kept us interested by playing about in the water and quacking, quite unaware of our presence. I then went to sleep. We saw nothing on the next evening, and I slept all night in the shelter, waking up covered with dew at daylight, and returning, rather stiff with the exposure, to camp.

On the third night I was roused by Géli, whose eyes I could see full of excitement in the semi-darkness, and still crouching below my screen of branches, I could hear the wallowing of some heavy animal in the soft mud at the water’s edge. We[190] were all on the alert as I gently felt for the four-bore which Hassan shoved into my hands. On cautiously poking my head above the screen, I saw the great form of a rhinoceros standing motionless as a carved sphinx in the moonlight, casting a deep black shadow upon the white rock. I stood erect, and raising my arms placed the butt of the four-bore to my shoulder. The action was seen, for the beast trotted forward a few steps, and then galloped across the slabs of rock for a path which ascended the bank on my side of the river, and led behind my shelter. I fired at his shoulder hurriedly, and, sad to say, heard no answering “tell,” showing that the bullet had not struck; and before I could look under the smoke I heard the rhinoceros, with a succession of snorts, gallop up the bank and trot behind my shelter; then all sound ceased but the animal’s breathing, which we could hear distinctly, close to and above us, only separated from us by the stout interlaced branches of the back of our “box.” We stood with rifles at the “charge,” ready to fire and throw ourselves down into the river-bed should his ugly head and horns protrude into our bower. He did not keep us in suspense long, but after listening for more than a minute, he trotted off, the sound of his footsteps getting fainter on the still night air, and eventually dying away.

The Pool at Kuredelli

On the 29th I returned to camp at sunrise, and swallowing[191] a cup of hot coffee, which my cook, having heard the shot and divined its purport, had prepared for me, I took up the tracks with two camelmen, letting Géli and Hassan sleep in camp. We followed them till noon, the sun being fearfully hot; and either through the unskilfulness of my trackers, or through the absence of blood on the track causing me to lose heart in the fearful Jilál heat, we had to leave the trail at a stony ravine; and in the afternoon we returned to camp, tired out.

Swallowing some food, I took a short sleep; and towards sunset I went out again with Géli and Hassan into the bush to the west. Suddenly Géli pointed, and saying “Libah!” (Lions!) started to run across an open plain of bare red earth; and there, three hundred yards away, were a lioness and young lion reclining by the stem of a tall, shady thorn-tree, looking at us. I had been searching for rhinoceros, and was burdened with my double four-bore rifle, weighing twenty-two pounds, so when Géli started running he at once got ahead of me, and Hassan, carried away by the excitement, followed suit. The brutes, seeing three men running across the plain towards them, stood up, stretched themselves, and giving a toss of the tail and a savage growl, they cantered easily away across the sun-baked earth in full view, and plunged into the low mimósa jungle beyond. I ran up to Géli very much put out, and snatching my ·577 Express from his hand, and giving him the heavy rifle to retard his pace, I plunged into the bush and grass after the lions, but the grass was so thick and dry that I soon overran the almost invisible tracks, and though we made several tries back on to the red soil, we eventually lost them, and I returned to camp disgusted with the afternoon’s entertainment, and lectured my men in rather a wrathful way on the folly of out-running me.

On the next night we all awoke at the same time, while the moon was still low, having been roused by the disturbance of the pool; and we made so much noise in throwing off our blankets and getting ready that a rhinoceros, which had come down to the pool, heard us and made off. I fired the four-bore, and my bullet caught it in the shoulder, sending it galloping up the bank, snorting as before. On this night the beast waited, listening close behind my hiding-place for nearly ten minutes; then all sounds ceased, and I thought it must be[192] dead. It had, however, slipped quietly away; so there was nothing to be done, and we went to sleep. When we woke again the moon was well up, it being about two o’clock in the morning. Géli had awakened me, having seen something pass among the bushes on our bank of the river, between my hiding-place and the camp.

The moon was throwing a fine light on the flat limestone slabs which composed the floor of the river-bed, and as we gazed in the direction in which Géli pointed, rubbing our eyes, we saw against the white background three large animals walk out from the bushes into the open near the pool; one glance told us that they were three full-grown lionesses.

They walked quietly across till they reached the place where the rhinoceros had been standing when first hit; and then they stood together snuffing at the blood, which we found next day in quantities on the rocks. I could count their twelve short and stout legs showing in silhouette against the white floor of the river-bed, as they stood motionless, heads bent over the fresh blood, appearing to consult together. I reserved my fire, as I knew they had come to drink, and would give me a better chance, nearer to my shelter, later on. The lionesses then walked slowly across the river-bed in single file, and up a path which ascended the opposite bank, and then they disappeared. But they had not really gone, for from time to time during the next half-hour I could see their round heads raised in silhouette against the sky-line, above the black outline of the bank; they too were watching the pool for game!

I must have dozed off to sleep again, for the moon had swung over a good deal towards the western horizon, when I noticed Géli squatting in a listening attitude, and I heard the steady lapping as of an animal drinking. Géli whispered, “Now, be ready, Sahib!” and slowly raising my head above my screen, pushing the muzzle of my Express forward at the same time, I saw over the barrels the body of a lioness extended, hind quarters flattened against the rock, shoulders high and head down towards me, lapping the water on the farther side of the pool. I did not wait long, but glancing between her upraised shoulders and lowering the muzzle till the white paper on the rib between the barrels had disappeared, I pulled the[193] trigger. My bower was full of smoke, and I ducked under the screen as the report of the rifle was instantly followed by a roar and a splash, and jumping to our feet we just saw the lioness, after having sprung into the centre of the pool to get at us, in the act of raising her dripping body out of the water. No doubt the cold douche had damped her enthusiasm, and she had turned back. Before I could take a sight down the barrels she rushed off across the river-bed, pulling up in the sombre belt of bush on the farther side to roll about and growl. There was nothing more to be done, and though my Somális hinted that she might be hunted by moonlight, I, mindful of our Gebili leopard, preferred to wait till morning before following a wounded lioness into those dark-looking evergreen bushes which cast such uncertain shadows.

I woke up again at sunrise, and without going to camp or tasting food, I at once took up the tracks of the lioness. Her line of retreat was sprinkled with blood. We drew the bushes under the opposite bank very carefully, and then began to ascend the bank by the path, the wind being with us, blowing towards the south. Before we had reached the top we heard several loud roars a few hundred yards beyond, and as we appeared on the higher level the roars were redoubled, issuing from very low, gray, leafless mimósa bush. We followed, keeping to the tracks, and at last saw, eighty yards away, the head of the lioness, held vertically, regarding us intently from the partial concealment of a tuft of grass on the farther side of a glade. She seemed to be on the eve of charging, the black point of her tail twitching nervously behind her head, which bore a very nasty expression. I fired, but missed the small mark. There were now eight of us, some of my men who had come to take away the blankets and other things from the bower having joined us. We stood in an irregular line, fully expecting a charge, and I fired another standing shot at the small, wicked-looking head, my bullet going harmlessly through the grass. Looking under the smoke quickly, I saw her still in the same place, but she was in a greater rage than ever, and kept up a steady low growling. This was my first experience of one of these animals after having been so badly mauled by one, and the situation was becoming therefore highly[194] exciting. I now sat down, and resting both my elbows on my knees, took a very careful shot at her. Her head dropped, showing I had killed her, and we walked up to where she lay.

My first bullet, fired at her while drinking at the water, had struck her in the left forearm and shattered it, accounting for her not having charged; and my last bullet had touched her left cheek; and then, entering perpendicularly, it had expanded and carried away half the brain pan. She was a very fine lioness, the skin being in splendid condition. I told Géli and Hassan to stay and skin her, as I had now to follow up the rhinoceros wounded in the early part of the night. But they begged to be allowed to go with me, so I left two camelmen to do the skinning of the lioness.

Going to camp and hastily swallowing some coffee, we returned to the scene of last night’s adventure, and found the tracks of the rhinoceros plentifully sprinkled with blood. One of the legs appeared to be injured at the shoulder, as the trail where the foot had been dragged along the ground was plainly visible.

At nine o’clock we entered very dense mimósa bushes, of a peculiarly thorny kind, called billeil, and under one of these we saw the rhinoceros, a large cow. She saw us first, however, and charged, getting a pair of four-bore bullets in the chest at rather long range as she came on. Hassan handed me my eight-bore, and I carefully aimed at her shoulder as she picked herself up and came on again; but there was nothing in the rifle, and I had to bolt off to the right, leaving her to select a victim from among my men, who, more active than I, were dancing about the bush yelling out directions to me to fire! When I had got in a couple of cartridges I fired at her right and left; and the second shot, striking obliquely through her shoulders from the front, brought her to the ground, and she died, still retaining the kneeling position after life had left her. Going up to her, I found that last night’s ball from the four-bore had injured her shoulder. She had gone several miles, had taken three four-bore and two eight-bore bullets, and had died game, having chosen the worst kind of bush she could pick out for the final scene. I photographed her as she lay kneeling, leafless thorny mimósas spreading their branches all round her, in this strong,[195] defensive position which she had chosen as her last retreat, the sun casting a shadow in every wrinkle of her thick hide.

Returning to camp, I laid the rhino and lioness heads side by side and photographed them, making a curious and unique picture to remind me of a good morning’s sport before breakfast.

While arranging the bower at midday for our last and fifth vigil, a large spotted hyæna came to drink; and not wishing to disturb lions by firing a rifle, I ran after him, followed by my Somális. We had no weapons but unloaded Sniders, and my knife and double pistol. Running hard to cut him off, I was ahead of the men as he gained the slope of the river bank, and fired both barrels of my pistol, missing him with one barrel and knocking him over with the second. He picked himself up and disappeared over the top of the bank, taking the same path which the wounded lioness had followed in the morning; we, however, gained on him, as he was now crippled by my bullet, and he hid under a low mimósa. The men came up in front, and one of them shoved the butt of a Snider into his face, under the low-spreading branches. He seized hold of this and chewed at it vigorously, while I was able to get round unobserved in his rear, and creeping behind the stems of the bush, to drive my knife mercifully into his ribs. Every hyæna destroyed means a large number of sheep and goats to the good.

At about three o’clock on the afternoon of this day, 20th March, my camp being still at Kuredelli, a large force, consisting of two or three hundred men, mostly naked, and all armed with shield and spear, or bow and quiver, issued from the bush north of camp and came running past, going due south. As they passed the camp they scarcely answered our hurried questions, but my men gathered that they were Abbasgúl Somális belonging to some karias a few miles to the south of us, and that their cattle had just been raided by the Habr-Awal and driven north through the bush of the Haud. My men laughed at them for going naked, but they said they had no time to bother about their tobes; they had come light for running, and only wanted their cattle back. Party after party passed us, and men singly and in couples, all in the same state of nakedness and breathless excitement.


I sat up, as on the four previous nights, in my favourite bower, and at about 1 A.M. these people returned with a large mob of cattle which they had recovered and were bringing home. They were talking excitedly as they approached the pool. We heard one man ask, “Where were you wounded?” and another answer, “Oh, in the leg, but it isn’t bad.”

There were recriminations going on between two parties. The party which first came up was met by another party coming from the north-west, which appeared to have lost the enemy, for the first arrivals called out, “Why were you not at the fight; why did you run away?” and were answered, “Oh, we lost the way.” I wanted to challenge, but Géli and Hassan advised silence. This I would not agree to, for I thought that the men, nervous and excited as they were, if they did discover our presence accidentally by a rustle or otherwise, might suspect a hidden enemy and send a flight of arrows into my hiding-place to make sure. So I called out “Kumá?” (Who are you?), and as they halted Géli said it was a “Sirkal” (i.e. Government man or Englishman) with his two hunters, sitting up for game; and that they must look sharp and drink, and begone.

The men came down to drink, saying they would bring the cattle to water in the morning, and they further asked to be allowed to bivouac near my camp for additional security in case they should be followed. They said, “It is all right; we know you are an Englishman, and that you are here for no harm. The country is yours, we are your subjects; we beg to be excused for having killed some of the Habr Awal, for we know the Government dislikes bloodshed. But without our cattle we should have died.” Kuredelli is two hundred miles from the coast, and this is only one instance in many showing that British influence is recognised not only on the Somáli coast itself, but also in the distant interior. And no Englishman had been in this neighbourhood till my brother and I explored it a few months before.

These two or three hundred men had followed the tracks of their cattle, and between three o’clock on the previous afternoon and ten o’clock in the morning they had reached the open plains to the north; the distance covered in the ten hours could not have been less than thirty-five miles, with many delays inseparable[197] from fighting and driving cattle over rough ground at night. They had found the Habr Awal, about half their strength, in the ban or open grass plains, and had at once attacked them by the light of the moon, killing two of the enemy and losing a man themselves, killed by a poisoned arrow. The enemy then fled.

The cattle were driven past with clouds of dust and a clamour of excited voices, and then they all disappeared in the distance, and I heard my sentry challenge them as they drew up at my camp half a mile away, and after another half-hour of chatter they gradually settled down to rest. I had never met this clan of the Abbasgúl before. The men flocked to camp next day from their karias in great numbers, and seeing the trophies of the lioness and rhinoceros lying on the grass outside my tent door, they said, “The Abyssinians can’t do that; their guns are small, and are only good for killing women and children and old men with: you English are our friends, and all the Ogádén tribes look to you, our masters, for protection against Abyssinia.”

On 31st March we made two marches to Girbi, seventeen miles eastward along the Jerer Valley, and the next day we made a short march in a heavy storm of rain, the burst of the south-west monsoon; and the red clay became so sticky that we were obliged to halt in the thick bush. When things were a little dry again, I went out towards sunset into the level thorn forest to look for oryx. We had gone about a mile from camp when we saw a large rhinoceros bull trotting along under the trees a quarter of a mile away, having evidently winded us. We ran at an angle to cut him off, but he changed his pace to a heavy gallop, crashing through the thick parts of the jungle as if they had been clumps of grass. We followed in his wake, but failed to get within shot, for a rhinoceros should not be fired at from a greater distance than about eighty yards; and so we settled steadily down to his tracks, hoping to catch him up before nightfall. He retreated into very thick bush, and as he was going with the wind he twice winded us, and made off when we were close up, but the jungle being thick we could not see him. At last, night coming on, we left him and returned to camp after dark, very tired and disappointed.

Next day, the 2nd April, we marched on. As we advanced[198] down the Jerer Valley by rapid stages we passed suddenly from country dried up by continued drought into a world of green grass and jungle, with an overcast sky, the effect of the bursting of the south-west monsoon over the lower Jerer Valley some ten days before. Nothing can be more pleasant in Somáliland than this sudden change: the camels march better owing to fresh fodder; the air is rendered cool, allowing one to travel during any hour of the day; and the thorn-trees give out a strong perfume.

At 5.30 P.M. on 3rd April we camped in the bush, without water, at Manjo-adéyu. Before camping I fired at a buck Waller’s gazelle, wounding it badly, but it did not drop at once, and we had to follow it up. I was rather fagged, having done a long march on foot owing to my camel being lame; and sending on ahead my Midgán hunter, Hassan, I followed the tracks with Géli at a leisurely pace. We at last came to the buck, lying dead, and Hassan standing over it. He reported that he had just seen the buck pulled down before his eyes by a large panther, which had caught sight of him after springing upon it, and had cantered away through the forest.

Sending the three camels and mule out of sight into some thick bush to the south, and ordering a camelman to overtake the caravan and have the camp pitched, I sat with Géli and Hassan by the stem of a tree on a bare patch of ground some fifteen yards from the body of the buck, the sun shining horizontally from behind our backs.

We waited for half an hour, then Géli pointed to the north-east, and the panther came gliding silently through the underbrush, coming straight for the body of the buck. While he was yet one hundred and fifty yards off I saw his beautifully spotted skin and bullet head, and marking his course I chose a bush eighty yards away, aligning the sight so as to be ready to fire when he should come out into the open beyond it on our side. I held the ivory foresight over this spot, and as he passed the bush and his head and shoulders appeared, I pulled, a satisfactory thud answering the ring of the rifle; and in the stillness following the shot I saw a tail violently agitated above the grass. Slipping in a fresh cartridge to replace the empty case, I walked up and found the panther dead, shot through the neck.


I laid his body by the side of that of the Walleri, and photographed the pair, cutting down some thorn-trees, whose branches threw long shadows over the picture; then calling for the camels and loading up the bodies, we followed the tracks of the caravan, and found camp pitched two miles from the scene of this incident.

We made two marches to Haljíd, where, hearing by night the croaking of thousands of bull-frogs, we discovered a considerable body of water, in the form of a pool half a mile long, occupying the river channel in the centre of the Jerer Valley. There were plenty of rhino, oryx, and lesser koodoo tracks here. I remained halted all day on 5th April, shooting three oryx out of a herd, a welcome supply of meat; and on the evening of the 6th we marched to Túli. We lost our way while hunting at some distance from the caravan, and only found the new camp at midnight after a lot of signal shots had been fired. I remained in this neighbourhood for four days to hunt, as rhinoceroses were very numerous here, coming to drink at night at the pools in the centre of the valley, and going away great distances in every direction to hide in the thickest mimósa forests by day. The best way to find them is to visit the pools in the early morning, and follow any fresh tracks of the night before. In this way, after four or five hours’ tracking, one is likely to come upon them feeding about, or, if after eleven o’clock, lying under a shady bush asleep.

On 7th April my men found a dozen young ostriches in the thick jungle near Túli Hill. They were pretty little birds with soft yellow and black down for plumage, and beady black eyes, and stood a foot high, on sturdy yellow legs. I did all I could to get the parent cock bird: first, by following behind a camel, and then by sitting till midday in ambush near the nest; but all my attempts were unavailing. We had these young birds for ten days or more in our camp, carrying them, when marching, in hutches made of empty beer boxes, on camel-back; and they became very tame, but eventually, one by one, they all died.

On the 8th April I rose before dawn with Géli, Hassan, my camelman Abokr, my syce Daura, and a guide. We took one camel with us, and holding due west we entered the thick[200] mimósa forest which is called Gol Wiyileh,[38] or the “Valley of Rhinoceroses”; and after going four miles, when we had gained the centre of the valley, in dense bush, we came to fresh tracks of three of these animals, which had passed late in the night, making for the south-west from the pools of the Jerer Valley. They led us through many miles of thick bush, but the tracking was easy owing to there being three of them together; and at one o’clock in the afternoon, after having left camp for seven hours, we came on them standing together in the dense shade of a very thick clump of umbrella mimósas. There was a full-grown bull, accompanied by a large cow and a bull calf, the big bull having a very fine front horn.

I at once sank to a sitting position, holding my eight-bore, while Hassan laid down the heavy four-bore on the grass beside me to be used in case of a charge. The big bull was eighty yards away, and I fired for his ear, and he dropped dead, remaining in a sitting posture and looking as if carved in stone. I fired the other barrel at one of the others, which turned out to be the large calf, and the game made off. We decided not to follow them up at once, but to give them time to get over their fright, as they had never actually seen us. So I took a careful photograph of the big bull, and after taking off the head and some shields, I sent Daura back to Túli on Rás Makunan’s mule, telling him to bring the camp to a deserted zeríba which we had noticed while tracking, not far from where the bull lay.

Leaving Abokr, the guide, and a camel by the body, I took my two hunters, Géli and Hassan, and followed the track of the remaining rhinoceroses, which was plentifully sprinkled with blood. I came upon them in very thick cover, standing forty yards away, heads towards us; and at once sitting down with the rifle I was carrying, which happened to be the heavy four-bore, I fired at the nearest head through a maze of interlaced branches.

The four-bore pushed me over on my back, and the rhinos charged us at once with a volley of puffing sounds, crashing through the jungle at full gallop. As I rose to my feet the first, the young bull, passed me, and took after the two men; the big cow followed, passing me at a distance of only ten yards, and I threw the rifle to my shoulder and knocked her over, making[201] her turn a somersault with her four legs fighting the air! Giving a hurried look at her, and seeing her lying still, I rushed on after the other; but although he had been twice hit I lost him, after another half mile, in some high durr grass. Returning to the big cow, I found her still unconscious, but gently breathing, lying on her side, and I finished her with a shot through the head. The young bull, I think, must have eventually recovered, as the two wounds in the head, having missed the brain, would not have injured him mortally. Leaving the men to prepare the heads and shields for conveyance to camp, I walked to the deserted zeríba and found the camp pitched inside, and dinner ready; and two hours later, at sunset, the trophies came in, Daura chanting a hunting song.

We spent the morning of the 9th preparing the trophies, and in the evening marched back to Túli. I shot an oryx with good horns, and a Walleri buck, and next day we made another march of ten miles.

We reached the grazing grounds of the Sheikh Ash Ogádén, a very friendly set of people, whom I had met before. The men, who were with the camels grazing in the outer pastures, ran away on first seeing us, mistaking my men, who carried Snider rifles, for Abyssinian raiders. But soon they all rushed back, shouting and crowding round my riding camel, and raising scores of hands for me to shake.

Getting into the thick of the tribe later on, we camped among their karias, beside a tall red ant-hill; and while camp was being pitched, wishing to draw off the crowds of people from worrying my men at their work, I withdrew to a distance of a couple of hundred yards and, under the shade of an Adad thorn-tree, exhibited coloured prints from the Graphic Christmas numbers, and a book representing the different varieties of British soldier. The men, women, and children pressed round me in a dense mass, remarking, “You are not like the Amhára;[39] we are not afraid of you; you don’t mean any harm.” They were particularly delighted with some old Zoological Society’s Proceedings which contained coloured illustrations of a Waller’s gazelle and of a Somáli wild ass; and they said, “Now we have seen that the English can do everything!”


I had a serious difficulty here. One of the Bulhár men, having quarrelled with Adan Yusuf, my caravan leader, decided to leave me; and as is the custom, seven more coast men, drawn from the same tribe, although bearing no malice, joined their fellow-tribesman as a matter of principle. I called for volunteers from the Sheikh Ash tribe; and about twenty at once offering themselves, my own followers, seeing I was independent, returned to obedience. I dismissed the two ringleaders with ten days’ rations and their back pay, and wished them a safe return to Berbera. It is a good thing when making up a caravan not to draw too many men from one tribe.

I gave several Korans and prayer-chaplets to the mullahs here, and they were received with real pleasure. The mullahs are the traveller’s best friends in Ogádén; they are intelligent, have great social influence, and are particularly useful in giving introductions, passing a traveller on from tribe to tribe. The more intelligent among them can write in Arabic. From these mullahs I heard that at Durhi, in the Malingúr tribe, on one of the roads to Imé on the Webbe, I was certain to come upon Grevy’s zebra, which had not yet, I believe, been shot by Europeans; so I determined to go there.

On the 13th I broke up my camp at Yoghon among the Sheikh Ash karias, and marched along the bed of a torrent, deep cut in the red earth, to a pool called Garba-aleh.

Before striking camp at earliest dawn, just as Suleiman the cook, whom I always told the sentry to awaken before the bulk of my followers, was beginning to prepare my coffee, a leopard jumped into the middle of the camp to seize my best milch goat, which was reclining under the lee of a pile of camel-mats; but Makunan’s mule, by braying at the brute, aroused the whole camp. The Somális rushed unarmed at the leopard, while I dived quietly under my bed and drew out my coat, which had cartridges in the pockets, and a rifle; but of course by the time all this was ready the leopard had gone!

Approaching the water at Garba-aleh I saw three hyænas making off through the thorn forest; and I sent a Martini-Henry picket through one of them, by which I hoped to secure his eventual death, and so save some Malingúr sheep.

I met an old man called Mader Ádan, the first Malingúr[203] I had seen, and he greeted me cheerily, and told me to expect lions and rhinoceroses in plenty at Eil-ki-Gabro, a march or two ahead. He said his own karia had been driven from the district by the former. This was joyful news.

The Garba-aleh pool, about twenty yards in diameter, in the bed of a deeply-cut sand-river, looked promising for lying in ambush, so I constructed a shelter on the principle of that which had been so successful at Kuredelli, the back of the bower being an overhanging wall of earth fifteen feet high. As it had been a hot day even for the Kalíl season, and likely to bring game early to water, I occupied my ambush at about five o’clock, and we sat quiet.

A Herd of Oryx

While it was yet light a large spotted hyæna came warily up to the water, looking round to right and left, and starting nervously at every sound, and I shot him through the brain as he drank, his body dropping into the water. At dusk a beautiful male leopard walked down to the pool, and I fired, hitting him through the lungs; he stumbled away and fell in a ravine a few yards on the farther side of the pool. Fearing hyænas would come and spoil the skin, we got a lantern and went to look for him, and walking up cautiously to the ravine we found him lying dead. With my whistle I called up three men, and[204] bearing the leopard to camp, we skinned him by the camp fire. I then returned to the pool and missed a hyæna, and finding it was too dark to shoot, and that mosquitoes, which breed in these stagnant pools, were rather bad round our bower, making it impossible to keep still, I went to camp and turned in for the night.

On 14th April we marched to Eil-ki-Gabro, and found lion and rhino tracks at the water. Making another shelter I sat up on the chance of a shot, but saw nothing.

Disappointed here, the next day we went to Náno, a small valley in the mountains, where we found plenty of game, the kinds seen being koodoo, lesser koodoo, oryx, Sœmmering’s and Waller’s gazelles, and a rhinoceros. I had a long hunt after the last, as the men were pitching camp, but going hard for two or three miles over very broken thorny country he fairly beat us, and we gave him up and returned to camp, knocked up by the hot sun.

We made an evening march to a river-bed, choked with dense, evergreen jungle and some high trees hung with rope-like creepers, and our guide, going into the thickest of this to look for water, started a cow rhinoceros and calf. He came running back to us shouting, “Wiyil, wiyil” (Rhinoceros), while the mother and her young one galloped out on the farther side of the jungle with a crash, and took away over the low stony hills. By the time I could get possession of my big rifle and run after them, they were seen quite a thousand yards away disappearing round the shoulder of a rocky, thorn-covered hill, and running up to this spot a few minutes later I was unable to sight them again, and the ground being unsuitable for tracking we lost them.

We made three more marches to Durhi; and I came upon the tracks of a herd of zebras an hour before pitching camp there on the 17th. Here we found several karias of the Malingúr Ogádén. The first people we saw were a group standing round an open grave; and on inquiring we found they were burying the body of a young woman who had been torn out of a hut from among several of her sleeping friends on the night before by a man-eating lion.

These people had never seen one of my countrymen before, but on hearing I was Ingrés (English) they ran at me, calling out that I must shoot the lion and drive away the Amhára. I[205] was led some miles into the bush to the west, where I found a party of the Malingúr following the lion, armed with their spears; but the tracks led on to very stony and thorny hills, and my guides being either unable or unwilling to keep them, we gave it up and I returned to camp, which had been pitched between two large karias. We had a severe thunder-storm at night; a lion walked round my tent during the storm, as we saw next morning by his tracks in the mud only five yards away from the head of my bed!

On the following day I went out and shot two Grevy’s zebras, the meat of which my men finished. We also saw tracks of another lion.

Next day I shot another zebra, the flesh of which I gave to the Malingúr. I tied up a camel at night, intending to sit out for a lion, but owing to the rain I had to abandon the idea; and when we went to the camel at midnight, we found it had been killed by hyænas, an enormous number of which haunted the outskirts of the karias.

While I was encamped at Durhi the Malingúr told me that their chief, Umr Ugaz, had gone to Harar to make a compact with Rás Makunan, agreeing to pay regular tribute and to acknowledge his sovereignty. The Malingúr, although demonstrative in their first welcome to me, afterwards became very reserved, because they feared that civility to Europeans might get them into trouble with the Abyssinians. They are in the line of Abyssinian invasion eastward along the Fáfan Valley, and have been utterly cowed. Having been deprived of most of their horses their fighting power is much reduced.

On the 20th we travelled two marches to Las Damel, and thence to Garabad. On reaching this place at noon, I found a very large herd of oryx feeding on either side of the caravan route, and shot three. On the first shot the herd, instead of running away, charged up round the wounded one as they do when hunted with dogs; and reloading, by a quick right and left, I was able to bag a second and third animal. A great deal of the meat was eaten by the men, and the rest was sun-dried for future consumption.

The valley of Daghatto, on the Gálla border, said to be swarming with elephants, was now only ten miles on the west[206] of us. So halting at Garabad, I sent Géli and two Malingúr guides, who had joined us, into the Daghatto Valley to see what they could find; and they returned at night showing pieces of freshly-chewed aloe, and reporting that they had seen an elephant.

We marched into the Daghatto Valley next morning, passing between low, flat-topped hills, and camped in thick umbrella mimósas, forming a strong zeríba with felled trees, as our guides reported the country dangerous. The jungle descended gradually to the Daghatto stream, which was a mile to the west of us, its course being north and south. It has its source in the Harar Highlands, and flows towards the Webbe. Where we struck the stream it had cut its way through very wild and hilly country, said to harbour Gálla marauders.

Directly the camp had been pitched I organised a small hunting caravan, consisting of the three fast camels, the mule, and six men, with food for two days. We set off at once, and soon reached the Daghatto stream. We found it to be an exquisitely beautiful little river, overshadowed by very large and wild forest, with hanging masses of creeper, there being a carpet of rich grass. Footprints of elephants of different dates were everywhere visible in the earth, and stems of trees were broken, or the trees uprooted and overturned by the herds, as they had fed along parallel to the course of the stream. Some of the tracks in the soft mud close to the stream were holes two feet deep. There was a deep and rapid current, which prevented our crossing with the camels, but we held along the eastern bank, going up stream, towards the north.

We found evidences of a large bull elephant having bathed and fed about on the night before, and taking up his tracks for two or three miles, the footprints which we had been following were joined by those of several others, and soon the whole country seemed to be covered with traces of elephants, trees being denuded of the branches or overturned at various dates, and it became evident that a large herd was in the valley with us, and had been there for some days.

I sent Hassan Midgán and a Malingúr guide along the river bank to reconnoitre, and ordered them to work round and join us, when the height of the sun should indicate noon, at a[207] little hill visible above the sea of forest two or three miles on ahead. Mounting the mule I made straight for this landmark with Géli and Daura, directing Abokr and a camelman to bring on the three camels slowly behind us.

Reaching the hillock I cautiously climbed to the top, and began examining the expanse of flat, green tree-tops, to try and discover the game.

Daura began dancing about and snapping his fingers with pleasure, and pointed to some reddish brown spots among the topmost branches of a thorn-tree half a mile away; and looking long and carefully, I saw one of the red patches move just once, backward and forward. We knew then that what we saw were elephants’ ears. While we were still looking we heard the scream of an elephant, and the patches of red were raised above the foliage as the owners moved together through the jungle, pressing on one another, their course marked by the great swinging ears.

Soon they stopped, and stood bunched together to listen, and we knew that they had seen or winded the two men whom I had sent round to the left an hour ago.

This was awkward, but I ran hard for the line I thought they would take when they should resume their retreat; and getting into a thick patch of jungle, with Géli in attendance, I waited, hiding my body behind the stem of a tree, the wind blowing in our faces from where the elephants had last been seen. On they came, passing us at a great pace, and letting them go by, I fired at the ear of the largest, thirty yards away, a loud crack answering the report of the four-bore. They only screamed and redoubled their pace, and I ran on in their wake, half smothered in the cloud of dust they had raised.

The jungle was one of the billeil, the worst kind of thorn bush, and they soon left me far behind. I ran back to the hill to get a bird’s eye view of their line of retreat, as shown by the clouds of dust rising above the jungle, and I hoped they would stop; but they made off up the Daghatto Valley in a straight line, evidently bent on leaving the country.

While I was watching their course, a Malingúr came to me, and said that Abokr had climbed a tree which he pointed out to us half a mile to the east, and that he had seen elephants.[208] I shouldered the four-bore, and followed by Géli and Daura leading the mule, I went to the tree, and found Abokr among its branches. He extended his arm and pointed out the elephants, which were a fresh lot altogether. We could only see brown patches among the tops of some thorn-trees five hundred yards away, and although they did not move, from former experience we knew what they were.

All the elephants in Daghatto seemed to have been rolling in reddish brown clay, which, contrasted with the vivid green background of the trees under strong sunlight, made them look of a brick-red colour. The jungle in which they had taken refuge was a small grove of large trees growing together, and for about two hundred yards in front was very thorny khansa bush, the flat umbrella tops nearly meeting at a height of about four feet from the ground. There was no cover higher than this except the clump of trees where the elephants were, and a few small, flimsy adad bushes rising above the khansa undergrowth. The elephants themselves, half hidden in the foliage of the large trees on which they had been feeding, had a good view all around from the citadel which they had chosen, making it difficult to approach unobserved. The passages underneath the khansa bushes were too tortuous and thorny to be of any use. A belt of high jungle on our left grew to within a hundred yards of the herd, and at the same distance beyond them was an extensive forest, the wind blowing over the elephants’ heads in our faces.

By taking advantage of the belt of forest on our side, I managed to get within a hundred yards; and then crawling out into the khansa undergrowth for twenty yards, I sat on a low ant-hill which rose above it and rested my elbows on my knees, and remained motionless for some time with the rifle up, waiting for a chance. The eyes and temple of the largest elephant could be seen in a gap of the foliage, and taking a careful aim at the centre of the temple I fired, and bolted back through the khansa to the edge of the high trees, to receive them there if they should charge. They made off, however, up wind, all except one, a large bull with moderate tusks, which we found kneeling, stone dead, under the trees, a crimson stream flowing from a hole through the temple just where I had aimed.[209] This was a good test of the powers of the eight-bore Paradox gun, the distance being eighty yards.

Going after the others, I found they were three cows and a calf, so I gave up the chase and returned to the hillock to look round. A curious sight there met our eyes. The Daghatto Valley lay before us, one unbroken expanse of tree jungle, and we could see five or six groups of elephants making away up the valley, going north. There were probably not less than one hundred and twenty in all, looking very red under the low evening sun; sometimes their backs could be seen in a shining line above the jungle, sometimes they disappeared in the thicker parts.

It was now getting late, and after a short search for the elephant which I had hit in the head at the beginning of the hunt, I gave up the chase and, collecting my people, made for camp, many miles distant.

Had I chosen I could easily have shot more elephants upon this occasion. Elephant-hunting is, to my mind, one of the most exciting forms of sport, but when one has had a certain amount of success, there can be no excuse for continuing it merely for the pleasure of killing. Upon this journey, however, my comfort depended greatly upon the good opinion my Somális had of me, and I could not afford to have my motives for not firing at elephants misinterpreted.

While we were returning to camp at sundown a leopard sprang out of some undergrowth a few yards ahead of us, and he had bounded away before I had time to fire. As we reached camp, with Daura, as usual after a successful hunt, taking the lead and singing, all the camp men fell into line to mark their appreciation, and crowded round me to salaam and shake hands.

On the 23rd, starting early and carrying axes and knives, we went to remove the head-skin and cut out the tusks of the bull elephant. As we walked up to the grove of trees and came in sight of the body, a fine panther, which had been quietly sleeping against it on the lee side, gave us one look and bounded away. I could not fire, as Géli’s head was just in the way when I first saw the spotted skin. The brute had come, no doubt, during the night to lick the blood, and had been caught taking a nap rather later than usual. I followed[210] through thorny jungle to try and get another glimpse, but the panther had disappeared.

We had rain all day, and returned to camp very damp, with the tusks, in the evening. The whole valley was practically a swamp, and we several times had to wade up to our knees, and once up to our waists, in mud and water. Only by first trying the depth of the slush with our own bodies did we succeed in getting the camels on to camp.

We marched back on the morning of the 24th to Garabad, and in the evening to Denleh, where we fell in with a trading caravan of the Malingúr. On the 25th we made two marches to Segag, by a picturesque river-bed called Sullul, with running water, and a number of wells overshadowed by large camel-thorn trees (gudá). The banks were of red earth, which had been much undermined by the river, leaving a perpendicular scarp of about fifty feet.

Until Captain Baudi, with Signor Candeo, came this way on their journey to Imé, three years before my visit, no European had reached either Durhi, Segag, or Imé.[40] My men said that Baudi was attacked by Rer Amáden robbers at these wells, and I saw the site of his camp, but had no means of verifying the report.

The Rer Amáden are the Ogádén tribe next to the south of the Malingúr, and they have pastures nearly as far as the Webbe Shabéleh river; and on the farther side of the Webbe the Gálla country begins in the west, and that of the Aulihán Somális in the east. My coast Somális had already begun intriguing to try and get me back to Berbera, as they fear the Gálla border; and my expedition nearly came to a premature conclusion through want of information and guides.

The country for many days was quite uninhabited. I wanted to send a message to the Rer Amáden, whom I had never seen, to let them know, as I have always done, if possible, when entering a new tribe after a stretch of uninhabited country, that my intentions were peaceful, but the whole of the waterless bush ahead being reported empty for forty miles, my messengers were afraid to go forward, and we had no information where the Amáden[211] were, or whether they might attack us or not. There was also a chance of the messengers being killed by marauding Gállas.

My leave was drawing to a close, and my idea, long formed, of going to Imé and the Webbe Shabéleh seemed fated to disappointment. The Rer Amáden were reported by the Malingúr to be a very warlike and powerful tribe, and they had never yet seen an Englishman; so with my small party of twenty camelmen, further weakened by our having to detach scouts and messengers, it seemed rather risky to make a plunge into the country ahead without information.

After several ineffectual attempts to find out the Rer Amáden, or tracks of their grazing camels, I pushed on through uninhabited country along a good path leading southwards, and on 27th April we halted at Enleh. Here I determined to make one final attempt to communicate with the Amáden, and if unsuccessful, to return by the north-eastern route to the coast, now distant three hundred miles, going through the Malingúr, Sheikh Ash, Rer Ali, Rer Harún, Habr Gerhajis, and Habr Awal tribes.

We halted at Enleh from 27th April to 2nd May, waiting for the scouts to return to camp. I had chosen the two Ogádén guides, one of whom was a widad named Yunis, and had given them large water-bottles and dates to carry in their hands, and had told them to look out for rain-water, and not to return for four days, unless they found the Amáden karias.

The whole of the country which we had passed over, after leaving the open Marar Prairie at Jig-Jiga, had been low and hilly, covered with thorn forest of no great height, and since leaving the Jerer Valley it had been much cut up by ravines and watercourses. The most important of these were the Tug Fáfan, which we crossed near Náno, and the Sullul and Daghatto streams.

At the seasons when it is occupied by the tribes, all this country gives excellent pasture, and supports horses, camels, cattle, donkeys, sheep, and goats; but there were no permanent settlements on this route between Hargeisa and the Webbe, a distance of about three hundred miles.

In parts of the Jerer Valley, notably at Dagahbúr, Haljíd,[212] Harakleh, and Jig-Jiga, cultivation could be extensively carried on; in fact Dagahbúr was, not long ago, a thriving settlement, but it had to be abandoned for the usual reason, tribal feuds and the absence of any strong government. The Rer Amáden do not generally send caravans to trade at Berbera, but deal indirectly through the Sheikh Ash and Rer Ali.

A Sounder of Wart-hog.


A Herd of Gerenúk.


Our camp at Enleh—Success of the Lee-Metford rifle—An oryx hunt—Abundance of game—A night alarm—Attempt to catch a zebra foal—Strange voices in the bush—News of the Rer Amáden—Jáma Deria—Advance into the Amáden country—Meeting with Sheikh Abdul Káder at Dambaswerer—Friendly reception by the Rer Amáden—Decide to make a dash for Imé—Fine view of the Webbe Valley—Difficulty and expense of a Somáli outfit—Close to Imé; doubtful as to our welcome—Cordiality of the Adone or Webbe negroes—Council of the elders; desire for an English treaty—Kind hospitality of Gabba Oboho, chief of Imé—A word for British management at the coast—Invited to return to the Webbe—Shoot two waterbuck—Return to Dambaswerer—Jáma Deria at home—Gálla raids—Extraordinary vitality of a Somáli—Jáma Deria’s avarice—Reputation of Rás Makunan—Oryx shot—A lion roars at night—Lion surprised stealing the carcase—Exciting hunt, and death of the lion—Sit up for lion at Durhi—Melancholy episode; Daura Warsama killed by a man-eater—Unsuccessful hunt—Clarke’s gazelle bagged—Oryx bull bagged—Artificial tanks—Form a camp for koodoo-hunting at Mandeira.

At Enleh our camp was pitched on some rising ground, devoid of bushes, but well covered with young grass, last year’s old grass having been burnt off. All around, except close to camp, was thorn forest from twenty to forty feet in height. Extensive jungle fires had occurred here during the dry season, and patches of young grass were springing up for two or three miles on every side. This is always the best condition of any locality for attracting game, particularly when the country is uninhabited.


I went out on the day of our arrival at Enleh and shot a zebra with my Lee-Metford rifle, the ammunition for the larger rifles having dwindled to only a few cartridges. At dusk I went after a very large herd of oryx, but, losing them by the faint moonlight a little later, I opened fire on several Sœmmering’s gazelles, and bagged two with as many shots from the Lee-Metford. This I found an excellent rifle, using a pin’s head for a foresight, the pin being wedged into the slit which was in the old pattern military weapon. We cut up the zebra and gazelles for the twenty-five men whom I had in camp, and the meat was soon disposed of.

On the 28th of April I got a Waller’s gazelle with the Lee-Metford, and in the evening I crossed a wide valley to the south of camp and fell in with oryx. We found them, a bull and a cow, in good stalking cover on the farther side of the valley, near some deserted zeríbas, with open thorn jungle and tempting young grass. On first sighting them, two hundred and fifty yards away to the east of us, grazing southwards, the wind blowing from south to north, I lay down with Géli and Hassan behind a thicket of high durr grass and waited. The bull walked towards me, and then grazed for about ten minutes behind some bushes, the cow standing looking suspiciously in my direction. We continued lying down, and only looked up at long intervals, each with a bunch of grass held before the face. At last the bull appeared from behind the bushes; and sitting up, resting my elbows on my knees, I hit him with the Lee-Metford, and he made off at a gallop and hid in a deserted zeríba. Following on his tracks, I was within a yard of the zeríba before I saw the tips of his horns appearing over the brushwood, only six feet away from me. From the position of the horns I knew he was listening, and placing the muzzle of the rifle into the brushwood where his chest should be, I fired and sprang to one side, and he rushed away in the other direction at a gallop. I ran round the zeríba just in time to see him disappear in thick cover. Following, I took a quick shot at him as he crossed a glade one hundred and fifty yards away, and missed; and after another chase I ran on to him in thick cover, standing broadside on at fifteen yards, when I gave him a shot with a Winchester .500 Express. He walked off[215] ten yards and stood again broadside on, looking at us; and then he dropped suddenly, stone dead.

A day or two later I went out shooting, and got a buck Waller’s gazelle, and in the chase lost Abokr and my camel; and after firing twelve signal shots unsuccessfully, I returned to camp. He afterwards turned up all right. In the evening I went out again, and got a pair of oryx out of a large galloping herd, emptying the Lee-Metford magazine at individual animals at ranges of from one hundred to three hundred yards. When after the oryx we found tracks of natives in the soil, and while walking home to camp after nightfall we heard distant singing, far out in the bush to the east. I told off a special guard, the men sleeping with their cartridge belts on, and doubled the sentries, keeping the first watch myself; the night, however, passed without incident.

The next morning I made for the remains of the two oryx, part of the meat of which we had not been able to take away, to see whether natives had been there. The spot in the bush was well marked by the vultures, which, having discovered the remains for the first time at break of day, were stooping in a slanting direction towards the place from all parts of the sky, wings extended and nearly motionless, legs stretched perpendicularly downwards. Except the vultures, and a large spotted hyæna which cantered lazily away from under a bush, nearly bursting with the banquet it had just had off the oryx, nothing had disturbed the neighbourhood. My men said the voices of the night before must have been those of “devils,” for we had gone far beyond the place whence the sound had appeared to come, and there was no track in the earth, and there had been no rain during the night to obliterate footmarks.

In the evening, the game never failing, taking my two hunters and a camelman, I followed some zebra, and by mistake shot a mare, which dropped out of the herd, and after going a short way fell dead. A foal, which I had not observed before, trotted after her, and stood a few yards from the body. This occurred in very thick country; and approaching noiselessly under cover of a thicket, ten yards from the dead zebra, we quietly constructed a slip-knot, loading the noose at intervals with bullets which my men tore with their teeth and spear-points from the cartridges[216] in my belt. Going to the edge of the thicket, a yard or two from the foal, we tried to cast the noose over its head; but kicking up its heels it made off through the jungle. On the way home I fell in with a large herd of oryx, and shot three of them after a long hunt. We prepared the meat for transportation, covering it with bushes to keep off vultures, and marched back towards camp an hour before sunset. While still two miles from camp we heard voices hailing us from the east, but not knowing who might be calling, friend or foe, we decided to walk on to camp without answering the challenge. I only had three men with me, and, the voices issuing from several directions, we thought the sounds might possibly come from a force of Rer Amáden; so we continued walking towards camp, the hailing of the voices sounding sometimes close to us. They were so close that, as a precautionary measure, we four more than once grouped ourselves round the trunk of a tree, back to back, with rifles ready. The owners of the voices had evidently heard my rifle an hour or two before, and tried to hit off our whereabouts.

Arriving at camp, I found Yunis and the other guide, and three Amáden tribesmen, waiting by my tent. It was these men’s voices which we had heard in the bush. Yunis had good news to tell. He and his companions had come upon some Amáden, a small party of men who had wandered from the main karias of their tribe, which was encamped two days’ journey to the south. This party had come into the uninhabited country to collect gum-arabic, which they pick off the bushes, and send down to the coast tribes by small caravans, which return with cloth to the interior. The gum-pickers are always a very poor lot of people, often starving, and camping without flocks and herds, they undergo great hardships while carrying on their trade. The “devils” of the night before turned out to have been these gum-pickers, who, bivouacking in the bush in a small party without fires, had been shouting to scare lions, which had a bad reputation here. They had afterwards seen our fires and had retired, fearing Abyssinians; and following their tracks next day, my two guides had come up with them. The two Amáden offered on the morrow to guide us to their tribe and put us well on the road to Imé. They said that their headmen, the most important of whom were[217] Sheikh Abdul Káder and Jáma Deria, had heard much of the Englishmen who were at Berbera, and wanted to see one and shake his hand!

At night came Jáma Deria and Hirsi, his son, mounted on white ponies. They slept in my camp. Jáma Deria was really a beautiful old man. He was a fine old fighting chief with a white beard, his features being well formed, but the complexion nearly black; he is the leading minstrel of the Rer Amáden tribe, and has composed songs which are sung on horseback in the dibáltig, and on other occasions, far and wide in Somáliland. His great hobby is lifting cattle and fighting with his neighbours, with the natural accompaniments, love of horseflesh and minstrelsy. I found Jáma Deria, despite his failings, to be a dear old man, with splendid qualities, although his character was rather spoilt by a strong tendency to stinginess; however, I subsequently became great friends with him. He expressed himself delighted that an Englishman had at last found out the Rer Amáden; he said the old men, young men, and children would all welcome me; and that he would lead me to the Sheikh (Abdul Káder) at Dambaswerer, where they hoped to keep me as long as I would stop. He said that he knew all the Imé tribes, who were very much afraid of him; and he hoped, now that the English were the friends of the Rer Amáden, he would be able to keep the Abyssinians[41] in their proper place.

On the 2nd of May we broke up our camp at Enleh early in the morning and marched to Galadúr, where we camped again. Old Jáma Deria and his son escorted me, and he was delighted to have been before the Sheikh in welcoming me to the country. He is a rival of the Sheikh, and has sometimes been his open enemy, having killed several of Abdul Káder’s relations; he keeps all the neighbouring tribes in a constant state of alarm, being a regular firebrand and loving a quarrel for its own sake.

As we advanced in the fresh morning air, the old man, in[218] high spirits, would dash past me at full gallop, to display to the Englishman the quality of his pony and the red tassels on his saddle and bridle, returning after each circle to cry “Mót!” I could not help thinking of old Tarquin, in the Lays of Ancient Rome, whose spear, according to Macaulay, “shook more with hate than age.” A Somáli, poising his spear before throwing it, does it by a sudden jerk against the palm of his hand, causing the shaft to quiver; and he claims that this keeps it straight in the air, the effect being somewhat like that of the feathers on an arrow, or the twist caused by the rifling on a bullet.

As we got into a bit of open grass I shot a Sœmmering’s gazelle. The buck dropped in his tracks, and old Jáma, hastily dismounting and handing his mare to his son, paused an instant to whirl the free end of his tobe from his shoulder and to coil it round his waist, leaving the chest bare; and then, running like a two-year-old, he raced to the gazelle to perform the halal—that is, to sever the jugular with his short sword, without which operation all meat is harám, or unlawful, to a Mussulmán.

The youth who brought up the horses could not induce them to come near to the dead gazelle; so Jáma, mounting his beautiful young mare, which he said was “blood-shy” and required teaching, by voice and heel coaxed her up to the meat till she brought her dilated nostrils close to it. He made her jump over the buck several times before he was satisfied. The Amáden, who had perhaps never seen game shot before, examined the hole in the buck with great interest, Jáma remarking that the Abyssinians couldn’t do that near so well, and that the English were good people. He said that I was to be his Englishman, and while in the country shoot him lots of zebra, as all the Amáden liked the meat very much.

During our evening march we were overtaken by a violent storm, the burst of the monsoon, which occurs very locally and at different dates in different places. We could not advance or retire, the camels having to stand loaded for over an hour up to their fetlocks in running water, with an impassable torrent a little distance off on either side, where all had been lately dry land; my cook Suleiman was caught by one of these streams while following the caravan; and he was turned over and over, and would have been drowned had we not gone[219] to his assistance. After the storm had passed we had hard work to reach the top of the highest ground in the neighbourhood, a mile from where we had been caught, the camels slipping at every step on the sloping surfaces of soft red clay. It was the worst storm I have ever experienced, accompanied by constant thunder and vivid lightning. Lions roared in some nasty bush round our camp at night; luckily, however, they did not attack our horses; for the fuel on the spot being soaked, and it being too dark to send out to search for any, we could only make a small fire with a scanty supply which my cook Suleiman, always thoughtful, had wrapped up in a waterproof sheet and put on a camel just as the storm came on, for the preparation of my evening meal.

Next day, the 3rd May, we made a long march and reached Gullá. A lion roared at night, but he was on the farther side of a precipitous watercourse which he could not pass without going a great distance round; so he did not disturb my camp otherwise than by the grand music of his voice, which on the clear nights after heavy rain can be heard for miles, a performance which it was pleasant to lie awake and listen to.

On 4th May, crossing a beautiful stream called Samani at Bal Balaad, we marched to the Sheikh’s karia. Jáma Deria, who had been with us so far, now left us. As I rode up to Abdul Káder’s karia I was met by a dignified old man, who turned out to be the Sheikh himself, and I respectfully dismounted from the camel and shook hands; and the Sheikh, by way of emphasising the welcome, fumbled at the brim of my hat with outstretched hands to bless me, as is the custom, by touching my forehead and mumbling a few words of the Koran over me. Asking his permission through the interpreter, I ordered the men to pitch camp at once among the karias of the Amáden. I was received with enthusiasm by the Sheikh’s people, who are his own clan of the Amáden; his karias were also full of mullahs from every tribe. He gave me some sheep, and a camel worth twenty-five dollars, to be killed for my men, and a fat calf for myself; and lines of women came carrying large háns decked with white beads and full of camel’s milk; and soon a long row of these vessels was set up at my tent door. In return I gave white shirting and[220] red shawls, which are afterwards picked to pieces to make tassels for the saddlery. To the Sheikh’s principal wife I gave a red and blue tartan-patterned tobe worth four dollars, and a looking-glass; and to the other women I gave beads. As the Sheikh, supported by a thick stick and two stalwart sons, hobbled to my tent to pay me a formal call, I blew the alarm whistle and fell in all the men two deep, and loading with blank we fired two volleys in the air. Then, folding some red blankets and laying them over store boxes, I made the Sheikh and his sons and elders sit down. Abdul Káder, while sipping his coffee, his eyes wandering continually over the strange objects in my tent, and his fingers picking absently at my blankets, promised to do all he could for me, remarking significantly that he heard English people did not burn karias and murder women!

The hundreds of assembled tribesmen listened in silence to the sentences murmured in a high cracked voice by the old man, who had lost all his front teeth. Some of his small children, or perhaps grandchildren, naked and dusty, clung round the poles of my tent, sucking their thumbs, and gazing calmly at the first white man they had ever set eyes on! A dozen horsemen of the Rer Amáden then went through the dibáltig, covering us with dust, and the minstrel, sitting in the saddle facing my tent, gave me, appropriately put into verse, complaints against the neighbours of the Amáden, which, as a representative of the English, I was expected to settle, this place being about three hundred and thirty miles inland.[42]

While in camp here I set up a large astronomical telescope and turned it upon Jáma Deria’s karia, a few miles away on the side of a hill. The people came in crowds to look through this at all hours of the day, with a running fire of comments, such as, “By Allah! that is Jáma’s white cow. How big! like an elephant,” and so forth. The mullahs flocked round my tent begging for white paper to write sentences from the Koran, which are subsequently enclosed in a leather bag and sold, to be worn round the neck as a charm to stave off ill-luck. I gave the mullahs several tusbas or scented prayer-chaplets made of black wooden beads and worn as necklaces.[221] There is a superstition that a Somáli who wears a tusba and does not count the beads in prayer at the regular times will be choked by the tusba in revenge.[43]

Late at night, in the pitch darkness before the moon had risen, a small child, a little girl of seven, came over from one of the karias to my camp, begging for food, as she was starving. She had braved the terrible danger of hyænas, which swarm between the karias at night, to cross to my camp; so giving her some oryx meat and cooked rice, I sent her back under escort to her own habitations. I suspect this poor child had no relations. “I cannot help the child; it is not of my clan,” is too often the answer given by great healthy Somális on being accused of heartlessness. This is not due to natural ferocity of character, but to thoughtlessness, what is everybody’s business being nobody’s business; and the little sufferers starve and die.

Abdul Káder and Jáma Deria were both particularly glad to help me on to Imé, because for some months past the Amáden had been at war with the Adone or negroes at Imé; and Jáma Deria thought this would be a good opportunity of reopening negotiations. The country between the Sheikh’s karia and Imé was uninhabited for seventy-five miles, and the people told us that while passing over this tract we would be exposed to the risk of meeting Arussi Gálla wandering bands. It appeared that Jáma Deria and Abdul Káder, though jealous of one another, had settled their differences for the time being in order to assist me, and we arranged that Jáma and his son, and Abdul Káder’s son and another Amáden, should guide me to Imé on the 5th of May.

There being very little of my leave remaining, I decided that there would not be time to take the slowly-travelling caravan so far, and that it would be better to leave it, under command of a good camelman, encamped at Abdul Káder’s[222] karias at Dambaswerer, while with my interpreter, two hunters, and four of the Amáden, I should ride to Imé and back. The distance would be about one hundred and fifty miles, according to the natives, and with the help of my mule and two Arab camels and five Amáden ponies, without any camp equipage, we hoped to accomplish a short stay at Imé and to be back again at Dambaswerer within six days. A glance at the map will show the confidence we felt in the friendship of the natives of Ogádén, to be able to cut ourselves adrift from the caravan in unexplored country so far in the interior. Imé is four hundred miles from the coast, and Dambaswerer is seventy-five miles short of Imé. In 1884, at the time of Mr. F. L. James’s journey to the Shabéleh district to the south-east, such a ride would have been very hazardous; but since then things have been changing for the better every day.

Our cavalcade thus consisted of seven mounted Somális and myself, four of us having rifles, the other four only shields and spears. In the saddle-bags on the two Arab camels Abokr and I carried a few blankets and necessaries, and a bag of coffee, and for meat we depended on the game we expected to fall in with. We rode during the whole of 5th May, with a short interval to rest and cast loose the camels at noon; and at 5 P.M. we halted by the side of a pool of rain-water, hobbled the animals, lit a fire, and threw ourselves down in a circle round it to sleep, one man keeping watch over the animals. At 3 A.M. we were again on the move, and began to descend a long slope cut up by deep ravines, which falls to the Webbe Shabéleh river. We lost ourselves among impassable, precipitous watercourses several times; the guides, however, always managed, after much difficulty, to regain the path, which had been grown over with grass, and, because of the Amáden raids, had been unused for a year. We reached the Webbe Shabéleh at Imé at 1.30 P.M., having done the seventy-five miles in thirty-two hours at a moderate pace without a change of animals.

As we neared Imé the view became very fine. The Shabéleh or Haines river lay before us, flowing in a tortuous course from north-east to south-west, its banks marked by a[223] line of very tall casuarina-trees, with dense undergrowth of many varieties of evergreen bush of great size and beauty. The lines of high trees, following the winding river banks, and covering the long narrow islands, reminded me of the banks of the Seine at Rouen, the casuarina growing in the shape of a poplar. The tall tops of these trees are constantly waving when there is any breeze at all, the gray-green foliage reflecting the light and giving a peculiarly lively character to the landscape. On the southern side were two low rocky hills, rising from the alluvial plain, wooded round their base; and in these woods, which were crowned by tall graceful “toddy” palms like those of India, lay the large cluster of beehive villages of the Adone, which are collectively called Imé.

Most of the open flats near the river banks are cultivated by these negroes, or are left as pasture-land, to be grazed over by the Adone cattle and by the frequent herds of water antelopes and Sœmmering’s gazelles. Behind the broad river valley, some fifteen miles to the south, rose a wall of lofty blue mountains, piled in picturesque confusion of peak and plateau to a height which I judged to be not less than eight or nine thousand feet above sea-level. The long slope of broken ground rising from the river to the base of the mountains was covered over its entire surface with monotonous thorn jungle. The Arussi Gállas, who are camel-owning nomads like the Somális, occupy these mountainous districts. These highlands are mysterious and attractive to the traveller, for the reason that no European penetrated them until the entry of the two well-armed expeditions of Captain Bottiga and of Prince Ruspoli, which, so far as I could ascertain from the Somális, were even then fighting their way through the Gálla tribes in front of me.

The difficulty and expense of fitting out a Somáli expedition may be realised when it is explained that in the four or five hundred miles between Berbera and Imé, on the routes I took, there was no permanent village. The karias are merely Somáli temporary kraals, and the huts are packed on camels when the natives move for change of pasture three or four times in the year; and in all my journeys, except during the week’s visit to Harar, I was never able to obtain anything but occasionally milk and mutton or other meat. Rations of rice,[224] dates, and clarified butter were carried for the men for every day we spent in the interior; also water-casks capable of supplying us for six days when crossing the Haud. All these supplies had to be carried on camel-back, making a very large caravan for four and a half months, which was the time that elapsed before we returned to Berbera, and during which we covered about one thousand two hundred miles of route. By much cutting down of weight I had managed to do with thirty-three baggage camels, each carrying two hundred and seventy-five pounds, the cost price of each camel being £2. I took no furniture, sleeping on the ground or on camel-mats laid over store-boxes, in a double-fly tent weighing eighty pounds.

As we rode over the flats near the river, I sent Jáma Deria and his son forward to the villages, hidden among the palm clusters two thousand yards away, to warn Gabba Oboho, the Adone chief of Imé, of our arrival. He took, wrapped up in the end of his tobe, an Arabic letter from Sheikh Abdul Káder. With the other five Somális I sat down under a shady gudá tree in the open plain and awaited developments, at the same time hobbling the animals and turning them out to graze.

This was an exciting crisis in the course of my expedition. Between my advanced party and the camp which we had left behind at Dambaswerer lay seventy-five miles of uninhabited wilderness. We were eight men in all, with four rifles. A mile away from us was a cluster of more than a dozen large villages teeming with suspicious and ignorant negroes, who were of a different race, and had lately been the enemies of the Amáden Somális who formed my escort. The only white men they had ever seen were Baudi and Candeo, and possibly Robecchi, and the party of Italians which had lately gone into Gállaland under circumstances by no means peaceful.

While we were waiting in suspense watching the long dark masses of beehive huts, the smoke of wood fires curling up among the palm-trees, and wondering what reception the first Englishman would meet at the hands of the Adone, a Sœmmering’s gazelle came along cropping at the short grass till within range of our tree. Unable to resist the tempting shot, resting my elbows on my knees, I fired, and dropped him dead. I had now given the alarm! We knew that all the villages had heard[225] the shot, and so we caught all the animals, and tethering them to our tree, sat in a semicircle round them, knowing that if the Imé people should prove hostile we were in for it, and half expecting to see Jáma and his son come galloping to us in a cloud of dust followed by an excited, spear-throwing mob, which we might have to stop with our four rifles!

At the end of a quarter of an hour of suspense, Jáma Deria and his son appeared as two dots issuing from the forest and galloped up to us; and after circling their ponies a few times in triumph, and crying “Mót!” they dismounted, and shook hands with us all round delightedly, in the good old Somáli way, and we knew the suspense was over. Two good-natured-looking, flat-nosed negroes, who had followed behind them, then ran up, laughing, and shook hands. They were naked save a piece of dirty tobe thrown carelessly over the shoulders. They explained, through my interpreter, that Gabba Oboho had told them to bid me welcome to Imé; we were to drink first at the river, and then come to his village, where he was waiting with his counsellors to receive us.

Jáma Deria said that he and his son had suddenly come on the two Adone just inside the forest, and they, recognising the Amáden saddlery, had run at him spear in hand; but circling his horse round the bushes, he avoided them, and shouted out in Somáli the purport of Abdul Káder’s letter to Gabba Oboho. He had then left the letter on the ground, and retired a little way. The Adone picked up the letter, and were arguing whether this was a ruse or not, when they heard my shot at the Sœmmering’s gazelle, and knew that Jáma Deria had spoken the truth, and that an Englishman had really come. And so they had run off to tell Gabba Oboho, at his hut in the nearest village. The shot had had a very different effect in the other Imé villages, for the inhabitants had ferried the women and children across the river on rafts, to a place of refuge, believing the gun to have been fired by an Abyssinian force; and when we advanced into Imé we saw them perched in hundreds among the caves and recesses of the small hills across the water; but on seeing us enter the first village peacefully, and observing our meeting with their chief, they soon flocked down to look at the wonderful stranger.


We rode through a succession of jowári fields to the river. After we had allayed our thirst, our guides led us to a large darei, or fig-tree, standing in a small glade, and here we found Gabba Oboho and all the elders of the Adone seated in solemn conclave on the grass, to the number of about a hundred. My advent was a great event to these negroes, whose dull lives are only enlivened by Abyssinian or Amáden raids, and who live their otherwise quiet existence on the banks of the Webbe, cultivating the ground or herding cows.

I walked through the throng to Gabba Oboho; and shaking hands with him and a dozen of the nearest counsellors, and spreading a camel-mat in the centre of the circle, I sat down with Adan Yusuf, my interpreter, sending the rest of my party away with the animals to get fodder and cook their evening meal. The greeting of the negroes was very friendly; they pressed round me, feeling my Elcho boots and admiring the leather and particularly the laces, pinching the material of my corduroy breeches; and taking off my canvas shooting hat, which was passed round with a buzz of wonder and then politely handed back to me. Gabba Oboho could not conceal his curiosity, and asked me why my arm was brown outside and white under the sleeve; so I gave a lecture on the effect of the sun on the European skin to an open-mouthed and admiring audience.

Gabba, now managing to secure silence, in the course of a long oration said he was glad an Englishman had come; that he and all the headmen wished to sign a paper with my Government, that all the inhabitants of the Webbe were “subjects” of the English, who, they had often heard, were good people; and he now wished to know at once whether I had brought the paper, so that he might make his mark. He stopped, and the expectant crowd waited for my reply. I explained that I had not been ordered to visit the country and had brought no paper; that I had come to look for wild animals and to see the great river, the Webbe, of which during some years I had heard so much; that the English wished to be friends with all people, and the officer who signed papers lived at Aden, more than twenty days’ journey, as they knew, to the north. I found it difficult to make them understand the[227] difference between a British officer on duty and one on leave, and a subdued buzz of disapproval showed that they were not half satisfied with my reply.

An Adone elder pointed to our mule, and asked where we had got it; and on hearing it was a present from Rás Makunan, he said, “Ah! it is as we feared, you English have sold us to the Amhára!” I said the English had done nothing of the kind. I also told the elders that the English would be pleased if more caravans came trading to Berbera, and that Government would assist such caravans in every way possible. Gabba Oboho then led me, through an avenue of high palm-trees, to the nearest village, and into a dirty courtyard occupied by two cows and some goats, in the corner of which his own huts stood. He had turned out of the largest and caused it to be swept for my use; and he gave my followers a raised platform of wicker-work, outside the hut, to sleep upon.

I remained in the village all the evening, receiving the visits of the leading natives and a dense crowd of men, women, and children, constantly pressing round the hut, old Gabba now and then angrily whipping them off with a cowhide whip. The elders of Imé were very friendly indeed; and the climax was reached when one venerable, pointing to his hut in the distance, said I might have it if so disposed, and his best wife into the bargain; and he patted one of the surrounding females on the head. She was by no means a beauty; and turning to him and smiling blandly, I answered, “Labadi donei-máyu” (I don’t want either of them), much to the amusement and delight of his second-best wives.

The headmen asked me many questions about Europe; and whether I thought the Italians could conquer Abyssinia if so disposed; and which was the greatest nation in the world. To this poser I replied, “Allah knows; we are all strong,” whereat they exclaimed to one another, “He tells the truth; if he were a liar he would say the English were the strongest.” It speaks well for the management of affairs on our North Somáli coast, that although these people were so far in the interior that they had hitherto never seen one of my countrymen, yet they knew and felt respect for the English name.

The Adone living at Imé have been great cultivators of[228] jowári, which they eat; but they declared that the Abyssinians had been there some months before my visit, had shot several people, and taken off live-stock; and that they sent emissaries occasionally to collect tribute. Many of the Imé people have therefore left Imé and have gone to Karanleh, another large collection of villages three marches down the river to the east; and they say that Karanleh has now become the more important place. The Imé people certainly seemed very poor and very timid. They were afraid to go outside the palisades of the villages at night, and they held Jáma Deria and the Amáden in great awe. Gabba Oboho said that if I wanted to shoot buffaloes, hippopotami, and giraffes, I must go three days’ march to the south, to the Webbe Web, which is a tributary of the Webbe Ganána or Juba river, and that the people there were Gurré Gállas. He represented them to be “good people,” and that if I were a friend of his they would be pleased to see me, if I did not loot or fight with them; and that I had better go to Berbera and return in two months’ time, when our camels would be able to ford the Webbe. He said that for my caravan to cross on their clumsy rafts in the present flooded state of the river would take from four to seven days.

My leave was now coming to an end. I had already asked for an extension, but to find out whether it was granted I had to make all haste to the coast. We stayed four days at Imé hunting for the balanka or waterbuck, which is unobtainable anywhere in Somáliland except on the Webbe. Crowds of Adone thrust themselves on us during our rambles, hoping to get meat. I found the sport in the Webbe valley very interesting, though the heat was great, intensified by the high buffalo-grass through which we had to force our way. We were generally out on foot all day, often going to the river to rest in the cool, dense forest which clothes the banks for a hundred yards on either side of the stream. I shot two waterbuck, thinking, on account of their small size, that they must be a new species. But later experience on a second trip proved them to be young ones.

We found the cotton-bush flourishing wild on the river banks, and heard that cotton is grown farther to the east, towards the Shabéleh district. The name of this river at Imé is[229] not the Webbe Shabéleh, but the Webbe Sidáma, which, I heard, is the Gálla name for the river. Shabéleh appears to be the name of the district through which the river runs at the point where Mr. F. L. James’s expedition struck it in 1884. The chief sources of the Juba are the Webbe Web, Webbe Ganána, and Webbe Dau, in order from north to south. The Imé people were calling their own river simply the Webbe (River).

I had now only time to ride back to the Rer Amáden karias at Dambaswerer, where my caravan was, and then to go quickly for thirty marches, occupying fifteen days, to Berbera. Bidding good-bye to our friends the Adone, we left at 2.50 P.M. on the 9th May for Dambaswerer, mounted on the same animals which had brought us to the Webbe. We rode till late at night, sleeping as before in the open, and at 3 A.M. resumed our ride, and going on with two short intervals for repose, we reached Dambaswerer at sunset on the same day. The sturdy Abyssinian mule which I rode came in first, then the two Arab camels, and last the five Amáden on their ponies, straggling in one by one; these latter were very much done up, having been in bad condition at starting.

Rás Makunan’s mule had been a marvel of staying capacity throughout the journey, and I would never wish for a better animal for steady work. The Arab trotting camels from Aden are excellent, having both speed and endurance; and a certain amount of kit can be carried on them in saddle-bags in addition to the rider.

On the evening of 11th May we parted from Abdul Káder, and made an evening march to Jáma Deria’s own karia. Here we remained one night, leaving early for our northern journey. Jáma Deria’s people received me with enthusiasm, the crowds pressing round the camp. Their great delight was the coloured picture in the Zoological Society’s Proceedings of the Somáli wild ass, which had become so dirty and so battered by handling that I had mounted it upon the cover of a packing-case to keep it together. The people fought with each other to get round me and see it; those who had not seen the picture kept besieging my camp, crying out, “Show us the picture.” I showed the women, as a great favour, a coloured print from an illustrated paper of two pretty English girls skating, which raised a clamour[230] of admiration, one stout gabad (maiden), with tresses reeking with butter, calling out, “Why did Allah make us black and these white?” The men beginning to crowd round, and the remarks becoming too demonstrative, I put away the picture amid deep groans of disappointment. The men of the tribe sat round my tent in a dense mass as I produced a book of engravings of the Franco-Prussian war, from the pictures of Détaille and De Neuville, and as I explained each picture through the interpreter their faces became grave at the thought of so many white men fighting with rifles together, and of the numbers of dead. Contrary to my expectation they thoroughly understood all the pictures, liking, of course, the coloured ones the best. The snow upon the ground was the hardest thing to explain, but I had men among my escort who had been to London and Marseilles, as firemen on steamers, and I left it to them. Some of the people said, “It is all very wonderful; why are we not like the English, who have so big a name? Why has Allah given us nothing and you everything?”

Jáma’s people told me the Abyssinians were sending a strong expedition into the Arussi Gálla country shortly. They said also that last year the Arussi Gállas came from the direction of Daghatto in the north-west, and destroyed ten karias of the Amáden in a single night. A nephew of Jáma Deria, an actively built, tall young man, came to me saying he heard all white men were doctors, and would I examine him? and throwing the loose end of his tobe from his shoulder he exposed a ghastly wound. A small throwing spear had entered a few inches below the left nipple, and passing through his body, had protruded at the back between the shoulder blades. The wound at the back had healed, but the larger wound in the breast, nearly an inch wide, was open and discharging freely. Asking when the wound had been received, I was astonished to learn that it had been in a fight with some Gálla robbers in the previous Gu, or heavy rains, at least ten months before. The man had lived, and had latterly been going about his business, with the wound unhealed. He seemed thin, but otherwise not much the worse. I made him a big poultice, and advised him to take care of himself and not catch cold, and he and his relations went away, believing in my treatment. I was[231] glad to hear from Jáma Deria, on coming this way four months later, that the man was still alive, and getting well; and I feel certain that the healthy, dry air of this elevated country, combined with total abstinence from liquor, and diet consisting almost entirely of camel-milk, gives a wound a much better chance than it would have under other circumstances.

Jáma Deria begged for everything in my tent on the evening of my arrival; he very much wanted a coloured plaid, and I found out privately that he had forbidden Gabba Oboho to ask for it when I left Imé, saying I had promised it to himself. He never, however, succeeded in making me part with it. He begged hard for my revolver, and I let him fire at an ant-hill. His womenfolk and all his relations begged me not to give it to him, for they said, “If you give that dreadful old man a pistol there will be no staying in the country; he will go and murder Abdul Káder and his sons, and will then go and make war on the Karanleh people.” On my shaking him off next morning, as I did after he had ridden by my side for four miles, always begging the coveted plaid and revolver, he finally shook hands with evident regret, saying he hoped I would come back and bring plenty of English with me, they would all be welcome; and I was to mind and let him know beforehand by a mounted messenger, so that he might have time to come and welcome us before his enemy, Sheikh Abdul Káder, could forestall him. A crowd followed us for quite a mile from the karias, saying they were sorry we were going; the English were their friends, and the Amhára would be afraid to do anything now.

I may here mention that Rás Makunan of Harar is the only Abyssinian whose name carries with it any respect in Ogádén. He has the reputation for trying to be just; and Somális say that if they could gain access to him the tyrannies of frontier Abyssinians would be stopped.

On the evening of the 12th May, the day on which I had parted from Jáma Deria, we went on to a place in the uninhabited thorn bush called Anamaleh. It having been a very hot day and the camels being tired, at an hour before sunset we halted. While the men were engaged in pitching the camp, taking my .577 Express rifle, I strolled off quite alone into the[232] bush to the east to look for gazelles. Getting on to a slight rise, I found myself on the top of a plateau, and here I tried to stalk two of the red Waller’s gazelles; but, hearing the noise made by my men pitching camp four hundred yards away, they made off. I then walked through open thorn jungle till I suddenly came on two oryx, which galloped away, but by a rapid shot as they were disappearing among the trees I brought one to the ground. Firing three more shots as signals, I brought up Géli and Hassan, and we carried the skull and haunches to camp, leaving the rest of the meat on the ground.

I always gave orders to my sentries to wake me if they heard a lion roar, because it is a sound which is not often heard, even in Somáliland, where lions are so plentiful; and it is always so interesting to hear. This night the sentry called me at 1 A.M., and at first I heard the low moans of a lion a mile or two away; then, after half an hour of silence, just as I was falling asleep, we again heard him roar louder, and, as it seemed, at the spot where we had left the oryx meat the evening before. He was heard again during the night; and so when I was awakened by the intense cold which precedes the dawn I roused Suleiman the cook, and then swallowing a cup of hot coffee, I prepared for a lion hunt. I told Adan Yusuf to take charge of the caravan and march about ten miles, and that we would, after the hunt, pick up the tracks of the camels; and he was to have the tent pitched and dinner ready at the noon camp awaiting my arrival.

As the sun rose I took a trotting camel, the mule, Daura Warsama, Abokr, the two hunters Géli and Hassan, and a Malingúr guide, with blankets, water-bottles, and dried meat; and we made straight for the spot where we had left the dead oryx, knowing well that we should find fresh lion tracks round the body. There was no oryx, but looking on the ground we saw last night’s story; a heap of half-digested grass and stains of blood all over the ground showed where the lion had cleaned the carcase, and the trail where he had dragged it away led to the north-east over smooth red earth; and we easily followed it, dotted as it was occasionally by the broad pugs of the lion.


After we had gone a mile we came to a glade of yellow grass about three feet high, and in the centre of this glade, which was a quarter of a mile broad, were three or four low, flat, khansa mimósas growing close together. Three foxes ran out from these, going off at different angles, and looking beyond the bushes we saw the lion dragging the carcase slowly over the ground, and keeping the bushes between himself and us. He looked grayish black, and I could see over the top of the grass that he had a fine mane. The distance was about one hundred and twenty yards, and as I thought he had winded us, and there was no time to be lost, I sat down, and holding the rifle, rested my elbows on my knees to fire. But I could see nothing over the bushes, so I again rose to my feet, and seeing he was still holding on into the open, pulling along the carcase, I walked up closer, keeping under cover of the bushes, and then I sat down again, holding the sights of the rifle fixed on a gap in the bushes where I expected to see his dark mane and head appear. He duly walked on, and his body was in full view in the gap when I fired. The shock told loudly, and answering it with a short and rather dismal roar, he bounded away at a good pace, dropping the carcase of the oryx; and crossing the grass he rushed into a long, dark jungle of mimósas, and we lost sight of him for the time. The remains of the oryx, consisting of the shoulders, ribs, and half the spine, lay where the lion had dropped them on being hit, and the path he had taken was plainly visible by the blood which had been plentifully sprinkled and smeared on the blades of the grass as he went along.

The hunt became more exciting as we followed into the dense khansa bushes, whose flat, wide-spread tops, meeting at a height of about five feet, formed very dark alleys, through which, however, the lion had kept on at the same pace. We skirted along a hundred yards to our right, to a thin place in the covert, and then crossing and searching the farther edge we found his tracks leading out into another glade, and so, leaving the jungle behind, we held on after him. Finding he had gone into another of these dark khansa jungles, we made a circuit round the outside till we were opposite to where he had gone in; but we found he had not left the khansa, so we continued round the[234] edge till we came to the point where we had abandoned the tracks as they entered the jungle.

He was therefore evidently in the covert, which we had ringed completely, and there was nothing to be done but to follow him by the blood along these dark alleys till we came on him. We should find one of three things: either the lion would be seen by us alive in the covert, where I hoped to shoot him; or we should find he had bounded away in front of us; or we should find him lying dead. Following a wounded lion into the khansa is very exciting work, because if he charges there is so little room that it is possible one may shoot a man instead of the lion; and also when pressing through with rifle at full cock, the slightest catching of the trigger or hammers in the branches would cause an accident. It is almost impossible to move through these thorns without a sound, and the lion, if he is crouching, can mark your progress towards him, and will certainly see you first.

Moving into the thicket yard by yard, we found where the lion had been lying while we had been walking round him on the outside; and he had got up and bounded away and out of the cover, his pugs on the soft sand outside, where the grass was thin, being over my boot-marks, showing that he had only just gone. We followed this lion for nearly three miles, through glades of grass and dense strips of khansa, taking the precaution to “ring” each strip to ascertain whether he had gone out on the farther side, thereby avoiding much unnecessary danger and loss of time. Many times he had managed to sneak away without being seen when we were close to him; so, as the sun was now hot, and we were very much done up with the hard work, we sat down to consult; we thought also that if we left him sitting in one place long enough to get his wounds stiff, there would be more chance of coming up with him. We decided it would be best for Abokr, Daura, and the Malingúr, with the mule and camel, to follow very slowly on the tracks, thus driving the lion in front of them, while, with my two hunters Géli and Hassan, I made a circuit round to the front, and sat in the grass, ready to fire at the lion in case he should sneak past us. We tried this twice without success; but the third time the party with the camel followed[235] the tracks into a strip of khansa half a mile long, its length being in the direction in which we were going. Under the bushes it was so dark that sometimes we could scarcely see the sights of our rifles. The lion, if lying anywhere in this, would be certain to sneak away under cover, and if I went quickly along outside and sat down where the bushes were thin, as the cover was only about a hundred yards wide, he could not pass without our seeing him.

We ran on along the edge of the jungle, and getting to a thin place we sat down to wait for the slowly-moving men and animals to drive the lion to us. I had scarcely settled down when Hassan gently patted me on the back and pointed ahead, and there was the lion already stealing along in front, limping painfully. The distance was ninety yards, and sitting down and aiming at him over the grass I hit him again, the bullet catching him in his already lacerated forearm. We crouched to see under the smoke, which hung in the damp grass (for there had been heavy rain in the early part of the night), and we heard his growl as he sprang into the mimósas. Hassan spied him again two hundred yards farther on, as we were running to try and keep him in sight, and bringing myself to a halt suddenly and putting up the rifle, I fired again, catching him in the shoulder. He roared again and fell in the bushes. We advanced, and thought he had gone on; and we were about to run after him when Daura, who had come up, pointed him out to me crouching in the thick bushes thirty yards away, his head between his paws. We all stood still, and then as I moved sideways to try and spot him he gave a low growl. I could not see him plainly, but fired into the dark yellow mass which Daura had shown me, and which I believed to be the lion. The shot told loudly as if hitting bone, and all was silent, the yellow patch remaining in the same place. We then walked round the mimósa bush through which I had fired, and found the lion lying on his side, unconsciously gnawing his wounded forearm. As we stood over him he showed signs of reviving, and I gave him another shot. He was a fine lion, and we were very glad at the successful end to our hard work.

Allowing my men to skin the lion, I retired to the shade of a spreading khansa, and opening a haversack which had been[236] brought on the camel, I made a hearty lunch of oryx meat and water. We then put the skull and wet lion-skin on the camel, and after another hour or two, following the tracks of the caravan, we found the camp pitched and my tent ready. My men, of course, all insisted on shaking hands in congratulation. The skin of the lion when pegged out in camp measured nine feet six inches. He was an old fellow, with a good deal of gray in his mane.

We left Géli and Hassan to rest under the trees and watch the skin of the lion, which we had stretched to dry in the hot sun for two hours, and telling them towards sunset to pick up the skin and bring it on to the evening camp, we went on to a place called Dólababa. We made three more marches through an extensive forest of khansa called Dúd Libah, or the “Lion’s Forest,” and in this I knocked over a buck lesser koodoo.

On the 15th we again came among natives, at a place called Tálla. There were five karias here, and the people, who were Rer Amáden, welcomed us warmly. I sat up for a lion in a zeríba, but without success. The people said that lions were eating men daily to the north, at the Malingúr karias a few marches ahead. This was good news, but the sequel was to be a sad one!

Passing through my old camp at Segag, I made a short trip into the Daghatto Valley, but bagged nothing at first, although there were many lion tracks about. While hunting along the river on the evening of the 18th, I shot a beautiful lesser koodoo buck; and returning towards sunset, when nearing camp we detected a lioness in the grass, but she saw us first, and a hurried shot missed her as she bounded away. She had been stalking my camels which were scattered round camp feeding before being driven in for the night.

Four marches more, during which we experienced heavy thunder-storms, brought us to Durhi, the place where, on coming from Berbera, we had found the Malingúr burying a woman who had been killed by a lion. The two large karias between which we had formerly camped were deserted. I made a zeríba outside camp, and sat up unsuccessfully for lions in it on the night of 19th May. My men made a great noise, singing in chorus to attract lions; and Daura Warsama, one of my[237] best men, led the singing, sometimes running out into the dark night and calling, “Libaha káli, kaleiya, Sirkál-ki wa dóneiya!” (Oh, lion, come; the Sahib wants you!) Daura was a fine fellow, whom I had engaged at Bulhár, belonging to the Jibril Abokr tribe. He and the interpreter, Adan Yusuf, were older than most of the men, who were almost boys, and, like many of the Jibril Abokr, in his youth he had been a great raider. He was always full of fun, danced well, and led the men’s amusements, and was the most popular man in camp, as well as the smartest I had out of a particularly good lot. Daura had been with me on five expeditions during 1891-93. On this trip, since we had left Harar, I had given him charge of Rás Makunan’s mule, as he knew a good deal about horses.

Finding the lions had left Durhi, having, no doubt, followed the karias, as lions will, we struck camp next morning and made for Dagaha Madóba,[44] where we expected to find the Malingúr. The whole of the ground between Durhi and Dagaha Madóba appeared to be hidden under an unbroken expanse of khansa bush, covering the low hills and wave-like undulations of the country as far as the eye could reach on every side. Game was plentiful, and we saw Sœmmering’s and Waller’s gazelles, zebra and oryx. I shot two zebras and wounded an oryx in the course of a long hunt which took me several miles to the south-east of the caravan track. When I first came on the zebras at about 9 A.M., Abokr was riding the Arab camel far behind me, and the party with me consisted of my two hunters Géli and Hassan, and Daura Warsama, while I rode my mule. I had been riding armed only with a pistol, Daura carrying my Express rifle; and when we saw the zebras and I dismounted, Daura pushed the rifle into my hands, and jumping into the saddle with a switch in his own hand, took the mule away to the rear to join Abokr, and, as I thought, arm himself with one of the rifles which were on the camel, while Géli, Hassan, and I ran after the zebras.

At the end of the hunt, more than an hour afterwards, while we were cutting up the zebra meat, Abokr came up leading the camel and mule, and looking put out. He said he had caught the mule, which he had found galloping about riderless,[238] and he thought that Daura must have come to some harm from Gálla marauders.

Carefully going back to where Abokr had caught the mule, and taking up the back trail, we met two Malingúr, the first we had seen for some days; and answering to our anxious inquiries they first, native-like, said they knew nothing, and then that they had seen marks in the ground, showing that a lion had carried away a man. Promising a reward, I took these men as guides, and they led us to a small ravine, where, on examining the sand, we found what had been poor Daura’s fate. While he had been quietly riding along at a walk across the ravine a lioness had rushed upon the mule, which, shying, had thrown Daura upon the ground and galloped away. The lioness had sprung upon Daura, and after a struggle, as was shown by the state of the sand, killed him; and his stick, broken in three places, lay on the scene of the fight. The lioness had then dragged him away into the jungle, up a slope covered with thick khansa bushes; and following at a run, we saw pieces of red-bordered waist-cloth, which we knew to be Daura’s, hanging to the thorn bushes; later on the piece of leather, enclosing a verse of the Koran, which he had worn round his neck, and the pouch, with a jag and piece of oiled rag, with which he had been accustomed to clean his own rifle, and which he had always carried, attached to an old luggage-strap, round his waist. On coming to some very large and dense khansa bushes a little ahead of the men, I at last found Daura’s body. Every vestige of clothing had been torn off by the bushes. There were twenty holes in his throat from the teeth of the lioness, and his right leg had been bitten off at the hip, leaving a foot of the thigh-bone protruding. His hands and cheeks were also bitten through, showing that he had fought for his life; and it seemed particularly hard luck that he of all my men had been caught thus unarmed, for he was the best shot in the party, and would have been well able to defend himself if he had only carried the Martini-Henry which was usually in his possession.

The lioness had disappeared; so wrapping Daura’s body in a waterproof sheet, and roping it up on to a camel, I started the men off for camp, and cantered on ahead on the mule to[239] give orders for a grave to be dug. I had first asked my men to help me follow the lioness up at once, but they insisted that Daura must be buried first.

As I reined up in camp the camelmen came to me smiling to say “Salaam aleikum,” expecting to hear that I had bagged a lion, which had made me late. Passing those in front I rode into the zeríba quietly and said, “Daura is dead.” A curious change came over all the men, who stood about awkwardly, not knowing where to look; and when I told off men for the burying party, and another party to follow the lioness with me, the men moved about dreamily as if not understanding the calamity which had fallen upon them. Some one said, “Not Daura? Not our Daura?” and they only realised what had happened when Daura’s body was brought up on the camel and laid on the grass before them.

I determined to devote the next twenty-four hours to hunting up the lioness, and having organised a party of trackers, I left the remainder of the men to bury my follower, and we started off on foot for the khansa thicket where we had found the body. We described a circle at fifty yards’ distance from the thicket, the ground being very stony and covered with bushes, when we at last came upon the track of the lioness; and following this for three miles over most difficult ground, always covered with dense thickets, at sunset we gave it up.

Returning to camp I chanced to look round, when my eye fell upon the lioness, her head being raised above a tuft of grass in a passage between two khansa bushes.[45] Turning round I took a quiet pot shot at her; a lioness’s head half hidden in grass, at ninety yards’ distance and in the dusk, is not a good target, and before I could see under the smoke I knew that I had missed, for there was only the ringing of the metal of my rifle in my ears, and no answering thud of the bullet hitting flesh. Running up to the spot on which she had been crouching, we examined the track where she had bounded away, and holding the trail for a quarter of a mile through the thick covert, and with the greatest difficulty, the[240] men kneeling over displaced gravel, broken twigs, and other scanty evidences of her passage, and finding no sign of blood, we gave her up and sadly made for camp, which was reached an hour or two after dark.

On the next day we again took up the signs from where we had left them, slight rain having fallen in the night; and search as we would, we could never find any indication of her having stayed in the neighbourhood. All the tracks were those of the night before, and making a final circular cast of a mile round through the bush over gravelly ground, we gave up the search, and I resolved to march on towards the coast, having no more leave to spare.

Passing Daura’s grave we surprised two hyænas trying to grub up the stones that had been heaped over the poor fellow, and dropped one dead, and sent the other moaning away with a bullet in his ribs. The Malingúr, who turned out to be those who had been at Durhi a month ago, begged me to remain and have another try for the lion and lioness (for there were a pair of man-eaters here), so I had a zeríba built, and tied up a donkey, and sat up all night six feet away from it, but without result. The Malingúr said that since the lion had killed the woman a month ago, five men and another woman had been carried off by the pair, my man Daura being the eighth human victim within the month!

We resumed our journey on the following morning towards the coast.[46] Passing through the Sheikh Ash tribe and thence by Milmil, we reached the Rer Ali at Warma-kés in the Haud Plateau, after eight marches, on 24th May.

The Rer Ali turned out fifty horsemen to dibáltig before me, and I gave a show in return, advancing over the plain and firing volleys of blank cartridge with my twenty camelmen, and whistling them up to form rallying groups against cavalry.[241] I refused, however, to part with any tobes, so they said I was “good but stingy.” They told me that lately an English officer had been sent from Aden to Harar, and he had ordered the Abyssinians to evacuate the town within a fortnight. This information turned out to be based on my own peaceful visit to Rás Makunan, and was thus distorted by passing from mouth to mouth! We made a detour to the east of several days’ journey in order to come on to ground frequented by Clarke’s gazelle, and I was so fortunate as to shoot a very good buck of this rare antelope and to pick up two pairs of horns.

While marching through a jungle called Gouss in the Haud, I started about forty oryx, which galloped past us looking like a body of cavalry with sloped swords. Sorely tempted, I fired at the galloping line, and then ran up and found a splendid bull lying dead. His horns were the best I have ever possessed, being nearly three feet long, very thick, and with a slight and very beautiful curve backwards.

A large Somáli caravan, going to Berbera, took advantage of our escort to pass through the Eidegalla tribe with us. I found some interesting artificial pools in the Eidegalla Haud, and the natives told me that these had been dug out from time to time in honour of well-known Sultáns and elders who had died. I examined them, and was glad to find that they held water for many weeks after rain had fallen, a proof that the red Haud soil will hold rain-water in suitable places, and that tanks might be made on a larger scale.

As we came to the Eidegalla tribe, the men, women, and children ran away on first sighting us, thinking we were Abyssinians; but when they recognised us they were civil enough. On the evening of 3rd June we arrived at Syk fig-tree, near the top of the Jeráto Pass, which is sixty miles from Berbera, and leads from the high Ogo country down into Guban, the coast district. Coming down into the defile called Aff-ki-Jeráto next day, I met some Biladiers, or native irregular police, with my mail-bag, containing four months’ letters; and finding that, owing to my having received an extension, my leave would not expire immediately, I settled down steadily to hunt the large koodoo in the great Gólis Range, round Gán Libah, Henweina, and Garbadir.


On the look-out

Greater Koodoo (Strepsiceros Koodoo).


Our hunting camp in the mountains—The “Rock of the Seven Robbers”—Exciting koodoo hunt; death of a splendid koodoo—My shooting costume—Triumphant return to camp—Unsuccessful koodoo hunt—March to Henweina—Unsuccessful hunt after four bull koodoos—Bag a fine bull—A charming spot—Dog-faced baboons—Alarm note of the koodoo cow—Picturesque bivouac—Cedar-trees in Mirso—A leopard caught with a piece of rope and speared by the Somális—March to Armáleh Garbadir—The great Massleh Wein bull—Exciting hunt; success of the Martini; a glorious koodoo—Return to the coast.

We descended the Jeráto Pass to Mandeira on 4th June. This pass has since been improved by an engineer officer from Aden, and there is now a good road. Once caravans had the greatest difficulty in getting up or down the pass. On this day I divided the men and animals into two caravans, one-half to remain with me in the mountains, the other half to go to Berbera, where the men would be paid off and the camels sold.

On the following day I took the half of the caravan which I had chosen for the koodoo-hunting trip, and marched three[243] miles, from Mandeira wells to a small spring just under the crest of Gán Libah Mountain, which is six thousand feet above sea-level. The height of our camp here was four thousand five hundred feet. In the morning, while the men were moving camp to the new site, I took my two hunters Géli and Hassan, and an Esa Musa guide from some karias which we found at Mandeira, and searched the hills for koodoo, but only saw some female koodoo and young ones, so we made for camp, which we found pitched in a very pretty little glade on the hillside. I had no tent, but a small hut made of camel-mats, covered over with waterproof sheets, and fastened to some poles which we cut from the thorn bushes. To the east, just below camp, was a rocky torrent-bed, with stretches of flat sand in the bottom, and a small stream trickling through it, forming waterfalls of a foot or two in height, and flowing northwards into the Tug Mandeira. All the country for a mile or two round was very much broken and cut up by ravines from Gán Libah and other high mountains overlooking the camp; and in these ravines were long strips of the gudá jungle, with thick aloe undergrowth four feet high.

Three miles north-west, on the right bank of the Tug Mandeira sand-river, rises a very curious pinnacle or boss of hard rock, called Dagaha Todobálla, or the “Rock of the Seven Robbers” (from todoba, seven). The story goes that seven Jibril Abokr robbers came from the west on one of their periodical raids, to search for plunder among the Esa Musa flocks grazing at the foot of the Gólis Range; but the Esa Musa collected in force, and these men fled to the top of the almost inaccessible rock, where they were surrounded and finally cut to pieces by the enraged tribesmen. Rising as it does to a height of about a hundred feet above a sea of jungle of the large gudá thorn-trees, it forms a very beautiful addition to Mandeira scenery, which indeed is all very striking. There are several of these rocks and hillocks in the Mandeira Valley, and the large thorn jungles round their bases are the home of that lovely antelope, the lesser koodoo, which combines many of the beauties of both the large koodoo and the African striped bushbuck, and is midway between them in size. There are also wart-hog, Waller’s gazelles, the tiny Sakáro,[244] as well as guinea-fowl and large koodoo in the mountains close by.

On the evening of 5th June I went out again with the same men, holding south-west along the lower slopes of a ridge called Gol Adéryu, or the “Hill of Koodoos”; and here I bagged a splendid specimen of a koodoo bull. When Géli first saw him we were moving along the base of the hills, crossing several torrent-beds, all more or less hidden under gudá trees, with bare gravelly ridges, or ridges covered with grass and aloe jungle, forming the watersheds. He was about three hundred yards away in front of us, standing nibbling the young shoots of the gudá where a thick mass of this kind of jungle crowned a ridge. The ground where the koodoo had taken up his position was higher than the low open ridge on which we had been standing when we saw him; but the wind was blowing in our faces, and was therefore in our favour. Two small torrent-beds intervened between us and the game. His body was quite concealed by the dark green foliage, only the head and shining horns being occasionally visible as he stretched himself out to reach down a branch, and it was long before I could make out what Géli was pointing at. But looking through my field-glass I saw that I had to deal with the bearer of a splendid pair of horns, the best I had seen, the whitish tips looking a yard apart, and the evening sun being reflected from the wide spirals.

We sank flat to the ground together where we had stood, and lay, without daring to move, fearing that some unlucky chance should cause him to come out of the bush and look towards us. We spoke in whispers, taking many more precautions than were really necessary at this distance because of the great size of this particular old bull, and the intense fear I had of losing him. We lay upon a flat, open piece of gravel about ten yards square; and so nervous did we become that we dared not creep along the ground from our respective positions far enough to tear down a branch to hold before the face, preferring to lie motionless in the open, in full view, to the chance of a movement catching his eye.

We lay for probably twenty minutes watching him, and we had perfected all the arrangements for a most difficult stalk, when, with an abrupt movement, he turned his head towards[245] the north, only the tips of his horns appearing above the foliage. But they were motionless, and I knew that he had seen or heard something. I turned my head round slowly to look at my companions, to see whether they had moved, but they lay as they had dropped, and no sound above a whisper had been uttered by any of us.

Suddenly the pair of horns swung round to the south, and the bull’s shoulders appeared in full view as he gave a great bound forward, disappeared among the bushes, and emerged galloping his hardest up the ridge, where the jungle was thin, his tail held erect; next second he had plunged into a watercourse and disappeared, and a few minutes later we saw his whole body in the far distance as he made his way heavily up the steep Gol Adéryu ridge and went down on the other side. We looked blankly at each other! Of course it was of no use concealing ourselves now, so we got up and walked to the spot where the koodoo had been standing; and here, to our disgust, we met three men and two women of the Esa Musa, who had come from the Mandeira karias to pick gum. They had been walking along a torrent-bed and had come close up to the koodoo before they saw him; and one of the Esa Musa had thrown his small spear at him and missed, sending the koodoo off as we had seen.

We enlisted these people in our service by a promise of meat if successful, and then we slowly took up the tracks. But we soon lost them again in the rocky ground, and extending into a line and moving over the ridge where he had disappeared, we resolved ourselves into couples and searched independently for further tracks.

We must have spent over an hour doing this, and traversed about a mile of very steep, stony hills covered with dense thorn bush, with occasional deep canons and gullies in the limestone, when one of the gum-pickers ran up and motioned to me to follow him; and scrambling over another half mile of steep ground we came upon the tracks of a koodoo, which by their size I concluded to be those of the bull we had lately lost. He had slowed down into a walk, the tracks leading up to a very high ridge, and we took them over the top with great caution, hoping that we might come upon him somewhere in the next valley.


We were soon scrambling along the sides of the valley when Hassan pointed downwards, and I saw the koodoo rounding a spur a hundred and fifty yards away, and about a hundred feet below us; and throwing up the rifle I fired just before he disappeared, the bullet telling loudly, and my men calling out that he was hit. We got down to where he had been in a few seconds, and rounding the corner we found him lying in a bush which had stopped his body as it had rolled down the hill. The .577 bullet, entering behind the withers, had driven nearly through him, breaking the spine and killing him almost instantaneously. All the Somális, of course, began shaking hands with me across the body to show their delight. This was a splendid old bull, his massive neck being covered with scars received in fights with his species, scratches from the thorn bushes through which he had forced his way, and abrasions from the rocks where he had fallen. The horns measured 34½ inches between tips, 37 inches in a straight line from base to tip, and 49 inches round the spiral.

It was getting late, and a heavy thunder-storm was coming up from the south,—always a disagreeable experience in these hills, and especially so in this instance, because I had nothing on but a thin vest, a pair of khaki drill breeches, and red rubber tennis shoes with long stockings, the day having been too hot for climbing steep hills in a coat.

It became intensely cold as the sun set and the rain poured down, so employing all our knives we soon whipped off the skin of the koodoo, and I threw it over my shivering shoulders like a shawl, hair inside. The Somalis had their tobes. We cut off the grand head, taking care to leave plenty of the skin of the neck and beard; and each of us being loaded with head, meat, or rifles, made our way over the hills back to camp, arriving an hour after dark; Hassan, who had pointed me out the koodoo, being privileged to sing the hunting-song as we approached the camp fire.

During the next six days I went after koodoo morning and evening without success, sometimes going up into the mountains before dawn and not returning till after nightfall, and shifting camp from one watering-place to another.

On the sixth day I had a long hunt after a koodoo with[247] fine horns, which we had got news of in Harka-weina in the Henweina valley; we saw the koodoo across a gorge, and after making a long détour to get into a favourable position for a stalk, we found that he had mysteriously disappeared.

On the same evening we marched five miles across the Henweina valley, and made our bivouac at the karia of one Waiss Mahomed, of the Adan Esa, Esa Musa, Habr Awal. The people here were very kind and attentive to me, bringing me willingly goats, sheep, and milk to buy whenever I wanted supplies. The camp was pitched among large, flat-topped gudá thorn-trees hung with thick masses of armo creeper, which forms a deep and cool shade, and has a light green, heart-shaped leaf, thick and rubber-like and full of sap. At a distance of a mile on every side of the camp were the foothills of Gólis Range. The spot was pleasant, and I resolved to make a halt of several days here, looking for koodoo and making up the bundles of specimens ready to be enclosed in boxes when I arrived at Aden, and sent to Mr. Rowland Ward in London. This halt was a great rest for the men after the incessant marching of the last four months, and they thoroughly enjoyed it.

On 12th June I sent out two parties to look for koodoo, and waited in camp till 10 A.M. for news from these men, or from the Esa Musa cowboys who were herding cattle on the mountains. A herd-boy brought in news that he had seen four bull koodoos together on the top of a mountain, about three miles away, and fifteen hundred feet above camp. After a very toilsome climb, the day being exceptionally hot, the herd-boy led us to a saddle in the hills where he had last seen the four bulls; and as he took us with the wind by mistake, we only heard the rattle of stones as the game galloped away; we found their tracks, but never came up with them. Much disappointed, we descended by the most stony goat-track which I remember to have traversed at any time, and we arrived in camp very much done up.

I had just thrown myself on my camel-mats to rest when Géli and Hassan came in triumphantly with news of another bull in the opposite direction, about two miles away, and not more than five hundred feet above our camp. They had seen him quietly walking over the top of a hill, picking here and[248] there at the bushes, and without waiting to find out where he had gone, they had rushed to camp to see whether I had returned from the other four bulls. I thought no more of rest, and trotted up the valley with my men, by sheep-paths winding through the thick undergrowth of aloes, and gained the base of the hill where the koodoo had been seen. There was not much time to be lost in searching for his tracks, as it was now half-past five, and the sun was nearly setting; so having lost them on stony ground near where he had last been seen, we all went in different directions to search, Géli and Hassan running about on top of the hill, and I waiting below under a screen of armo creeper which hung from a gudá thorn-tree. After a long wait Géli and Hassan could be seen coming cautiously towards me down a spur of the hill close to a deep, densely-wooded little ravine, which ran down parallel to the spur on my left. Gaining the level of the valley, and creeping from one thicket to another between the aloes, they at length reached me and pointed to a dense clump of bushes which grew half-way up the ravine, two hundred feet above me. We made a circuitous stalk by a long detour to the right, and so round the top of the hill on the farther side, and down over the head of the ravine; but this took so long that when we stalked in on the clump of bushes from above, the koodoo was no longer there, the tracks showing that he had grazed away down the hill; the bottom of this was now concealed from us by the curve of the steep ground and by the high grass, bushes, and rocks.

As we looked down the ravine we saw that to our right the valley fell from the level of my former watching-place into a V-shaped gorge, running off at right angles to the ravine. Creeping round the shoulder of the hill to the right, so as to be just above this gorge, we descended yard by yard, placing each foot carefully on the rocks and undergrowth so as to avoid making the slightest sound. The wind was in our faces as we advanced, and whenever I could get a piece of rock large enough to stand upon, and see over the high durr grass below, I slowly raised myself to an erect position, expecting to see the koodoo and get a shot. This manœuvre had been repeated three times, cautiously, so that no sound or brusque movement[249] on our parts should attract the attention of the koodoo, if he should by any chance be in the gorge below.

As we gained the fourth group of rocks we heard the rattle of stones and crash of bushes, and saw, from behind, the horns of the koodoo rising and falling amongst the tufts of grass as he plunged down into the gorge. He paused before reaching the bottom, and we were having a whispered argument whether two objects showing motionless above the grass were the tips of his horns or spears of aloe, when they moved, and he went crashing on again.

Knowing he would have to ascend the opposite side of the V-shaped gorge, as the bushes and aloes were too thick for him to go fast along the bottom of the V to right or left, I jumped on to the rock and waited; springing across, he cantered clumsily up the other side, which was very steep. The distance was two hundred yards across the gorge, and taking a full sight I held the rifle for the withers and pulled the trigger. He fell back among the rocks and bushes, and though still breathing he was practically dead; but to prevent his moving and damaging his beautiful horns by rolling among the boulders, I gave him another shot. The horns measured 50 inches round the curve, 35½ inches in a straight line from base to tip, and 26½ inches between tips.

On 13th June I took a camel and a few necessaries for spending the night away from camp; and after looking for koodoo all day we arrived at a lovely little burn half buried in reeds, at the base of Banyéro Mountain, which is between six thousand and six thousand five hundred feet high. This was a charming spot, a clear stream flowing over boulders of many colours, there being occasionally narrow stretches of red sand, on which were imprinted the fresh tracks of koodoo and lion. Above, on the side of Banyéro Mountain, was a precipice two hundred feet or so in height, and on the smooth, perpendicular face of this were a number of holes and cracks leading into the rock, each tenanted by a group of gray-maned, dog-faced baboons, their long tails hanging down perpendicularly against the precipice. The crowded clusters of baboons, of a blue-gray colour, constantly moving their heads, tails, or legs, and chattering at us, formed a curious and lively picture against the brick-red face[250] of the rock. There must have been three hundred altogether, including the little ones, which clung to the rocks or to their mothers’ backs; and with all heads looking at us, they kept up a tremendous barking as we crossed the stream, and it continued all night close to our bivouac, so that it was a long time before we were able to get any sleep. Some of the males seemed as large as retriever dogs, with gray manes as imposing as that of the lion.

Next morning we had to pass these baboons as we ascended a gorge to watch for koodoo, and they ran round to the head of the gully in a small army, like little men determined to block our passage. They hid in the rocks across our path, chattering at us as we came on, and when we were fifty yards away they still sat ferociously watching us. One gray old fellow had his head looking over a stone, and pointing my Martini-Henry at it, I was amused to see him duck behind a rock exactly as a man would have done. I again raised the rifle and down went his head again. This was curious, for he had certainly never seen a rifle before. My men stormed the pass, intent on catching a young one, but they were too quick for us, and retired slowly up the ravine, disputing with their short angry bark every inch of the ground. Of course I did not fire at the human-looking brutes; and the Somális, approving, said that they were little men, and it was unlucky to kill them.

In the forenoon we saw three cow koodoos and a young bull with half-grown horns, grazing up a patch of green meadow grass in a valley several hundred feet below us; but after watching them for an hour, and seeing that no old bull joined them, we gave it up for the day, and prepared for the long journey back to the main camp. As we descended to our bivouac to pack up our blankets and cooking-pots, we gave these koodoos a slant of our wind, and one of the females stood pawing the ground and looking up at us, both of the huge rounded ears held forward. We did not move, and every minute or so she emitted a loud bark which went echoing up the hillsides.

This alarm-note is given by an old cow when she scents or sees danger, but cannot quite make out its nature, and so she calls the attention of the herd. Sometimes three or four[251] females on hearing the bark of one will throw up their heads, and joining her will stand motionless, all eyes turned to the direction of danger, as if in council, and then they canter away, followed by the ruck of the herd. By remaining motionless, even if on the bare hillside, you may keep up this performance for any length of time; but once you move, having made you out, off they go. More than once I have been first warned of the presence of koodoo in a valley below me by the loud echoing bark coming across to me from half a mile away, and arresting ourselves as if turned to stone, we have searched the opposite slopes, and have at last made out three or four brown bodies, standing under the shade of an overhanging precipice, in colour so like the background that we should never have seen them but for that warning bark. The old doe is usually a splendid sentry, but often she betrays the herd in this way.

On the 14th we came back to our former bivouac at the reed-margined spring, hoping to see the herd again in the morning, perhaps accompanied by an old bull. We arrived late, and found the baboons again in force. We lit fires and threw ourselves down under a fig-tree for the night. This was a very picturesque night camp. The stream was just below us, giving out a murmuring of running water which was refreshing after the hot march of the day. An hour after the sun had gone down a crescent moon rose in the east, and just disappearing in the west, following the sun, blazing in the clear mountain air, was the Hedig wa Galab, or evening star.

The two goats which I had brought to supply milk for my morning coffee were standing against each other, head to tail, between the two fires, trying to keep warm in spite of a current of air which blew down from the higher gorges of Banyéro, where the mist hung very white, shreds of it clinging to the side ravines and round the shoulders of the mountain. Between the fires, and around the goats, lay coiled the four natives. The camel sat alone, a little farther out, chewing the cud with regular cadence of sound and gazing into the darkness, its large eyes reflecting the firelight. The baboons kept up their barking all night as on the former occasion, and next morning were seen crossing the top of an adjacent cliff, inspecting our camp.

The next day we hunted for koodoo all the morning, but[252] only once more saw the same family of cows with the half-grown bull; so we made for the Henweina camp, and arrived in the afternoon, very thirsty. Géli, while taking care of my water-bottle, smashed it against a projecting rock, losing the day’s supply.

This march home was twice as long as it need have been; for, anxious to visit the higher parts of Banyéro, I had ascended a thousand feet to the Mirso ledge, and walking for several miles between splendid specimens of the mountain cedar, I had again descended into the Henweina Valley near the main camp, by a sheep track which we hit upon, hitherto unknown to the guides. I continued unsuccessful during the next few days, going many a “wild-goose chase” after some bull which some one had seen, and when away after this, a splendid chance in another direction would be lost through my being out of camp. What sometimes occurred was that three shepherds would see a koodoo while out in the early morning tending sheep, and leaving one of their number to mind the sheep and to watch the koodoo at the same time, the other two would run down to camp, over four miles of mountain and valley, to bring me the news. By the time I had arrived at the spot, perhaps some hours afterwards, the man who had been left to watch would either be asleep or would have moved with his sheep to another pasture; and while we looked for the koodoo in the absence of a guide, it would catch sight of us and steal away. I think I never worked harder than at this period in the search for koodoo, but was continually disappointed, often going three expeditions during the day, and climbing many thousands of feet.

One day we heard a fine leopard coughing, as leopards do, among the hills, and I spent the day looking for his cave. Arriving home after dark, the first object which I saw on approaching the camp fire was the spotted body, with a framing of natives, who had just brought him over from the Esa Musa karia quite close to us. The elders, having lost a goat the night before, had on this evening tied one up as a bait, and had prepared a running noose of camel-rope in the brushwood of the zeríba through which he must pass to get to the goat. Having sauntered boldly down from the hills in the evening[253] for another goat, as had been his custom, he charged recklessly and got himself noosed, when the Somális, who had been waiting in ambush, closed round and speared him. The body was scarcely cold when I bought it of old Waiss Mahomed, the patriarch of the karia, for twelve rupees.

The koodoos seemed to have left this neighbourhood. I had heard a good deal in Henweina about a mysterious bull koodoo living in the high Massleh Wein gully, overlooking Garbadir, fifteen miles to the east along the foot of Gólis, if one went round by the camel path, or nine miles up and down, if one took a short cut over the mountains. He was known to have remained in Massleh Wein, drinking nightly at the spring below, for three years. He was reported to be very old and cunning, to carry enormous horns, and to be lame in one foot. He had been seen by a great many shepherds in the same place, but had always at once disappeared in the mists which filled these gorges in the early morning; and the clump of cedar-trees, amongst which he was always found, being on the spur between the bifurcation of two branches of the Massleh gully, he had from his lair a view in every direction.

Having resolved to try conclusions with this bull, I sent my caravan round the base of a peaked mountain called Hambeileh Weina, by a good camel track, with orders to the men in charge to make two marches to Garbadir, and camp at Armáleh water. Armáleh to the east and Massleh to the west were two of several valleys which joined to form the district called Garbadir. The grazing grounds of Garbadir, filling a semicircle of about six miles’ radius, formed a bay in Gólis Range, under Daar Ass Bluff, which is about six thousand five hundred feet above the sea. Garbadir was beautifully wooded with very large gudá thorn forest, plenty of grass growing in the glades, and the ground was covered with fresh tracks of the Esa Musa flocks. It was at Armáleh Garbadir that I had formed my first shooting camp in 1885.

From my Henweina camp into Garbadir there was a short cut over the mountains which was impassable for camels, and this path I took with my two gunbearers and an Esa Musa guide, ascending and descending about a thousand feet over the neck between the Hambeileh Weina pointed peak and the[254] top of Daar Ass. At a height of about five thousand feet above the sea we found several Esa Musa cattle karias, perched on the mountains, with splendid flat stretches of open green pasture. The Esa Musa herds showed me the tracks of a very large koodoo, which I knew to be those of a well-known bull which I had hunted once or twice during the last few days, and which we had called the Darei-Hosei koodoo, after the name of the gully in which he was generally seen by the shepherds in the early mornings; but as he had passed by at dawn, several hours before, I held on for the Armáleh camp, leaving Massleh Valley two miles behind us on my right.

I resolved not to disturb Massleh gorge till we should hear news of the well-known Massleh koodoo. Arriving at Armáleh a little after noon, I sent some Esa Musa shepherds up to Massleh with orders to sit on points of vantage and watch the gorge for the appearance of the koodoo when he should get up from his sleep in the afternoon; and if they should see him, to run and let me know; meanwhile I sat down and waited for the caravan to come round by the long road.

At about four o’clock, acting on the information of an old woman who was collecting firewood, I went after pig, and came to the Massleh water; we here found several women and girls filling their bark water-vessels preparatory to carrying them on their backs to their huts; and they told us they had just seen a large wart-hog boar come to drink, and then run away again without drinking. Following on the tracks, we came suddenly on him twenty yards away on the top of a rise in a goat path, and I raised my rifle and covered his shoulder; but finding I could not see his tusks, and as I never shoot a boar unless they are abnormally large, I let him off. He walked round the bend of the path and I followed, but coming to the corner we found he had managed to go quietly away without leaving a track to show his whereabouts.

My gunbearer said he must be a shaitan, or devil, and we were just preparing to drink and go home when two Esa Musa ran up to say they had seen the lame koodoo of Massleh Wein, and they could show him to me at once! This was great luck! We started off at a trot up the Lower Massleh Valley, and came to where there was a stretch of about half a mile, before it[255] branched out in the form of a Y into two gorges running up steeply into Daar Ass Mountain. The natives had just seen him coming out of the mass of jungle which filled the point of junction of the two gorges where they joined to form the main valley, or stalk of the Y, lower down.

Géli and I, keeping to the right, ascended the side of the valley and sat down under the shade of a black poison-bush on a pile of rocks, commanding the nearest of the two small gorges above the junction, that is, the western one; while I stopped the eastern gorge by sending an Esa Musa across to its head, to drive back the koodoo should he attempt to retreat up it. We knew he was somewhere in the jungle below the junction of the gorges, and I had ordered Hassan and the other Esa Musa to sit under cover down in the lower valley long enough to give us all time to take up our appointed positions; and then, when they saw us posted, to walk slowly up through the jungle, looking for the fresh tracks.

I had been sitting some twenty minutes at my post, when Hassan and the Esa Musa shouted across from the jungle to the men at the head of the eastern gorge to look out, and we saw the koodoo, the finest I have ever set eyes on, go cantering heavily upwards along the bank of the torrent-bed which occupied the centre of the eastern gorge. The men whom I had posted there shouted back, and the koodoo, as I expected, made for the western gorge which was commanded by my rifle.

On the opposite side of this gully, on a level with the bush under which I was sitting, was a very large gudá tree, and the range to this tree I judged to be about two hundred yards across the gorge. If I allowed him to pass this tree I knew that my chances of bagging him would become very slender, as the gorge widened, and there was a way by which he could get out of it, over a shoulder of the mountain, without again coming within range.

It became very exciting listening to the shouts from the jungle below and the answering shouts from the other gorge, and more so as, warned by the rattle of displaced stones and the crashing of bushes, I turned my eyes and saw the koodoo at the point of intersection of the two gorges, and heading straight for the one which I commanded. I had in my hands a long[256] military Martini-Henry, and pushing forward the sliding-leaf to two hundred yards I marked the gudá tree opposite and watched. There was suspense for a moment or two, and then with another crash he emerged from the jungle and galloped along the opposite hillside, straight for the gudá tree. I held for the front of his shoulder, just clear of his body, and as he neared the tree I fired. Looking under the smoke I observed him still galloping on, and felt in my pocket for another cartridge; but after passing the tree he suddenly plunged forward and went rolling over and over down the hill, till his body was arrested about thirty feet below by a bush, and then he lay motionless. We made very short time across the rocky gorge, and coming up I found him dead, the Martini picket having passed through his heart—a wonderfully lucky shot at the distance.

Rock Rabbits

He was a splendid sight as he lay extended on the remains of the bush into which he had crashed, his horns measuring 52 inches and 53 inches respectively round the curve, and 3 feet 1 inch in a straight line from base to tip, and 37 inches between tips; and his massive neck was adorned with a fine white and brown beard. There was a slight malformation in the hoof of his right foreleg which accounted for his lameness, but did not much interfere with his speed when galloping.

We carried his head back to camp in the dusk, leaving three men to skin him; and we sent back all the Esa Musa,[257] whom we could collect in the valley below on our way to camp, telling them to go up and scramble for the meat.

Having now bagged three good bull koodoos in three weeks, which is about the usual rate of successful and lucky koodoo stalking in these mountains, and my leave being up, I went in three short marches to Berbera, and a week later caught a steamer to Aden.


A Herd of Water Antelope


The new caravan—Pass Lord Delamere’s party—Captain Abud in camp at Hargeisa—Sheikh Mattar—Cross the Haud, and arrive at Seyyid Mahomed’s town in Ogádén—Holy reputation—Why the Somális have no Mahdi—Scene at the Seyyid’s town—Native impression of some European travellers—Every European a doctor—Malingúr mission to Harar—Ruspoli’s men seized—Jáma Deria’s Englishman—Reach the Webbe and bag a waterbuck—Friendly Gilimiss Somális—First news of the Webbe bushbuck—Shooting a crocodile—Great beauty of our camp on the Webbe banks—Gálla raids on the Gilimiss—The crossing of the Webbe at Karanleh—Unexpected Gálla news—Entertain Gálla chiefs in camp; a defiant speech—A Gálla trip planned—Fresh hippo tracks in the reeds—A waterbuck swims the Webbe; a noble buck—Sad death of a horse—The Aulihán—A row in camp—Unsuccessful buffalo hunting—Wounded waterbuck struck down by a lion—Starving negroes eat the carrion—Disturbed country; the Gálla trip impracticable—Recross the Webbe—Driving for bushbuck—A fine wart-hog bagged—A man seized by a lion; extraordinary story—A leopard bagged—A buck killed by leopards before our eyes—A row at Garbo—Success of the Lee-Metford—The Awáré pan; beautiful hunting ground—Lions roaring at night—Unsuccessful lion hunts—Magnificent lion shot; a surprising leap—Abundance of lions—Return to Berbera; and go to England.

During the first trip to the Webbe we had been four and a half months in the interior, travelling over more than eleven hundred miles of camel track. I found at Aden that an extension of leave had been granted, and at once prepared a second caravan, intending to go back to Imé, and taking Gabba Oboho at his word, to explore Gállaland and the Juba under his guidance.


On 30th July ’93 we landed again at Berbera with thirty-four men armed with Snider carbines and forty-five fresh camels. The coast men were very much afraid of Gállaland, and insisted that we ought to have at least a hundred rifles; but fighting not being my object, I considered our party strong enough, and after explaining that I would only cross the Gálla border if the Gállas should prove peaceful, the men took a more cheerful view of the prospects of my journey.

We marched from Berbera on 31st July, and on the second day we passed Lord Delamere and his shooting party on their way to the coast. Captain Abud was at that time encamped at Hargeisa, carrying on political business with Eidegalla chiefs. Sheikh Mattar of Hargeisa, whom I met here, advised me not to go to Imé, but to try Karanleh, three marches farther down the Webbe; and he gave me an Arabic letter to Seyyid Mahomed, a mullah whose permanent town lay in our front. By visiting the Seyyid I should cross Ogádén by a route several days to the west of my former one through Dagaha-Madóba.

I crossed the Haud by the Warda Gumaréd, the route we had taken on our first crossing, when I had gone to Milmil with my brother the year before; this time I carried water for five and a half days only. About three marches out from Hargeisa I crossed the fresh tracks of seventy-five horsemen of the Abdalla Saad, Habr Awal, who had gone to loot the Eidegalla a few hours before my caravan passed over the ground.

Crossing the Rer Ali and Rer Harún tribes, always friendly, on the 16th I arrived at Seyyid Mahomed’s town. It is a permanent village of three or four hundred huts, about the size of Hargeisa, its site being near the Tug Fáfan, in the Malingúr tribe. The banks of the stream, which we found dry, were dotted with thriving and very extensive patches of jowári cultivation. The inhabitants are mainly widads and mullahs from different Somáli tribes.

Pitching camp under some shady trees near the river, on the Fáfan banks, I went with the elders, through a dense crowd, to the Seyyid’s hut. He was too old and feeble to walk over to camp, and had sent his son to ask me if I would mind coming to him, to make his acquaintance and give him medicine. The Seyyid is known far and wide as a holy man, even my[260] Dolbahanta headman, Adan Yusuf, having heard of him. Adan was glad to meet such a holy man, who was said to be invulnerable. He added that the Abyssinians lately tied the Seyyid up and fired at him point blank with Remingtons, but the bullets melted; they then bound him to a gudá thorn-tree, and collecting all the dry branches about, they lit a roaring fire at his feet, but he obstinately refused to burn; so then they gave up interfering with him!

If he were a fighting man the Seyyid would probably have developed into a first-class Mahdi, and long ere this he could have made a combined movement against Abyssinia; but his influence, like that of other Somáli sheikhs and mullahs, is almost entirely social and religious. He lives a quiet life, cultivating jowári, reading the Koran, and educating youths. Among the nomad tribes the fighting elders abound, but they have not the wide influence of these cosmopolitan Mahomedan priests, and, moreover, there is no element of cohesion among them, each working for the good of his own clan and ignoring the general interests of the community. The Seyyid was cordial, and I gave him medicine at the door of his hut in the presence of his wives and children, who squatted on their heels in a semicircle around us, whilst the townspeople collected in a dense mass to gaze at us through the palisades of the courtyard which separated the hut from the main street of the village. He had only seen one English party, that of Colonel Paget and Lord Wolverton, two months before, and they had left a very good impression; not so the caravan under Prince Ruspoli, for he, less fortunate, had had a good deal of trouble with the natives in Gállaland, on the Webbe, and even in Somáliland. I mention this because the troubles of this Italian caravan had an adverse influence over the success of my trip.

Before we left the hut of the sick man he had written for me an Arabic letter to Hussein-bin-Khalaf and Núr Róbleh, the two Mahomedan chiefs of Karanleh. While we were halted at the Fáfan, crowds of sick people and cripples from the village constantly loitered in and about camp, begging for medical treatment from ninki frinji wein (the great foreigner).[47] Every European being believed to be a doctor, they rushed to[261] me for treatment, presenting the most complicated diseases, such as cataract in the eye and cancer. My medicine bag containing only chlorodyne, pills, vaseline, quinine, and the simplest medicines, I treated what cases I could, and sent the worst away with a small present of meat or calico and a few comforting words, which were listened to in dead silence by the crowd of relations.

At the Seyyid’s village I heard that Ugáz Umr, the Malingúr chief, had returned from Harar, after laying complaints against frontier Abyssinians before Rás Makunan. Eight men, who had either deserted from Prince Ruspoli or had been dismissed by him, said that some of their comrades and all the guns had been seized by Ugáz Umr, and were to be sent to Harar. They asked me to interfere; but for political reasons I declined.

On 22nd August, at sunset, we reached Bokhaiyer, another permanent village, occupied by the Rer Amáden tribe. Here I met many old friends, among them Jáma Deria and his sons, who had escorted me to Imé a few months before, and were in this country on a short visit. I was standing about, the centre of a mob of the villagers, when Jáma Deria and six horsemen rode up, covering us with dust, and Jáma shouted that “his Englishman had come.” He took jealous care of me, whipping away the crowd, and never ceased begging till I left next morning.

After several days’ hard marching we reached the Webbe at Sen Morettu, a permanent village of the Gilimiss Somális, standing on the north bank, about six marches south-east of Imé, Karanleh lying half-way between the two villages.

In this journey, owing to the great difficulty in getting reliable guides, we had made a détour to the east, doing fifty-two marches between Berbera and the Webbe, the direct distance being forty short marches. We actually struck the Webbe at Dagah-Yeleh on 25th August, and in the evening I went out and shot my first adult balanka, or waterbuck. Both the bucks I had shot at Imé, under the impression that they belonged to a new species, I now found to be only young ones.

Next day we made one long march westward, by the river banks, to Sen Morettu. The Gilimiss Somális were strong here,[262] and came in numbers to my camp to present their salaams. Late at night they brought for sale the skin of a dól, or Webbe bushbuck. This was the first time I had heard of such a thing as a dól, and I resolved not to leave the Webbe till I had shot one. I got a very large crocodile by moonlight; it was floating with the eyes above the water, only thirty yards from the tent, no doubt waiting for one of the milch goats to come and drink.

This night camp on the banks of the Webbe at Sen Morettu was striking in its scenery, and will ever live in my memory. The Gilimiss who had brought the dól skin had left, and the camp had settled down into slumber, except for one watchful sentry. The moonlight was so bright that everything had a distinctive colour, the sky being of a deep blue, studded with stars in the regions farthest from the moon. I went to the river bank and looked out on the water gliding by, in streaks of silver and dark brown, across the shadows of the tall casuarina-trees,[48] which rose one hundred and twenty yards away on the opposite bank. Several of the trunks had fallen, and lay aslant upon the steep bank of the river. Now and then a gust of wind swept with a peculiar roaring sound through the feathery tree-tops, and ruffled the surface of the water with broad patches of silver as it blew across to our camp. Sometimes monkeys chattered, or squirrels shrieked, disturbed by prowling animals in the dense evergreen bush, bordering the river. Each movement I made was the signal for the splash of one or two crocodiles as they regained the water.

Glancing into the camp, I could see, in the bright moonlight, men and animals lying in different positions, as if they had been suddenly struck down by sleep. Adan’s horse lay by the cook’s fire fast asleep, with his head against a camel-saddle, and on the other side of the glowing embers were Suleiman the cook and three white milch goats, lying close together. The forty-five camels were sitting on their hard nether humps packed close, with tails to the wind, steadily chewing the cud, their eyes flashing with quiet enjoyment; for this is the only time when they are not pestered by flies, and they evidently deem it far too valuable to be thrown away entirely[263] in sleep; though occasionally, for a short spell, the head and neck will be laid stretched out flat along the ground and the eyes closed. All around were lying camel-trunks, water-casks, bags of rice, and mountains of camel-mats, piled in the form of a rough circular wall, enclosing the camels; and taking shelter from the wind between these and the camels were the sleeping men, scattered in twos and threes, with their rifles by their sides. The bright light threw deep black shadows on the short grass; we were in a glade a quarter of a mile wide, bordered by a fringe of tall casuarina-trees. At the edge of the glade, up stream and near the river bank, a deserted village of large beehive huts of brown straw stood out against the gray, indistinct background of the trees. Large logs of driftwood and snags, with half their length out of the water and looking very black, gave one the impression of crocodiles; and certain pairs of gray dots, sometimes disappearing and again reappearing a few yards away, resembling pieces of driftwood, were really the projecting lumps on the heads of crocodiles, which were floating with the eyes just above the water, looking out for prey.

The climate at Sen Morettu was perfect for sleeping out, and I found myself regretting that before two months were over I should have to leave this interesting river, and almost certainly never get a chance of seeing it again.

We marched to Maaruf, a landing-stage exactly opposite to Karanleh, which was on the south side of the river. We passed through numbers of the Gilimiss people, who said they had come to the north bank for fear of the Gállas, who were out raiding. The camels had been late in getting off from Sen Morettu, so I walked on with the two shikáris. We found several of the Gilimiss elders at the landing-stage, and had a long talk about the means of getting across, while sitting under some very large trees which gave a welcome shelter from the midday sun. The Webbe was rather low, the width being only ninety yards. The people occupying the banks were Gilimiss Somális and Adone, or Webbe negroes.

The Gilimiss cultivate on both sides of the river when not in fear of the Arussi (Geríré) Gállas, who live in the hills ten miles away to the south, and often raid along the south bank.[264] The Gálla name for the Webbe is Webbe Sidáma; no one calls it Webbe Shabéleh here. Shabéleh (“the place of leopards”) is merely the name of the district farther down to the south-east, where Mr. F. L. James and his companions first struck the river in 1884. Since that journey no Englishman had visited the Webbe till the previous spring, when my own caravan and that of Colonel Paget reached it simultaneously, as I found on my return to Berbera in June.

I sent one of the Gilimiss into Karanleh to call Hussein-bin-Khalaf and Núr Róbleh, and to present my Arabic letter. The first chief was sick, but Núr Róbleh sent word to say he would come over to see me in the evening. Meanwhile I went to look for bushbuck in the thick belt of forest along the margin of the river.

On first arriving at the landing-stage I had been met by a rival of Núr Róbleh, who undertook to take my caravan across on rafts made of dried tree-trunks. But Núr Róbleh, arriving on the scene while I was away hunting, arrested the other chief and his partisans, and tied them all up at the foot of a tree, placing one of my escort on guard over them with a loaded rifle. However, when I walked into camp, much to Núr Róbleh’s disgust, I set them free.

The Amáden and Gilimiss told me it would take seven days to cross; but before leaving Aden I had bought sixty fathoms of three-inch rope. This we made fast to bollards driven deep into the mud on both sides of the river, and pulling the rope taut we attached two of the native rafts to it by running loops, so that they could be easily hauled backwards and forwards; this was a great improvement on the primitive way of punting and paddling the rafts across the swift current and landing four hundred yards below the shoving-off point By this method, instead of seven days, it took us only one day for the baggage and one day for the animals, all the latter swimming over; the more timid of the camels were bound and towed over by a crowd of swimming men, shouting and splashing to keep off the crocodiles, while I fired a blank cartridge now and then from the bank. I also shot two crocodiles, one a very large one. It lay dead on an island, and four small boys jumped into the river, and swimming to the island, towed the carcase to the bank.[265] The natives are in the habit of swimming their horses and cattle across when moving to better pasture. We saw one negro family, including women, children, mats, cooking pots, and all their effects, moving across on a raft so overloaded that half of them were sitting in six inches of water. Where cows drink, the natives construct brushwood semicircular fences to enclose the shallows and so deter the crocodiles from attacking the animals; yet, despite all precautions, the loss caused by crocodiles is very great.

By the evening of 29th August our camp was properly established on the southern bank, and we were on the Gálla side of the border. At night Núr Róbleh returned to me. I had sent him out to look for Dubbi Harré and Gudan Abatteri, two Arussi Gálla chiefs of great influence, to whom Seyyid Mahomed had written a letter on my behalf. He now came with news of one of these. He had given the letter to Dubbi Harré, who was now staying in a village five miles to the south-east, owned by a rich Somáli named Yahia; and Dubbi Harré had unexpectedly said that his own tribe and all the Gállas had had serious difficulties with the Prince’s caravan which was in front of me, these being the first Europeans they had ever seen, and they wished no more white men to enter their country, adding, if I still wished to see him, I might send soldiers to take him, but he would have gone to Gállaland. He feared to come to camp lest I should have him flogged, for he believed all Europeans were bad, and only invited people to visit them in order to make them prisoners. The first party of Europeans whose acquaintance he had made had said they meant peace, and had made war. Of course I took his statements regarding this caravan to be very one-sided and, because advanced by a native, probably untrue.

Knowing that Prince Ruspoli had pushed through to the far interior of Gállaland with about one hundred and twenty rifles, and that they had lost a great many men in one way and another, I did not hope that my party, consisting of a single white man, with only thirty followers and with limited time, would be able to force its way through the tribes which my predecessors had already passed, should they be hostile to us. Fighting, except in self-defence, was not part of my programme, as I[266] had promised the men at Berbera; I meant, if possible, to enter the country by the invitation of the natives or not at all.

I gave Núr Róbleh some calico and a Koran, telling him to ride quickly to Dubbi Harré and give him the presents, and to assure him that if he would come to my camp he would have safe conduct, and be hospitably entertained, and free to go when he liked. After an interval of twenty-four hours, during which I hunted unsuccessfully for dól, Núr Róbleh returned with better news. He had found Dubbi Harré on the point of leaving for the mountains; but, the presents softening him, the Gálla chief had promised to come to me, though he protested that it would be of no use; he had declared he would never be able to persuade his countrymen that there could be any good in me.

On the morning of 30th August six horsemen came in. There were three Somális, Yahia and two friends, and three Gállas, Dubbi Harré being one of them. Dubbi Harré was a remarkably handsome and pleasant-looking old man, clean shaven, with thin, well-cut features. Taking Dubbi Harré by the hand I led them into the tent, in which had been arranged on the right and left rows of boxes covered with folded blankets; there was also a box for myself against the tent pole, and a mat on the ground for Adan Yusuf, the interpreter. As usual, we began the conference with coffee.

Dubbi Harré said that his country had been peaceable and happy till Europeans had come a few months ago; but that they and the Abyssinians had brought in rifles, and had fought; and now the people were firmly resolved to allow no one into the land who carried firearms or were escorted by men so armed.

I contended that I had come as a friend. He answered, “Yes, the other white men said that too.” Without going into the rights and wrongs of the case, it seemed to me that the caravan which had gone before me had been singularly unfortunate in the impression left behind, and I thought, that being the case, in the limited period of my leave it would be at least very uphill work ingratiating myself. I did my best, however, and Dubbi Harré and I became good friends[267] over our coffee. He said he had seen my men as he came into camp; he liked the look of them; they were well behaved and orderly; they were clean and respectable Mahomedans and few in number, and altogether different from the rabble of Abyssinians, Arabs, and Soudanese whom the other Europeans had brought; and now, having seen us, he believed we wished him no harm. He and his two companions were no longer afraid to be with us—though he had been afraid, very much afraid, at first. I told him that if I had come for war I should have brought more men, and that he, a chief skilled in fighting, had seen there were only thirty, and could judge for himself whether we looked like invaders.

Dubbi Harré spoke quietly, with a pleasant smile on his face. He looked what he was, a fighting chief, of great intelligence. I said, “What will happen if we go to Wéb, in your country?” He said his people would fight; I declared we would hurt no one. He said, “No, but they will hurt you, and I wish to prevent you going. They are looking for a white man to kill, because they are angry with your countrymen the white men, who came first and fought with them. If your countrymen had not come first we should have received you well, but now it is different. I believe you, but the tribes won’t; so take my advice and don’t go. You will find game in the empty country between the Aulihán Somális and the Geríré Gállas; there are elephants and giraffes; you can get Yahia here to arrange your trip. If, however, you persist in wishing to go to the Webbe Wéb, I will go on and tell my people, and will come back, and if I think it safe I will take you there myself.”

Attracted by the prospect of shooting buffaloes and hippopotami, which were to be found at the Wéb, and not in the Aulihán country, I stuck to my idea of going into Gállaland, declaring that I had not come all this way to see Somális. So it was arranged we should go to the Aulihán for eleven days; and then, returning to Karanleh, meet Dubbi Harré, and be taken by him to the Webbe Wéb. This matter having been settled, Dubbi Harré and his friends remained my guests till the cool of the evening, and then rode away with Yahia.


At sunrise, on 31st August, I broke up the Karanleh camp and marched through some five miles of jowári plantations, near the south bank of the river, to Yahia’s village, where I shot a noted man-eating crocodile. These hideous pests swarm here; once I shot a wild goose, which, falling into the stream, was at once seized by a crocodile and drawn under while still struggling. In the evening we made another march to a spot near the river where we had been told to expect a school of hippopotami, and I shot two good waterbuck bulls on the way there. We saw fresh tracks of the hippos in the reeds, and I sat up by moonlight in the jungle overlooking them, hoping to bag one as it came to feed on shore. But at 4 A.M., finding nothing stirring in the reeds, we gave it up and returned to camp by moonlight. The Gilimiss, our guide, said that the hippopotami were scarce and wary, as the Adone negroes, during a recent famine, when nearly all their cattle had died of disease, had killed hippopotami for food, and had greatly reduced their numbers.

The great epidemic of cattle disease which three or four years ago raged in Masailand, and other parts of East Africa was also felt in Ogádén, the cattle and the koodoo antelopes dying of it in large numbers. It was felt as far north as the Marar Prairie.

We made a morning march on 1st September, and another in the evening. While passing over ground blackened by fire, and covered with young grass, I shot a buck Sœmmering’s gazelle and a waterbuck. At dusk, coming to dense forest by the river, I ordered the men to pitch camp at the edge, and entering the jungle unattended, I saw a red object standing motionless near the stem of a large tree twenty yards away. I felt certain it was an antelope, but was unable to make it out in the half light. I put up the rifle and fired, when the animal rushed past me and fell in a ravine close by, rolling over on its side; and on going up to it, I found, to my delight, it was a young buck of the dól, or striped and spotted Webbe bushbuck, which I had been so anxious to get. Going into camp to call up the men, I shot a buck lesser koodoo. As the forest appeared to have plenty of game in it I resolved to halt for a day’s shooting. The camp was in a very pleasant place,[269] at the corner of a patch of forest looking down on the river from the edge of a steep bank.

Next day at dawn I went out and soon came upon a waterbuck. We had been making for a wide glade of fresh grass, and on emerging from the forest we caught sight of him going up a bank two hundred yards away. I fired, and we ran to the spot, but his tracks leading away without any sign of blood, I knew I had missed. He took us through several very thick patches of bush, the game paths sometimes forming tunnels four feet high in the vegetation; and at last, the light appearing ahead, we forced our way through a thicket and found ourselves unexpectedly on the very verge of the Webbe, a few yards from the water’s edge.

Waterbuck swimming

Directly we showed our heads outside the jungle my man Géli pushed me back and pointed out into the centre of the stream, which lay before us, flowing deep and swift, a hundred yards broad; out in the middle appeared the head and horns of the noble waterbuck swimming for the opposite shore. It was too good a prize to lose, so, waiting till he shook the water from his flanks and cantered up the slope of stiff mud, I fired, and striking him behind the withers brought him down; and then another shot finished him. In his struggles he had slipped down the bank to within six feet of the water, and I was in a great fright lest after all his splendid head should go to the crocodiles. We ran the three miles back to camp along[270] the margin of the water, and on reaching it I set all the men to work, cutting down the trunks of dead dry trees to form a raft, and by the afternoon it was ready.

Géli and a Gilimiss guide then poled themselves across the river, and after three hours they returned with the head. I was so anxious to measure it that I shouted to Géli to place the horn against his Snider rifle, while I marked another Snider which my men handed to me, and found that the buck’s horns could not measure much less than twenty-four inches, a large pair for the Webbe, where waterbuck horns are comparatively short. I anxiously watched the men come over with my specimen, and then I carried it to my tent. At night we had several alarms, caused by hyænas and lions, the camels rising suddenly together, running about camp, and stumbling over tent-ropes in the dark. I remained several days hunting waterbuck with great success.

While we were encamped here Adan Yusuf’s horse met with his death in rather a melancholy way. At noon the men were lying under shady trees round camp, sleeping like hogs, and I sat in my tent writing up my journal. The camels were a mile away, browsing under the care of one man, and the horse and Rás Makunan’s mule were hobbled by tying the near fore and near hind leg together, according to Somáli custom. The three milch goats and the horse and mule were allowed to wander about near camp, the man who usually looked after them, thinking I had gone to sleep, having retired to the shade of a tree to do likewise.

About an hour afterwards I heard a loud whinny from the mule, and looking out of the tent I saw her swimming out in the middle of the stream, her head bobbing up and down in the water. She was being carried down fast, so I fired a gun into the air to wake the men, and we all jumped up and ran to the edge of the water. There was a perpendicular scarp just below the site of the camp, where the swift current had undermined the bank, and towards this she was being carried. We ran to the beginning of the steep place, and two of the men, plunging into the river, caught her head as she came on with the current, and bringing her to the bank, after a hard struggle, with all hands helping, we landed her high and dry. Examining[271] the bank, we found several long streaks in the mud showing where the mule, while drinking, had slid in; and then we went to look for Adan’s horse, and a search up and down the river only disclosed similar marks in the mud farther down stream; we never saw the horse again, and no doubt the crocodiles got him. Indeed, hobbled as she was, it was wonderful how the mule kept above water and it was lucky she had the sense to whinny, and so attract attention to her accident.

The Gilimiss guide whom we had taken from Karanleh told me that we should be attacked by the Aulihán if we followed the river down as far as Burka, and represented the Aulihán to be very dangerous people. But I found, upon questioning my own men, that the guide had lately been concerned in the killing of an Aulihán, and that tribe naturally wanted his blood; so, to avoid trouble, I dismissed him and went on without a guide. This was not difficult, because a good native path followed the course of the river, and we were never so far from the bends that we could not bring from them, in our casks, the water for camp use.

On 5th September we arrived at a low precipitous hill called Burka, shooting a bull oryx on the way. We met some of the Aulihán who were watering their flocks, and on 6th September we followed them to their karias, which were some distance inland. The name of this sub-tribe was Rer Afgab, Aulihán. They gave us milk and a display on horseback; and they asked us to go to their country to shoot, stating they would barter cattle in exchange for cloth, and that if I took the cattle afterwards to the Gállas in the Wéb country I would get plenty of ivory.

On 7th September, finding that the giraffe ground was at least four days to the south of Burka, we marched back towards Karanleh, to be ready to meet Dubbi Harré on the day appointed. We made a long march to our old camp at Ellán, where I had lost the horse, and thence we went to Yahia’s village. Dubbi Harré had not yet arrived, so we retraced our steps down the river to shoot for a few days, halting at a place called Shendil. Our camp was pitched on open ground outside a belt of forest some four miles long by one mile deep, fringing the Webbe. On the northern bank, opposite to Shendil, was[272] Sen Morettu, where we had first struck the river a fortnight before. To the south of us lay an even plain gradually rising towards the Gálla mountains, being covered in alternate patches of thick thorn bush and glades of long, coarse, buffalo grass.

The operation of pitching camp was interrupted by a row between two of my men, one of whom had two fingers broken by the descending butt of a Snider rifle, which had been intended for his head. Having held an inquiry, and disarmed and placed the culprits under supervision at opposite ends of the camp, to let them cool down, I went out into the thick bush to the south and had some exciting shooting, getting two very fine waterbuck.

On the 12th I went out shooting on a wide open plain which had been cleared by fire, only the leafless trees with charred stems being left standing above the black ground; young grass, always very attractive to game, had begun to spring up, and here I shot two more waterbuck, both carrying good heads. In the evening, going into the high forest by the river to look for the dól, or bushbuck, to our astonishment we came to some very large bovine tracks, which my guide, a Gilimiss, at once pronounced to be those of wild buffalo. There were two old bulls. We followed them in and out among the glades and thick cover near the margin of the river, and found the marks where they had lain and rolled in the mud during the previous night; but it became dark before we could come up with them. My guide, a Midgán, said that four bull buffaloes had strayed from the Gálla country a few years before, and that his father had shot two of them with poisoned arrows, those which we were hunting being the two survivors; and I am inclined to think these two were perhaps the only specimens on the Webbe, for I had always been told that buffalo did not exist anywhere near Somáliland.

I made a very strong zeríba while we were halted here; for the Aulihán at Burka told me that the Gállas were constantly raiding down to the river, and that while on the southern side we were liable to attack, owing to the strong antipathy to white men which had sprung up in Gállaland. We were reminded of the insecurity of the border by passing the skeletons of two Gállas, who a month before had been[273] promptly killed by the Aulihán “because they looked like robbers.” Their unburied bodies had been cleaned by vultures, and left to lie in the long grass by the side of the path; and whenever, attended by my two hunters, I went out to shoot on the burnt ground west of camp, we passed them; and the grinning skulls made us involuntarily feel along our cartridge belts to see that they were not empty. This condition of insecurity is very uncomfortable, and it is also a great nuisance when one is out shooting, as when hunting dól in the thick bush one cannot hope for success if attended by more than two men, because of the difficulty in moving silently; and three riflemen, miles from camp in thick bush, would make a poor defence against a strong raiding party of Gállas.

I devoted one day to a buffalo hunt, which was more exciting than successful. In the early morning we went into the forest again and came on the fresh tracks of the two buffalo, in the densest bush near the river bank, the whole jungle being composed of evergreens and a network of creepers. It was necessary to stoop and sometimes to crawl on all fours through the tunnels of vegetation; sometimes five or six creepers clinging around arms and legs held me fast, so that it would have been impossible to shoot; I had to go bareheaded because of the tangled vines which constantly swept off my canvas hat; but this did not matter, because the density of the forest afforded protection from the sun’s rays,—indeed there was perpetual twilight inside. Underfoot were the débris of all kinds of timber, almost impossible to climb over without making some noise. The whole jungle smelt of monkeys. They could be seen overhead covering the branches in clusters, their chattering giving notice of our approach as we stole along. There were two kinds: the large dog-faced baboon, different from those found in the mountains of Somáliland chiefly in the absence of the full gray mane; and a small tree monkey, whose scientific name I am ignorant of.

After creeping about noiselessly for the space of two hours with Géli and Hassan, I put up the buffalo at a distance of about twenty yards, but we could only hear the heavy pounding of the earth and cracking of sticks as they galloped off, with continuous crashing through the undergrowth, and the hollow sound[274] of the larger limbs of the trees breaking as they charged ahead. We followed, in the course of the morning putting them up no less than seven times. Once we came to their lair, at a spot in the densest line of thicket close to the river, where four large banyan-trees grew together, their roots and descending branches interlacing to form a labyrinth of caves with upright pillars. The place was nearly dark; it smelt of buffalo and was full of their droppings; one of the exits was a tunnel through the thicket about five feet high. Through this they had escaped, and finding they could not pass under a branch six inches thick, which spread horizontally across this opening at a height of four feet, they had charged it full tilt and broken it short off. Following the buffalo, we put them up again, but they broke back towards the eastern part of the jungle, the original end from which we had first driven them. I had been after them for three hours, and though we had heard their rush close to us many times we had never obtained a glimpse of them. They were dodging about in the thickest parts of the forest and would not face us among the glades.

Central African Buffalo (Bubalis centralis).

At last I decided to go to camp and organise a drive. I[275] assembled all the men, and sending them in at the west end, I sat with the two hunters on an old platform from which the boys were accustomed to scare birds from the crops, at the east end, and waited for the buffalo to be driven past me. The platform was a flimsy structure some six feet high, and commanded a good view of the edge of the woods and the reeds bordering the river, through which I hoped the buffalo would break.

The men from the west end of the jungle were extended to form a semicircle, and they moved towards me, firing guns and shouting. The brutes now got into a patch of the thickest bush, near where we had found their lair in the four trees growing together, so to get them out of this stronghold my men set fire to the jungle. Towards evening, when the fire was at its height, the buffalo at last made up their minds, and instead of coming into the reeds they broke back through the line of men, charging into them in spite of a shower of badly-aimed Snider bullets; and escaping from the forest, they cantered over a mile of open grass plain to the dense thorn bush and high grass on the slope leading up towards the Gálla mountains. Of course by the time I had run through the half mile of covert into the open they had disappeared. They never returned to Shendil while we were encamped there, and I have no doubt they left the country altogether.

At dusk on the evening of the 13th I went out to the burnt plain and got up to a herd of waterbuck, shooting a cow in mistake for the bull, and then wounding the bull. He got away into long grass, and night coming on I lost him. Going to follow him up next morning I first made for the body of the cow. I found that a lion had discovered it early in the night, and, eating his fill, had left the remainder to the hyænas. Following up the tracks of the lion, I found the carcase of the wounded bull, which the lion had followed up and struck down, close to a thicket of thorn bush and high grass. Part of the haunches was consumed, and the lion had apparently gone into the patch of grass to sleep or watch over the meat.

Silently sitting down behind a bush close by with my two hunters, I waited from eight o’clock till noon for the lion to come out. Vultures were perched on all the tops of the thorn-trees,[276] and would occasionally swoop to the ground and walk round at a respectful distance from the meat; but they always took alarm again and flew back to their perches, no doubt fearing the lion would come out. Lions often watch meat in this manner by day. So still did we sit behind our screen of bushes watching the dead waterbuck that a large spotted hyæna came up to within two yards of my face without seeing me! I had to cough, otherwise he would have been right on to me, and there is no knowing what even a hyæna would do when so close. He gave one look, and the hair bristling up along his back he rushed away, coming to a halt eighty yards off to look back. Then he cantered through the jungle and I lost sight of him.

Finding the lion did not come out of the grass, we searched it through and through, and discovered that he must have heard us coming when we first found the carcase in the morning, and retired before us. So we gave it up and returned to camp. We had scarcely left the spot twenty yards behind us on our way home, when two Adone women, one of them young, plump, and almost pretty, came up and asked us for meat. We pointed to the carcase of the waterbuck, which had been partly eaten by the lion, and although it had lain under a tropical sun all the morning, they at once set to work to cut off the meat which was left, to take home for their own dinner.

The Dair, or rainy season, now coming on, the river began to rise rapidly. It was long past the time agreed upon for meeting the Gálla chief Dubbi Harré at Karanleh, and Yahia now sent me word that the Gállas had looted several animals from the Karanleh people, and fighting between the Somális and Gállas had broken out, all communication with Gállaland being thus interrupted. Finding that I had not enough leave left to go into Gállaland unless Dubbi Harré came down to Karanleh to help me, I decided to march as quickly as possible through Ogádén and the Habr Gerhajis country to the coast, four hundred miles distant.

On the 15th I went to the burnt plain and shot a very fine lesser koodoo buck, and in the evening, while marching to Yahia’s, I bagged two more waterbuck.


The next day we arrived at the ford at Karanleh, called Maaruf, where we had first crossed the river. The stream was now in flood, the bollards which we had driven into the mud had been carried away, and it took all the evening to stretch the rope across. I had not a fathom of rope to spare, and I feared that unless we could cross next day we might be kept a week or two on the southern bank through the further rising of the river. We, however, crossed with great difficulty on the following day. During the passage a freshet came down, drowning one camel and overturning a raft, with a good deal of valuable kit and a Snider rifle, several documents, amongst which were several maps, going down in thirty feet of water. The loss I felt most was that of my botanical collection. Although my men spent the whole evening diving for the things they were never recovered. I did not care to halt on the northern bank and order another day’s diving, because of the danger from crocodiles. The men had done their best, but in the strong current the efforts of even my Aden Somális, who are superb divers, were in vain.

On the following day we journeyed down the river along the northern or Somáli bank, and made two marches to the neighbourhood of Sen Morettu, halting just opposite the forest at Shendil, where I had unsuccessfully hunted buffalo a few days before. I sent men across on an Adone raft which I had caused to be towed down from Karanleh, but they returned and reported that the buffalo had not come back from the hills. On the short march to Sen Morettu I shot a very fine waterbuck and a Sœmmering’s gazelle, and the next day I shot a waterbuck and a lesser koodoo. I was anxious to get a good specimen of the dól, with a view to having it scientifically identified, so we had all the pitfalls in the neighbouring forest repaired by the Adone; but none of the bushbucks fell in while I was at Sen Morettu.

On the 21st I organised a beat for dól. I saw nothing, but one of the men in the line of beaters, Hadji Adan, shot a fine buck with his Snider. He was in company with a doe, which broke back through the line, hopping over one of the men, hitting his forehead with her hoofs, and so knocking him down! She succeeded in making good her escape, as the[278] other men were too astonished to fire. At sunset I shot another good waterbuck.

I now marched for the coast. The return journey was over ground most of which I have previously described. We passed through several Somáli tribes, all of which were of course friendly. On the way the natives told me that the Abyssinians had received a great defeat from the Danakil tribes near Obok, and that my Abyssinian friend Basha-Basha had been killed; also that war had broken out between the Abyssinians and the Suákin dervishes. But I was unable to verify either of these reports.

During three days I made six marches, covering sixty miles, in a course running almost due north. The only game I saw on these marches was a wart-hog, which appeared staring me in the face at a distance of ten feet, as I was moving through long grass at dawn. The rising sun was shining in his eyes, and I knocked him over stone dead by a shot in the chest before he had time to realise the situation. He had a beautiful pair of tusks, long, thick, and white.

On the morning of the 26th I heard that near a karia ahead of us a man had been lately attacked by a man-eating lion and was not expected to live. I made a short march to the karia and halted for the noon camp close by. At the request of the relations of the sick man, while camp was being pitched, I walked over to the karia with my hunters, carrying a bucket full of carbolic lotion, a quart of carbolic oil, iodoform, lint and bandages, and a syringe. We came to a hut, outside which was a crowd of people; and looking in I saw, lying on the bare ground, the body of a man without any clothing on. He was smeared over the head and body with dust and blood, and had seven or eight deep fang wounds in the small of the back and low down in his left side near the bowel. All these wounds were uncared for, and on closer inspection I found them to be swarming with white maggots! I asked permission to have him carried outside the hut, where it was lighter; but his relations at first objected, saying in his hearing that he was sure to die, it would only give him unnecessary pain, and it was the will of Allah that he should die. The man, however, after some persuasion consented, and as gently as we could we lifted him from the[279] floor of the hut, where he had been lying for the last thirty hours, and laid him on a camel-mat outside.

Having obtained permission to try my best with the medicines I had brought, I first got his wife to wash him all over, the other relations looking on at every movement of the white man with great interest; I don’t think they cared much about the sick man. When he had been washed he looked more cheerful, and turning him over I made a careful examination of the wounds. There were eight deep holes in the small of the back, dangerously near the spine, where the lion had taken him up and dropped him two or three times; and there were a couple of wounds deep in the left side, which had not, fortunately, penetrated the bowel. I told the man that there was no reason, with luck, why he should not recover, and he became quite cheerful, and gave me permission to probe the wounds. His uncle now appeared with a piece of stick having a shred of tobe twisted round it, and with this rough instrument we probed all the wounds, and I syringed them out carefully with carbolic lotion. The bystanders never ceased wondering at the performance of the glass syringe. The wounded man, like a true Somáli, never even murmured during this treatment. At last I was able to let him sit up, clean and almost smiling, all the holes in his body neatly plugged with pieces of lint soaked in carbolic oil; I gave his relations medicine for twenty days’ use, and a new tobe for bandaging, as well as a lecture on further treatment. They never ceased begging for the syringe, but I could not spare that, as we were going through lion country and might want it.

The story of the occurrence, which the natives then told me, was interesting. This man, with twenty other men and boys, had been asleep, two nights before, in a camel karia a few miles away. The camel karias are merely thorn fences round the camels, and there are no huts, the men sleeping on the inside of the fence in the open air. At about five in the morning, just before dawn, a lion sprang into the zeríba and seized this man, his companions making off, and the camels stampeding into the darkness. The man’s own account of what occurred then follows. He struck at the lion frantically with his hands, and the brute let him go, retiring to a little[280] distance to watch him. The lion came on again, taking him up a second time and carrying him a few yards to the edge of the fence. Again the man struck out at the lion and he let go. A third time he took him up, and again the man, who was nearly exhausted, drove him off; and the lion, either frightened away by the dawn of day or impressed at the spirit shown by his victim, sneaked off. The man remembered no more till his friends returned some time afterwards, expecting to find only a few bones; and they carried him to the home karia and threw him into a hut to die, the thought of giving him food or washing the blood and dust from him not occurring to them; and there he had lain for thirty hours. To this day I have never heard whether or not he recovered, but having seen instances of wonderful recoveries among Somális, I am inclined to think he had a very good chance, that is, provided his relations used the carbolic lotion and did not steal the white tobe directly my back was turned.

On the evening of the same day I made another short march, and arrived at a place where a leopard had just killed a goat while the flocks were returning from pasture to a karia. We hastily constructed a shelter, and I sat two yards from one of my own goats, which I had tied up as a bait, with the wind blowing in my face, and the two hunters at my side with spare rifles. There was a faint moon, and at about nine o’clock a leopard charged the goat and killed it. I sat quietly till the hubbub had subsided, and then, as the leopard lay on the goat sucking its blood, with its back to me and its tail twitching close to my feet, I fired for the centre of its back, and it rolled over stone dead, with its four paws in the air, beside its victim. We raised a cheer, and all the men coming from camp, we carried it to the door of my tent and skinned it by the light of torches.

Next morning, as I had had good sport with the leopard, before marching I gave the women at the karias a large present of beads. Directly they knew that I had given the beads to Adan Yusuf to be distributed, they all rushed at him like tigresses, and in a fright he dropped the beads and fled. The women fought and wrangled till we had loaded and marched away. Several of the old men came to me and said that now I[281] had given the beads the women would be quarrelling with each other for days, and would neglect the cattle, and require to be well beaten before things settled down again. As we marched off through the bush I shot a prowling hyæna.

On the 28th, while I was marching ahead of the caravan with the two hunters, I saw a herd of seven Waller’s gazelles and began stalking them. While we were still two hundred yards away, three leopards charged into the middle of the herd and killed a young doe before our eyes, scattering the others in every direction. We ran up to where the leopards were squatting over the carcase, in the middle of a broad open glade, but while we were still some distance away they saw us and all three made off at a canter. I think they were ordinary leopards, and not the long-legged, pale-skinned hunting leopard (the chítah of India). I fired at one of them and missed, and then we sat by the side of the dead Walleri till the caravan came up, hoping to see the brutes, but they never returned.

The following day we arrived at a deep well called Garbo. As we approached this well we saw vultures swooping towards two or three dead trees which overtopped the jungle, and searching about we found the bodies of a leopard and seven spotted hyænas, which had been poisoned during the night by a Midgán. He had drawn up water from the deep well and exposed it for the night in a shallow wooden bowl,[49] mixed with poison which he had concocted from various herbs. The success of his manœuvre was evident. The leopard had been half eaten by the hyænas, but I preserved the skull.

The natives whom we found encamped near here were very suspicious and surly, as they had had some disagreement with Prince Ruspoli’s caravan which had passed through before me. As we marched in the afternoon I left Hadji Adan with four men, and three camels loaded with water-casks, to follow us with a good supply of water. We had only gone a mile when we heard several shots fired in quick succession, and all running back to the wells, we found my men in sole possession. The natives had refused to allow them to take any water, and my[282] men, instead of returning and complaining to me as they should have done, thinking to have a bit of fun, had fired a few shots over the heads of the crowd, sending them flying, with a worse impression of European caravans than they had before. I was naturally very angry and disgusted with Hadji Adan, who looked sheepish when I told him, in choice language, what I thought of him. On this march I fired three shots with my Lee-Metford rifle at a beautiful oryx bull which was galloping away. When he was already three hundred yards distant my third shot brought him down, and we camped by the body to take full advantage of the supply of meat.

Next day we made two hard marches to Daba-Jérissa, where I remained on 1st October, shooting a fine lesser koodoo buck. The people at Daba-Jérissa asked me to give judgment, in my capacity of Englishman, as to the amount of blood-money to be paid by another tribe for the murder of one of their number; but I said I would only arbitrate if both parties would appeal to me as a disinterested stranger, and that I could not undertake to act for the British Government, especially so far from Berbera.[50]

On 2nd October we made two long marches to the wells at Sassamani, where guinea-fowl swarmed in tens of thousands, blackening the river-bed as they came to drink in the evenings; and I had good sport here with the gun. On the way I attacked a herd of Sœmmering’s gazelles with the Lee-Metford, and dropped four bucks with six shots, at ranges between two hundred and fifty and three hundred yards. I gave most of the meat to some people whom we found at the wells, instead of a present of cloth which they asked me for.

On 5th October we arrived at the Gagáb wells at Milmil. Here I arranged a division of the caravan into two parts, sending one portion to Berbera by the shortest route, so that the men might be paid off and the camels sold; and I kept the[283] other portion to accompany me in a leisurely journey to the coast by way of the Eidegalla Haud, where I hoped to get some lions. We left Milmil on the 6th of October and marched to a Rer Ali karia, and on the following day we made two marches to a large water-pan at Awáré. As no rain had fallen for months in this locality till quite recently, the pan was dry, but a deep well sunk through its bed contained plenty of water. The pan at Awáré is an isolated depression far out on the Haud Plateau, which contains rain-water for several weeks at a time. It is three marches to the north of Milmil, the last Ogádén watering-place on the southern edge of the Haud; and when the pan, or the well which the natives sink through its bed, contains water, the flocks and camels of the Rer Ali and Rer Harún are brought to Awáré to take advantage of the rich Haud pastures, which have better fattening qualities than those of Milmil. While passing through the Rer Ali grazing camels, of which there were many hundreds, on our way to the pan, we were all much amused by watching my hunter Geli, who was walking in front with my spare rifle over his shoulder. Before he joined me he had often, with the rest of his tribe, who were the Eidegalla, made looting excursions on horseback to this part of the Haud. As he walked on, looking at the fat humps of the camels to right and left, he wore an angelic smile on his face, and sang softly, “Hilib badan ai-y-ee ee” (Lots of meat, plenty of meat!) When he turned round and saw the whole caravan laughing at him he stopped and looked sheepish.

Geli was a capital fellow, and my men used to tell a story about him which he never contradicted. It appears that when only sixteen years old he was out looking after goats with his mother and sisters. A lion bolted off with one of the flock, and Geli, with the women, began idly to track him up, to see if he had gone far; because, if the lion was not far off, it might be worth while to call up the men from the karia to follow him. Geli went on ahead, and found the lion asleep under a bush, having eaten the goat. Geli decided to go and tell the tribe, but as he was turning away he thought he would just throw his spear, it looked so easy! He aimed at the lion’s ribs, hurled his spear, and then ran for his karia as hard as he[284] could go; and coming back to look with twenty men on horseback, he found the lion dead.

The Haud in this locality is one mass of unbroken thorn forest, sometimes light and open, sometimes very dense, with high durr grass. Round the Awáré pan the forest is composed of very fine gudá thorn-trees, which grow for about fifteen feet without branches, and then shoot up and outwards in a fan-shape to a height of from thirty to forty feet The bark is black, and the foliage is made up of small star-shaped leaves, massed together and very green. It is the most picturesque tree in the Haud forest, and nothing can be prettier than the Awáré pan when the margin of open, flat meadow-land is covered with a carpet of fresh turf, and the trees are in foliage. On arriving at Awáré we pitched camp under a large gudá tree at the north-west corner of the pan, and I made my bed on the flat top of another on the eastern side, and tied up a donkey below. Lions roared in the forest a mile or two away, but did not come near the camp.

Next morning, without waiting for coffee, I got down from the tree and made straight for where we had heard the lions. About three miles from our tree we came on the fresh tracks of a large lion and lioness, and followed them. The bush was rather open, and the lioness must have been doing sentry and have seen us,[51] for we could hear her roaring in the jungle some distance ahead of us as she roused her mate; and running on in the direction of the noise, we were just in time to see a very large black-maned lion bound out of a thicket and make off, followed by a lioness. The grass was rather long, only showing their heads, and owing to intervening thorn-trees and the distance, I could not get a chance to shoot. We tracked these lions until a heavy shower of rain came on and lost us the tracks in the afternoon. I was hungry and suffering from a galled foot, and we were twice drenched with rain before we got home.

I lay at night on the top of the gudá tree near camp, but did not get a shot. A lion roared several times, early in the night, in the distance, but a shower of rain coming on before[285] dawn, the people whom I sent out from camp failed to find his tracks.

On the 9th we moved the camp to a karia a few miles to the north-west, where lions were reported to be common. I sat all night in the top of a tree over a heifer tethered below, to no purpose. Next morning we came upon tracks of two lionesses and three cubs; but we only found them at 8 A.M., and the enormous flocks and herds of the Rer Ali had wandered about the jungle in every direction, and almost entirely obliterated the signs, so we gave it up; and we moved camp back to the former site at the Awáré pan. In the evening news of lions came from two opposite directions, south-west and north-east. I sent several horsemen out to verify the first, and I sent Hassan five miles to the south-east to the carcase of a camel which had been struck down by the lions, and ordered him to sit in a tree all night, and keep hyænas from the carcase by throwing stones at it. He had seen a lioness bound away as he came up to the spot at sunset, and sitting in a galól tree waiting for the brute’s return, he spent a most miserable night, for it rained heavily, and became so dark that a mob of hyænas dragged away the meat in spite of his stoning. In the morning, because of this rain, Hassan failed to find any tracks; so he returned to my camp, aching all over, for a rotten and twisted galól tree covered with large black ants is not a comfortable perch on a cold night. The horsemen whom I sent to the south-west reported the lion news to be a hoax of the karia people there, concocted in the hope of obtaining bakshísh.[52] During the day I received a visit from some Rer Ali headmen and minstrels, who serenaded me on foot while I was trying to get a little sleep at noon.

On the 12th I sent out horsemen to collect news of lions from the karias, and to make wide circles in the jungle in quest of tracks; they found those of a family of lionesses and part-grown lions, there being seven in all; so at night we tied up a donkey three miles from camp. I was prevented from sitting up over the bait by very heavy rain coming on towards evening, so I remained in camp. Next morning we found the donkey killed by lions and eaten. Coming up in the half light of early[286] dawn, and stooping under the bushes, I saw several hyænas, and among them a lioness, stealing away. The range was nearly two hundred yards, but I fired and missed. I followed at best pace, and after twenty minutes’ tracking I saw her head for a moment looking over a tuft of grass, as she crouched thirty yards away, but she bounded off before I had time to look over the sight. I fired a shot after her into the grass, which must have missed. We again tied up a donkey in the same place, and sat up over it. But at about ten o’clock the dry galól, upon the flat top of which we had placed my bed, gave way, breaking off at the fork of the stem, and dropping us, with guns, water-bottles, and lantern, a distance of twelve feet, to the ground! It was very dark and a heavy thunder-storm was coming up, so we lit the lantern and trudged home through the bush. We left the donkey tied up, and coming next morning to take him away, we found he had been untouched by lions, and several cowardly hyænas had prowled round him all night afraid to tackle him; so that, except in his feelings, he was unhurt.

On the morning of the 14th, having heard a lion roar not far from camp at midnight, I sent out horsemen, and at 9 A.M. they reported tracks of two lionesses. Almost simultaneously came news that a goat had been killed by a lion at a karia about five miles away. The men said it must have been a large lion by the tracks and by the sound of his roar as he had bounded away, quite unlike the voice of a lioness. So I walked there with my two hunters, arriving soon after ten o’clock, and taking the owner of the goat as my guide, I made straight for the karia where the kill had occurred. The two horsemen who had brought the news followed me, leading their horses, in red and blue khaili tobes; but I dropped these men at the karia as being too conspicuous and likely to attract the lion’s attention.

We then followed the pugs of the lion from the zeríba, the parallel lines in the red soil showing where he had dragged his victim along. The trail was difficult to follow, as the ground had been overrun by sheep during the morning. At last we came to a very small boy in charge of a flock of sheep, and he told us there were no more domestic animals farther on, and that the lion had gone into a dark jungle of khansa and durr grass. We entered the jungle, and as we rounded a[287] khansa thicket my hunter Liban said, “There he is!” and I saw his great shock head and shoulders come from out of a black overhanging khansa bush twenty-five yards away, which had been his lair, and in which we subsequently found the body of the goat. I had only time to see his huge head and mane come indistinctly through the foliage, when he bounded away to my left, across a space of two yards of open, into a patch of durr grass six feet high. I followed him with the sight of the rifle on his shoulder as he disappeared, and the trigger being rather heavy I did not actually get it off till he was well inside the grass. The rifle went off, and a loud roar followed as he galloped on, showing that he had been hit. The roar died away at once into a suppressed growl, then all was silence.

Now came the work of following him up. Making a circuit to the right we examined the expanse of grass and jungle into which he had sprung; it was very thick and extensive, stretching to the right and left for several hundred yards, so there was nothing for it but to follow him through it. We first fired a Snider at the place where we had last heard him, at the same time throwing sticks and shouting; and then, foot by foot, we took up his path, which was bathed in blood, straight through the high grass. From the very hurried nature of my shot I did not hope to have disabled him, although the rifle I had been shooting with was a heavy eight-bore Paradox. After going another half dozen yards, as we came to a mimósa, Liban said, “He is lying dead beyond that khansa bush.” Peeping through and seeing a mass of yellow, I saw that Liban was right. Skirting round, we found a noble, yellow-maned lion, the finest I had seen, in perfect condition and in the prime of life. My natives called my attention to the peculiar position in which he was lying, under the farther side of the mimósa. He had bounded away from his lair, getting my eight-bore bullet obliquely in behind the left lung, and out at the point of the right shoulder. He had roared and bounded on with this wound, and after going fifteen yards had taken the mimósa in one spring, falling dead in his tracks. We measured the bush over which he had sprung, and found it was eighteen feet broad and eight feet high, and absence of marks on the surrounding sand showed that he could not possibly have gone[288] round. My theory is that the wound took full effect just as he made this supreme effort, landing him practically lifeless. The skin, when taken off, measured 10 feet 11 inches from nose to tip of tail when spread without stretching or pegging out. As I knelt looking at his head, surrounded by the men, women, and children who had flocked from the karias, I only wished for an European companion to help me admire him!

In the evening I made another platform in a gudá tree three miles to the south of camp. From my tent to about a mile south of it there was gravel. I found that lions, in passing camp to go to prospect some karias to the south-west of us, avoided the gravel, no doubt because it was uncomfortable for their feet, and invariably walked over the fine red clay a little farther to the south. Hence the choice of my new hiding-place. I spread my bed on the flat top of the tree, fourteen feet from the ground. It was like a spring mattress, gently waving before a cool breeze; and we slept beautifully most of the night, hung up in the air, with a brilliant canopy of stars above us and the mysterious sea of bush around us, with lions roaring frequently during the night. Next morning I was taken off on a “wild-goose chase” to a karia six miles distant to the north, where a lioness had taken a small goat in sight of the karia people; but the sheep and camels had since been driven over the tracks and we lost her, having to abandon, besides, the search for the tracks of the lion which had roared near my machán the night before.

I remained in camp on the 15th to let the skin of the large lion dry, and again slept in the machán three miles to the south of camp. The lions roared again; for there were a pair of them, the voice of the lioness being easily distinguishable from that of her mate. They never came to the donkey, and a heavy thunder-storm drenching us and our bedding, we lit a lantern[289] and threaded our way to camp, leading the donkey, through the darkness. Sending out horsemen next morning, the tracks of the pair could not be found anywhere, so it was decided that their roars must either have been uttered from an immense distance, or that they must have been devils! But I think that, owing to the wet weather, their voices appeared to be very much nearer than they really were.


A Snap Shot

“As he bounded away to my left.”


My leave now being at an end, we marched for Adadleh, over a waterless tract of Haud ninety miles in extent. We covered this distance in nine marches, or four and a half days, the whole of the country passed over having been one continuous sea of dense bush, dotted over with red ant-hills, some of the spires being twenty-five feet high. We arrived at Berbera on the 31st of October 1893, and I crossed to Aden next day on the way to England.



The Lion (Felis leo)

Native name, Libah

Lion-shooting involves long halts of several days among the Somáli karias, with crowds of natives continually standing round camp, the dust from the countless camels and sheep filling the air and covering the bushes. Under these circumstances it may well be understood that other game is scarce, and that sitting unoccupied in camp waiting for news of a lion is not always interesting. Frequently the news which is brought in of lions having visited karias two or three miles away, taking a sheep or a heifer, or a young camel, as the case may be, is very unreliable. Yet the hunter must be ready to start on the instant, and after a tramp lasting from five to ten hours, he will return as often as not to his tent tired out, the victim of a silly hoax concocted for the purpose of wheedling bakshísh out of him.

Every few days one of these trips will probably end in a real find, and then grand excitement will be felt in creeping among the tunnels made by the dark khansa bushes, looking for the crouching enemy, which may spring up from any distance and from any direction; and there is an additional danger in[293] three or four men being huddled together with rifles on full cock in such jungle.

As I have been nearly always travelling incessantly and generally on duty, I have seldom had time to wait among the Somáli karias for news of lions, and when I have been on leave, and time has permitted, I have generally preferred to camp among the mountains and look for large koodoo, amid fine scenery and away from the noise and dust of inhabited country. This, to my mind, is by far the most fascinating sport to be had in Somáliland. I have, however, had many shots at lions when marching, and have brought home the trophies of four. To make a good bag of lions, it is necessary to devote a trip exclusively to lion-shooting, but to my mind the bright moments of intense excitement do not come often enough to compensate for the long monotonous days in camp.

Lions are still numerous in Somáliland, chiefly in unexplored parts of the Haud and Ogádén. It is probable that many of the Haud lions never drink except when they can find pools of rain-water. They may be encountered at all times of the year at distances up to fifty miles or more from the nearest water. The Midgáns go after them a good deal, and bring their skins to Berbera and Aden for sale, but they are seldom good skins, very often being riddled with spear holes inflicted wantonly after death. When a lion has committed so many depredations among the karias that the men living in them are roused to the point of banding together to kill him, Somális and Midgáns, according to their own account, go after him on horseback till they bring him to a standstill in the open. Then they bait him by galloping round at full speed and shouting. The lion turns this way and that, trying to face them as they whirl round; and getting confused with the shouting and dust, he falls a prey to the arrows of the Midgáns, who mount and ride away to a safe distance with the other Somális, and wait for his death. Sometimes one of the horsemen is knocked over: an angry lion, unless too done up to make good his charge, being easily able to catch a bad or a tired pony.

The movements of the native encampments seem chiefly to influence the changes of quarters of the lions, the latter following the karias as they move to fresh pastures. When a family,[294] with its flocks and herds and its karias, moves, its attendant lions, if there should be any, accompany it, being sometimes man-eaters and more often cattle-eaters. Last June my own caravan, while returning to the coast from Ogádén, was followed during two days, over a distance of forty miles, by a pair of hungry lions. We discovered this by chance, when some scouts of mine happened to go back along the road.

A few years ago there used to be plenty of lions in Guban, in the reeds bordering the Issutugan river, and about Kabri-Bahr, and along the foot of Gólis Range. Now the best country for them is decidedly the Haud Plateau and Ogádén, where there are still a good many. Milmil is sometimes a good place; also the base of Bur Dab Mountain, and the Waredad Plain, where there are patches of durr grass an acre or two in extent, with a few shady thorn-trees growing within them. They make their lair in the high grass under the shade of a tree, and as the grass patches are surrounded by bare red soil or sand, the pugs are easily found, and the brutes can be driven out into the open and shot. Lions living in the Haud, where it is elevated five thousand to six thousand feet, have better coats and manes than those found in Guban or in Ogádén, and the best skins I have seen have come from the elevated ban or open prairie. All the animals of the elevated country have thicker coats than those of the corresponding varieties found in the low country, this being necessary, no doubt, as a protection against the cold.

The Elephant (Elephas africanus)

Native name, Maródi

The Somáli elephant has within the last five years been much persecuted by sportsmen, and I am afraid that if this destruction goes on, in the near future there will be none left in Northern Somáliland, for they have entirely left their old haunts. In 1884, when Egypt evacuated Somáliland, elephants were plentiful on Wagar and Gólis, coming down to the southern edge of the Maritime mountains. Driven in December by the cold from the high interior, they wandered down the sand-rivers, feeding on the armo creepers and aloes.

Since Sir Richard Burton’s expedition thirty-nine years[295] ago, few, if any, Europeans entered Somáliland until 1884, when two officers from Aden visited Gólis in search of elephants almost simultaneously with Mr. F. L. James’s expedition to the Webbe. From this time the disappearance of the elephant has been very rapid, and nearly all the herds have retired to the mountainous country in which the Tug Fáfan takes its rise; but a few herds still come down annually into the Gadabursi country. In 1884 elephants were shot at Dalaat and Digwein, places near Mandeira in the interior plain north of Gólis; and since that year I have never heard of them anywhere in this plain. In 1887 I had to ascend to Wagar before finding any, and since then they have retired from Wagar and Gólis altogether, and are never now by any chance, I believe, found east of Hargeisa, unless we except herds which wander eastward into the far interior of Ogádén from the western valleys of the Harar Highlands.

The cause of elephants having been driven away to such an extent is that sportsmen have not been satisfied with the death of a bull or two here and there, but have slaughtered large numbers of cows. In the first enthusiasm of elephant-shooting it is conceivable that a sportsman may shoot two or three cows as well as bulls, as I have done; but there is no reason, except the temptation afforded by very exciting sport, why large numbers of elephants of both sexes should be destroyed in Somáliland. They do no harm to the few plots of cultivation scattered at wide intervals, and very few Somális will eat their flesh. Though the elephants themselves are of the average size, this mountain ivory is probably as small as any to be found in Africa, sixty pounds being a very good pair of tusks, though greater weights have of course been recorded in exceptional cases.

I believe the question of the desirability of training and using the African elephants for transport is one which will become more important every year as Africa is opened up. Provided something could be done to stop the wholesale slaughter of elephants by English sportsmen, there is still a probability that the whole of our Somáli Protectorate would become restocked, for in the chaos of rugged gorges which descend abruptly from the Harar Highlands into Ogádén there are still plenty. I do not think that a moderate amount of elephant-shooting, properly regulated, does much harm, but the[296] herds are certain to leave places where they have been hunted about without respite season after season, and where large numbers have been slaughtered.

In the Gólis Range there are many of the old elephant paths still existing, but the bones are very seldom found; and the Somális have a theory to account for this. In 1886 I went to Digwein, where an officer had shot a large bull elephant two years before, and I was shown the exact spot where it had been killed; and rummaging among the bushes we found the jaw-bones, with the heavy grinders still embedded in them. The Somális said this was all that was left of it, because the Esa Músa cattle and the koodoo antelopes had eaten all the soft parts of the bones.

The Black Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros bicornis)

Native name, Wiyil

Somáli Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros bicornis).

For many years the black rhinoceros has been known to exist in the interior of Somáliland; and going farther in every[297] year, I have constantly been expecting to come into its ground.

The first Somáli rhinoceroses were shot by my brother and myself in our Abyssinian border trip in August 1892, and since then only a few have been bagged by Europeans. They come far north of the range of the zebras, sometimes wandering as far towards the coast as the open grass plains of Toyo, a hundred miles south of Berbera, where they hide in the patches of durr grass. They are common in the southern parts of the Haud; I never found any signs of them during many expeditions in the Habr Awal, Esa, and Gadabursi countries. They are most common in the valleys of the Tug Jerer and Tug Fáfan, and thence southward as far as the Webbe; and they are also plentiful beyond the Webbe in Gállaland. Rhinoceroses are said to exist to the south-east of Berbera, but in our trip to the Dolbahanta country we never saw any traces of them.

We found these to be the most stupid game animals we have encountered, and easily approached if the wind was right. They were not very prone to charge, and in their blind, headlong rush seemed to see nothing, so that by stepping to one side and standing perfectly still a man would probably be safe. The transparent and thorny nature of the billeil bush, which is always their last sanctuary, renders a man rather helpless, and if seen and charged, and unable to find elbow-room owing to the walls of impenetrable thorns, he would probably be killed. Rhinoceros-shooting is very exciting, but it is chiefly the fearful nature of the jungle which makes it so. I have never seen more than three of these brutes together. The ground they usually prefer is a network of very stony, broken hills, covered with galól or billeil jungle, and having some river-bed not too many miles distant, where they can go at night to drink and bathe. They travel considerable distances to the river, and wander all night up and down the channel looking for a convenient pool, and making a maze of tracks in the soft sand. The Abbasgúl, Malingúr, and Rer Amáden tribes eat their flesh when hungry, and I found it very good, and once lived for a week on very little else.

We could usually cut from fifteen to thirty fighting shields from each rhinoceros, three-quarters of an inch thick and from[298] fifteen to eighteen inches in diameter, worth about a dollar apiece at the coast. Everywhere in Central Ogádén the caravan tracks are furrowed in grooves a yard or more long and six inches deep, which look like the work of a plough. This is done by the rhinoceros as he walks along.

A good pair of bull’s horns measures nineteen inches for the front and five inches for the back one.

Antelopes[53]—The Oryx (Oryx beisa)

Native name, Beit

The oryx is a very stoutly-built, bovine antelope, standing as high as a donkey, and inhabits open, stony ground, or barren hills, or open grass plains. It is fairly common and very widely distributed over the Somáli country, and it may be found in all kinds of country except the thick jungle with aloe undergrowth which is so much liked by the lesser koodoo, and the cedar forests on the higher ranges. The best oryx ground is in the Haud and in Ogádén.

The Oryx (Oryx beisa).

Length of horns, 34½ inches.

The oryx feeds chiefly on grass, and is often found very far from water. It has keen sight, and probably protects itself more by this than by its sense of hearing or scent. Oryx are found in herds of from half a dozen to thirty or forty, chiefly composed of cows. The only antelopes which go in very large herds in Northern Somáliland are the hartebeest and Sœmmering’s gazelle. Bull oryx are found wandering singly all over the country, and possibly these[299] make up in number for the preponderance of cows in the herds.

Sometimes two or three cows with growing calves will be found together, making up a small herd of half a dozen. It is nearly impossible to distinguish which are the bulls in a herd, and they are so few in proportion to the cows that it is best, if shooting for sport alone, not to fire at herd animals at all. The bull is slightly thicker in the neck and higher in the withers than the cow; and the horns, though an inch or two shorter in the bull, are more massive, especially about the base, and more symmetrical, whilst the cow’s horns are frequently bent and of unequal length. The oryx is often revengeful when wounded and brought to bay; twice I have seen a wounded one make a determined charge into a mob of Somális armed with spears.

The Midgáns, who are armed with bows and poisoned arrows, hunt the oryx with packs of savage yellow pariah dogs; the thick skin round the withers of a bull is made by them into a white gáshan or fighting shield. The method of hunting, as carried out by the Midgáns in the Bulhár Plain, is as follows: Three or four of them, with about fifteen dogs, go out just before dawn, and walk along silently through the scattered thorn-trees till fresh tracks are found, and these are followed till the game is sighted. By throwing stones, whistling, and other signs which the dogs understand, they are shown the herd, and settle down to their work. The dogs run mute, the men following at a crouching trot, which in a Somáli is untiring; and this lasts until the dogs open in chorus, having brought the game to bay. The oryx make repeated charges at the dogs, which they often wound or kill. If the latter can avoid the sharp horns of the mother, they fasten on to a calf, and sometimes the whole herd will charge to the rescue. The Midgáns run up silently under cover of the bushes and let off a flight of poisoned arrows into the herd, which, seeing the human enemy, takes to flight. Frequently an animal wounded by a poisoned arrow takes a line of its own, and is in due time carefully followed up and found dead, or it may be pulled down in its weak state by the dogs.

It was many years ago, while wandering with my hunter, Ali Hirsi, in the Bulhár Plain, that I first saw the trophies of a[300] bull oryx, and at once resolved that I would hunt nothing else till I had brought down a specimen of this beautiful antelope. As we were walking through a thick part of the bush we suddenly came upon a group of four Midgáns engaged in lighting a fire under a large gudá thorn-tree. Resting against the trunk was the head of a freshly-killed oryx bull, with a grand pair of horns, starting in continuation with the forehead and sweeping back in a slight curve to a length of thirty-four inches. On the branches strips of oryx meat were hanging, and on the ground lay the rest of the carcase and the skin, which a man was cleaning with a knife, where it lay in a pool of frothy blood. Round the tree nine pariah dogs lay about; they were gnawing offal, and got up lazily, as I approached, to show their teeth and growl at me, till kicked into silence by one of the Midgáns. The group was a very striking one, and although I have since, while feeding my followers in the interior, shot large numbers of oryx, none have appeared to me so fine as this first one which I had not the good fortune to shoot. I haggled with the Midgáns for the head and got it for two dollars, and also engaged them with their dogs to come hunting with me on the first day on which I should be able to get away from Bulhár.

At midnight, a week later, I rode out on a camel, accompanied by Ali Hirsi, the four Midgáns, and nine dogs. We slept for a few hours at a Midgán karia out on the plain, and at dawn struck due south into the heart of the bush. As it became hot, after having seen nothing but Walleri and small gazelles all the morning, we sat down to rest, sending a boy, one of the Midgáns, up a thorn-tree to watch. The dogs lay round us panting, with their tongues hanging out, and all the men were soon asleep under the shade, except my Midgán sentry, who was softly intoning his Mahomedan prayers as he sat perched on the tree. Suddenly he stopped them with a jerk, slipped down the trunk of the tree, and came running to me snapping his fingers. We all got up, and the Midgáns, by whistling and throwing pebbles, put the dogs on to the broad path of a large herd of oryx. Off we went, and after running for five minutes as fast as our legs could carry us, the dogs being well out of sight, we heard a clamour in the distance;[301] and crouching low as we ran, came into a glade where we found the herd bunched together round a thicket, keeping the dogs back, the oryx charging repeatedly and the dogs dodging nimbly, trying to cut out the young calves. Directly the oryx caught sight of us they scattered like a bursting shell. I ran hard to cut off some of them, jumping over low mimósas and stepping on large thorns, and the Midgáns sent a flight of poisoned arrows whizzing past me at the flying herd. The Midgáns, I knew, wanted meat, so I dropped a large cow with the .500 Express as she galloped past at forty yards, rolling her over in her tracks. The Midgáns rushing up, breathed a short prayer, slashed her throat open, and then stood clear from the quivering body, while all the dogs fastened on to a calf, which was soon lying beside the cow with its head cut off; and after half an hour spent in lighting a fire and roasting some oryx meat, we loaded up the rest and made for Bulhár.

I have had several trips with these Bulhár Midgáns in search of oryx. Their camping arrangements are very primitive, and many a time have I helped them to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together. Special wood had to be chosen, and it generally took us from ten to twenty minutes to get a light.

The skin on the withers of a bull oryx is much thicker than the rest of the skin, being about three-quarters of an inch thick. The average length of horns in a good bull is thirty-two inches, in a cow thirty-four inches. Young oryx, when caught and confined in an enclosure, will sometimes show their stubborn, wild nature by charging the bars, head down, and so killing themselves; a case of this kind once occurred in Berbera. The flesh of a calf oryx is, in my opinion, more delicious than that of any other antelope, and lions are particularly fond of it. These calves, when young, are very like those of English cattle in appearance, but smaller, with stumpy, straight horns a few inches long. They give out a peculiar half-bleat, half-bellow, when attacked by dogs or wounded. We fell in with young calves about the middle of August in two successive years. Oryx sometimes strike sideways with their horns as we use a stick. When very angry they lower them till nearly parallel with the ground, and make a dash forward for a few yards with surprising swiftness. Oryx are often seen in[302] company with hartebeests and Plateau gazelles. Once I saw a small herd with some of these latter, and with the mixed herd were two ostriches.

The Koodoo (Strepsiceros Koodoo)

Native name, Gódir or Goriáleh Gódir (male); Adér-yu (female); Adér-yu (collective name for herd animals of both sexes and all ages)

Koodoos are found in mountainous or very broken ground where there is plenty of bush and good grass and water. The best koodoo grounds in Somáliland are Gólis Range and the Gadabursi Hills. The large koodoos scarcely exist in the parts of Ogádén which I have visited. Either they never existed there, or, as my followers declared, they died of the great epidemic of cattle disease four or five years ago. Ogádén Somális constantly offer to show koodoo to a sportsman, but they appear to mean the lesser koodoo; and this they call Gódir, knowing apparently of only the one kind. The Ishák tribes, on the other hand, have names for both.

Sometimes a solitary old bull will make his midday lair close to water, in some quiet part of the hills. They are very retiring, and live in small families, two bulls and seven cows being the largest number I have noticed together. They prefer the steepest mountains, but wander about at night in search of grass in broken ground in the neighbouring plains. An old male with a heavy pair of horns seems to avoid thick jungle, where they may catch in the branches, and likes to spend the heat of the day under the shadow of some great rock on the mountain side, where he can get a good view around. His eyes, nose, and ears appear to be equally on the alert, and he is often very cunning. Although such a heavy animal, he is a good climber and is hard to stalk, but, once successfully approached, the steep nature of the ground generally yields him up an easy victim to the rifle. The alarm-note of the female koodoo is a loud, startling bark, which echoes far into the surrounding hills, and is similar to that of the Indian sambar hind.[54] The bark is accompanied by an impatient pawing of the ground with the hoofs.


The habits of the greater and lesser koodoo exactly correspond respectively to those of the sambar and spotted deer of Southern India. Great koodoos live in the mountains, and lesser koodoos on the bush-covered slopes at their base. Koodoos are generally timid, but care must be taken when coming suddenly on them, as I once saw an unwounded bull make a very determined charge from some thirty yards’ distance at a solitary man who had been sent to stop the mouth of a gorge. The man jumped to one side and threw his spear, grazing the flank of the beast, which then galloped out into the plain below and escaped. I had a good view of this, and there could be no doubt as to the intention of the beast.

The koodoo is the largest of all the Somáli antelopes, a large bull standing about 13 hands 1 inch, and although an active climber, he is not fast on level ground. A fairly good pair of horns in Somáliland will measure 3 feet from base to tip, and 50 inches round the spiral of each horn. The largest I have ever seen measured 56 inches round the spiral. The koodoo is rare except in the mountains, and is found on the highest ground of Northern Somáliland, inhabiting the top of Wagar Mountain and Gólis Range, which rise to about six thousand eight hundred feet. It has lately become scarce even in these parts. The head is a great prize, and a good pair of horns should be ample reward for a fortnight’s climbing in the hills.

The Lesser Koodoo (Strepsiceros imberbis)

Native name, Gódir or Arreh Gódir (male); Adér-yu (female); Adér-yu (collective)

This is, to my mind, quite the most beautiful of all the Somáli antelopes, and the skin is more brilliantly marked and the body more gracefully shaped than that of the greater koodoo. The lesser koodoo is rather smaller than the oryx.

The lesser koodoo is found in thick jungles of the larger kind of thorn-tree, especially where there is an undergrowth of the hig or slender pointed aloe, which is of a light green colour, and grows from four to six feet high. This antelope may also be found hiding in dense thickets of tamarisk in the river-beds. It is not found in the open grass plains, and I have never[304] seen one in the cedar forests on the top of Gólis. Its favourite haunt used to be along the foot of this range, and I do not think its numbers have been much diminished of late years. By far the best lesser koodoo ground I have ever visited is the thick forest on the Webbe banks, near Imé and Karanleh. These Webbe specimens are different to the ones found under Gólis, as they are smaller, have shorter horns, are still more brilliantly marked, and have hoofs nearly twice as long. The hoofs of a Webbe lesser koodoo are, like those of a Webbe bushbuck, of extraordinary length.

Lesser Koodoo

Length of horns straight, 27½ inches.

The lesser koodoo likes to be near water, and living as it does among the densest thickets, its ears are wonderfully well developed. It has powerful hind-quarters, and is a strong leaper, the white bushy tail flashing over the aloe clumps as it takes them in great bounds. They are very cunning, and will stand quite still on the farther side of a thicket listening to the advancing trackers, then a slight rustle is heard as they gallop away. The best way to get a specimen is to follow the fresh tracks of a buck, the sportsman advancing in a direction parallel with that of the tracker, but some fifty yards to one flank and in advance; a snap shot may then be got as the koodoo bounds out of the farther side of a thicket, but you may be months in the country before getting a really good buck. They go in herds of about the same number as do the greater koodoos. Old bucks are nearly black, and the horns become smooth by rubbing against trees; and scars of all sorts remain on the neck, being the result of wild rushes through the jungle or fights with other bucks. The average length of a good buck’s horns is about 25 inches from base to tip. The longest I have shot or seen was between 27 and 28 inches in length in a straight line. The horns are very sharp, but I have never seen a lesser koodoo attempt to charge.


The Somáli Hartebeest (Bubalis swaynei)

Native name, Síg

The Síg or hartebeest was described by Dr. Sclater as Bubalis swaynei; his description and notes (P. Z. S., Feb. 1892) were taken from specimens shot and sent home by me. I was not the first to shoot the Síg, but mine were the first specimens submitted to scientific investigation.

The Somáli Hartebeest (Bubalis swaynei).

Length of horns on curve, 20¼ inches.

South of Gólis Range, and at a distance of about one hundred and twenty miles from the coast, are open plains from four to six thousand feet above sea-level, alternating with broken ground covered with thorn jungle. These patches of ban or prairie are the only kind of country where the hartebeest is to be found.[306] Not a bush is to be seen, and some of these plains are thirty or forty miles in extent.

I first saw the Síg when coming on to ground which had not then been visited by Europeans, and found one of these plains covered with hartebeests, there being perhaps a dozen herds in sight at one time, each containing three or four hundred of these antelopes. Hundreds of bulls were scattered singly on the outskirts and in spaces between the herds, grazing, fighting, or lying down. The scene described was at a distance of over a hundred and twenty miles from Berbera.

The hartebeest bulls are very pugnacious, and two or three couples may be fighting round the same herd at once. Perhaps the easiest way to get a specimen is to send a couple of Midgáns round above the wind to drive them towards you, at the same time lying down in the grass. In this way a shot may be got within a hundred yards, but no one would care to shoot very many hartebeests, except for food. There is no chance of creeping up to hartebeests unless the huge ant-hills, often twenty-five feet high, are conveniently situated.

Often oryx and Sœmmering’s gazelles are seen in company with these great troops of hartebeests, but the oryx are much wilder. The hartebeests are rather tame, and they and the Sœmmering’s gazelles are always the last to move away. Hartebeests have great curiosity, and will frequently rush round a caravan, halting now and then within two hundred yards to gaze. This sight is an extraordinary one, all the antelopes having heavy and powerful fore-quarters, while the hind-quarters are poor and fall away; the coat is glossy like that of a well-groomed horse. In the midday haze of the plains they look something like troops of lions, as the powerful head and neck are of a different shade of chestnut to the rest of the body. The pace of the hartebeest is an ungraceful, lumbering canter, but it is probably the fleetest and most enduring of the Somáli antelopes. The largest herd I have seen must have contained a thousand individuals, packed closely together, and looking like a regiment of cavalry, the whole plain round being dotted with single bulls.

From their living so much in the open plains the hartebeests[307] must subsist entirely on grass, for there is nothing else to eat; and they must be able to exist for several days without water. They are the favourite food of lions, and once, when out with my brother, I found a troop of three lions sitting out on the open plains, ten miles from the nearest bush; they had evidently been out all night among the herds, and on their becoming gorged, the rising sun had found them disinclined to move.

The hartebeest is about as large as a donkey. The horns vary greatly in shape and size; there are the short massive horns and the long pointed ones, and all the variations between. Some curve forward, with the points thrown back; others curve outwards in the same plane with the forehead, the points turning inward. I never heard of hartebeests in the whole of Guban or anywhere in the parts of Ogádén which I have visited; I have seen them on open plains in the Haud and Ogo, and nowhere else.

Waterbuck (Cobus ellipsiprymnus)

Native name, Balanka, among the Adone (Webbe negroes); corrupted to Balango by the Somális

I believe there are no waterbuck to be found in Somáliland except on the banks of the Webbe Shabéleh, and perhaps the Lower Nogal, near the east coast. There are none on the Tug Fáfan, at any of the points where I have crossed it. They are said to be numerous all along the Webbe Ganána (Juba), the course of which lies chiefly through Gállaland.

The first important collections of the waterbuck were, I think, made by Colonel Arthur Paget and myself on two independent but simultaneous expeditions to the Webbe last spring. I found these antelopes very plentiful all along both banks of the river, from Imé down to Burka in the Aulihán tribe, which was as far as I followed the stream. They lie up in the dense forest which clothes both banks of the river for some two hundred yards from the water’s edge; and they go out to feed in the open grass flats outside the belts of forest. They go in small herds of about fifteen individuals, though most of the herds I saw consisted of only four or five, with one old buck.


The habits of the Somáli waterbuck are, I believe, similar to those of the same species in other parts of Africa. They feed chiefly on grass, delight in a mud-bath, and take to the water readily; a wounded buck which I was following in thick forest tried to escape by swimming the Webbe, some ninety yards across, and we shot him as he galloped along the farther bank. The bucks on the Webbe vary much in colour, from brownish gray to nearly black. The white lunate marking over the tail is always present; some heads have the forehead bright rufous brown, and others are nearly black in this part. The flesh is eaten by the negroes of the Webbe, but not by Somális. The horns obtained on the Webbe are small compared to waterbuck horns from more southern Africa; out of some fifteen heads of old bucks collected by me at different times none reached twenty-five inches. The females are hornless. The waterbuck is about the size of a red-deer, and resembles the latter in the shape of the head, though the body stands on shorter and stouter legs.

Bushbuck (Tragelaphus decula)

Native name, Dól

The bushbuck is somewhat larger than a fallow deer, and is common in the dense forest on the Webbe banks; and it is the most wary and difficult to shoot of all the game animals I have ever encountered. I never heard of its existence till my second expedition to the Webbe last autumn. At Karanleh I obtained from the natives several skins and horns of Dól which had been caught by means of disguised pits, with a stake in the bottom of each. These pits are made by the Adone, and are funnel-shaped, about eight feet deep and five in diameter at the top. They are dug in the densest jungle, in the paths most frequented by the bushbuck when going to and returning from the water. Some of these paths are long tunnels three feet high, bored through the masses of vegetation for fifty yards or more, and often I could only get to the river by creeping on all-fours through these tunnels; this may be exciting work when it is considered that many kinds of game, including the lion and rhinoceros, use them.


Bushbuck or Decula Antelope (Tragelaphus decula).

Length of horns, 16 inches.

On my arrival at Karanleh I sent skilled negroes to repair all the pits within a mile or two of my camp, in the hope of getting a specimen. During a month spent on the Webbe banks I shot only one young buck, but I organised three or four drives, in one of which my men shot a buck with their Sniders. On this occasion the buck was in company with one female, which broke back through the line in spite of the firing, and in rather a curious manner, which I have before described. The only way of crossing the line was to jump over the head of one of my men who was standing erect, which she did, her hoofs striking the centre of his forehead and knocking him down. This is probably, as elsewhere in Africa, a plucky little[310] antelope, and its hunting in the dense bush which it inhabits is not altogether free from danger.

The longest horns were a pair which I picked up, measuring about seventeen inches in length. The females are hornless. The young of both sexes are of a distinct reddish brown, getting darker as they grow older, and the natives say the old bucks become nearly black. The hair is generally curiously worn off along the spine. The natives have given me conflicting theories, but I cannot satisfactorily account for it. There are four or five transverse white stripes and white spots, sometimes as many as thirty, on each side, more numerous in the young animals. The necks are scantily covered with short hair, and in the two young bucks we killed were very slender. The flesh is good eating. I am not aware that the bushbuck exists anywhere in Somáliland but in the dense forest close to the banks of the Webbe.

Clarke’s Gazelle (Ammodorcas clarkei)

Native name, Dibatag or Diptag

The Dibatag was first shot by Mr. T. W. H. Clarke in 1891 during his exploring trip to the Dolbahanta and Marehán countries, far to the south-east of Berbera. Just a week after his specimens had been sent to England, I bought in Berbera two pairs of horns with the face skins attached, and sent them to Dr. Sclater, of the Zoological Society, believing them to belong to a new antelope; but by this time Mr. Clarke’s specimens had been examined by Mr. Rowland Ward and handed to Mr. Oldfield Thomas, who described this new species. See Proceedings, Zoological Society, March 1891.

The Dibatag is common enough in some parts, but is very local in its distribution. Since Mr. Clarke first discovered it, a few have been met with and shot by sportsmen in the eastern parts of the Haud waterless plateau.

I have been singularly unfortunate with this antelope, never having been in the country where it is found till I went to the Nogal Valley some three years ago. At that time the Jilal, or dry season, was at its height, and all game was scarce[311] and shy, so I never got a Dibatag till June 1893, when on my return journey from Ogádén across the waterless plateau I made a détour of several days to the east on purpose to shoot one for my collection.

I searched for Dibatag at Tur, a jungle due south of Toyo grass plains, the distance being some eighty miles from Berbera, and was lucky in getting one good buck and picking up two pairs of horns, although I saw a good many, but all were wild and shy. This is their extreme western limit, and they never by any chance, I believe, come so far south as the Gólis Range. Farther east, towards Bur’o, they are more plentiful and less shy.

Clarke’s Gazelle (Ammodorcas clarkei).

Length of horns on curve, 9¾ inches.

Dibatag are very difficult to see, their purplish gray colour matching with the high durr grass in the glades where they are found. The glossy coat, shining, reflects the surrounding colours, making it sometimes almost invisible; and at the best of times its slender body is hard to make out. I have often mistaken female Waller’s gazelles for Dibatag, and once shot one of the former in mistake for the latter. The habits and gait are much the same, save that the Dibatag trots off with head held up, and the long tail held erect over the back nearly meeting the head, while Waller’s gazelle trots away with its head down and its short tail screwed round. Like Waller’s gazelle, the Dibatag goes singly or in pairs, or small families up to half a dozen.

As is the case with Waller’s gazelle, the Dibatag is enabled[312] by its long neck and rather long upper lip to reach down branches of the mimósa bushes from a considerable height. The shape of head and way of feeding of both antelopes are giraffe-like, and I have seen both standing on the hind legs, fore-feet planted against the trunk of a tree, when feeding, an illustration of which is given. I have seen Dibatag feeding both on thorn-bushes and on the durr grass. Both Walleri and Clarke’s antelopes can live far from water. The country most suitable for Dibatag is jungle of the khansa or umbrella mimósa, alternating with glades of durr grass, which grows about six feet high. The females are hornless. The Dibatag is a very graceful antelope, standing higher than an Indian blackbuck, but weighing probably a good deal less.

A Dibatag Buck

Waller’s Gazelle (Lithocranius walleri)

Native name, Gerenúk

The Gerenúk is the commonest and most widely distributed of the Somáli antelopes except the little Sakáro, which springs like a hare from every thicket.

The long neck of the Gerenúk, large giraffe-like eyes, and long muzzle, are peculiar to it and the Dibatag (Ammodorcas clarkei). The Gerenúk is more of a browser of bushes than a grass-feeder, and I have twice shot it in the[313] act of standing on the hind legs, neck extended, and fore-feet against the trunk of a tree, reaching down the tender shoots, which could not be got in any other way. Thus not only the appearance, but the habits of the Gerenúk are giraffe-like. The skull extends far back behind the ears like that of a camel.

Waller’s Gazelle (Lithocranius walleri).

Length of horns on curve, 15⅜ inches.

It is found all over the Somáli country in small families, never in large herds, and generally in scattered bush, ravines,[314] and rocky ground. I think it subsists almost entirely on bushes, as it is constantly found in places deserted by oryx and all other antelopes because there was no grass. Perhaps the Gadabursi country is the best ground, but the Gerenúk is almost ubiquitous and need not be specially looked for. I have never seen it in the cedar forests which crown Gólis, nor in the treeless plains which occur in the Haud. It is not necessarily found near water,—in fact, generally on stony ground with a sprinkling of thorn jungle.

The gait of this antelope is peculiar, and when first seen a buck will generally be standing motionless, head well up, looking at the intruder and trusting to its invisibility. Then the head dives under the bushes, and the animal goes off at a long crouching trot, stopping now and again behind some bush to gaze. It seldom gallops, and its pace is never very fast. In the whole shape of the head and neck, with its extended muzzle and slender lower jaw, there is a marked resemblance between the Gerenúk and the Dibatag. The texture of the coat is much alike in both. The horns of immature buck Gerenúk have almost exactly the same shape as those of the Dibatag. The average length of Waller’s gazelle horns is about thirteen inches. The females are hornless; they sometimes lose or desert their young ones, as I have now and then come on fawns living alone in the jungle. The Gerenúk stands a good deal higher than an Indian blackbuck, but would be about the same weight.

Sœmmering’s Gazelle (Gazella sœmmeringi)

Native name, Aoul

Five years ago, when I was staying in the quarters at Bulhár, the Aoul could be seen from the bungalow grazing out on the plain. The Bulhár Maritime Plain used to be full of them, but they have been so persecuted by sportsmen that they have now retired to some distance. The bush in the Bulhár Plain is delightful for sport when not overrun by the Somáli flocks and herds. In the Haga, or summer, Bulhár is nearly empty. The walking under-foot is very thorny, owing to a practice in[315] vogue with Somális of scattering thorny brushwood about the ground across certain paths, to prevent the straying of the animals. Some of the thorns are four inches long, and soon find out a hole in the boot.

The Aoul weighs about the same as the Gerenúk, but has a shorter neck and a more clumsy-looking head, and is altogether a coarser animal. It is a grass-feeder, and lives in the open plains or in scattered bush, and never in thick jungle, and prefers tolerably flat ground. The white hind-quarters can be seen from a great distance, making a herd look like a flock of sheep in the haze of the plains. I have never seen them in the cedar forests on the top of Gólis, but in the hartebeest ground to the south they are common, and may often be seen in very large herds along with the hartebeests, and are very common all over the Haud and Ogádén and near the Webbe.

They are, I think, the most stupid and easy to shoot of all the Somáli antelopes, and their habits are identical with those of the Indian blackbuck, but they are not equal to it in beauty and grace of movement. Aoul often make long and high jumps when going away, presumably to look over the backs of the others; they look something like specimens of the Cape springbuck which I have seen in England. I have never observed them spring vertically to a great height, as the Indian blackbuck does. They are inquisitive like the hartebeests, and will follow a caravan in the open; and if fired at, they make off across the front, stretching themselves out at racing speed, and drawing up in a troop now and then to gaze.

If much meat is required, it is easy in scattered bush for a man on foot to run into a large herd and shoot several. The bucks will often be seen fighting or chasing each other at full speed. Solitary bucks are sometimes found, and I once saw about fifteen young fawns gathered together a mile away from the adult herd. The largest herd I have ever seen in the Bulhár Plain contained about two hundred individuals, but I have seen over a thousand together in the open plains of the Haud.

Aoul can live a long way from water. Near the coast they often come down close to the shore, possibly to lick the salt pebbles. A wounded buck does not hide, but will lie down in[316] the most open spot he can find, and there will generally be a circle of jackals waiting round him. They can sometimes be easily shot at dusk, when they are apt to blunder close to a caravan. The horns vary in shape, and are often malformed or wanting in symmetry, being generally lyrate, the points turning inwards and forwards. The largest pair I have seen measured seventeen inches, following the curve; the average is about fourteen inches.

The Guban or Lowland Gazelle (Gazella pelzelni).

The Ogo or Plateau Gazelle (Gazella spekei).

Native name for either variety, Déro

The Plateau gazelle, which has the ridges of loose skin over the nose well developed, inhabits the elevated country, commencing about thirty-five miles inland. It is found south of Gólis, in Ogo and in the Haud, as well as in Ogo-Gudan, the country near Hargeisa where Guban rises gradually into Ogo.

I have shot large numbers of gazelles for food at various times, and have always noticed that the Plateau variety has a much thicker and longer coat than the other. This is possibly the result of natural selection, as the high plains of Ogo and the Haud, where it lives, are subject to sweeping cold winds, and the nights are very cold indeed. The altitude of these plains inhabited by the Plateau gazelle is from three thousand to over six thousand feet, but doubtless they go much lower towards Ogádén. The great step of Gólis, with its prolongations east and west, which rises some forty miles inland and separates Guban, the low coast country, from Ogo, the high interior country, forms the natural line of demarcation between these two gazelles.

The short-coated, light-coloured Lowland gazelle, which resembles the former in size, is found below in Guban, to the north of Gólis. I have generally observed that the gazelles of the low country carried rather longer horns than those of the Plateau gazelle, which are shorter, thicker, more curved, and better annulated. The habits of both are alike. They go in moderate herds[317] of from three up to about ten, and are fond of stony or sandy undulating ground and ravines, thinly dotted over with mimósas. Both varieties are fond of salt, and do not want water, and it is hard to understand what they can pick up to eat in the wretched ground frequented by them. They generally avoid thick bush, and have curiosity which amounts to impudence, but are wonderfully on the alert and hard to shoot, seeming to know perfectly well the range of a rifle, and presenting a small target.

Pelzeln’s Gazelle

(Gazella pelzelni).

Length of horns on curve, 12¼ inches.

♀ Pelzeln’s Gazelle (Gazella pelzelni).

Average length of horns on curve about 7 to 8 inches.

The Klipspringer (Oreotragus saltator)

Somáli name, Alakud

These small antelopes live in the most rugged mountains, poising themselves on large boulders and leaping from rock to rock. They are neither shy nor hard to shoot. Gólis and[318] Assa Ranges, and the hills near Gebili, are the best ground in which to look for them. Alakud go in twos and threes. The longest horns I saw in Somáliland were about three and a half inches in length. The females are hornless. The coat is very coarse, resembling that of no other Somáli antelope, the hairs being almost like quills, and so loosely planted in the skin that it is difficult to preserve a specimen. The hoofs are also peculiar, being nearly cylindrical, and cup-shaped underneath, no doubt in order, by cushioning the air, to break the fall and to give an extra firm hold on the rocks.

Klipspringer (Oreotragus saltator).

Length of horns, 3¼ inches.

The “Dik-Dik” Antelopes

General native name, Sakáro

These little antelopes weigh less than an English hare, and I think Guyu must be among the smallest of the antelope tribe. In all three the horns are well corrugated at the base, sharply pointed, and from one inch to three inches long. The eyes are enormously large in proportion to the size of the head.


The Gol Ass (i.e. “red belly”) is the ordinary “Dik-Dik,” which is shot all over Guban and Ogo and in parts of the Haud and Ogádén. The Guyu differs from it in being very much smaller, and having the sides of the belly yellowish gray instead of reddish yellow. It appears to be found in the localities frequented by the Gol Ass. In fact both have been shot indiscriminately by sportsmen under the name “Dik-Dik,” which is the term used by Europeans, who often noticed the great variation in the size of adult specimens. My attention was first called to the two native names only at the end of my last expedition, which led to the discovery that they represented distinct varieties.

Madoqua phillipsi. Madoqua swaynei.

“Dik-Dik” Antelopes.

Length of horns, 2½ inches.

I came on Gussuli for the first time about a day’s journey south of Seyyid Mahomed’s village in the Malingúr tribe, and found it to exist all over the Rer Amáden country. Its range coincides nearly with that of the rhinoceros, and it is found, like the latter animal, in parts of the Haud, where its ground overlaps with the range of the Gol Ass. The Gussuli is if anything slightly larger than the Gol Ass, and of a dead gray colour, with a white belly. The female appears to be much larger than the male; and it is a pretty safe rule, when trying to shoot the buck of a pair, to aim at the smaller one.

The Gol Ass and Guyu have short muzzles, while that of the Gussuli is very long, resembling the snout of a tapir. The two former antelopes are found in pairs, seldom more than three being seen together. They give a shrill alarm whistle,[320] uttered two or three times in quick succession, and are often a nuisance, being apt to disturb more valuable game. The Gussuli start up three or four at a time, and sometimes the undergrowth seems to be alive with them. These small antelopes are very easily knocked over with a shot gun and No. 4 shot. They give good sport in the evening, when they are liveliest, especially if followed silently and fired at with a rook rifle, for they give plenty of chances when they stand to look back. The female exposes herself most, and is consequently most often shot.

Dik-Dik and Aloes

Gol Ass (Madoqua phillipsi).

All Sakáro prefer broken ground, where there is good cover of low scrub or aloes, and they are never seen in open grass plains. They lie close like hares, and when disturbed dart out with successive hops, at a great pace. I have often seen about eighty Sakáro in the course of a day’s march. They nibble the young shoots of the low khansa and other bushes; and like to be near water, going to drink at midday and just after nightfall.

Every traveller going to Somáliland has brought back specimens of the little Sakáro antelope, called by Europeans[321] indiscriminately the “Dik-Dik,” but I had noticed that the Somális recognised three kinds—the Guyu, Gol Ass, and Gussuli. After my second Webbe trip I collected specimens which, with those already collected by Mr. Lort Phillips and other sportsmen, enabled Mr. Oldfield Thomas to ascertain that all three were new; and they were then described by him (P. Z. S. April 1894), and called respectively Madoqua swaynei, Madoqua phillipsi, and Madoqua guentheri.

The “Baira” Antelope (Oreotragus megalotis)

Native name, Baira

The Baira antelope, which my brother and I believed to be new, was described by Herr Menges (Zool. Anz. xvii. 1894), and called Oreotragus megalotis. Specimens had been submitted by me to Mr. Oldfield Thomas, and he had pronounced it to be new a few days before Herr Menges brought his specimens forward in Germany for the purposes of description.

I first heard of it near Ali-Maan, in the Gadabursi country, among very rugged hills, in the autumn of 1891, when my brother saw two of them, but failed to get a shot. He described them as reddish antelopes, rather larger than the klipspringer, with small straight horns, bounding away among the rocks in exactly the same manner as the klipspringer.

On my last trip the Somális assured me that I should find them on Wagar Mountain and on Negegr, which is its eastern continuation, lying about forty miles south-south-east of Berbera, and rising to between six and seven thousand feet. They said it was nearly as large as an ordinary Plateau gazelle, but reddish; also that it inhabited ground similar to the klipspringer, but was shy and difficult to shoot. This no doubt accounts for no Englishman having shot one, though my brother heard of them so far back as 1891. I could not shoot one, as I had no time to go again to Wagar myself. On leaving the coast on my last trip I sent men in to look for Baira, offering a reward for a good head and skin of a male and female, and gave instructions to my agents in Berbera and Aden to pay the reward and to send me the specimens. Lately I received the[322] two skins and pairs of horns from Aden, and when I submitted them for scientific investigation in London, it transpired that the antelope was new and had just been described.

Grévy’s Zebra (Equus grévyi)

Somáli name, Fer’o

Grévy’s zebra was, I believe, described by the French from a zoological garden specimen, but first shot in Somáliland by Colonel Paget and myself on our simultaneous expeditions early in 1893. I found them at Durhi, in Central Ogádén, between the Tug Fáfan and the Webbe, and about three hundred miles inland from Berbera, and shot seven specimens, all of which were eaten by myself and my thirty followers; in fact, for many days we had no other food, although this was no hardship, for the meat is better than that of most of the antelopes, and is highly prized by the Rer Amáden and Malingúr tribes.

The zebra was very common in the territory of these two tribes. The country there is covered with scattered bush over its entire surface, and is stony and much broken up by ravines; the general elevation is about two thousand five hundred feet above sea-level. Those which I saw (probably not more than two hundred in all) were met with in small droves of about half a dozen, on low plateaux covered with scattered thorn bush and glades of durr grass, the soil being powdery, and red in colour, with an occasional outcrop of rocks. In this sort of country they are very easy to stalk, and I should never have fired at them for sport alone. I saw none in the open flats of the Webbe Valley, and they never come nearly so far north as the open grass plains of the Haud, Durhi south of the Fáfan being, I think, their northern limit. The young have longer coats and the stripes are rather lighter brown, turning later on to a deep chocolate, which is nearly black in adult animals.

On one occasion, after firing at one of a drove of zebras, I was sorry to find, on going up to it, that it was a female, and that its foal was standing by the body, refusing to run away, though the rest had all gone. We crept up to within ten yards[323] of it, and made an unsuccessful attempt to noose it with a rope weighted by bullets, but it made off after the first try. We must have been quite five minutes standing within ten yards of it in the thick bush, while preparing the noose.

Zebras are very inquisitive; when we were encamped for some days at Eil-Fúd, in the Rer Amáden country, the zebras used to come at night and bray and stamp round our camp, and were answered by my Abyssinian mule. The sounds made by the two animals are somewhat similar.

Wild Ass (Equus nubianus somálicus)

Native name, Gumburi

The wild ass is common in sterile parts of Guban, especially to the east of Berbera. In Ogádén its place is taken by the zebra. It is a fine animal and has striped legs. It can scarcely be considered as fair game to the sportsman.

Leopards (Shabél) are very abundant in Somáliland, and are the great scourge of the shepherds. They spring into karias at night without the slightest fear, and nearly all the losses among sheep and goats are caused either by leopards or hyænas. On Gólis Range, round Mandeira, they are especially common, and it is not an unusual thing to hear them coughing by day from the shelter of some cave high up among the mountains. The sound is most like that of a saw being drawn to and fro through a plank, only much deeper, and can be heard at a great distance. Leopards are so stealthy that they are seldom seen by day. The best way to kill one is to wait about among the tribes near the foot of the mountains, and having found a karia that is particularly favoured by them, to construct a shelter and tie up a goat, preferably a half-grown one which will bleat; if the leopard charges the goat, it is best to wait till he is quietly lying over the victim drinking its blood, offering a certain shot. Another way is to find out the cave where the leopard lives, and to tie up a goat just before dusk and sit over it for half an hour.

Leopards are found in all kinds of ground, and not necessarily in hilly country. I have had them spring into my camp more than a dozen times, and once one which could not get[324] over our high zeríba in any other way, ran along the branch of a tree under which our camp had been pitched, and dropped perpendicularly down among us, close to the goats; luckily he was driven off in time by the sentry. Many goats have been killed inside my camp by leopards.

Wart-hog (Phacochœrus æthiopicus). Native name, Dófar.

Outside width in a straight line across tusks, 12¼ inches.

Wart-hogs (Phacochœrus æthiopicus) called Dófar by the Somális, are common, especially along the base of Gólis. Most of the ground which they inhabit is not suitable for hard riding, so when they have exceptionally fine tusks they are shot. The Somáli, being a good Mussulman, will neither touch a dead wart-hog nor the knife which has been used in cutting off the head; and if tempted by a fine pair of tusks to kill a wart-hog, the traveller must be ready to tackle this job himself. It is tough work skinning the head, and it is annoying to have to hang the tin box or bucket, in which the skull has been packed, daily on a camel, to say nothing of preserving the head and cleaning the skull. I have always done this work myself with as pleasant a face as possible, in spite of strong looks of disapproval from the natives; and the few curious wart-hog skulls which I have[325] brought home well repaid me for my labour. It is worth knowing that a Midgán or a starving Somáli may sometimes be bribed to do this unclean work, provided no one is looking on and the matter is kept a secret.

Ostriches (Goreiyu) are occasionally seen in level plains all over the country, especially where the bush is not very thick. They are only numerous in the open prairies. They are terribly shy, and the best rifle to take in hand on seeing an ostrich is the Lee-Metford. As a rule they are seen running along at a great pace at a distance of between eight hundred yards and a mile away, having seen the human beings first. Or they stand perfectly still, with their bodies under cover and their small heads looking over the top of a bush if there is one to be found. In all our journeys my brother and I only succeeded in shooting one cock ostrich each.

Speke’s Gazelle ♂ (Gazella spekei).

Length of horns on curve, 11¾ inches.

In 1891, on the plain south of the Miríya Pass, my brother and I witnessed an instance of the manner in which Midgáns hunt the ostrich. We saw an ostrich and its half-grown chick walking over the bare plain, followed by an unladen camel, behind which were stalking the Midgáns. They said that they had been after the birds since the morning of the day before, and having already killed the female, hoped to get the male bird then or on the following day, and if successful they would catch and rear up the young one. Ostriches are said to be often shot by following them on horseback, the riders being placed in relays along the probable line of flight. They are kept moving by day to prevent their feeding, for they cannot see to move or feed by night, so that in a few days they become weak and are thus easily ridden down. Midgáns often[326] keep a few of them tame, no doubt mostly caught when very young, but I have never seen ostrich farming on a large scale in Somáliland.

The spotted hyæna (Warába) is very common, and the striped hyæna (Didar) rather rare. There is a wild dog called Yei, which the natives say hunts in packs, but I have never seen one. Spotted hyænas prowl round the zeríba of the traveller every night, looking for scraps of meat. I have had goats carried off by them when tethered to the zeríba. Among the karias they sometimes carry off children and kill women, and men found asleep by them alone in the bush are often attacked, the face being nearly always seized and a large piece torn away. So voracious is the hyæna that it often pulls off the tail of a camel or the udder of a cow.

Crocodiles (Jaház) swarm in the Webbe Shabéleh river. There are a few schools of hippopotami (Jér) one of which had its usual abode near Sen Morettu, but I failed to find it, only coming upon the fresh tracks.

There are giraffes (Giri or Halgiri) in the Aulihán country, three days from Burka on the Webbe, but I gave them up for the chance of going to the Arussi Gállas.[55] This differs from the South African giraffe in its markings. The South African form is more spotted; the Somáli form has lighter markings, and the patches of colour are divided into more hexagonal and sexagonal shapes, as pointed out in a letter to the Field by Mr. Rowland Ward in February 1894, who there gave a description of the first one shot in Somáliland by Major C. E. W. Wood.

While on the Webbe I was informed that four buffalo (Jámus), all bulls, had strayed from the Geriré Gálla country through eighty miles of bush, and had taken up their abode in the forest on the Webbe banks at Sen Morettu, four years before my visit to that spot. My informant, a Gilimiss Somáli, told me that his father had killed two of them two years before with poisoned arrows, and that two remained. I found their fresh tracks, the first I had ever seen, and tried very hard for a whole day to get a sight of them. We put them up eight[327] times at a few yards’ distance in the fearfully dense forest without once seeing them, and when we organised a drive next day they broke through the line of beaters and got away, making for the distant Gálla hills. These are the only buffalo I ever heard of in Somáliland. They are said by the Gállas to be plentiful on the Webbe Wéb, a tributary of the Juba, four days distant from Karanleh.

Baboons (Dáyer) are occasionally seen in the rocks round the river-beds, especially in different parts of Guban. My first meeting with these animals was an interesting experience. It was when on my first surveying expedition, and while encamped at Aleyaláleh on the Issutugan river, with an escort of Indian cavalry and mounted police, that I first saw baboons. At this spot the river cuts deeply into a plateau, forming a gully two or three hundred feet deep. A troop of some two hundred baboons came down towards evening from the cliffs, on their way to drink at the stream. Several of the old males were nearly as large as retriever dogs, and had handsome gray manes, which at dusk gave them the appearance of lions. There were several females carrying young ones on their backs, and as the long strings of baboons climbed along the narrow ledges, they kept up a hoarse barking which sounded very like language, and could be heard from a great distance echoing among the hills. They are savage brutes, and take up positions as if to dispute the passage of any one climbing the cliffs; and I have no doubt, with his long teeth and great strength, one of the old males could kill an unarmed man if so disposed.

I had given the troopers some spare cartridges to amuse themselves with, by taking shots at marks, and the native officer, who had been strolling about below the cliffs, fired a shot at an old male baboon and brought him down. I was in camp, and on hearing a hot fire going on, ran out, thinking we were attacked by raiders. It transpired that an Arab camelman had been sent up to the base of the cliffs to get the body of the baboon, and had been attacked by the whole troop from above, having to beat a hasty retreat under cover of the fire from several Sniders, and on my joining the men, another male fell to my Express, tumbling perpendicularly nearly fifty feet down the cliffs. When at last we secured the carcases, I was[328] struck by their wonderfully human-like appearance, and I have never again brought myself to shoot a monkey. I have seen baboons scores of times since, and have never molested them, and as they soon get over their shyness and fear of man, I have been able to watch their habits closely.

Speke’s Gazelle ♀ (Gazella spekei).

Length of horns on curve, average 9 inches.

Besides these maned baboons, we found in the belt of forest on the Webbe banks a maneless baboon and a small tree monkey. In parts of this forest the monkeys and baboons simply swarm. They spring about everywhere above and around the traveller, and the stench is nearly unbearable.

Among game birds the most noticeable are three varieties of the bustard tribe (Salalmadli), three varieties of guinea-fowl (Digirin), partridges, sand grouse, and a wild goose in Ogádén. Birds of prey are very conspicuous, there being at least two kinds of vultures (Gur-Gur) and a small black and[329] white eagle, kites, ravens, and the great black and white carrion storks, which stand about four feet high and have very large orange-coloured beaks.

Jackals (Dowáo), with black and silver backs, are very common; also foxes, a small variety of hare (Bokheila), a badger very like the English kind, two kinds of squirrel, gray and brown (Dabergáli), and the curious little rock-rabbits (Bauna). There is a mouse-coloured animal of the ferret kind (Shók-Shók), which lives under the roots of trees and hunts in packs. Snakes are numerous, three kinds most often met with being an adder (abeso), a variegated rock snake (abguri), and a black snake called muss, all of which are said to be very deadly. There is also a lizard nearly four feet long. Among the insects may be mentioned mosquitoes (Kan-ád)—they are only troublesome, however, on the Webbe and in the Esa and Gadabursi countries; two kinds of gadfly; a large spider (Hangeyu), which produces a web almost exactly like golden silk, which can be found in any old zeríba in the Haud; scorpions, and two kinds of centipede (Hangagári).



On fitting out Somáli Expeditions
General Observations

Example I.—Calculation of six weeks’ trip to Guban and Ogo—Composition of caravan, and expenses.

Example II.—Eight weeks’ trip to the Haud and the more accessible parts of Ogádén.

Example III.—Sixteen weeks’ trip to distant Ogádén and the Webbe—General notes on trips to the Webbe and Gállaland—Notes on caravan defence—Notes on preliminary steps, and how to engage and pay off a caravan.

For an English sportsman, Somáliland is probably the best hunting-ground in Africa. The climate is healthy, and not too hot in the higher districts; the English are universally popular, and the natives appreciate sport. The caravan, when once properly provisioned at the coast, renders one entirely independent in a country practically without villages or supplies. The game is shy and not too easy to get, which is an advantage from a sporting point of view. There is room for many simultaneous expeditions if they are only pushed into unexplored ground, and a great variety of game is found within a limited area. Above all, there is easy access to the Somáli coast from civilised parts.

I have been asked so often to give information to intending travellers to Somáliland that, for the guidance of those who contemplate visiting that country, I venture to publish the following suggestions.

It is, of course, not to be expected that every traveller can share the same views on subjects connected with the fitting out of an expedition; but by way of illustration I shall calculate a few examples of the caravans which I would myself organise for certain definite objects. Whether the intending traveller agree with me or not, he will at least gain an insight into some of the more necessary details connected with the needs and precautions attendant upon the fitting out and conducting of caravans into the interior of Somáliland.

To begin with, if there are two or more Europeans in an expedition, in my opinion each should have his own caravan complete. There are[332] several reasons for this. Where there are two or three Europeans with a combined caravan of mixed servants, it is difficult to ensure that equal loyalty shall be extended by the Somális to each member of the party. Interests clash, and the result has, according to all I have heard, too often been a spoilt trip. In my journeys with my brother the value of distinctly organised caravans was recognised at once, and we held to this system throughout, the result being that even our servants and camelmen pulled well together, and we had no caravan difficulties.

It is convenient in safe country, when an increase of sport can be obtained thereby, for the different Europeans to separate. Thus A hears of a lion two days’ march away; B goes three days’ march in the opposite direction to search a valley believed to contain elephants; C forms a camp in the hills twenty miles away for a week’s koodoo shooting. In unsafe country, or where there is sport for all at one spot, the camps may be reunited, the dinners clubbed together, the tents pitched side by side, and the camels joined into one herd. But the distinct organisation of each caravan should be preserved, under the command of its own white leader, assisted by his Somáli headman. In this way only, with the maximum of supervision, aided by a feeling of esprit de corps between the different caravans, can the maximum of work be got out of Somális.

I am against taking servants from India. They require a great deal of water, and are at enmity with their surroundings in a country where there are practically no villages nor bazaars, and where they are almost “put to Coventry” by the natives. Somális think them effeminate, saying they may be men in the town, but that they become women in the bush, especially in the waterless Haud! In our Dolbahanta journey the women ran after my Madras cook, who was dressed in flowing white with a large turban, and asked him whose wife he was! Sometimes when my brother was out of camp, the Somáli members of the expedition used to throw stones at his Punjabi “bearer,” and although a fine fellow in his own country, among the strange surroundings he used to break down, and with many tears ask to be sent to the coast. One day, when aggravated beyond all endurance by the Somális, he shouldered his bundle of brass cooking-pots and started, without food or water, to walk across a hundred miles of pathless Haud. Luckily he was tracked up and brought back into camp. It is not necessary to take Indians; for Somális, though often rather rough as servants in a civilised household, pick up their duties quickly, and are good enough for the jungle.

In fitting out a caravan, the chief factors governing the calculation are:—

(1) What is the minimum number of armed men that should be taken into the district to be visited.


(2) Whether or not the district is waterless.

(3) The duration of the trip.

As regards the first consideration, I will mention different districts, and state what escort I should take into each, assuming political conditions to be as favourable as they were in 1893. Local disturbances of course arise, but on the whole the country is becoming safer every year for Europeans. My estimate may soon be out of date; and the political authorities in Aden, who are in touch with events in Somáliland, must be consulted as to the strength of the escort. Permission must be obtained from the same authorities to enter Northern Somáliland at all.

At ordinary times I would ride about alone, though of course armed, within the area contained by lines joining Berbera, Wagar, Hargeisa, and Elmas Mountain; and in this area the natives may often be seen unarmed. As a matter of fact a sportsman would always have a few Somális in attendance, either armed with his spare sporting rifles or with their own spears. An European who went unarmed about the country would excite the universal derision of the natives, for it is their own fashion to go armed.

Outside this area, in the explored parts of the British Protectorate, I think from eight to fifteen rifles should be distributed among the followers; and on the Abyssinian border, or in the Gadabursi and Dolbahanta countries, fifteen to twenty rifles. In distant Ogádén, on the Webbe Shabéleh, and on the western Gálla border, I recommend from twenty to thirty rifles, and the same in the unexplored country along the coast east of Karam. For the nearer Gálla tribes south of the Webbe, and for the Aulihán Somális, I should take from thirty to fifty rifles. For a distant exploration into the far interior of Gállaland, likely to be inhabited by hostile natives, were I going on such an expedition, I would not take less than from fifty to one hundred and fifty rifles. These estimates are necessarily very rough, for so much depends on the number of camels to be protected and the number of white men; and in the last case I have given my opinion on evidence obtained from the Somális, and not with any personal experience of the Gálla country itself. The strongest escort I have had at any time in my Somáli trips has been about thirty rifles.

The object of these escorts in all but the last case is to guard against a possible raid by some robber band. Once, to my knowledge, in the Jibril Abokr country, an English sportsman’s camp was, during his absence, sacked by some of these rascals. At night, too, the caravan of an European might easily be mistaken for that of Somáli traders, and in case of an attack it would be awkward, not to say undignified, for the caravan to be incapable of defence. It is very unlikely that the authorities at Aden would allow any traveller to go into the interior without his having made some provision of this sort.


Hostility from any Somáli tribes, as a whole, has not entered into my calculations, because only a large escort, such as I have advised for distant Gálla explorations, could stay in the country in the face of a combined movement of the natives. Even with a large escort the country would soon be rendered uninhabitable by tampering with wells and other expedients which Somális thoroughly understand, and the traveller would be forced to retreat, or advance so rapidly to a more friendly tribe that enemies would have no time to collect. It is with the consent of the natives that we travel, because the English are popular, and no hostility need be feared except the very unlikely chance of an attack by robbers, made probably by mistake. No robbers armed only with spears would, as a general rule, knowingly attack the well-armed caravan of an European. There have, however, been one or two exceptions. The country is only really dangerous to a native traveller, and that it is so the daily police records at Berbera will show.

Example I

We will first suppose that a single European proposes to spend six weeks travelling, purely for sport, in the explored parts of the British Protectorate, political conditions being favourable. We will assume that he does not wish to extend his wanderings far into the Haud waterless plateau. The above trip would be suitable for a sportsman from Aden having very limited leave, as those from London or Bombay would probably go farther and try unexplored ground.

The minimum number of personal servants will be as follows:—

One body servant to look after the tent and bedding, and lay out the meals. He should also be able to interpret.

One cook.

Two hunters (called, in Hindustáni, shikáris) to track, collect news of game, carry spare rifles, clean them, and skin and prepare specimens.

One personal camelman to lead, saddle, unsaddle, and tend the Somáli camel which will be ridden, at a walking pace, by the European traveller; this camel would be led by the camelman. Somáli camels do not trot. I have found this method of progression, though slow, irksome, and rather uncomfortable, to be very practical. Whenever game is sighted it is possible to jump off for a shot, or to fire from the camel’s back. Spare rifles, ammunition, blankets, and food can be carried, which would be impossible where a pony is ridden. A pony requires water in the Haud, whereas a Somáli camel does not. In long expeditions, where expensive arrangements are made on a large scale, it may answer to take a good Arab trotting camel from Aden. These camels, though excellent in every way, require daily grain, and water at least every second day; while Somáli camels, though incapable of trotting, have the advantage of picking up their own food by[335] the wayside, and can, at a pinch, march without water for nearly a fortnight. If it is, however, decided to take ponies, they can be obtained nearly anywhere in Somáliland.

For this led camel mats will not do. An Arab pad saddle must be bought in Aden, and as it is sometimes difficult to procure, it might with advantage be ordered beforehand.

The following articles may be carried on the led camel which is ridden by the European:—

A pair of saddle-bags.

Haversacks containing food and spare ammunition.

Small hand camera.

A couple of spare sporting rifles.

Two or three blankets.

Large water-bottle.

Prismatic compass (if used).

It is the duty of the attendant, whom I have called the personal camelman, to see that these things are correctly packed on the camel at the beginning of a march, and safely housed in the tent on camp being pitched.

Thus, as above shown, we have five personal servants. The remaining servants will be camelmen for the baggage camels, and temporary servants who may be engaged for short periods in the interior, such as guides.

Some of the camelmen should know something of the line of proposed travel, and be able to act as guides if local guides fail.

Over all, whether personal servants or camelmen, should be placed a headman or caravan commander, who will also be interpreter and confidential adviser to his European master. He should know whichever of the three languages—Arabic, Hindustáni, or English—his master wishes to make the medium between himself and the natives. His business is to superintend the loading of the camels, select the site for the halting-place, and superintend the pitching of the new camp; to interview chiefs and natives who visit the camp, to have military command of the caravan in the absence of his master, to arrange for the relief of sentries at night, and choose the place for the zeríba and the watch-fires.

Assisted by one of the camelmen, who will have extra pay for the purpose, he should weigh out the daily rations, and be responsible for all native food, and for any game meat handed over to him by the hunters. In fact he is responsible to his master for everything that goes on in the caravan.

On this man the success of the expedition, of course, chiefly depends. Having once chosen my headman, I allow him to suit himself as regards engaging camelmen, insisting that they shall not all belong to one tribe. I always choose my personal servants myself.


In order to calculate roughly the number of baggage camels and camelmen required, it will be necessary to first estimate the number of camel-loads that would have to be carried if the rations and spare ammunition of the camelmen were left out. That is, we must first ascertain the number of camel-loads which would be a constant quantity in the calculation.

Whatever the number of baggage camels and camelmen may be, the European, the headman, and the five personal servants are a constant quantity. Three natives engaged locally in the interior may be added to this number, so without counting the baggage camelmen we have one European and nine Somális to provide rations for.

Thus we have the following camel-loads, namely,—

(a) 42 days’ rations for 1 European.

(b) 42 days’ rations for 9 Somális (with percentage for guests).

(c) Baggage of the European.

(d) Sporting ammunition, spare ammunition for 9 Somális, and extras.

We will add up these items. Let A be the resulting number of camel-loads.

By a simple calculation we can now tell how many baggage camels and camelmen we shall want.

The custom is for one camelman to look after two camels.

A camelman’s rations (with percentage for guests) for 42 days will be—

Rice 49 lbs.
Dates 26
Ghee 8
His spare ammunition, say 6
Total 89 lbs.,

or a third of a camel-load.

Thus, as one camelman looks after two camels, the weight due to his rations and ammunition will put one-sixth of a camel-load upon each of them; and so to carry five of the loads A we shall want six camels. Hence divide the number A by five and multiply by six, and we shall have the number of camels we must purchase for the caravan, and the number of camelmen we must engage to look after them will be half this.

I consider 275 lbs. a fair load of European baggage for a Somáli camel, not counting the weight of the camel-mats. All compact weights, such as dates, are difficult to carry, and 260 lbs. is a full load; while loads distributed over plenty of surface, such as rice loghs or water in several háns, are easily carried, and so in such cases the loads may go up to 340 lbs.

If we allow 1½ camel-loads for 42 days’ rations for one European, and 2½ for his baggage (including tent, cooking-pots, spare rifles and[337] ammunition, and so forth), 1 camel for cloth and extras, and 3 for Somáli rations, then A stands for 8, and our caravan will require by our rough calculation ten baggage camels and five camelmen.

One of these camelmen will be given a slight increase of pay, and be made makadam in charge of the camels and camelmen, under the headman of the caravan.

The duties of the camelmen will be to load and unload the camels, lead them when on the march, keep guard over them when grazing, and water them when necessary.

In addition to the special duties of camelmen, servants, and hunters, every Somáli member of the expedition, including the headman, should take his share of the following duties which are necessary for the common comfort, namely,—

To carry a rifle or spear and aid in defence if necessary.

Sentry duties in camp.

Collecting firewood for the watch-fires.

Water-supply for camp use.

Forming the zeríba round the camp.

If every Somáli, without exception, is made to take his share in these duties there will be no jealousy or trouble connected with them. The European, to whom the climate is strange, should be the only man exempt from such duty; but when away from camp, with only two or three attendants, I was accustomed to take my share.

There being such a small force, it will pay to arm the eleven men with good weapons, such as Martini or Snider carbines, or Remingtons. I have also generally given or lent my men the following equipment, namely, one “kháki” drill coat, with pockets; one cartridge belt and pouch to contain an oiled rag, one brown blanket, and one cheap butcher’s knife in leather sheath. This equipment is not absolutely necessary, but it is desirable if the escort is to be smart and efficient. The cartridge belt would be made to contain thirty cartridges, of which a few would be loaded with buckshot for sentry-duty at night. It is necessary to be careful that men who may accompany their master when shooting have no white about their clothing, as it drives away game.

The headman, five personal servants, and five camelmen, eleven in all, will be the permanent party engaged beforehand, who will serve throughout the trip and return with the caravan to the coast. In addition, enough food should be carried for the following temporary servants, to be engaged locally in the interior and dismissed again as required, namely,—

Two guides, one being for the white man, to accompany him and the two hunters when out shooting; the other, who may with advantage be an influential Akil,[56] to guide the camel caravan.


One small boy, to look after milk goats, sheep, or donkeys, which it may be necessary to buy in the interior and drive along with the caravan. Donkeys are useful as baits for lions.

We shall require to buy twelve camels, ten being for baggage, one being for the European to ride, one being a spare camel without mats or load. About 10 per cent is a good proportion of spare camels. They are not absolutely necessary, but desirable.

We will now accurately calculate what will be the loads, and whether the ten baggage camels will be able to carry them.

The loads will come under the following heads:—

(a) Rations, 42 days, for 14 Somális (with percentage for guests).

(b) Rations, 42 days, for one European.

(c) Private baggage, tent, and instruments of European.

(d) Spare ammunition for escort, and spare sporting ammunition.

(e) Cloth for payments in the interior, a large cooking-pot for the men, and miscellaneous extras.

Although it is advisable to allow for a day’s water being carried on any Somáli expedition, we will neglect water-supply in the present calculation. It is fully gone into in Example II.

The rations for a caravan follower are 1 lb. rice, ½ lb. dates, and 2 oz. ghee (clarified butter) per man per diem.

The dates are sold at Aden and Berbera, compressed into a solid mass. They are very good eating even for an European, when they are fairly fresh, and they keep in good condition for a few months.

The ghee is required for mixing with the daily allowance of boiled rice. In the early days of our Protectorate the ghee ration was fixed for Government followers at 1 oz., but as nearly all the complaints and caravan troubles were traced to insufficiency of ghee, my brother and I always gave 2 oz. in our later expeditions, and then everything went smoothly. We found that the extra ounce made all the difference between a set of intriguing rascals and a cheerful, contented caravan.

It will be found in practice that the ghee disappears most quickly, being the most popular part of the ration; the dates come next, and the rice last. Dates often come in very handy when a native has to be sent on a two or three days’ errand through the bush. Half a dozen pounds of dates tied up in the free end of his tobe, with a well here and there and the shelter of a bush, will be all the board and lodging he will require for nearly a week’s outing.

It has been my custom to take into the interior a spring-balance or steelyard reading to about 90 lbs., and every fortnight to check the consumption of rice, dates, and ghee in bulk. A gallon measure and a pair of small scales should not be forgotten.

Daily at the camps several natives will appear at about meal-time[339] as self-constituted guests. To such it should be explained politely, but firmly, that there is water in the well and grass upon the plain, but no food in camp for loafers. No work, no food, should be the rule. A present of a pinch of tobacco will then turn the applicant into a friend for life.

It is desirable to set aside a proportion, however, for necessary guests, and after calculating the rations for the members of the expedition I usually add the following:—

The rice ration for 14 Somális for 42 days will be 588 lbs.; add ⅙ for guests, and we have 686 lbs. Rice is sold in bags containing each about 170 lbs.; and before starting on a trip each bag should, for convenience of loading, be broken up into three long sausage-shaped bags, called loghs. Two bags of rice, or six loghs, make a camel-load.

Thus we have, rice, 2 camel-loads. The dates ration for 14 Somális for 42 days will be 294 lbs.; add ¼ for guests, and we have 368 lbs.

Dates are sold by the gosra, weighing about 130 lbs., enclosed in a rough reed basket or bag. For convenience of transport this is divided into two parts, and two gosras, or four half gosras, go upon one camel.

Thus we have, dates, 1½ camel-loads.

The ghee ration for 14 Somalis for 42 days will be 1176 oz.; add for guests, and we have 1764 oz., or 110 lbs. The ghee is sold by the gumba, a goatskin bag closed at the mouth by a framework of sticks and a lump of clay. Each gumba contains 25 lbs. ghee or less. We will suppose the 110 lbs. ghee is carried in five gumbas, weighing with their contents 145 lbs. Thus we have, ghee, ½ camel-load.

It tends to cheerfulness if a small supply of native coffee, tobacco, and salt be carried for the men. The tobacco is chewed, and the coffee is drunk before early marches on cold mornings. These extras weigh very little.

Next we have to calculate for the stores of one European for 42 days. I recommend that several wooden boxes be made, measuring about 1 foot 6 inches by 2 feet 3 inches, and 1 foot 3 inches deep, capable of being padlocked, with the cover on hinges, and two rope handles for convenience of handling. All the liquids which have to be kept in bottles may go in one box, and all the tinned and other stores in another, the pair containing a fortnight’s supply, and each loading up to about 65 lbs.

The liquids will be something like the following (a fortnight’s supply):—


Whisky 2 bottles
Carbolic oil (for sores of men or perhaps camels) 1 bottle
Carbolic acid, strong 1 small bottle
Cocoanut oil for lamps a supply
Turpentine for preparing skins about 6 bottles
Oil for cleaning rifles a supply
Two or three bottles of tart fruits.
A bottle of pickles.

Other articles, which could be stored in bottles, would suggest themselves—

The stores will be something like the following (for one fortnight):—

Of Swiss milk very little need be taken, as milk goats can be bought and driven along with the caravan.

Soups are most useful, and I usually take about ten tins for a fortnight.

Fresh potatoes can be bought in Aden, and will last for the first three weeks of the trip. They would go in a separate sack. Onions may be taken in the same way.

Biscuits and small tins of potted meats, provided salt kinds such as anchovy and bloaters are omitted, are useful to carry in the pocket when out for a day’s hunting. The salt kinds are of course objectionable, as they induce thirst. I seldom carried any large tins of meat. Dried game meat can always be saved, to be used in case of emergency.

I only used lamp oil for two bull’s-eye lanterns which I kept for theodolite work. They make good night referring points if fixed half a mile away. I had candle lanterns for camp use, and spring candlesticks with glass globes for the tent.

Four of these boxes, containing stores or liquors, will go on one camel.

Thus we have, European rations and stores for 42 days, 1½ camel-loads. For private baggage, tent, instruments, cooking-pots, and bedding, allow 2 camel-loads. For cloth, large cooking-pot for the men, bags of spare ammunition for sporting rifles, and extras, we will allow 1 camel-load. The men will carry thirty rounds each in their cartridge belts or pouches, and for such a short trip it will not be necessary to have more than fifty rounds per man carried in one box. A little[341] buckshot and blank ammunition would also be carried, the latter being useful for drill and firing salutes.

Sporting ammunition should be carried in haversacks or magazines distributed about the loads, each rifle having its own bag of ammunition; and a little should be carried in a couple of haversacks on the riding camel, ready to hand. The sporting cartridges for the day’s use would be carried in the pockets of the sportsman and his two hunters. If one large box of spare sporting ammunition and one box of Snider ball ammunition be also carried, we must allow—spare ammunition, ½ camel-load.

The camel-loads for the ten baggage camels will be as follows:—

(a) Native rations 4
(b) European rations
(c) Private European baggage 3
(d) Ammunition ½
(e) Cloth and other extras 1
Total 10

The expenses of such a trip may be conveniently grouped as follows:—

(1) Purchase of tent, rifles, and kit of all sorts in London or Bombay.

(2) Passages to and from Aden.

(3) Hotel expenses in Aden.

(4) Purchase of necessaries at Aden.

(5) Passages from Aden to the Somáli coast and back.

(6) Purchase and sale of necessaries at the coast.

(7) Purchase and sale of camels at the coast.

(8) Petty expenses in the interior.

(9) Pay of men of the caravan.

Only in the case of the last four items—that is, the sums which will be actually spent in Somáliland itself—can I give estimates; but it is just in these items the local knowledge is so valuable.

The currency used at Aden and the Somáli coast ports is silver, usually rupees, or dollars (worth 2⅛ rupees); and the rupee is constant as regards purchasing power. The value of a rupee in English money can be found daily in the newspapers. When I was last at Aden a sovereign was worth about 16 rupees.

Purchase of Tent, Rifles, and other Kit

I recommend a double fly 80 lb. “Cabul” tent. Somális, who take shelter from rain under camel-mats, do not require a tent. I consider[342] that in a comparatively dry country like Somáliland camp furniture is superfluous. My tent arrangements are very simple. Between the two tent poles five of the wooden store-boxes are placed side by side. One set of soft camel-mats (the Somáli substitute for a packsaddle) is spread over the boxes, and my blankets and pillow go over all. When marching fast I never pitch the tent at all, and in this case all the boxes are piled to windward, to form a rampart about five feet high. Camel-mats are thrown over for a roof, and the bed is spread out on the ground beneath. The mats may be thrown off when it is not raining, as in fine weather I prefer to have nothing to shut out the sky. This arrangement gives less trouble to the men, who may be tired after a long march, than pitching the tent; and it is much easier to load up for the early morning march. By day, when marching fast, I halt for three hours about noon, without pitching the tent, if two good trees are to be found.

When the tent is pitched the bed is arranged on the store-boxes, taking care that those which contain “expense stores” are not so used, as it is annoying if the cook is constantly disturbing the bedding to open boxes. Against one pole rests a jar of water, which is constantly kept cool by the wind blowing upon the porous earthenware. This jar is carried on the camels in a framework of sticks. It can be bought in Berbera for half a rupee, and the butler can be rewarded with two rupees if it is brought back to the coast unbroken. The iron tent-pegs[58] should similarly be handed to the same official, and, say, two annas given for every peg which finds its way back to the coast. The Somális, though not naturally petty thieves, cannot resist iron tent-pegs; they are easily secreted, and disposed of to jungle natives, who make spears with the iron. All cutlery if not looked after is apt to disappear in the same way. At the back of my tent I usually stood a large bucket of water and waterproof sheet, or an india-rubber bath. Table and chairs I seldom took. In case of meeting Europeans, a very fine substitute for a dining-table and chairs can be arranged by the help of the store-boxes, draped with different coloured blankets.

The first thing after the tent has been pitched, two auss, or smooth grass camel-mats, are laid down as a substitute for floorcloth. To the right of the bed, on the ground, are laid all small articles which may be required at a moment’s notice, including the favourite rifle and cartridge belt. At night this rifle is kept loaded, and a strip of white paper is gummed along the central rib from the back-sight to the muzzle. When a leopard jumps into the middle of the camp, or there is a “war-scare,” one or other of which incidents occurs on an average once a week in Somáliland, it is convenient not to have to waste valuable seconds in fumbling for these things in the dark. On the ground, to the left of the bed, are arranged haversacks, small camera,[343] spare rifles, medicine bag, instruments, a pair of saddle-bags, and other such articles; and to the right of the pillow is placed one store-box, and on it a candle lantern, matches, and the favourite book, which is an absolute necessity for camp life. For the spare clothing, books, spare instruments, stationery, and other articles, I recommend strong tin uniform cases, or steel trunks, instead of leather trunks, because they can be left out in the rain without damage. Leather trunks are soon pulled out of shape by the loading ropes, and are liable to be utterly ruined by white ants in a single night. The tin cases may be painted white with ship’s paint; when painted black they absorb the sun’s rays and bake everything inside. Photograph plates and other very perishable articles should be carefully packed to avoid damage from excessive heat, the sun’s rays being so powerful; for instance, at noon in Guban a rifle barrel, if left lying exposed, very soon becomes too hot to touch.

The sporting battery which I should take were I now fitting out an expedition, would be—

One double .577 Express rifle (with 250 cartridges for six weeks).

One double 8-bore Paradox ball gun (with 150 ball cartridges and a few buckshot).

One double 12-bore Paradox ball gun (with 100 ball, 200 shot).

One single Lee-Metford .303 rifle (with 300 rounds).

The cartridges would be filled and soldered up in tin in convenient quantities by the gunmaker who sold the rifles. I have never taken the trouble to load rifle cartridges; a good maker will load them well, and if soldered up they will keep for years. I believe most of the letting off and wounding of game is due more to the inability to get close enough than to defects in rifle or cartridges. For the open plains, when the game is shy, the Lee-Metford will be very useful. The grass is often so short that shots may be taken on the back position. Every shot knocks up a puff of dust, enabling one to correct one’s aim. In the case of an antelope the neck should be aimed at, so that the animal will be missed or killed; and a very deadly shot is obtained when the animal is standing head on, so as to present the length of the body to a raking bullet. If the distance be very great, the animal will, if unwounded, stand for several shots. In this way, managed with science, long shots are not unsportsmanlike, and I must confess to a feeling of pleasure when an almost black bull hartebeest, whose horns have been admired at leisure through the telescope, and who has been standing four hundred yards away thinking himself out of range, drops stone dead as if struck by lightning after a few unsuccessful shots. To fire at random into a herd, unless meat is urgently required, of course is utterly indefensible.

In buying rifles there is a great choice of good makers. Personally[344] I have nearly always gone to Messrs. Holland and Holland for my rifles and ammunition, and have been perfectly satisfied with the way in which I have been treated. Their eight-bore Paradox ball gun I consider the best weapon in the market for heavy game such as elephant or rhino. I had a four-bore rifle with fourteen drs. and hard spherical ball, but found that the conical steel-core projectile of the eight-bore gave greater shock and penetration.

Snider carbines are useful weapons for the escort, and it may be noted that the ammunition makes excellent practice at short ranges when fired out of a .577 Express. This can be done if the chamber happens to be of the right shape, and the knowledge has been useful to me more than once, although whether such a proceeding is good for the rifle is questionable. A revolver or pistol is a useful weapon to carry, especially if one wanders about in the bush alone. I recommend, if a double shikár pistol be taken, that one of about .577 or twelve-bore be chosen, with one trigger for both barrels on the Lancaster principle. When after lion or leopard, and not well backed up by the gunbearer, a situation may arise where such a pistol would be handy. In a home charge the rifle would be knocked out of the hands, but the pistol, being on the belt, would always be ready. I have known two cases of a native trying to beat off a lion with his bare hands. One man was successful and the other lost his life. I feel sure that in the latter case a good pistol would have made all the difference. It is worth remembering that when buying a Lee-Metford rifle of military pattern, the bayonet should be supplied with it, as it is a perfect shikár knife for the belt.

In disturbed country, where an attack by robbers may be apprehended, the eight-bore Paradox gun loaded with S.S.G. slugs would be a good night weapon to rely upon. I therefore recommend that a few cartridges be so loaded for this and the twelve-bore. Among the .577 Express bullets should be about 10 per cent of hardened solid bullets. They may be very useful in finishing off heavy game.

When after thick-skinned game, such as elephant or rhino, I think the Lee-Metford would be a useful rifle, provided a quiet head shot could be obtained with the animal standing still, both barrels of the double eight-bore being kept in reserve for use if it should get into motion. Although I have always believed in large-bore rifles, I think there is a great future in store for the very small bores of the Lee-Metford class, having a long bullet and plenty of powder. Although the section is so small, the great remaining velocity of the Lee-Metford bullet causes a considerable shock to the animal, especially if the latter has been standing end on, and the bullet has raked forward for some distance. I consider the Lee-Metford about the best rifle for oryx-shooting in uninhabited country, and have in my latter trips had great success with it. I used the ordinary military cartridge.


With each of the sporting rifles there should be a good strong magazine bag, which can be slung over any of the laden camels. Half the spare ammunition would be carried in this way, while the rest of the spare ammunition for all the sporting battery would be packed in one box, weighing about 50 lbs. Several leather or canvas haversacks should be made to carry food and small articles.

For the Snider carbines I recommend that for a six weeks’ trip thirty rounds per man be carried in the belts, with a few rounds of buckshot for the use of sentries; besides this belt ammunition, about fifty rounds per man would be in a box, and some blank ammunition for skirmishing drill and complimentary displays. If it is proposed to give the men much ball practice while in the interior, more ball ammunition should of course be taken. I strongly recommend an hour of target practice once a week, in some deep river-bed with precipitous banks, if the men are to be of any use as an escort. A pair of compasses, a bundle of thin lathes, a dozen screws and a screwdriver, half a quire of cartridge paper, packet of drawing pins, and some ink pellets, are all that is required to be taken to make very good targets. When the men have been well grounded in ball practice it will be interesting to pile up stones to the height of a man and bring them down with a crashing volley at a hundred yards. The men take a lively interest in the shooting and drill, and a list should be kept of good, bad, or indifferent shots, so that the fact may be endorsed on their written characters when they are dismissed at the coast.

Some form of hand camera is invaluable, I suggest that no large camera be used, nor chemicals, but that small photographs be taken with the hand camera and developed and enlarged on return to England.

When ordering clothes it should be remembered that Somáliland can be extremely hot and also very cold. I recommend that thin “kháki” drill be the usual costume, and that a good thick ulster be taken for cold night-marches or for sitting up over a “kill.” A few pairs of red rubber or cotton-soled shoes are useful for stalking koodoo and other game inhabiting stony ground. Above all, a really good sun hat is a necessity.

Information regarding the cost of passages to and from Aden can be obtained at any shipping offices, so I will merely remark that it takes about three weeks to get to Aden from London by sea, or about thirteen days if advantage be taken of the overland train to Brindisi. But in the latter case only a small hand-bag could be taken, baggage having previously been sent round by sea. There is generally great trouble about the shipping of loaded cartridges, and they should be sent on ahead.

When staying at an hotel in Aden I usually went to the Hotel de L’Europe, in the Crescent, Steamer Point. The accommodation at all the hotels in Aden is very primitive. So far as I can remember,[346] board and lodging in Aden would come to between 7 and 14 rupees per diem.

At Aden the following articles, if considered necessary, may be purchased or made to order:—

Coats for the men, of “kháki” or drab-coloured drill (3 rupees), cartridge belts to contain thirty rounds (1 rupee), also pouches (½ rupee), brown blankets for followers (3 rupees). Six wooden boxes to contain stores or liquors, as before described, can be made in the bazaar for between 1 and 2 rupees each, or they may be obtained in London with a fortnight’s supplies in each box. If a camel-pad is required it can be got in Aden for 10 rupees.[59]

The two Parsi firms with which I have had most dealings are Messrs. Pallonjee Dinshaw and Messrs. Cowasjee Dinshaw Bros., both of the Crescent, Aden. The latter is probably the larger firm, and does a great deal of business with the shipping passing through Aden. But when I have not had time to get what I wanted from one I have tried the other. Cowasjee is in correspondence with Mr. Mahomed Hindi, a Hindustáni merchant permanently living in Berbera; and Pallonjee is also accustomed to do business with the Somáli coast.

All information concerning passages to and from the Somáli coast can be obtained by applying to either of the two Parsi firms named. Two coasting steamers visit the coast ports of Berbera, Bulhár, and Zeila once a week each. The usual charge was 20 rupees for one European and his baggage, and 5 rupees for each native.

Under the heading of purchase and sale of necessaries at the coast will come the following:—

Purchase before
leaving coast.
Sale on
Rupees. Rupees.
11 sets of hério, or camel-mats 35 12
11 leather loading ropes 11 3
9 native axes 5 2
6 hangol, or wooden crooks 2 1
4 knives for cutting camel-rope 2 ..
Several bundles of common loading rope 10 2
20 iron tent-pegs 5 ..
Cloth for payment in interior 150 ..
Cash for payment on journey (in small silver) 100 ..
Rations for Somális:—
Rice, 4 bags 36 ..
Dates, 3 gosra 22 ..
Ghee, 5 gumba 50 ..
Extras 10 ..
Total 438 20


Thus we have 418 rupees expenditure after deducting the proceeds of the selling-off auction, so that 450 rupees should well cover expenses under this head; the hério are the sets of camel-mats which are the Somáli substitute for a packsaddle. Three auss, or grass mats, and one kibit, or soft bark mat, make a complete set.

The axes are for cutting brushwood for the zeríba, and some of them may be made specially heavy for cutting out ivory. Good axes from England might be useful for this purpose.

The hangol are crooked sticks used for pulling about thorny brushwood.

The cloth required might be made up of:—

3 Khaili, or coloured tobes at 7 rupees 21 rupees
8 Bafta tobes 2⅛ rupees 17
56 Merikáni tobes 2 rupees 112
150 rupees

The purchase of twelve camels will cost about 480 rupees, and their sale at the end of the trip (allowing for one death) will produce about 330 rupees.

The petty expenses in the interior have been provided for by 150 rupees worth of cloth and 100 rupees in cash, already included under the heading of expenses in Berbera. A common native engaged for a day’s work will usually get 8 annas or the equivalent in cloth. Presents for game bagged may be given according to taste, from 30 rupees for a good bull elephant to 20 rupees for a lion, or 4 rupees for a bull oryx. The present for one animal should be distributed among those who aided in bringing it to bag, however slight their services; in fact, for a good trophy it has been my custom to reward slightly every member of my caravan. A sheep costs from 3 to 4 rupees; a heifer about 15 rupees; a camel, 20 to 40 rupees (either for the butcher or transport); a pony, 60 rupees and upwards; a goat for the butcher, 1½ to 2 rupees; a milk goat, 5 to 8 rupees; a donkey, 12 rupees. The latter animal is a long way the best for tying up at night as a bait for lions, as the lion likes no flesh better, and the loud bray attracts any that may be near. A white goat, which is young enough to bleat, is the best bait for a leopard.

The pay for the men of the caravan for six weeks will be approximately as follows:[60]


Rate per month.
Rupees. Rupees.
35 1 caravan leader or headman 52½
25 1 butler 37½
25 1 cook 37½
30 1 hunter 45
20 1 assistant hunter 30
17 1 groom, or personal camelman 25½
15 4 baggage camelmen 90
18 1 makadam, or head camelman 27
15 2 guides (engaged temporarily) 45
12 1 sheep-boy (engaged temporarily) 18
Shooting presents may be paid for from the cash and cloth taken to the interior.
At the close of the trip a parting present will be expected by each man. Add 15 per cent 62
Add pay of headman, butler, and cook, for a week before and a week after the trip, to help in organising and breaking up the expedition 43
Total 513

Thus, the money spent in Somáliland itself for a six weeks’ trip should be in round numbers as follows:—

Purchase and sale of necessaries at coast, and expenses on trip 450
Purchase and sale of camels 330
Pay of men of the caravan 520
Total 1300

Of this expenditure, part will occur when starting and part when breaking up the caravan at the close of the trip. The whole of this money should be placed in the charge of a native merchant or banker at Berbera, and any Somáli follower may then be paid off either at the coast or in the interior by an order for the necessary sum, written on a scrap of paper.

Example II

We will assume that one European is going to travel for two months, purely for sport, in the Haud and the most accessible parts of Ogádén. The distance across the Haud by the usual road from Hargeisa to Milmil is covered in five and a half days, going two marches a day, and for all journeys going far into the Haud, or crossing to Ogádén, arrangements should be made for carrying at least seven days’ water. To the east of Milmil the Haud becomes much wider. From the[349] experience of eight journeys across the Haud, I have found that a gallon per man per diem for all purposes is the proper allowance for a Somáli who is on ordinary rations, a gallon and a half for a native of India, and two gallons for an European. Half of the water is used by the Somáli for boiling with his rice, the other half for drinking; and it is a thing worth knowing that if his ration is of camel meat instead of rice, he will be perfectly satisfied with half a gallon per diem for all purposes. For the purposes of our calculation, however, we will allow a gallon per diem, because an eating camel is not always to be had, and a full day’s halt is necessary to enable the men to cut up and sun-dry the meat, causing vexatious delay. The Somáli, although he bathes at every pool where water is to be had, does not try to wash in the Haud. It is comforting, however, for an European or native of India to keep up the appearance of cleanliness so far as a damp sponge and a little water in a saucer will permit.

Somáli camels require no water for any march under ten days, and can do longer at a pinch. If water is plentiful they would be watered every five days or so. Donkeys, sheep, and goats should have a few pints every second day, and Somáli ponies should have about two gallons per diem, or four gallons every second day, though at a pinch they can go, according to the natives, from three to four days without water. Of course with an ordinary caravan this cruelty is unnecessary.

On one trip I took an Arab pony from India for three and a half months. He did excellently, and was faster and up to more weight than Somáli ponies. But he, of course, required grain and a much larger allowance of water than a Somáli pony. I think we carried for him five gallons per diem. If an Arab riding camel be imported from Aden, it must be remembered that it is ordinarily accustomed to drink at least once a day, and in the Haud must be given four gallons every second day.

As regards transport of water, a full load for a camel is two 12-gallon casks; a gallon of water weighs 10 lbs., and there is the weight of the casks to take into account.

In order to calculate the number of baggage camels and camelmen required, we shall have to add up the number of camel-loads coming under the following headings:—

Rations for 9 natives for 56 days (with percentage added)
Rations, 56 days, 1 European 2
Private baggage of European 3
Spare ammunition for European and for 9 of the escort 1
Cloth and extras 1
Water for 1 European and 9 natives for 7 days (assuming no animals but Somáli camels are taken across the Haud)
Total 15


The rations for 56 days for one camelman (with percentage added) will be 66 lbs. rice, 38 lbs. dates, 10 lbs. ghee; add his spare ammunition 5 lbs., and water for 7 days 70 lbs., and we get a total of 189 lbs., or about ⁸/₁₁ of a camel-load.

By a calculation similar to that employed in Example I., we shall find that the number of camels required will be 24, and the number of baggage camelmen, 12.

The composition of our caravan will therefore be as follows:—

1 European. 1 headman. 5 personal servants.

(3 temporary jungle servants engaged from day to day will be allowed for in the pay, ration, and water estimate, though they will not start with the caravan.)

12 camelmen.

24 baggage camels; 1 Somáli camel to ride; 2 spare camels. Total, 27 camels.

This is what the preliminary calculation has given us; and when the loads have all been accurately worked out in detail it will probably be found that the 24 baggage camels can carry them.

In calculating the ammunition I am assuming that every permanent member of the caravan can shoot and will be provided with a rifle. It is a good rule to go by, although not always absolutely necessary, provided suitable escorts for different districts are taken.

To those whom I know to be unused to firearms I issue no ball ammunition till they have had several lessons in skirmishing drill with blank ammunition, and a certain amount of target practice. The laws of blood-feuds are too serious to be disregarded, and therefore a Somáli has a wholesome fear of letting off his rifle by accident. I have found that when once they have been properly taught they can be trusted with ball ammunition.

Example III

A trip of four months to distant parts of Ogádén, and to the Webbe Shabéleh river. In this case we will add a pony or mule and two fast Arab camels, luxuries which it may be worth while taking on a long trip.[61] Unlike the Somáli ones, the Arab camels each require[351] about 7 lbs. jowári grain per diem. It can be bought in Aden or Berbera, and costs rather less than rice. There will in this case be six personal servants instead of five, as the two Arab camels will require one man, and the pony will require a groom (syce in Hindustáni). I have also slightly increased the European baggage on account of ammunition and trade goods.

As a basis for our rough calculation we shall have:—

Rations, 10 natives, 12 days 10
Rations 1 European 2
Private European baggage 4
Spare ammunition for 10 natives and 1 European
Cloth and trade goods and extras 2
Water for 1 European and 10 natives; and for 2 Arab camels, 1 pony, 1 donkey, 2 milk goats (19 gallons, 7 days)
4 months’ grain for 2 Arab camels 4

A man’s rations for 112 days (with percentage added) will be:—

130 lbs. rice
70 dates
20 ghee
add ammunition 10
water 7 days 70
300 lbs.

Say 1⅟₁₁ camel-loads.

By another calculation similar to those previously employed, we shall find that we would want 64 camels and 32 baggage camelmen.

Thus we have our caravan composed as follows:—

1 European.
1 headman.
1 personal camelman.
1 syce.
1 cook.
1 butler.
2 hunters.
32 baggage camelmen.
3 temporary jungle servants.
Total 42 Somális, 1 European.
2 Arab trotting camels.
1 pony for European.
64 baggage camels.
6 spare camels.


In my last trip to the Webbe, occupying three months, I had 55 camels and 30 men. The trip cost me about £300 altogether.

The expenses can be calculated on the lines of Example I. There will, however, be certain modifications.

Somális have a prejudice against going to the Webbe. They have great fear of fever and mosquitoes; and they have a great dread of Gállaland. They will, therefore, expect higher pay to go to these countries. On my last trip my ordinary camelmen, who would take 15 rupees per month for trips in Guban, Ogo, Haud, and Ogádén, would take nothing less than 18 rupees throughout the journey if we reached the Webbe, and 20 rupees if we reached the Gálla tribes. Circumstances have combined to place all Somáli wages at a very high figure. The pay of an Indian body servant is in India about 10 rupees per month, but if taken to Aden, the same man requires double pay, or 20 rupees per month. The Somáli, who is trained to domestic service in Aden, naturally says he will not take less than the Indian who does the same work. The Somáli at Berbera requires the same wages which he has been accustomed to get at Aden, and similar causes, together with intense laziness, independence, and avarice combined, tend to raise the price of labour in Somáliland.

If Somális are really starving, they have only to make their way somehow to the karias of their own tribe, and they will be kept in board and lodging, for up country every fighting man is worth his keep.

The Arab trotting camels, which I have recommended, could be bought in Aden, including light coolie saddles (without stirrups), for about 170 rupees each. Great care should be taken in choosing these animals, an Arab expert who can be trusted being employed. The attendant for these camels should be a Somáli accustomed to them. There are many Somális who have served in the Berbera camel police who have this qualification, but an ordinary Somáli knows nothing about them. Besides jowári and water at regular intervals, about a quart of sweet or other suitable oil per month should be carried for each trotting camel. It is a peculiarity of these camels that a large maggot is often found filling up the nostril, and when it becomes so large as to impede breathing the nostril is drenched with oil, and the maggot, sometimes half an inch thick and over an inch long, tumbles out.

In a long trip, such as is given in Example III., a rapid survey of the route would probably be made. I recommend the following instruments:—


I found the theodolite infinitely more handy than the sextant, and think the traverse, often at the rate of twenty-five miles a day, too rapid for comfortable plain table work. The tribesmen, too, would probably object to the imposing plain table and strained square of paper. The theodolite is also an imposing instrument, but it would be most used for star observations at night, when natives would be away from camp. Of the smaller instruments, duplicates should be taken. Instructions on surveying are to be found in the Royal Geographical Society’s publication, Hints to Travellers, and practical lessons in this and other special subjects are given under the auspices of the same Society.

When arranging for an expedition in which water has to be carried, 12-gallon casks should be taken out to Aden, or bought beforehand in Aden by letter. It will be advantageous to be able to padlock them, and for the bunghole to be large enough for a man’s arm to be passed in when cleaning the cask. I recommend common casks, for I have taken different shapes of specially-designed water-vessels suited (in theory) for camel transport; but Somális, who are good judges, say camels do well with a pair of large common casks. It is worth remembering that wooden or plaited bark water háns, carrying on an average seven gallons, are always to be had at Berbera (costing about 4 rupees). They go four to six on a camel, and being light, twenty-eight gallons can easily be carried in one load. But owing to incessant leakage, and to breaking, through the falling of camels and knocking against trees, there is a very great loss of water. On the other hand, if the casks are good, one is sure of the twenty-four gallon load, and the supply can be accurately controlled. Casks should be filled with water over-night and allowed to stand by the well side before a long waterless journey, so that the wood of the casks may have time to swell. Casks which have lost no water by morning may be trusted, and those which have leaked should be filled again and marked, so that they may be the first to be drawn upon on the march.

In one of my long trips I took forty-four water háns, but they caused so much vexation through leakage and so much expense for repairs, that I resolved never to use them again when I could get casks. They are, however, always to be had at Berbera, if casks have been forgotten. In buying háns it should be noted that drinking water for Europeans should be carried in wooden háns, as they taint the water much less than the bark ones. I recommend, for water-bottles, common quart whisky-bottles, which can be slipped into a leather case provided with a sling, so that it can be carried by one of the hunters. It is very convenient to have in addition half a dozen flat water-bottles made to contain a gallon each, of tin covered with thick leather; one of these could be[354] carried on the camel which is ridden. These would, of course, most easily be made in a civilised country.

On the Webbe Shabéleh a little jowári grain can generally be purchased at the villages, though the natives, I believe, only grow it for home consumption and not for export. I would never count on getting either jowári or ghee in the interior, as every purchase of this kind means a vexatious delay, and exorbitant prices are demanded. Milk is obtainable in abundance at every karia; and, as a special favour, if it is asked for, the natives will produce fresh butter as good as that sold in England when not tainted by the wooden cup of the natives. It soon becomes sour, and it should not be counted on as a supply. I always keep two milk goats to supply milk for my own use. Somáli cow’s milk is generally allowed to get sour and much tainted by the bark vessels. Good milk may be got by sending a clean bucket for it, and having the cow milked into it.

Besides the tobes mentioned in the estimates for Example I., the following are useful minor presents in Somáliland:—


Beads. (These should be chosen by a Somáli and bought in Aden or Berbera.)

Clasp knives.

Red shawls. (These are very much in request, and are picked to pieces and made into tassels for saddlery ornaments. They can be bought in Aden for ¼ rupee each.)

Korans or Mahomedan Bibles, which cost from 1 rupee to 3 rupees in Aden, are good presents for mullahs.

Tusbas, or praying chaplets, of ebony or sandalwood, ½ rupee to 1 rupee, procurable in Aden.

Files for sharpening spears.

Coloured handkerchiefs.

Red blankets or coloured plaids. (These and common brown blankets make good presents for important natives, and are always useful to have about the tent.)

In choosing presents it must be remembered that Somális, being very sensible people, will not be burdened in their nomad life with unnecessary articles, and will not be satisfied with glittering but useless things which might pass among negroes. Each present must be really good and useful. A Somáli will examine a gift blanket very critically.

Presents and trade articles for Gállaland can be got in Aden, and should be chosen by a Somáli or Gálla expert, who knows something of the districts to be visited. Wiláyati (European) cotton cloth, something similar to Merikáni (American), but narrower and half the price, is there the most useful kind.

If it is intended to cross the Webbe, a rope (say 2 to 3 inches in circumference and 60 fathoms long) should be taken to be stretched across[355] the river. At Karanleh the river is some 90 yards wide, except in flood time. When this rope has been stretched across the river, the native rafts can be attached to it by running loops made of bruised creeper, and the rafts pulled to and fro hand over hand. The rope enables a caravan to cross in one day, whereas without it the passage might occupy seven days. Such a rope is easily obtainable in Aden, and weighs 40 to 60 lbs.

On very important and distant expeditions it may be worth while to take a folding boat, in order to be independent of the avaricious river negroes, who will strike for higher wages if they think you depend on their help.

When fitting out an expedition which may in the course of the journey have to change to mule or human transport, as would occur at Harar or in parts of Gállaland, it may be worth considering whether the loads should not be capable of subdivision. Thus the boxes I have recommended for holding European stores, if not very full and made a little lower, would weigh about 55 lbs. Four of these would conveniently go on a camel, two on a mule, one on a man.

I have said that “no work, no pay” should be the rule for jungle tribesmen, but in the wilder parts of Somáliland it has hitherto been the custom for passing caravans to make small presents to the heads of clans for the privilege of going through the country. This payment is something similar to the Masai hongo. The usual etiquette is for a dozen horsemen or so to arrive from a distance and perform equestrian games (dibáltig); afterwards the performers and one or two elders are given presents, and then the caravan is free to go on its way. In the territory of tribes which I know I make the present very small, say one red shawl and half a tobe to each horseman, and I give a display with blank cartridge with the men formed up in skirmishing order, as a return compliment, which is always highly appreciated.

In expeditions to Ogádén and Gállaland I recommend that Sheikh Mattar of Hargeisa, if met with on the way, be asked to write Arabic letters of introduction to Mahomedan sheikhs and mullahs. He is widely known, and has often helped me in this way. He has also assisted me by taking care of loads which I have had, on occasions, to leave temporarily at Hargeisa.

Sometimes it may be worth while to hire extra camels (at 1 rupee per diem for a camel and ½ rupee for a man) for the first few days of a journey. In my calculation I make no allowance for trophies, because of course as a trip goes on the food-loads lighten.

As regards arrangements for the security of a caravan, I consider that unless the escort is well in hand and thoroughly up to its duties it will be worse than useless when an emergency arises. I do not believe in engaging a certain proportion of the men for the special purpose of forming the escort. If so engaged they will refuse to do all other[356] work, and will give themselves airs over the camelmen and servants. I have tried the system, and found it lead to jealousy and the shirking of duties.

In most of my expeditions I have engaged my men as headman, camelmen, servants, and guides, having first explained that every Somáli of the caravan will take his share in the common defence. When I have been making up my caravans I have first calculated the number of servants I require, and have engaged them myself satisfying myself on the spot that each either understands the use of a rifle or is capable of soon learning it. The headman has been present, so that if he has any personal objection to any of the men he may state it. I have then told the headman to bring up for engagement the number of camelmen I require, allowing him to choose his own friends; and if I find that any of these are unfit to be trusted with firearms I discard them, and tell the headman to bring others in their place. To each man I explain the special duties he is engaged for, and the duties which he will share with all the members of the caravan, and ask if he is satisfied. When the men have all been engaged at the coast I appoint a time of parade and a convenient spot on the shore, and each man fires two or three rounds of ball ammunition at a mark, under my superintendence. The ball ammunition should be brought to the spot in a bag, not served out to the men. In fact I seldom serve out any ball ammunition till the caravan has made about two marches from the coast. If it is a large amount it may be taken out for this distance on a hired camel.

After these first few shots at a mark I hold two or three parades, serving out ten rounds of blank ammunition per man at each, and practise the men in skirmishing.

The rough drill which I have always used is as follows:—

The men form up in line about half a pace apart, with carbines held perpendicularly in the right hand and close to the side (the carbine “shoulder”).

On the word “Advance” all run forward steadily, keeping a fairly good line.

On the word “Halt” they drop to a sitting position (squatting naturally, as natives do, on both heels).

“Ready”—the men load with blank cartridge.

“Present”—the aim is taken.

“Fire”—the trigger is pressed.

“Advance”—the men run forward again, taking care to take out any unexploded cartridge or to open the breech.

“Halt”—they sit as before, and wait for the word “Ready” or “Advance.”

It might be advisable, if actually attacked when on the march, to retire upon the camels the better to protect them; so the men should[357] be practised in retiring steadily and sitting down facing the enemy to fire, on the words “Retire” and “Halt.” The Somáli should in all these practices be told the supposed direction of the enemy, and also that whenever he is given the word “Halt” he is to squat down facing the enemy. I always carry a good whistle; and when the men are advancing, retiring, or halted ready for firing volleys, I sound an alarm on the whistle, and train the men to run to me and form a rough double circle round me, outer circle squatting on their heels, inner circle standing. We then fire volleys, the idea being that the enemy is trying to overwhelm the escort by a rush to close quarters.

On the word “Advance” the men run out in a rough line facing the enemy. It is wonderful how quickly Somalis get to understand the few English words of command which are necessary, and how well they grasp the idea in each movement. This is because they are brought up from childhood among raids and skirmishes.

The headman, if he is any good, will soon learn to command the men at drill, and he should be often practised in this. The men take the greatest delight in these drills, especially if plenty of blank cartridge is given them, and when it is desirable to gain the firm friendship of a tribe and at the same time to impress the tribesmen with the efficiency of the escort, there is nothing like giving a display of this kind.

During the first few days’ march from the coast, when in uninhabited country, I accustom the men to run out quickly to defend the line of camels. Moving out to the front, flank, or rear, I blow the alarm whistle, and the men run out and sit down in line, facing the supposed enemy. A few of the worst shots should be told off permanently, their duty being to stay among the camels and guard and look after them, so that the bulk of the men will be free to attack the enemy. This duty of holding camels in an emergency is not popular, and this will be an incentive to the men to try and shine at the target practices.

The natural habit of Somális when marching with a caravan is for the two or three camelmen who are required to lead the strings of camels to be with them, while the bulk of the men either lead the way or lag behind with the last camel. The camel makadam should be among these, and whenever a camel falls or shifts its load it is Somáli etiquette for every man near to run up to its assistance. It is not generally necessary, therefore, except in very disturbed country, to tell off a rear-guard, and I do not believe in constantly worrying tired men with theories when things are practically going on well.

In very disturbed country it is advisable to make only one long march in the morning, and to devote the afternoon to fortifying the camp with a good zeríba. While it is still daylight every man should be shown his place in case of a night alarm, and at dusk, having first given notice to the men, the alarm whistle should be blown, and they[358] should jump to their places and then be dispersed. When night falls it is the duty of the headman to see the watch-fires lit and to post the sentry or sentries required. The fires should be outside the zeríba, and screened by it, or by a bush, from the eyes of the sentry. If the glare of the fire is in his face he will not be able to see out into the darkness.

The relief of sentries, and all arrangements connected with them, are best left to the headman. I found that Somális, once posted, as a rule make very faithful and reliable sentries. The usual challenge is, “War kumá?” (Who’s there?)

By day it is not usually necessary to keep a sentry, but there are two occasions when Somális are particularly off their guard. First, at about 8 P.M., if they are grouped together eating camel meat and shouting to one another, so that nothing else can be heard; secondly, between 1 and 2 P.M., when they are generally all asleep, scattered under the shade of different trees outside the camp. If I had the conduct of an attack on Somális, I would choose one of these occasions for effecting a surprise.

The zeríba can be arranged in many ways, the principle being that it should be low enough to fire over and wide enough to prevent a rush. The zeríba of the Somáli nomads, which is often twelve feet high, shuts out all view of the outside ground, and is only a trap for men armed with rifles. From four to five feet high and twelve feet wide is a good zeríba. The great difficulty is where to place the camels, and Somális are prejudiced in favour of a circular zeríba with the camels occupying the centre, which would not, I should say, be the European way. When the camels are out grazing, or a few are sent with empty casks to a distant well, enough men with firearms should be with them to defend them, if necessary, and one man should be placed in command.

It often occurs in bush country that men lose themselves, and guiding shots are required, especially at night. The men should have blank ammunition for this purpose, and should be fined for every ball cartridge wasted in this way or fired indiscriminately at game. Firing at game by men of the caravan, except under special circumstances, should be strictly prohibited, as it causes danger to any natives or live stock that may be about in the bush, and may land the traveller in a troublesome blood-feud. Men who are paid off and sent to the coast towards the end of a trip, or who are sent down in charge of camels, should, if they are trustworthy, be allowed to take their rifles with them, and they should be given cheques for their back pay, arrangements having been made so that the cheques will not be honoured till the rifles have been safely given up. It is not fair to expect a man to go through the territory of strange tribes without his rifle, or, at any rate, a spear and something to show that he is the servant of an Englishman.

If I were organising a Somáli expedition I would begin by writing[359] to the authorities at Aden mentioning where I wished to go, and asking whether political conditions were favourable, whether I would be allowed to enter the country through British ports,[62] and what escort I should be required to provide myself with. I would, at the same time, write to one of the Aden firms which I have named for information regarding the times of sailing of coasting steamers. The securing of a headman, on whom so much depends, may be seen to at the same time; the most reliable quarter to go to for information on this point would probably be friends who have already been a trip and can nominate a man. The name of a reliable headman, who is available, having been obtained, he should be ordered to meet the intending traveller at Aden on a named date.

Meanwhile all such articles as coats, cartridge belts, store-boxes, or Arab camel-saddle, which, if wanted at all, have to be made to order, may be prepared by the Parsi firms. On arrival at Aden the traveller, having already prepared a list of the number of men, camels, and caravan kit he will require, can procure them with the help of the headman. It may be advisable, if time is limited, for the headman to be sent to Berbera (I am assuming Berbera as the starting-point) to buy camels, camel-mats, axes, and other caravan kit, and have them ready by the time his master comes out to Aden, the funds being provided for the headman through the Aden firm acting as banker.

The simplest course, and one I have generally adopted, has been to go over to Berbera, stay in camp there four or five days, and to purchase camels and necessaries myself, with the assistance of the headman. If, however, more than forty camels are wanted, this may involve a delay of perhaps ten days.

When returning from the interior I have found it saves a good deal of worry to stay a few days in camp in the hills, and there pay off the bulk of the caravan with cheques on the Berbera agent. The men’s characters would be at the same time given them, and they would be told firmly that they need expect to get nothing more by coming up in Berbera. The bulk of the animals and kit would be sent down with the men, to be handed to the agent for sale by auction. Only a few necessary camels and men need be kept at the shooting camp, and during the two or three days’ halt the trophies can be prepared in bundles ready for transport by steamer, small delicate specimens going in the empty store-boxes; at the same time search-parties might be out looking for koodoo. During the Karíf wind it is pleasant in the hills, while at Berbera there are constant sand-storms, and so for half the day nothing can be done.

Both for a week before and after the expedition it is advisable to[360] keep the headman, body servant, and cook to assist in the arrangements at Aden and Berbera. Berbera has been named as the most convenient port, but a start may also be made from Bulhár or Zeila; and the camels, if a very large number be required, may perhaps with advantage be collected simultaneously from all three places.


Physical Geography

The Somáli country occupies the triangle known as the “Horn of Africa,” whose eastern angle is Cape Guardafui. The coast line, beginning at Gubbet Khrab, in the north-west, runs eastward for about six hundred miles to Cape Guardafui, thence southward for eleven hundred miles to Kismáyu, near the mouth of the Juba River (Webbe Ganána).

Starting with the north Somáli coast at our port of Berbera, the first natural feature we come to is the sea-beach of sand and coralline limestone, backed by the hot, semi-desert Maritime Plain, from two to twenty miles broad, its breadth varying with the distance of the Maritime Ranges from the coast. The plain, gradually sloping upwards from the sea, rises to about three or four hundred feet at the base of the Maritime mountains, and these rise about a thousand feet higher. Beyond the Maritime mountains stony, jungle-covered, interior plains rise to the high Gólis Range, the true plateau of the interior of Africa, which is in places nearly six thousand nine hundred feet above sea-level. The country from the coast line to the foot of Gólis, some thirty-five miles inland, is called Guban. Gólis Range, with its prolongations east and west, forms the seaward face of the high interior country, which is called Ogo.

On the north Somáli coast there are harbours at Berbera and Zeila, an uninhabited creek at Khor Kulangárit, near Zeila, and the open roadstead of Bulhár, partially protected by a surf-beaten spit of sand, which runs for a few hundred yards parallel to the beach, over which at high tide small dhows can pass, but steamers have to anchor outside.

Berbera is built in two parts, three-quarters of a mile distant from one another. To the east is the native town, composed of a few Arab rubble buildings, a fort, and a large number of permanent Somáli huts of matting and poles (called agal). These huts are divided by streets, the different blocks of building space being allotted to the respective[362] Somáli tribes, clans, and families. Three-quarters of a mile to the west is the new or official town, originally built by the Egyptians, the houses being of rubble masonry, in one story, with flat roofs. There is a good pier.

Berbera harbour, which is an excellent one, and the best to be found either on the north or east Somáli coast, is formed by a sand spit, similar to that at Bulhár, but rising above high-water mark. It starts from the native town and runs west for two miles till well beyond the official town. Inside this spit large steamers are well protected. On the shore, nearly three miles west of the new town, is a good lighthouse, built by the Egyptians before the British Government took over the north Somáli coast from them. Clearing the point of the sand spit it marks the entrance to the harbour. The water-supply is obtained from a spring near the old Egyptian fort of Dubár, eight miles inland under the Maritime Ranges, the water being brought over the Maritime Plain in pipes.

The plain immediately round Berbera is covered with white pebbles and devoid of bushes; a mile or two inland it becomes sandy and covered with a flat-topped mimósa, which is called khansa, growing here to a height of about three feet. There are also scattered thorn bushes about twelve feet high. The plain round Berbera has been greatly denuded of bush for firewood since 1885. I have watched this denudation gradually going on year after year, and have attributed it to the increased traffic since the British have been at Berbera, and to the fact that the town is now well populated all the year round, giving the bush no chance of recovering after the trade season is over. In the Maritime Ranges there are gaps, through which can be seen the towering blue line of Gólis. At a distance of about twenty miles east and west of Berbera the Maritime Ranges come down to within a mile or two of the sea, receding again at Bulhár to form a semicircle of hills with a radius of fourteen miles; then towards Zeila the Maritime Plain widens to thirty or forty miles.

This town is one hundred and seventy miles north-west of Berbera by the coast caravan track, and consists of one compact town of mat huts, with about fifty substantial Arab buildings. There is, strictly speaking, no harbour, but vessels lying off the place are protected by small islands to the north and west. The site of Zeila is low, and at high spring-tides it is almost an island. Water for the use of the town is carried in goatskins from Tukusha, three miles to the west.

For a mile or two inland the Zeila Maritime Plain is a desert of smooth sand, then there is a strip of low evergreen bush, and behind this a great open grass plain or ban, intersected by many dry river-beds, fringed with tamarisks and acacias. Travelling across this plain in 1890, my brother described it in his Journal as follows: “Except one or two low hills there is nothing to break the broad sheet of dull yellow,[363] merging into blue haze on the horizon, here and there divided into light and dark patches by the shadows of the drifting clouds.”

This prairie rises to Eilo and Bur-ád Ranges to the south, thirty-five or forty miles inland, and stretches away to the north-west along the foot of the Tajurra Mountains nearly to the French settlement of Obok. Between Obok and Zeila is another settlement created by the French, called Jibúti, which within the last three or four years has risen into notice. The site is a promontory of coral rock, and there is a good harbour and a pier. The French are working hard to develop the place, in order if possible to make it compete with Zeila as a trade port.

At Bulhár, forty-two miles west of Berbera by the coast track, the Ayyal Yunis sub-tribe of the Habr Awal settle during the trading season, from November to April. At this time both Berbera and Bulhár are surrounded by the karias, or temporary kraals of the halted trading caravans, and these karias stretch far out into the Maritime Plain; but from May to October the town is nearly empty, a detachment of police being kept there as a guard. The Bulhár Plain is a vast expanse of bush, surrounded by blue mountains, and viewed from the sea, with the long line of white beach in the foreground, is very striking. Two very notable landmarks well known to sailors are Elmas Mountain, thirteen miles west of Bulhár, and Laba Gumbur Mado (the “two black hills”), twenty-five miles east of Berbera. Elmas rises to about 1500 feet, and is a cluster of bold peaks.

The Maritime mountains are composed principally of limestone, and some of them are nearly as barren-looking as the volcano at Aden. Here and there they are cut through by river-beds like the wádi of Arabia, water percolating slowly, hidden at various depths below a glaring expanse of dry powdery sand. Sometimes it is so near the surface that the sand is moist, and water can be got by scraping out a hole with the hands, though generally it is obtained by digging the lás, or shallow pit, through the surface sand.

However inviting these smooth stretches of sand may appear, a camp should never be pitched in the main channel. On a dozen different occasions, after heavy rain in the hills, I have seen a yellow flood, two to four feet deep and fifty yards wide, rush foaming down the dry channel of the Issutugan with great speed, rolling down in front of it a mass of branches, débris, and large boulders, and undermining the high perpendicular banks, pieces of which would drop into the river with a loud splash. At such a time the whole of the river-bed in front of the freshet has been absolutely dry, untouched by water perhaps for months. These freshets dwindle to a trickling stream in about six hours, and may cease to flow in two days. The water does not always reach the sea, as the dry loose sand of the Maritime Plain drinks it up. After one of these floods has run itself away a thin layer of mud remains deposited, which dries, cracks, and curls up into[364] small flakes, to be swept away in a few days by the wind, leaving the surface of the sand again exposed.

At Bulhár, when there has been particularly heavy rain in the hills, the Issutugan comes sweeping down over twenty miles of river-bed and plain, and reaching the coast makes a clear cut through the high bank behind the sea-beach. When the river dries the sea-bank is again in the course of time silted up by the surf to its original height. At ordinary times the water of the Issutugan, which is a typical tug or Somáli sand-river, loses itself in the sand at So-Midgán, twenty-three miles inland from Bulhár, and sinking deep down below the Maritime Plain, collects behind the sea-bank, where it can be reached by digging.

Vast numbers of shallow pits, which render riding rather dangerous at night, are seen at intervals along the coast between Bulhár and Zeila. They contain water which is brackish, but drinkable. After being used for some time the well deepens, striking through the layer of fresh water into the underlying sea-water, and a new pit has to be dug. Where the Issutugan cuts through the Maritime hills, which it does for forty miles of its course, there is generally a tiny rivulet of water running along the centre of its bed, now and then sinking out of sight, to reappear again a mile or two below, the sand saturated with water held in suspension, forming awkward although not dangerous quicksands.

The aspect of the Maritime mountains is very forbidding. Bare precipices rise everywhere, or the hills form great rounded shoulders, having a surface of gravel sprinkled over with a wretched scrub of little brown bushes a foot high, which are generally dry as tinder. Between Berbera and Bulhár the mountains come closer to the sea, and take the form of low, table-topped plateaux of black trap rock, with fringing precipices about thirty feet deep, and a steep talus slope of débris dropping three hundred feet to the level of the river-beds which cut through these plateaux. Hegebo, near Berbera, is a typical plateau of this kind, and on the Zeila side of the British Protectorate this sort of ground covers an enormous area. On the top of the plateaux the surface has the appearance of having been rained upon by showers of black stones. Here and there tufts of feathery grass grow in the crevices, and there is light, open jungle of flat-topped thorn bushes. Everywhere there are boulders and jagged or rounded pieces of rock, so that where there are no paths caravans cannot go. The sun beating down on the polished black surfaces causes great heat, and distresses the baggage animals, and the stones are very trying to horses’ feet, even camels going better over them. The sand-rivers find their way through these plateaux from the high mountains to the sea, forming deep gullies, the expanse of sand and green bush below contrasting strangely with the black frowning heights on either side.

Between the Maritime mountains and the great Gólis Range are elevated, undulating, interior plains, intersected by river-beds and ravines[365] running generally from south to north. These slope up in continuation of the Maritime Plain, but present greater variety of scenery; here a strip of gravel and rocky ground scantily dotted with low mimósa bushes, and cut up by torrent-beds choked with rough boulders and a tangle of savage thorns, there a wide sand-river winding through a belt of thick forest of the beautiful gudá or larger thorn-tree, with a dense undergrowth of pointed aloes, making it impossible to move about except in the sheep and game paths. Narrow strips of thorn bushes and dark green poison trees (wabé) wind down from the mountains, marking the tributary watercourses. The river-beds themselves consist of broad, flat, sandy reaches between alluvial banks, which have been scarped perpendicularly, at alternate points on the right and left, where the swirling water has undermined them with an inward sweep. Large gudá trees grow closely together at the edge of the steep or overhanging banks, their branches being covered with long drapery of armo creepers, which hang down, often as much as thirty feet, to the level of the river-bed below. Behind the jungle which fringes the banks is high grass, until the ground rises, when the red soil, exposed by the action of the rains, is worked into miniature hills and valleys. Here and there at the side or in the centre of the channel is a clump of thorn-trees, round which the sand has been washed up into a bank, and masses of driftwood are heaped round the lower branches. Between the parallel sand-rivers of the interior plains are watersheds of stony ground, very trying to travel over, the sunbeams beating down on the stony path, glittering on the points of the aloes, and being reflected like fire from the thousands of chipped rocks, scattered pieces of quartz, feldspar, and mica which everywhere crop above the surface.

Two days’ march due south of Berbera, having crossed the interior plains, we arrive at the higher mountains, rising to nearly 6900 feet. Gólis is the collective name, though Somális have a name for each flat-topped bluff, as Daar-áss (Red clay), Gán-Libah (Lion hand), Ban-yéro (Little plain), and Dig-wein (Big ears). In fact, in Somáliland every watering-place, hill, or mound, and many a prominent tree, has some descriptive name known to all the local tribes.

The Gólis Range forms a gigantic step rising abruptly on the northern or coast face, and presenting to the sea, thirty-five miles distant, great scarped precipices and bold descents, long walls of perpendicular rock, red, yellow, or gray in colour, fringing the summit for many miles. The whole interior of Somáliland presents the appearance of having, in some great movement of the earth’s crust, been elevated from the level of Guban, an abrupt break or fault occurring at Gólis Range, which seems to have been upheaved for about six thousand feet; while at Hargeisa the country is crumpled up into a chaos of hills, Guban rising gradually into Ogo in several successive steps instead of in one great fault. On the Hargeisa side the country between the[366] levels of Guban and Ogo is called Ogo-Gudan. At the base of the fringing precipices, which are two or three hundred feet high, vast tumbled masses of rock which have slipped from the crest lie heaped together half buried among the foliage of tall cedar-trees and a profusion of forest growth, forming caves and moss-grown recesses with great variety of wild flowers, and clumps of maiden-hair fern growing in the damp crevices of the rocks. The soil is a rich black vegetable mould.

There can be no greater contrast than that between this fine mountain country and the brown sterile shores of the Gulf of Aden. Often as one looks down from the top of Gólis the whole of Guban is hidden from view by an immense expanse of white cloud lying below, resembling a storm-tossed sea, the tops of Deimoleh-Wein and other detached hills rising like islands above it. The air is so clear in the elevated interior that from a hill in the Eilo Range, above Zeila, I have recognised each separate bluff of Gólis at a distance of one hundred and twenty miles. In these hills the roar of a lion or the alarm note of a koodoo antelope can be heard echoing up the gorges for great distances.

On the northern slope, at about a thousand feet below the level of the crest of Gólis, is a ledge of broken ground, a mile or two wide, running parallel to the range for twenty or thirty miles. It is called Mirso, or “The Haven,” and is a favourite pasture of the Habr Awal and Habr Gerhajis tribes, and also good ground for koodoo. It is covered with jungle, but the soil is shallow and stony. A gigantic blue-green cactus, or euphorbia, called hassádan, grows here to a height of about forty feet, and gives a very dense shade. The sap is a white milky liquid, which pours from every cut in the tree, and if caught in cups and dried, it solidifies into a kind of rubber. The top of the range is covered with dense jungle of mountain cedar. In the gorges some of these trees, called dayeb, grow tall and straight, often four feet in diameter at the foot, and over a hundred feet high; but more frequently the dayeb forest is of comparatively stunted growth, being about forty feet high, with the trunks and branches much bent and twisted. The best trees which I saw were under Daar-áss Bluff, near Kulméye in Mirso, and on Wagar Mountain, farther east.

From the crest of Gólis the country slopes towards the south-east, falling gently towards the interior, the cedar forests ceasing at a distance of about six miles inside the crest, and opening out into grassy downs or thorn-covered wilderness. Soon, as we pass through Ogo, the Haud waterless country, from one hundred to two hundred and fifty miles across, is reached; and on its farther edge the ground again drops slightly, as at Milmil, into Ogádén, the broad broken surface of Ogádén finally sloping into the valley of the Webbe Shabéleh or Leopard river, beyond which is the Juba. Where the Haud Plateau drops at Milmil the limestone surface, which is covered with red soil, breaks up into[367] flat-topped hills, which continue the level of the Haud, but cease a little farther south. They are covered with high durr grass, and form some of the most favourite retreats for lions. Thus the Gólis Range and its prolongations east and west are the most prominent natural feature in Northern Somáliland, forming the watershed between Ogo, the high cool country, and Guban, the arid coast belt. Guban is drained by sand-rivers and ravines, which, starting in Gólis, pass through the interior plains and cut through the Maritime Ranges, the water being eventually lost under the Maritime Plain, to reappear near the surface behind the sea-shore. I consider the whole of the Guban country to be almost valueless, except as a pasture for sheep and goats, as it is only upon reaching the high country that the soil is found to be fertile.

The Haud is the great elevated wilderness which separates Ogádén and Harar from Ogo, Guban, and the coast. The Somáli word haud is used to describe a peculiar kind of country, consisting of thick and sometimes impenetrable thorn jungle, broken up by shallow watercourses, and generally having an undergrowth of hig or dár aloes. The great waterless plateau which is generally called the Haud is really a district, and besides the variety of ground usually called haud, it includes large strips of open, rolling, grass plains called ban, or, to the south-east, semi-desert country called aror. Ban is the Somáli term for an open plain absolutely, or nearly devoid of bushes.

In the wooded parts of the Haud dense thorn jungles alternate with small glades of durr grass six feet high, luxuriating in beautiful feathery clumps, with a level red soil; ant-hills crop up at about every hundred yards, their pinnacles often rising to twenty-five feet. Some of the dead thorn-trees are to be seen standing half eaten by white ants, and the débris of fallen ones are found scattered about half-buried in the soil, where they have been swept along by sheets of water during the last rains. The remains of galól bushes attain an almost iron hardness, and many a wound have I and my followers received at night by stumbling against a gori, or jagged stump, half hidden in the high grass. There is excellent pasture in the glades and between the bushes, the Haud pastures being considered better than those of Ogo or Guban. Extensive tracts of fertile soil, of good depth, are to be found at about five thousand feet elevation, which, although, except at one or two mullah villages, none of them are under cultivation, owing to the nomadic life of the people, may yet in the distant future become very valuable. The rainfall in the higher parts of the country is ample, and the water would only require to be stored in tanks, as is done in the drier parts of India, to ensure a supply all the year round. Of course for three months in the dry season the whole of the soil is baked hard by the sun, but the same thing occurs in India. In June, when there is a hot wind at the coast, cool breezes blow over the elevated Haud, making it possible to march all day long; and although in the sun it is hot, yet in a tent pitched[368] under the shade of a flat-topped gudá tree it is sometimes quite chilly, even at midday, while it is disagreeably so in the early mornings.

The Haud was first crossed by Mr. F. L. James and his party in the winter of 1884-85, and a description of the journey is given in his book, The Horn of Africa. Their camels were carrying loads for thirteen days without touching a drop of water. The description of the Haud in the above-named work, although I believe it to be an accurate portrait of the country passed over by that expedition, does not give any idea of the pleasant coolness and apparent fertility of the more elevated North-eastern Haud. Mr. James’s party crossed this district at almost its widest part, and in the Jilál or driest season. The plateau is traversed by several warda, or great trade routes, to the far interior from the coast, generally running nearly north and south. In the strips of ban, or open plain, often many miles wide, all caravan paths are lost, each caravan crossing independently of landmarks, and no impression is left on the growing grass. Once the ban is passed, however, all tracks will have converged into one well-worn path, or group of parallel paths. One of the most important of these is the Warda Gumaréd crossing the plateau from Hargeisa to Milmil.

The drainage from the Haud and Ogádén finds its way into the Nogal Valley, or into the Webbe Shabéleh, eventually falling into the Indian Ocean on the east Somáli coast, which is assigned to the Italian sphere of influence. In reality, the Shabéleh, I believe, does not actually reach the ocean, but falls into marshes near Mukdisha (Magadoxo). Farther south, beyond the Webbe Shabéleh and the Webbe Ganána or Juba, is the Tana River, rising near Mount Kenia in the Masai country and flowing east. The Somális make annual raids as far south as the Tana, to within a few days’ march of Lamu on the east coast, but, as far as we know at present, the permanent Somáli country may be considered to lie well to the north of the Juba. Most of this river lies in Gállaland, and its sources have been scarcely touched by any European explorer, except, perhaps, by the Italian explorer Captain Bottigo.

I have said that some of the highest ground in Somáliland is the great upheaval of Gólis, continuations of which stretch far away to the eastward, parallel to the sea-shore as far as Cape Guardafui, forming the bold, almost unexplored coast line which is visible from the decks of steamers passing along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. But there is a still higher mountain system, that of the Harar Highlands, up to the foot of which the Haud Plateau extends. The Haud gradually falls towards the south-east, and rises ever higher the farther one goes westward, its north-west angle being occupied by the high ban known as the Marar Prairie. This magnificent expanse of open grass land is fifty-six miles long by thirty-five broad, having an area of nearly one thousand square miles, and an elevation ranging from 4900 feet to[369] 6300 feet. There are a few grassy knobs like the Subbul hills which rise singly out of the plains to nearly 7000 feet above sea-level.

In the Jilál season the Marar Prairie is a sheet of yellow grass, quite dried up, but still containing nourishment—the varieties being chiefly darémo, dihe, and durr, all three having valuable fattening qualities for horses or camels. After the first rains the young grass begins to come up in patches of vivid green, the old, longer grass falls, and soon the plains are entirely covered with a carpet of rich green turf, short and crisp, inviting a gallop, and having almost the appearance of unlimited English pasture. The soil is red and powdery. Some of our camps on the plains were between 6000 and 7000 feet above sea-level. The country is probably similar to the South African veldt, the great elevation in a measure compensating for the nearness to the equator.

There is heavy rainfall, the Marar Prairie partaking of that of Harar and Abyssinia, but the water sinks to a great depth, so that with the exception of temporary rain-pools the surface is waterless. There are, however, many permanent watering-places in the jungle-covered hills and broken ground bordering the prairie to the north and west, and in the Harar Highlands, whose lofty summits can be seen overlooking the western edge of the plain, some of them rising to over 10,000 feet. The Somális say there is sometimes ice on these mountains, and that people die of cold.

The Marar Prairie supports enormous masses of game, and I have had many a good day’s sport upon it, which will never be forgotten. Although this is the largest ban which we have actually circumscribed and measured, it may not be larger than many others in unexplored parts of Somáliland, but is probably the best in quality. Some of the low-lying ban—as, for instance, that of the Zeila Maritime Plain—is of very poor quality, and this is partly why the Esa is not a mounted tribe. I am told by Dolbahanta tribesmen whom I have taken to Marar, that there are similar elevated plains at the back of the unexplored Warsingali country. There are many other fine patches of ban in the Haud which have been explored by us, as at Aror and Toyo.

My brother, while passing through the Esa country, wrote in his Journal: “After leaving Doleimalleh we came across a strip of plain which seemed to afford an example of the manner in which the ban is formed. There were miles upon miles of dead and bleached thorn-trees, about twenty feet high, evidently vigorous some ten years ago. These had either been killed by very heavy floods, as the ground is flat and water does not drain off easily, or they had been destroyed by extensive fires. Among these trees were scores of red ant-hills, eight or ten feet high, and many of the dead trees were overwhelmed by them, just a branch or the part of a trunk projecting here and there. When the trees have all been eaten the termites no doubt leave, and their mounds are washed away by rain and wind, leaving behind only a vast grassy plain.”

The extreme north-western angle of the Marar Prairie is marked by[370] a hill called Sarir Gerád, and from its base the ground falls abruptly to the north into the Harrawa Valley in the Gadabursi country, and to the west into deep gorges which lead towards Gildessa. The bushes cling in a sharply-defined line to the rugged hills of denudation into which the high prairie breaks up. The general formation of these hills is mountain limestone, much eroded in the ravines by the chemical action of water, and weathered into holes and caves, lined with deposits of stalactite. Some of the torrents which descend to the east of Sarir cut through deep alluvial deposits, leaving overhanging earth banks eighty to one hundred feet deep. The whole of this wild and mountainous region is very remarkable and picturesque, and the more interesting to a sportsman because, together with the Harrawa Valley, it is still visited at the right season by two or three herds of elephants. The average elevation of this valley is about 5000 feet above sea-level, and it has deep alluvial soil cut up by ravines with perpendicular banks. The vegetation is very luxuriant, the predominating kind being the hassádan or euphorbia, which here grows to a height of from thirty to sixty feet. There is a great variety of flowers, and the grass is excellent in this valley, which stretches away several days’ journey into the Esa country.

It can be well understood in a country of such an extended area, and varying so much in elevation, that a large variety of plants and trees exists; and in addition to the vegetation already noticed there are many bushes and trees which one learns to recognise in the course of a journey. It is of course impossible to mention them all, but the following are a few of the most conspicuous:—

The most thorny of all the bushes I consider to be the billeil. This horrible bush grows to a height of about ten feet, and is covered with small curved hooks of great strength which cannot be disregarded. The sockso, adad, galól, khansa are other more or less thorny bushes which are met with everywhere. The adad produces the best gum-arabic (hábag), large transparent knobs the size of a pigeon’s egg being visible in the joints of the branches. The galól is a twisted, straggling, and untidy-looking thorn-tree, growing to a height of fifteen to twenty-five feet, the root being used for hardening and making watertight the bark háns or water-vessels used by Somáli caravans. The branches have very little strength, and are useless for building platforms in when watching for game. There are thorns over an inch long, each springing from a white bulb.

The jungles in Ogádén chiefly consist of the galól and the khansa. The giant euphorbia called hassádan grows in the hills and in the Haud, seldom much above or below five thousand feet. The derkein is a tree allied to the hassádan, but it is found at a lower elevation, and is very common in the Dolbahanta country, growing in thick compact groves, and within these groves it is the custom of the natives to bury their dead. Two large thorn-trees of great beauty are the gudá[371] and the wádi. The gudá has a dark stem and grows to a height of from thirty to fifty feet, spreading out to an umbrella top and giving excellent shade. The wádi has a whitish stem and spreads out like the gudá, but more symmetrically, and is ornamented with white thorns about five inches long. The kedi and the mégag are conspicuous trees. The kedi grows without a branch for about eight feet, and then breaks out into a compact rounded mass of long, green, soft thorns, growing one out of the other, in the same way as a prickly pear. The mégag is much the same in shape, but there are no thorns, and it breaks out into small twisted branches, matted together, with tiny blue-gray leaves. Another tree is the garas, having leaves like a laurel, while the roots and bifurcations of the stems contain deep recesses which often hold drinking water after rain. The wabé, or dark green poison-tree, is very common in the mountains, a concoction of arrow-poison being made from the roots. The athei is a small bush with gray leaves, the twigs of which form the native substitute for a toothbrush in Somáliland. Ergin is a slender, green, grass-like bush of the cactus kind, with a milky sap, which forms dense cover and is often the resort of leopards. Dár and hig, the latter of which produces excellent rope-fibre, are varieties of the aloe, and cover enormous areas. There is no ground more favoured by the lesser koodoo.

Of the largest trees the most conspicuous are the darei, a fig-tree, and the gób, a very large thorny tree growing on the banks of river-beds, with edible berries of an orange colour, the size of a cherry, and containing a large stone. In taste they resemble apples, and are delicious eating. The tomaiyo is a root like a knotted swede, growing three inches below the surface in the soft red soil of the Haud and Ogádén. It is green and purple outside, and inside consists of a white watery pulp which will allay thirst. This plant is difficult to find, and has to be burrowed for. Armo, a vividly green creeper with large, fleshy, heart-shaped leaves, covers all the trees by the river-beds, hanging festooned like a curtain, and turning the gudá thorn-trees into natural shady bowers. Of the three best grasses already mentioned as growing in the Haud, the durr grows to about six feet, the darémo to about fifteen inches, and dihe to about four inches. All these grasses curl and twist about very much, the durr spreading out into branches like a bush. The favourite cover chosen by a lion is in nine cases out of ten either durr grass, khansa forest, or the reeds (alálo) growing at the margin of a river-bed.

The Somáli climate is on the whole very dry and bracing, and there is no malarial fever to speak of except on the Webbe Shabéleh river.

In the Maritime hills the highest shade temperature I have registered is 118° Fahr. at midday, and on the cool elevated Haud country the temperature just before sunrise has often been as low as 56° in June. The lowest temperature I ever registered was 49°.


During the months of July, August, and September 1892, my brother took daily five or six observations with barometer and thermometer. The following shade temperatures, taken at random from his tables, may be of interest:—

Date. Place. Elevation in feet above sea-level. Time. Thermometer.
July 4-8 Berbera 35 8 A.M. 94½
12.15 P.M. 99
6 P.M. 99½
9.30 P.M. 95
17-20 Hargeisa Wells 3938 6.30 A.M. 67
8 A.M. 67
Noon. 82
5.25 P.M. 80
9.5 P.M. 74½
23 Kheidub-Ayéyu (Haud) 3841 1.30 A.M. 56
5 A.M. 61
Noon. 83
9 P.M. 75
25-28 Gagáb (Milmil) 3429 5 A.M. 63
Noon. 85
2.30 P.M. 82
9 P.M. 68
August 8-10 Waror (Jerer Valley) 4161 4 A.M. 59
6.30 A.M. 63
9.30 A.M. 69½
1 P.M. 84
3 P.M. 85
31 Harrhé 5761 1 P.M. 80
2 P.M. 75
Sept. 3-5 Makanis (Marar Prairie) 6209 6 A.M. 56
7 P.M. 65
9 Kalerug 6310 3.30 P.M. 72½
10 Sarir Gerád 6330 6 A.M. 56
24 Biyo Kabóba 3353 Noon. 103½
25-26 Hassein Gedíchi 2252 5 A.M. 67
30 Lehellu 10 2 P.M. 93
October 4 Zeila 45 3 A.M. 84
10 P.M. 85


Glossary of Geographical Names

The names have been spelt in accordance with the Royal Geographical Society’s system, vowels having an Italian pronunciation, ei being pronounced as in the English word “weight,” and so forth.

The following will occur often in geographical names, some being modern terms, others having fallen into disuse in ordinary conversation:—

Ad, Ado, white.

Ass, red.

Ban, an open plain; as Ban-yéro, little plain.

Biyo, Biya, water; as Biyo-foga, distant water; Biya-ha-gódleh, water of the place of caves.

Bur, a mountain or hill; as Bur-mádo, the black hill.

Daba, foothills; as Daba-ádo, the white hills.

Dagah, a rock; as Dagaha-dáyer, the monkey rock.

Dih, a valley; as Dih-wiyileh, the valley of rhinoceroses.

Dur-dur, a perennial spring.

Eil, a deep well; as Eil Sheikh, the Sheikh’s well.

Gad, a headland or bluff; as Gadki-góbleh, the bluff of the place of the gób tree.

Ged, a tree; as Ged-wein, big tree.

Gola, Gol, a peak; as Gola-dagah, the rocky peak; Gol-adéryu, the peak of koodoos.

Gumbur, a hillock; as Gumbur-ta-jifto, the sloping hillock.

Habr, Rer, and the Arabic Ayyal, are tribal prefixes.

Hassádan, an euphorbia tree; Hassadinleh, the place of the euphorbia.

Hedd, or Dúd, a forest; as Dúd-libah, the lion forest.

Kabr, graves; as Kabr Ogádén, the Ogádén graves.

Karin or Duss, a pass; as Karin-dagah, the rocky pass.

Lás, a shallow well or sand-pit; as Lás Ánod, milk well.

Mádo, Mádu, or Madóba, black.

Magala, a town; thus Berbera is called Magala-sahil, the “coast town.”

Nás, a pointed breast or hillock; as Nás-gódki, the hillock of the cave; Náso hablod, the maiden’s breasts.

Sarar, a plateau; as Sarar-ki-adáda, the white plateau.

Tug, a sand-river; as Tug-dér, the long river.

Webbe, a large running river; as Webbe Shabéleh, the leopard river.

Wein, great; yer, small.

The plural is often formed by doubling the last consonant and adding o; as Dubbur, plural Duburro.

Leh is a termination constantly occurring in geographical names, and meaning locality; thus:—

Armáleh, the place of armo creepers.

Libah, a lion; Libableh, the place of lions.

Shabél, a leopard; Shabéleh, place of leopards.

Warába, a hyæna; Warábileh, the place of hyænas.

Besides those given above, the following meanings of names which are to be found in the map will be interesting:—

Adadleh, the place of adad trees.

Alóla-Jifen, sloping plateau.

Badwein, large tank.

Biyo-ado, white water.


Biyo Frinji, the Franks’ watering-place.

Bur Ád, white hill.

Bur Ánod, hill of milk.

Bur Dab, rocky hill.

Burka, the hill.

Daar-Áss, red clay.

Dabada Jiáleh, hill of the jia tree.

Dagaha Madóba, the black rock.

Dagahbur, rocky hill.

Deimoleh, place of deima trees.

Dere-gódleh, the ravine of the cave place.

Derin-galólo, the ravine of galól trees.

Digirin-leh, place of guinea-fowl.

Dig-wein, big ears.

Dih-bauna, valley of rock rabbits.

Eil Anod, milky well.

Eil Armo, well of the armo creeper.

Eil Birdáleh, well of the birda tree.

Eil Midgán, bushman’s well.

Eil Sheikh, the Sheikh’s well.

Gal Hedigáleh, gully of the stars.

Gán-Libah, lion’s paw.

Garasleh, the place of garas trees.

Gol Adér-yu, the peak of koodoo.

Goriáleh, place of tree-stumps.

Gudáweina, the large gudá tree.

Gumbur Dúg, the hillock of gadflies.

Hedd-Gódir, koodoo forest.

Hegebo, many hills.

Issutugan, straight river.

Laba-Gumbur-mádo, the two black hillocks.

Magala-yer, little town.

Marodíleh, the place of elephants.

Nasíya, resting-place.

Sarar-awr, the camel plateau.

Shimbiráleh, the place of birds.


Notes on Somáli Trade

The manufactured goods which the African wants, and the raw material which he can export, are much the same all over the countries of tropical Africa. But Somáliland has one great advantage as a trading country over many other African regions. Trade caravans depend for their transport upon camels, not upon human beings; and these camels, although comparatively weak, are vastly superior to those of many other camel countries, in that they cost only about £2 each and pick up all their food by the wayside. A comparison of the cost of camel transport in Somáliland with the human transport on the Zanzibar coast will show the former to great advantage.

The calculation which follows is based on my own experience of both countries. It is some years since I was at Mombasa, so I am open to correction if the prices there have been recently reduced.

The Zanzibar coast porter carries a 60 lb. load of merchandise and a few days’ rations, and costs about £1 per month in pay and food. Thus six porters would carry 360 lbs. of merchandise for a three months’ journey at a cost of £18.

Two camels would be bought at Berbera for £4, and after a long journey, and allowing for a percentage of loss by death, they would fetch, if sold by the Somáli owners, about £3. With the two camels would be one attendant, and his pay and rations for three months would involve an outlay of about £3:15s. The camels, if lightly laden, would carry 275 lbs. each; and the merchandise they would carry, if the liberal allowance of 63 lbs. be deducted for the weight per month of the attendant’s rations, would be 360 lbs., or the same as that carried by the six porters.

The cost of the two camels and their attendant for the three months would, however, amount to only £4:15s. as against the £18 for the porters.

During one of my last journeys we carried rations of rice, dates, and ghee at 1¾ lb. per man for a period of four and a half months. This could never be done by a caravan of Swahili porters, who can[376] only carry a few days’ rations in addition to the load. Serious hardships from want of food are practically impossible when travelling with camels. In comparing porters and camels it must be borne in mind that the Somáli caravans go from Berbera to Imé, four hundred miles, in sixteen days, which is faster travelling than could be accomplished by Swahili porters for the same length of road.

Of all the Somáli coast ports by far the most promising is Berbera. Without counting the great capacity of Somáliland itself as a consumer of our fabrics, which I shall touch upon later, Berbera has many advantages which will, I feel sure, cause it to become very valuable as entrepôt and distributer to countries and tribes outside the existing sphere of British influence. If the resources of Central Africa are destined ever to be fully developed, I believe Berbera will be one of the chief outlets for Central African exports.

The position of Berbera is unique. The meat supplies for Aden come almost entirely from there, and freight is always obtainable. Already two, and sometimes three, coasting steamers call weekly at Berbera, to say nothing of the freights carried by dhows. Berbera is close to one of the greatest lines of shipping in the world, and when trade develops into direct communication, the proximity of Europe and India cannot fail to attract capital. Another advantage which Berbera has over the ports of the East African coast is that the long sea-voyage, with its dangerous Cape Guardafui and its uncertain currents, is avoided; and although the land distance to Uganda and the Equatorial Province is greater than from Mombasa, Somáliland has, in Aden, a base secure from all attack, and is a week closer than Mombasa to England and India. I have already shown the advantage of camel transport in the Hinterland of the Somáli coast. The route to Central Africa, at any rate as far as Imé, four hundred miles inland, is an excellent one, presenting no difficulties to caravans, either owing to physical causes or the temper of the natives; and, moreover, the whole of the country through which it passes is exceptionally healthy.

The Gállas beyond Imé are camel-owners like the Somális, and live much in the same way. The route is so good, for the first four hundred miles at least from the coast, that at any time, should the trade of Central Africa ever in the far distant future be sufficient to justify it, the construction of a railway following it would be perfectly easy.

The following statistics I find published in a Calcutta paper, having been taken from Lieutenant-Colonel Stace’s Official Report on Somáli Coast Commerce, 1891-92: “The total value of the trade of Zeila last year was over a quarter of a million sterling, exports figuring for £151,721 of this sum. The exports consist almost exclusively of coffee from Harar (valued last year at over £100,000), skins, and hides; while their imports are piece goods (£12,508), rice (£31,827), American shirtings (£17,941), Indian shirtings (£10,057), and[377] jowári (£10,000). The total value of the trade of Berbera and Bulhár last year was £280,664, of which imports are responsible for £161,112. Berbera is supposed to contain about 30,000 people during the principal trading season, Bulhár perhaps 5000, and Zeila 6000.”

There are many minor imports which do not compare in importance with those named. Among the possible imports in the distant future may figure common brown blankets. They are most popular as presents, and might eventually, I should think, develop into an article of trade.

Other chief exports at present, besides those already named, are—

The hides, the trade in which seems to me to be capable of great development, go to America, whence most of the cotton goods are imported.

Considering the capacity of Somáliland as a consumer of our fabrics, our countrymen’s lack of enterprise in having allowed American goods to gain the ascendancy in this market seems astonishing. Among the future possible exports of value are the fibre of the hig or pointed aloe, certain barks for tanning leather, and other natural products. Ivory at present mostly goes to ports west of Zeila, and does not figure largely in the exports from the British Protectorate. Now that the Eastern Soudan is closed, the gum of Somáliland should be important.

There are many kinds of resin and of gum, the best gum being that of the adad, a low-spreading thorn-tree, exuding from the branches of which can be seen transparent knobs of the gum of a golden hue, the size of a lemon, and pleasant to taste. It is much eaten by the natives and by gazelles. Gum-pickers take it to their squalid-looking encampments, and loading camels with the sacks, they take them to the coast for sale.



[1] The Habr Awal, Habr Gerhajis, and Habr Toljaala.

[2] When a man commits murder or manslaughter the relatives of the deceased can claim blood money. The tribe to which the slayer belongs must either pay this, give up the murderer, or fight. Which of these three courses will be taken depends on the nature of the act, and whether the man is considered to be worth fighting for.

[3] The Gerád (Arabic Sultán) is the paramount chief of a tribe.

[4] Most Somális who pray a great deal do it, I am convinced, for their reputation’s sake; and most of the religious observances are to “show off,”—a thing the Somáli loves to do.

An instance of this is the horror of dogs. I have seen a Somáli, when thinking himself unobserved, playing with a pariah dog; but if a Somáli servant, in a house at Aden, when waiting at table, should be brushed against by a perfectly clean English fox-terrier, he will as likely as not drop the dish which he is carrying, and say that he has been bitten. All this horror is acted for the benefit of the other servants.

[5] My usual plan on losing a camel is to offer a reward to the finder, deducting the amount from the pay of the loser.

[6] When a Somáli is speaking to a foreigner, he generally uses instead of rer, the Arabic karia (village) to designate his kraal. He also uses the Arabic ayyal instead of the tribal prefix rer. Thus he calls the Rer Yunis, who live at Bulhár, the Ayyal Yunis.

[7] I have merely guessed at this origin for the Somális. The traditions of the Gállas themselves should, if obtainable, throw light on this subject. Captain Abud says, “The aboriginal inhabitants of Somáliland cannot be clearly traced. The Somális say they were Gállas, but in the Somáli language every one not a Mussulman is called Gál, or infidel.”

[8] Quite recently (Christmas, 1894) another Somáli raid against the Gállas of the Tana has resulted in the total defeat of the Somális at Kulessa by a handful of white men and natives.

[9] I noticed that though the Gállas at Karanleh and on the Tana were a tolerably thin-featured race, those at Harar were quite different, being very much more coarse-featured than the Somáli type. Mr. W. B. Harris, in a very interesting account in Blackwood’s Magazine (Sept. 1894) of his visit to Harar, has noticed this.

[10] The rhinoceros bird, called Shimbir Loh, or the “cow bird,” by Somális.

[11] If camels have to make a start before dawn, it is a great mistake to arrive at the evening camp after dark, and to throw off the loads and let the camels rest at night on an empty stomach. A continued course of such treatment will kill the best camels. When camels “flop” down on arriving in camp, or “swear” very much on being loaded, it is a sure sign they are being overworked. With good pasturage and proper working hours, I have often seen fifty camels loaded up almost in silence.

[12] Biladiers, i.e. country police (derived from the Arabic).

[13] Sircal, i.e. Government or Government official—a corruption from Hindustáni or Arabic.

[14] This was a mistake, as I could have bought all the camels for £8 the lot and sold them for £6 at the end of the trip, and on all later trips I have bought instead of hiring.

[15] Guban and Gudan are names quite distinct from one another.

[16] Some time afterwards, in Berbera, two natives came down and reported that they had seen the dead elephant near Hargeisa, and that a passing caravan had appropriated the tusks on its way to Harar. Through the proper channels I applied to the Emir of Harar for their recovery, and that is the last I ever heard of them.

[17] The first treaty between the British Government and the Somális was signed in 1827 after the plundering of an English ship by the Habr Awal. In 1840 another was signed with the chiefs of Zeila and Tajurra. In 1865 Sir Richard Burton’s expedition was attacked at Berbera, and the blockade which followed was raised on the signing of another treaty. In 1866 treaties were made with the Habr Gerhajis, Habr Toljaala, and Midjerten; and since 1884, when the Egyptians handed over the coast to Great Britain, treaties have been made with all the northern tribes. By an agreement signed in 1888, the boundary separating the British and French Protectorates begins near Loyi-ada, on the coast between Jibúti and Zeila, and runs by Abbaswein, Biyo-Kabóba, Gildessa, towards Harar.

On 5th May 1894 a protocol was signed, fixing the boundaries of the Italian and British spheres of influence. The boundary-line starts from Gildessa, and, following the eighth parallel of north latitude, skirts the north-eastern border of the territories inhabited by the Géri, Bertiri, and Rer Ali tribes, leaving Gildessa, Jig-Jiga, and Milmil within the Italian sphere of influence. The line then follows latitude 8° north as far as its intersection with the forty-eighth meridian of east longitude, and thence to the intersection of latitude 9° north, with longitude 49° east, along which it proceeds, terminating at the coast.

[18] These baggage camels from Aden were not a success, and I have never since tried to import into Somáliland any Arab camels but the fast ones which are ridden.

[19] We afterwards heard, in Berbera, that while we were at Gosaweina two or three Mahamud Gerád saw our camp from a distance, and rode away to warn the tribes, with the result that fifty horsemen came to reconnoitre, but found we had already marched back to Badwein.

[20] Sometimes we were several hours passing a cloud of millions upon millions of these insects, which were going the other way; at other times they were found settled upon the ground, covering great areas, or they were crawling and hopping over the grass and sand. The newly-born ones stream along the ground like a brown rivulet; then there are half-grown ones, which can only hop, and look from a distance like strips of green grass. The full-grown locusts are of three colours-yellow, green, and spotted red. The different generations do not appear to mix.

[21] Literally “Lion Hand Mountain.”

[22] Nala, i.e. the dry river-bed of India, called in Arabia wádi, in Somáliland, tug.

[23] Although at the present time I am not much inconvenienced by the wounds, my right arm and shoulder are very deeply scarred.

[24] Euphorbia.

[25] The Esa sub-tribes are grouped into two great divisions—the Esa Ad or White Esa, and the Esa Madóba or Black Esa.

[26] The Jibril Abokr were deeply grateful, and on our second visit to them they took the trouble to come from all sides to express their gratitude to us for having forwarded their complaints.

[27] We saw also several graves of women. In this country they do not give women the heaps of stones surrounded by enclosures which mark the graves of men. They merely bury the women in the earth, heaping thorns on top to prevent prowling hyænas from rooting up the grave; and in the middle of the thorns they set up an upright stake with the top of a broken hán hung over it; this serves as a scarecrow to keep off wild animals.

Our men, whenever we passed a grave, piously said a prayer and plucked a tuft of grass to throw over it.

[28] A large rounded tree producing quantities of edible red berries. They look like cherries, and have a stone inside, but taste like half-dried apples.

[29] Also called Gol Wiyileh.

[30] Some skill of hand and eye is required in this work. The man above with the empty bucket throws it down to the man below at the same moment that the latter tosses up the full one. On reaching the surface each full bucket is emptied out into the rough cattle trough at which the cattle are drinking, improvised out of a hide propped up with sticks and stones, or in a hollow shaped with clay. Half the water is lost on the way up, so it usually takes many hours to water the enormous herds.

[31] “Wise man” or chief.

[32] We afterwards ascertained that at this time Banagúsé, the Abyssinian chief, was shooting elephants in Harrawa under the guidance of a son of Nur, the deposed Ugaz of the Gadabursi tribe. When we passed through the Harrawa Valley a few days later we were taken no notice of by Banagúsé or the Ugaz, who was living quite near our route. The latter had professed himself an enemy to the British, and had been intriguing with the Abyssinians, encouraging them to advance their influence into the Gadabursi country, in the hope that by their help he would be reinstated at the head of the tribe, ousting his brother Elmy, the present Ugaz.

[33] Undertaken after the Esa raid on Bulhár.

[34] The Somális themselves denied that the sickness was caused by bad water, declaring that the real cause was the bites of mosquitoes. These pests (called Kan-ad) are not generally present in Eastern Somáliland, but are common at certain spots on the coast between Berbera and Zeila, and on the Zeila-Harar routes, and in the Gadabursi country. They are also found near the Webbe, and when there the tribes from Berbera, who are not accustomed to mosquitoes, have a great dread of their bites, believing malarial fever to be caused by them.

[35] Adapted by Somális from the Hindustáni.

[36] The following titles were explained to me by an Abyssinian, and, though I cannot vouch for their accuracy of spelling, I jot them down:—

The combined camp of a large Abyssinian army is so arranged that the Emperor and various kings occupy the central camp. In front is that of several Rás, Dejasmatch, and Taurari; to the right several Rás, Dejasmatch, and Kanyasmatch; to the left several Rás, Dejasmatch, and Gerasmatch.

Some idea of Rás Makunan’s importance as Governor of Harar may be gained from the fact that he has under him four Dejasmatch, eight Balanbaras, four Kanyasmatch, nine Gerasmatch, and five Fi Taurari.

Any of the kings has apparently a chance of becoming Emperor. The present Emperor, Menelek, is also King of Shoa.

[37] The Gu or spring rains; due about the middle of April.

[38] Also called Dih Wiyileh.

[39] Amhára, i.e. Abyssinians.

[40] It now transpires that the Italian traveller Sacconi had visited this neighbourhood, and that it was here he was killed in 1883.

[41] The Rer Amáden have inflicted loss on the Abyssinians from time to time. I saw the remains of the bivouac of an Abyssinian army which was said to have been defeated by them two or three years before my visit. The Malingúr, living in the Fáfan Valley, which is the Abyssinian eastward path of invasion, have had to give in, but not so the Amáden.

[42] By the Protocol of ’94 the Amáden tribe falls within the Italian sphere of influence.

[43] The mullahs get on with Europeans because, being the only people in Somáliland who can read and write, they have great respect for people who show nimbleness with a pencil and note-book, and who can write even on horseback; they admire pictures and photographs.

I was amused by their insisting that nearly every book I had was a “Frinji Bible”; and not till I had shown them the illustrations in one of the supposed Bibles, which was Gordon-Cumming’s Five Years’ Adventures in South Africa, did they realise that there are books on every subject. They all beg for hashi (paper), Korans, and tusbas, and I gave a score of mullahs two or three quires of white foolscap to divide between them.

[44] I.e. “the black rock,” called after a feature in the river-bed near the wells.

[45] She had actually come back half a mile on her tracks to follow us, with what motive I know not, unless it was to see us safe off the ground. A lion will often, on seeing men in the jungle, follow them in order to mark them down and find out the site of their karia, with a view to future seizures of cattle or human beings.

[46] Between the Tug Fáfan and Milmil we were very much annoyed by two kinds of gadfly, the camels, whenever they were halted, throwing themselves down and rolling, with the result that a great deal of kit was broken. There are two kinds—the balaad, a small, grayish black fly the size of a common house-fly, with triangular wings, very dangerous to camels, often causing eventual death; and the dúg, as large as a bumblebee, which stings both men and animals, and is present in great numbers, only ceasing its persecutions by night. It is not so dangerous to camels as balaad. I learned, on sending specimens to be examined at the British Museum, that neither of these flies have anything whatever to do with the “Tsetse” of South Africa, which belongs to an entirely different family.

[47] These people are a great encumbrance in the movable karias of the nomads, and if they stay there, unless they have relations who will befriend them, they soon die, or are eaten up by the packs of hyænas which haunt the outskirts of the encampments at night. In the hope of gaining a permanent sanctuary they travel painfully great distances to the nearest mullah villages; hence the large number of cripples and sick that are to be found in these settlements.

[48] I call this tree the casuarina, because of its resemblance to a tree so called which is common in India. Having lost my botanical collection in the Webbe I cannot accurately identify it.

[49] The various kinds of game, although unable to get at the water lying at the bottom of the deep wells, visit them at night on the chance of finding water standing at the surface, left in the excavated clay troughs after flocks have been watered.

[50] The people here played a characteristic pleasantry upon me. I found it difficult to buy a sheep, and had quite given up all hope of getting mutton for my men, when one was at last driven up to my tent; the owner of the sheep said he had heard I wanted one, and that having been some distance off he could not come till now. I bought the sheep for two pieces of cloth. Half an hour later its throat began to swell up, and my men showed the marks where it had been bitten by an abéso, a very poisonous snake, whilst grazing. Half an hour later it was dead, its neck having swollen to a tremendous size. By this time, of course, the owner of the sheep had vanished!

[51] The bush being chiefly of low, flat-topped mimósas, spreading into foliage about four feet from the ground, a man walking erect has little chance of seeing the game first, unless he stops and bends down to look along the ground at every few paces.

[52] Many Arabic words are incorporated into the Somáli language, and many more are used by Somális only when talking to strangers.

[53] Of these Somáli antelopes, no less than five have been described as new species since 1891, namely, hartebeest, Clarke’s antelope, the red hill antelope called Baira, and three dwarf antelopes of the genus Madoqua.

[54] Rusa aristotelis.

[55] Not long after my second visit to the Webbe, Major Wood pushed into the country across the river, and was successful in bringing to England the trophies of these giraffes.

[56] I.e. a “wise man,” elder, or petty chief.

[57] These stores should be sewn up in small bags, each to contain a fortnight’s supply.

[58] The stony nature of much of the country renders these necessary.

[59] There are two kinds of pad saddles used by Arab coolies in Aden, a large one for the baggage camel and a smaller and neater one for the fast camel. Neither have stirrups, as an Arab coolie presses his feet into the groove of the camel’s neck, a very comfortable way of riding.

[60] These rates are what would be given to men highly skilled at their duties; the great thing to avoid is spoiling the market for other travellers.

[61] A disadvantage of the Arab camel is that until it has been a few months in Somáliland it may not settle down to its new climatic conditions and change of food.

[62] It must be remembered that there are generally more sporting parties than lions near the coast, and the game is being driven farther and farther towards the distant interior every year; so it is necessary to go to unexplored tribes to get good sport.




Printed by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.

Transcriber’s Note: The maps are clickable for larger images, if your device supports that.



To illustrate Captain H. G. C. Swayne’s Seventeen Trips through Somáli Land.

Published by Rowland Ward & Co., Limited “The Jungle” 166 Piccadilly, London.



SKETCH OF THE HORN OF AFRICA showing all journeys by the Author & his brother

To illustrate Captain H. G. C. Swayne’s Seventeen Trips through Somáli Land.

Published by Rowland Ward & Co., Limited “The Jungle” 166 Piccadilly, London.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Seventeen trips through Somáliland, by 
Captain H. G. C. (Harald G. C.) Swayne


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