The early African hunter books are by sportsmen whose hunting careers took place mainly in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These hunters were attracted to the adventure and limitless African gamefields and hunted mostly elephants for their living. There may be some cross-over with the books of the great African explorers...for example, Sir Samuel Baker was a tremendous big game hunter but best known for his Lake Albert and Nile basin expeditions. You will find all Samuel Baker's books under the African Exploration book category.
There were many of these pioneer African hunters who did not put pen to paper. Fortunately there were some who were as good with a pen as they were with their rifles, writing excellent and highly readable accounts of their adventures.
Most of these hunters hunted on horseback and used muzzle-loaders, with a few living long enough to experience high-velocity nitro rifles.
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William Charles Baldwin (1926 - 1903) was an Englishman who landed in South Africa in 1851 and started big game hunting due to the influence of Roualeyn Gordon Cummings. Baldwin wrote the book that influenced Frederick C Selous, sending him to Africa and his future pioneering and hunting life.
African Hunting And Adventure: From Natal To The Zambesi, Including Lake Ngami, The Kalahari From 1852 To 1860 by William Charles Baldwin (1863). Baldwin was one of Africa's most widely travelled explorers, ranging vast distances between 1852 and 1861, when he returned to England. He was only the second known non-African to see the Victoria Falls. This book was based on his journals which were kept during his travels.
Baldwin had the greatest respect for fellow hunters and records his acquaintance with 'Elephant White' at that time, a renowned elephant hunter throughout Natal. On his last journey to the Zambesi, he also had a meeting with another pair of legendary elephant hunters, Jan Viljoen and Petrus Jacobs. Free eBook
Sir John Barrow (1764 - 1848) was attached to the staff of one of the early Governors of the Cape Colony during the first occupation of the British. He provided an important and accurate early account of the region except when it came to his published map about which William John Burchell was scathing... "As to the miserable thing 'called a map, which has been prefixed to Mr. Barrow’s quarto, I perfectly agree with Professor Lichtenstein, that it is so defective that it can seldom be found of any use".
An Account Of Travels Into The Interior Of Southern Africa In The Years 1797 And 1798 by John Barrow (1802) contains the very earliest African hunting narrative. The basis of this work is Barrow's journey and eventual settlement in South Africa. His initial trip to the country was in 1797 and includes Barrow's observations on South Africa's geology, geography, flora, fauna and ethnography of the indigenous people as well as discussing the colonies. Free eBook
Big Game Hunting In Central Africa by William Buckley (1930). Buckley's elephant hunting travels from 1902 took him to near the headwaters of the Nile in Uganda territory and the Manyema region of Belgian Congo. There is also mention of lion hunting near the Chari (Shari) River in Central Africa. Buckley also discusses rifles and hunting techniques, including anecdotes about unusual individuals and events, plus his non-hunting experiences in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Sport On The Setit by F Cecil Cobb (1911). With a rifle borrowed from his friend Major Powell Cotton, the author and his hunting partner hunted elephant, waterbuck, kudu and more along the banks of the rivers Atbara and Setit in the Sudan.
Hunting And Hunted In The Belgian Congo by Reginald Davey Cooper (1914) includes descriptions of encounters with cannibals as well as hunting lion, elephant, waterbuck and more in the Lado Enclave, near Victoria Nyanza and throughout the Congo. Free eBook
Captain Francis Arthur Dickinson (1874 - 1915) was a Brish army officer who died in World War I. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a first class big game hunter. After the Boer War, he was selected as Winston Churchill's escort when he went to British East Africa as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.
Lake Victoria To Khartoum With Rifle And Camera by F A Dickinson (1910) is a account of big game hunting in various regions of Africa at the turn of the last century. Dickinson lists three 'don'ts' when advising how to treat bearers. "Don't ignore a good gun bearer's good advice because you think you know a thing or two. Don't promise a native a thing you can't do. Don't on any account lose your temper." Free eBook
Big Game Shooting On The Equator by F A Dickinson (1908). Dickinson's approach is systematic, describing the haunts of each major species of wild game in East Africa including lion, kudu, oryx, eland and other plains game, particularly near the Guaso Nyiro and the River Tana. There is an excellent chapter on stalking buffalo. Free eBook
William Henry Drummond (1845 - 1879) was the third son of Viscount Strathallan. He first visited Africa when aged 17 and most of the related experiences in his book occurred during a five year period ending in 1872, during which time the author lived among the local tribesmen and women. He returned to Natal in 1877, joining the staff of Lord Chelmsford in the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 and was killed at the Battle of Ulundi in 1879.
The Large Game And Natural History Of South And South-East Africa by William Henry Drummond (1875) is an account of the author's hunting adventures at the Cape, mainly in Tongaland, Zululand and Swaziland, from 1867 to 1872, with chapters on buffalo, rhinoceros, elands, elephants, lions, leopards, antelope, game birds and hunting with dogs. Free eBook
William Finaughty (1843 - 1917) was born in Grahamstown and became a very successful elephant hunter and somewhat roguish trader at Shoshong, in partnership with his brother Harry. Ever the wheeler-dealer, he bought three old ship's cannon and with his brother, tried to smuggle one of them through the Transvaal to the Chief Sekukuni. They were foiled by the Boers and had to surruptitiously ditch this cannon. Finaughty took the other two guns to Matabeleland and sold them to Lobengulu for ivory. These 2 cannon were said to have ended up standing outside the main entrance to the National Museum at Bulawayo.
William Finaughty married and had 10 children who all moved with him to Rhodesia in 1894 to start farming near Matopos. After the Matabele Rebellion, he moved to another farm where all his cattle died, so he sold it to his son in-law. He died at his son's farm on the Kafue River.
Recollections Of William Finaughty: Elephant Hunter 1864-1875 by William Finaughty (1916). Finaughty was one of the great, early ivory hunters. He survived the death that awaited many of the early elephant hunters, bagging over 500 tuskers in 5 years. That he hunted entirely with a muzzle loading rifle adds a great deal of zest to this classic tale. Free eBook
Frederick Roderick Noble Findlay (b.1872) was a son of Olive Schreiner's (South African author and campaigner) sister who became a big game hunter and collector of specimens for the Natural History Museum, London.
Big Game Shooting And Travel In South-East Africa: An Account Of Shooting Trips In The Cheringoma And Gorongoza Divisions Of Portuguese South-East Africa And In Zululand by F R N Findlay (1903). Travelling through a hitherto unknown region, Findlay discovered a sporting paradise. A beautifully illustrated and action-packed work on African big game hunting. With chapters by Olive Schreiner and S C Cronwright-Schreiner, who were Findlay's uncle & aunt.
Édouard Foà (1862 - 1901) covered 7200 miles, mostly on foot, from the Zambezi delta in the east to the mouth of the Congo in the west. Foa succeeded in his efforts to create one the finest collections of African animals and plants in the world for the Paris Natural History Museum. He has written many more books about Africa in French.
After Big Game in Central Africa by Édouard Foà (1899) is an account of a sportsman's journey from 1894 until 1897 when crossing the dark continent from the mouth of the Zambesi to the Belgian Congo. He describes his hunts for buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and other game in the Chiromo district. He continued to hunt elephant and hippopotamus as he traveled westward in 1895 into Barotseland. Entering the Congo, he bagged a wide variety of antelope as well as buffalo and more elephant. There is an appendix on central African game animals and much on elephants by a man whose ruling passion was elephant hunting. Among his trophies was an enormous elephant with tusks at 114 ½ pounds each.Free eBook
Cecile Jules Basile Gerard 'Lion Killer' (1817 - 1864) was an officer in the French Army in Africa and gained fame as 'the greatest lion-killer that lived in this century' because in 11 years he killed 25 lions that were ravaging Algeria.
The Adventures Of Gerard, The Lion Killer, Comprising A History Of His Ten Years' Campaign Among The Lions Of Northern Africa by Jules Gerard (1855). Translated by Charles E Whitehead. "Contains a complete record of his successive combats, during a period of ten years, with the king of the beasts, the most minute account of the habits of the latter, and the actual details of many a deadly struggle and hard won victory". Free eBook
Autobiography Of A Lion Killer, by Jules Gerard, translated by Charles Whitehead & Patrick Griffith. Kindle edition.
Peregrine Herne, an American hunter and trapper, arguably could be credited as one of the very first white hunters in Africa, according to Brian Herne in 'White Hunters: The Golden Age Of African Safaris'. Peregrine Herne became friends with an English sportsman, Robert Barrill who asked him to accompany him on his hunting expeditions all over the world. Herne accepted and in doing so became the first white hunter to have been paid for his services, which included hunting in Africa.
The Perils And Pleasures Of A Hunter's Life Or The Romance Of Hunting by Peregrine Herne (1854) includes stories of big game hunting in the American west, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa for elephant, lion, buffalo, giraffe, eland, rhino, plus tiger, elephant and other game in India. The book has been criticised as just a "compilation which uses excerpts from actual hunting narratives to form a fictitious autobiography." Free eBook
Frederick Vaughan Kirby was a soldier, big game hunter and renowned author. He became the Game Conservator for Zululand in 1911 and was instrumental in the proclaimation of Mhkuze Game reserve before retiring in 1929.
Sport in East Central Africa: Being An Account Of Hunting Trips In Portuguese And Other Districts Of East Central Africa by Frederick Vaughan Kirby (1899) is a scarce Rowland Ward publication, a great book on elephant hunting and a rare African big game hunting title. These are hunting trips in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and other districts in East Central Africa. Frederick Vaughn Kirby hunted elephant, rhinoceros and other big game animals. This title continues Kirby's big game hunting adventures in the neighborhood of the Zambesi and Shire rivers. He bagged kudu, leopard, eland and buffalo while also shooting hippo and crocodiles. His best chapters cover his experiences hunting elephant in the Chiringoma region. Free eBook
In Haunts Of Wild Game: A Hunter-Naturalist's Wanderings From Kahlamba To Libombo by Frederick Vaughan Kirby (1896) is one of the classics of African sport and the book describes the author's hunting experiences in Portuguese East Africa and the eastern Transvaal. Hunting bushbuck, kudu, leopard, buffalo, sable, giraffe and wildebeest with two chapters on lion hunting. His book is one of the first to talk about the different haunts of leopards throughout Africa and the different methods of hunting them in various regions. Free eBook
Captain Charles John Melliss (1862 - 1936) was in the Indian Staff Corps and attached to the West African Frontier Force. He was awarded the Victoria Cross after being wounded and serving with great gallantry during a skirmish in Ashanti, now Ghana.
Lion-Hunting In Somali-land:Also An Account Of Pigsticking The African Wart-Hog by Capt C J Melliss (1895). A captain in the 9th Bombay Infantry, C J Melliss was a pioneer of those professional soldiers of the Thin Red Line of Empire on Indian duty who found new areas of sport in Somaliland. Ranging well inland, Melliss was able to hunt lions and 'pigstick' warthogs, replacing the Indian sport of tiger and wild boar hunting. He tells in this book of a day long gone when gentlemen holding the King's commission could pit their rifles against lions in the most primitive conditions, as well as their hand at warthogs with a bamboo and steel lance. Using a Tolley .500 express with pure-lead solid bullets, the author succeeded in bagging a number of lion and oryx in the woodlands and scrub beyond Barbera..."Each lion, as I walked him up, made a short charge at me through the grass, accompanied by a formidable amount of noise - a deep grunting or roaring, for it is hard to define the noise a lion makes on charging."
Arthur Henry Neumann (l850 - l907) was a British explorer, hunter, soldier, farmer and travel writer, famous for his exploits in Equatorial East Africa. He became a professional elephant hunter and ivory trader from 1893 to 1896 when he travelled from Mombasa, across Mount Kenya to Lake Rudolf.
In his time, Neumann was celebrated as the greatest elephant hunter that ever lived, once bagging 14 in one day. He began elephant hunting with a double 10 bore Holland & Holland and a .577 Express by Gibbs. Later he used a .303 very successfully, taking the largest bulls of his career with this rifle. Later still, Neuman used a double .450 Rigby nitro rifle.
His 1895 expedition to Lake Rudolph (now Lake Turkana) proved rather a disaster...the hunting was poor, his cook was killed by a crocodile, his asses were struck down as a result of the tsetse fly and he got severely injured by an enraged elephant. However he continued collecting specimens for the British Museum which included the horns and skin of a hitherto unknown hartebeest, which was named Bubalis neumanni.
Elephant Hunting In East Equatorial Africa by Arthur H Neumann (1898) is an account of three years ivory hunting under Mount Kenya and among the Ndorobo of the Lorogi Mountains, including a trip to the north end of Lake Rudolph. Free eBookRead the biography 'Hunter Away: The Life And Times Of Arthur Henry Neumann 1850 - 1907' by Monty Brown
Diocleciano Fernandes Das Neves (1829 - 1883) was a Portuguese hunter, explorer, adventurer and trader. He emigrated to Mozambique in 1855 to become a Customs officer in Lourenço Marques and 3 years later became an elephant hunter and ivory trader. He hired a group of trackers and porters went into the then, unknown Mozambique hinterland. This expedition was not a great financial success so in 1860 he went west to the Transvaal to hunt. Unable to settle when he returned to Portugal, das Neves went back to Mozambique to settle in a concession that the native king Muzila had given him, near Sauíne on the banks of the Limpopo. He had further troubles from the Portuguese Government demanding taxes. Worn down by long years in Africa, without being properly treated for tropical diseases, Diocleciano Fernandes Das Neves died in Sauíne. His body remained unburied for some time because the Portuguese guarded his house to prevent anything being removed.
If you go to Letaba area in the Kruger National Park you can find a plaque at the site of the 'Das Neves Cross'. The cross itself is thought to have been carved by Diocleciano Fernandes Das Neves into the southern side of the trunk of a leadwood tree.
Itinerario De Uma Viagem Á Caça Dos Elephantes by Diocleciano Fernandes Das Neves (1878) is a Portuguese language elephant hunting book in the Transvaal, where he found his friend Muzila (the son of Manicusse, the founder of the Kingdom of Gaza) in exile. Free eBook
A Hunting Expedition In The Transvaal by Diocleciano Fernandes Das Neves (1879). Translated by Mariana Monteiro. Das Neves set out from Loureno Marques on an expedition into the Transvaal in 1869 to collect ivory and stimulate trade in Portuguese territory. He hunted hippopotamus on the river Save, also collecting buffalo and gazelle there. Near Zoutpansberg in the northern Transvaal, he hunted lion, buffalo and elephant. He described some of the beliefs of native people on hunting; he reported on certain chiefs whom het met; he was one of the first white men to visit the lands of Queen Modjadji of the Lobedu and most probably the first to describe her rain-making. His geographical descriptions of certain places in the present Kruger National Park are so vivid that they have been easily located.
William Cotton Oswell (1818 - 1893) was one of the great early elephant hunters and African explorers. He never wrote about his exploits except in old age, he did contribute to 'Big Game Shooting'. Fortunately his eldest son William Edward Oswell wrote a great book in 2 volumes about his father's life and hunting adventures.
With Mungo Murray, William Cotton Oswell made his first expedition to the interior of Africa and met with David Livingstone. In 1849, the three of them discovered Lake Ngami, for which Livingstone was said to have taken sole credit. In fact Livingstone was a guest on Oswell's and Murray's expedition and never claimed discovery of Lake Ngami.
On the second expedition, Oswell and Livingstone were accompanied by Captain Frank Vardon after whom Livingstone named the puku, Cobus vardoni.
Formally a colonial magistrate in India, Oswell went to South Africa in 1844 and took up a hunting life. His favourite weapon was a double 10 bore Purdey which he lent to Sir Samuel Baker for his Nile expedition. Baker commented, "In exterior it looked like an ordinary double-barrelled rifle weighing exactly 10lbs; in reality it was a smooth-bore of great solidity and carried a spherical ball of the calibre No.10."
Baker also went on to describe the hard walnut stock which was completely eaten away an inch from the surface. This was caused by friction with thorns as Oswell carried the gun across the pommel of his saddle when he galloped after game.
Baker also describes Oswell, the man. "Oswell was not merely a shooter, but he had been attracted towards Africa by his natural love of exploration, and the investigation of untrodden ground....I have always regarded him as the true perfection of a Nimrod. Six feet in height, sinewy and muscular, but nevertheless light in weight, he was not only powerful but enduring.
William Cotton Oswell, Hunter and Explorer: The Story Of His Life, With Certain Correspondence And Extracts From The Private Journal Of David Livingstone by William Edward Oswell (1900) who was the eldest son of William Cotton Oswell. The book contains much on his encounters with buffalo, elephant, rhino and hippo. It also contains a considerable amount of information on his friendship and adventures with David Livingstone which led to the discovery of Lake Ngami and the Zambezi River. Vol I Free eBook Vol II Free eBook
Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton (1866 -1940) explored and hunted in Africa and Asia between 1887 and 1939. His claim to fame was that he shot the largest tusker ever killed by a white man. The pair of tusks weighed 372lbs, the largest tusk was 9 feet long, 25" circumference and 198lbs. Powell-Cotton used a .400 cordite rifle by W J Jeffery & Co.
Powell-Cotton established Quex Museum in 1896 to house the natural history specimens and cultural objects that he collected on his expeditions. A link to this great little museum is normally placed here but it can no longer be recommended for a visit as it has implemented a 'decolonisation strategy' or as they say "we aren't erasing things, we're adding value with inclusiveness and unerasing stories of nonwhite Europeans".
In Unknown Africa: A Narrative Of Twenty Months' Travel And Sport In Unknown Lands And Among New Tribes by Major Powell-Cotton (1904). After the success of his sporting trip to Abyssinia, Powell-Cotton was determined to attempt another hunting expedition, this time to British East Africa, not only for sport but to prove the existence of five-horned giraffe, discovered by Sir Harry Johnston.
A Sporting Trip Through Abyssinia by Major Powell-Cotton (1902) is "A Narrative of a Nine Months' Journey from the Plains of the Hawash to the Snows of Simien, with a description of the game, from elephant to ibex, and notes on the manners and customs of the natives." Free eBook
Carl Georg Schillings (1865 - 1921) was a German hunter, wildlife photograher and conservationist. Between 1896 and 1903 he travelled in German East Africa, hunting game for the German Natural History Museums. He was considered a pioneer in wildlife photography, photographing animals in the wild and at night. Some of his collection of animals may be seen at the Leopold-Hoesch Museum in Duren, Germany.
"Strange as it may seem, many species of wild animals would have been long ago extinct if there were no sportsmen. For imperative reasons, the hunter must at the same time undertake the part of protector."
With Flashlight And Rifle: Photographing by Flashlight at Night the Wild Animal World of Equatorial Africa by Carl Georg Schillings (1905) is a 2 volume record of hunting adventures and of studies in wildlife in Equatorial East Africa. Illustrated with 302 of the author's 'untouched' photographs taken by day and night. Although primarily concerned with the events of a photographic safari, this book contains two chapters about the difficulties of preserving wildlife in a developing society. Vol I Free eBook Vol 2 Free eBook
Flashlights In The Jungle: A Record Of Hunting Adventures And Of Studies In Wild Life In Equatorial East Africa by Carl Georg Schillings (1905) is a single volume version of 'With Flashlight And Rifle' by a different translator, Frederic Whyte, published by Doubleday, Page & Company. Free eBook
In Wildest Africa by C G Schillings (1907). 2 Volumes. In his second work on photographing and hunting game in East Africa, Schillings captures the essence of the African landscape and it's peoples with his brilliant, early photographs. Contains over 300 photographic studies direct from the author's negatives, taken by day and night. Free eBook
Andrew Steedman (c.1800 - c.1879) was an early hunter, naturalist, artist and traveller in southern Africa. He travelled to South Africa as a young man in 1820 and stayed until about 1833 after which he returned to England with his family. He claimed to have discovered the common waterbuck, Cobus ellipsyprymnus. During his travels Steedman collected over 300 animals, including some that had not yet been described, as well as ethnographic specimens. On his return to England he arranged an exhibition of his animals in Regent's Park, London.
Wanderings And Adventures In The Interior Of Southern Africa by Andrew Steedman (1835). 2 volumes. Steedman spent ten years in South Africa hunting big game. He hunted elephant north of Cape Town, then crossed the Orange River where quagga and wildebeest were encountered, with additional sport after lion. Vol I Free eBook Vol II Free eBook
James Sutherland (1872 - 1932) was a Scottish born elephant hunter with the distinction of hunting elephant continuously for a longer period of years than most other hunters. He actually died of illness shortly after being on the spoor of some tuskers at the age of 60 years.
His favourite rifle was a single trigger double .577 by Westley Richards used with a 750 gr bullet. He also used a .318 Westley Richards but preferred the larger bore.
The Adventures Of An Elephant Hunter by James Sutherland (1912) is one of the great elephant hunting classics. Sutherland was one of the greatest elephant hunters and his book has been in demand for more than nearly 100 years. Free eBook
Page Updated: Aug 2020