Wildlife Classics: Rhinoceros


by JH Patterson

Rhinos are extraordinary animals, and not in any way to be depended upon. One day they will sheer off on meeting a human being and make no attempt to attack; the next day, for no apparent reason, they may execute a most determined charge. I was told for a fact by an official who had been long in the country that on one occasion while a gang of twenty-one slaves, chained neck to neck as was the custom, was being smuggled down to the coast and was proceeding in Indian file along a narrow path, a rhinoceros suddenly charged out at right angles to them, impaled the centre man on its horns and broke the necks of the remainder of the party by the suddenness of his rush. These huge beasts have a very keen sense of smell, but equally indifferent eyesight, and it is said that if a hunter will only stand perfectly still on meeting a rhino, it will pass him by without attempting to molest him. I feel bound to add, however, that I have so far failed to come across anybody who has actually tried the experiment. On the other hand, I have met one or two men who have been tossed on the horns of these animals, and they described it as a very painful proceeding. It generally means being a cripple for life, if one even succeeds in escaping death. Mr. B. Eastwood, the chief accountant of the Uganda Railway, once gave me a graphic description of his marvellous escape from an infuriated rhino. He was on leave at the time on a hunting expedition in the neighbourhood of Lake Baringo, about eighty miles north of the railway from Nakuru, and had shot and apparently killed a rhino. On walking up to it, however, the brute rose to its feet and literally fell on him, breaking four ribs and his right arm. Not content with this, it then stuck its horn through his thigh and tossed him over its back, repeating this operation once or twice. Finally, it lumbered off, leaving poor Eastwood helpless and fainting in the long grass where he had fallen. He was alone at the time, and it was not for some hours that he was found by his porters, who were only attracted to the spot by the numbers of vultures hovering about, waiting in their ghoulish manner for life to be extinct before beginning their meal. How he managed to live for the eight days after this which elapsed before a doctor could be got to him I cannot imagine; but in the end he fortunately made a good recovery, the only sign of his terrible experience being the absence of his right arm, which had to be amputated.

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