My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu

Hunting Monkeys with Dogs


While in the Apingi country, I had a queer little friend of which you have not heard yet. That friend was a little monkey which I had captured some time ago. It went by the name of Jack; or sometimes was called Jack Nkago, on account of his species being called Nkago by the natives. Jack was a dear little fellow, belonging to a family of monkeys called commonly by ourselves Mangabey, and, as he has been traveling with me for a long while, it has occurred to me that you would like to hear about him—how I captured him, how I raised him, and how I made a kind of civilized boy of him. Now let me tell you that Jack was a great friend of mine, and wherever I traveled he traveled also.

I must relate to you my first acquaintance with young Jack. One day that I felt very hungry while in the Apingi country, I started for a hunt in the woods, and I thought how nice it would be if I could kill a monkey. I had taken with me friend Okabi, with whom you are so well acquainted, and who is a good hunter, and, as we left the village, I said to Okabi, "I hope that we shall be able to kill a monkey." He replied at once, without any hesitation, "We shall be able to do so." "How do you know?" said I. "My monda (fetich) told me so," was his immediate answer.

Okabi took two of his queer little native hunting dogs with him, for it was a time of the year when monkeys frequently come down from the trees to pick up nuts and eat some kind of berries which, when ripe, fall on the ground. At first I was averse to taking the dogs with us, but they had been so well trained by friend Okabi in hunting dodges that I consented. One of these dogs was called, I remember, Agounga, and the other Ipay. Both of them were of rusty color, and had, like the rest of the breed that is found in that part of Africa, straight ears, a somewhat long muzzle, and when once on the hunting-path chasing game, were very swift in their movements. They were about three years of age, rather fierce, and afraid of hardly any thing excepting leopards. They would bark at a gorilla, but take good care to keep at a safe distance. These two dogs were always the first to attack the game, and, among their other exploits, had captured a young chimpanzee, several young wild boars, and a good many monkeys; Agounga showing, by several big scars, that the monkeys had often dealt badly with him, and that it required a good deal of pluck on his part to conquer, while Ipay's upper lip was on the side divided in two, showing what a tremendous bite an enormous monkey, of which he had got hold, gave him. Besides those two dogs, friend Okabi had four more, which, though not quite so cunning, were splendid hunting-dogs. They were descended from a family of dogs which had been for a long time celebrated as good hunters.

I can assure you that Agounga and Ipay were good watch-dogs. No one could come on Okabi's plantation without their barking and raising "the Old Harry." It was a long time before I could accustom them to be friends with me, and I concluded that they could not bear the sight of a white man, as is often the case with dogs accustomed to African masters. I suppose that our American dogs that have never seen a black man would feel exactly the same in a reversed case. But after a good deal of patience, and plenty of meat and "good old bones" given to them by myself, I tamed them, and I was glad of it, for I did not care to have these dogs always after me when I made my appearance in Okabi's plantation, as I was always in dread that they would come and take a small piece of the calf of my leg. They are sly as can be, but happily, mad dogs are entirely unknown in this part of the world, and I wonder sometimes if the introduction of our dogs will bring the dreadful disease of hydrophobia with it.

Now that I have given you an account of the dogs Agounga and Ipay, just follow me into the forest, and fancy that you can see us. Okabi was walking ahead in the hunting path with his gun in hand, and, I was closely following him. The dogs were ahead of him about two or three yards. We had gone this way about two hours, when suddenly Okabi stopped, made a sign to the dogs to lie still, and then we listened attentively. Okabi's quick ear had detected a strange noise in the woods. I heard it also. The noise came incontestably from monkeys walking on the ground, for we could hear a rustling noise among the dead leaves as they moved amongst them and scattered them, to get the berries or nuts that had fallen underneath. There was no mistake. The dogs were ordered silently to go forward, and it was time that they should do so, for they were almost ready to bark. They also had heard the noise, and were "eager for the fray." They started as if the fire was after them in the direction of the noise, and were so light and quick in their movements that they scarcely produced any sound as they pursued the game swiftly through the jungle, which was in a part of the forest where the underbrush was not very thick. The tall trees above our heads were splendid.

By-and-by we heard the dogs bark, and then the sounds of fighting with the monkeys, and their screams of pain as the dogs bit them; so we rush as fast as we can toward the scene of action. Ipay and Agounga had got hold of a big nkago, as big as one of themselves. Its mouth was armed with four large, sharp-pointed, and dangerous-looking canines, which had already inflicted some fearful bites on the dogs, covering them with blood. The fight must have been desperate before we came up, to judge from the condition of the dogs, and it was far from being finished. As we made our appearance, Ipay was holding the monkey by the back of its neck, while Agounga held it firmly by the back above its tail. The monkey made a desperate effort, and with one of its strong paws seized a leg of Ipay, which it put into its mouth and gave a fearful bite. A scream of pain came from Ipay, and he let his grip go. This, instead of frightening the dog, made him more furious than ever, and, like a tiger, he seized the monkey again, but not before it had given him another awful bite on the neck, which Ipay did not seem to mind. A great struggle ensued. The nkago disengaged itself once more, and again Agounga seized it by the neck and shook it as hard as he could. The monkey was losing his breath, for he had fought so hard, and the dogs were in the same condition. I wish you could have heard the noise—the nkago's cries and moans, the dogs' snarls and growlings, and our cries of encouragement. It was an exciting scene; and the racket, as it resounded through the forest, was almost deafening. The dogs were perfectly infuriated, and acted as if bound, provided they could not kill the monkey, not to let him go till we came to their assistance. They would have rather been cut to pieces by the powerful canines of the nkago than do that.

The fight was desperate. The dogs had tasted blood, and had become ferocious. I expect that they were very glad to see us come to the rescue, especially when Okabi, with a powerful blow of a dead branch of a tree he had found, hit, with a strong arm, the head of the poor nkago, and struck him senseless. Okabi then seized the nkago by the tail, and hurled its body with tremendous force twice against a tree, thereby killing it outright. The dogs, though covered with blood and badly wounded, were frantic, and acted as if they would like, if they could, to devour the monkey. Okabi allowed them to lick the unfortunate animal's blood. Poor dogs! they were badly cut, and after the excitement was over they looked thoroughly exhausted.

This nkago proved to be a large and old female, and I at once perceived that she must have had a young one with her. Suddenly I heard a little plaintive cry, and, raising my head from a surgical operation upon which I was engaged on Ipay's leg, I saw, on the top of a little tree not far off, "a child" nkago. He looked at us with his frightened eyes, and we looked at him. He tried to go higher up the tree, but could not do so.

"Hallo, Okabi!" I shouted, "let us capture this little fellow. I am sure it is the child of the one we have killed." The dogs once more became infuriated. Agounga and Ipay barked with anger, and jumped up at the tree as high as they could, evidently forgetting their wounds. Their eyes were glistening; and woe to the little fellow if he fall on the ground, for I was sure he would be strangled by the dogs before we could have time to rescue him. The more we told the dogs to keep still, the louder they barked, and the more fierce they seemed to be. At last Okabi cut the branch of a tree for a whip, and, threatening to give them a sound thrashing with it, drove them a little way off by the flourish of his menacing weapon.

The little fellow was so small that it was with great difficulty he could move from one branch to another. Being of much less weight than friend Okabi, I ascended the tree, which could, however, hardly bear even my weight, and then came the tug. The diminutive animal was perfectly frightened; fright gave him strength, and he moved quickly from branch to branch. At last I succeeded in getting hold of the end of his tail. He gave a shriek, but I was determined not to let him go, and, gradually dragging him toward me, I gave him a grip on the neck with the left hand, and held him firmly. He tried to bite, but it was of no use.

How nice the little baby monkey we had captured was! He was a dear little fellow; and, after thinking for a while, I said to Okabi, "Let us call him Jack." So our new friend afterward was always called "Jack."

For a while I looked at this queer little creature. He had a bluish-black face, and his little ears looked wonderfully in shape like the ears of a human being. His lips were small, and when he opened his miniature mouth he showed a few half-grown teeth. His long, little hands were so queer! his fingers were slender, and his nails looked wonderfully like human nails. His eyes appeared somewhat dark. His body, with the exception of his face, and the palms of his hands and feet, was covered with hair, and his fingers had short hair between the joints. He had, like his mother, a crown of brown or maroon hair on the top of his head, while the eyelids had a white hue, which gave him a singular appearance. I wondered why, after all, some monkeys looked so much like human beings.

We took him home, and, after a few hours, he seemed less frightened. I was very glad it so happened at the time that there was a goat with me that had a kid, so poor little Jack was sure to have some milk to feed upon, and I wondered if the goat would not adopt Jack also for her own. That same day I tried to make Jack suck the goat, but could not succeed, the goat making too much fuss about allowing the little nkago to have the rights of an offspring. When she saw him she would raise herself on her hind legs, and butt against the little fellow, and would have no doubt killed Jack if I had not taken care of him.

For a few days I gave little Jack milk, and he began to know me well, and to get very tame. I fetched soft little berries every morning for him, and how glad he was when he saw me coming with them! After a week he did not care to taste milk at all. Water and berries were his only food, Jack grew bigger and bigger every day, and at last came to be a strong monkey. I know that you will like to hear a great deal about Jack, how he grew up, and what he did.

Jack and I became great friends. He would go with me in my rambles, and I can not tell you how useful he was sometimes to me. I remember once I was in the woods without food and very hungry. As I walked I saw a tree loaded with a bright kind of red fruit, and I wondered if it were good to eat. Jack was following me, and I gave him some of the berries, which he immediately devoured. Now I must tell you that monkeys are said never to make a mistake in their food, and that they never injure themselves by eating poisonous fruit. What was good for Jack was, I thought, good for me. So I tasted the berries, and, finding them to be of a pretty good flavor, I ate heartily of them, without any fear of being poisoned.

Jack used to like to be petted, and now and then would delight in a frolic with me. Sometimes you might have seen him on the top of my head busily engaged in tumbling my hair; next he would be on my back pulling my clothes; and then again he would come into my hut and run away with my shoes, and carry them outside, sometimes putting them where they could not be found excepting after a thorough search.

He was full of mischief, and would break any thing that was in his way. It was of no use to lock up bottles, plates, or cups. He must have his nose in every thing, and put his fingers into every pie. One day I heard a great crash at Washington. It was in the pantry. Jack had succeeded in getting in there, and in pulling down upon himself a pile of plates. After he had done this mischief he decamped, and did not make his appearance till the next morning, for he knew very well that he would get a flogging. There was a little grove of trees near Washington, and there he disappeared. When I went there to fetch him he dodged me, for Jack was a great dodger.



Of course you will say, "How came Jack to be in your settlement at Washington?" Jack Nkago was on his way to New York, and was waiting there for a vessel to take him. I know that you will be pleased when I tell you that Jack at last reached New York. There were no amounts of capers he did not carry on on the voyage. The galley, or kitchen, was the object of his special attention from morning to night, for he knew that there, or round it, food was to be found. He would watch for the cook to get out, and then down the ropes Jack would go, seize something, and rush up again, the cook hard after him with a broomstick. Here, when out of the cook's way, he would make faces at him, give a bite or two at what he had stolen, and then grin once more at the cook, as if he would say, "I do not care for you; you can not catch me;" and then he would make more faces, and up to the very top of the mast he would go, stay there a little while, and then jump from one rope to another. He was a great friend of the sailors, and would be by them at their meals. He had no objection to tea and coffee well sweetened, to a piece of sea-bread, or a cracker. If he was not hungry, he had on each side of his mouth a pouch (a natural bag) where he could store his food till the time when he felt like eating again.

These nkagos have big pouches, and find them very useful. Jack seemed to have an especially big one, which had an unlimited power of extension, to store his food in, for when I gave him something nice, and he was not hungry, he would store it away, and then eat it at leisure afterward. When the pouch was full it looked very queer.

When Jack Nkago reached the port of New York, that city seemed to be quite a new sight to him, and very different from the African villages he had been accustomed to; and, when at first he was taken through the street, he was very much frightened. He did not know what to make out of the horses, but soon got over his terror. At last I gave Jack to a friend of mine who had some nice girls and boys, and Jack departed for his new home in Newark, New Jersey, and there, I assure you, he had a glorious time. It was at my friend Mr. Rankin's, who had a big garden for him to play in, trees to frolic upon, and boys and girls to be his playmates.

One day he got out into the street, and then upon the trees on the sidewalk, and it was a long time before friend William could coax him to come down.

Jack Nkago, I am sorry to say, turned out to be a great thief, and I remember the last time I saw him in one of his depredatory expeditions. It was in my friend's garden, and he was just coming out of the kitchen, holding a big tomato in his mouth, and two others which he carried in each hand. This was, of course, all he could possibly steal at once, as he could not take any more, and he had to walk of on his hind legs in an almost upright position, making for some quiet place where he could eat and hide his plunder in safety; but when he heard my voice shouting to him "Jack Nkago, what are you doing?" he dropped one of the tomatoes in a fright, and ran away to hide.

Several years have passed since those events in Jack Nkago's life took place. Poor Jack is now no more. He is dead; but I shall, for a long time to come, remember him.