My Apingi Kingdom - Paul du Chaillu

Hunting with a Game Fence


At daylight we were all up and ready. We divided ourselves into two parties; one took the path which led northward, and the other the path which led southward. Remandji and I belonged to the southern party. We were equally divided in number, each side having about three hundred people.

I saw by my compass that we were going directly south. Remandji and I, with a few other men, who were his nephews, kept in the rear of our line. This hunting path was an awful one. It had not been used for a long time, and the jungle had overgrown and covered it, and there were great numbers of fallen trees in our way, and some of these were so very big that I can assure you it was no joke to climb over them or go under them. It became very wearisome. After a while, every twenty or thirty yards more or less, we would station a man in the path, to remain there till he heard the horn sound, which was the signal to advance forward toward the west, that is to say, toward the fence. At length half of the men of our party had been left at different points along the road. Remandji and I and two of his nephews halted, and let the remainder pass us and go ahead, as we wished to remain about in the centre. Those who passed us were to leave men, as had been done before, till none were left. Okabi was their leader. We were to keep perfectly still; not a man was to utter a word. Then, when the last man was posted, Okabi was to sound the horn, and those who had horns along the line were to answer the signal.

The other half of our party, which had taken the northern path, had been doing exactly what we had done. At certain distances apart they had stationed their horn-men, who were to answer as soon as they heard the horns from our side, as that would be the signal that there were no more men to station, and that every one was ready to advance toward the fence.

Remandji and I, who were at the centre of the line, waited at least one hour before the horn sounded; of course we did not hear the most distant horns, but, as soon as the farther one was blown, the one nearest to it answered, and so on, till at last the signal was sounded all along the line, from the last man south to the last man north. This was the signal that every thing was ready. Then we advanced; each man straight before him westward, that is to say, right toward the fence. We shouted, we hallooed, each man trying to shout louder than the rest. Our only fear was that elephants might lie between us and the fence, and that in running away they would break through the obstructions, and that the smaller game would go through the gaps the elephants would make, and then escape from us.

hunting fence


We were, I thought, about six or seven miles from the fence. Steadily we advanced through the thick jungle, which at times was terribly close; and the only way we knew that we were going straight was by the many small branches of young trees which had been broken by parties who had been hunting here before us.

Of course the game fled before us, for the great noise we made frightened them very much; but, as they could run faster through the forest than we could, we did not expect to come to a fight or a slaughter before we reached the fence. Our only fear, as I said, was that elephants were between us and the fence. If it was so, we should not get much game, and perhaps might lose it all.

Steadily, slowly, but surely we came nearer and nearer the fence. At last a wild shout ran along the line. The fence came in sight, and what a sight it was! Wild beasts of all kinds were running to and fro, mad with terror. Hyenas, porcupines, black wild boars, gazelles, antelopes, wild cats, and even snakes were driven helter-skelter within the inclosure. They would run along the fence till they came to the long pouches, or cul de sac, and, thinking these were ways of escape, into them they would go, and find they were snared.

The spears of the Apingi went through the animals along the whole line. The slaughter was terrific. My first shot was for a very large snake, some nineteen feet long, a python, which, seeing that he could not get through the fence, made in my direction, and was spreading terror and dismay among the Apingi, for it had its mouth wide open, its sharp-pointed tongue was thrust a long way out, and its hissing could even be heard in the midst of the uproar that raged around us.

I was glad that we had not been troubled by elephants.

I immediately advanced, after reloading the barrel I had fired. There was a savage black boar, whose sharp muzzle had been thrust between the sticks of the fence, so that he was in a fair way to get through, but a shot of mine put an end to its life. A fine fat creature it was. I suddenly saw an ugly big wild cat, at which an Apingi had hurled a spear, but had missed him. The creature, being brought to bay, was about to spring upon his assailant, when, in a jiffy, I brought him down, in the midst of the great cheers of those around us.

The cul de sac, which, according to the hunting laws, belonged to me, was filled with gazelles, which were immediately speared by the Apingi. There was a porcupine among them, which could not have been at all a pleasant companion to the gazelles. It would be hard to say which of the creatures was the most frightened.

The excitement all along the line was intense, and the loud shouts of the Apingi sounded strangely in the woods. But at last all quieted down again. All the game worth killing had been killed, and whatever was too large for a single man to carry was cut up in small pieces. Then, taking up our line of march, we followed the fence, and advanced toward the same main path from which we had separated, and before evening we were in our camping-ground of the day before. There we all met and counted the spoils. The slaughter of wild beasts had been very great. There were six wild black boars, twenty-three gazelles, seven porcupines, five wild cats, three hyenas, seven red antelopes, and three huge snakes. These last were to be cooked in plantain leaves, with lemon-juice and plenty of Cayenne pepper, of which there is a great abundance in the country.

After every body had arrived a tremendous wild shout of joy rang through the woods. What a pile of game there was! The mouths of the Apingi extended from ear to ear, and showed their sharp-pointed, filed teeth. They were right glad of the prospect of a good supper.

It was agreed that the game should be divided that evening among us. Remandji and I were to superintend the distribution. Of course, in that part of the world, it would not have done to give to each an equal share, for it would have been against the customs of the people. So we gave only to the heads of the families, and these were to divide the meat, according to their own will and pleasure, among the younger retainers, nephews, sons, and cousins, as they should think best. The head of a family is thought a great deal of in that wild part of the world.

With Remandji's people and mine there was no quarreling; but, my goodness! I wish you could have heard the Apingi quarreling among themselves. Not one of them was satisfied with his share. Every one thought that his neighbor had a better share than himself. Of course the heads of families took the lion's share. Remandji and myself each took a whole boar. These black boars are not so large as the yellow ones I have described to you in former volumes, and are far from being so nice-looking.

We slept that night where we had divided the game. The forest was full of the smell of roasted meat, for there was not a man there who thought that his wife would be glad to have a piece of his meat. Women, they think, must eat when their husbands are not hungry, and the children when the mothers are satisfied.

The wives never eat with their husbands, and it is but seldom, if ever, that grown-up sons and nephews eat with their fathers and uncles. They are supposed to be too young, and it would not be considered respectful for them to eat with their elders. So that what is left of a meal the wives eat, and what the wives leave the children eat; if there is nothing for them, they must do the best they can to find food, or go hungry, as they like best.