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Wild Bushmen

( Originally Published 1851 )

The Bushmen appear to be the remains of Hottentot hordes, originally subsisting, like all the aboriginal tribes of Southern Africa, chiefly by rearing cattle; but who have been driven, chiefly by the gradual encroachments of the European colonists, to seek for refuge among the inaccessible rocks and sterile deserts of the interior. Most of the hordes known in the colony by the name of Bushmen are now entirely destitute of flocks or herds, and subsist partly by the chase, partly on the wild roots of the wilderness, and, in times of searcity, on reptiles, grasshoppers, and the larva of ants, or by plundering their hereditary foes and oppressors, the frontier boors. In seasons when every green herb is devoured by swarms of locusts, and the wild game, in consequence, desert the pastures of the wilderness, the Bushman finds a resource in the very calamity which would overwhelm an agricultural or civilized community. He lives by devouring the devourers; he subsists for weeks and months on locusts alone, and also pre-serves a stock of this food dried, as we do herrings or pilchards, for future consumption.

The latter, which are his principal weapons, both for war and the chace, are small in size and formed of slight materials; but, owing to the deadly poi-son with which the arrows are imbued, and the dexterity with which they are launched, they are missiles truly formidable both to man and beast.

One of these arrows, formed merely of a piece of slender reed tipped with bone or iron, is sufficient to destroy the most powerful animal. Nevertheless, although the colonists very much dread the effects of the Bushman's arrow, they know how to elude its range; and it is, after all, but a very unequal match for the firelock, as the persecuted natives, by sad experience, have found. The arrows are usually kept in a quiver formed of the hollow stalk of a species of aloe, and slung over the shoulder; but a few, for immediate use, are often stuck in a band round the head, in the manner represented in the cut.

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