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The Story Of Wild Animals:
 Acrobatic Monkey

 Long-nose Monkey

 Sacred Monkeys Of India.


 Story Of The Antelope




 Gnu, Or Wildebeest

 Pala Or Roy-bock

 Read More Articles About: The Story Of Wild Animals

Gnu, Or Wildebeest

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Next to a monkey, I believe the gnu or South African wildebeest, as the Dutch hunters call them, is the most inquisitive of all animals.

In "trecking" across the Transvaal I would frequently come upon herds of twenty to fifty. As soon as they caught sight of us they would begin curveting around the wagons, wheeling about in endless circles and cutting all sorts of curious capers.

While I was riding hard to obtain a shot at a herd in front of me, other herds charged down wind on my right and left, and, having described a number of circular movements, they took up position upon the very ground across which I had ridden only a few minutes before. Singly, and in small troops of four or five individuals, the old bull wildebeests may be seen stationed at intervals throughout the plains, standing motionless during a whole forenoon, coolly watching with a philosophic eye the movements of the other game, uttering a loud snorting noise, and also a short sharp cry which is peculiar to them. When the hunter approaches these old bulls, they commence whisking their long white tails in a most eccentric manner; then, springing into the air, begin prancing and capering, and pursue each other in circles at their utmost speed. Suddenly they all pull up together to overhaul the intruder, when the bulls will often commence fighting in the most violent manner, dropping on their knees at every shock; then, quickly wheeling about, they kick up their heels, whirl their tails with a fantastic flourish, and scour across the plain enveloped in a cloud of dust. In addition to their speed, wildebeest are remarkable for their extreme tenacity of life; and, owing to the vigorous use they make of their horns, are awkward creatures to hunt with dogs. Europeans find them good practice in rifle-shooting, as they will stand in herds at a distance which they think secure, say three hundred or four hundred yards, and watch the passer-by. Only occasionally can they be approached within easy range by fair stalking; although they may be killed by watching at their drinking-holes at night. During a thunderstorm of unusual intensity, I walked, hardly knowing where I was going, right into a herd of gnu. I did not see them until I was almost among them; but even had my gun not been hopelessly soaked, the fearful storm made self-preservation, and not destruction, one's chief thought. They were standing huddled in a mass, their heads together, and their sterns outwards, and they positively only just moved out of my way, much the same as a herd of cattle might have done.

The faculty of curiosity is, largely developed in the gnu, which can never resist the temptation of inspecting any strange object, although at the risk of its life. When a gnu first catches sight of any unknown being, he sets off at full speed, as if desirous of getting to the furthest possible distance from the terrifying object. Soon, however, the feeling of curiosity vanquishes the passion of fear, and the animal halts to reconnoitre. He then gallops in a circle round the cause of his dread.

The native hunters are enabled to attract a herd of gnus, feeding out of shot, merely by getting up a clumsy imitation of an ostrich, by holding a head of that bird on a pole, and making at their back a peacock's tail cf feathers. The inquisitive animals are so fascinated with the fluttering lure, that they actually approach so near as to be easily pierced with an arrow or an assegai.

The gnu, or wildebeest, inhabits Southern Africa. At first sight it is difficult to say whether the horse, buffalo, or deer predominates in its form. It, however, belongs to neither of these animals, but is one of the bovine antelopes. The horns cover the top of the forehead, and then, sweeping downwards over the face, turn boldly upwards with a sharp curve. The neck is furnished with a mane like that of the horse, and the legs are formed like those of a stag. There are two species of wildebeest in South and East Africa. The common, or white-tail wildebeest, is strictly South African, while the blue or brindled wildebeest never goes south of he Orange River.

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