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In His Own Words: To Scare a Rhinoceros

Apr 25, 2014

After leaving the presidency in March 1909, Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Kermit, embarked on an African safari. TR was greatly interested in the rhinoceros at first, but it was not long before the animal became a real nuisance. He described a particular instance of how bothersome rhinoceroses could be during a lecture at the Throop Polytechnic Institute in 1911. This lecture, entitled "A Zoological Trip through Africa," was published in the Bulletin of Throop Polytechnic Institute after Theodore Roosevelt's visit.

“After we had completed our collection of rhinoceroses it became quite a problem how to avoid them and get the other things we wanted. It is amusing to realize how soon we got to accepting our difficulties with rhinos as a matter of course. Here in civilization, if you asked a man to kindly go down and scare off a rhinoceros for you, the man would look at you with a certain surprise; in Africa it was a matter-of-course incident. When near a rhino there is always a chance that he will charge, whether through stupidity, or fright, or anger. The trouble is that one never knows whether he will or will not charge home. It often happens that after he has come to a distance of twenty-five yards, he will wheel and run off; but, not being a mind-reader, a man cannot tell whether a particular rhino does or does not intend to charge home. Cuninghame, who was handling the safari for us, would now and then send me off to scare away rhinos who were too near the line of march, and I would perform the task with gingerly caution. Once Cuninghame and I were hunting buffalo on the Guaso Nairo. We were on the trail of a herd, when suddenly Cuninghame stopped, and, turning around with his air of patient dejection said:

‘Oh, Mr. Roosevelt, look at that rhino.’

I answered,

‘Yes, look at him.’

He continued,

‘I do not want to lose this spoor. Would you mind going down and frightening him off? But do not make much noise, because we do not want to frighten the buffalo.’

So I strolled down, trying to make up my mind how much noise I could make that would frighten the rhino and not the buffalo. I struck just about the happy medium; and, after meditating a little, with his ears and tail up, the rhino trotted away in zigzags until it was safe for us to pass.”

Posted by Grant Carlson on Apr 25, 2014 in History  |  Permalink  |  Comments (0)  |  Share this post

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