SI Vault
Jose Fenykovi
June 04, 1956
In the dense, wild bush of Angola, in Africa, a hunter tracks and kills the largest animal ever shot on earth
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June 04, 1956

The Biggest Elephant Ever Killed By Man

In the dense, wild bush of Angola, in Africa, a hunter tracks and kills the largest animal ever shot on earth

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There the enormous elephant lay on his side, amidst the carnage of blood, broken trees and trampled brush that had marked his last struggles. When I let my eyes roam over his vast expanse I could hardly believe that any animal could be so big, and T understood why it had taken so many heavy-caliber bullets to finish him off. And when I got out my tape measure and stretched it to cover his huge dimensions, I knew that I had not been wrong: this was the biggest land animal ever brought down with a gun. But before giving the measurements, I must confess the shock we got when I put the tape across my elephant's foot and found that it measured, instead of the three feet of the spoor we had been following all day, only a little over two feet. The measurement was still a world record, but it was a foot short of the track size I had first noted a year before beside the lake. When we began to examine the body, we soon understood why: Besides the 16 bullets from our own rifles, we found a strange slug embedded in the left front leg. It was not a modern bullet, but a piece of iron shot, the kind used in old muzzle-loading flintlock rifles. It had crippled him in the left front leg, so that the step he took with that foot was shorter than normal. As the animal ran, the left hind foot partially superimposed its print over the front one—making it look much bigger than it actually was.

That was the only measurement that failed to live up to expectations. Here are the dimensions, the accuracy of which are supported by an affidavit sworn to before the president of the Angola Game Commission and legalized by the U.S. consul in Luanda, the capital; where available, I have listed in parentheses the comparable measurements of Lawrence G. Thaw's world-record-setting elephant, taken from Records of Big Game (Rowland Ward, London, 10th Edition, 1935):

Height From ground to withers, 13 feet 2 inches. (Thaw's elephant: 12 feet 2 inches.)

Length From trunk tip to tail tip in straight line, 27 feet 6� inches; whole skin from trunk tip to tail tip, 33 feet 2 inches.

Length of feet Front, 2 feet; rear, 2 feet 1� inches. (Thaw's elephant: one foot 9 inches, which foot not specified.)

Circumference of feet Front, 5 feet 7� inches; rear 5 feet 2� inches.

Circumference of body At widest point, 19 feet 8 inches.

The herculean task of skinning the beast and loading the skin, the skull with tusks and the bones with front and rear legs, onto the power wagon for the long trip back to civilization was accomplished with difficulty and sweat, but with plenty of enthusiasm. The skin alone weighed over two tons.

All of these parts are now in my Madrid factory, which is fortunately large. My home is already crowded with trophies of all kinds—lion skins, elephant tusks and feet—but anyway, I do not think this elephant belongs in a private collection. I have decided to let a big museum have him. There, reconstructed by their experts, he can stand in all the size and majesty he enjoyed in life—the biggest elephant ever shot by man.

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