A VAST EXPANSE OF
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
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):
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.)
feet Front, 5 feet 7� inches; rear 5 feet 2� inches.
body At widest point, 19 feet 8 inches.
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.