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A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa

Author: Frederick Courtney Selous
A facsimile reprint of the 1881 edition
528pp; size 242 X 168mm
Numerous black and white pics and line drawings in-text
Trade paperback; ISBN 1-919854-18-5
Bar code 9781919854182

 

A Hunterís Wanderings in Africa has often been acclaimed as the major African hunting classic of the 19th century. Born in London in 1851, Selous led an adventurous life gaining a formidable reputation as a big game hunter, a naturalist, a member of the Zoological Society,  a fighting man, the author of many books, a contributor of many features to the Royal Colonial Institute in London, and the writer of countless articles for  magazines and journals.

In 1890 Cecil John Rhodes appointed him chief scout of the Pioneer Column that he despatched into the African interior to settle Mashonaland, which afterwards became Rhodesia and is now Zimbabwe .  Selous counted many famous people amongst his friends, including President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt who described him as Ďan absorbing and fascinating companioní.


While indiscriminate trophy hunting is rightly no longer fashionable, A Hunterís Wanderings in Africaís is a legacy for those living now, for it records what Africa south of what is now Zambia to the Cape of Good Hope was really like more than a 100 years ago. He writes of areas then teeming with game, of the indigenous peoples occupying them, Trek Boers and other hunters like himself.  The seven plates of antelopesí heads form a complete series, representing every species, from the smallest to the largest found north of the Limpopo River up to12į south latitude.


At the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Selous volunteered for the army but was turned down because at 63 he was considered too old. But shortly afterwards the War Office relented when someone pointed out how useful Selousí unsurpassed knowledge of the African bushveld would be in the campaign then being waged against the wily Colonel Lettow-Vorbeck in German East Africa. He was  commissioned a lieutenant in the 25th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and during the next 18 months he saw considerable action winning a DSO in the process. He was killed in action at Beho-Beho at the age of 65 while leading his men from the front.


He was buried in the African bush he had loved and dedicated his life to. Many people still visit his grave in the area which became the Selous Game Reserve.


A Hunterís Wanderings in Africa
, has been a best seller from the time it was first published and on each and every subsequent occasion it has been republished. It possesses a magical quality, almost the Holy Grail of publishing,  that all publishers continually seek but can never quite define or quantify.

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Media Reviews:

That game was abundant in the late 19th century, is evident from the meticulous records kept by FC Selous. A Hunterís Wanderings in Africa is the narrative of 9 years spent in the interior of South Africa , with one main objective Ė to hunt. Selous is regarded as the greatest of all African hunters in the 19th century, a passion that developed from a very young age. Although the book might be regarded as controversial, it provides a valuable account of what wild Africa used to be like.

From hunter to soldier - Selous was commissioned as a lieutenant in Word War 1. A man with his unmatched experience of the African bush was considered invaluable to the British. After his death he was honoured by the Federal Government when an armoured reconnaissance regiment was named after him. The Selous Scouts became renowned bush fighters.

Selous was a faithful diary keeper, providing the most elaborate details in his records. As comprehensive as his writings were, so was his preparation before every expedition. He was well organized and conducted each hunting trip as a business, with complete documentation of his income and expenditure.

This book is a narrative of his experiences. As a hunter he had character Ė everything he shot he carried back himself. In addition to being an extremely good shot, he was a keen observer. From his narratives one can only assume that Selous was a highly skilled hunter with a fine knowledge not only of guns but also animal behaviour and the environment he was working in. He was inquisitive and would engage in lengthy interviews with the locals and in such a manner expand his already extensive general knowledge. These stories are written in a relaxing style and make interesting reading, even though the reader might not necessarily be interested in hunting. For those who are familiar with the interior of South Africa , his accounts of his various journeys come alive. This book may not be your regular choice, but it is a good read nevertheless.
Book Site: Anita Henning

Frederick Courtney Selous was one of Africaís great white hunters ó the flock of Europeans that headed to the continent to hunt elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard. Their hunts left the continent almost stripped of its most important asset ó its wildlife. Selous, a pioneer of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), recounts his youth, dreaming of becoming a hunter of the likes of author William Charles Baldwin and a great explorer like David Livingstone.

At the age of 20 he set foot on the shores of Algoa Bay (now Port Elizabeth) in 1871, establishing himself ass a naturalist, hunter and author. Elephant was his speciality, but he later became an intelligence operative and soldier in southern and east Africa, a friend of Theodore Roosvelt and a strong voice against the British Governmentís policy against the Boers and the South African War. Selousí work remains an important contribution to the record of history, and is well worth taking the time to read.

Pretoria News
ó Andrew Beet

It is a fascinating account by the most famous of African hunters from a time when big game was plentiful and the art of hunting required extraordinary stamina and guts. Even with primitive weaponry, on foot or horseback, the amount of game Selous bagged is astonishing. There is more than hunting, though. His meetings with paramount chief Lobengula and lesser chiefs tell us about tribal customs.

Selous includes accurate descriptions and drawings of the animals that roamed the veld, giving the book a scientific leaning that must have been of great interest when little was known about the dark continent. For a young man, which he was at the time, the book is a literary masterpiece.

The Citizen
ó Dries Brunt

A classic for African bush lovers. As a lad in England , Selous had read William Baldwinís classic hunting tale African Hunting and Adventure from Natal to the Zambezi, published when he was 12 in 1863. Eight years later Selous landed at Port Elizabeth and started his career as a professional hunter, often pursuing his victim for mile After mile on foot.

Over the years Selous twice returned to Britain but the call of Africa was too great and the small, wiry man returned to hunt the great game, notching up an equalled record of trophies and of species shot. Many of Selousís trophies were sold to museums in Europe . The in 1881 he persuaded Richard Bentley, the London publisher who had published Baldwin ís book, to bring out his 455-page reminiscence, A Hunterís Wanderings in Africa . . . the text is well written and this reproduction is a must for anyone interested in the African bush.

Farmers Weekly
, Natal

Frederick Courteney Selous, born in London in 1851,  was probably the greatest of all the African hunters and explorers of the 19th century.
When still a child, he was greatly influenced by the renowned African hunter and writer, William Charles Baldwin, and by the missionary/explorer David Livingstone. At the age of ten he explained his sleeping on the bare floor instead of in a bed by saying he was hardening himself to become a hunter in Africa. This ambition was not to be thwarted and in September 1871 Selous landed at Port Elizabeth. In a few short years he established himself in south-eastern and central Africa as a  hunter and naturalist of world renown. While the large numbers of game of game shot by him during his hunting career would now, in this age of conservation be decidedly an anachronism, the 19th century was a different place,  a different time and with different attitudes.
Nevertheless, any disapproval which might be felt nowadays  should be tempered by the realisation that without the accounts of old time hunters like Selous, there would be few records left of what a wildlife paradise Africa once was.

Selous was a prolific writer and the author of many books,  the most renowned of which is his A Hunter's Wanderings in Africa,  which Alberton publisher Galago has reproduced as a facsimile reprint of the 1881 first edition. In its pages  Selous recounts many exciting and often hair-raising African hunting and exploration adventures and includes full notes and line drawings relating to the natural history and distribution of all the large Mammalia at the time.

During the Matabele Rebellion of 1896 he was appointed captain of 'H' Troop of the Bulawayo Field Force and he took part in many exciting skirmishes with the warrior Matabele.

The increased wealth and influence brought about by his writings, enabled him to hunt in many parts of the world including Asia and north America, where he became a close friend and hunting companion of US President Theodore Roosevelt.

In those jingoistic times his outspoken opposition to the Anglo Boer War gained him considerable public contempt in his native England, particularly after he publicly described the British government's policy against the Boer republics as an iniquity.

He was aged 63 when World War-I broke out and he immediately volunteered to fight. Lord Kitchener, however, personally intervened and rejected him on the grounds of his age, but Selous' steadfastly pro-Boer sympathies during the Anglo Boer War had done little to endear him to Kitchener either.

Then the war heated up and British, South African and Rhodesian forces in East African found themselves being constantly out-maneuvered and outfought at the hands of the brilliant German strategist, Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck. This caused people at the War Office, less rigid in their views  than Field-Marshall Lord Kitchener, to decide that a man with Selous' unmatched experience of the African bush could prove invaluable. He was promptly commissioned as a lieutenant in the 25th Royal Fusiliers and sent to East Africa.

From May 1915 to January 1917, except for a short spell in 1916 when he was repatriated to England for a surgical procedure, he fought as an active service soldier in numerous actions against the Germans, earning a DSO for bravery in the process.

Then, on the 6th January 1917 when aged 65 and by then a captain, Selous was killed in action while leading his men in an engagement against the enemy at an obscure place called Beho-Beho. They buried him beneath a tamarind tree in the soil of the Africa he had loved - a continent he had done so much to open up to civilisation. The area of Uganda in which his grave lies is now appropriately  known as the Selous Game Reserve.
African Bow Hunter - Pretoria

 


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