The Red Book Of Animal Stories - online children's book

Stories of Animals, Fantastic and Mundane, Edited By Andrew Lang

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244                  ELEPHANT SHOOTING
branch and fell to the ground, touching in his fall his horse's side with his spur. The animal plunged and bolted, and before Oswell could rise the elephant was upon him. He expected every second to be crushed by the weight of its enormous feet, but the elephant, in its wild rush, had not seen his fall, and passed him by, posi­tively placing his foot between Oswell's legs, which he had instinctively parted. Few men have had such a narrow escape, and indeed he had been saved from more than he .knew, for these thorn bushes cut like knives, and few horses will face them.
It is the custom of the Bechuanas to dig pits for the animals to fall into, after the manner of the Scotch at Bannockburn. The shape they have found to answer their purpose best is a kind of long square, seven or eight feet deep, but only one foot wide at the bottom, while the breadth at the top is at least three or four feet. When finished the pits are carefully covered up, and all traces of disturbance removed by a sort of framework of reeds and grass, held together by sand. In leaving the banks of a river, where they often go at night to drink and wash themselves, an old elephant will be placed in front so as to examine the ground, lest pitfalls should beset their track. And if sometimes, in spite of all the care of the leader, a young and foolish creature blunders into a hole, the strongest among them will join together and by means of their tusks and trunks will drag him out of his death trap.
Indeed, elephants, like many other animals, have strong affections, and will often attach themselves to one of their own herd, defending it from all dangers, as the following story will show.
Colonel Gordon Cumming was hunting elephants in the country north of the Limpopo river, and they frequently led him a long dance, for if they suspect a man's presence in their neighbourhood they will go miles to get out of his way. They even seem somehow to tell one another,
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