The Wild Dame to the Aid of the Wild
My manager during the war had been buying up oxen for the army. He told me that he had then, down in the Masai Reserve, bought from the Masai a number of young oxen, which were offspring of Masai cattle and Buffalo. It is a much debated question whether it is possible to cross domestic animals with the game; many people have tried to create a type of small horse fitted to the country, by breeding from Zebra and horses, though I myself have never seen such cross-breeds. But my Manager assured me that these oxen were really half-Buffalo. They had been, the Masai told him, a much longer time growing up than the ordinary cattle, and the Masai, who were proud of them, were by this time pleased to get rid of them, as they were very wild.
It was found to be hard work to train these oxen for the waggon or plough. One strong young animal amongst them gave my Manager and his Native ox-drivers endless trouble. He stormed against the men, he broke their yokes, he foamed and bellowed; when tied up he shovelled up earth in thick black clouds, he turned up the bloodshot white of his eyes, and blood, the men said, was running from his nose. The man, like the beast, towards the end of their struggle, was dead beat, the sweat streaming down his aching body.
“To break the heart of this ox,” my Manager narrated, “I had him thrown in the bullocks’ paddock, with his four legs tied hard together, and a rein round his muzzle, and even then, as he was lying dumb on the ground, long scalding jets of steam stood out from his nose and terrible snorts and sighs came from his throat. I was looking forward to seeing him under the yoke for many years to come. I went to bed in my tent and I kept on dreaming of this black ox. I was woken up by a big row, the dogs barking and the Natives shouting and yelling down by the paddock. Two herdboys came into my tent all trembling and told me that they believed a lion had got in amongst the oxen. We ran down to the place and took lamps with us, and I myself brought my rifle. As we came near to the paddock the noise died down a little. In the light of the lamps I saw a speckled thing making off. A leopard had been at the tied-up ox, and had eaten the right hind-leg off him. We would never come to see him in the yoke now.
“Then,” said my Manager, “I took my rifle and shot the ox.”