Statement of Capt Fritz Duquesne

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
Statement of Capt. Fritz Duquesne
by Fritz Joubert Duquesne
Presentation to the United States Congress, House Committee on Agriculture, (1910). The topic is the importation of wild and domestic animals to solve the perceived upcoming meat shortages of the United States. Mr. Broussard introduces Captain Duquesne with the following statement: "I now desire to present to the committee Capt. Fritz Duquesne, formerly in the Boer army, who is lecturing and

writing on this subject in this country".


Captain DUQUESNE. Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee, I speak from another point of view than Doctor Irwin. Of course he speaks from the point of view of the scientific man. I speak from the point of view of one that is practical in the matter. I was born in Africa, and bred among these animals that he has been speaking of. I am as much one of the African animals as the hippopotamus. I would be a dead animal if it were not for the hippopotamus, because most of my early life was spent eating hippopotamus.

As to the quality of this animal as food!, I just want to call your attention to the vigorous race of Dutchmen that were in the Boer war. There was nothing mentally or physically defective about them; and they lived on hippopotamus. It was the easiest animal for us to get. It is a rather shy animal, and confines itself to where it can get food. Doctor Irwin said it will go 15 miles after food. It does that in Africa. It will go even farther than that, because it has kept the streams clear of water vegetation.

In Louisiana the streams are being completely stopped by water vegetation. The fishing industry on the rivers is being ruined; the water is polluted, dirty, and practically useless as a means of drainage to the country. If any of you have looked at the pictures of Africa, where Roosevelt has been, you will find that all of our rivers are clean. They have clean surface water. It is only in the shallowest streams that the lilies will grow.

Why do not lilies grow in Africa? We have the hyacinth down there, but it does not grow over the country like it grows here. You have nothing to destroy it. The hippopotamus will eat all water plants, all the aquatic plants. It lives on them. It will never leave a river where it can get food. According to Mr. Broussard, with whom I have spoken about the matter, there are millions and millions of acres of that stuff down there that could be used for hippo food. As far as the domestication of the hippo is concerned, it is bred in the Pretoria Zoo and in the different zoological gardens — in Mozambique, in your own New York here, and in vanous other places; in Antwerp, in Berlin, etc. Hagenbeck breeds the hippopotamus for exportation. He sells them to circuses, and charges $8,000 apiece for them. It is a very profitable undertaking. The animal can be led; you can feed it on a milk bottle, like a baby. It can be led. It is absolutely not dangerous. Of course if you take an express rifle and put a bullet into it, no animal will stand that. It might turn on you then. But you must remember that in Africa the animal is fighting the crocodile and the human being — the white man, especially. The crocodile follows the hippopotamus; it will follow the lady hippopotamus when she is going to increase the family, and gobble up the young one before the mother sees it. Naturally the animals are a little bit vicious under those conditions. But where the crocodiles have been exterminated, the hippopotamus is as tame as a common garden cow.

As far as the commercial value of the animal is concerned, it is considerable. As Doctor Irwin says, it runs from three to four and a half tons in weight. Some of them go up as high as 5 tons. They are the greatest food-producing animals in the world. Living on cheap fodder, as he said, they will gain a hundred pounds of flesh a month after birth until they reach the weight of 4 tons. They have a fairly valuable ivory. Of course it is not as valuable as the ivory of the elephant; but when they are 3 or 4 years of age they have fairly good teeth, which are valuable. The bones are very valuable; and the skin is one of the most valuable things that the Boers have in Africa.

The CHAIRMAN. How is it used ?

Captain DUQUESNE. It is used for every purpose that leather is used for. Wehavesent the skin to France and to Germany. Itis "kipped" — that is, it is split and made into ordinary leather. It is almost as transparent leather as greenhide. It is very valuable for the covering of automobiles and automobile wheels. During my boyhood days the French soap manufacturers used to come down there and pay us all sorts of prices, competing with one another, to get the fat of the hippopotamus; and we made a considerable amount of money from saving the fat when we killed a hippo. The Boers were in the habit of going down to the river and killing a hippo and bringing it in and dividing it among the different families in the district. It is pretty hard to get rid of four and a half tons of meat. In the case of the bones of the animal, we would take an ordinary wood saw and saw them in halves, and make a great big pot of soup for a large number of people, including the Kaffir servants on the ranch or the farm, as we call it.

There are a good many hippos in Cape Colony. There are a few in Zululand. They have been practically exterminated there. There is no danger of the animal becoming a pest by natural increase, for the simple reason that it is too big. It breeds only once a year. If you will look into the history of animal life, you will find that there is no animal that breeds only once a year that can not be easilv exterminated. That has been the fault with your own country: You have exterminated even the birds that have dozens of young a year. You have wiped all of those animals clear off the face of your map. Of course the English sparrow and the rabbit are quite outside that category, for the simple reason that the rabbit will breed 120 young a year from its own stock.

Besides the hippopotamus there is the African buffalo, that would live in marshes that at present have nothing on them, according to the people who are thoroughly familiar with your marshes. At the best you breed crocodiles. The African buffalo will live in the marshy country. The leather of the African buffalo is far superior to any domestic leather now made or used. The hide brings a very high price in Africa. So much do we think of those hides — and, mind you. we have every domestic animal that you have in America, besides all our wild animals — that we always use the hides in Africa. We never let the buffalo hide go out of the country if we can help it. It is the strongest leather for harness and the strongest shoe leather. Then there are all the different animals that we have — especially the eland. The eland is an animal that runs from 800 to 1,500 and 1,600 pounds in weight. Its habitat is the desert country, where no domestic animal at present known will live. These 'animals shun farms. They do not hang around farms and hang around human beings; so they will be no menace to the farms. They are not fence- climbing animals. The difficulty we have had among the Boers is to keep those animals in our country. As fast as we settle it, they have retreated into the interior. You have a vast expanse of dry interior in your West and in your South where those animals could live. We also have down there the water buck, another valuable animal for flesh and for its skin.

To go back to the hippopotamus for a moment, remember that the hippopotamus has a very excellent flesh. If those animals were castrated and treated the way you treat your domestic animals, I think their flesh would be equal to anything you have in the world. We have tried that; we have castrated them and we have used them. We have used them at 2 and 3 years of age. They have made splendid food — excellent food. They could not be better. All of our animals down there are harmless when they are domesticated — that is, if you breed them around the farm. The springbok, the trekbok, the duyker, and the koodoo are all fine, big animals. Then there is the giraffe. The giraffe is one of our best African animals for food and for leather. The beauty of the giraffe is this : It is called by us the "kameel" — "camel" in English. Of course it is not a camel; it is a camelopard. That animal lives in the desert. It selects the desert as a home, and it lives on the scrub of the desert. It does not live around water. It does not want water. It is constructed somewhat after the fashion of a camel, and its flesh, on scientific examination, is found to be the very purest flesh. It has absolutely no uric acid, which the other animals all contain. That animal can be domesticated. It is most harmless and it is almost childlike. Its onlv defense is to run, and it is something of a runner, I will tell you. Of course it has a large watchtower neck, which preserves it in Africa.

There are a great number of other animals that it is unnecessary to go into, because they are all more or less the same in this respect ; they are all the same because they are different. The animals in Africa adopt different habitats. The klipspringer, for instance, will adopt rocky country as a home. It lives in the rocky country and it will spring from rock to rock. The word "klipspringer" in our language means a " stonespringer " — springing from stone to stone. That animal lives in a character of country where no domestic animals live. The eland lives where domestic animals can live, but do not live. The same is true of the koodoo. The same is true of the reedbuck. The duykerbok is the same. All of these animals have selected as habitats places that will protect them, where they can get away from the lions. As you know, Africa has millions and millions of game animals running wild. They are alive to-day because they have selected habitats that are a natural protection to them. They would all be dead if it were not for that. You know we have lions, leopards, cheetahs (a sort of wolf), jackals, the hyena, and the crocodile, besides a great many other animals that are preying on our wild game — that is, on our ordinary quadrupeds, the mammals. And yet to-day they are alive in thousands, and in some places it is estimated that they exist in millions between Abyssinia and Mozambique — all down that stretch of country, in the lake country.

Those anintals are alive only on account of their fighting qualities and their protective qualities. They are very fleet runners. You could put them out West, here the mountain lions and wolves and other animals have exterminated the game. According to the reports from one of your committees or one of your bureaus here, it cost $15,000,000 in loss of cattle and sheep and to hunt down wolves and mountain lions last vear. I do not know whether that is true or not; but that is according to a statement that appeared in one of the papers. Now, a mountain lion or a wolf would not worry the animals of Africa. We have an animal down there, the oryx, which can not onlv destroy an American mountain lion, but it can destroy an African lion. Yet it is not an enemy of man.

In the case of most of our animals, the only enemies they have are the lions or the other carnivorous animals and man. They would not conflict in any way with the habitat of the present domestic animals in this country. They are all good food, and they are all excellent for leather. The Boers have proven that. It is onlv recently that we have gotten domestic animals into Africa. We have lived and our race has been built up on the wild animals, notwithstanding the fact that we have had perhaps more wars than any other race. We have been fighting the Zulus and the Kaffirs in general ; and we lived on the wild game of Africa without any help from the outside. AVe have produced a pretty sturdy and strong and intelligent race — I think they are intelligent — just on these animals.

If these animals are good to build up a white race in Africa, why are they not good to use in this country? They are good. You have here hundreds of miles of country that is exactly like the habitat of our African game, and would breed those animals, which can all be domesticated. Every desirable animal we have in Africa can be domesticated. King Menclik domesticates the lion. I would not recommend bringing the lion into this country, of course; but it stands to reason that all these other animals, if introduced into this country anil put into a suitable climate, could be bred here.

My father was instrumental in sending the camel to Australia from Africa, and also in introducing it into the Kalahari Desert. The German Government now uses the camel exclusively for its cavalry in the Kalahari Desert, which is practically the counterpart of the deserts in this country, according to what I understand from people who are familiar with your deserts and the Kalahari Desert. Major Burnham, here, can testify as to that. He has been all through that country, and knows it thoroughly. Many of these camels were taken from Afghanistan and north Africa to south Africa and Australia. My father had the contract to take them over to Australia for the Western Australian government, and I took them over there. To-day camels and ostriches from Africa are being raised in Australia.

To-day camels are used exclusively in the Kalahari Desert and all through the great African deserts, where men died with thirst and hundreds of people were lost. To-day the Afghans and the whites take the camels and use them as pack animals; and not only that, but they are good draft animals. Bred as we breed them, scientifically, and not the way the Afghans breed them, they carry 800 pounds. One man can drive a string of a thousand of them. He only has to lead the first one, and the others walk after it. No roads are required. They make their own roads, and they require practically no food. Wherever there is desert, and a little cacti, or anything like that, the camels will eat it; and they will go for seven days without water. They are excellent food ; and as Doctor Irwin says, they are fine milkers. The natives of the desert in Africa and Asia not only milk the camel, but they make butter of its milk, just the same as we do of cow's milk.

That is about all I have to say on the subject.

The CHAIRMAN. We are very much obliged to you.

Mr. COCKS. I should like to ask the gentleman a question or two. How about the matter of temperatures

Captain DUQUESNE. The temperature apparently makes very little difference. You see, although Africa is right under the line — the equator goes through it — when you take a train into the country, it is going up hill all the time. Africa goes up this way [indicating]. It is practically a mountain with a flat top sticking un through the sea. The farther you go into the interior of Africa, the higher you get. If you have ever read about the Kongo, you know that the Kongo River runs a little way and then drops. It is a succession of cascades or waterfalls — cataracts, we call them. There are 200 miles of cataracts here and there. That is where the water runs down hill.

Mr. CHAPMAN. Do you think animals such as you have mentioned could become acclimated here without difficulty?

Captain DUQUESNE. Yes. I was over there recently in one place where Colonel Roosevelt passed through, and the frost was that thick [ indicating about one inch]. That is where he went to get some of his best animals.

Mr. HAWLEY. Whom did you say ?

Captain DUQUESNE. Mr. Roosevelt.

Mr. HAWLEY. I thought he was called "Bwano Tumbo."

Captain DUQUESNE. The white men do not like to call him "Mr. Big Belly;" for that is what it menus, you know. [Laughter.]

Referring to the matter of temperature, up in the high country where the yictoria Nyanza is — and, by the way, "Nyanza" means " lake" — it is very cold; so cold that the people and animals that live there have to come out of the places where they live and sun themselves before they can move around. They come put and lie on the rocks until the sun practically melts them into life. Early in the morning you can pick up a python about as long as this table with comparative ease, and it will not hurt you until it gets melted a little ; and then it is another python. It is resurrected every day. It is a common thing to see a thin skim of ice, perhaps from an eighth to a quarter of an inch in thickness, over the shallow pools. It just freezes, even up there, and right down into the country. It gets very cold down in South Africa in the Kooroo land, where the elands — large herds of them — were first seen by the Boers. To-day there are a great many elands on the Kalahari Desert. Anybody that has done any traveling on the desert knows that as soon as the sun goes down, and the sands radiate the heat, it gets so very cold that you nearly perish ; it makes one tremble. So we have every kind of temperature in Africa.

Mr. COCKS. You have not much snow, have you ?

Captain DUQUESNE. We have on Mount Kilimanjaro. We have perpetual snow there.

Mr. COCKS. But how is it where these animals live that you are speaking of ?

Captain DUQUESNE. There is a considerable amount of winter, but little snow falls in the desert country; and there are stretches of it where the animals will migrate as it gets cold. They go from place to place.

Speaking of the eland, I will state that just before the Boer war there was a member of the New Zealand government over there buying elands. There is a great deal of snow in New Zealand; and I understand that the elands have increased and are thriving wonderfully in that country.

Ihere is another animal that would be very valuable here that a number of the Congressmen have spoken to me about, and that is the large zebra — the big zebra. Ir you cross it with your mares it produces a very fine style of mule.

Mr. HAWLEY. How many hands high ?

Captain DUQUESNE. A big zebra runs from 14 to 16 hands high.

Mr. COCKS. Have you seen our breeding stock out here at Bethesda ?

Captain DUQUESNE. No; I have not.

Mr. COCKS. You ought to go out and look it over.

Captain DUQUESNE. I should like to look it over. I can give you an expert opinion on that subject.

Mr. HAWLEY. Is the zebra docile, or has it a vicious strain ?

Captain DUQUESNE. There is nothing wrong with the animal. The English in Africa want to get percentage, you know. They put an animal out, and they want to break it in right away, and they want to get some money for it right on the spot. That is what they are in Africa for. They want to take the animals and break them in at once. The Germans are more scientific than the English. In German East Africa they are making a great success of domesticating all these animals I "have spoken of, and crossing the zebra. Not only that, but I have photographs of the zebra in harness, being driven like an ordinary horse — a pure-blooded zebra being driven like an ordinary horse.

Mr. LAMB. I wish you would go out there and tame that one for those people. He simply "eats them up."

Captain DUQUESNE. Perhaps they wait until the animal grows up and then they try to do it. The wild horse is a pretty tough proposition, you know. It takes time to do these things. In three or four generations I think you will find that the zebra will be so tame that you can not keep him out of your bedroom.

Mr. .COCKS. Have you ever had any experience with the cross-bred animal ?

Captain DUQUESNE. Yes, sir; we have bred them in Africa. We have tried all those experiments.

Mr. COCKS. Are they the equal of the mule in endurance ?

Captain DUQUESNE. Yes; and not only that, but they do not get sickness as quickly as any of the other animals. Major Burnham can testify to that. He has been all through German East Africa, where for six years they have carried on various experiments.

The CHAIRMAN. Are they preferable to the mule in any respect ?

Captain DUQUESNE. We consider them so.

Mr. BROUSSARD. Here is a photograph of one being ridden. [Producing photograph.]

Mr. HAWLEY. Do they have more stamina than a mule ?

Captain DUQUESNE. Yes. If you look at a zebra or a zebroid or a zebrule, you will find those animals have a bigger and heavier rump. They are stronger and better animals. If you were ever kicked by one, you would know all about it. [Laughter.]

Mr. COCKS. A mule does pretty well in that line.

Mr. LEE. What do you call the "cross?"

Captain DUQUESNE. "Zebrules" and "zebroids." I do not know what the special names indicate. The English give them one name; the Belgians give them another; the Germans give them another, and the Boers give them another. All the African animals have different names in the different languages that they are addressed in, so that they do not know themselves when they cross into different territory. For instance, the gemsbok is a gemsbok in one place and an oryx in another. I do not know what they call the bastard eland. What is the name they call it ?

Major BURNHAM. The roan antelope.

Captain DUQUESNE. Yes; the roan antelope. The English call it the roan antelope, and we call it the bastard eland. That is another very fine animal.

Mr. HAWLEY. Is the oryx the same animal that used to be found in southeastern Europe ?

Captain DUQUESNE. I have read that it used to live there, but I do not know whether it did or not. There is very little doubt about it from the appearance of it. It looks very much like the unicorn. It has a straight horn like a sword; and it is a common thing for an oryx to get away with a lion. They have a straight horn, and if they hit anything it goes through. You will notice that all the African animals are fighting animals. They are all intelligent; their eyes stand out well; they have good, supple necks, and that is the only reason why they are alive. They would have been devoured by the lions long ago if it were not for these qualities.

Lions increase like dogs, whereas these animals increase one or two a year. It is those two things — their naturally selecting a habitat where they can not easily be followed, and their running and fighting powers — that leave them alive to-day. If the white men did not come in with their express rifles, they would be increasing and increasing until they would be shoved off into the sea.

I may tell you that the rivers down there where they have the hippopotamus are full of fish. The hippopotamus, you know, interferes with absolutely nothing but the vegetation in the rivers. If there is vegetation in the river, he will never leave the If you had the hippopotamus in Louisiana, and it ate up all of your water vegetation, you would be quite willing to let the hippopotamus live down there. At present an examination of the rivers is being made by Doctor Estopinal to try and find out a way of getting rid of this stuff. The War Department is spending a great deal of money, and I suppose the National Government will step in to preserve the fishing industry. You see, these water plants have to live on a certain amount of air, and the fish live on a certain amount of air. Neither the plant nor the fish can live on the air that is not there. As the plant is the stronger, and is able to take air from above, it will draw it at the bottom and draw it from the top, and the fish is suffocated in the water. Then when a storm comes and blows the water plants, which are floating, all to one side, the fish are netted up against them and kept in one place until they die. These plants exhaust the air in the water that is passing through the fishes' gills, and that destroys the fish. Anyone who looks at photographs of that part of the country will observe that they can not see the water at all. They simply can not see it.

Mr. HAWLEY. How many of these hybrid zebras are used down in your country?

Captain OUQUESNE. I do not know how many are used. That is hard for me to say. All the Boer experiments, which were going on very successfully, were stopped by the Boer war, and most of the animals were shot during the war for food. But now the English are starting again on it, and the Portuguese are doing it, and the Germans are doing it, and the Belgians are doing it a great deal. The Belgians are not onlv doing that, but they are domesticating the elephant. King Leopold is the man who suggested that there should be a school for the African elephants, which are much stronger than the Asiatic elephants. The elephant was used last by Hannibal in his invasion of Europe. That shows you what an animal it is. It crossed the Pyrenees. It went right around the Pyrenees, backward and forward. Hannibal was the last man to use them. That proves that the animal can be domesticated. It is considered a very fierce animal, but it is not so fierce. It has fine ivory and a fine skin. It is easily domesticated. They start at the wrong end; that is the trouble. Other people have done it.

As I say. King Leopold has nut the elephant to school. The way they do it is to shoot the mother when sne has the young elephant with her and take the young one. King Leopold's school is in the center of the Congo, with some hundreds of these animals, and he is letting them grow up. The people in India do the same thing. Of course, it is somewhat different there, because the Indian elephant does not have the courage or stamina of the African elephant. It would not be advisable to introduce the elephant into this country, but it would be a very fine thing in Brazil. But of course that is outside of this argument.

Mr. HAWLEY. Have they ever used the hybrid zebras in freighting teams for any length of time, to determine whether they will stand such work ?

Captain DUQUESNE. Oh, yes; they have used them all through German Africa. They used some of them in Rhodesia, and they are used the same as horses. Of course a lot of them, as I say, were broken in after they were full grown. I have seen young, small zebras come right into the house. You can not shove them out. As Doctor Irwin says, the unfortunate part about it is that some of them get to be too tame.

But when you can do that with an animal you can almost do anything. I have seen a picture of Major Burnham's son riding one. When he risks the life of his son on one of these animals, it does not say much for its ferocity. I would be willing to ride one that I broke in — not one that they broke in in America — at any time. I think I have about exhausted this proposition, and unless someone wants to ask me some questions, I nave finished.

Mr. COCKS. Is there not a great deal of this water hyacinth in the Upper Nile country ?

Captain DUQUESNE. No; that is not the hyacinth at all. That is the "soot" or "sud."

Mr. COCKS. Would the hippopotamus eat that ?

Captain DUQUESNE. They can not eat that; no. It is practically wooa. They have to use saws to cut it. It grows up close where the water is fairly swift, and the water runs under it. You can walk across some parts of the Nile without even knowing that it is the Nile at ah1. The papyrus and the bamboo washes down every year — that is, when the flood season comes — and it falls across the grass like that [ indicating]. It falls on it, perhaps only one layer of bamboo this season, and then the stuff grows up through it, and the next season there comes along another layer. But that is practically wood. You have not got that in this country. It is built up like that [indicating], one thing on top of the other, until the river runs in a cave, subterranean channel. That exists a great deal in the Congo; but it has absolutely no relation to this peculiar vegetation here.

The CHAIRMAN. Are there any further questions ? If not, we are much obliged to you.

Mr. BROUSSARD. Mr. Chairman, I should like to have the committee hear Major Burnham, who has had a great deal of experience, both in Africa, in this country, and in Mexico. He is a naturalist, and has devoted a great deal of time and study to this subject. At the conclusion of Major Bumham's hearing I should like permission to put in a short article written by him in the Independent, and have it included in the record. There are only three pages of it; and it covers this subject very thoroughly and in a systematic way.

The CHAIRMAN. We shall be very glad to hear Major Burnham.