Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/197

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189
LIVE IN PATRIARCHAL STYLE.

melons, pumpkins, beans, peas, &c. They also plant tobacco. When ripe, the leaves and stalks are collected, and mashed together in a hollow piece of wood by means of a heavy pole. The tobacco is, however, of a very inferior quality; so much so, that our Damaras, who had a mania for the weed, refused to smoke it.

There are no towns or villages in Ovambo-land, but the people, like the patriarchs of old, live in separate families. Each homestead is situated in the middle of a corn-field, and surrounded by high and stout palisades. The natives were obliged to take this precaution in order to guard against the sudden attacks of a neighboring hostile tribe, which kept constantly harassing them. Once or twice the Ovambo attempted to retaliate, but without success. The tribe just mentioned is the only one with whom this naturally peaceable people are ever at variance. If not previously provoked they interfere with no one.

We were anxious to form some sort of estimate of the density of the population, but this was no easy matter. However, by counting the houses in a certain extent of country, and taking the average number of individuals to each, we came to the conclusion that there were about a hundred persons to every square mile.

With the exception of a few cows and goats, no cattle were seen about the dwellings of the natives, yet we knew them to be possessed of vast herds. A general scarcity of water and pasturage in Ondonga compelled them to send the oxen away to distant parts. They also breed hogs, which, from their mischievous propensities, are always sent to a distance during the time of harvest. These animals, they assured us, attain to an enormous size. By all accounts, indeed, they must be perfect monsters. And there can be little doubt of the fact, for captains of vessels, who are accustomed to trade with the natives of the West Coast, also speak of a gigantic race of swine.