Though a common leaden ball may do the work well enough, I would not recommend it. The best metal is spelter, which has almost the hardness of iron, with all the weight of lead; but it is often difficult to procure. For want of a better, two thirds lead and one third solder answers the purpose very well.
The most deadly part to aim at is just behind the shoulder; a ball through the centre of the lobes of the lungs is certain to cause almost instantaneous death. From the very solid structure of the head, the great thickness of the hide on that part, the position of the horns, the smallness of the brain, a shot in the head rarely or never proves fatal. The same may be said of the breast.
However severely wounded the rhinoceros may be, he seldom bleeds externally. This is attributable in part, no doubt, to the great thickness of the hide, and its elasticity, which occasions the hole caused by the bullet nearly to close up, as also from the hide not being firmly attached to the body, but constantly moving. If the animal bleed at all, it is from the mouth and nostrils, which is a pretty sure sign that it is mortally stricken, and the chances are it will be found dead within a short distance.
The number of rhinoceroses destroyed annually in South Africa is very considerable. Of this some idea may be formed when I mention that Messrs. Oswell and Vardon killed in one year no less than eighty-nine of these animals; in my present journey, I myself shot, single-handed, nearly two thirds of this amount.
- Sparrman says that the cavity containing the brains of a rhinoceros that he shot was only six inches long, and four high, and of an oval shape. On being filled with peas, it was found to hold barely one quart; a human skull, measured at the same time, did not require much less than three pints to fill it.