Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/53

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45
BEEAKING-IN OXEN.

Mr. Stewardson, tailor by profession, but now "jack of all trades," to accompany us up the country in the capacity of cicerone, etc.; and as this man, from long residence among the Hottentots, was thoroughly conversant with the mysteries of ox-breaking, to him, therefore, we deputed the difficult task.

At the end of a "riem," or long leather thong, a pretty large noose is made, which is loosely attached to, or rather suspended from, the end of a slight stick some five or six feet in length. With this stick in his hand, a man, under shelter of the herd, stealthily approaches the ox selected to be operated on. When sufficiently near, he places the noose (though at some little distance from the ground) just in advance of the hind feet of the animal; and when the latter steps into it, he draws it tight. The instant the ox finds himself in the toils, he makes a tremendous rush forward; but, as several people hold the outer end of the "riem," he—in sailor language—is quickly "brought up." The force of the check is indeed such as often to capsize one or more of the men. He now renews his efforts; he kicks, foams, bellows; and his companions, at first startled, return and join in chorus; the men shout, the dogs bark furiously, and the affair becomes at once dangerous and highly exciting. The captured animal not unfrequently grows frantic with rage and fear, and turns upon his assailant, when the only chance of escape is to let go the hold of the "riem." Usually he soon exhausts himself by his own exertions, when one or two men instantly seize him by the tail, another thong having also been passed round his horns; and by bringing the two to bear in exactly opposite directions, or, in other words, by using the two as levers at a right angle with his body, he is easily brought to the ground. This being once effected, the tail is passed between his legs and held forcibly down over his ribs, and the head is twisted on one side, with the horns fixed in the ground. A short, strong stick, of peculiar shape, is then