Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Era of Hunting

Prior to the 20th century, hunting was both a sport and a source of protein. The early explorers and adventurers in the 18th and early 19th century all reported encountering huge herds of elephants and even buffaloes roaming around in the vicinity of Kragga Kamma. By the time of the arrival of the Trekboers in the mid-eighteen century, most of the large game had been exterminated except for a patch near Alexandria.

Now it was the turn of the small game to be decimated all in the name of sport.

Main picture: PE Hunt Club on Willowby Farm, now Glen Hurd, owned by George Parkin

Personal enlightenment and awareness

My awareness of the sport of hunting was awakened in the 1950s. On visiting my maternal grandparents home at No. 37 Eastbourne Road, I would stare at the hoards of animal horns hanging on the back verandah. These encompassed the largest buffalo horns to the tiny klipspringer’s.  In the lounge there was another artifact of this wanton slaughter, a stuffed elephant foot which acted as a stoel. My assumption was that my distaff grandfather was a big game hunter, but I never questioned anybody at the time about it. It was only later that I would despise anybody who would wantonly kill an animal for sport as I regarded it as barbaric.


Hunting was a popular pastime from the 1840s to the end of the 19th century. Many of the large farms in the vicinity of town would periodically be subjected to the boom of muzzleloading rifles. Notable amongst these was Bushy Park where Mr. Charles Lovemore would regularly invite the prominent figures in town to accompany him on a hunt.

Likewise Kragga Kamma and the adjoining farms would be subject to periodic hunting parties. Even the Baakens River Farm which encompassed Sunridge Park and portions of Newton Park would host hunting trips. Another local area used for hunting was the Walmer Common.

Hunt at Bushy Park

Tradition of fox hunting endures

According to Khitab in Looking Back Vol IV No1, “One of the British customs which our stubbornly traditional forefathers tried to import into this area was fox hunting. They had the horses, the hounds,  the “pink” and splendid hunting country but no foxes. So they had to fall back on running duikers and oribi to earth.”

Shooting Party for John X Merriman in Kragga Kamma in 1908

The Herald of 24th October 1862 devotes almost a column to describing the “run” of the previous Saturday. The hounds were under the charge of Messrs. Ted and G. Reed and they usually met at Harries Kraal at 6am twice a week. There were 5 couples of hounds [why count them in couples] and they had a particularly good run that day covering 15 to 20 miles before killing within sight of the Kragga Kamma lands. In spite of foxes being non-existent, tradition dictated that the event be named the Port Elizabeth Fox Hounds Hunt.  

 Hunting at Bushy Park in the 1860s

In the 19th century, the Lovemores of Bushy Park were well-known for inviting dignatories and friends to join them in hunting on their farm. Below is an extract from the booklet entitled Memories by Jessie Allan nee Lovemore in which she recalls the excitement, splendour and bonhomie of a bush buck hunt.

Above: Hunting on the Bean’s farm, Ferndale, near Hankey

I have a picture of 1867 depicting the results of a hunt on which are shown, my mother on her fine horse “Dorwood”, father with the then fashionable Dundreary Weepers (whiskers) standing next to her and holding a gun.  His hat has a paauw feather in it and beside him were all the men who had been at the hunt, Mr Walford Harries, Willie Smith, Henry Deare, Orme Norris; the farm foreman, Masterton, and, lying on the ground, John Holland.  Near him was my brother Walter, about 6 years old, and on the other side of the group, brother Willie, about 4 years, holding a dog lying in an uncomfortable position.  Then there are Bob Pettit, Alphonse Taylor, Mr Mitchell, Alfred Ogilvie and George Hudson, dressed up for the occasion, native bearers, dogs, and many buck which had been shot.

The hunts took place on many occasions.  One was my parents wedding day, 6th August, and another Easter Monday.  Until I was an adult these took place, and as things have changed so much in later years, it may interest you to read how they were conducted.

The hunters who were invited were a regular party of old friends who were expected to come to all the hunts, and notabilities visiting Port Elizabeth were among them.  They arrived in carts bringing with them riding horses and a few dogs.  Then there was much talking and loading of guns on the wide stoep.  The guns were all muzzle loaders and powder were measured and poured down the barrels, then wads were put in and firmly rammed with a ramrod, which had a metal holder in the hollow between the barrels.  After that loopers or buckshot was measured and poured in and again wads were put in and rammed.  Putting the cap on the nipple was usually reserved until away from the house.

Then, with a great bustle, the horses and carts and (riding) horses were brought round and all set off for the appointed bush.  My father would give each man his station, and care had to be taken that no one should shoot across another.  Only one accident happened that I ever knew of, and that was caused by the man leaving his place and creeping between the monkey ropes through the bush, when he was mistaken for a buck.  He received a few loopers which did not cause a serious wound.  It caused a great deal of excitement seeing a man being lifted out of a wagon and carried into the house and put to bed.  Soon dear old Dr. Ensor was there and took out the pellets – ant there was B L O O D!! on some rags!

Hunting at Bushy Park

We, the women of the family (when I grew older, I was allowed to go) were taken in carts to the place where the warriors would assemble for lunch, and there was a great deal of chaff and fun.  Liver was grilled and there were cold chicken pies and coffee.  If any special boyfriend (present day language) was there, there was much interest in his experiences and prowess, and among the older men were many practical jokes – tickling a sleeping man with a feather, etc.  There was a short session in the afternoon and then, with Hurrahs and thanks and dividing the spoil, our friends drove away to town and we to the farm.

The usual hunters who lived in Port Elizabeth presented to father a large silver urn on which all their names were engraved, in memory of happy days hunting.

Wholesale destruction of the mega fauna

The animals which bore the brunt of hunting frenzy were the mega fauna, primarily the elephants. The “Telegraph” of the 11th October 1890 raised the publics’ awareness to this impending tragedy by commenting on the fact that “205 tusks were on offer at the market” and stated that with such “whole­sale destruction” of elephants they were bound to become extinct, except for the domesticated ones.

MFengu beachworkers carrying ivory in 1875

Tragedy averted

By 1900, the remnant of the vast elephant herds in the Port Elizabeth and surrounding area now comprised a small rump seeking shelter in the woods of Alexandria. Despite the dire situation, constant complaints by farmers in the Caldor area of damage to crops led eventu­ally to the Union Government’s instructing Maj PJ. Pretorius to undertake the systematic shooting of the entire herd, even though a commission of enquiry had advised against this because the elephants are a separate variety.

Pretorius almost single-handedly almost wiped-out all the elephants in the vicinity of Port Elizabeth.

In June 1919, the Museum Board requested the Administrator of the Cape to allow a small herd of younger Addo elephants to remain. As the slaughter commenced, an international outcry began. A letter from the Administrator dated 24 January 1920 stated that it had now been decided to leave 55 of the original 130 on the farms Mentone and Strathmore and create an elephant reserve. Part of the problem was that there was no water in the elephants’ area and the sinking of boreholes was necessary.

Harold Trollope, former big game hunter who, as warden of the Addo Elephant Park, was given the job of herding the animals back into the Park.

Tragedy had narrowly been averted.

Memories of the Early Addo Elephant Park

Sipping tea in the tranquil setting of Chrislin African Lodge, Dr. Peter Bunton and Mrs. Ruth Woolley reminisce of growing up in bygone Addo when elephants roamed free, polo was the weekend social event and the mode of transport to school was horse. Dr. Bunton arrived in Addo, aged one, in 1923 on their family farm, Elim. After the War, he returned to South Africa to pursue his lifelong passion, animals. A South African polo player, a vet and farmer, he has rich memories of early Addo days.

How we view elephants in the Addo Park is certainly different to the 1930’s! Driving to the Addo Park when Mrs. Ruth Woolley, born on Bydand farm in 1928, Addo, was a little girl was terribly exciting. All the farmers reject citrus fruit would be dumped at the water hole (today’s main camp) while the farmers would shine their vehicle’s front lights onto this area. This was the only viewing area, no driving around like today. Upon elephant’s ears flapping in agitation, all would jump into their cars and exit as quickly as possible! She remembers when the Port Elizabeth tram’s ceased to operate at the same time as WayGood-Otis lifts. The tram tracks and cables, as well as the lift cables, were used to erect more secure fencing along the Addo Park boundary in 1954. This kept the elephants in, the farmers with intact crops and the elephant herds growing.

This was massive progression after centuries of elephants and human conflicting. Ivory, trading, local wars, settlers and hunting threatened these incredible Addo beasts lives until, after an order was followed through to exterminate all elephants in 1919, the Government stepped in and enclosed the remaining 11 elephants in a sanctuary. The first enclosure, in 1931, was inadequate and elephants were lost one by one until, in 1954, an elephant proof fence (tram tracks and lift cables) was erected. The Addo Park has flourished ever since and continues to grow under the conservation efforts of SAN Parks.

It was a privilege to be in such interesting and convivial company, my mind reconstructing the Addo Park through the decades, first hand. It was fascinating to hear the Addo Park’s history and the long-term conservation efforts from their honorary vet, Dr. Peter Bunton. He recalls being reluctant about lions being introduced into the Addo Park in late 2003 as the Addo Park animals had never previously had predators amongst them. The first year of resident lions realised his fear as the whole Disease Free Buffalo calf herd was wiped out. Thankfully the animals have learnt to live with these predators and play a harder game!


Tally Ho! By Khitab in Looking Back Vol IV No1
The Herald, 24th October 1862.
Port Elizabeth: A Social Chronicle to the end of 1945 by Margaret Harradine (1996, E H Walton Packaging (Pty) Ltd, Port Elizabeth, on behalf of the Historical Society of Port Elizabeth).

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1 Comment

  1. Amazing how many animals were murdered in the name of sport in the 1800’s. One of the most negative things to happen under colonialism.

    • Hi Alan
      All of the early explorers who travelled through Algoa Bay as PE was then called as there was no town/village in the area, all reported huge herds of up to 200 elelphants in the area. By the 1770s all of these herds to the west of PE had been wiped out & by 1900 almost all of the vast herds in the east at Alexandria were on the brink of destruction before the government created what was to become the Addo Elephant Park.



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