A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 02 eBook

Robert Kerr (writer)
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 778 pages of information about A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 02.


Some Account of the Manners and Customs on the Gambia, and of the Elephant and Hippopotamus.

It now remains for me to relate what I observed and was informed of concerning this country, during my short stay.  The religion of the Negroes of Gambia consists of various kinds of idolatry; they place great reliance on sorcery and other diabolical things, yet all believe in God.  There are many Mahometans among them, who trade to many countries, yet are not settled in houses, because the natives are ignorant[1].  They live very much in the same manner with the natives of Senegal, and have the same kinds of provisions; but they cultivate more sorts of rice.  They eat dogs flesh, which I never heard of being used anywhere else.  They are clothed in cotton garments, and have great abundance of cotton in their country, which may be the reason of the Gambians not going naked, as those of Senegal do, where cotton is very scarce.  The women dress in the same manner; and, when they are very young, take great delight in delineating figures on their necks, breasts, and arms, with the point of a hot needle, which are never obliterated, and which resemble the flowers and ornaments which are wrought on silk handkerchiefs.  The country is excessively hot, and the heat increases as we go to the south; besides which, we found it much hotter up the river than at sea, owing to the immense number of trees with which the country everywhere abounds.  Some of these trees are of very great dimensions.  Near a spring where our sailors were in use to fill our water casks, not far from the banks of the river, there grew an exceedingly large tree, but its height was by no means proportional to its thickness; for, though it measured seventeen cubits in girth near the ground, its height, by estimation, was only twenty paces.  This tree was hollow, but the branches were very large, avid extended to a great distance, forming a thick and ample shade.  But there were many other trees much larger than this, by which the richness and fertility of the soil may be easily conceived; and the country is intersected by numerous streams.

There are many elephants in this country, but the natives are ignorant of the art of taming these animals, as is practised in other countries.  One day, while we lay at anchor in the middle of the river, we observed three elephants come out from the wood and walk by the river side, on which we sent our boat with some of the people towards them, but they immediately returned into the wood.  These were all I ever saw alive; but, sometime afterwards, Guumi-mensa[2], one of the Negro lords, shewed me a dead young elephant, which he had killed after a chase of two days.  The Negroes hunt on foot in the woods, using only arrows and assagays, or javelins, which are all poisoned.  When they hunt the elephant they conceal themselves behind trees, and even sometimes mount to their tops,

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