Elephant Foot BBQ’d in a Pit – A Colonial Favorite in South-Central Africa

“A long march, to prevent biliousness, is a wise precaution after a meal of elephant’s foot. “

Elephant hunts – and elephant eating – were common pastimes during colonial incursions into Africa. A detailed narrative of the hunt, the cooking and the eating of elephant is given by Dr. Livingston, in ‘Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa,’ some of which is posted below.

Elephant-hunting in the Zambizi floodlands, southern Africa. Source: Livingston - Missionary Travels...

A previous post looked at ‘A Colonial Elephant Hunt in Central Africa’, by Sir Samuel Baker.

In the following entry, Dr. Livingston describes both the elephant hunt and the cuisine, as practiced by groups living in the Zambezi River Basin of south-central Africa:

[The hunters] danced round the fallen queen of the forest, with loud shouts and exultant songs. They returned, bearing as trophies the tail and part of the trunk, and marched into camp as erect as soldiers, and evidently feeling that their stature had increased considerably since the morning.

… The cutting up of an elephant is quite a unique spectacle. The men stand remind the animal in dead silence, while the chief of the travelling party declares that, according to ancient law, the head and right hind-leg belong to him who killed the beast, that is, to him who inflicted the first wound; the left leg to bins who delivered the second, or first touched the animal after it fell.

The meat around the eye to the English, or chief of the travellers, and different parts to the headmen of the different fires, or groups, of which the camp is composed; not forgetting to enjoin the preservation of the fat and bowels for a second distribution.

This oration finished, the natives soon become excited, and scream wildly as they cut away at the carcass with a score of spears, whose long handles quiver in the air above their heads. Their excitement becomes momentarily more and more intense, and reaches the culminating point when, as denoted by a roar of gas, the huge mass is laid fairly open.

Some jump inside, and roll about there in their eagerness to seize the precious fat, while others run off, screaming, with pieces of the bloody meat, throw it on the grass, and run back for more: all keep talking and shouting at the utmost pitch of their voices. Sometimes two or three, regardless of all laws, seize the same piece of meat, and have a brief fight of words over it.

Occasionally an agonized yell bursts forth, and a native emerges out of the moving mass of dead elephant and wriggling humanity, with his hand badly cut by the spear of his excited friend and neighbour: this requires a rag and some soothing words to prevent bad blood. In an incredibly short time tons of meat are cut up, and placed in separate heaps around.

…We had the elephant’s fore-foot cooked for ourselves, in native fashion. A large hole was dug in the ground, in which a fire was made; and, when the inside was thoroughly heated, the entire foot was placed in it, and covered over with the hot ashes and soil; another fire was made above the whole, and kept burning all night.

Choice bits from the feet and trunk of an elephant. Source: Botswana, T. Baines

We had the foot thus cooked for breakfast next morning, and found it delicious. It is a whitish mass, slightly gelatinous, and sweet, like marrow. A long march, to prevent biliousness, is a wise precaution after a meal of elephant’s foot.

Elephant’s trunk and tongue are also good, and, after long simmering, much resemble the hump of a buffalo and the tongue of an ox; but all the other meat is tough, and, from its peculiar flavour, only to be eaten by a hungry man.

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-General, Colonialism, Cuisine, Food, Recipes, Uncategorized, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Elephant Foot BBQ’d in a Pit – A Colonial Favorite in South-Central Africa

  1. Karen says:

    Fascinating. Whenever I think of elephant stories, I always remember George Orwell’s . . .


    • dianabuja says:

      Pit cooking has been practiced for (apparently) eons around Africa – conserves on the fuel and also produces a more tender product. I taught the Hotel staf how to pit-cook a goat and will put something up about that. The technology is being ‘lost’, withcity-bred staff.


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