Sir John Barrow, 1764-1848
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“A Boor’s Wife Taking Her Coffee”

The women of the African peasantry lead a life of the most listless inactivity. The mistress of the family, with her coffee-pot constantly boiling before her on a small table, seems fixed to her chair like a piece of furniture; and it is the business of a little black boy or a Hottentot wholly naked to attend to her with a small branch of a tree or a fan made of ostrich feathers to flap away the flies. The annexed sketch drawn from nature by Mr. Daniell, is so true a picture of a boor’s apartment, that any further description would be superfluous. [Vol. 1, p. 31]

"Broad Tailed Sheep of Southern Africa"

. . . the sheep were in tolerable good order; but the broad-tailed breed of Southern Africa seems to be of a very inferior kind to those of Siberia and oriental Tartary: they are long-legged, small in the body, remarkably thin in the fore quarters and across the ribs: have very little intestine or net fat; the whole of this animal substance being collected upon the hind part of the thigh, but particularly on the tail, which is short, broad, flat, naked on the under side, and seldom less in weight than five or six pounds: sometimes more than a dozen pounds; when melted, it retains the consistence of fat vegetable oils, and in this state it is frequently used as a substitute for butter, and for making soap by boiling it with the lie of the ashes of salsola. This species of the sheep is marked with every tint of color; some are black, some brown, and others bay; but the greatest number are spotted: their necks are small and extended, and their ears long and pendulous: they weigh from sixty to seventy pounds each when taken from the pasture . . . [Vol. 1, p. 67]

“A Hottentot”

The person of a Hottentot while young is by no means void of symmetry. They are clean-limbed, well-proportioned, and erect. Their hands, their feet, and all their joints are remarkably small. . . . The color of the eye is a deep chestnut: this organ is long and narrow, removed by the broad base of the nose to a great distance from each other; and the eyelids at the extremity next the nose, instead of forming an angle, as in Europeans, are rounded into each other exactly like those of the Chinese, to whom indeed in many other points they bear a physical resemblance that is sufficiently striking. Their cheek-bones are high and prominent, and with the narrow-pointed chin form nearly a triangle. Their teeth are beautifully white. The color of the skin is that of a yellowish brown or a faded leaf, but very different from the sickly hue of a person in the jaundice, which it has been described to resemble: many indeed are nearly as white as Europeans. The hair is of a very singular nature: it does not cover the whole surface of the scalp, but grows in small tufts at certain distances from each other, and, when kept short, has the appearance and feel of a hard shoe-brush, with this difference, that it is curled and twisted into small round lumps about the size of a marrow-fat pea. When suffered to grow, it hangs in the neck in hard twisted tassels, not unlike some kinds of fringe. [Vol. 1, pp. 107-8]

“A Wagon Passing a Kloof”

Over the grassy plains of Zuure Veldt there is little difficulty in finding a road, where the deep glens, through which the branches of rivers usually run, can be avoided; and we had met with no obstacle till our arrival at the Kowie, which falls into the sea a little to the eastward of the Kareeka. In order to cross this little river it was necessary to descend from the plain into a deep chasm about two miles in length; not only down a steep precipice strewed over with fragments of rock, but in several places among thick clumps of brushwood, through which it was necessary to cut a road. A more difficult and dangerous place was certainly never attempted before by wheel-carriages. A single false step might have attended with the total destruction both of waggons and cattle. In the space of two hours, however, we found ourselves in the bottom, where we passed along a narrow defile, hemmed in on either side, sometimes by woods of tall trees creeping up the steep faces of mountains, and at others between two walls of naked rock. The difficulty of the descent had considerably exhausted the oxen; but to rise the opposite hill, “hic labor, hoc opus fuit.” In vain the animals stove; the Hottentot drivers shouted, and stamped, and flogged with their enormous whips, and the Dutchmen swore. The first waggon got about a hundred yards up the ascent, which was near a mile in length, but was unable to be moved a step higher. After an hour’s trial, bruising and fatiguing the oxen to no purpose, they had recourse to the method that ought in the first instance to have been adopted. The reserved oxen were yoked before the others, and thus, by double teams, the waggons were at last drawn out of this horrible chasm. . . . [Vol. 1, pp. 132-33]

“A Kaffer Woman”

The Kaffers most certainly are not the Aborigines of the southern angle of Africa. Surrounded on all sides by people that differ from them in every point, in color, in features, in form, in disposition, in manners, and in language, it would be absurd to consider them as indigenous to the small spot they now possess. Were I to speculate upon their origin, I should have little hesitation in giving it as my opinion that they are descended from some of the tribes of those wandering Arabs know by the name of Beduins. These people are known to have penetrated into almost every part of Africa. . . . Their pastoral habits and manners, their kind and friendly reception of strangers, their tent-shaped houses, the remains of that grand feature of Islamism, the circumcision of male children, which is universally practised among all the Kaffer hordes, all strongly denote their affinity to the Beduin tribes. Their countenance is also truly Arabic; their differ only in color, which varies from deep bronze to jet black, but that of the latter is most prominent. . . . To the Ethiopians or Abyssinians they bear a much stronger resemblance. The annexed portrait, drawn from nature by Mr. S. Daniel, will shew better than any description which I can give, the head-dress and the countenance of a Kaffer. . . . [Vol. 1, pp. 165-66]

"The Gnoo"

This extraordinary animal is the swiftest beast that ranges the plains of Africa . . . Nature, though regular and systematic in all her works, often puzzles and perplexes human systems, of which this animal affords an instance. In the shape of its body it evidently partakes of the horse, the ox, the stag, and the antelope: the shoulders, body, thighs, and mane, are equine; the head completely bovine; the tail partly one and partly the other, exactly like the quacha; the legs, from the knee-joints downwards, and the feet, are slender and elegant like those of the stag, and it has the subocular sinus, which is common to most, though not to all, of the antelope tribe. . . . The gnoo might be considered as an emblem of unbounded freedom with the means of supporting it. [Vol. I, pp. 214-217]

“A Bosjesman in Armour”

All the men had the cartilage of the nose bored, through which they wore a piece of wood or a porcupine’s quill. Whether they are considered as to their persons, their turn of mind, or way of life, the Bosjesmans are certainly a most extraordinary race of people. In their persons they are extremely diminutive. The tallest of the men measured only four feet nine inches, and the tallest woman four feet four inches. . . . [T]hey are known in the colony under the name of Cineeze, or Chinese Hottentots. Their bellies are uncommonly protuberant, and their backs hollow; but their limbs seem in general well turned and proportioned. Their activity is incredibly great. The klip-springing antelope can scarcely excel them in leaping from rock to rock; and they are said to be so swift, that, on rough ground, or up the sides of mountains, horsemen have no chance in keeping pace with them. . . . The Ethiopian soldiers, when called upon to defend themselves, or to face an enemy, stuck poisoned arrows with a fillet bound round the head, which, projecting like so many rays, formed a kind of crown. The Bosjesmans do exactly the same thing; and they place them in this manner for the double purpose of expeditious shooting, and of striking terror into the minds of their enemies. . . . Their bows are remarkably small; and, in the hands of any one but a Bosjesman, would be entirely useless. From the earliest infancy they accustom themselves to the use of the bow. All the little boys who came to us at the kraal carried their bows and small quivers of arrows. A complete quiver contains about seventy or eighty. . . . [Vol. 1, pp. 233-34, 239, 243]

“The African Rhinoceros”

Of the figure and character of the common two-horned rhinosceros of Africa, which is altogether different from that of India, covered with its hide of mail, I have not seen any just representation, except in the drawings of Mr. Daniel. . . . The skin of all the two-horned species of Africa is comparatively smooth, having none of those folds which in the Indian species are so remarkable. The head . . . is strictly a nose-horn: these excrescences growing directly upon the nose. The eyes also may be said to be placed on this organ, being immediately under the root of the larger horn; and they are so minute that one would be apt to conclude they could not be of much use to so large an animal. But nature, always provident, has remedied this apparent inconvenience by placing them in projecting sockets, in which they turn in all directions like those of the little cameleon. [Vol. 1, pp. 349-50]