The Lions of Que Que


Lions on the Prowl

The Lions of Que Que

Bill and Sid West’s Jena Group of Mines named after the big cats were a long way from town on dirt roads.  We still had leopard at Hillandale when we first broke ground there on our new house in 1956.  However here is an account of the last pride of Lions on the Globe and Phoenix Mine in Que Que in 1916.

The Lions of Que Que

Local sports set out in pursuit of a pride of lions reported seen at Sebakwe Poort.  The Nimrods tied up a couple of goats near their camp for bait. While they were enjoying their supper lions bounded into their midst, seized the goats and vamoosed.

Later that night, the lions visited the Moss Mine and killed a mule at Jim Harvie’s stable, near the Moss Store.  They only had one shotgun and watched helplessly in the moonlight as their mule was eaten.  Their house cat took its fill, the lions taking no notice of it at all.

The next morning Jim Harris and William Hogg, the Manager of the Moss Mine, went in pursuit of the lions.  Hogg shot and killed one.  He wounded another.   It charged him and smashed his gun held up to protect himself in the sudden onslaught.

Harris came to his comrade’s rescue.  He fired his last cartridge into the lion, but did not kill it outright.  It dropped Hogg and charged him, biting him severely on the arm but overwhelmed by its own wounds withdrew into the veld nearby and was subsequently found dead.

Hogg was badly mauled.  He died a day or so afterwards at the G. & P. Mine Hospital.  Harris recovered.

That night the remaining lions crossed the sands dump at the G. & P. Mine and proceeded to the road near the sports ground, stopping to drink at the culvert below the present school hostel.  At the nearby Primrose Mine a shaft was covered over with a few sticks and a mangy dog tied there for bait.  A lion made a grab at the dog and fell down the 60 foot shaft.  A railway employee valiantly followed on a rope.  He found  the lion in a crosscut of the shaft but his Mauser pistol miss-fired and jammed.  He retreated back up the rope and procured another rifle.  He shot the lion.

A huge crowd collected.  Some wag called out that the lion was coming up the rope.  Although it was the days of long skirts a considerable display of hose was noticeable as the ladies fled to safety.

The native population marched the dead lion triumphantly to Austen’s plot.

Losing three of their number the balance of the pride left this inhospitable area, to the relief of the Que Que residents.

Thanks to Ed Goldberg and Val Atkinson Barbour for copies of “Olden Que Que” Souvenir, to commemorate the Que Que Carnival Fete Day on June 9, 1945.   In it is  a collection of short stories from the pioneers about all sections of the community.  Unfortunately the author of this story is not identified.  If  any of you have some memorabilia to share  I would love to have it.


  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply March 30, 2011

    Unbelievable, scary, and so interesting! Loved the article!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 31, 2011

      Betty, That was a taste of the African version of the Wild West

  • Bob Atkinson

    Reply Reply April 1, 2011

    I remember a story about a guy who owned a ranch about 60 miles West of Kwekwe quite close to the Turtle Mine. It was in about 1970 and his name was Johann Willemse. He was driving on his ranch accompanied by one of his ranch hands when they came across a loepard. He grabbed a rifle from behind the seat and took a pot shot at it as it ran away. He succeeded in wounding the animal and as a result it took refuge up a large tree. Unfortunately he only had one round in the breech. He told the hand to wait under the tree while he returned to the house to get more ammo, reasoning that the leopard would not climb down so long as there was someone present.
    On his return he found the hand dead and no sign of the leopard.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 1, 2011


      That’s a story that’s hard to top! I expect that Silobela/Nkai area is just as wild today. There was no road at all, just bush tracks north of Gokwe to the Zambezi River before the war started. It was a so much tougher place to tame than the American Wild West. Besides the predators, the rivers not being navigable for the most part made penetration into the interior so much more arduous. Rhodes had the answer: rail was the lifeline. There was so much more disease concentrated especially in the river valleys. The list could go on. Only the tough survived, much less thrived.


      • Alfred

        Reply Reply March 17, 2012

        Diana, As an engineer with the Ministry of Water Development (old Irrigation Department) and later with Consulting Engineers, i traveled fairly extensively in the Nkai/Gokwe area from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s. This area showed the scars of subsistence farming. Unfortunately the beauties of the wild were long departed leaving behind large tracts of bare red earth (Silobela to Exchange) and terribly corrugated roads. Ten years later, in 1994 (my daughter was just 4 months old), we stayed a week at the Sengwa Research Station with my sister’s family, some 50/60 km north west of Gokwe, depending which track/road one took. That area, which was still pristine 10 years earlier, showed the same degradation, right up to the Sengwa game fence. On the way back from Sengwa, the Landie that we were travelling in had 4 punctures and ran out of spare wheels. I had to walk the last 10/15 km into Gokwe to find/beg for another wheel to get us into Gokwe. In the mean time, our party, with our breast fed baby, was left to endure the heat of the day in the shade of a mango tree. I always think of it as our daughter’s first “taste” of Africa. Nevertheless, the Research area was still the “untouched, wild Africa” and made for a most memorable stay.

        • Diana

          Reply Reply March 21, 2012

          Alfred, The research areas (and the game parks) are so important to preserve the “untouched, wild Africa”. Good to hear some are still in tact, as the population continues to explode and subsistence farming replaces the productive farms and ranches of the past.

  • Howard John Austen

    Reply Reply March 17, 2012

    Sorry try again………..

    I have a picture of a tapestry with John Austen beating lions off his horse..

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 17, 2012

      Howard, What about taking a picture of the tapestry and telling us the story to go with it?

  • James Dryburgh

    Reply Reply May 4, 2014

    Hi Diana
    The lions of Kwe Kwe
    Your link to the story here seems to be lost

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 8, 2014

      James, Thanks for the thumbs up. I have reposted it.

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