Black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis

William Cornwallis Harris1836/1837

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum

Illustrations of African wildlife by explorers like William Cornwallis Harris gripped the imagination of the Victorian public, making national heroes of the explorers.

Harris made a name for himself by publishing The Wild Sports of Southern Africa in 1839, which told of his hunting expeditions from 1836 to 1837. Harris explains in the opening passage of his book, 'From my boyhood upwards I have been taxed by the facetious with shooting madness, and truly a most delightful mania I have ever found it'. His account of the trip is full of hunting exploits, earning him the reputation as the originator of the safari.

Harris was a member of the Engineering Corps of the East India Company and was based in India from 1825. In 1836 he fell ill and was sent to Cape Town to recuperate.

Harris was a keen naturalist and an accomplished artist. As well as hunting animals Harris spent time drawing scenes he came across including animals and people of the region. From a young age Harris frequently found his 'thoughts wander to the wilds of Africa' and he often dreamed of encountering the animals of that land, seeing the 'slender and swan-like neck of the stately giraffe' and the 'gigantic elephants'.

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  • Title: Black rhinoceros Diceros bicornis
  • Creator: William Cornwallis Harris
  • Date Created: 1836/1837
  • Subject Keywords: Discovering diversity


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