“the Man-eaters of Tsavo” the Story of John Henry Patterson’s Book [book Review 2022]


The Lion’s Road

Before the publication of John Henry Patterson’s book “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo” in 1907, not many people knew the story of two lions who, according to legend, devoured approximately 150 people in order to halt the construction of the Ugandan railway. The lions were said to have been able to stop the construction of the railway.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the government of Great Britain made the decision to construct a railroad in East Africa. It was believed that it would run from the city of Mombasa, which is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean (the region of modern-day Kenya), all the way across Lake Victoria and into Uganda. Prior to that, there was a caravan route. Slave traders and ivory merchants were the most common users of it. The construction of the railroad began in 1896; two years later, a road was built that connected Mombasa and Nairobi; and just 27 years after that, a train reached the city of Kampala in Uganda, which is considered to be the geographic center of Africa. The majority of the construction workers were coolies from India, who had been imported to Kenya in considerable numbers by the British.

The events that caught our attention took place during the early stages of construction, around 132 miles from Mombasa and close to the Tsavo River (these locations are currently occupied by the Tsavo National Parks – East and West). Colonel John Henry Patterson, who was only thirty at the time, was given the responsibility of overseeing the construction of the permanent bridge. He was originally from India, where he oversaw the construction of a number of structures for civilian use.

As soon as Colonel Patterson started his work in March 1898, there were allegations that workers were being attacked by a predator. The initial attempts to shoot lions were fruitless because the workers’ camps were spread out over a distance of thirty miles along the road that was being constructed, and the lions chose their prey in a new location each time. In a short amount of time, each of the camps was enclosed by a boma, which is a type of barbed fence. The workers burnt fires throughout the night in an effort to scare away the cannibals, but their efforts were fruitless. The lions paid no attention to the thorns and were able to effortlessly break through the hedge.

Lions On The Hunt

People were occasionally successful in evading the lions in the beginning, when they were still getting the hang of the new methods of hunting that they were using. A man-eating monster once assaulted a Hindu trader who was traveling on a donkey. He was successful in bringing the donkey and the rider to the ground, but in the process, he caught his fangs on the rope that was used to bind the cans that were suspended from the donkey’s neck.

The lion was unable to immediately free itself from the rope. The canisters, which were rattling and clinking against one other, startled the lion, and it raced into the jungle while carrying the entire bundle behind it. Another occasion, a lion got inside a tent and, thinking it was a sleeping man, pulled off the mattress instead of the person who was resting on it. This happened by accident. After coming to the conclusion that he had made a mistake, the beast flung the mattress and then fled. Once, a lion snuck into a tent where 14 coolies were resting and woke them all up. He reached for a bag of rice, and in the process, he severely injured one of the other individuals. After only having the victim in his possession for a short distance, he “threw the sack in disgust,” as John Henry Patterson put it. When the cannibal first entered the hospital tent, he was so horrified that he knocked over the laboratory cabinet that contained all of the tools and drugs. This saved the life of the doctor’s assistant. The beast became afraid due to the increased loudness, and he chose to flee from sin as a result.

Unfortunately, as the lions gained experience hunting, they became more brazen and, as a general rule, they no longer gave their prey any chance: “Their ways of killing people have developed and seemed just supernatural,” John Henry Patterson writes in his book. At this point, they were already certain that they would succeed, so the workers believed that these were not actual animals but rather the vengeful souls of two deceased local leaders who adopted such a shape in protest against the construction of the railway.

When the tracklayers left, there were just a few hundred laborers left in the Tsavo area to continue building the bridge, so the cannibals turned their attention to them.

Cannibal Trap

One day, lions paid a visit to the makeshift hospital, and during their stay, they took away one of the patients. After that, the hospital was moved, and a van was placed in its place. Patterson and the doctor ambushed the van when it was parked at the new location. A number of cows were tethered in the area and used as bait. They did not have to wait very long since one of the lions leapt over the fence and grabbed the cow before it could escape. But even this was not enough for the predator; he caught a whiff of the humans who were in the van. The colonel opened fire on the lion when it attempted to attack the wagon, which caused the animal to flee.

When they heard this gunfire, the lions changed their hunt to a different location for the next few months. According to Patterson’s proposal, construction of a unique trap designed to catch cannibals began about this period. There were two rooms contained within it, which were separated by steel rods: the actual trap, which had a door made of rails that slammed shut, and the compartment where the hunter was hiding; he is also a bait. On the other hand, the lions did not show up to the trap…

There was not a single day that passed where there was no report of the passing of individuals coming from some camp by the river. The animals, acting completely impudently, broke through the hedge, dragged off the next victim in front of everyone, and feasted occasionally within a distance of no more than thirty meters from the camp. They were oblivious to the screams, stones flying at them, and burning brands, and they dragged off the next victim in front of everyone. Even after being shot, they proceeded to eat as if nothing had happened.

Finally, on December 1, 1898, the workers sent Patterson the ultimatum that they would no longer accept being used as food for lions or devils. Following the delivery of this demand, the employees departed from Tsavo. The work at the construction site has come to a complete halt. There were only a few coolies, the most courageous of the group, who stayed behind in the camp. People made their homes for the night in the branches of trees, on cisterns filled with water, or in dugouts that they excavated themselves.

The cannibal was finally caught when he walked into a trap one day. As live bait, there were three armed persons in there with them. As soon as the cage was locked, the lion started to pound its paws on the bars, which caused the humans within to run away in terror. Even though the lion was only a few inches away from the people, no one managed to strike him. However, one of the bullets managed to break the chain that was holding the door shut, and the lion managed to get away with only a few scratches.

Successful Catch

But eventually, fortune was on Patterson’s side. It was accurate. Once, by mistake, he scared away a lion that was in the process of consuming the carcass of a dead donkey not too far from the camp. Because it was impossible to shoot the animal, the colonel gave the order to the workers to round the portion of the jungle where the lion had vanished and make a dreadful racket in order to ensure that they did not miss the man who had killed their lion.

Patterson was waiting for the lion on the opposite side, which was the passage that had been laid down by the animals. And at this moment, a man-eating monster materialized in front of him, a gigantic shaven-headed male. Patterson raised his weapon and attempted to fire, but the shot was unsuccessful. The sound of the trigger being pulled caused the lion to flee in terror, and it only managed to get two steps ahead of the person who was shooting at it. The subsequent bullet that was fired missed its intended target.

Patterson gave the order to build a small platform on pillars (mahan) next to the dead donkey in the hope that the lion would come to eat the barely started carcass – it was tied with wire to a tree so that the lion could not drag it away. This was done in the hope that the lion would come to eat the barely started carcass.

Patterson took a seat and waited while he was on the platform. The ravenous lion did make an appearance, but the living Patterson had far more intrigue for him than the dead donkey did. To our good fortune, the beast did not consider either climbing up onto the platform or toppling it by destroying one of the supports and turning it over. Despite this, the colonel was overcome with anxiety, which was compounded by the fact that at some point he was struck on the head by something that came out of nowhere; it turned out that an owl had mistaken him for a branch. Patterson was having trouble aiming due to the lion’s constant movement, but he managed to get off a shot in the end. Patterson fired several shots in his pursuit of the lion, which leapt and raced into the nearby brush. This time, he was successful; one of his shots struck the heart, while the other struck the rear leg. The first man-eater had been killed, and his enormous body had been brought to the camp by eight different persons the following morning. The workers went to great lengths to commemorate his passing.

Blood Trail

The second lion was relatively passive for a period of time; but, a few days later, during the night, he went to see the railway inspector in Tsavo. When the inspector heard a commotion outside the door, he concluded that it must have been some intoxicated coolie and chose not to open the door. This saved his life, and at this point the lion was satisfied with two of the inspector’s fat goats as a meal. The following evening, Colonel Patterson made his home in a shack located close to the inspector’s residence and secured three goats to a substantial railing in front of the door. The wait did not seem to be in vain as the lion made an appearance just before sunrise.

He slaughtered one of the goats and pulled it, along with two further goats and a piece of iron that weighed more than a cent, into the brush. Patterson and his men set out early in the morning to follow the path left by the lion, or more accurately, the track left by the rail that had been driven very deeply into the earth. The lion wasn’t too far away, and it continued to gorge itself on goat meat. As soon as he was found out (it also turned out to be a maneless male of tremendous size), he made a hasty escape, slipping between Patterson and his neighbor on the way, and eventually vanished into the bushes. After that, a mahan was constructed for Patterson, and the following evening, the colonel was successful in wounding the lion, which then returned to the location of the disrupted feast.

After leaving a bloody trail, the beast vanished into the thickets and was not seen again. Ten days passed without it being seen or heard, and during that time, everyone prayed that the wound would prove to be deadly; nonetheless, they did not let their guard down. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t for nothing at all. After 10 days, the lion made another attempt to get to the coolie who was resting in the tree next to Patterson’s own tent. Because the night was so black, it seemed as though it was impossible to aim, so in order to scare away the predator, they had to shoot into the air.

Ambush On A Lion

The following evening, Colonel Patterson and his loader set up an ambush in a tree, and during the course of the operation, the colonel came dangerously close to being bitten by a venomous snake. The colonel fired his weapon and hit the target when the lion was approximately 20 yards away from him. However, the lion did not fall over and continued to stand. With a resounding roar, the angry beast tore off in the opposite direction. The following morning, Patterson and his helper followed the animal’s trail and were able to locate it around half a mile later. The lion had taken cover in the tall grass nearby. Even though he was severely injured, he continued to assault the individuals while growling and smiling menacingly. Patterson fired two more shots, and the lion collapsed after the second one, but he was able to rise up and continue the attack. Patterson fired two more shots. When Patterson attempted to retrieve the second weapon, he discovered that his squire had dishonorably abandoned the scene and was already perched high in a tree. Patterson’s only option was to learn from his example. If one of his shots hadn’t hit the lion’s hind leg, it would have prevented it from moving, and he never would have been successful. The colonel, who was already in the tree, reached for the loader and removed the second carbine before firing again. The lion did not give up its fight till that point. Patterson hurriedly made his way downstairs, showing an excessive amount of urgency. To his utter surprise, the lion made another attempt to attack him. And it took only two shots to finally put an end to the beast; one to the skull, and one to the chest.

After that, the colonel struck a deal with the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago to sell the cannibals’ skins to the institution. In one of its hallways, there are still stuffed lions that can be viewed today.

The workmen eventually came back after the second man-eater was killed, and they were able to finish building the bridge after it was ultimately finished. In January of 1899, the builders expressed their appreciation to Colonel Patterson for removing the cannibals by presenting him with a cup made of silver. And on the very same day that the construction of the bridge was finished, a monsoon-like downpour began, which swept away two makeshift bridges that led to the quarry. It appeared that he had brought an end to all of this commotion.

Soon after that, Colonel John Henry Patterson departed Kenya and went back to the United States in 1906. There, he worked as a game conservation inspector for a number of years. While he was there, he penned the book “The Man-Eaters of Tsavo,” which almost instantly rose to the top of the bestseller list. Click To See Out Site

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