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Major Percy Horace Gordon Powell-Cotton (1866 – 1940) was the archetypal British gentleman hunter and explorer, who created a unique private museum of big game taxidermy in the grounds of his home, Quex Park at Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England.

In one of the displays is the lion — it is shown attacking a buffalo — which savaged Major Percy, almost fatally, whilst on his honeymoon safari in Africa in 1906. Apparently, a native described to Powell-Cotton how he had seen this identical lion attack and pull down a full-grown buffalo, and this striking group, set up by Rowland Ward, is a remarkable examples of the taxidermist's skill to capture the drama of hunting. Ward himself believed that it was one of his finest achievements.

The brute is mounted locked in a deadly battle with a Semliki red buffalo (Bos caffer cottoni), which is a subspecies named after the collector. The lion digs his claws into the buffalo’s muzzle as he attempts to pull the animal downwards to deliver a killer bite. The bull is struggling to shake off its aggressor, goring the lion’s flesh with its horn. Forever frozen in dramatic life or death battle, the group exerts a strange fascination.
Lion and Semliki Buffalo, Shot by Major P.H.G. Powell Cotton, Edward Nyanza.
Sketch Rowland Ward, A Naturalist's Life Study, 1913.
On Friday, 12th October 1906, Powell-Cotton left us a vivid account of the incident in his journal and a number of other objects connected with it can be seen at the Powell-Cotton Museum, such as the claw-shredded Burberry jacket and a copy of Punch are on display with a label explaining that it ‘prevented the lion’s claws from penetrating the Major’s abdomen’.

The lion incident was well publicised after
the Major got back to England.

An absorbing account of Powell-Cotton's sport and adventure in Central Africa appeared in the pages of "true-life" adventure and news magazines, such as The Wide World, Journal des Voyages, The Graphic and The Illustrated London News. The following is a news report based on articles that appeared in various newspapers.

Two Years In Savage Africa

Major Powell-Cotton, who has spent his honeymoon among the pygmies of the Ituri Forest and has been exploring in Africa for twenty-seven months, is now on his way home. He has given a vivid account of his adventures.
Owing to the friendly attitude of the Belgian Government and Egyptian and Sudan authorities, he was permitted to travel with his own armed colored escort. During the entire journey, Major Powell-Cotton was the only white man of the party.
He had intended to return home on the conclusion of his expedition to be married, but finally decided not to interrupt his journey, and accordingly arranged for his fiancee to go out to Africa. The marriage took place on her arrival in East-Africa in 1905, after which Mrs. Powell-Cotton shared her husband's hardships-and dangers.


Species of forest animals hitherto unknown to science were shot. These include the dusky African tiger cat, about the size of leopard, the honey badger, or black Ituri ratel, the elephant shrew, 'an antelope attired with tusks’, which dives under water, a new black and white monkey and an immense red buffalo. Five of these animals have been named after the explorer by the British Museum authorities.
Dealing with some of the incidents of his travels, Major Powell-Cotton said: "One of the officials at Wadelai told me a curious story of how the natives in the vicinity dispose of the old folk when they become a burden. As soon as the infirmities of age manifest themselves the old people are given a soothing draught and wrapped in a fresh antelope skin. Thus attired they are carried by members of their family to a spot some distance from the village, and are abandoned in the grass close to a native track.
“The first native coming by sees what he thinks is an antelope and spears it, whereupon the victim's family emerge from their hiding-places and express horror and surprise at the unfortunate incident.”
Speaking of his experience with the pygmies, Major Powell-Cotton said: "The excitement of these 'little people' when they first saw my wife was extraordinary, for they had, of course, never previously beheld a white woman. Perhaps the chief source of wonder was her long hair which, for the special benefit of the dwarfs, she would let down, while they crowded round our tent in speechless wonder.”
Entertaining the Pygmies: Mrs. Powell-Cotton Exhibiting her Wealth of Hair to an Admiring Crowd, illustration by F. De Haenen, The Graphic, An Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, 1907.


Le Treizième Lion, illustration FD, Journal Des Voyages, 1907.
In October, while on the bank of the Sassa River, near Lake Albert Edward, Major Powell-Cotton had the narrowest possible escape from death. The expedition was in a country infested by lions, who played round the camp every night, but always disappeared before daybreak.
One morning, however, the explorer saw a very large solitary male making his way back to the jungle on the river bank, and, cutting him off, fired, wounding the beast badly. Meantime the animal got into the brushwood, where it was almost hidden, and an hour and a half later Major Powell-Cotton, thinking the lion too badly wounded to move, approached, accompanied by some of his men, who threw mud at the beast. The latter, however, did not budge, but on a sandal and a stick being hurled at him he rose, emitting a loud roar, and charged, open-mouthed, at Major Powell-Cotton, who was only a few yards distant.
The latter instantly fired both barrels, but this failed to stop the lion, and the explorer, on turning to his bearer for another gun, found that he had bolted. There being no time to reload, Major Powell-Cotton hurled the gun into the lion's face and turned to run. As he did so the wounded animal sprang, and, digging his claws in Major Powell-Cotton's back and legs, bore him to the ground. The infuriated lion, which it was subsequently found had had its jaw smashed by one of the bullets, tore its victim's coat to shreds and vainly endeavored to raise his head and get at the eyes. It then attempted to tear open the abdomen, but owing to a folded copy of 'Punch' which Major Powell-Cotton had in his pocket the brute's claws were unable to penetrate the flesh. While the Major, lay almost crushed under the animal one of the porters rushed at the lion and hit him on the head with a stick.
At the same time the Waganda headman, with great pluck, ran up and slashed the animal across the eyes with a kiboko (hippo-hide whip). This diverted the beast's attention, and at that moment an Askari shot him dead. It was then found that Major Powell-Cotton had received seventeen wounds. He, however, rode to the nearest Belgian camp, where he was nursed back to health by Commandant Bastien. This incident happened on a Friday, and it was the explorer's thirteenth lion.
The three men who saved the Major's life when he was attacked by the lion in the foreground.
Photograph Powell-Cotton, The Wide World Magazine, 1907.

most intrigued by the story, published the following verses.

Aes Triplex means literally ‘Triple Bronze’ and figuratively, courage, from a line in Horace's Odes that reads: “Oak and triple bronze encompassed the breast of him who first entrusted his frail bark to the fierce sea”. One needs courage to do this, the same courage shown by the first sailor who set out to sea.
  • Powell-Cotton Museum, Quex Park, Birchington, Kent.
  • Rowland Ward, A Naturalist's Life Study in the Art of Taxidermy, London: Rowland Ward, 1913.
  • Major Powell-Cotton, Sport and Adventure in Central Africa, The Wide World Magazine, v.20-22 (1907).
  • Major Powell-Cotton, Notes on a Journey through East Africa and Northern Uganda, Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 3, No. 12 (Jul. 1904).
  • Anonymous, Honeymoon in the Land of Pygmies, The Geelong Advertiser, Saturday 30 March, 1907.
  • Anonymous, Le Treizième Lion, Jounrnal Des Voyages, (1907).
  • Punch or the London Charivari, Volumes 132-133, 1907.