Hunters who organised safaris for Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, George Eastman and Baron Rothschild

Bonhams will be selling rifles that were once owned and used by arguably three of the most famous professional white hunters in African history, epitomising big game hunting in the early years of the 20th Century, at the next Sporting Guns Sale on 1st August.

Bonhams will be selling the guns of professional hunters Philip Percival, James Sutherland and Major Gordon `Andy’ Anderson, who were legends in their own lifetimes because of their skills as white hunters at a time when Africa was the happy hunting ground of the worlds’ wealthy elite.

Lot 277 is a pair of rifles that belonged to hunting legend Philip Percival (1860-1966). The pair of .450 (31⁄2in. No. 2 Nitro Express) boxlock ejector rifles by J. Lang is estimated to sell for £12,000 – 16,000. They are being sold by the late owner’s family.

The makers have confirmed that the rifles were completed in 1927, as a pair, and that they were bought by Percival on 9th December 1927.

After a lifetime hunting Percival had lost none of his fearlessness or accuracy. A few days after his 76th birthday he killed two stock-killing lions with a “right and left” using one of the rifles offered in this lot.

Philip Percival, one of the greatest professional hunters of all time, was the founding president of the ‘East African Professional Hunters’ Association’, serving for sixteen years. Arriving in British East Africa in 1906, he was lured into hunting by the Hill brothers, the three men becoming involved in running the transport for Theodore Roosevelt’s famous Safari of 1909-10, and served in the First World War, attaining the rank of Captain.

Percival went on to become one of the highest paid professional hunters of his day, with clients such as George Eastman and Baron Rothschild, as well as acting as a guide to Ernest Hemmingway. The latter was inspired to write Green Hills of Africa (1935), using Percival as the inspiration for the character ‘Pop’.

Twenty years later Hemingway returned to Africa and hunted again with Percival. A record of that encounter can be found in Hemingway’s posthumously published book, True at First Light. In later years he mentored hunters of the calibre of Sid Downey and Harry Selby, becoming acknowledged by his peers as ‘the dean of the white hunters.’

Before his death, Percival compiled a manuscript recounting some of his experiences, which was published shortly after his death under the title Hunting, Settling, and Remembering (1967). Although copies of the book are rare, his encounters with Hemmingway and Roosevelt, and their comments about him, serve to ensure his memory survives.


Another item with an unrivalled African professional hunter provenance is Lot 279, a massively powerful rifle once owned by James Sutherland, who reputedly shot more than 1,200 bull elephants on his African hunting safaris.

Sutherland is thought by many to be one of the most famous elephant hunters of his time, and his book, The Adventures of an Elephant Hunter, published in 1912 by Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London, has come to be regarded as one of the best elephant hunting titles ever, which reads today as an almost impossibly glamorous tale of adventure.

Estimated to sell for £12,000 to £16,000 the weapon, a .577 double-barrelled detachable lock ejector rifle by Westely Richards, was once owned by James Sutherland, one of the most famous elephant hunters of all time. It will be sold at Bonhams next Sporting Gun Sale at the company’s Knightsbridge office.

Patrick Hawes, Bonhams Sporting Gun Specialist says: “ This gun was owned by an African legend. Its stopping power is immense, designed to stop the largest and most dangerous of all game, delivering a staggering 7000 foot-pounds of energy, powerful enough to drop a charging elephant in its tracks.

It is today a part of a hunting history that has happily now ended, with elephant populations on the rise in many places.”

Born in Scotland in 1872, Sutherland’s old hunting grounds were the territories of south-east Africa, stretching between Mozambique and southern Sudan. James H. ‘Jim’ Sutherland (1872-1932) served as a British Intelligence officer in the First World War, returning to hunting after the Armistice. He hunted extensively in Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, the Belgian Congo and Malawi, and it is estimated that he shot a total of 1,200 bull elephants alone in his career.

He came to South Africa aged twenty-four without any fixed ideas of a career. For a while he thought of becoming a professional boxer; instead he ran African trading stores and later took on a job as a labour overseer on the construction of the Beira-Mashonaland railway. On the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 he moved into the African hinterland to hunt elephant professionally. This he did continuously for the latter thirty-odd years of his life. Despite the fact that his arrival in the hunting fields came at a time when Africa’s elephant population was already in serious decline, and that he was twice involved in military service – in 1905-1906 and 1914-1918.

He hunted to the end, death coming to him at the Yubo Sleeping Sickness Camp in the heart of the southern Sudan on June26, 1932, in his 60th year. His remains were interred in the land of elephants he so loved. Friends later erected a bronze tablet on the spot, engraved with two elephants standing beneath a palm tree. It reads, in part, ” To the Memory of that great elephant Hunter – JIM SUTHERLAND.”

Sutherland makes numerous references in his book to his ‘heavy .577’. He writes; “After experimenting with and using all kinds of rifles, I find the most effective to be the double .577 with a 750 grains bullet and a charge in Axite powder equivalent to a hundred grains of cordite. The heavier double-barrelled .600 bore rifle, with a bullet weighing 900 grains, lacks the penetration of the .577, while its weight (16 lbs. against 13 lbs. of the latter) renders it a much more awkward weapon to handle. I think the superiority of the .577 over the .450 and .500 rifles, will be evident when I state that I have lost elephants with these last two rifles, while I have bagged others with identically the same shots from a .577.”


Lot 279 is a fine .577 single-trigger detachable-boxlock ejector rifle by Westley Richards, once owned by the third member of this distinguished trio of professional hunters, Major Anderson (1878-1946). It is estimated to sell for £12,000 to £16,000. This rifle is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Westley Richards confirming that it was sold to Sutherland on 31st December 1906.

The rifle, once owned by Sutherland, was later owned by ‘Andy’ Anderson, another very well-known professional hunter, and personal friend of Sutherland. Anderson served in the South African War and First World War, beginning his hunting career in 1903 in Nigeria. His career saw him hunt in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zaire and the Congo, and he was one of the professional hunters who accompanied the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth) on their safari in 1924. In 1908 he was badly mauled by a lion, nearly losing his right leg, and suffering stiffness for the rest of his life.

Anderson was the author of African Safaris (1946), recording some of his adventures between 1907 and 1926, and which included some stories about elephant hunting with James Sutherland. He also helped to found the East African Hunters’ Association with a group of other hunters, including Philip Percival, in 1934. He first developed a love of Kenya while on sick leave in 1909, and died there on July 15th 1946.