Mystery Hunter – a breakthrough!

The search for the identity of the mystery hunter mentioned in previous posts continues. However, I think I have made a small breakthrough, in that I have been able to identify one of the shikaris (local hunting guides) that he used. Having drawn a blank on identifying the hunter himself – it does not appear to be Ellsworth Huntington, Percy Church, Captain HHP Deasy, Col. Charles Spurling Cumberland, Ralph Cobbold, Major RL Kennion, Capt. JNP Wood or any of the other well-known authors of books on hunting in the Pamirs and Central Asia – I set out to see if I could identify the shikaris he used. On the slides, one is named as Ramzana and the other as Rahima.

In the East of the Sun and West of the Moon (1926), a book written by brothers Theodore and Kermit Roosevelt about a specimen-collecting expedition they organised to the Pamirs in 1925 to collect mountain sheep for the American Museum of Natural History, they mention that one of their shikaris was called Rahima Loon. This immediately rang a bell, as the fourth magic lantern slide in the mystery hunter’s set of 87 is titled Rahima, my Shikari. This is it:

Mystery hunter’s slide ‘Rahima – my shikari’

Theodore Roosevelt, whose father was US President from 1901-1909, included as the frontispiece for his book a picture showing himself and his brother Kermit (in the middle of the photo), together with two shikaris. Inside the book there are further pictures of the shikaris, one of whom is named as Rahima Loon. Rahima Loon is on the right, with his brother Khalil on the left. There are further pictures of him in the book.

As you can see, there is a strong likeness between the two Rahimas, right down to the detail of the jacket they are wearing, which appears to be the same in each picture. Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt is effusive in his praise for Rahima. Referring to the quality of shikaris he says: “The best of these was Rahima Loon, our head shikarry. He had the dignity that is peculiar to the best type of Oriental. He was tall and slight, with a black beard and hawk nose. He knew game and its habits thoroughly. He also had courage…”etc.

Roosevelt also mentions something else: “Thus, with Rahima and his brother Khalil, native hunters whom I had secured through Douglas Burden, the important members in our party were assembled. These last two had been Burden’s shikaries during a most successful hunting trip which he made a few years ago. He cabled them from New York and they were awaiting us in Srinagar…”. William Douglas Burden was a well-known collector for the American Natural History Museum and first brought Komodo Dragons to the USA. He also hunted at Abadabur in the Astor valley above the Burzil Pass for ibex and markhor specimens in 1923. My first thought was that perhaps Burden was our hunter. Below is a picture of him from the AMNH archive.

William Douglas Burden

Unknown hunter

However, as you can see, there is not a close resemblance to our hunter. I have also checked out Burden’s book, Look to the Wilderness (1956), in which he is profuse in his praise of Rahima, who, he says, was “one of the foremost travellers of Central Asia, whose diffident ways and steadfast persistence brought the rewards we were after.” Burden also mentions that he recommended him to the Roosevelts. Below is his photo of Rahima Loon, which matches the photos of our hunter and the Roosevelts – note the jacket.

Rahima Loon in a photo from Douglas Burden’s book Look to the Wilderness. Note the jacket.

Either way, the fact that we now know that the shikari Rahima Loon was used by both the Roosevelts and Burden places our timeframe more clearly into the early-mid 1920s, rather than earlier as I first thought. That he was highly thought of by American hunters may mean there were others who used him. Is there an association of shikari in Kashmir who may have records that go back to the 1920s? I wouldn’t be suprised. Anyone who can suggest further avenues to explore that would enable us to identify the hunter is welcome to get in touch.

2 thoughts on “Mystery Hunter – a breakthrough!

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