Wolwehok (Hyena Trap)


Early stock farmers (Trekbooers) experienced difficulties with predation on sheep and other stock. One of the measures used to combat stock losses was by constructing a 'Wolwehok' - a device used to catch,, then kill wild predators, such as brown hyena (Dutch 'wolf', hence the name of the device), jackal, leopard and other. They were constructed much in the fashion described by Pringle (1835:133-137) quoted below. In effect what was needed was a sturdy chamber, drop-gate and baiting pen which acted a a trip for the door with an appropriately located inspection hole for checking and killing the occupant. Walton (1989:136) records a variant trigger mechanism, comprising a metal tread plate, which, when stepped on by the intruder, would release the drop-plate or stone.

Thomas Pringle, in his diary records:

I have curiously noted in my diary the depredation of the hyenas in our folds, and our success in catching them in traps. For this contrivance we are indebted to the Hottentots [sic, Khoe-Khoe]. The trap was built of large stones, precisely in the form, and on the same principles, as the common mouse traps to be seen in England, with a hanging door, also of stone, sustained by a cord, and baited at the farther end with a dead dog or entrails of a sheep. By this simple contrivance we speedily entrapped several of the depredators that had so much harassed us; and, after having killed them with spears, their carcasses were thrown out on the open plain.

The leopard, like the hyena, is often caught in traps, constructed of large stones and timber, upon the same prince as a common mouse-trap. When thus caught he is usually baited with dogs, in order to train them to contend with him, and seldom dies without killing one or two of his canine antagonists.