Written by Trevor Myburgh
Attitude (noun): A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual’s choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards (together called stimuli).
Not only can ‘attitude’ be assigned to human behaviour, but if you look to the animal world one could say that there are animals that have developed their own unique personalities, with many species showing certain characteristics. As a result, some animals tend to mirror human personality traits more closely than others, often leading to collective names that describe their ‘attitude’.
Collective names for groups of animals are said to date back to medieval times, which may explain why some of these names can be strange, surprising or simply amusing to us.
Rhino: a crash
In the spirit of the fancy language used by our ancestors, more modern terms for animal groups have a fun twist, like a ‘crash’ of rhinos. Visualise an angry rhino storming towards you with their sharp horns at 40-45 km/h, which is pretty fast when you consider how much weight they’re pulling. (Faster than some used game drive vehicles will go I dare to say!)
One problem though. Rhinos can only detect movement about 80 metres in front of them. Can you imagine something that large moving in concert as a group or as an individual, ploughing ahead with no idea what’s at 80 plus metres? You would think that they would be far too timid to pick up full steam, that their inability to see far enough ahead would paralyse them into immobility. But with that horn pointing the way, rhinos run forward full steam ahead regardless, which leads us to their name when moving at full speed – a crash – because of that potential.
Buffalo: a gang or obstinacy
A group of buffaloes is aptly referred to as an ‘obstinacy’. Considering their bulky bodies, stubbornness and tendency to stay in large, protective herds (a ‘gang’), this is a prime example of a collective noun that takes its inspiration directly from the characteristics of the animal being described.
Clearly, these are hard-headed beasts. These guys have drawn a line in the sand, and they dare you to cross it. These mighty creatures were once found roaming the grassy plains of Africa in large numbers, and regardless of earlier hunting practices they have not been wiped out, and many obstinacies obstinately remain. The very nature of the word ‘obstinacy’ refers to thick, solid, conservative and outright refusal to bend their will to survive, as many a hunter can attest to!
Hippo: a pod, herd or bloat
Now even though their group name may not sound all that terrifying, it’s their aggressive attitude that you should be wary of. Although its size makes it fearsome looking, the hippo is often one of the most underrated animals in Africa in terms of its fearless and potentially bad-tempered nature. Hippos rank as one of the largest animals in Africa and are not known for their sunny dispositions, causing more human deaths in Africa annually than lions, leopards, crocodiles, or any other of the major predators.
Hippos are highly territorial, and most human deaths occur when people unwittingly wonder into a hippo’s personal space, only to get knocked down at surprisingly fast speeds. They are especially dangerous in water and along river banks, where they guard their ground, but as long as humans keep a respectful distance there should be no trouble. Hippos will also take on crocodiles, lions, and each other, often duelling until death. As long as they are given lots of space and not blocked on their way to a grassy feeding area, all should be fine, so don’t attempt a selfie with a hippo.
The success of our Bushwise students also relies on their attitude, but somewhat is a very different way. During the course, the students are able to view these feisty creatures from the safety of the game viewer. Should they want to specialise in Trails guiding, they will need a whole lots more training and experience to handle these animals with attitude.