|Commemorative sheet of postage stamps from St. Vincent. |
Following a tradition stretching back more than  years, the troop is often called to assembly with the traditional sound of the kudu horn at many Wood Badge courses [training program for for adult scouting leaders] and Junior Leader Training Conferences.
It may seem strange that the horn of an African antelope, a type used by the Matabele as a war horn in the 19th century, should call Scouts and Scouters together in America and in many countries around the world. But it was just such a horn that roused the first Scouts ever called together. In the summer of 1907, Baden-Powell held his first experimental camp on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbor. Retrieved from his African trophies, the kudu horn entered Scout service.
Brownsea, England -- 1907
Hillcourt: "The day began at 6 a.m. when Baden-Powell roused the camp with the weird notes from the long, spiral horn of the African koodoo -- the war horn he had picked up on his expedition into the Somabula Forest during the 1896 Matabele Campaign."
Thurman: "As a colonel in southern Africa during 1896, Baden-Powell commanded a flying column in the Matabele Campaign. It was on a raid down the Shangani River that he first heard the kudu horn. He had been puzzled by the speed with which alarms were spread amongst the Matabeles, until one day he realized that they were using a war horn of great carrying power. A code was used. As soon as the enemy was sighted, the alarm was sounded on the kudu -- taken up right and left -- and, thus, carried many miles in a very short space of time.
"When he assembled the first Scouts at Brownsea, Baden-Powell remembered the kudu horn he had brought back with him from the Matabele Wars, and used it too add a touch of adventure and fun to the camp.
"After Brownsea Island the kudu horn was returned to B-P's home and was silent for 12 years, while the movement it had announced was fashioned and spread throughout the world. Then, in 1919, Baden-Powell entrusted the horn to Gilwell Park for use in the first scoutmaster training courses."
Gilwell Park, Epping Forest, England --1919
Hillcourt: "The first scoutmaster's training camp held at Gilwell started on 8 September. It followed the pattern B-P had used with boys at Brownsea twelve years before. The patrol system was again put to the test with nineteen participants divided into patrols and living a patrol life. The instruction took the same form as on Brownsea. Each day a new subject was introduced and covered in demonstrations, practices and games. The Matabele Koodoo horn that had called the boys into action in Brownsea was used for all signals."
Arrowe Park, Birkenhead, England -- 1929
Ten years later, at the age of 72, Baden-Powell brought the kudu horn with him to open the Third World Jamboree. That the kudu is a challenge to sound is seen clearly in his experience at Arrowe Park. The results, however, was as impressive as any could ask.
Hillcourt: "The opening day of the Third World Jamboree started with a heavy rain that increased during the day; but by the appointed hour ... the weather had turned "windy and fine." B-P had brought with him to Arrowe Park the old koodoo horn of Matabele War days he had used to awaken campers at Brownsea for the world's first Boy Scout camp and to open the first scoutmasters' course at Gilwell Park. Now he lifted it to his lips to blow a blast that would reverberate over the vast parade ground in front of him. But, in his excited state, his lips refused to do his bidding. The sound of the horn was only a feeble "pfft.
"Nevertheless, as if called to action by the koodoo horn, the March Past got under way, with contingent after contingent swinging by the saluting base, with the flags of practically every civilized country in the world snapping in the brisk wind, with the grandstands' thousands of onlookers greeting each nation with enthusiastic applause."
The Kudu's Call
To this day, the kudu is still used to call Scouts together in training courses around the world. To all who follow in the Founder's footsteps, it is a summons to live Scouting at its best.
Adapted from John Thurman, The Gilwell Book, British Boy Scout Association, and William Hillcourt, Baden-Powell: Two Lives of a Hero, Boy Scouts of America, 1964, and reposted from http://pinetreeweb.com/kudu.htm.
Personal ReflectionsI was a scout (and a scout leader) as was my father before me and my sons after me, and have the highest respect for the sciytubg movement. During my tenure as a scout, I never heard of the kudo horn, but then I never participated in the adult training programs. Interest in the kudu seems to have been revived with the centennial anniversary of scouting.
I find it interesting that Baden-Powell adopted a symbol from a subjugated tribal people, just as scouting in the US adopted arrows and other symbols of subjugated North American tribes.
Perhaps scouting was, in the early 20th Century, a reaction to modernism: Bringing boys into the countryside at a time the population surging to cities; learning to hike at a time automobiles were making feet seemingly redundant; and learning to see into firelight at a time eyes were being dimmed by electric lights. Perhaps grasping for the artifacts of "primitive" people was part of a search for something that was lost from modern culture.
Modern Jews are in something of a similar condition, longing to hear the echos of our past. Fortunately, we do not have to borrow from another tribe, as many of our primitive rituals remain intact, including the hearing of shofar -- the horn that in an instant transports us to the earliest days of our tribe.