This engaging compendium of advice ('shifts and contrivances') to
travellers and explorers 'in wild parts' went through many editions.
Galton collected in it both his own practical experiences, gathered
while travelling in South-West Africa, but also those of other
travellers, continually improving it as new material became available.
First edition of 1855.
Second edition of 1856.
Third edition of 1860.
Fifth Edition of 1872.
This was the last edition with new material and was subsequently
reprinted many times. It is still in print today.
PDF Facsimile (~22Mb) by
The idea of the work occurred to me when exploring South-western Africa
in 1850-51. I felt acutely at that time the impossibility of obtaining
sufficient information on the subjects of which it treats ; for though
the natives of that country taught me a great deal, it was obvious that
their acquaintance with bush lore was exceedingly partial and limited.
Then remembering how the traditional maxims and methods of travelling in
each country differ from those of others, and how every traveller
discovers some useful contrivances for himself, it appeared to me, that
I should do welcome service to all who have to rough it,-whether
explorers, emigrants, missionaries or soldiers, by collecting the
scattered experiences of many such persons in various circumstances,
collating them, examining into their principles, and deducing from them
what might fairly be called an "Art of Travel." To this end, on my
return home, I searched through a vast number of geographical works, I
sought information from numerous travellers of distinction, and I made a
point of re-testing, in every needful case, what I had read or learned
It should be understood that I do not profess to give exhaustive
treatises on each of the numerous subjects comprised in this volume, but
only such information as is not generally known among travellers. A
striking instance of the limited geographical area over which the
knowledge of many useful contrivances extends, is that described as a '
Dateram,' p. 164, by which tent ropes may be secured in sand of the
loosest description. Though tents are used over an enormous extent of
sandy country, in all of which this simple contrivance would be of the
utmost value on every stormy night, and though the art of pitching tents
is studied by the troops of all civilised and partly civilised nations,
yet I believe that the use of the dateram never extended beyond the
limits of a comparatively small district in the south of the Sahara,
until I had described it in a former Edition ; and further, my knowledge
of that contrivance was wholly due to a single traveller, the late Dr.
Steering your horse across a river
explorer, Samuel Baker, was not convinced by Galton's method for steering
a horse across a river (by its tail), and preferred his own "shift":
In that very charming and useful book by Mr. Francis
Galton, "The Art of Travel," advice is given for crossing a deep river,
by holding to the tail of the swimming horse. In this I cannot agree;
the safety of the man is much endangered by the heels of the horse, and
his security depends upon the length of the animal's tail. In rivers
abounding in crocodiles, which generally follow an animal before they
seize, the man hanging on to the tail of the horse is a most alluring
bait, and he would certainly be taken, should one of these horrible
monsters be attracted to the party. I have always found great comfort in
crossing a river by simply holding to the mane, just in front of the
saddle, with my left hand, with the bridle grasped as loosely as
possible, so that the horse does not feel the bit; in this position, on
the off side, the animal does not feel any hindrance; the man not only
can direct his horse, but his presence gives it confidence, as he can
speak to it coaxingly while swimming with one arm by its side. Upon
landing, he at once controls the horse by the reins within his left
Many horses become exceedingly scared in swimming a rapid river, and
will frequently lose their presence of mind, and swim with the current,
in which case they may miss the favourable landing place; if the man
holds by the tail, he has no control over the horse upon landing, and,
if wild or vicious, the animal will probably kick up its heels and bolt
away, leaving the unfortunate proprietor helpless. In swimming a river
with the horse, the powder, &c. should be made into a parcel with your
outer garment, and tied upon the head; then lead your horse gently into
the water, and for a moment allow it to drink, to prevent all shyness;
continue to lead it until you lose your depth, when, by holding with
your left hand to the mane, both horse and man will cross with perfect
ease. (Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, Chapter 17)