The Big Five ( and the Little Five!)

The ‘ Big Five’ is an oft-used expression in safari circles, and has become the five animals most visitors most want to see.  Apart from the reality that a safari is not a zoo and there are far more important aspects to a real safari than simply ticking off species, the origin of the ‘Big Five’ has become somewhat obscured.

The Big Five were actually the five animsls considered the most dangerous to hunt:  lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.   If you see reserves claiming to have the big 5 including hippo or even cheetah, it’s simply because they’re missing one of the true species!

Further collections of 5’s seem to keep coming: the ‘quickest 5’, the most ‘colourful 5’ but these are all figments of a marketeer’s imagination.    The only other fairly long-standing and truly interesting 5 collection is possibly the ‘Little Five’.

The little 5 has it’s origins in it’s larger brother as the names of the occupants tell you:  antlion larvae, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, buffalo weaver and rhinoceros beetle.    In fact, there’s no doubt that seeing the ‘Little Five’ on safari is a much harder task than seeing the ‘Big Five’, so if you come back from safari having seen all 5, that really is something to boast about!

Elephant shrew     

Elephant shrew and his slightly larger ‘brother’!


For more help on planning your personal, perfect safari, get in touch at:

For more information on the major wildlife areas in East and Southern Africa see: