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’!


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About ajourneyintoafrica

I’ve both lived and worked in Africa in the safari industry and now have over 32 years of safari experience. I first visited Africa as an 18 year old, when I developed a huge interest and love for the continent. I led my first safari in 1986, after gaining an environmental science degree from London University, and have always been captivated by Africa’s animal and bird-life, by its huge horizons and wide open spaces, and by its people and cultures.

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