“I felt no pain, but I certainly never thought for a moment that I would come out alive. I was rather calm, as a matter of fact, except for a tremendous and wildly pleasant thrill I felt, knowing that I was battling for my life.”
Carl Akeley (1864-1926), whose innovative taxidermy made possible the modern Natural History museum’s realistic displays, is renowned in African Big Game lore for coming out of top in a one-on-one contest with a leopard.
Badass of the Week describes the encounter:
[O]ne evening [in 1896] after a long day of hunting and observing wildlife in Somalia. Akeley was headed back to the spot where he’d bagged a hyena and a bigass warthog earlier in the day, but when he got there all he saw was a couple of big bloody streaks leading off into a thick brush. Akeley froze, realizing what was happening, and when a noise came from the brush, he raised his rifle and fired to try and scare it off. Suddenly, out of the thicket came this gigantic fucking leopard screaming towards him teeth-first like a psychotic killer cat being launched out of a horrible predator-launching cannon. Unable to get his weapon back around quickly enough, Akeley dropped his gun and threw his arm up just in time to prevent the vicious beast from ripping out his throat. The leopard latched on to Akeley’s left hand, chomping down with all its might, and kicking at him with its back legs like a rabid 80-pound feral housecat intent on brutally mutilating him beyond recognition and burying his body in the back yard. When his attempts to pull his hand out of the leopards’ jaws only made the creature bite down harder, Akeley, locked in a life or death fistfight with one of the most perfect predators nature ever created, did one of the most insane things ever â€“ he punched his fist further into the leopard’s mouth.
Yes, you are reading that correctly. Carl Akeley, noted philanthropist and respected wildlife conservationist, punched a fucking leopard in the esophagus from the inside. The leopard gagged, Akeley pulled his hand out, and then he took the thing, bodyslammed it to the ground, and jumped on it with both knees, crushing it to death. Akeley, bleeding profusely from horrific wounds on both hands, clawed to shit, still recovering from a recent battle with malaria, and barely able to stand, then picked up the leopard (despite a shattered hand), threw it over his shoulder, walked back to camp with it, and taxidermized it for a museum exhibit.
Hat tip to Vanderleun.