African Seeds

The Wolf that never sleeps


Impeesa - the wolf that never sleeps

Baden-Powell was once called M'hlala panzi by the Zulus - he who lies down (to shoot). He earned this nickname by developing a peculiar way of firing a rifle from between his legs while lying on his back.

During the Ashanti expedition he was called Katankye - the man with the big hat.

But his most famous African nickname came from the Matabele: Impeesa - the wolf. It was also translated as `the beast that does not sleep, but walks about at night'. The nickname became famous at Mafeking, where it was translated into English as `The wolf that never sleeps' - a tribute to his reputation as a watchful military scout. At Mafeking, a cannon built during the siege was called `The Wolf' in his honour.

The origin of `Impeesa' is a strange story, however. There are no wolves in Africa, and `Impeesa' means a hyena. It is possible that Baden-Powell misunderstood the word, because to be called a hyena is not a compliment.

But whatever the origins, the nickname of Impeesa, the Wolf, became a great tradition in Scouting, and Baden-Powell used it with pride.

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Hillcourt, Baden Powell - the two lives of a hero;
Pakenham, The Anglo-Boer War;
MacDonald, Sons of the Empire;
Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys