Chasing The Largest Elephant

Posted on 02 May 2011 by RE Team

Almost half a century back, in 1954, in the remotes and dense jungles of Angola, Jose (Joseph) Fenykovi first saw the track of largest animal ever recorded in human history. It was an unbelievably big elephant track by the muddy shore of a lake.

Joseph Fenykovi, Hungarian-born resident of Spain, was an engineer and big game hunter. Every Year, Fenykovi and his wife would abandon Europe and take off for their 1,000-acre ranch in Angola to start their big-game sport spanning for three months.

It was Fenykovi’s sixth expedition to Africa when he first discovered the huge elephant track. When he measured the track, it came out to be 3 feet, a foot bigger than the largest elephant trophy recorded till date. At that moment he knew I knew that he was looking at the spoor of probably the biggest animal living on the surface of the earth. But due to lack of inventory and other resources he left that expendition without chasing that big monster.

On Novemeber 1955, Jose Fenykovi returned to Angola with all inventory to chase the never before-hunt game. On November 9, Fenykovi reached the same lake where he had seen the footprints last year. On 12th of November, they found a real big track around three feet in diameter. Thery were lucky to trace the elephant exactly a year later at the same place.

Finding the track of the biggest living land animal in the planet, Fenykovi didn’t delay chasing the same. Within hours his team chased the Elephant along with another large bull.

In Fenykovi’s word, “They were quite calm, lolling under some tall trees, slowly moving their huge ears in a fanlike motion. The smaller was an enormous beast, but my elephant was beyond my imagination. A real monster.”

In no time the hunters charged both the bulls. Six bullets from .416 Rigby was not enough to submit the largest elephant. Both the elephants ran away in moments from the view of the hunters.


Jose Fenykovi after killing the Largest Elephant


Fenykovi penned down these last moments of falling his elephant like this: “Before the echo of our shots died away, pandemonium started in the jungle. The crash and cracking of broken trees and branches sounded like an artillery battle. We did not stop to listen, but turned and ran as hard as we could for open country. Deep in a jungle was no place to be with two injured elephants you could not see and with a variable wind that could give our position away at any moment.

When we got 50 yards outside the thicket, we turned and waited for the chase. The wind by now was at our backs, carrying our scent straight to the great beasts. But the attack did not come. Inside the jungle the crash and tear of trees continued. We started to run around the thicket, which was fortunately small- about a mile and a half in circumference—keeping a good 50 or 60 yards from the edge of the forest.

This way we reached the place where we had left our jeep. I saw, to my astonishment, not 10 feet from the jeep the bloody tracks of the big elephant. He had passed the jeep only a few seconds before.

A little way from the jeep we found the tracks of the smaller beast who had taken off in the opposite direction from his larger companion. Fortunately for us, the two monsters had separated and now the job was not quite so dangerous. We had only one elephant at a time to worry about and he (the big one) had six .416 bullets and one from the .375 in his vitals.

We followed his trail through low bushes for a good three miles. Two or three times we got close enough to see him, but not in time for another shot. Finally the bloody trail entered another wooded thicket. Now we could not miss it even if we were blind. It was 4:30 p.m. Mario and I stopped with the jeep at the edge of the jungle. Francisco and Kukuya lunged into the thicket like a couple of bloodhounds on the scent. They had orders to locate the beast and call us. Mario and I both thought that with seven heavy-caliber bullets in him, losing blood and winded from a hard six-mile run in terrific heat, our elephant could not last much longer.

We waited for 20 minutes, and there was no word from Francisco and Kukuya. Mario asked me if he could go in to look for them. I hesitated. I thought we should both go. I like to finish off my trophies myself. But I was at the end of my endurance, after having been on the go since 5 a.m. Mario, who is 20 years younger than I am, argued that if we did not finish him off quickly it would soon be too dark to follow him, and then we might lose him altogether. I told Mario to go ahead. He disappeared like a cat into the jungle. Taking up a stand by the jeep facing the trees, I prepared to defend myself if the elephant should charge.

I waited a little over half an hour, growing ever more impatient but knowing it would be folly for me to go into the jungle alone. This was probably the hardest part of the whole thing – the waiting. All of a sudden I heard a shot from the .416, followed by another, and then two more: altogether four shots in rapid-fire succession. Afterward there was complete silence.

It did not surprise me that Mario had used four shots to finish off the beast. A fallen elephant can be one of the most dangerous animals in the world. There are many cases recorded in the history of big-game hunting when an elephant, knocked down and apparently dead, has suddenly got to his feet, or even without rising has killed the unwary hunter with a convulsive sweep of his trunk.

I awaited the arrival of one of the trackers with news. Instead, after about five minutes, I heard two more shots from the .416 and three from the smaller rifle. That surprised me, and I began to worry over having let Mario go in alone. I could hardly believe that the elephant, with six bullets of 400 grains each from the .416 and one 300-grain bullet from the .375 in him, had needed six more from the big gun and three from the smaller one to finish him off.

Finally, Kukuya burst out of the jungle running and, as he got within earshot, he gave voice to the brief but electrifying announcement:


There the enormous elephant lay on his side, amidst the carnage of blood, broken trees and trampled brush that had marked his last struggles. When I let my eyes roam over his vast expanse I could hardly believe that any animal could be so big, and I understood why it had taken so many heavy-caliber bullets to finish him off.I must confess the shock we got when I put the tape across my elephant’s foot and found that it measured, instead of the three feet of the spoor we had been following all day, only a little over two feet. The measurement was still a world record, but it was a foot short of the track size I had first noted a year before beside the lake. When we began to examine the body, we soon understood why: Besides the 16 bullets from our own rifles, we found a strange slug embedded in the left front leg. It was not a modern bullet, but a piece of iron shot, the kind used in old muzzle-loading flintlock rifles. It had crippled him in the left front leg, so that the step he took with that foot was shorter than normal. As the animal ran, the left hind foot partially superimposed its print over the front one, making it look much bigger than it actually was. ”

Fenykovi’s record of the Elephant which broke the previous record of Lawrence G. Thaw was like this:

Height From ground to withers, 13 feet 2 inches. (Thaw’s elephant: 12 feet 2 inches.)

Length From trunk tip to tail tip in straight line, 27 feet 6 inches; whole skin from trunk tip to tail tip, 33 feet 2 inches.

Length of feet Front, 2 feet; rear, 2 feet 1 inches. (Thaw’s elephant: one foot 9 inches, which foot not specified.)

Circumference of feet Front, 5 feet 7 inches; rear 5 feet 2 inches.

Circumference of body At widest point, 19 feet 8 inches.


Fenykovi's kill still preserved in the National History Museum


On March 6, 1959, Joseph J. Fenykovi gifted the elephant parts to the National Museum of Natural History. it is still in the display and is the land animal ever hunted.

At that time, Fenykovi probably never realized that within few years this animal will become endangered. None would like to kill such a gigantic gift of nature in today’s date. Its so precious to keep such wonders alive!

26 Comments For This Post

  1. AJ Says:

    What he got by doing this. Just a name as an elephant Killer…………..
    If the Hunter was so brave and Wanted to do something thriller…….. he could have jumped from Effel Tower without using parachute …………….
    ..Silly World… Silly People

  2. RE Team Says:

    True, Ankit..Human society evolved over the time..The hunting nature was intact in the society in those days..Now a days, very few have that…Good that we came out that era, but it was already too late..We hunted many species to extinction already!

  3. Steffen Says:

    Great for that guy!
    Just a pity there was’t someone hunting down the guy who hunted down the largest elephant of the world; the elephants would have liked to see him in their museum.

  4. dilip Says:

    Hope you suffer for killing such a magnificent creation of god.

  5. IP Says:

    Yes I agree people who hunt these should be hunted before they get to actually killing these wonderful creatures.

  6. IP Says:

    It is a shame we have no portal to go back in time and so after the event we can change the outcome maybe shooting the man first for killing these wonderful creatures.

  7. Saltmine Says:

    Makes me sick!

    Why does ‘man’ deem it necessary to kill everything it encounters? I am ashamed!

  8. Rob M Says:

    A tragic loss for the world because of mans ignorance. These animals are truly magnificent. May Jose Fenykovi or anyone with like thinking suffer much more than the elephant and be hunted themselves. A real trophy would be to see the elephant again and again alive !!!

  9. ivan Says:

    Look, I really think it sucks that the man killed the largest animal ever, and I like Elephants myself. But to wish to go back and kill a HUMAN to save an animal really makes you a sicker individual than him. How about I wish death upon all you who have ran over a frog, when if you were paying attn. you could’ve swerved. Instead of concentrating on the evils of Humans think of all the species we’ve saved. I guarantee If the man knew how close they would’ve come to extinction he wouldn’t have done it.

  10. RE Team Says:

    Very rightly said Ivan!

  11. sivakumar Says:

    Even today things have not changed.You see often in the TV channels it is shown, men and women jumping on a poor crocodile and taping its mouth or tying its legs on some pretext or the other. We see some one catching snakes and harassing them for locating a biggest one.In another program it was the case of fish. It is beyond my comprehensions as to why these are being done.When are we going to change? When are we going to have compassion for other creatures?


    Ok guys it was 1958 they didn’t know that it was wrong to kill elephants. Seriously they are tapeing there mouths shut so they don’t bite them when they locate the crocodile to a “safer” place for the crocodile and the people. It’s the same for the snakes. Did you ever wonder why you never see crocodiles and snakes roaming around your house? You don’t do you? well that’s because people take them to a different location so your safe and the animal is safe. But sure lets just have a compassion for rattle snakes and eastern dimond backs and alligators and crocodiles. Lets see what happens when your missing a limb.

  13. CJ Says:

    Dont you think they KILL a cow before you eat it? “IF” you had to get bitten by a snake, Should we tell them just to leave you to die? We wouldn’t want to hurt the snake now… so as to get their venom to make an anti-venom so that you may stand the chance of living. That is why they catch snakes, for research!

    Hunters have compassion for creatures. Who do you think brought the sable back from extinction? It definately wasn’t the “bunny huggers”… it was the hunters and the hunting industry.

    It is not mans ignorance that is killing animals, its their ignorance that is not helping save them!!

  14. RE Team Says:

    I agree with CJ .. The pioneer Naturalists were mostly hunters.. None knew better than them about wildlife and nature. I compiled a list before about the hunter conservationists in this article – The list is incomplete but throws light into the topic.

  15. Gwenyth Paterson Says:

    Killing the biggest elephant on reccord, he must be so proud of himself.
    But the world knows him as a coward, killing nature’s giant he thinks will make him a man. We look at him as a mouse. African elephants are the most majestic animals in the world everything about them is great. Asian elephants as well.
    Any wild game hunter who kills for trophys is dispicable. Especially on game farms where they tranquilize them

  16. Lisa Says:

    I am so shocked that this man talks about this like this is a huge accomplishment!!! It makes me sick to think that he knew that he was seeing was most likely the largest bull elephant in the world and the only thing that came to his mind was I can’t wait to kill it and add it to my trophy collection!!! What about taking pictures of it and letting it live so it could continue to pass on it’s genes!!! I will never understand why people kill these amazing beautiful creatures for trophies!!!

  17. RE Team Says:

    @Gweneth and @Lisa, thanks a lot for your comments.
    Yes, I agree with you that there is no pride in killing such a beautiful animal, specially in today’s context.
    But the situation may slightly differ at that time. Hunters were called to kill wild animals to spread human civilization during that era in various parts of the world. The danger behind it was not realized and none considered the hunting as a crime, it was just part of the human biology, considering human as the top predator.

    Things have changed and by the time we realized, it was too late. But most of the hunters later turned into naturalists as none knew nature better than them.

  18. Sam Says:

    That is a Magnificent animal killed by a brainless Human being.That is a Great loss. Just imagine how wonderful it is to see such large Animal alive.Elephants are very intelligent as well. If that Largest Elephant died naturally and then someone built a statue for it then that is a great thing and not by killing it. How about you kill your friends and family and make statues of them ?

    I don’t get it that some people are so proud hunting some animal,they feel like they accomplished something special.How stupid.. Human Beings sucks.

  19. peter Says:

    Yes its a disgrace canned hunts illegal poaching its a sick hacking an animals face off poachers in africa should be jailed a mandatory of 15 years instead c orrupt governments

  20. aman Says:

    Man does not have the right to take as trophy all that he desires, pure and simple. To write about it with such degree of enthusiasm is just shameful.hope we learn from such deeds.

  21. Keith Says:

    The height of human stupidity cannot be better illustrated.

  22. Naw'az Says:

    This ruthless idiot.. May you spend rest if your life after death under this large elephant’s poop.

  23. Dave Crew Says:

    ….YES SORRY I FORGOT TO ADD: – - – I too agree with all the previous comments regarding the HUNTER LUST to kill such a beautiful WONDER OF NATURE as this Elephant was !!!!! VERY DISGUSTING AND SAD !!! As I mentioned in my just last comment, I can’t imagine how much bigger in all dimensions he would be if he would have been left to live freely,and to be admired being alive as opposed to be shamefully slaughtered !!!! Then after it’s natural death, put him on display. The Largest Elephant in the World I mentioned after this great one which was tracked by George Plimpton – - Ahmed. I recall seeing Ahmed the News when the Great Tusker (as he was known) died. He was put on display, but only his Skeleton. I wonder why he was not displayed in TOTAL BEING ? However, an artificial replica of Ahmed in on display outside of the museum in Africa, and depicts his life’s appearance of dimensions ! Really impressive !!!! AGAIN, I am not impressed at all with Joseph J. Fenykovi’s accomplishment. HE SHOULD BE CHARGED WITH ANIMAL CRUELTY AND SENTENCED TO GO TO PRISON !!!!!!….DAVE CREW

  24. Dave Crew Says:

    checking in on comments…..DAVE CREW

  25. Dave Crew Says:

    I recall reading about this magnificent animal as a youngster and endeavored to see it at the Smithsonian Museum. The day came in 1969 field trip when I was in Junior High School 9th Grade. The Elephant would be 10 years displayed by that time. I just was sooo taken by the enormity of this animal !!!!!!! I have since been back 2 other occasions to see it. * * Well, I am sorry to say I wish the animal was to be left alive to have a natural death. With that, I believe it would be a lot bigger in measurements and nothing ever would be close. I understand it is the LARGEST ELEPHANT in the World TO BE SHOT AND KILLED. I also understand that there was an unofficial record of another Bush Elephant that died naturally that was actually bigger than this 1956 Kill !!!!!!.. I simply can’t believe there would ever be one bigger !!!!! It weighed 27,000lbs vs the 24,0000 lbs (Smithsonian Display). It did not mention the height, but it would have to surpass 13′ 2 inches of the Smithsonian Specimen. *** All in all, I do not know of any other Elephant since these 2 mentioned to be as big or bigger, and not ever being close to the dimensions of these 2. The only other one to come on the scene was tracked by famous indidividual George Plimpton’s, and tracking the largest Elephant alive in 1972 (?) (Time Magazine) AHMED he was called. He was noted for his incredible size of his TUSKS. Yes, he also was huge, but strangely not very tall at 9 feet at the shoulder as I have read. Since him, there have been more giants such as the 2 incredible Asian Elephants from NEPAL. NAMES CONCHA (spell ?) ROJA GAJZE (spell?). Huge they were, and 11 feet at the shoulder which is very tall !!!, but not as tall at the Smithsonian Elephant. I HOPE SOMEONE WILL CONTACT ME FOR MORE DISCUSSION OF THESE ELEPHANT GIANTS – E-MAIL Home Address: 464 N. Hyde Place – Bear, DE. 19701…..THANK YOU VERY MUCH – – – DAVE CREW

  26. mike l Says:

    It was the fifties and people didn’t have the same views as now.Thank god things have changed.Still it was to late for a lot of species.Hunting for food is one thing but for trophy is ridiculous.


1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The story of the largest elephant - Daily News Hungary Says:

    [...] In 1954 Jose (Joseph) Fenykovi (in Hungarian: Fénykövi) found the tracks of the largest animal ever existed in the world, in the mud by a lake in the jungles of Angola. It belonged to a remarkably big elephant. [...]

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