Taxidermy mount of an adult male Giant Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger variani) shot by Percy Powell-Cotton on 14 February 1922 at a place recorded as ‘Candember’, near the Cuanza River, Angola.

The Giant Sable is a subspecies of Sable Antelope that is found only in central Angola. It was one of the last large mammals on the African continent to be known about in Europe and was described in 1916, only 6 years before this specimen was shot by Percy Powell-Cotton. Due to its size and impressive horns, the Giant Sable very quickly became prized by European big game hunters as a trophy.

Giant Sable populations were estimated to be around 700 in the 1950s, but they were badly affected by the civil war that engulfed Angola after the country gained independence from Portugal in 1975, which lasted until 2002. By the end of the war, Giant Sable had been exterminated across 75% of their range and only about 100 animals remained. Strict protection measures were put in force, and by 2018 the population had risen to around 220. They are still critically endangered and at risk of extinction due to poaching.

Percy Powell-Cotton hunted this Giant Sable with the help of a man named Thomas, who was employed as a tracker on Percy’s first trip to Angola and was very successful at finding game. The Sable was in a small group with another adult male and a young male. When startled, Giant Sable will run a short distance and then be wary for a while before settling down again to feed. This happened several times during the hunt, and it took Percy most of the day to get close enough to the animals to make a kill. While they were easily startled by movement, Percy Powell-Cotton commented in his diary that they didn’t seem very scared by shooting.