Hippo Hide Sjambok

Sadly, the hippo hide sjambok vanished from Amazon in 2012. That’s a shame. Art and craftsmanship should survive, even if the product has a brutal purpose. This unique product might occasionally be available on Ebay. Check at the bottom of this post for current Amazon offerings. I also have a suggestion for those benevolent souls who have an altruistic and righteous purpose for this sort of thing. Look for “sorting poles” or “sorting sticks.”  Fiberglass sorting poles are made for actual work and intended for kindly encouraging livestock to do what they are told instead of going the other way, which livestock are always prone to do. I found this one at QC Supply.

A fiberglass sorting pole is the modern sjambok

The real sjambok seldom shows up on the open market. Considering that the source material is a strip of hide from the back of one of Africa’s several largest wild animals — hippo, rhino and elephant among the favorites — it’s not surprising we don’t see many for sale. The best, so I’ve read, were fashioned from the rhino penis. The raw material isn’t nearly so gruesome as the traditional use of the sjambok, which has been the favorite instrument of blunt torture for slave merchants and riot police for hundreds of years.

These hippopotamus hide sjamboks, according to the information supplied, have been lovingly harvested by the delicate hands of traditional Zulu craftsmen in South Africa, where so far as I can tell the sjambok is still very much illegal but popular. Peeled from hippos culled under a government sponsored wildlife management program regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), profits from the sale of these sjamboks or hard whips benefit both indigenous artisans and cuddly hippos by financing the wise benevolence of South Africa’s conservation efforts.

If you believe that, please read any book on human history for an alternate view of reality. Fact is, the hippos are dead and somebody makes some money from that. Available in four different sizes and prices, these traditional sjamboks are light in weight and just a little too flexible for use as hiking sticks or walking canes. In recent times they’ve been most popular with the BDS&M crowd, but could be collector’s pieces for the morally challenged.

The more practical alternative isn’t as charismatic but work well as a self defense hard whip. Hikers consider the Cold Steel Sjambok too flexible to offer much support, but often a few ounces of pressure is all you need and it should be simple to fashion a rugged sheath out of hard tubing. The polypropylene version of the sjambok manufactured by Cold Steel costs much less and makes more sense than hippo hide for the trail or sidewalk. If you’re a runner looking for a handy defense against the occasional angry dog, the Cold Steel Sjambok tucks handily in the crook of an arm. Again, probably only available on eBay if you are lucky enough to find it there. I checked Cold Steel’s site on 1/14/2017 and it’s no longer available. Sorting poles will always be around.


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