We recently witnessed an incident up on Rod’s Hiking Trail above our house while spending the weekend in Betty’s Bay. The entertaining interaction between a wild animal (the often much-maligned chacma baboon) and an ill-disciplined dog was watched for almost an hour through binoculars and captured in about 80 photos taken with a strong lens.

Initially shouting and barking made us look up onto the trail, where we saw a lone hiker with two large dogs come across an even larger male baboon. The owner was successful in calling the one dog to heel but the other, a husky, paid no attention and continued hot on the heels of the baboon, which left the track and headed up the steep Kogelberg mountainside.

Like the frantic owner, we initially feared the dog was in grave danger, as such a big powerful baboon could easily react in fear or anger and injure (or even savage) the dog. However, both animals appeared to be at relative ease with each other, and the chase almost became a game of seeing just how high the baboon could lead the very dogged husky through the tall fynbos and up the steep gradient.

To the baboon it was effortless, and it moved from rock to rock with a short chase in between, when the dog clearly took strain. The baboon would get ahead and sit on a rock, temporarily in peace, before the pesky dog would catch up once again, long pink tongue lolling out, and start harassing the baboon again by barking in its face. Only once or twice did the baboon get irritated and lunge at the dog, which would turn tail for a mere moment before turning back to mob the baboon.

We were amazed at the dignified tolerance of the baboon, under such intense provocation. However, it often turned its head away, averting its gaze from the husky’s pale eyes, which perhaps made the baboon uncomfortable. Despite the irritating behaviour of the dog, the baboon seemed aware it was all bark and no bite.

#alloverovIt made me aware that not all big male baboons live up to their savage reputation, and that we were witnessing something rather remarkable. The dog ended up unhurt after a wonderful adventure and presumably found its way down in the dark and tracked its owner home.

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