The incident was described by James Chapman: 'Baines, Barry and myself lay be the water to kill game. A large male white rhinoceros came to my skaarm, a hole in the ground two feet deep - so large indeed that I mistook him for an elephant. My first attempt failed, from the cap snapping but, seizing another gun, I fired as he was in the act of flying, and the shot was not immediately mortal. By and by, two others came, and, by arrangement, I fired at the foremost and Barry at the other. Mine fell with a broken shoulder, and struggling off a little way, I crept out of the skaarm, and with one more shot killed her. Presently something approached the dead rhinoceros, which we made out to be first one, then two, three, four, six and lastly eight rhinoceroses - a whole troop! ...They came head-on, and not until one protruded her horn over the edge of the skaarm was the illusion dispelled. At that moment I fired into her breast, when, with a terrible puffing, sniffing and distressful squealing hither and thither around us, the cow dropped, and died by the side of the other, while the remainder, ten in all (including two young ones), closed around her, uttering cries of mingled rage and distress...2nd June. - I photographed the two rhinoceroses (females), one of which is the so-called Kobaba and the other Mohugu, but I believe them to be only varieties.' (J. Chapman, Travels in the Interior of South Africa, London, 1868, II, pp.68-70.)
'It was not until 1862, when Baines accompanied James Chapman, the ivory trader, to the Victoria Falls, that he saw his first elephant, white rhinoceros and giraffe in the wild. Only then did Baines comprehend the massive sizes of some African animals - many of which lived in huge herds - and some, as he was to discover, extremely dangerous. ...Baines' paintings of mortally injured animals with fractured legs and bleeding gunshot wounds are all part of his honest record of what he saw and complement the daily recording in his journals. They represent not only what fascinated him, but also what he thought was important and would be interesting to other people. Shot animals gave Baines an opportunity to draw them still, in front of him, to study and measure them. The measurements he made...demonstrate his good powers of observation and indicate the size of the animal when no human or other recognizable yardstick is in the picture. Sometimes measurements are also useful for identification purposes, when several species are very similar or when there is no specimen and the illustration is not drawn to scale... The beauty of Baines' work at its best lies in his skill for illustrating the essential distinguishing characteristics of the species and placing it in its natural surroundings at a time when most artists would not do this. Not only that, Baines had an advantage over other artists in that he travelled and was able to observe animals in their biological habitats. In this way he has created a vibrant record of what it felt like to be there at the time. In Baines' work this is more important than whether or not the painting is zoologically correct. Among those who liked his work was Guy Dawnay, who commissioned a number of paintings of animals [Christie's, 27 Oct. 1982, lots 116-121, 29 May 1984, lots 93-98, 22 Oct. 1991, lot 56], and C.J. Andersson of Otjimbingwe...
The intensity of Baines' pictures is heightened by a real encounter with Africa enhanced by vibrant colour. The best paintings are intense and haunting images - somehow we know that Baines observed them.
On several occasions Baines recorded his preference for sketching animals to killing them. In May 1861 he recorded in his diary: 'I confess I can never quite get over the feeling that the wonderful products of nature are objects to be admired, rather than destroyed; and this, I am afraid, sometimes keeps me looking at a buck when I ought to be minding my hind sights.' (A. Datta, 'Thomas Baines' Contributions to the Zoology of Southern Africa' in M. Stevenson (ed.), Thomas Baines: An Artist in the Service of Science in Southern Africa, Christie's London, 1999, pp.41-49).