Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game, 30th Edition
Book Review in the
2021 Spring issue of African Hunting Gazette

Rowland Ward's Records of Big Game

In 1892, James Rowland Ward  (1848– 1912), a British taxidermist, well-known publisher of natural history books and big-game hunting narratives, and the founder of the firm Rowland Ward Limited of Piccadilly, London, published the first of what has become an eponymous series of books, the Records of Big Game. Now, nearly 130 years later, the thirtieth edition has been released. Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game – Thirtieth Edition, Africa (Rowland Ward Publications, 2020, 824 pages).

The record book journeyed beyond the family business some years ago, landing in California in 2015, where it’s now part of the group that publishes Sports Afield magazine and books under the Safari Press name. To the credit of the new owners, this edition is, without question, the best yet. It isn’t merely a rehash of the previous edition (2014) with updated records of game taken in the last half-dozen years. It’s clear that the publishers spent considerable time and effort seeking new information, new entrants and new photos, not just from recent times but from long-lost and forgotten files and archives.

The book is well laid out; records and game animals are broken down by their family, then subfamily, genus and, finally, species, and with an easy-to-follow table of contents, finding those game animals that interest you most is quick and simple. Distribution maps showing the current range of each species are clear, accurate and easily deciphered. Written summaries of the physical description and geographic distribution for each species, along with critical supporting notes, are informative and easily understood; they’re just long enough to be informative without being laborious to read.

For those not familiar, Rowland Ward records game by measurement without providing a ranking or, in some cases, providing a summary “score.” Antelope, as an example, are listed in order by the length of their longest horn; also provided, where available, is the length of the second horn and the circumference of each.

The photo support throughout the book is superb, a mix of historic black-and-white photos and more current color images. For many, it’s the black-and-white pics that evoke the most emotional response, harkening back to a time when hunting Africa, the “Dark Continent,” was considerably less common, and much more exotic, than it is today. 

Historic record-keeping is more than simply an ego-driven compilation of whose animal is bigger. These lists reveal significant information about each species, including when and where the largest animals were taken, and studious hunters will learn plenty about where to go to if they’re seeking a book-sized specimen. To help facilitate this, records listed that are new to the thirtieth edition are marked with an asterisk.

At 824 pages, some 200 species of game, 100 or so full-color maps, and in excess of 40,000 records dating back to the mid-1800s, this is more than just another book about African hunting to put on your shelf. This is one of those books that can provide hours upon hours of fascination, inspiration and education as you dream about and plan for your next African safari.

African Hunting Gazette

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