The wolf that never sleeps

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Baden-Powell was once called M'hlala panzi by the Zulus - he who lies down (to shoot). He earned this nickname by developing a peculiar way of firing a rifle from between his legs while lying on his back. During the Ashanti expedition he was called Katankye - the man with the big hat.

Impeesa - the wolf that never sleeps[edit]

But his most famous African nickname came from the Matabele: Impeesa - the wolf. It was also translated as 'the beast that does not sleep, but walks about at night'. The nickname became famous at Mafeking, where it was translated into English as 'The wolf that never sleeps' - a tribute to his reputation as a watchful military scout. At Mafeking, a cannon built during the siege was called 'The Wolf' in his honour.

The origin of 'Impeesa' is a strange story, however. There are no wolves in Africa, and Impeesa means a hyena. It is possible that Baden-Powell misunderstood the word, because to be called a hyena is not a compliment.

But whatever the origins, the nickname of Impeesa, the Wolf, became a great tradition in Scouting, and Baden-Powell used it with pride.


Primary sources[edit]

  • Hillcourt, Baden Powell - the two lives of a hero;
  • Pakenham, The Anglo-Boer War;
  • MacDonald, Sons of the Empire;
  • Baden-Powell, Scouting for Boys