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The Age Of Tracks

In addition to learning to recognize the pace of tracks, you must get to know how old they are. This is a most important point, and requires a very great amount of practice and experience before you can judge it really well.

So much depends on the state of the ground and weather, and its effects on the "spoor". If you follow one track, say, on a dry, windy day, over varying ground, you will find that when it is on light, sandy soil, it will look old in a very short time, because any damp earth that it may kick up from under the surface will dry very rapidly to the same colour as the surface dust, and the sharp edges of the footmarks will soon be rounded off by the breeze playing over the dry dust in which they are formed. When it gets into damp ground, the same track will look much fresher, because the sun will have only partially dried up the upturned soil, and the wind will not, therefore, have bevelled off the sharp edges of the impression. If it gets into damp clay, under shade of trees, etc., where the sun does not get at it, the same track, which may have looked a day old in the sand, will here look quite fresh.

Of course, a great clue to the age of tracks will often be found in spots of rain having fallen on them since they were made (if you know at what time the rain fell), dust or grass seeds blown into them (if you noticed at what time the wind was blowing), or the crossing of other tracks over the original ones, or, where the grass has been trodden down, the extent to which it has since dried or withered. In following a horse, the length of time since it passed can also be judged by the freshness, or otherwise, of the droppings, due allowance being made for the effect of sun, rain, or birds, upon them.

Having learned to distinguish the pace and age of spoor, you must next learn to follow it over all kinds of ground. This is an accomplishment that you can practise all your life, and will still find yourself continually improving.

Then there is a great deal to learn from the ashes of fires-whether they are still warm or cold, scraps showing what kind of food the people were eating, whether plentiful or scarce.

You must not only keep a sharp lookout for Scout "signs" made by your own Scouts, but also for those made by "hostile" Scouts.

The following are some of the signs made by tramps on walls or fences near houses where they have been begging, which they chalk up to warn others of their class:

Tracking for Stolen Goods

There are very good trackers in the Sudan and Egypt, and I saw some of their work there.

The Colonel of the Egyptian Cavalry had had some things stolen out of his house, so a tracker was sent for from the neighbouring Jaalin tribe.

He soon found the footprints of the thief and followed them a long way out on to the desert, and found the spot where he had buried the stolen goods. His tracks then came back to the barracks.

So the whole of the regiment was paraded without shoes on, for the tracker to examine. And at the end, when he had seen every man walk, he said, "No, the thief is not there." Just then the Colonel's servant came up to him with a message, and the tracker who was standing by, said to the Colonel, "That is the man who buried the stolen goods."

The servant, surprised at being found out, then confessed that it was he who had stolen his master's property, thinking that he would be the last man to be suspected.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Hints On Spooring

Back in The Past:

to the previous page: The Pace Of Tracks

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