Bushmen, or Bosjesmans, a people of South Africa, so named by the British and Dutch colonists of the Cape. They often call themselves Saan [Sing. Sá], but this appears to be the Hottentot name. If they have a national name it is Khuai, probably "small man," the title of one group. This Khuai has, however, been translated as the Bushman word for tablier égyptien (see below), adopted as the racial name because that malformation is one of their physical characteristics. The Kaffirs call them Abatwa, the Bechuana Masarwa (Maseroa). There is little reason to doubt that they constitute the aboriginal element of the population of South Africa, and indications of their former presence have been found as far north at least as the Nyasa and Tanganyika basins. "It would seem," writes Sir H.H. Johnston (British Central Africa, p. 52), "as if the earliest known race of man inhabiting what is now British Central Africa was akin to the Bushman-Hottentot type of negro. Rounded stones with a hole through the centre, similar to those which are used by the Bushmen in the south for weighting their digging-sticks (the graaf stock of the Boers), have been found at the south end of Lake Tanganyika." The dirty yellow colour of the Bushmen, their slightly slanting eyes and prominent cheek-bones had induced early anthropologists to dwell on their resemblance to the Mongolian races.
This similarity has been now recognized as quite superficial. More recently a connexion has been traced between the Bushmen and the Pygmy peoples inhabiting the forests of Central Africa. Though the matter cannot be regarded as definitely settled, the latest researches rather tend to discredit this view. In fact it would appear that the two peoples have little in common save diminutive proportions and a nomadic and predatory form of existence. Owing to the discovery of steatopygous figurines in Egyptian graves, a theory has been advanced that the Egyptians of the early dynasties were of the same primitive pygmy negroid stock as the Bushmen. But this is highly speculative. The physical characteristics of Egyptian skulls have nothing of the Bushman in them. Of the primitive pygmy negroid stock the Hottentots (q.v.), once considered the parent family, are now regarded as an offshoot of mixed Bantu-Bushman blood from the main Bushman race.
It seems probable that the Bushmen must be regarded as having extended considerably to the north of the area occupied by them within the memory of white men. Evidence has been produced of the presence of a belated Hottentot or Hottentot-Bushman group as far north as the district between Kilimanjaro and Victoria Nyanza. They were probably driven south by the Bantu tribes, who eventually outflanked them and confined them to the less fertile tracts of country. Before the arrival of Europeans in South Africa the Bushman race appears to have been, what it so essentially is to-day, a nomadic race living in widely scattered groups. The area in which the Bushmen are now found sporadically may be defined as extending from the inner ranges of the mountains of Cape Colony, through the central Kalahari desert to near Lake Ngami, and thence north-westward to the districts about the Ovambo river north of Damaraland. In short, they have been driven by European and Kaffir encroachments into the most barren regions of South Africa. A few remain in the more inaccessible parts of the Drakensberg range about the sources of the Vaal. Only in one or two districts are they found in large numbers, chiefly in Great Bushman Land towards the Orange river.
A regularly planned and wholesale destruction of the Bushmen on the borders of Cape Colony in the earlier years of European occupation reduced their numbers to a great extent; but this cruel hunting of the Bushmen has ceased. In retaliation the Bushmen were long the scourge of the farms on the outer borders of the colony, making raids on the cattle and driving them off in large numbers. On the western side of the deserts they are generally at enmity with the Koranna Hottentots, but on the eastern border of the Kalahari they have to some extent fraternized with the earliest Bechuana migrants. Their language, which exists in several dialects, has in common with Hottentot, but to a greater degree, the peculiar sounds known as "clicks." The Hottentot language is more agglutinative, the Bushman more monosyllabic; the former recognizes a gender in names, the latter does not; the Hottentots form the plural by a suffix, the Bushmen by repetition of the name; the former count up to twenty, the latter can only number two, all above that being "many." F.C.Selous records that Koranna Hottentots were able to converse fluently with the Bushmen of Bechuanaland.
The most striking feature of the Bushman's physique is shortness of stature. Gustav Fritsch in 1863-1866 found the average height of six grown men to be 4 ft. 9 in. Earlier, but less trustworthy, measurements make them still shorter. Among 150 measured by Sir John Barrow during the first British occupation of Cape Colony the tallest man was 4 ft. 9 in., the tallest woman 4 ft. 4 in. The Bushmen living in Bechuanaland measured by Selous in the last quarter of the 19th century were, however, found to be of nearly average height. Few persons were below 5 ft.; 5 ft. 4 in. was common, and individuals of even 6 ft. were not unknown. No great difference in height appears to exist between men and women. Fritsch's average from five Bushman women was one-sixth of an inch more than for the men. The Bushmen, as already stated, are of a dirty yellow colour, and of generally unattractive countenance. The skull is long and low, the cheek-bones large and prominent. The eyes are deeply set and crafty in expression. The nose is small and depressed, the mouth wide with moderately everted lips, and the jaws project. The teeth are not like badly cut ivory, as in Bantu, but regular and of a mother-of-pearl appearance. In general build the Bushman is slim and lean almost to emaciation.