The astonishing story of one of the most successful big game hunters who once saved the life of former US President Theodore Roosevelt has been revealed in some previously unseen journals to go on sale. Image 1 of 2 Richard John Cuninghame taken during a safari in East Africa, c1908 Photo: CHRIS WATT Image 2 of 2 American President Theodore Roosevelt taken on 17th December 1909, shortly after he left office (March 4th 1909) Photo: CHRIS WATT By Stephanie Clark 8:10AM BST 21 Oct 2012 He was one of the greatest big game hunters, who saved Theodore Roosevelt, the former US president, from a rampaging hippopotamus and ended one expedition with a haul of 11,400 animals killed or captured. But in the decades since he died, the name of Richard John "RJ" Cuninghame has slipped into obscurity, as his writings remained hidden in his family archives. Now, almost 90 years after his death, the astonishing story of his life can be told after his previously unseen journals emerged as part of an auction of the contents of his former home. Over several expeditions the British hunter and explorer travelled thousands of miles through eastern and central Africa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, crossing terrain where Europeans had never before set foot. The journals describe in detail the challenges he faced in such a hostile environment. On one trip, in 1901, he described how he had "marched hundreds of miles, through a game-less, badly watered, and pestilential country". When he finally reached more forgiving territory, which was home to more game, he found he had temporarily lost his sight, thought to be due to an infection. Although the shooting of wild animals was an accepted practice at the time, it was not unrestricted. But Cuninghame confessed in his diary that he did not always stick to the rules. Later on that same trip, the team reached the Nile, where the hunter wrote: "We were poaching in the most egregiously barefaced manner it was possible to do it on. "We were shooting in the Soudan [Sudan], on government territory, off a government gunboat, and without a government permit, nor any licence." On a later trip into the Serengeti, in modern Kenya and Tanzania, his team's 25 pack donkeys died just 30 miles into the trip, forcing the expedition to continue on foot, for 1,700 miles. In his journal, Cuninghame describes hacking his way through dense country and how he went far ahead of the group to scout for more pack animals and water supplies. "Dumped men and hunted hard for water … Found no game, no birds, and no sign of a spring. Returned to men and made for nearest point on Bolodei River. Men about tired out when I fetched up at river at 8:15pm. Found water and two lions. No camp made but lay down on the river bed with good fire and plenty food and water. Men marched 24-and-three-quarter miles, and Kongoni [his African gun-bearer] and I must have covered over 30 miles." On another occasion, he led a group across Lake Victoria on 48ft canoes, carefully calculating the weight of the cargo to ensure the craft would be stable. "Total weight of cargo 12,460lbs … this seems a surprising weight for 3 such primitive structures to carry, and to carry safely too in spite of continual leakage and the shipping of 'seas' when it was blowing." His most celebrated expedition was one he led in 1909 for Mr Roosevelt and his son Kermit, just after the president had completed his second term. Funded by donors including Andrew Carnegie, the American industrialist, the party travelled from Mombasa to the Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, before following the Nile to Khartoum, in modern Sudan. Along the way, the group killed or trapped 11,400 animals, from insects and moles to hippopotamuses and elephants. The death toll included 512 big game animals, including six rare white rhinos. The party ate 262 of the animals. More than 2,000 were shipped back to Washington's Smithsonian Institution. Cuninghame saved Mr Roosevelt's life at least once, when the president got in the way of an angry hippopotamus, and some wild elephant charges. The men became good friends, and included in the items going up for sale is a signed photograph Mr Roosevelt presented to his "Dear Friend, RJ Cuninghame". Due to Mr Roosevelt's fame and popularity, the trip generated worldwide publicity and prompted a craze for safaris. Following the trip, Cuninghame was appointed leader of an African safari for George, Prince of Wales. Also up for sale is a letter from a royal aide to the organiser of the trip, stating: "His Royal Highness is delighted to hear that you have secured such an excellent man to go with him to South Africa." The trip was cancelled at the final hour when Edward VII died in May 1910 and his son became George V. At the outbreak of the First World War, Cuninghame returned to Britain but was told he was too old and unfit to enlist so travelled to France to join an American volunteer ambulance corps. He was later recruited by the British Army to return to East Africa to assist with the campaign against the Germans. However, by 1917, he was sent home due to his recurrent malaria, leaving Africa for the last time in March. He returned to his family home, Hensol, near Castle Douglas, in Dumfries and Galloway, and married Helen McDouall, the sister of a fellow explorer. But recurrent bouts of malaria and other tropical diseases left him weakened and he died in 1925 at the age of 53. On his death, the Category A-listed granite property, and its archives, passed to his wife's god-daughter, Lady Catherine Henderson, the widow of Sir Nigel Henderson, the one-time chairman of the military committee of Nato in Brussels. When she died two years ago, the 1822 house, by the Black Water of Dee near Castle Douglas, was sold, but not the contents, which are only now up for auction. There are 583 lots for sale, including Cuninghame's private journals, books on big game hunting, safari knives, swords and an elegant latrine tent for his rich clients. The collection is expected to fetch up to £7,000 when it takes place at Bonhams in Edinburgh on October 24.