The elephants continued to advance in line, occasionally disturbing wild pigs and hog deer, which existed in great numbers, but could hardly have been shot even had I wished, as the grass was so thick and long that the animals could not be seen; there were only signs of their disturbance by the sudden rush and the waving of the grass just in front of the advancing elephants, who were thus kept in continual excitement.
In about twenty minutes we emerged from the high grass upon a great extent of highly cultivated land, where the sandy loam had been reduced to the fine surface of a well-kept garden. Bordering upon this open country was an extensive jungle composed of trees averaging about a foot in diameter, but completely wedged together among impenetrable reeds fully eighteen feet in length, and nearly an inch in thickness, in addition to a network of various tough creepers, resulting from a rich soil that was a morass during the rainy season. Although the reeds appeared tolerably dry, they would not burn, as there were signs among some half-scorched places where attempts had been recently made to fire the jungle.
Our guide soon pointed to the spot where his cow had been dragged by the tiger into this formidable covert. There was no mistake about the marks, and the immense tracks in the soft ground proved the size and sex of the destroyer.
Nobody questioned the fact of the tiger being at home, and the only question was "how to beat him out." The jungle was quite a mile in length without a break in its terrible density; it was about half a mile in width, bounded upon one side by the cleared level ground in cultivation, and on the other by the high grass jungle we had left, but this had been partially scorched along the edge in the attempts to burn.
A good look-out would have spied any animal at a hundred and fifty yards had it attempted to leave the jungle.
As the country was a dead level, it was difficult to forecast the retreat of a tiger when driven from such a thicket, and it was a serious question whether it would be possible to dislodge him.
Whenever you commence a drive, the first consideration should be, "If the animal is there, where did it come from?"—-as it will in all probability attempt to retreat to that same locality. There was no possibility of guessing the truth in such a country of dense grass, and with numerous islands of the same character throughout this portion of the Brahmaputra, but there was one advantage in the fact that one side was secure, as the tiger would never break covert upon the cultivated land; there remained the opposite side, which would require strict watching, as he would probably endeavour to slink away through the high grass to some distant and favourite retreat.
I therefore determined to take my stand at the end of the thick jungle which we had passed upon arrival, at the corner where it joined the parched grass that had been fire-scorched, and near the spot where the cow had been dragged in. I accordingly sent the elephants round to commence the drive about two hundred yards distant, entering from the cultivated side and driving towards me, as I concluded the tiger in such massive jungle would not be far from the dead body. At the same time, I sent two scouting elephants to occupy positions outside the jungle on the high grass side, within sight of myself; I being posted on my elephant at the corner, so that I commanded two views—-the end, and the grass side.
My signal, a loud whistle, having been given, the line of elephants advanced towards my position. The crashing of so many huge beasts through the dense crisp herbage sounded in the distance like a strong wind, varied now and then by the tearing crunch as some opposing branches were torn down to clear the way.
I was mounted upon a female elephant, a good creature named Nielmonne, who was reputed to be staunch, but as the line of beaters approached nearer, and the varied sounds increased in intensity, she became very nervous and restless, starting should a small deer dart out of the jungle, and evidently expecting momentarily the appearance of the enemy. There are very few elephants that will remain unmoved when awaiting the advance of a line of beaters, whether they may be of their own species or human beings. On this occasion the rushing sound of the yielding jungle, which was so thick as to test the elephants' powers in clearing a passage through it, was presently varied by a sharp trumpet, then by a low growl, followed by that peculiar noise emitted by elephants when excited, resembling blows upon a tambourine or kettle-drum. This is a sound that invariably is heard whenever an elephant detects the fresh scent of a tiger; and Nielmonne, instead of standing quiet, became doubly excited, as she evidently understood that the dreaded game was on foot, and advancing before the line.
As I was posted at the sharp angle of the corner, I presently observed several elephants emerge upon my left and right, as the line advanced with wonderful regularity, and so close were the animals together that it was most unlikely any tiger could have broken back.
My servant Michael was behind me in the howdah. He was a quiet man, who thoroughly understood his work, and seldom spoke without being first addressed. On this occasion he broke through the rule. "Nothing in this beat, sahib," he exclaimed . . . . "Hold your tongue, Michael, till the cover's beaten out. Haven't I often told you that you can't tell what's in the jungle until the last corner is gone through?"
Nearly all the elephants were now out, and only about half a dozen remained in the jungle, all still advancing in correct line, and perhaps a dozen yards remaining of dense reeds and creepers forming the acute angle at the extremity. They still came on. Two or three of the mahouts shouted, "The tiger's behind, we must go back and take a longer beat." Nothing remained now except six or seven yards of the sharp corner, and the elephants marched forward, when a tremendous roar suddenly startled them in all directions, and one of the largest tigers I have ever seen sprang forward directly towards Nielmonne, who, I am ashamed to say, spun round as though upon a pivot, and prevented me from taking a most splendid shot. The next instant the tiger had bounded back with several fierce roars, sending the line of elephants flying, and once more securing safety in the almost impervious jungle from which he had been driven.
This was a most successful drive, but a terrible failure, owing entirely to the nervousness of my elephant. I never saw a worse jungle, and now that the tiger had been moved, it would be doubly awkward to deal with him, as he would either turn vicious and spring upon an elephant unawares from so dense a covert, or slink from place to place as the line advanced, but would never again face the open.
I looked at my watch; it was exactly half-past eight. The mahouts suggested that we should not disturb him, but give him time to sleep, and then beat for him in the afternoon. I did not believe in sleep after he had been so rudely aroused by a long line of elephants, but I clearly perceived that the mahouts did not enjoy the fun of beating in such dreadful jungle, and this they presently confessed, and expressed a wish to have me in the centre of the line, as there was no gun with the elephants should the tiger attack.
I knew that I should be useless, as it would be impossible to see a foot ahead in such dense bush, but to give them confidence I put my elephant in line, and sent forward several scouting elephants to form a line along a narrow footpath which cut the jungle at right angles about a quarter of a mile distant.
Once more the line advanced, the elephants marching shoulder to shoulder, and thus bearing down everything before them, as I determined to take the jungle backwards and forwards in this close order lest the wary tiger might crouch, and escape by lying close.
Several times the elephants sounded, and we knew that he must be close at hand, but it was absolutely impossible to see anything beyond the thick reedy mass, through which the line of elephants bored as through a solid obstacle.
Three times with the greatest patience we worked the jungle in this searching manner, when on the third advance I left the line, finding the impossibility of seeing anything, and took up my position outside the jungle on the cultivated land, exactly where the footpath was occupied by the scout elephants at intervals, which intersected the line of advance.
Presently there was a commotion among the elephants, two or three shrill trumpets, then the kettle-drum, and for a moment I caught sight of a dim shadowy figure stealing through some high reeds upon the border which fringed the jungle. I immediately fired, although the elephant was so unsteady that I could not be sure of the shot; also the object was so indistinct, being concealed in the high reeds, that I should not have observed it upon any other occasion than our rigid search. Immediately afterwards, a shout from one of the mahouts upon a scouting elephant informed us that the tiger had crossed the path and had gone forward, having thus escaped from the beat!
Here was fresh work cut out! Up to this moment we had managed to keep him within an area of a quarter of a mile in length, by half a mile in width; he had now got into new ground, and was in about a three-quarter mile length of the same unbeaten jungle.
There was nothing else to do but to pursue the same tactics, and we patiently continued to beat forward and backward, again and again, but without once sighting our lost game. It was half-past twelve, and the sun was burning hot, the sky being cloudless. The elephants once more emerged from the sultry jungle; they were blowing spray with their trunks upon their flanks, from water sucked up from their stomachs; and the mahouts were all down-hearted and in despair. "It's of no use," they said, "he's gone straight away, who can tell where? When you fired, perhaps you wounded him, or you missed him; at any rate, he's frightened and gone clean off, we shall never see him again; the elephants are all tired with the extreme heat, and we had better go to the river for a bath."
I held a council of war, with the elephants in a circle around me. It is of no use to oppose men when they are disgusted, you must always start a new idea. I agreed with my men, but I suggested that as we were all hot, and the elephants fatigued, the tiger must be in much the same state, as we had kept him on the run since eight o'clock in the morning, I having actually timed the hour "half-past eight" when he charged out of the last corner. "Now," said I, "do you remember that yesterday evening I killed a buck near some water in a narrow depression in the middle of tamarisk jungle? I believe that is only a continuation of this horrible thicket, and if the tiger is nearly played out, he would naturally make for the water and the cool tamarisk. You form in line in the jungle here, and give me a quarter of an hour's start, while I go ahead and take up my position by that piece of water. You then come on, and if the tiger is in the jungle, he will come forward towards the water, where I shall meet him; if he's not there, we shall anyhow be on our direct route, and close to our camp by the river."
This was immediately accepted, and leaving the elephants to form line, I hurried forward on Nielmonne, keeping in the grass outside the edge of the long jungle.
I had advanced about three-quarters of a mile, when the character of the jungle changed to tamarisk, and I felt certain that I was near the spot of yesterday. I accordingly ordered the mahout to turn into the thick feathery foliage to the left, in search of the remembered water. There was a slight descent to a long but narrow hollow about 50 or 60 yards wide; this was filled with clear water for an unknown length.
I was just about to make a remark, when, instead of speaking, I gently grasped the mahout by the head as I leaned over the howdah, and by this signal stopped the elephant.
There was a lovely sight, which cheered my heart with that inexpressible feeling of delight which is the reward for patience and hard work. About 120 yards distant on my left, the head and neck of a large tiger, clean and beautiful, reposed above the surface, while the body was cooling, concealed from view. Here was our friend enjoying his quiet bath, while we had been pounding away up and down the jungles which he had left.
The mahout, although an excellent man, was much excited. "Fire at him," he whispered.
"It is too far to make certain," I replied in the same undertone.
"Your rifle will not miss him; fire, or you will lose him. He will see us to a certainty and be off. If so, we shall never see him again," continued Fazil, the mahout.
"Hold your tongue," I whispered. "He can't see us, the sun is at our back, and is shining in his eyes —- see how green they are."
At this moment of suspense the tiger quietly rose from his bath, and sat up on end like a dog. I never saw such a sight. His head was beautiful, and the eyes shone like two green electric lights, as the sun's rays reflected from them, but his huge body was dripping with muddy water, as he had been reclining upon the alluvial bottom.
"Now's the time," whispered the over-eager mahout. "You can kill him to a certainty. Fire, or he'll be gone in another moment."
"Keep quiet, you fool, and don't move till I tell you." For quite a minute the tiger sat up in the same position; at last, as though satisfied that he was in safety and seclusion, he once more lay down with only the head and neck exposed above the surface.
"Back the elephant gently, but do not turn round," I whispered. Immediately Nielmonne backed through the feathery tamarisk without the slightest sound, and we found ourselves outside the jungle. We could breathe freely.
"Go on now, quite gently, till I press your head; then turn to the right, descending through the tamarisk, till I again touch your puggery" (turban).
I counted the elephant's paces as she moved softly parallel with the jungle, until I felt sure of my distance. A slight pressure upon the mahout's head, and Nielmonne turned to the right. The waving plumes of the dark-green tamarisk divided as we gently moved forward, and in another moment we stopped. There was the tiger in the same position, exactly facing me, but now about 75 paces distant.
"Keep the elephant quite steady," I whispered; and, sitting down upon the howdah seat, I took a rest with the rifle upon the front bar of the gun-rack. A piece of tamarisk kept waving in the wind just in front of the rifle, beyond my reach. The mahout leaned forward and gently bent it down. Now, all was clear. The tiger's eyes were like green glass. The elephant for a moment stood like stone. I touched the trigger.
There was no response to the loud report of 6 drams of powder from the '577 rifle, no splash in the unbroken surface of the water. The tiger's head was still there, but in a different attitude, one-half below the surface, and only one cheek, and one large eye still glittering like an emerald, above.
"Run in quick,"—-and the order was instantly obeyed, as Nielmonne splashed through the pool towards the silent body of the tiger. There was not a movement of a muscle. I whistled loud, then looked at my watch—-on the stroke of 1 P.M. From 8.30 till that hour we had worked up that tiger, and although there was no stirring incident connected with him, I felt very satisfied with the result.
In a short time the elephants arrived, having heard the shot, followed by my well-known whistle. Moota Gutche was the first to approach; and upon observing the large bright eye of the tiger above water, he concluded that it was still alive; he accordingly made a desperate charge, and taking the body on his tusks, he sent it flying some yards ahead; not content with this display of triumph, he followed it up, and gave it a football-kick that lifted it clean out of the water. This would have quickly ended in a war-dance upon the prostrate body, that would have crushed it and destroyed the skin, had not the mahout, with the iron driving-hook, bestowed some warning taps upon the crown of Moota Gutche's head that recalled him to a calmer frame of mind. A rope was soon made fast to the tiger's neck, and Moota Gutche hauled it upon dry ground, where it was washed as well as possible, and well scrutinized for a bullet-hole.
There was no hole whatever in that tiger. The bullet having entered the nostril, broken the neck, and run along the body, the animal consequently had never moved. The first shot, when obscured in thick jungle, had probably deflected from the interposing reeds—-at all events it missed. This tiger, when laid out straight, but without being pulled to increase its length, measured exactly 9 feet 8 inches from nose to tail.
THE ELEPHANT (continued)
The foregoing chapter is sufficient to explain the ferocity of the male elephant at certain seasons which periodically affect the nervous system. It would be easy to multiply examples of this cerebral excitement, but such repetitions are unnecessary. The fact remains that the sexes differ materially in character, and that for general purposes the female is preferred in a domesticated state, although the male tusker is far more powerful, and when thoroughly trustworthy is capable of self-defence against attack, and of energy in work that would render it superior to the gentler but inferior female. (The female differs from other quadrupeds in the position of her teats, which are situated upon the breast between the fore legs. She is in the habit of caressing her calf with her trunk during the operation of suckling.)
It may be inferred that a grand specimen of a male elephant is of rare occurrence. A creature that combines perfection of form with a firm but amiable disposition, and is free from the timidity which unfortunately distinguishes the race, may be quite invaluable to any resident in India. The actual monetary value of an elephant must of necessity be impossible to decide, as it must depend upon the requirements of the purchaser and the depth of his pocket. Elephants differ in price as much as horses, and the princes of India exhibit profuse liberality in paying large sums for animals that approach their standard of perfection.
The handsomest elephant that I have ever seen in India belongs to the Rajah of Nandgaon, in the district bordering upon Reipore. I saw this splendid specimen among twenty others at the Durbar of the Chief Commissioner of the Central Provinces in December 1887, and it completely eclipsed all others both in size and perfection of points. The word "points" is inappropriate when applied to the distinguishing features of an elephant, as anything approaching the angular would be considered a blemish. An Indian elephant to be perfect should be 9 feet 6 inches in perpendicular height at the shoulder. The head should be majestic in general character, as large as possible,—especially broad across the forehead, and well rounded. The boss or prominence above the trunk should be solid and decided, mottled with flesh-coloured spots; these ought to continue upon the cheeks, and for about three feet down the trunk. This should be immensely massive; and when the elephant stands at ease, the trunk ought to touch the ground when the tip is slightly curled. The skin of the face should be soft to the touch, and there must be no indentations or bony hollows, which are generally the sign of age. The ears should be large, the edges free from inequalities or rents, and above all they ought to be smooth, as though they had been carefully ironed. When an elephant is old, the top of the ear curls, and this symptom increases with advancing years. The eyes should be large and clear, the favourite colour a bright hazel. The tusks ought to be as thick as possible, free from cracks, gracefully curved, very slightly to the right and left, and projecting not less than three feet from the lips. The body should be well rounded, without a sign of any rib. The shoulders must be massive with projecting muscular development; the back very slightly arched, and not sloping too suddenly towards the tail, which should be set up tolerably high. This ought to be thick and long, the end well furnished with a double fringe of very long thick hairs or whalebone-looking bristles. The legs should be short in proportion to the height of the animal, but immensely thick, and the upper- portion above the knee ought to exhibit enormous muscle. The knees should be well rounded, and the feet be exactly equal to half the perpendicular height of the elephant when measured in their circumference, the weight pressing upon them whilst standing.
The skin generally ought to be soft and pliable, by no means tight or strained, but lying easily upon the limbs and body.
An elephant which possesses this physical development should be equal in the various points of character that are necessary to a highly-trained animal.
When ordered to kneel, it should obey instantly, and remain patiently upon the ground until permitted to rise from this uneasy posture. In reality the elephant does not actually kneel upon its fore knees, but only upon those of the hinder legs, while it pushes its fore legs forward and rests its tusks upon the ground. This is a most unnatural position, and is exceedingly irksome. Some elephants are very impatient, and they will rise suddenly without orders while the ladder is placed against their side for mounting. Upon one occasion a badly-trained animal jumped up so suddenly that Lady Baker, who had already mounted, was thrown off on one side, while I, who was just on the top of the ladder, was thrown down violently upon the other. A badly-tutored elephant is exceedingly dangerous, as such vagaries are upon so large a scale that a fall is serious, especially should the ground be stony.
A calm and placid nature free from all timidity is essential. Elephants are apt to take sudden fright at peculiar sounds and sights. In travelling through a jungle path it is impossible to foretell what animals may be encountered on the route. Some elephants will turn suddenly round and bolt, upon the unexpected crash of a wild animal startled in the forest. The scent or, still worse, the roar of a bear within 50 yards of the road will scare some elephants to an extent that will make them most difficult of control. The danger may be imagined should an elephant absolutely run away with his rider in a dense forest; if the unfortunate person should be in a howdah he would probably be swept off and killed by the intervening branches, or torn to shreds by the tangled thorns, many of which are armed with steel-like hooks.
It is impossible to train all elephants alike, and very few can be rendered thoroughly trustworthy; the character must be born in them if they are to approach perfection.
Our present perfect example should be quite impassive, and should take no apparent notice of anything, but obey his mahout with the regularity of a machine. No noise should disturb the nerves, no sight terrify, no attack for one moment shake the courage; even the crackling of fire should be unheeded, although the sound of high grass blazing and exploding before the advancing line of fire tries the nerves of elephants more than any other danger.
An elephant should march with an easy swinging pace at the rate of 5 miles an hour, or even 6 miles within that time upon a good flat road. As a rule, the females have an easier pace than the large males. When the order to stop is given, instead of hesitating, the elephant should instantly obey, remaining rigidly still without swinging the head or flapping the ears, which is its inveterate and annoying habit. The well-trained animal should then move backward or forward, either one or several paces, at a sign from the mahout, and then at once become as rigid as a rock.
Should the elephant be near a tiger, it will generally know the position of the enemy by its keen sense of smell. If the tiger should suddenly charge from some dense covert with the usual short but loud roars, the elephant ought to remain absolutely still to receive the onset, and to permit a steady aim from the person in the howdah. This is a very rare qualification, but most necessary in a good shikar elephant. Some tuskers will attack the tiger, which is nearly as bad a fault as running in the opposite direction; but the generality, even if tolerably steady, will swing suddenly upon one side, and thus interrupt the steadiness of aim.
The elephant should never exercise its own will, but ought to wait in all cases for the instructions of the mahout, and then obey immediately.
Such an animal, combining the proportions and the qualities I have described, might be worth in India about / 1500 to any Indian Rajah, but there may be some great native sportsmen who would give double that amount for such an example of perfection, which would combine the beauty required for a state elephant, with the high character of a shikar animal.
Native princes and rajahs take a great pride in the trappings of their state elephants, which is exhibited whenever any pageant demands an extraordinary display. I have seen cloths of silk so closely embroidered with heavy gold as to be of enormous value, and so great a weight that two men could barely lift them. Such cloths may have been handed down from several generations, as they are seldom used excepting in the state ceremonies which occur at distant intervals. A high caste male elephant in its gold trappings, with head-piece and forehead lap equally embroidered, and large silver bells suspended from its tusks, is a magnificent object during the display attending a durbar. At such an occasion there may be a hundred elephants all in their finery, each differing from the other both in size and in the colours of their surroundings.
The outfit for an elephant depends upon the work required. The first consideration is the protection of the back. Although the skin appears as though it could resist all friction, it is astonishing how quickly a sore becomes established, and how difficult this is to heal. The mahouts are exceedingly careless, and require much supervision; the only method to ensure attention is to hold them responsible and to deduct so many rupees from their pay should the backs of their animals be unsound.
With proper care an elephant ought never to suffer, as the pad should be made to fit its figure specially. The usual method is to cover the back from the shoulders to the hips with a large quilted pad stuffed with cotton, about 2 1/2 inches thick. In my opinion, wool is preferable to cotton, and, instead of this coverlet being compact, there should be an opening down the centre, to avoid all pressure upon the spine. A quilted pad stuffed with wool, 3 inches thick, with an opening down the middle, would rest comfortably upon the animal's back, and would entirely relieve the highly-arched backbone, which would thus be exposed to a free current of air, and would remain hard instead of becoming sodden through perspiration. Upon this soft layer the large pad is fixed. This is made of the strongest sacking, stuffed as tight as possible with dried reeds of a tough variety that is common in most tanks; this is open in the centre and quite a foot thick at the sides, so that it fills up the hollow, and rests the weight upon the ribs at a safe distance from the spine.
There are various contrivances in the shape of saddles. The ordinary form for travelling is the char-jarma; this is an oblong frame, exceedingly strong, which is lashed upon the pad secured by girths. It is stuffed with cotton, and neatly covered with native cloth. A stuffed back passes down the centre like a sofa, and two people on either side sit dos-a-dos, as though in an Irish car. Iron rails protect the ends, and swing foot-boards support the feet. This is, in my opinion, the most comfortable way of riding, but some care is necessary in proportioning the weights to ensure a tolerable equilibrium, otherwise, should the route be up and down steep nullahs, the char-jarma will shift upon one side, and become most disagreeable to those who find themselves on the lower level. Natives prefer a well-stuffed pad, as they are accustomed to sit with their legs doubled up in a manner that would be highly uncomfortable to Europeans. Such pads are frequently covered with scarlet cloth and gold embroidery, while the elephant is dressed in a silk and gold cloth reaching to its knees. The face and head are painted in various colours and devices, exhibiting great taste and skill on the part of the designer. It is curious to observe the dexterity with which an otherwise ignorant mahout will decorate the head of his animal by drawing most elaborate curves and patterns, that would tax the ability of a professional artist among Europeans.
The howdah is the only accepted arrangement for sporting purposes, and much attention is necessary in its construction, as the greatest strength should be combined with lightness. There ought to be no doors, as they weaken the solidity of the whole. The weight of a good roomy howdah should not exceed two hundredweight, or at the outside 230 pounds. It must be remembered that the howdah is not adapted for travelling, as there is a disagreeable swinging motion inseparable from its position upon the elephant's back which is not felt upon either the pad or the char-jarma. The howdah is simply for shooting, as you can fire in any direction, which is impossible from any other contrivance where the rider sits in a constrained position.
A good howdah should be made of exceedingly strong and tough wood for the framework, dovetailed, and screwed together, the joints being specially secured by long corner straps of the best iron. The frame ought to be panelled with galvanised wire of the strongest description, the mesh being one-half inch. The top rail, of a hard wood, should be strengthened all around the howdah by the addition of a male bamboo 1 1/2 inch in diameter, securely lashed with raw hide, so as to bind the structure firmly together, and to afford a good grip for the hand. As the howdah is divided into two compartments, the front being for the shooter, and the back part for his servant, the division should be arranged to give increased strength to the construction by the firmness of the cross pieces, which ought to bind the sides together in forming the middle seat; the back support of which should be a padded shield of thick leather, about 15 inches in diameter, secured by a broad strap of the same material to buckles upon the sides. This will give a yielding support to the back of the occupant when sitting. The seat should lift up, and be fitted as a locker to contain anything required; and a well-stuffed leather cushion is indispensable. The gun-rack should be carefully arranged to contain two guns upon the left, and one upon the right of the sitter. These must be well and softly padded, to prevent friction. The floor should be covered either with thick cork or cork-matting to prevent the feet from slipping.
It must be remembered that a howdah may be subjected to the most severe strain, especially should a tiger spring upon the head of an elephant, and the animal exert its prodigious strength to throw off its assailant. The irons for fastening the girths should therefore be of the toughest quality, and, instead of actual girths, only thick ropes of cotton ought to be used. A girth secured with a buckle is most dangerous, as, should the buckle give way, an accident of the most alarming kind must assuredly occur. The howdah ought to be lashed upon the elephant by six folds of the strong cotton rope described, tightened most carefully before starting. It should be borne in mind that much personal attention is necessary during this operation, as the natives are most careless. Two or three men ought to sit in the howdah during the process of lacing, so as to press it down tightly upon the pad, otherwise it will become loose during the march, and probably lean over to one side, which is uncomfortable to both man and beast. A large hide of the sambur deer, well cured and greased so as to be soft and pliable, should, invariably protect the belly of the elephant, and the flanks under the fore legs, from the friction of the girthing rope. The breastplate and crupper also require attention. These ought to be of the same quality of cotton rope as used for the girths, but that portion of the crupper which passes beneath the tail should pass through an iron tube bent specially to fit, like the letter V elongated, U. This is a great safeguard against galling, and I believe it was first suggested by Mr. G. P. Sanderson.
A fine male elephant, well accoutred with his howdah thoroughly secured, and a good mahout, is a splendid mount, and the rider has the satisfaction of feeling that his animal is well up to his weight. I do not know a more agreeable sensation than the start in the early morning upon a thoroughly dependable elephant, with all the belongings in first-rate order, and a mahout who takes a real interest in his work; a thorough harmony exists between men and beast, the rifles are in their places, and you feel prepared for anything that may happen during the hazardous adventures of the day.
But how much depends upon that mahout! It is impossible for an ordinary bystander to comprehend the secret signs which are mutually understood by the elephant and his guide, the gentle pressure of one toe, or the compression of one knee, or the delicate touch of a heel, or the almost imperceptible swaying of the body to one side; the elephant detects every movement, howsoever slight, and it is thus mysteriously guided by its intelligence; the mighty beast obeys the unseen helm of thought, just as a huge ship yields by apparent instinct to the insignificant appendage which directs her course, the rudder. All good riders know the mystery of a "good hand" upon a horse; this is a thing that is understood, but cannot be described except by a negative. There are persons who can sit a horse gracefully and well, but who have not the instinctive gift of hand. The horse is aware of this almost as soon as the rider has been seated in the saddle. In that case, whether the horse be first-class or not, there will be no comfort for the animal, and no ease for the rider.
If such a person puts his horse at a fence, the animal will not be thoroughly convinced that his rider wishes him to take it. There are more accidents occasioned by a "bad hand" than by any other cause. If this is the case with a horse well bitted, what must be the result should an elephant be guided by a mahout of uncertain temperament? The great trouble when travelling on an elephant is the difficulty in getting the mahout to obey an order immediately, and at the same time to convey that order to the animal without the slightest hesitation. Natives frequently hesitate before they determine the right from left. This is exasperating to the highest degree, and is destructive to the discipline of an elephant. There must be no uncertainty; if there is the slightest vacillation, it will be felt instinctively in the muscles of the rider, and the animal, instead of obeying mechanically the requisite pressure of knee or foot, feels that the mahout does not exactly know what he is about. This will cause the elephant to swing his head, instead of keeping steady and obeying the order without delay. In the same manner, when tiger-shooting, the elephant will at once detect anything like tremor on the part of his mahout. Frequently a good elephant may be disgraced by the nervousness of his guide, nothing being so contagious as fear.
Although I may be an exception in the non-admiration of the elephant's sagacity to the degree in which it is usually accepted, there is no one who more admires or is so foolishly fond of elephants. I have killed some hundreds in my early life, but I have learnt to regret the past, and 1 nothing would now induce me to shoot an elephant unless it were either a notorious malefactor, or in self-defence. There is, however, a peculiar contradiction in the character of elephants that tends to increase the interest in the animal. If they were all the same, there would be a monotony; but this is never the case, either among animals or human beings, although they may belong to one family. The elephant, on the other hand, stands so entirely apart from all other animals, and its performances appear so extraordinary owing to the enormous effect which its great strength produces instantaneously, that its peculiarities interest mankind more than any smaller animal. Yet, when we consider the actual aptitude for learning, or the natural habits of the creature, we are obliged to confess that in proportion to its size the elephant is a mere fool in comparison with the intelligence of many insects. If the elephant could form a home like the bee, and store up fodder for a barren season; if it could build a nest of comfort like a bird, to shelter itself from inclement weather; if it could dam up a river like the beaver, to store water for the annual drought; if it could only, like the ordinary squirrel or field mouse, make a store for a season of scarcity, how marvellous we should think this creature, simply because it is so huge! It actually does nothing remarkable, unless specially instructed; but it is this inertia that renders it so valuable to man. If the elephant were to be continually exerting its natural intelligence, and volunteering all manner of gigantic performances in the hope that they would be appreciated by its rider, it would be unbearable; the value of the animal consists in its capacity to learn, and in its passive demeanour, until directed by the mahout's commands.
Nothing can positively determine the character of any elephant; every animal, I believe, varies more or less in courage according to its state of health, which must influence the nervous system. The most courageous man may, if weakened by sickness, be disgusted with himself by starting at an unexpected sound, although upon ordinary occasions he would not be affected. Animals cannot describe their feelings, and they may sometimes feel "out of sorts" without being actually ill, but the nervous system may be unstrung.
I once saw a ridiculous example of sudden panic in an otherwise most dependable elephant. This was a large male belonging to the Government, which had been lent to me for a few months, and was thoroughly staunch when opposed to a charging tiger; in fact, I believe that Moolah Bux was afraid of nothing, and he was the best shikar elephant I have ever ridden. One day we were driving a rocky hill for a tiger that was supposed to be concealed somewhere among the high grass and broken boulders, and, as the line of beaters was advancing, I backed the elephant into some thick jungle, which commanded an open but narrow glade at the foot of the low hill. Only the face of the elephant was exposed, and as this was grayish brown, something similar to the colour of the leafless bushes, we were hardly noticeable to anything that might break covert.
The elephant thoroughly understood the work in hand; and as the loud yells and shouts of the beaters became nearer, Moolah Bux pricked his ears and kept a vigilant look-out. Suddenly a hare emerged about 100 yards distant; without observing our well-concealed position it raced at full speed directly towards us, and in a few seconds it ran almost between the elephant's legs as it made for the protection of the jungle. The mighty Moolah Bux fairly bolted with a sudden terror as this harmless and tiny creature dashed beneath him, and although he recovered himself after 5 or 6 yards, nevertheless for the moment the monster was scared almost by a mouse.
It is this uncertainty of character that has rendered the elephant useless for military purposes in the field since the introduction of fire-arms. In olden times there can be no doubt that a grand array of elephantine cavalry, with towers containing archers on their backs, would have been an important factor when in line of battle; but elephants are useless against fire-arms, and in our early battles with the great hordes brought against us by the princes of India, their elephants invariably turned tail, and added materially to the defeat of their army.
Only a short time ago, at Munich, a serious accident was occasioned by a display of ten or twelve elephants during some provincial fete, when they took fright at the figure of a dragon vomiting fire, and a general stampede was the consequence, resulting in serious injuries to fifteen or sixteen persons.
I once had an elephant who ought to have killed me upon several occasions through sheer panic, which induced him to run away like a railway locomotive rushing through a forest. This was the tusker Lord Mayo, who, although a good-tempered harmless creature, appeared to be utterly devoid of nerves, and would take fright at anything to which it was unaccustomed. The sound of the beaters when yelling and shouting in driving jungle was quite sufficient to start this animal off in a senseless panic, not always for a short distance, as on one occasion it ran at full speed for upwards of a mile through a dense forest, in spite of the driving-hook of the mahout, which had been applied with a maximum severity.
It is curious to observe how all the education of an elephant appears to vanish when once the animal takes fright and bolts for the nearest jungle. That seems to be the one idea which is an instinct of original nature, to retreat into the concealment of a forest.
I was on one occasion mounted upon Lord Mayo in the Balagh district when the beaters were not dependable. A tiger had killed a bullock at the foot of a wooded hill bordered by an open plain. As the beaters had misbehaved upon several occasions by breaking their line, I determined to take command of the beat in person. I therefore formed the line in the open, with every man equidistant, there being about a hundred and twenty villagers. I had placed my shikari with a rifle in a convenient position about 200 yards in advance, upon a mucharn or platform that had been constructed for myself.
Having after some trouble arranged the beaters in a proper line, I gave the order for an advance. In an instant the shouts arose, and three or four tom-toms added to the din.
I was mounted upon Lord Mayo near the centre of the line in the open glade. No sooner had the noise begun, than a violent panic seized this senseless brute, and without the slightest warning it rushed straight ahead for the thick forest at a pace that would nearly equal that of a luggage train. It was in vain that the mahout dug the iron spike into its head and alternately seized its ears by the unsparing hook, away it ran, regardless of all punishment or persuasion, until it reached the jungle, and with a crash we entered in full career!
Fortunately there was no howdah, only a pad well secured by thick ropes. To clutch these tightly, and to dodge the opposing branches by ducking the head, now swinging to the right, then doubling down upon the left to allow the bending trees to sweep across the pad, then flinging oneself nearly over the flank to escape a bough that threatened instant extermination; all these gymnastics were performed and repeated in a few seconds only, as the panic-stricken brute ploughed its way, regardless of all obstructions, which threatened every instant to sweep us off its back. The active mahout of my other elephant, knowing the character of Lord Mayo, had luckily accompanied us with a spear, and although at the time I was unaware of his presence, he was exerting himself to the utmost in a vain endeavour to overtake our runaway elephant. At first I imagined that the great pace would soon be slackened, and that a couple of hundred yards would exhaust the animal's wind, especially as the ground was slightly rising. Instead of this, it was going like a steam-engine, and if there had been the usual amount of thorny creepers we should have been torn to pieces.
" Keep him straight for the hill," I shouted, as I saw we were approaching an inclination. "Don't let him turn to right or left, keep his head straight for the steep ground;" and the mahout, who had been yelling for assistance, and had lost both his turban and skull-cap, did all that he could by tunnelling into the brute's head with his formidable hook to direct it straight up the hill. I never knew an elephant go at such a pace over rocky ground. Young trees were smashed down, some branches torn, others bent forward, which swung backwards with dangerous force, and yet on we tore without a sign of diminishing speed. How I longed for an anchor to have brought up our runaway ship head to wind! We had the coupling chains upon the pad, and my interpreter, Modar Bux, at length succeeded in releasing these, and in throwing them down for any person following to make use of. After a run of quite half a mile, we fortunately arrived at a really steep portion of the hill, where the rocks were sufficiently large to present a difficulty to any runaway. The mahout who had been following our course, breathless and with bleeding feet, here overtook us. Placing himself in advance of the elephant, who seemed determined to continue its flight among the rocks, he dug the spear deep into the animal's trunk, and kept repeating the apparently cruel thrusts until at length it stopped. Several men now arrived with the coupling chains, which were at length with difficulty adjusted, and the elephant's fore legs were shackled together. It was curious to observe the dexterous manner in which it resisted this operation, and had it not been for the dread of the spear I much doubt whether it could have been accomplished.
This was the first time that I had experienced a runaway elephant, but I soon found that both my steeds were equally untrustworthy. A few weeks after this event we had completed the morning's march and found the camp already prepared for our arrival, at a place called Kassli, which is a central depot for railway sleepers as they are received from the native contractors. These were carefully piled in squares of about twenty each, and covered a considerable area of ground at intervals. A large ox had died that morning, and as it was within 50 yards of the tent it was necessary to remove it; the vultures were already crowded in the surrounding trees waiting for its decomposition. As usual, none of the natives would defile themselves by touching the dead body. I accordingly gave orders that one of the elephants should drag it about a mile down wind away from the camp. Lord Mayo was brought to the spot, and the sweeper, being of a low caste, attached a very thick rope to the hind legs of the ox; the other end being made fast to the elephant's pad in such a manner as to form traces. The elephant did not exhibit the slightest interest in the proceeding, and everything was completed, the body of the ox being about 6 or 7 yards behind.
No sooner did Lord Mayo move forward in obedience to the mahout's command, and feel the tug of the weight attached, than he started off in a panic at a tremendous pace, dragging the body through the lanes between the piles of sleepers, upsetting them, and sending them flying in all directions, as the dead ox caught against the corners; and, helter-skelter, he made for the nearest jungle about 300 yards distant. Fortunately some wood-cutters were there, who yelled and screamed to turn him back; but although this had the effect of driving him from the forest, he now started over the plain down hill, dragging the heavy ox behind as though it had been a rabbit, and going at such a pace that none of the natives could overtake him, although by this time at least twenty men were in full pursuit.
The scene was intensely ridiculous, and the whole village turned out to enjoy the fun of a runaway elephant with a dead ox bounding over the inequalities of the ground; no doubt Lord Mayo imagined that he was being hunted by the carcase which so persistently followed him wherever he went. There was no danger to the driver, as the elephant was kept away from the forest. The ground became exceedingly rough and full of holes from the soakage during the rainy season. This peculiar soil is much disliked by elephants, as the surface is most treacherous, and cavernous hollows caused by subterranean water action render it unsafe for the support of such heavy animals. The resistance of the dead ox, which constantly jammed in the abrupt depressions, began to tell upon the speed, and in a short time the elephant was headed, and surrounded by a mob of villagers. I was determined that he should now be compelled to drag the carcase quietly in order to accustom him to the burden; we therefore attached the coupling chains to his fore legs, and drove him gently, turning him occasionally to enable him to inspect the carcase that had smitten him with panic. In about twenty minutes he became callous, and regarded the dead body with indifference.
Although an elephant is capable of great speed, it cannot jump, neither can it lift all four legs off the ground at the same time; this peculiarity renders it impossible to cross any ditch with hard perpendicular sides that will not crumble or yield to pressure, if such a ditch should be wider than the limit of the animal's extreme pace. If the limit of a pace should be 6 feet, a 7-foot ditch would effectually stop an elephant.
Although the strength of an elephant is prodigious whenever it is fully exerted, it is seldom that the animal can be induced to exhibit the maximum force which it possesses. A rush of a herd of elephants, with a determined will against the enclosure of palisades used for their capture would probably break through the barrier, but they do not appear to know their strength, or to act together. This want of cohesion is a sufficient proof that in a wild state they are not so sagacious as they have been considered. I do not describe the kraal or keddah, which is so well known by frequent descriptions as the most ancient and practical method of capturing wild elephants; but although in Ceylon the kraal has been used from time immemorial, the Singhalese are certainly behind the age as compared with the great keddah establishments of India. In the latter country there is a ditch inside the palisaded enclosure, which prevents the elephants from exerting their force against the structure; in Ceylon this precaution is neglected, and the elephants have frequently effected a breach in the palisade. In Ceylon all the old elephants captured within the kraal or keddah are considered worthless, and only those of scarcely full growth are valued; in India, all elephants irrespective of their age are valued, and the older animals are as easily domesticated as the young.
The keddah establishment at Dacca is the largest in India, and during the last season, under the superintendence of Mr. G. P. Sanderson, 404 elephants were captured in the Garo Hills, 132 being taken in one drive. It is difficult to believe that any district can continue to produce upon this wholesale scale, and it is probable that after a few years elephants will become scarce in the locality. Nevertheless there is a vast tract of forest extending into Burmah, and the migratory habits of the elephant at certain seasons may continue the supply, especially if certain fruits or foliage attract them to the locality.
This migratory instinct is beyond our powers of explanation in the case of either birds, beasts, or fishes. How they communicate, in order to organise the general departure, must remain a mystery. It is well known that in England, previous to the departure of the swallows, they may be seen sitting in great numbers upon the telegraph wires as though discussing the projected journey; in a few days after, there is not a swallow to be seen.
I once, and only once, had an opportunity of seeing elephants that were either migrating, or had just arrived from a migration. This was between 3 degrees and 4 degrees N. latitude in Africa, between Obbo and Farajok. We were marching through an uninhabited country for about 30 miles, and in the midst of beautiful park-like scenery we came upon the magnificent sight of vast herds of elephants. These were scattered about the country in parties varying in numbers from ten to a hundred, while single bulls dotted the landscape with their majestic forms in all directions. In some places there were herds of twenty or thirty entirely composed of large tuskers; in other spots were parties of females with young ones interspersed, of varying growths, and this grand display of elephantine life continued for at least 2 miles in length as we rode parallel with the groups at about a quarter of a mile distant. It would have been impossible to guess the number, as there was no regularity in their arrangement, neither could I form any idea of the breadth of the area that was occupied. I have often looked back upon that extraordinary scene, and it occurred to me forcibly in after years, when I had 3200 elephants' tusks in one station of Central Africa, which must have represented 1600 animals slain for their fatal ivory.
The day must arrive when ivory will be a production of the past, as it is impossible that the enormous demand can be supplied. I have already explained that the African savage never tames a wild animal, neither does he exhibit any sympathy or pity, his desire being, like the gunner of the nineteenth century, to exterminate. It may be readily imagined that wholesale destruction is the result whenever some favourable opportunity delivers a large herd of elephants into the native hands.
There are various methods employed for trapping, or otherwise destroying. Pitfalls are the most common, as they are simple, and generally fatal. Elephants are thirsty creatures, and when in large herds they make considerable roads in their passage towards a river. They are nearly always to be found upon the same track when nightly approaching the usual spot for drinking or for a bath. It is therefore a simple affair to intercept their route by a series of deep pitfalls dug exactly in the line of their advance. These holes vary in shape; the circular are, I believe, the most effective, as the elephant falls head downwards, but I have seen them made of different shapes and proportions according to the individual opinions of the trappers.
It is exceedingly dangerous, when approaching a river, to march in advance of a party without first sending forward a few natives to examine the route in front. The pits are usually about 12 or 14 feet in depth. These are covered over with light wood, and crossed with slight branches or reeds, upon which is laid some long dry grass; this is covered lightly with soil, upon which some elephant's dung is scattered, as though the animal had dropped it during the action of walking. A little broken grass is carelessly distributed upon the surface, and the illusion is complete. The night arrives, and the unsuspecting elephants, having travelled many miles of thirsty wilderness, hurry down the incline towards the welcome river. Crash goes a leading elephant into a well-concealed pitfall! To the right and left the frightened members of the herd rush at the unlooked-for accident, but there are many other pitfalls cunningly arranged to meet this sudden panic, and several more casualties may arise, which add to the captures on the following morning, when the trappers arrive to examine the position of their pits. The elephants are then attacked with spears while in their helpless position, until they at length succumb through loss of blood.
There is another terrible method of destroying elephants in Central Africa. During the dry season, when the withered herbage from 10 to 14 feet in height is most inflammable, a large herd of elephants may be found in the middle of such high grass that they can only be perceived should a person be looking down from some elevated point. If they should be espied by some native hunter, he would immediately give due notice to the neighbourhood, and in a short time the whole population would assemble for the hunt. This would be arranged by forming a circle of perhaps 2 miles in diameter, and simultaneously firing the grass so as to create a ring of flames around the centre. An elephant is naturally afraid of fire, and it has an instinctive horror of the crackling of flames when the grass has been ignited. As the circle of fire contracts in approaching the encircled herd, they at first attempt retreat until they become assured of their hopeless position; they at length become desperate, being maddened by fear, and panic-stricken by the wild shouts of the thousands who have surrounded them. At length, half-suffocated by the dense smoke, and terrified by the close approach of the roaring flames, the unfortunate animals charge recklessly through the fire, burnt and blinded, to be ruthlessly speared by the bloodthirsty crowd awaiting this last stampede. Sometimes a hundred or more elephants are simultaneously destroyed in this wholesale slaughter. The flesh is then cut into long strips and dried, every portion of the animal being smoked upon frames of green wood, and the harvest of meat is divided among the villages which have contributed to the hunt. The tusks are also shared, a certain portion belonging by right to the various headmen and the chief.
When man determines to commence war with the animal kingdom the result must be disastrous to the beasts, if the human destroyers are in sufficient numbers to ensure success. Although fire-arms may not be employed, the human intelligence must always overpower the brute creation, but man must exist in numerical superiority if the wild beasts are to be fairly vanquished by a forced retreat from the locality. From my own observation I have concluded that wild animals of all kinds will withstand the dangers of traps, pitfalls, fire, and the usual methods for their destruction employed by savages, but they will be rapidly cleared out of an extensive district by the use of fire-arms. There is a peculiar effect in the report of guns which appears to excite the apprehension of danger in the minds of all animals. This is an extraordinary instance of the general intelligence of wild creatures, as they must be accustomed to the reports of thunder since the day of their birth. Nevertheless they draw a special distinction between the loud peal of thunder and the comparatively innocent explosion of a fire-arm.
Many years ago in Ceylon I devoted particular attention to this subject, especially as it affects the character of elephants. How those creatures manage to communicate with each other it is impossible to determine, but the fact remains that a very few days' shooting will clear out an extensive district, although the area may comprise a variation of open prairie with a large amount of forest. I have frequently observed, in the portion of Ceylon known as the Park country, the tracks of elephants in great numbers which have evidently been considerable herds that have joined together in a general retreat from ground which they considered insecure. In that district I have arrived at the proper season, when the grass after burning has grown to the height of about 2 feet, and it has literally been alive with elephants. In a week my late brother General Valentine Baker and myself shot thirty-two, and I sent a messenger to invite a friend to join us, in the expectation of extraordinary sport. Upon his arrival after five or six days, there was not an elephant in the country, excepting two or three old single bulls which always infested certain spots.
The reports of so many heavy rifles, which of necessity were fired every evening at dusk in the days of muzzle-loaders, for the sake of cleaning, must have widely alarmed the country, but independently of this special cause there can be no doubt that after a few days' heavy shooting, the elephants will combine in some mysterious manner and disappear from an extensive district. In many ways these creatures are perplexing to the student of natural history. It would occur to most people that in countries where elephants abound we should frequently meet with those that are sick, or so aged that they cannot accompany the herd. Although for very many years I have hunted both in Asia and Africa I have never seen a sick elephant in a wild state, neither have I ever come across an example of imbecility through age. It is rarely we discover a dead elephant that has not met with a violent death, and only once in my life have I by accident found the remains of a tusker with the large tusks intact. This animal had been killed in a fight, as there were unmistakable signs of a fearful struggle, the ground being trodden deeply in all directions.
It is supposed by the natives that when an elephant is mortally sick it conceals itself in the thickest and most secluded portion of the jungle, to die in solitude. Most animals have the same instinct, which induces them to seek the shelter of some spot remote from all disturbance; and should we find their remains, it will be near water, where the thirst of disease has been assuaged at the last moment. The ox tribe are subject to violent epidemics, and I have not only found the bodies of buffaloes in great numbers upon occasions during some malignant murrain, but they have been scattered throughout the country in all directions, causing a frightful stench, and probably extending the infection. A few years ago there was an epidemic among the bisons in the Reipore district of India; this spread into neighbouring districts over a large extent of country, and caused fearful ravages, but none of the deer tribe were attacked, the disease being confined specially to the genus Bos. There are interesting proofs of the specific poison of certain maladies which are limited in their action to a particular class of animal. We find the same in vegetable diseases, where a peculiar insect will attack a distinct family of plants, or where a special variety of fungoid growth exerts a similar baneful influence.
Wounded elephants have a marvellous power of recovery when in their wild state, although they have no gift of surgical knowledge, their simple system being confined to plastering their wounds with mud, or blowing dust upon the surface. Dust and mud comprise the entire pharmacopoeia of the elephant, and this is applied upon the most trivial as well as upon the most serious occasion. If an elephant has a very slight sore back, it will quickly point out the tender part by blowing dust with its trunk upon the spot which it cannot reach. Should the mahout have seriously punished the crown with the cruel driving-hook, the elephant applies dust at the earliest opportunity. I have seen them, when in a tank, plaster up a bullet-wound with mud taken from the bottom. This application is beneficial in protecting the wound from the attack of flies. The effect of these disgusting insects is quite shocking when an unfortunate animal becomes fly-blown, and is literally consumed by maggots. An elephant possesses a wonderful superiority over all other animals in the trunk, which can either reach the desired spot directly, or can blow dust upon it when required. All shepherds in England appreciate the difficulty when their sheep are attacked by flies, but they can be relieved by the human hand; a wild animal, on the contrary, has no alleviation, and it must eventually succumb to its misery. There is a peculiar fly in most tropical climates, but more especially in Ceylon, which lays live maggots, instead of eggs that require some time to hatch. These are the most dreadful pests, as the lively young maggots exhibit a horrible activity in commencing their work the instant they see the light; they burrow almost immediately into the flesh, and grow to a large size within twenty-four hours, occasioning the most loathsome sores. The best cure for any wound thus attacked, and swarming with live maggots, is a teaspoonful of calomel applied and rubbed into the deep sore.
I have seen the Arabs in the Soudan adopt a most torturing remedy when a camel has suffered from a fly-blown sore back. Upon one occasion I saw a camel kneeling upon the ground with a number of men around it, and I found that it was to undergo a surgical operation for a terrible wound upon its hump. This was a hole as large and deep as an ordinary breakfast-cup, which was alive with maggots. The operator had been preparing a quantity of glowing charcoal, which was at a red heat. This was contained in a piece of broken chatty, a portion of a water jar, and it was dexterously emptied into the diseased cavity on the camel's back.
The poor creature sprang to its feet, and screaming with agony, dashed at full gallop across the desert in a frantic state, with the fire scorching its flesh, and doubtless making it uncomfortable for the maggots. Fire is the Arabs' vade mecum; the actual cautery is deeply respected, and is supposed to be infallible. If internal inflammation should attack the patient, the surface is scored with a red-hot iron. Should guinea-worm be suspected, there is no other course to pursue than to burn the suffering limb in a series of spots with a red-hot iron ramrod. The worm will shortly make its appearance at one of these apertures after some slight inflammation and suppuration. This fearful complaint is termed Frendeet in the Soudan, and it is absorbed into the system generally by drinking foul water. At the commencement of the rainy season, when the ground has been parched by the long drought of summer, the surface-water drains into the hollows and forms muddy pools. The natives shun such water, as it is almost certain to contain the eggs of the guinea-worm. These in some mysterious manner are hatched within the body if swallowed in the act of drinking, and whether they develop in the stomach or in the intestines, it is difficult to determine, but the result is the same. The patient complains of rheumatic pains in one limb; this increases until the leg or arm swells to a frightful extent, accompanied by severe inflammation and great torment. The Arab practitioner declares that the worm is at work, and is seeking for a means of escape from the body. He accordingly burns half a dozen holes with a red-hot iron or ramrod. In a few days the head of the guinea-worm appears; it is immediately captured by a finely-split reed, and by degrees is wound like a cotton thread by turning the reed every day. This requires delicate manipulation, otherwise the worm might break, and a portion remain in the flesh, which would increase the inflammation. An average guinea-worm would be about three feet in length. Animals do not appear to suffer from this complaint, although they are subject to the attacks of great varieties of parasites. Elephants are frequently troubled with internal worms. I witnessed a curious instance of the escape of such insects from the stomach through a hole caused by a bullet, nevertheless the animal appeared to be in good condition.
It was a fine moonlight night on the borders of Abyssinia that I sat up to watch the native crops, which were a great attraction to the wild elephants, although there was no heavy jungle nearer than 20 miles. It was the custom of these animals to start after sunset, and to arrive at about ten o'clock in the vast dhurra fields of the Arabs, who, being without fire-arms, could only scare them by shouts and flaming torches. The elephants did not care much for this kind of disturbance, and they merely changed their position from one portion of the cultivated land to another more distant, and caused serious destruction to the crop (Sorghum vulgare), which was then nearly ripe. The land was rich, and the dhurra grew 10 or 12 feet high, with stems as thick as sugar-cane, while the large heads of corn contained several thousand grains the size of a split-pea. This was most tempting food for elephants, and they travelled nightly the distance named to graze upon the crops, and then retreated before sunrise to their distant jungles.
I do not enjoy night shooting, but there was no other way of assisting the natives, therefore I found myself watching, in the silent hours of night, in the middle of a perfect sea of cultivation, unbroken for many miles. There is generally a calm during the night, and there was so perfect a stillness that it was almost painful, the chirp of an insect sounding as loud as though it were a bird. At length there was a distant sound like wind, or the rush of a stream over a rocky bed. This might have been a sudden gust, but the sharp crackling of brittle dhurra stems distinctly warned us that elephants had invaded the field, and that they were already at their work of destruction.
As the dhurra is sown in parallel rows about 3 feet apart, and the ground was perfectly flat, there was no difficulty in approaching the direction whence the cracking of the dhurra could be distinctly heard. The elephants appeared to be feeding towards us with considerable rapidity, and in a few minutes I heard the sound of crunching within 50 yards of me. I immediately ran along the clear passage between the tall stems, and presently saw a black form close to me as it advanced in the next alley to my own. I do not think I was more than 4 or 5 yards from it when it suddenly turned its head to the right, and I immediately took a shot behind the ear. I had a white paper sight upon the muzzle of the large rifle (No. 10), which was plainly distinguished in the bright moonlight, and the elephant fell stone dead without the slightest struggle.
After some delay from the dispersion of my men who carried spare guns, I re-loaded, and followed in the direction which the herd had taken.
Although upon the "qui vive," they had not retreated far, as they were unaccustomed to guns, and they were determined to enjoy their supper after the long march of 20 miles to the attractive dhurra fields. I came up with them about three-quarters of a mile from the first shot; here there was the limit of cultivation, and all was wild prairie land; they had retreated by the way they had arrived, with the intention, no doubt, of returning again to the dhurra when the disturbing cause should have disappeared. I could see the herd distinctly as they stood in a compact body numbering some ten or twelve animals. The only chance was to run straight at them in order to get as near as possible before they should start, as I expected they would, in panic. Accordingly I ran forward, when, to my surprise, two elephants rushed towards me, and I was obliged to fire right and left. One fell to the ground for a moment, but recovered; the other made no sign, except by whirling round and joining the herd in full retreat.
That night I used a double-barrel muzzle-loader (No. 10), with conical bullet made of 12 parts lead, 1 part quicksilver, 7 drams of powder.
Some days later we heard native reports concerning an elephant that had been seen badly wounded, and very lame.
Forty-two days after this incident I had moved camp to a place called Geera, 22 miles distant. It was a wild uninhabited district at that time on the banks of the Settite river, with the most impervious jungle of hooked thorns, called by the Arabs "kittul." This tree does not grow higher than twenty-five feet, but it spreads to a very wide flat-topped head, the branches are thick, the wood immensely strong and hard, while the thorns resemble fish-hooks minus the barb. This impenetrable asylum was the loved resort of elephants, and it was from this particular station that they made their nocturnal raids upon the cultivated district more than 20 miles distant in a direct line.
We slept out that night upon the sandy bed of a small stream, which at that season of great heat had evaporated. Upon waking on the following morning we found the blankets wet through with the heavy dew, and the pillows soaking. Having arranged the camp, I left Lady Baker to give the necessary orders, while I took my rifles and a few good men for a reconnaissance of the neighbourhood.
The river ran through cliffs of rose-coloured limestone; this soon changed to white; and we proceeded down stream examining the sandy portions of the bed for tracks of game that might have passed during the preceding night. After about a mile we came upon tracks of elephants, which had apparently come down to drink at our side of the river, and had then returned, I felt sure, to the thorny asylum named Tuleet.
There was no other course to pursue but to follow on the tracks; this we did until we arrived at the formidable covert to which I have alluded. It was impossible to enter this except at certain places where wild animals had formed a narrow lane, and in one of these by-ways we presently found ourselves, sometimes creeping, sometimes walking, but generally adhering firmly every minute to some irrepressible branch of hooked thorns, which gave us a pressing invitation to "wait a bit." In a short time we found evident signs that the elephants were near at hand. The natives thrust their naked feet into the fresh dung to see if it was still warm. This was at length the case, and we advanced with extra care. The jungle became so thick that it was almost impossible to proceed. I wore a thick flaxen shirt which would not tear. This had short sleeves, as I was accustomed to bare arms from a few inches above the elbow. Not only my shirt, but the tough skin of my arms was every now and then hooked up fast by these dreadful thorns, and at last it appeared impossible to proceed. Just at that moment there was a sudden rush, a shrill trumpet, and the jungle crashed around us in magnificent style to those who enjoy such excitement, and a herd of elephants dashed through the dense thicket and consolidated themselves into a mighty block as they endeavoured to force down the tough thorny mass ahead of them. This was a grand opportunity to run in, but a phalanx of opposing rumps like the sterns of Dutch vessels in a crowd rendered it impossible to shoot, or to pass ahead of the perplexed animals. A female elephant suddenly wheeled round, and charged straight into us; fortunately I killed her with a forehead shot exactly below the boss or projection above the trunk. I now took a spare rifle, the half-pounder, and fired into the flank of the largest elephant in the herd, just behind the last rib, the shot striking obliquely, thus aimed to reach the lungs, as I could not see any of the fore portion of the body.
The dense compressed thorny mass of jungle offered such resistance that it was some time before it gave way before the united pressure of these immense animals. At length it yielded as the herd crashed through, but it then closed again upon us and made following impossible. However, we felt sure that the elephant I had hit with the half-pound explosive shell would die, and after creeping through upon the tracks with the greatest difficulty for about 150 yards, we found it lying dead upon its side.
The whole morning was occupied in cutting up the flesh and making a post-mortem examination. We found the inside partially destroyed by the explosive shell, which had shattered the lungs, but there was an old wound still open where a bullet had entered the chest, and missing the heart and lungs in an oblique course, it had passed through the stomach, then through the cavity of the body beneath the ribs and flank, and had penetrated the fleshy mass inside the thigh. In that great resisting cushion of strong muscles the bullet had expended its force, and found rest from its extraordinary course of penetration. After some trouble, I not only traced its exact route, but I actually discovered the projectile embedded in a foul mass of green pus, which would evidently have been gradually absorbed without causing serious damage to the animal. To my surprise, it was my own No. 10 two-groove conical bullet, composed of twelve parts lead and one of quicksilver, which I had fired when this elephant had advanced towards me at night, forty-two days ago, and 22 miles, as far as I could ascertain, from the spot where I had now killed it. The superior size of this animal to the remainder of the herd had upon both occasions attracted my special attention, hence the fact of selection, but I was surprised that any animal should have recovered from such a raking shot. The cavity of the body abounded with hairy worms about 2 inches in length. These had escaped from the stomach through the two apertures made by the bullet; and upon an examination of the contents, I found a great number of the same parasites crawling among the food, while others were attached to the mucous membrane of the paunch. This fact exhibits the recuperative power of an elephant in recovering from a severe internal injury.
The natives of Central Africa have a peculiar method of destroying them, by dropping a species of enormous dagger from the branch of a tree. The blade of this instrument is about 2 feet in length, very sharp on both edges, and about 3 inches in width at the base. It is secured in a handle about 18 inches long, the top of which is knobbed; upon this extremity a mass of well-kneaded tenacious clay mixed with chopped straw is fixed, weighing 10 or 12 lbs., or even more. When a large herd of elephants is discovered in a convenient locality, the hunt is thus arranged:—A number of men armed with these formidable drop-spears or daggers ascend all the largest and most shady trees throughout the neighbouring forest. In a great hunt there may be some hundred trees thus occupied. When all is arranged, the elephants are driven and forced into the forest, to which they naturally retreat as a place of refuge. It is their habit to congregate beneath large shady trees when thus disturbed, in complete ignorance of the fact that the assassins are already among the branches. When an elephant stands beneath a tree thus manned, the hunter drops his weighted spearhead so as to strike the back just behind the shoulder. The weight of the clay lump drives the sharp blade up to the hilt, as it descends from a height of 10 or 12 feet above the animal. Sometimes a considerable number may be beneath one tree, in which case several may be speared in a similar manner. This method of attack is specially fatal, as the elephants, in retreating through the forest, brush the weighted handle of the spear-blade against the opposing branches; these act as levers in cutting the inside of the animal by every movement of the weapon, and should this be well centred in the back there is no escape.
There is no animal that is more persistently pursued than the elephant, as it affords food in wholesale supply to the Africans, who consume the flesh, while the hide is valuable for shields; the fat when boiled down is highly esteemed by the natives, and the ivory is of extreme value. No portion of the animal is wasted in Africa, although in Ceylon the elephant is considered worthless, and is allowed to rot uselessly upon the ground where it fell to die.
The professional hunters that are employed by European traders shoot the elephant with enormous guns, or rifles, which are generally rested upon a forked stick driven into the ground. In this manner they approach to about 50 yards' distance, and fire, if possible simultaneously, two shots behind the shoulder. If these shots are well placed, the elephant, if female, will fall at once, but if a large male, it will generally run for perhaps 100 or more yards until it is forced to halt, when it quickly falls, and dies from suffocation, if the lungs are pierced.
The grandest of all hunters are the Hamran Arabs, upon the Settite river, on the borders of Abyssinia, who have no other weapon but the heavy two-edged sword. I gave an intimate account of these wonderful Nimrods many years ago in the Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, but it is impossible to treat upon the elephant without some reference to these extraordinary people.
Since I visited that country in 1861, the published account of those travels attracted several parties of the best class of ubiquitous Englishmen, and I regret to hear that all those mighty hunters who accompanied me have since been killed in the desperate hand-to-hand encounters with wild elephants. Their life is a constant warfare with savage beasts, therefore it may be expected that the termination is a death upon their field of battle, invariably sword in hand.
James Bruce, the renowned African traveller of the last century, was the first to describe the Agagheers of Abyssinia, and nothing could be more graphic than his description both of the people and the countries they inhabit, through which I have followed in Bruce's almost forgotten footsteps, with the advantage of possessing his interesting book as my guide wheresoever I went in 1861. Since that journey, the deplorable interference of England in Egypt which resulted in the abandonment of the Soudan and the sacrifice of General Gordon at Khartoum has completely severed the link of communication that we had happily established established, which had laid the foundations for future civilisation. The splendid sword-hunters of the Hamran Arabs, who were our friends in former days, have been converted into enemies by the meddling of the British Government with affairs which they could not understand. It is painful to look back to the past, when Lady Baker and myself, absolutely devoid of all escort, passed more than twelve months in exploring the wildest portions of the Soudan, attended only by one Egyptian servant, assisted by some Arab boys which we picked up in the desert among the Arab tribes. In those days the name of England was respected, although not fairly understood. There was a vague impression in the Arab mind that it was the largest country upon earth; that its Government was the emblem of perfection; that the military power of the country was overwhelming (having conquered India); and that the English people always spoke the truth, and never forsook their friends in the moment of distress. There was also an idea that England was the only European Power which regarded the Mussulmans with a friendly eye, and that, were it not for British protection, the Russians would eat the Sultan and overthrow the mosques, to trample upon the Mahommedan power in Constantinople. England was therefore regarded as the friend and the ally of the Mahommedans; it was known that we had together fought against the Russians, and it was believed that we were always ready to fight in the same cause when called upon by the Sultan. All British merchandise was looked upon as the ne plus ultra of purity and integrity; there could be no doubt of the quality of goods, provided that they were of English manufacture.
An Englishman cannot show his face among those people at the present day. The myth has been exploded. The golden image has been scratched, and the potter's clay beneath has been revealed. This is a terrible result of clumsy management. We have failed in every way. Broken faith has dissipated our character for sincerity, and our military operations have failed to attain their object, resulting in retreat upon every side, to be followed up even to the seashores of the Red Sea by an enemy that is within range of our gun-vessels at Souakim. This is a distressing change to those who have received much kindness and passed most agreeable days among the Arab tribes of the Soudan deserts, and I look back with intense regret to the errors we have committed, by which the entire confidence has been destroyed which formerly was associated with the English name. The countries which we opened by many years of hard work and patient toil throughout the Soudan, even through the extreme course of the White Nile to its birthplace in the equatorial regions, have been abandoned by the despotic order of the British Government, influenced by panic instead of policy; telegraphic lines which had been established in the hitherto barbarous countries of Kordofan, Darfur, the Blue Nile territories of Senaar, and throughout the wildest deserts of Nubia to Khartoum have all been abandoned to the rebels, who under proper management should have become England's friends.
This has been our civilising influence (?), by which we have broken down the work of half a century, and produced the most complete anarchy where five-and-twenty years ago a lady could travel in security. England entered Egypt in arms to re-establish the authority of the Khedive! We have dislocated his Empire, and forsaken the Soudan.
The experience of modern practice has hardly decided the vexed question "whether the African species is more difficult to train than the gentle elephant of Asia." In a wild state there can be no doubt that the African is altogether a different animal both in appearance and in habits; it is vastly superior in size, and although of enormous bulk, it is more active and possesses greater speed than the Asiatic variety. Not only is the marked difference in shape a distinguishing peculiarity,—the hollow back, the receding front, the great size of the ears,—but the skin is rougher, and more decided in the bark-like appearance of its texture.
The period of gestation is considered to be the same as the Asiatic elephant, about twenty-two months, but this must be merely conjecture, as there has hitherto been no actual proof. My own experience induces me to believe that the African elephant is more savage, and although it may be tamed and rendered docile, it is not so dependable as the Asiatic. Only last year I saw an African female in a menagerie who had killed her keeper, and was known to be most treacherous. Her attendant informed me that she was particularly fond of change, and would welcome a new keeper with evident signs of satisfaction, but after three or four days she would tire of his society and would assuredly attempt to injure him, either by backing and squeezing him against the wall, or by kicking should he be within reach of her hind legs.
Few persons are aware of the extreme quickness with which an elephant can kick, and the great height that can be reached by this mischievous use of the hind foot. I have frequently seen an elephant kick as sharp as a small pony, and the effect of a blow from so ponderous a mass propelled with extreme velocity may be imagined. This is a peculiar action, as the elephant is devoid of hocks, and it uses the knees of the hind legs in a similar manner to those of a human being, therefore a backward kick would seem unnatural; but the elephant can kick both backwards and forwards with equal dexterity, and this constitutes a special means of defence against an enemy, which seldom escapes when exposed to such a game between the fore and hind feet of the infuriated animal.
Although it is generally believed that an elephant moves the legs upon each side simultaneously, like the camel, it does not actually touch the ground with each foot upon the same side at exactly the same moment, but the fore foot touches the surface first, rapidly followed by the hind, and in both cases the heel is the first portion of the foot that reaches its destination. The effect may be seen in the feet of an elephant after some months' continual marching upon hard ground: the heels are worn thin and are quite polished, as though they had been worn down by the friction of sand-paper,-in fact, they are in the same condition as the heels of an old boot.
The Indian native princes do not admire the African elephant, as it combines many points which are objectionable to their peculiar ideas of elephantine proportions. According to their views, the hollow back of an African elephant would amount to a deformity. The first time that I ever saw a large male of that variety I was of the same opinion. I was hunting with the Hamran Arabs in a wild and uninhabited portion of Abyssinia, along the banks of the Settite river, which is the main stream of the Atbara, the chief affluent of the Nile.
As before stated, I have already published an account of these wonderful hunters in the Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia, and it is sufficient to describe them as the most fearless and active followers of the chase, armed with no other weapon than the long, straight, two-edged Arab sword, with which they attack all animals, from the elephant and rhinoceros to the lion and buffalo. The sword is sharpened to the finest degree, and the blade is protected for about six inches above the cross-hilt with thick string, bound tightly round so as to afford a grip for the right hand, while the left grips the hilt in the usual manner. This converts the ordinary blade into a two-handed sword, a blow from which will sever a naked man into two halves if delivered at the waist. It may be imagined that a quick cut from such a formidable weapon will at once divide the hamstring of any animal. The usual method of attacking the elephant is as follows:-Three, or at the most four mounted hunters sally forth in quest of game. When the fresh tracks of elephants are discovered they are steadily followed up until the herd, or perhaps the single animal, is found. If a large male with valuable tusks, it is singled out and separated from the herd. The leading hunter follows the retreating elephant, accompanied by his companions in single file. After a close hunt, keeping within 10 yards of the game, a sudden halt becomes necessary, as the elephant turns quickly round and faces its pursuers.