The greatest coolness is required, as the animal, now thoroughly roused, is prepared to charge. The hunters separate to right and left, leaving the leader to face the elephant. After a few moments, during which the hunter insults the animal by shouting uncomplimentary remarks concerning the antecedents of its mother, and various personal allusions to imaginary members of the family, the elephant commences to back a half-dozen paces as a preliminary to a desperate onset. This is the well-known sign of the coming charge. A sharp shrill trumpet! and, with its enormous ears thrown forward, the great bull elephant rushes towards the apparently doomed horse. As quick as lightning the horse is turned, and a race commences along a course terribly in favour of the elephant, where deep ruts, thick tangled bush, and the branches of opposing trees obstruct both horse and rider. Everything now depends upon the sure-footedness of the horse and the cool dexterity of the rider. For the first 100 yards an elephant will follow at 20 miles an hour, which keeps the horse flying at top speed before it. The rider, even in this moment of great danger, looks behind him, and adapts his horse's pace so narrowly to that of his pursuer that the elephant's attention is wholly absorbed by the hope of overtaking the unhappy victim.
In the meantime, two hunters follow the elephant at full gallop; one seizes his companion's reins and secures the horse, while the rider springs to the ground with the same agility as a trained circus-rider, and with one dexterous blow of his flashing sword he divides the back sinew of the elephant's hind leg about 16 inches above the heel. The sword cuts to the bone. The elephant that was thundering forward at a headlong speed suddenly halts; the foot dislocates when the great weight of the animal presses upon it deprived of the supporting sinew. That one cut of the sharp blade, disables an animal which appeared invincible.
As the elephant moves both legs upon the same side simultaneously, the disabling of one leg entirely cripples all progress, and the creature becomes absolutely helpless. The hunter, having delivered his fatal stroke, springs nimbly upon one side to watch the effect, and then without difficulty he slashes the back sinew of the remaining leg, with the result that the animal bleeds to death. This is a cruel method, but it requires the utmost dexterity and daring on the part of the hunters, most of whom eventually fall victims to their gallantry.
I was accompanied by these splendid sword-hunters of the Hamran Arabs in 1861 during my exploration of the Nile tributaries of Abyssinia; and upon the first occasion that I was introduced to an African male elephant, the animal was standing at the point of a long sandbank which had during high water formed the bed of the river, where a sudden bend had hollowed out the inner side of the curve and thrown up a vast mass of sand upon the opposite shore. This bank was a succession of terraces, each about 4 feet high, formed at intervals during the changes in the level of the retreating stream. The elephant was standing partly in the water drinking, and quite 100 yards from the forest upon the bank. The huge dark mass upon the glaring surface of white sand stood out in bold relief and exhibited to perfection the form and proportions of the animal; but it was so unlike the Indian elephant of my long experience that I imagined some accident must have caused a deformity of the back, which was deeply hollowed, instead of being convex like the Asiatic species. I whispered this to my hunters, who did not seem to understand the remark; and they immediately dismounted, exclaiming that the loose sand was too deep for their horses, and they preferred to be on foot.
It was difficult to approach this elephant, as there was no cover whatever upon the large area of barren sand; the only method was to keep close to the level of the water below the terraces, as the head of the animal was partially turned away from us whilst drinking. I had a very ponderous single rifle weighing 22 lbs., which carried a conical shell of half a pound, with a charge of 16 drams of powder. The sand was so deep that any active movement would have been impossible with the load of so heavy a weapon; I therefore determined to take a shoulder shot should I be able to arrive unperceived within 50 yards. Stooping as low as possible, and occasionally lying down as the ever-swinging head moved towards us, we at length arrived at the spot which I had determined upon for the fatal shot. Just at that moment the elephant perceived us, but before he had made up his mind, I fired behind the shoulder, and as the smoke cleared, I distinctly saw the bullet-hole, with blood flowing from the wound. I think the elephant would have charged, but without a moment's hesitation my gallant Hamrans rushed towards him sword in hand in the hope of slashing his hamstring before he could reach the forest. This unexpected and determined onset decided the elephant to retreat, which he accomplished at such a pace, owing to the large surface of his feet upon the loose sand, that the active hunters were completely distanced, although they exerted themselves to the utmost in their attempts to overtake him.
The wound through the shoulder was fatal, and the elephant fell dead in thick thorny jungle, to which it had hurried as a secure retreat. This was a very large animal, but as I did not actually measure it, any guess at the real height would be misleading. As before noted, the measurement of the African elephant Jumbo, when sold by the Zoological Society of London, was 11 feet in height of shoulder, and 6 tons 10 cwts. nett when weighed before shipment at the docks. That animal might be accepted as a fair specimen, although it would be by no means unusual to see wild elephants which greatly exceed this size.
The peculiar shape of head renders a front shot almost impossible, and the danger of hunting the African elephant is greatly enhanced by this formation of the skull, which protects the brain and offers no defined point for aim.
I have never succeeded in killing a male African elephant by the forehead shot, although it is certainly fatal to the Asiatic variety if placed rather low, in the exact centre of the boss or projection above the trunk. Should an African elephant charge, there is no hope of killing the animal by a direct shot, and the only chance of safety for the hunter is the possession of good nerves and a powerful double-barrelled rifle, No. 8 or No. 4, with 14 drams of powder and a well-hardened bullet. The right-hand barrel will generally stop a charging elephant if the bullet is well placed very low, almost in the base of the trunk. Should this shot succeed in turning the animal, the left-hand barrel would be ready for a shot in the exact centre of the shoulder; after which, time must be allowed for the elephant to fall from internal haemorrhage.
There is no more fatal policy in hunting dangerous game than a contempt of the animal, exhibited by a selection of weapons of inferior calibre. Gunmakers in London of no practical experience, but who can only trust to the descriptions of those who have travelled in wild countries, cannot possibly be trusted as advisers. Common sense should be the guide, and surely it requires no extraordinary intelligence to understand that a big animal requires a big bullet, and that a big bullet requires a corresponding charge of powder, which necessitates a heavy rifle. If the hunter is not a Hercules, he cannot wield his club; but do not permit him to imagine that he can deliver the same knock-down blow with a lighter weapon, simply because he cannot use the heavier.
We lost only last year one of the most daring and excellent men, who was an excellent representative of the type which is embraced in the proud word "Englishman"—Mr. Ingram—who was killed by a wild female elephant in Somali-land, simply because he attacked the animal with a '450 rifle. Although he was mounted, the horse would not face some prickly aloes which surrounded it, and the elephant, badly but not really seriously wounded, was maddened by the attack, and, charging home, swept the unfortunate rider from his saddle and spitted him with her tusks.
This year (1889) we have to lament the death of another fine specimen of our countrymen, the Hon. Guy Dawnay, who has been killed by a wild buffalo in East Africa. The exact particulars will never be ascertained, but it appears that he was following through thick jungle a wounded buffalo, which suddenly turned and was not stopped by the rifle.
I cannot conceive anything more dangerous than the attack of such animals with an inferior weapon. Nothing is more common than the accounts of partially experienced beginners, who declare that the '450 bore is big enough for anything, because they have happened to kill a buffalo or rhinoceros by a shoulder shot with such an inferior rifle. If the animal had been facing them, it would have produced no effect whatever, except to intensify the charge by maddening the already infuriated animal.
This is the real danger in the possession of what is called a " handy small-bore," when in wild countries abounding in dangerous game. You are almost certain to select for your daily companion the lightest and handiest rifle, in the same manner that you may use some favourite walking-stick which you instinctively select from the stand that is filled with a variety.
All hunters of dangerous animals should accustom themselves to the use of large rifles, and never handle anything smaller than a '577, weighing 12 lbs., with a solid 650 grain hard bullet, and at the least 6 drams of powder. I impress this upon all who challenge the dangers of the chase in tropical climates. No person of average strength will feel the weight of a 12 lb. rifle when accustomed to its use. Although this is too small as a rule for heavy game, it is a powerful weapon when the bullet is hardened by a tough mixture of antimony or quicksilver. A shoulder shot from such a rifle will kill any animal less than an elephant, and the front shot, or temple, or behind the ear, will kill any Asiatic elephant.
I would not recommend so small a bore for heavy thick-skinned game, but the '577 rifle is a good protector, and you need not fear any animal in your rambles through the forest when thus armed, whereas the '450 and even the '500 would be of little use against a charging buffalo.
At the same time it must be distinctly understood that so light a projectile as 650 grains will not break the bone of an elephant's leg, neither will it penetrate the skull of a rhinoceros unless just behind the ear. This is sufficient to establish the inferiority of small-bores.
I have seen in a life's experience the extraordinary vagaries of rifle bullets, and for close ranges of 20 yards there is nothing, in my opinion, superior to the old spherical hardened bullet with a heavy charge of powder. The friction is minimised, the velocity is accordingly increased, and the hard round bullet neither deflects nor alters its form, but it cuts through intervening branches and goes direct to its aim, breaking bones and keeping a straight course through the animal. This means death.
At the same time it must be remembered that a '577 rifle may be enabled to perform wonders by adapting the material of the bullet to the purpose specially desired. No soft-skinned animal should be shot with a hardened bullet, and no hard-skinned animal should be shot with a soft bullet.
You naturally wish to kill your animal neatly—to double it up upon the spot. This you will seldom or never accomplish with a very hard bullet and a heavy charge of powder, as the high velocity will drive the hard projectile so immediately through the animal that it receives no striking energy, and is accordingly unaware of a fatal wound that it may have received, simply because it has not sustained a shock upon the impact of a bullet which has passed completely through its body.
To kill a thin-skinned animal neatly, such as a tiger, lion, large deer, etc. etc., the bullet should be pure lead, unmixed with any other metal. This will flatten to a certain degree immediately upon impact, and it will continue to expand as it meets with resistance in passing through the tough muscles of a large animal, until it assumes the shape of a fully developed mushroom, which, after an immense amount of damage in its transit, owing to its large diameter, will remain fixed beneath the skin upon the side opposite to its place of entry. This bestows the entire striking energy of the projectile, and the animal succumbs to the tremendous shock, which it would not have felt had the bullet passed through, carrying on its striking energy until stopped by some other object beyond.
I must repeat that although gunmakers object to the use of pure lead for rifle bullets, upon the plea that lead will form a coating upon the inner surface of the barrel, and that more accurate results will be obtained in target practice by the use of hardened metal, the argument does not apply to sporting practice. You seldom fire more than half a dozen shots from each barrel during the day, and the rifle is well cleaned each evening upon your return to camp. The accuracy with a pure leaden bullet is quite sufficient for the comparatively short ranges necessitated by game-shooting. The arguments of leading the barrel, etc., cannot be supported, and the result is decidedly in favour of pure lead for all soft-skinned animals.
The elephant requires not only a special rifle, but the strongest ammunition that can be used without injury to the shooter by recoil. It is impossible to advocate any particular size of rifle, as it must depend upon the strength of the possessor. As a rule I do not approve of shells, as they are comparatively useless if of medium calibre, and can be only effective when sufficiently large to contain a destructive bursting charge. I have tried several varieties of shells with unsatisfactory results, excepting the half-pounder, which contained a burst bursting charge of 8 drams of the finest grained powder.
This pattern was my own invention, as I found by experience that the general defect of shells was the too immediate explosion upon impact. This would cause extensive damage to the surface, but would fail in penetration.
Picrate of potash was at one time supposed to combine an enormous explosive power with perfect safety in carriage, as the detonating shells were proof against the blow of a hammer, and would only explode upon impact through the extreme velocity of their discharge from a rifle-barrel. These were useless against an elephant, as they had no power of penetration, and the shell destroyed itself by bursting upon the hard skin. I tried these shells against trees, but although the bark would be shattered over an extensive area, upon every occasion the projectile failed to penetrate the wood, as it had ceased to exist upon explosion on the surface.
My half-pound shell was exceedingly simple. A cast-iron bottle, similar in shape to a German seltzer-water, formed the core, around which the lead was cast. The neck of the iron bottle projected through the pointed cone of the projectile, and formed a nipple to receive the percussion-cap. In external appearance the shell was lead, the iron bottle being concealed within. Half an ounce of the finest grained powder was inserted through the nipple by means of a small funnel; this formed the bursting charge. The cap was only adjusted previous to loading, as a necessary precaution. This half-pound shell was propelled by a charge of 16 drams of coarse-grained powder.
I never fired this rifle without killing the animal, but the weapon could not be claimed as a pleasant companion, the recoil being terrific. The arrangement of the cap upon a broad-mouthed nipple prevented the instantaneous explosion that would have taken place with a picrate of potash shell. A fraction of a second was required to explode the cap upon impact, and for the cap to ignite the bursting charge; this allowed sufficient time for the shell to penetrate to the centre of an elephant before the complete ignition had taken place. The destruction occasioned by the half-ounce of powder confined within the body of an elephant may be imagined.
I tried this shell at the forehead of a hippopotamus, which was an admirable test of penetration before bursting. It went through the brain, knocked out the back of the skull, and exploded within the neck, completely destroying the vertebrae of the spine, which were reduced to pulp, and perforating a tunnel blackened with gunpowder several feet in length, along which I could pass my arm to the shoulder. The terminus of the tunnel contained small fragments of lead and iron, pieces of which were found throughout the course of the explosion.
The improvements in modern rifles will, within the next half-century, be utterly destructive to the African elephant, which is unprotected by laws in the absence of all government. For many ages these animals have contended with savage man in unremitting warfare, but the lance and arrow have been powerless to exterminate, and the natural sagacity of the elephant has been sufficient to preserve it from wholesale slaughter among pitfalls and other snares. The heavy breechloading rifle in the hands of experienced hunters is a weapon which nothing can withstand, and the elephants will be driven far away into the wilderness of an interior where they will be secure from the improved fire-arms of our modern civilisation.
It is much to be regretted that no system has been organised in Africa for capturing and training the wild elephants, instead of harrying them to destruction. In a country where beasts of burden are unknown, as in equatorial Africa, it appears incredible that the power and the intelligence of the elephant have been completely ignored. The ancient coins of Carthage exhibit the African elephant, which in those remote days was utilised by the Carthaginians; but a native of Africa, if of the Negro type, will never tame an animal, he only destroys.
When we consider the peculiar power that an elephant possesses for swimming long distances, and for supporting long marches under an enormous weight, we are tempted to condemn the apathy even of European settlers in Africa, who have hitherto ignored the capabilities of this useful creature. The chief difficulty of African commerce is the lack of transport. The elephant is admirably adapted by his natural habits for travelling through a wild country devoid of roads. He can wade through unbridged streams, or swim the deepest rivers (without a load), and he is equally at home either on land or water. His carrying power for continued service would be from 12 to 14 cwts.; thus a single elephant would convey about 1300 lbs. of ivory in addition to the weight of the pad. The value of one load would be about 5oo pounds. At the present moment such an amount of ivory would employ twenty-six carriers; but as these are generally slaves which can be sold at the termination of the journey, they might be more profitable than the legitimate transport by an elephant.
Although the male elephant will carry a far greater load than the female, through its superior size and strength, it would be dangerous to manage upon a long journey should it take place during the period, of "must." I have heard the suggestion that an elephant should be castrated, as the operation would affect the temper of the animal and relieve it from the irritation of the "must" period; but such an operation would be impossible, as the elephant is peculiarly formed, and, unlike other animals, it has neither scrotum nor testicles externally. These are situated within the body, and could not be reached by surgery.
It is well known that the entire males of many domestic animals are naturally savage. The horse, bull, boar, and the park-fed stag are all uncertain in their tempers and may be pronounced unsafe; but the male elephant, although dangerous to a stranger and treacherous to his attendants, combines an extraordinary degree of cowardice with his natural ferocity. A few months ago I witnessed a curious example of this combination in the elephant's character. A magnificent specimen had been lent to me by the Commissariat Department at Jubbulpur; this was a high caste bull elephant named Bisgaum that was well known as bad-tempered, but was supposed to be courageous. He had somewhat tarnished his reputation during the last season by turning tail upon a tiger that rushed out of dense bush and killed a coolie within a few yards of his trunk; but this momentary panic was excused, and the blame was thrown upon the mahout. The man was dismissed, and a first-rate Punjaubi driver was appointed in his stead. This man assured me that the elephant was dependable; I accordingly accepted him, and he was ordered to carry the howdah throughout the expedition.
In a very short experience we discovered the necessity of giving Bisgaum a wide berth, as he would fling out his trunk with extreme quickness to strike a person within his reach, and he would kick out sharply with his hind leg whenever a native ventured to approach his rear. He took a fancy to me, as I fed him daily with sugar-canes, jaggery, and native chupatties (cakes), which quickly established an understanding between us; but I always took the precaution of standing by his side instead of in his front, and of resting my left hand upon his tusk while I fed him with the right. Every morning at daylight he was brought to the tent with Demoiselle (the female elephant), and they both received from my own hands the choice bits which gained their confidence.
My suspicions were first aroused by his peculiar behaviour upon an occasion when we had killed two tigers; these were young animals, and although large, there was no difficulty in arranging them upon the pad, upon which they were secured by ropes, when the elephant kneeling down was carefully loaded. Hardly had Bisgaum risen to his feet, when, conscious of the character of the animals upon his back, and, I suppose, not quite certain that life was actually extinct, he trumpeted a shrill scream, and shook his immense carcase like a wet dog that has just landed from the water. This effect was so violent that one tiger was thrown some yards to the right, while the other fell to the ground on the left, and without a moment's warning, the elephant charged the lifeless body, sent it flying by a kick with his fore foot, and immediately proceeded to dance a war-dance, kicking with his hind legs to so great a height that he could have reached a tall man's hat. A vigorous application of the driving-hook by the mahout, who was a powerful man, at length changed the scene, and the elephant at once desisted from his attack upon the dead tiger, and rushed madly upon one side, where he stood nervously looking at the enemy as though he expected it would show signs of life.
This did not look promising for an encounter with a live tiger, as it would have been absolutely impossible to shoot from that elephant's back.
A short time after this occurrence, when upon my usual reconnaissance through the jungles in the neighbourhood of the camp, I came upon the fresh tracks of a large tiger close to the banks of the Bearmi river, and I gave the necessary instructions that a buffalo should be tied up as a bait that same evening.
Early on the following morning the news was brought by the shikaris that the buffalo had been killed, and dragged into a neighbouring ravine. As the river was close by, there could be no doubt that the tiger would have drunk water after feasting on the carcase, and would be lying asleep somewhere in the immediate neighbourhood.
The mucharns (platforms in trees) had already been prepared in positions where the tiger was expected to pass when driven, as he would make for the forest-covered hills which rose within half a mile of the river.
The spot was within twenty minutes of the camp; the elephants were both ready, with simple pads, as the howdah was ill-adapted for a forest; and we quickly started.
Three mucharns had been prepared; these were about 100 yards apart in a direct line which guarded a narrow glade between the jungle upon the river's bank and the main body of the forest at the foot of a range of red-sandstone hills; these were covered to the summit with trees already leafless from the drought.
The mucharn which fell to my share was that upon the right flank when facing the beat; this was in the open glade opposite a projecting corner of the jungle. On the left, about 70 yards distant, was a narrow strip of bush connected with the jungle, about 4 yards wide, which terminated in a copse about 30 yards in diameter; beyond this was open glade for about 40 yards width until it bounded the main forest at the foot of the hill-range.
We took our places, and I was assured by the shikaris that the tiger would probably break covert exactly in my front.
It is most uncomfortable for a European to remain squatted in a mucharn for any length of time; the limbs become stiffened, and the cramped position renders good shooting anything but certain. I have a simple wooden turnstool, which enables me to shoot in any required direction; this is most comfortable.
I had adjusted my stool upon a thick mat to prevent it from slipping, and having settled myself firmly, I began to examine the position to form an opinion concerning the most likely spot for the tiger to emerge from the jungle.
The beat had commenced, and the shouts and yells, of a long line of 150 men were gradually becoming more distinct. Several peacocks ran across the open glade: these birds are always the forerunners of other animals, as they are the first to retreat.
Presently I heard a rustle in the jungle, and I observed the legs of a sambur deer, which, having neared the edge, now halted to listen to the beaters before venturing to break from the dense covert. The beaters drew nearer, and a large doe sambur, instead of rushing quickly forward, walked slowly into the open, and stood within 10 yards of me upon the glade. She waited there for several minutes, and then, as if some suspicion had suddenly crossed her mind, gave two or three convulsive bounds and dashed back to the same covert from which she had approached.
It struck me that the sambur had got the wind of an enemy, otherwise she would not have rushed back in such sudden haste; she could not have scented me, as I was 10 or 12 feet above the ground, and the breeze was aslant . . . . Then, if a tiger were in the jungle, why should she dash back into the same covert ?
I was reflecting upon these subjects, and looking out sharp towards my left and front, when I gently turned upon my stool to the right; there was the tiger himself! who had already broken from the jungle about 75 yards from my position. He was slowly jogging along as though just disturbed (possibly by the sambur), keeping close to the narrow belt of bushes already described. There was a foot-path from the open glade which pierced the belt; I therefore waited until he should cross this favourable spot. I fired with the '577 rifle just as he was passing across the dusty track. I saw the dust fly from the ground upon the other side as the hardened bullet passed like lightning through his flank, but I felt that I was a little too far behind his shoulder, as his response to the shot was a bound at full gallop forwards into the small clump of jungle that projected into the grassy open. My turnstool was handy, and I quickly turned to the right, waiting with the left-hand barrel ready for his reappearance upon the grass-land in the interval between the main jungle and the narrow patch. There was no time to lose, for the tiger appeared in a few seconds, dashing out of the jungle, and flying over the open at tremendous speed. This was about 110 yards distant; aiming about 18 inches in his front, I fired. A short but spasmodic roar and a sudden convulsive twist of his body showed plainly that he was well hit, but with unabated speed he gained the main forest which was not more than 40 yards distant. If that had been a soft leaden bullet he would have rolled over to the shot, but I had seen the dust start from the ground when I fired, and I knew that the hard bullet had passed through without delivering the shock required.
The beaters and shikaris now arrived, and having explained the incident, we examined the ground for tracks, and quickly found the claw-marks which were deeply indented in the parched surface of fine sward. We followed these tracks cautiously into the jungle. Our party consisted of Colonel Lugard, the Hon. D. Leigh, myself, and two experienced shikaris. Tiger-shooting is always an engrossing sport, but the lively excitement is increased when you follow a wounded tiger upon foot. We now slowly advanced upon the track, which faintly showed the sharp claws where the tiger had alighted in every bound. The jungle was fairly open, as the surface was stony, and the trees for want of moisture in a rocky soil had lost their leaves; we could thus see a considerable distance upon all sides. In this manner we advanced about 100 yards without finding a trace of blood, and I could see that some of my people doubted the fact of the tiger being wounded. I felt certain that he was mortally hit, and I explained to my men that the hard bullet would make so clean a hole through his body that he would not bleed externally until his inside should be nearly full of blood. Suddenly a man cried "koon" (blood), and he held up a large dried leaf of the teak-tree upon which was a considerable red splash: almost immediately after this we not only came upon a continuous line of blood, but we halted at a place where the animal had lain down; this was a pool of blood, proving that the tiger would not be far distant.
I now sent for the elephants, as I would not permit the shikaris to advance farther upon foot. The big tusker Bisgaum arrived, and giving my Paradox gun to my trustworthy shikari Kerim Bux, he mounted the pad of that excitable beast to carry out my orders, "to follow the blood until he should find the tiger, after which he was to return to us." We were now on the top of a small hill within an extensive forest range, and directly in front the ground suddenly dipped, forming a V-shaped dell, which in the wet season was the bed of a considerable torrent. It struck me that if the tiger were still alive he would steal away along the bottom of the rocky watercourse; therefore, before the elephant should advance, and perhaps disturb him, we should take up a position on the right to protect the nullah or torrent-bed; this plan was accordingly carried out.
We had not been long in our respective positions when a shot from the direction taken by the elephant, followed instantly by a short roar, proved that the tiger had been discovered, and that he was still alive. My female elephant Demoiselle, upon hearing the sound, trembled beneath me with intense excitement, while the other female would have bolted had she not been sharply reminded by the heavy driving-hook. Several shots were now fired in succession, and after vainly endeavouring to discover the whereabouts of the tiger, I sent Demoiselle to obtain the news while we kept guard over the ravine. No tiger having appeared, I stationed natives in trees to watch the nullah while we ascended the hill on foot, directing our course through the forest to the place from whence the shots had been fired. We had hardly advanced 80 yards before we found both the elephants on the top of the steep shoulder of the hill, where several of our men were upon the boughs of surrounding trees. Bisgaum was in a state of wild excitement, and Kerim Bux explained that it was impossible to shoot from his back, as he could not be kept quiet. Where was the tiger? That was the question. "Close to us, Sahib!" was the reply; but on foot we could see nothing, owing to high withered grass and bush. I clambered upon the back of the refractory Bisgaum, momentarily expecting him to bolt away like a locomotive engine, and from that elevated position I was supposed to see the tiger, which was lying in the bottom of the ravine about 100 yards distant. There were so many small bushes and tufts of yellow grass that I could not distinguish the form for some minutes; at length my eyes caught the object. I had been looking for orange and black stripes, therefore I had not noticed black and white, the belly being uppermost, as the animal was lying upon its back, evidently dying.
The side of the rocky hill was so steep and slippery that the elephants could not descend; I therefore changed my steed and mounted Demoiselle, from the back of which I fired several shots at the tiger until life appeared to be extinct. The ground was so unfavourable that I would not permit any native to approach near enough to prove that the animal was quite dead. I therefore instructed Bisgaum's mahout to make a detour to the right until he could descend with his elephant into the flat bottom of the watercourse, he was then to advance cautiously until near enough to see whether the tiger breathed. At the same time I rode Demoiselle carefully as near as we could safely descend among the rocks to a distance of about 40 yards; it was so steep that the elephant was impossible to turn. From this point of vantage I soon perceived Bisgaum's bulky form advancing up the dry torrent-bed. The rocks were a perfectly flat red sandstone, which in many places resembled artificial pavement; this was throughout the district a peculiar geological feature, the surface of the stone being covered with ripple-marks, and upon this easy path Bisgaum now approached the body of the tiger, which lay apparently dead exactly in his front.
Suddenly the elephant halted when about 15 yards from the object, which had never moved. I have seen wild savages frenzied by the exciting war-dance, but I never witnessed such an instance of hysterical fury as that exhibited by Bisgaum. It is impossible to describe the elephantine antics of this frantic animal; he kicked right and left with his hind legs alternately, with the rapidity of a horse; trumpeting and screaming, he threw his trunk in the air, twisting it about, and shaking his immense head, until, having lashed himself into sufficient rage, he made a desperate charge at the supposed defunct enemy, with the intention of treating the body in a similar manner to that a few days previous. But the tiger was not quite dead and although he could not move to get away, he seized with teeth and claws the hind leg of the maddened elephant, who had clumsily overrun him in the high excitement, instead of kicking the body with a fore foot as he advanced.
The scene was now most interesting. We were close spectators looking down upon the exhibition as though upon an arena. I never saw such fury in an elephant; the air was full of stones and dust, as he kicked with such force that the tiger for the moment was lost to view in the tremendous struggle, and being kicked away from his hold, with one of his long fangs broken short off to the gum, he lay helpless before his huge antagonist, who, turning quickly round, drove his long tusks between the tiger's shoulders, and crushed the last spark of life from his tenacious adversary.
This was a grand scene, and I began to think there was some real pluck in Bisgaum after all, although there was a total want of discipline; but just as I felt inclined to applaud, the victorious elephant was seized with a sudden panic, and turning tail, he rushed along the bottom of the watercourse at the rate of 20 miles an hour, and disappeared in the thorny jungle below at a desperate pace that threatened immediate destruction to his staunch mahout. Leaving my men to arrange a litter with poles and cross-bars to carry the tiger home, I followed the course of Bisgaum upon Demoiselle, expecting every minute to see the body of his mahout stretched upon the ground.
At length, after about half a mile passed in anxiety, we discovered Bisgaum and his mahout both safe upon an open plain; the latter torn and bleeding from countless scratches while rushing through the thorny jungle.
On the following day the elephant's leg was much swollen, although the wounds appeared to be very slight. It is probable that a portion of the broken tooth remained in the flesh, as the leg festered, and became so bad that the elephant could not travel for nearly a fortnight afterwards. The mahouts are very obstinate, and insist upon native medicines, their famous lotion being a decoction of Mhowa blossoms, which in my opinion aggravated the inflammation of the wound.
I returned Bisgaum to the Commissariat stables at Jubbulpur directly that he could march, as he was too uncontrollable for sporting purposes. Had any person been upon his back during his stampede he would have been swept off by the branches and killed; the mahout, sitting low upon his neck, could accommodate his body to avoid the boughs.
The use of the elephant in India is so closely associated with tiger-shooting that I shall commence the next chapter with the tiger.
THERE is no animal that has exercised the imagination of mankind to the same degree as the tiger. It has been the personification of ferocity and unsparing cruelty.
In Indian life the tiger is so closely associated with the elephant (as the latter is used in pursuit) that I select this animal in sequence to the former, from which in the ideas of sporting Indians it is almost inseparable.
It is necessary to commence the description of the tiger with its birth. The female rarely produces more than three, and generally only two. These arrive at maturity in about two years.
There is a considerable difference in the size of the male and female. I have both measured and weighed tigers, and I have found a great difference in their proportions, such as may be seen not only in many varieties of animals, but also in human beings; it is therefore difficult to decide upon the actual average tiger, as they vary in separate localities, according to the quantity of wild animals in the jungles which constitute their food. If the tiger has been born in jungles abounding with wild pigs and other animals, he will have been well fed since the day of his birth, therefore he will be a well-developed animal.
A well-grown tigress may weigh an average of 240 lbs. live weight. A very fine tiger will weigh 440 lbs., but if very fat, the same tiger would weigh 500 lbs. I have no doubt there may be tigers that exceed this by 50 lbs., but I speak according to my experience.
The length of a tiger will depend upon the system of measurement. I always carry a tape with me, and I measure them before they are skinned, by laying the animal upon the ground in a straight line, and not allowing it to be stretched by pulling at the head or tail, but taking it naturally as it lies, measuring from nose to tip of tail. I have found that a tiger of 9 feet 8 inches is about 2 inches above the average. The same tiger may be stretched to measure 10 feet.
No person who examines skins only can form any idea of the true proportions of a tiger. The hide, when stripped from a tiger of 9 feet 7 inches, weighs 45 lbs. if the animal is bulky. The head, skinned, weighs 25 lbs. These weights are taken from an animal which weighed 437 lbs. exclusive of the lost blood, which was quite a gallon, estimated at 10 lbs. This would have brought the weight to 447 lbs. The hide of this tiger, which measured 9 feet 7 inches when upon the animal, was 11 feet 4 inches in length when cured. I have measured many tigers, and the skins are always stretched to a ridiculous length during the process of curing; these would utterly mislead any naturalist who had not practical experience of the live animal.
The tiger of zoological gardens is a long lithe creature with little flesh, and, from the lack of exercise, the muscles are badly developed. Such a specimen affords a poor example of the grand animal in its native jungles, whose muscles are almost ponderous in their development from the continual exertion in nightly rambles over long distances, and in mortal struggles when wrestling with its prey. A well-fed tiger is by no means a slim figure, but on the contrary it is exceedingly bulky, broad in the shoulders, back, and loins, with an extraordinary girth of limbs, especially in the fore-arm and wrist. The muscles are tough and hard, and there are two peculiar bones unattached to the skeleton frame; these are situated in the flesh of either shoulder, apparently to afford extra cohesion of the parts, resulting in additional strength when striking a blow or wrestling with a heavy animal.
There is a great difference in the habits of tigers; some exist upon the game of the jungles, others prey specially upon the flocks and herds belonging to the villagers; the latter are generally exceedingly heavy and fat. A few are designated "man-eaters"; these are sometimes naturally ferocious, and having attacked a human being, they may have devoured the body and thus have acquired a taste for human flesh; or they may have been wounded upon more than one occasion and have learnt to regard man as a natural enemy; but more frequently the man-eater is a wary old tiger, or more probably a tigress, that, having haunted the neighbourhood of villages and carried off some unfortunate woman when gathering firewood or the wild products of the jungles, has discovered that it is far easier to kill a native than to hunt for the scarce jungle game; the animal therefore adopts the pursuit of man, and seldom attempts to molest the natives' cattle.
A professed man-eater is the most wary of animals, and is very difficult to kill, not because it is superior in strength, but through its extreme caution and cunning, which renders its discovery a work of long labour and patient search. An average native does not form a very hearty meal. If a woman, she will have more flesh than a man about the buttocks, which is the portion both in animals and human beings which the tiger first devours. The maneater will seize an unsuspecting person by the neck, and will then drag the body to some retreat in which it can devour its prey in undisturbed security. Having consumed the hind-quarters, thighs, and the more fleshy portions, it will probably leave the body, and will never return again to the carcase, but will seek a fresh victim, perhaps at some miles' distance, in the neighbourhood of another village. Their cautious habits render it almost impossible to destroy a cunning man-eater, as it avoids all means of detection. In this peculiarity the ordinary man-eating tiger differs from all others, as the cattle-killer is almost certain to return on the following night to the body which it only partially devoured after the first attack. If the hunter has the taste and patience for night shooting, he will construct a hiding-place within 10 yards of the dead body. This should be arranged before noon, in order that no noise should disturb the vicinity towards evening, when the tiger may be expected to return. A tree is not a favourable stand for night shooting, as the foliage overhead darkens the sight of the rifle. Three poles of about 5 inches diameter and 12 feet in length should be sunk as a triangle, the thickest ends placed 2 feet in the ground. The poles should be 4 feet apart, and when firmly inserted will represent a scaffolding 10 feet high. Bars and diagonal pieces must be firmly lashed to prevent the structure from swaying. Within a foot of the top three strong cross-bars will be lashed, to support a corduroy arrangement of perfectly straight level bars, quite close together to form a platform. A thickly folded rug will carpet the rough surface, upon which the watcher will sit upon a low turnstool that will enable him to rest in comfort, and turn without noise in any required direction. A bamboo or other straight stick will be secured as a rail around the platform, upon which some branches may be so arranged as to form a screen that will conceal the watcher from the view of an approaching tiger. This arrangement is called a "mucharn."
When a tiger is driven before beaters it seldom or never looks upwards, but merely regards the surface as it advances; but when approaching a "kill" (the term applied to the animal which has been killed) the tiger is exceedingly cautious, and surveys everything connected with the locality before it ventures to recommence the feast. Even then, when assured of safety, it seldom eats the carcase where it lies, but seizing it by the throat, it drags the prey some 15 or 20 yards from the spot before it indulges in the meal. I have already described that the first meal consists of the buttocks and hindquarters; the second visit is devoted to the forequarters, after which but little remains for the vultures and jackals.
It is essential that the night watcher should be raised about 10 feet above the ground, otherwise the tiger would probably obtain his scent.
Night shooting is not attractive to myself, and I very seldom have indulged in such wearisome shikar. There is no particular satisfaction in sitting for hours in a cramped position, with mosquitoes stinging you from all directions, while your eyes are straining through the darkness, transforming every shadow into the expected game. Even should it appear, unless the moon is bright you will scarcely define the animal. I have heard well-authenticated accounts of persons who have patiently watched until they fell asleep from sheer weariness, and when they awoke, the dead bullock was no longer there, the tiger having dragged it away without disturbing the tired watcher. There are several methods of rendering the muzzle-sights of the rifle visible in partial darkness. A simple and effective arrangement is by a piece of thick white paper. This should be cut into a point and fastened upon the barrel with a piece of beeswax or shoemaker's wax, in addition to being tied with strong waxed packthread.
If a bright starlight night and there is no foliage above the rifle, the white paper will be distinctly seen, especially if the light is behind the shoulder. A piece of lime made into thick paste, and stuck upon the muzzle-sight, is frequently used by native hunters; but if it is at hand, there is nothing so effective as luminous paint; this can be purchased in stoppered bottles and will last for years. A small supply would be always useful in an outfit.
A man-eating tiger requires peculiar caution, not only lest it should observe the presence of the hunter, but he must remember that if upon the ground he himself becomes a bait for this exceedingly stealthy animal, which can approach without the slightest noise, and attack without giving any notice of its presence. A curious example of this danger was given a few years ago in the Nagpur district. A tigress had killed so many people that a large reward was offered for her destruction; she had killed and dragged away a native, but being disturbed, she had left the body without eating any portion. The shikaris considered that she would probably return to her prey during the night, if left undisturbed upon the spot where she had forsaken it. There were no trees, nor any timber that was suitable for the construction of a mucharn; it was accordingly resolved that four deep holes should be dug, forming the corners of a square, the body lying in the centre. Each hole was to be occupied by a shikari with his matchlock. The watchers took their positions. Nothing came; until at length the moon went down, and the night was dark. The men were afraid to get out of their hiding-places to walk home through the jungles that were infested by the man-eater; they remained in their holes, and some of them fell asleep.
When daylight broke, three of the shikaris issued from their positions, but the fourth had disappeared; his hole was empty! A few yards distant, his matchlock was discovered lying upon the ground, and upon the dusty surface were the tracks of the tiger, and the sweeping trace where the body had been dragged as the man-eater carried it along. Upon following up the track, the remains of the unlucky shikari were discovered, a considerable portion having been devoured; but the tigress had disappeared. This cunning brute had won the game, and she was not killed until twelve months afterwards, although many persons devoted themselves to her pursuit.
Many incredible stories have been told concerning the power of a tiger in CARRYING away his prey, and I have heard it positively stated by persons who should have known better, that a tiger can carry off a native cow simply through the strength of the jaws and neck. This is ridiculous, as the height of the cow exceeds that of the tiger, therefore a portion of the body must drag upon the ground. The cattle of India are exceedingly small, and are generally lean, the weight of an ordinary cow would hardly exceed 350 or 400 lbs.; as an average male tiger weighs about the same, it can of course drag its own weight by lifting the body partially in its mouth, and thus relieving the friction upon the ground. In this manner it is astonishing to see the strength exerted in pulling and lifting a dead bullock over projecting roots of trees, rocky torrent-beds, and obstructions that would appear to be insurmountable; but it is absurd to suppose that a tiger can actually lift and carry a full-grown cow or bullock in its jaws without leaving a trace of the drag upon the surface.
Many persons when in pursuit of tigers are accustomed to tie up a small buffalo of four or six months old for bait; the natives will naturally supply the poorest specimen of their herds, unless it is specially selected; therefore it may be quite possible for a large male tiger to carry so small an animal without allowing any portion of the body (excepting the legs) to drag upon the ground. As a rule, the tiger will not attempt to carry, but it will lift and pull simultaneously if the body is heavy.
The attack of a large tiger is terrific, and the effect may be well imagined of an animal of such vast muscular proportions, weighing between 400 and 500 lbs., springing with great velocity, and exerting its momentum at the instant that it seizes a bullock by the neck. It is supposed by the natives that the tiger, when well fastened upon the crest, by fixing its teeth in the back of the neck at the first onset, continues its spring so as to pass over the animal attacked. This wrenches the neck suddenly round, and as the animal struggles, the dislocation is easily effected. The tiger then changes the hold to underneath the throat, and drags the body to some convenient retreat, where the meal may be commenced in security. With very few exceptions the tiger breaks the neck of every animal it kills. Some persons have imagined that this is done by a blow of the paw, but this is an error. The tiger does not usually strike (like the lion), but it merely seizes with its claws, and uses them to clutch firm hold, and to lacerate its victim. I have seen several examples of the tiger's attack upon man, and in no instance has the individual suffered from the shock of any blow; the tiger has seized, and driven deeply its claws into the flesh, and with this tremendous purchase it has held the victim, precisely as the hands of a man would clutch a prisoner; at the same time it has taken a firm hold with its teeth, and either killed its victim by a crunch of the jaws, or broken the shoulder-blade. In attacking man the tiger generally claws the head, and at the same moment it fixes its teeth upon the shoulder. An Indian is generally slight, and shallow in the chest, therefore the wide-spread jaws can include both chest and back when seized in the tiger's mouth. I have seen men who were thus attacked, and each claw has cut down to the skull, leaving clean incisions from the brow across the forehead and over the scalp, terminating at the back of the neck. These cuts were as neatly drawn across the skull as though done by a sharp pruning-knife; but the wounded men recovered from the clawing; the fatal wound was the bite, which through the back and chest penetrated to the lungs.
It is surprising that so few casualties occur when we consider the risks that are run by unprotected natives wandering at all seasons through the jungles, or occupied in their daily pursuits, exposed to the attacks of wild animals. The truth is that the tiger seldom attacks to actually kill, unless it is driven, or wounded in a hunt. It will frequently charge with a short roar if suddenly disturbed, but it does not intend to charge home, and a shout from a native will be sufficient to turn it aside; it will then dash forward and disappear, probably as glad to lose sight of the man as he is at his escape from danger. Of course there are many exceptions when naturally savage tigers, without being man-eaters, attack and destroy unoffending natives without the slightest provocation; upon such occasions they leave the body uneaten, neither do they return to it again.
Although the tiger belongs to the genus Felis, it differs from the cat in its peculiar fondness for water. In the hot season the animal is easily discovered, as it invariably haunts the banks of rivers, when all the brooks are dry and the tanks have disappeared through evaporation. The tiger loves to wallow in shallow water, and to roll upon the dry sand after a muddy bath; it will swim large rivers, and in the Brahmaputra, where reedy and grassy islands interrupt the channel in a bed of several miles' width, the tigers travel over considerable distances during the night, swimming from island to island, and returning to the mainland if no prey is to be found during the night's ramble.
The tiger is by no means fond of extreme heat; it is found in northern China, Manchuria, and the Corea, where the winters are severe. In those climates during winter the skin is very beautiful, consisting of thick fur instead of hair, and the tail is comparatively bushy. Well-preserved skins of that variety are worth 20 pounds apiece and are prized as rarities. In the hot season of India the tiger is by no means happy: it is a thirsty animal, and being nocturnal, it quickly becomes fatigued by the sun's heat, and the burning surface of the soil if obliged to retreat before a line of beaters. The pads of the feet are scorched by treading upon heated sandy or stony ground, and the animal is easily managed in a beat by those who are thoroughly experienced in its habits, although during the winter season, when water is abundant in all the numerous nullahs and pools, there is no animal more difficult to discover than the tiger. It may be easily imagined that the dense green foliage of Indian jungles renders all objects difficult to perceive distinctly, but the striped skin of a tiger harmonizes in a peculiar manner with dry sticks, yellowish tufts of grass, and the remains of burnt stumps, which are so frequently the family of colours that form the surroundings of the animal. In this covert the tiger with an almost noiseless tread can approach or retreat, and be actually within a few yards of man without being seen. Although a ferocious beast, it is most sensitive to danger, and the slightest noise will induce it to alter the direction of its course when driven before a line of beaters. Its power of scent is excellent, therefore it is always advisable if possible to arrange that the beaters shall advance down wind. If they do, the tiger may be generally managed so adroitly that it will be driven in the required direction; but if the beaters are travelling up the wind, the tiger must necessarily follow the same course, and it will probably obtain the scent of the guns that are in positions to intercept it, in which case it will assuredly dash back through the line of beaters, and escape from the beat.
In the hot season very few trees retain their leaves, and the jungles that were impervious screens during the cooler months become absolutely naked; an animal can then be discerned at 100 yards' distance. The surface of the ground is then covered with dried and withered leaves, which have become so crisp from the extreme heat that they crackle when trod upon like broken glass. It will be readily understood that any form of shooting excepting driving is quite impossible under these conditions, as no person could approach any animal on foot owing to the noise occasioned by treading upon the withered leaves.
The habits of the tiger being thoroughly understood, it becomes necessary under all circumstances to employ the village shikari. This man is generally more or less ignorant and obstinate, but he is sure to know his own locality and the peculiar customs of the local tiger. It is one of the mysterious characteristics of this animal that it invariably selects particular spots in which it will lay up; to these secure retreats it will retire; therefore, should a fresh track be discovered upon the sandy bed of a nullah or upon a dusty footpath in the jungles, it may be safely inferred that the tiger is lying in one or other of its accustomed haunts. The village shikari will quickly determine from what direction the tiger has arrived; he will then suggest the probable route that the animal will take whenever it may be disturbed.
Should the tiger be killed, another will occupy its place a few months later, and this will assuredly assume the same habits as its predecessor; it will frequent the same haunts, lay up in the same spots, and drink at the same places; although it may have never associated with or even seen the tiger which formerly occupied the same locality.
I have already described the keen power of scent possessed by this wary animal, which necessitates extreme caution, and the placing of the guns in positions elevated about 10 feet above the ground. It is seldom of any use to drive jungles upon speculation, although it not unfrequently happens, where tigers are plentiful, that when driving for deer the grander game unexpectedly appears, and presents itself suddenly before the astonished hunter. The recognised system of tiger-hunting by driving is as follows. We will say that the party of three may have arrived at a village, after having received intimation that a native cow had been carried off within the last few days. The first operation is to send natives in all directions to look for tracks, and to discover the place where the animal last drank.
At least two elephants should accompany the party, even though the thick jungle country may be ill adapted for shooting from these useful creatures. One of these should be, if possible, a really dependable animal, that would advance steadily and quietly up to a wounded tiger. The great danger of this branch of sport arrives when a tiger may have been wounded, and it has to be tracked up on foot, and eventually beaten out of the dense thorny cover of its retreat. A staunch elephant is then indispensable, and the real excitement commences when the beaters are sent for safety up the adjoining trees, and the hunter, absolutely certain that the dangerous game, although invisible, is close before him, advances calmly to the attack, knowing that the tiger will be ready to spring upon the elephant the moment that they shall be vis-a-vis.
In the absence of any elephant, the pursuit of a wounded tiger by following up the blood-track on foot is a work of extreme danger. The native shikaris generally exhibit considerable hardihood, and, confident in their activity, they ascend trees from which they have a clear view in front for some 30 or 40 yards. They descend if the coast is clear, cautiously advance, and then again they mount upon the branches of some favourable tree and scan the ground before them. In this manner they continue to approach until they at length discern the wounded animal. If the hunter is clever at climbing, he may then take a steady shot from a good elevation; but if not, he must take his chance, and knowing the exact position of the tiger, he must endeavour to make certain of its sudden death by placing a bullet either in the brain or the back of the neck.
A newly arrived party, having heard that some native cow has been carried off within a week, will make a reconnaissance of the surrounding country upon their elephants, and will examine every watercourse for tracks. We will suppose that after some hours of diligent search the long-wished-for pugs or footmarks have been discovered. Now the science of the chase must be exhibited, and the habits of the tiger carefully considered. The first consideration will be the drinking-place. If the middle of the dry season, say the beginning of May, the heat will be intense, and the hot wind will feel as though it had passed over a heated brick-kiln. The water will have entirely disappeared, unless a river shall be permanent in the neighbourhood. It will be necessary to procure two or perhaps three buffaloes to tie up in various positions not far from water, as baits for the tiger during the hours of night, when it will be wandering forth from its secure retreat and searching for its expected prey. The buffaloes should be at least twelve months old; I prefer them when eighteen months, as they are then heavy animals and would afford two hearty meals, each sufficient to gorge the tiger to an extent that, after drinking, would render it lazy and inclined to sleep. Great care should be taken in the selection of these buffaloes. The natives will assuredly offer their skinny and unhealthy animals: but a tiger, unless nearly starved, will frequently refuse to attack a miserable skeleton, and like ourselves it prefers a fat and appetising attraction. It must be distinctly remembered that after the tiger has devoured the hind-quarters of the animal it has killed, it requires a deep draught of water; it is therefore necessary that the buffalo as bait should be tied up somewhere within a couple of hundred yards of a drinking-place, as the least distance; otherwise, instead of lying down somewhere near the remains of its prey, it must wander to a great distance to drink. The stomach, being full of flesh, will naturally become distended with water, and the gorged tiger will not be in the humour to undertake a return journey of perhaps a mile to watch over the remains of its kill; it will therefore lie down in some thick covert near the spot by the nullah where it recently drank, instead of returning to repose in the neighbourhood of its recent victim. This will throw out the calculations of the shikari, who would expect that the tiger will be lying somewhere near the spot where it dragged the buffalo. The beat will under such false conditions be arranged to include an area in which the tiger is supposed to be asleep after its great meal, but in reality it may be a mile or two away in some unknown direction near the water. Great precaution is necessary in making all preliminary arrangements. It is a common custom of native shikaris to tie up a buffalo where four paths meet, as the tiger would be walking along one of these during the night, and it could not help seeing the alluring bait. I do not admire this plan, as, although the probability is that the buffalo will be killed, there is every likelihood of disturbance after the event, when natives would be passing along the various routes. The slightest noise would alarm the tiger, and instead of remaining quietly near the carcase, it would slink away and be no more seen.
Natives are very inquisitive, and should the tiger have killed the bait, and dragged the buffalo away to some deep nullah, the shikari and his companion are often tempted to creep along the trace until they perhaps see the tiger in the act of devouring the hind-quarters. This is quite contrary to the rules of hunting, as the tiger is almost certain to detect their presence if they are so near, in which case it is sure to retreat to some undisturbed locality beyond the area of the beat.
There is constant disappointment in driving for tigers owing to the stupidity or exaggerated zeal of the shikari; and if the hunter is thoroughly experienced, it is far better that he should conduct the operations personally.
Success depends upon many little details which may appear trivial, but are nevertheless important. When a buffalo is tied up for bait, it must be secured by the fetlock of a fore foot, and care must be taken that the rope is sufficiently strong to prevent the buffalo from breaking away; at the same time it must not be strong enough to prevent the tiger from breaking it when the animal is killed, and the carcase is to be dragged to the nearest nullah (or ravine). If the rope is too powerful, the tiger cannot dispose of the body; it will therefore eat the hind-quarters where it lies, and at once retreat to water, instead of concealing the prey and lying down in the vicinity. In such a case the remains of the body will be exposed to the gaze of vultures and jackals, who will pick the bones clean in a few hours, and destroy all chance of the tiger's return. When the dead body is concealed beneath dense bushes in a deep ravine, the vultures cannot discover it, as they hunt by sight, and the tiger has no anxiety respecting the security of its capture; it will therefore sleep in peace within a short distance, until awakened by the shouts of a line of beaters.
If the buffalo is tied with a rope around the neck, a tiger will frequently refuse to molest it, as it fears a trap. I have seen occasions when the tiger has walked round and round the buffalo, as exhibited by the tracks upon the surface, but it has been afraid to make its spring, being apprehensive of some hidden danger. I have also seen a dead vulture lying close to the body of a buffalo, evidently killed by a blow from the tiger's paw when trespassing upon the feast. It is a good arrangement to secure both fetlocks of a buffalo with a piece of strong cord about a foot or 16 inches apart, independently of the weaker cord which ties the animal to either a stake or tree. Should the buffalo break away during the night, it cannot wander far, as the bushes will quickly anchor the rope which confines the fore legs; the tiger would then assuredly attack the straying animal and kill it within the jungles. In such a case the drive should take place without delay, as the dead buffalo will certainly be hidden in the nearest convenient spot, and the tiger will be somewhere in the neighbourhood.
During the hot season it will be advisable to defer the drive till about IO A.M., at which time the tiger will be asleep. The mucharns or watching-places in various trees should have been previously constructed before the buffaloes were tied up in their different positions, to be ready should the tiger kill one of the baits, and thus to avoid noise during the construction. This is a matter of very great importance which is frequently neglected by the native shikari, who postpones the building of mucharns until the tiger shall have killed a buffalo. In that case the noise of axes employed in chopping the wood necessary for building the platforms is almost sure to alarm the tiger, who will escape unseen, and the beat will take place in vain.
I never allow mucharns to be built by wood felled in the immediate neighbourhood, but I have it prepared in camp, and transported by coolies to the localities when required. By this method the greatest silence may be observed, which is absolutely necessary to ensure a successful drive.
In order to prepare these platforms, they should be laid upon the ground, three long thick pieces to form a triangle, and cross-bars in proportionate lengths. If the latter are straight and strong, from sixteen to twenty will be necessary to complete a strong mucharn. It is impossible to devote too much attention to the construction of these watching-places. The natives are so light, and they are so comfortable when squatting for hours in a position that would cramp a European, that it is dangerous to accept the shikari's declaration when he reports that everything is properly arranged. Upon many occasions tigers are missed because the shooter is so completely cramped that he cannot turn when the animal suddenly appears in view. A large, firm, and roomy mucharn fixed upon the boughs of a tree that will not wave before a gust of wind, is the proper platform to ensure a successful shot.
I have frequently been perched in a mere heron's nest, formed of light wood arranged upon most fragile boughs; this wretched contrivance has swayed before the wind to an extent that would have rendered accurate aim impossible; fortunately upon such occasions I have never obtained a shot.
Although driving may read as an unexciting sport, it is quite the contrary if the hunter takes sufficient interest in the operations to attend to every detail personally. When all is in readiness after the tiger has killed a buffalo, there is much art required in the conduct of the drive. Natives vary in different districts; some are clever and intelligent, and take an immense interest in the sport, especially if they are confident in the generosity of their employer. In other districts there may be abundant game, but the natives are cowardly, and nothing will persuade them to keep an unbroken line, upon the perfection of which the success of the drive depends.
As a rule, there is no great danger in the steady advance of a line of men, provided they are at close intervals of 5 or 8 yards apart, and that they keep this line intact. It is a common trick, when the beaters are nervous, to open out the line in gaps, and the men resolve themselves into parties of ten or twenty, advancing in knots, at the same time howling and shouting their loudest to keep up the appearance of a perfect line. In such cases the tiger is certain to break back through one of the inviting gaps, and the drive is wasted.
To drive successfully, the beaters must not only keep a rigid line, but they must thoroughly understand the habits of the animal, and the positions of the posted guns. If the drive is thoroughly well organised, there should be eight or ten men who are experienced in the sport; these should take the management of the beat, and being distributed at intervals along the line, they should direct the operations.
A few really clever shikaris should be able (with few exceptions to the rule) to drive the tiger to any required position, so as to bring it within shot of any particular mucharn. This may be effected without extraordinary difficulty. The drive should be arranged to include three parts of a circle. If there are three guns, their positions would depend upon the quality and conditions of the ground, leaving intervals of only 80 or 100 yards at farthest between the three mucharns. From either flank, commencing only 50 yards from each mucharn, a native should be posted in a tree, and this system of watchers should be continued until they meet the extreme ends of the right and left flanks of the beating line. It will be seen that by this method there is a chain of communication established throughout the line, both flanks being in touch with the right and left mucharns by watchers in the trees only 50 yards apart. The tiger, if within the beat, will be completely encircled, as it will have the guns in front, the line of beaters in a semicircle behind, and a chain of watchers in trees from 30 to 50 yards apart from either side of the line to within sight of the mucharns. If the jungle should be tolerably open, the tiger cannot move without being seen by somebody. It now has to be driven before the beaters, and it should be induced to select a particular direction that will bring it within distance of one particular mucharn.
Each man who may be perched in the trees, which form a chain from the right and left extremities of the line, will be provided with several pieces of exceedingly dry and brittle sticks; he will hold these in readiness for use whenever he may observe the tiger. If he sees that the animal wishes to pass through the line, and thereby escape from the beat, he simply breaks a small stick in half; the sound of a snap is quite sufficient to divert the tiger from its course; it will generally stop and listen for a few moments, and then being alarmed by the unusual sound, it will again move forward, this time in the required direction, towards the guns. In this manner the animal is gradually guided by the unseen watchers in the trees, and is kept under due control, without any suspicion upon its part that it is being conducted to the fatal spot within 30 or 40 yards of the deadly aim of an experienced rifle. This leading of the tiger requires considerable skill, as much discretion is necessary in breaking the stick at the proper moment, or increasing the noise should it be deemed expedient.
As a rule, the slightest sound is sufficient to attract the attention of a driven tiger, as the animal is well aware that the shouts of a line of beaters are intended to scare it from the neighbourhood; it is accordingly in high excitement, and it advances like a sly fox slowly and cautiously, occasionally stopping, and turning its head to listen to the cries of the approaching enemy. Any loud and sudden noise would induce it to turn and charge back towards the rear, in which case it is almost certain to escape from the beat.
Some tigers are more clever than others, and having escaped upon more than one occasion, they will repeat the dodge that has hitherto succeeded. It is a common trick, should the jungle be dense and the ground much broken, for the tiger to crouch when it hears the beaters in the distance, instead of going forward in the direction of the guns. This is a dangerous stratagem, as the wary animal will lie quietly listening to the approaching line, and having waited until the beaters are within a few yards of its unexpected lair, it will charge back suddenly with a terrific roar, and dash at great speed through the affrighted men, perhaps seizing some unfortunate who may be directly in its path. I have known tigers that have been hunted many times, but who have always escaped by this peculiar dodge, and such animals are exceedingly difficult to kill. In such cases I am of opinion that no shouts or yells should be permitted, but that the line should advance, simply beating the stems of trees with their sticks; at the same time six or eight natives with their matchlocks should be placed at intervals along the line to fire at the tiger should it attempt to break through the rear. This may sometimes, but rarely, succeed in turning it, and compelling it to move in the required direction. It is a curious fact that "breaking back" is a movement general to all animals, which have an instinctive presentiment of danger in the front, if alarmed by the sound of beaters from behind. If once they determine upon a stampede to the rear, nothing will stop them, but they will rush to destruction and face any opposition rather than move forward before the line. The tiger in such cases is extremely dangerous, although when retreating in an ordinary manner before the beaters it would seldom attack a human being, but, on the contrary it would endeavour to avoid him. It is frequently the custom of tigers to remain together in a family the male, female, and a couple of half or three parts grown young ones. We cannot positively determine whether the male always remains with his family under such circumstances, or whether he merely visits them periodically; I am inclined to the latter opinion, as I think the female may be attractive during her season, which induces the male to prolong his visit, although at other periods he may be leading an independent life. Good fortune specially attends some favoured sportsmen who have experienced the intensity of happiness when a complete family of tigers has marched past their position in a drive, and they have bagged every individual member. This luck has never waited upon me, but I have seen three out of the four secured, the big and wary male, having modestly remained behind, escaping by breaking back through the line of beaters.
The tigress remains with her young until they are nearly full-grown, and she is very assiduous in teaching her cubs to kill their prey while they are extremely young. I have seen an instance of such schooling when two buffaloes were tied up about a quarter of a mile apart; one was killed, and although these two baits were mere calves, it had evidently been mangled about the neck and throat in the endeavour to break the neck. This had at length been effected by the tigress, as proved by the larger marks of teeth, while the wounds of smaller teeth and claws in the throat and back of neck showed that the cub had been worrying the buffalo fruitlessly, until the mother had interfered to complete the kill. The other buffalo calf had been attacked, and severely lacerated about the nape of the neck and throat, but it was still alive, and was standing up at the post to which it had been tied. This proved that the cub had been practising upon both these unlucky animals, and that the tigress had only interfered to instruct her pupil upon the last occasion. A dead vulture was lying near the buffalo carcase; this had been killed, probably, by the cub; the fact showed that the buffalo had been attacked that morning during daylight, and not during the preceding night, when the vultures would have been at roost.
The tigress is generally in advance of the male during a drive, should there be two together; this should not be forgotten, and a sharp look-out should be directed upon the place from whence the tigress shall have emerged, as the shot must be taken at the rearmost animal, who would otherwise disappear immediately, and break back at the sound of the explosion. In all cases it is incumbent upon the watcher to study attentively every feature of the ground directly that he enters upon his post, so that he may be prepared for every eventuality; he should thoroughly examine his surroundings, noting every little open space, every portion of dense bush, and form his opinion of the spot that would probably be the place of exit when the tiger should be driven to the margin of the covert. Tigers are frequently missed, or only slightly wounded, through utter carelessness in keeping a vigilant look-out. The watcher may have omitted to scan the details of the locality, and when unprepared for the interview, the tiger suddenly appears before him. Startled at the unexpected apparition, he fires too quickly, and with one bound the tiger vanishes from view, leaving the shooter in a state of misery at his miss, that may be imagined. Nearly all the fatalities in tiger-shooting are caused by careless shooting, which necessitates the following up a blood-track; it is therefore imperative that extreme care and coolness be observed in taking a steady aim at a vital portion of the body, that will ensure the death of the animal at latest within a few minutes. If the shot is fired at right angles with the flank, exactly through the centre of the blade-bone, the tiger will fall dead, as the heart will be shattered, and both shoulders will be broken. A shot close behind the shoulder will pass through the centre of the lungs, and death will be certain in about two minutes, but the animal will be able to inflict fatal injuries upon any person it may encounter during the first minute, before internal bleeding shall have produced complete suffocation. If the hunter is confident in the extreme accuracy of his rifle, a shot in the centre of the forehead rather above a line drawn across the eyes will ensure instant death. This is a splendid shot when the hunter sits upon an elevation and the tiger is approaching him; in that position he must be careful to aim rather high, as, should the bullet miss the forehead, it will then strike the spine at the junction of the neck; or if too high, it will break the spine between the shoulders; at any rate, the chances are all in favour of the rifle, whereas, should the aim be too low, the bullet might penetrate through the nose, and bury itself within the ground, merely wounding the animal instead of killing. Should the hunter be on foot, he must on the contrary aim low, exactly at the centre of the nose; if he is only one inch too high, the tiger may escape, as the bullet may pass over the head and back; but if the aim is low and the nose should be missed, the bullet will either break the neck, or regularly rake the animal by tearing its course through the chest and destroying the vitals in its passage along the body. In that case the .577 solid bullet of 650 grains and 6 drams of powder will produce an astonishing effect, and will completely paralyse the attack of any lion or tiger, thus establishing a thorough confidence in the heart of its proprietor.
THE TIGER (continued)
There is no more delightful study than Natural History in its practical form, where the wild beasts and their ways are actually presented to the observer in their native lands, and he can examine their habits in their daily haunts, and watch their characters in their wild state instead of the cramped limits of zoological collections. At the same time we must confess that the animals of a menagerie afford admirable opportunities for photography, and are most instructive for a rudimentary preparation before we venture upon the distant jungles where they are to be found in their undisturbed seclusion. It is commonly supposed that wild animals that have never been attacked by fire-arms are not afraid of man, and that deer, antelopes, and various species which are extremely timid may be easily approached by human beings, as the creatures have no fear of molestation. My experience does not support this theory. Nearly all animals have some natural enemy, which keeps them on the alert, and renders them suspicious of all strange objects and sounds that would denote the approach of danger. The beasts of prey are the terror of the weaker species, which cannot even assuage their thirst in the hottest season without halting upon the margin of the stream and scrutinising the country right and left before they dare stoop their heads to drink. Even then the herd will not drink together, but a portion will act as watchers, to give notice of an enemy should it be discerned while their comrades slake their thirst.