Mounting my elephant Moolah Bux, I begged Berry to take Demoiselle, and accompanied by a couple of good men we left the long line of beaters stationed in order of advance along the glade, with instructions to march directly that we should send them the necessary orders. I begged them upon this occasion not to shout, but merely to tap the trees with their sticks as their line came forward.
We proceeded about a quarter of a mile ahead, and then turned into the jungle on our left. Continuing for at least 300 yards, we arrived at some open ground much broken by shallow nullahs, which formed natural drains in a slight depression of grassy land between very low hills of jungle, through which we had recently passed. There was a small nullah issuing from the forest, in which I placed my elephant, and I begged my friend Berry to ride Demoiselle to a similar place about 200 yards upon my right. I concluded that should the tiger be between us and the line of beaters, he would in all probability steal along one or the other of these nullahs before he could cross the open ground. We now sent back one of the natives with orders for the line of beaters to advance. Mr. Berry left upon Demoiselle to take up his position, while I pushed Moolah Bux well into the jungle in the centre of the small nullah, which commanded a clear view of about 20 yards around.
In a short time we heard the clacking sound of many sticks, the beaters having obeyed the injunction, and keeping profound silence with their voices.
There were no animals in this jungle, probably they had been frightened by the great noise of the beaters when shouting in the recent drive; at any rate, the beat was barren, and having waited fruitlessly until I could see the men approaching within a few yards of my position, I ordered the elephant to turn round, with the intention of proceeding another quarter of a mile in advance, and thus continuing to beat the jungle in sections until it should be thoroughly driven out.
I had hardly turned the elephant, when we were startled by tremendous roars of a tiger, continued in quick succession within 50 yards of the position that I occupied. I never heard either before or since such a volume of sound proceeding from a single animal; there was a horrible significance in the grating and angry voice that betokened the extreme fury of attack. Not an instant was lost! The mahout was an excellent man, as cool as a cucumber, and never over-excited. He obeyed the order to advance straight towards the spot, in which the angry roars still continued without intermission.
Moolah Bux was a thoroughly dependable elephant, but although moving forward with a majestic and determined step, it was in vain that I endeavoured to hurry the mahout; both man and beast appeared to understand their business thoroughly, but to my ideas the pace was woefully slow if assistance was required in danger.
The ground was slightly rising, and the jungle thick with saplings about 20 feet in height, and as thick as a man's leg; these formed an undergrowth among the larger forest trees.
Moolah Bux crashed with ponderous weight through the resisting mass, bearing down all obstacles before him as he steadily made his way through the intervening growth. The roars had now ceased. There were no leaves upon the trees at this advanced season, and one could see the natives among the branches in all directions as they were perched for safety in the tree-tops, to which they had climbed like monkeys at the terrible sounds of danger. "Where is the tiger?" we shouted to the first man we could distinguish in this safe retreat only a few yards distant. "Here, here!" replied the man, pointing immediately beneath him. Almost at the same instant, with a loud roar, the tiger, which had been lying ready for attack, sprang forward directly for Moolah Bux.
There were so many trees intervening that I could not fire, and the elephant, instead of halting, moved forward, meeting the tiger in its spring. With a swing of his huge head Moolah Bux broke down several tall saplings, which crashed towards the infuriated tiger and checked the onset; whether the animal was touched by the elephant's tusks I could not determine, but it appeared to be within striking distance when the trees were broken across its path. Discomfited for the moment, the tiger bounded in retreat, and Moolah Bux stood suddenly like a rock, without the slightest movement. This gave me a splendid opportunity, and the '577 bullet rolled the enemy over like a rabbit. Almost at the same instant, having performed a somersault, the tiger disappeared, and fell struggling among the high grass and bushes about 15 paces distant.
I now urged Moolah Bux carefully forward until I could plainly see the tiger's shoulders, and a second shot through the exact centre of the blade-bone terminated its existence.
The elephant had behaved beautifully, and I have frequently looked back to that attack in thick forest, and been thankful that I was not mounted upon such animals as I have since that time had the misfortune to possess. Moolah Bux now approached the dead body, and at the command of the mahout he pulled out by the roots all the small undergrowth of saplings and dried herbage to clear a space around his late antagonist. In doing this his trunk several times touched the skin of the tiger, which he appeared to regard with supreme indifference.
I gave two loud whistles with my fingers as a signal that all was over, and we were still occupied in clearing away the smaller growth of jungle, when a native approached as though very drunk, reeling to and fro, and at length falling to the ground close to the elephant's heels; the man was covered with blood, and he had evidently fainted. I had an excellent Madras servant named Thomas, who was behind me in the howdah, and he lost no time in descending from the elephant and in pouring water over the unfortunate coolie, from a jar which I handed from beneath the seat. In a few moments the man showed signs of life, and the beaters began to collect around the spot. Two men were approaching supporting a limp and half-collapsed figure between them, completely deluged with blood; this was a second victim of the tiger's attack. Both men were now laid upon the ground, and water poured over their faces and chests; but during this humane operation another party was observed, carrying in their arms the body of a third person, which was hardly to be recognised through the mass of blood coagulated and mixed with dead leaves and sand, as the tiger had dragged and torn its victim along the ground with remorseless fury. This was a sad calamity. There could be little doubt that when we heard the roars of the infuriated beast it was attacking the line of beaters, and knocking them over right and left before they had time to ascend the trees. The village was only a mile distant, and we immediately sent for three charpoys (native bed-steads) as stretchers to convey the wounded men. Demoiselle arrived with Mr. Berry, who came into my howdah, while the tiger was with some difficulty secured upon the pad of that exceedingly docile elephant. In this form we entered the village as a melancholy procession;, the news having spread, all the women turned out to meet us, weeping and wailing in loud distress, and the scene was so touching that I began to reflect that tiger-shooting might be fun to some, but death to others, who, poor fellows, had to advance unarmed through dangerous jungle.
The reason for this savage attack was soon discovered. As a rule, there is little danger to a line of beaters provided the tiger is unwounded, and no person should ever place his men in the position to drive a jungle when a wounded tiger is in retreat. In such a case, if no elephants are present, it would be necessary to obtain the assistance of buffaloes; a herd of these animals driven through the jungle would quickly dislodge a tiger. We now skinned our late enemy, while a messenger was started towards Moorwarra, 9 or 10 miles distant, to prepare the authorities for the reception of our wounded men in hospital.
The skin having been taken off, we discovered a small hole close to the root of the tail, which had not been observed. Upon a close examination with the finger, I found minute fragments of lead, resembling very small shot flattened upon an anvil. The hole was not deeper than 1 1/4 inch in the hard muscle of the rump, and the only effect of Berry's '577 hollow Express was to produce this trumpery wound, which had enraged the animal without creating any serious injury. It is necessary to explain that the bullet of this rifle was more than usually light and hollow; but the want of penetrating power of the hollow projectile, and the dangerous results, were terribly demonstrated, notwithstanding the large charge of 6 drams of powder.
A comparison of the effect of my '577 with the same charge of 6 drams, but with a solid bullet of ordinary pure lead weighing 648 grains, was very instructive. The first shot, when the tiger was bounding in retreat after it had charged the elephant, had struck the right flank, and as the animal was moving obliquely, the bullet had passed through the lungs, then, breaking the shoulder-bone, it was found in its integrity just beneath the skin of the shoulder upon the side opposite to that of entry; it was very much flattened upon one side, as it had traversed an oblique course throughout, and had torn the inside of the animal in a dreadful manner. The second shot, fired simply to extinguish the dying tiger, passed through both shoulders, but was found under the skin upon the opposite side, flattened exactly like a mushroom, into a diameter of about 1 1/2 inch at the head, leaving about half an inch of the base uninjured which represented the stalk. This was a large tiger, and remarkably thick and heavy, with strong and hard muscles, nevertheless the penetration of the soft leaden bullet was precisely correct for that quality of game. If the '577 bullet had been made of an admixture of tin or other alloy to produce extreme hardness, it would have passed through the body of the tiger with a high velocity, but the animal would have escaped the striking energy, which would not have been expended upon the resisting surface. It is the striking energy, the knocking-down power of a projectile, that is so necessary when hunting dangerous game. I cannot help repetition in enforcing this principle: there is a minimum amount of striking energy in a light hollow projectile, and a maximum amount in a solid heavy projectile; keep the latter within the animal to ensure the effect of the blow; this will be effected by a bullet made of pure lead without admixture with other metal, to flatten upon impact, and by the expansion of surface it will create a terrific wound; at the same time it will have sufficient momentum from its great weight to push forward, and to overcome the resistance of opposing bones and muscles. A very large tiger may weigh 450 lbs.; a '577 bullet of 650 grains, propelled by 6 drams of powder, has a striking energy of 3520 foot-pounds. This may be only theoretical measurement, but the approximate superiority of 3500 lbs. against the tiger's weight, 450 lbs., would be sufficient to ensure the stoppage of a charge, or the collapse of the animal in any position, provided that the bullet should be retained within the body, and thus bestow the whole force of the striking energy.
We did all that could be done for our wounded men. The strength of caste prejudices was so potent that, although in pangs of thirst from pain and general shock to the system, they would accept nothing from our hands. I made a mixture of milk with soda-water, brandy, and laudanum, but they refused to swallow it, and the only course, after washing their wounds and bandaging, was to leave them to the treatment of their own people.
One man was severely bitten through the chest and back, the fangs of the tiger having penetrated the lungs; he was also clawed in a terrible manner about the head and face, where the paws of the animal had first made fast their hold. This man died in a few hours. The others were bitten through the shoulder and upper portion of the arm, both in the same manner, and the sharp claws had cut through the scalp from the forehead across the head to the back of the neck, inflicting clean wounds to the bone, as though produced by a pruning-knife. They were conveyed in litters to the hospital in Moorwarra, where they remained for nearly a month, at the expiration of which they recovered. The seizure by the claws was effected without the shock of a blow.
This serious accident was entirely due to a hollow bullet: if a solid bullet had struck a tiger in the same place it would have carried away a portion of the spine, and the animal would have been paralysed upon the spot.
In the absence of a dependable elephant we should have been helpless, and the tiger might have wounded or killed many others.
THE TIGER (CONTINUED)
The day after the accident described, we were sitting beneath the shade of a mango grove at about 4 P.M. when a native arrived at the camp with news that a tiger had just killed a valuable cow which gave him a large supply of milk, and the body was lying about 2 miles distant. The tragic incident of the previous day had established a panic in the village, and the natives were not in the humour to turn out as beaters. I quite shared their feeling, as I did not wish to expose the poor people after the loss they had sustained; it was too late for a beat, therefore I determined to take the two elephants and make a simple reconnaissance, that might be of use upon the following day.
It was 4.30 P.M. by the time we started, as the two elephants had taken some time to prepare. The native was tolerably correct in his estimate of distance, and after passing through a long succession of glades and wooded hills, broken by deep nullahs, we arrived at the place, where soaring vultures marked the spot, and the remains of a fine white cow were discovered, that had been killed upon the open ground and dragged into the dense jungle. Leaving Demoiselle in the open, and taking Berry into my howdah upon Moolah Bux, we carefully searched the jungle until sunset, but finding nothing, we were obliged to return to camp, having made ourselves thoroughly acquainted with the conditions of the locality. On the following morning at daylight I took only twenty men, who had recovered from their panic, and with the two elephants and a very plucky policeman we made our way to the place where the body of the cow was lying on the previous evening. It was gone. Leaving all the men outside the jungle, we followed on Moolah Bux, tracking along the course where the tiger had dragged the carcase, and keeping a sharp look-out in all directions. After a course of about 150 yards we arrived at a spot where the tiger had evidently rested: here it had devoured the larger portion, and nothing but the head remained. It was impossible to decide whether jackals or hyenas had made away with the remnants, or whether the tiger had carried them off to some secure hiding-place, but it was highly probable that the animal was not far distant.
The jungle was not more than 5 or 6 acres, and it was surrounded by grass; we therefore determined to arrange scouts around, while we should thoroughly but slowly examine the covert upon the two elephants.
There was nothing in the drive.
The slope upon which the jungle was situated drained towards an exceedingly deep and broad nullah; this formed the main channel, into which numerous smaller nullahs converged from the surrounding inclination. The general character of the country was withered grass upon numerous slopes, the tops of which were covered with low jungle. At the lower portion of the deep nullah there was a small but important pool of water, as it was the only drinking-place within a distance of 2 miles. As usual, there was a sandbank around this deep pool, which, being in the bend of the nullah, had been swept out of the opposing bank and deposited near, the drinking-hole. Upon this sandy surface we found several tracks of tigers, and we arrived at the conclusion that a tiger and tigress had been together, and that I had killed the male on the occasion of the accident; the female would therefore be the animal of which we were in search.
The nullah was about 20 yards across and 30 feet in depth; the banks were in most places perpendicular, and the bottom was rough with stones, intermingled with bushes, most of which had lost their foliage. It was quite possible that, after drinking the tigress might have lain down to sleep among the bushes, where the hollowed bank afforded a cool shade; but I did not like to send men into the dangerous bottom, and the banks were so steep that the elephants could not possibly descend.
About 400 paces distant, a large tree grew from the right bank, and the branches overhung the nullah; I therefore suggested to Berry that he should take up a position in the boughs, and that we would beat towards him by pelting the bottom of the ravine with stones; should the tigress break back, I could stop her from the howdah, and should she move forward, she must pass directly beneath the tree upon which Berry would be seated. This plan was carried out, but the plucky policeman insisted upon descending into the nullah and walking up the bottom, while the natives upon either side bombarded the banks with stones.
There was absolutely nothing alive in that inviting nullah. I had walked Moolah Bux slowly along, looking down from the margin of the ravine, and upon arrival at Berry's perch I took him up behind me in the rear compartment of the howdah. I felt almost sure that, although we had drawn a blank up to the present time, the tigress would be lying somewhere among the numerous deep but narrow nullahs which drained into the main channel that we had just examined. We therefore determined to leave all the men seated upon a knoll on the highest ground, while we should try the various nullahs upon Moolah Bux; as he could walk slowly along the margin so close to the edge that we should be able to look down into the bottom of each ravine, and in the parched state of vegetation nothing could escape our view.
The natives were well satisfied with this arrangement, and they took their seats upon a grassy hill, which afforded a position from which they could watch our movements.
Moolah Bux commenced his stately march, walking so close to the hard edge of the deep nullahs that I was rather anxious lest the bank should suddenly give way. The instinct of an elephant is extraordinary in the selection of firm ground. Although it appeared dangerous to me, Moolah Bux was perfectly satisfied that the ground would bear his weight, and he continued his risky march, both up and down a number of those monotonous ravines which scored the slopes in all directions, but without success.
The sun was like fire, and it was difficult to grasp the barrel of the rifle. It was past noon, and we had been working unceasingly since 6 a.m. The bottoms of the ravines were filled some feet in depth with dry leaves, which had fallen from the trees (now naked) which fringed the banks, therefore we could have seen a cat had she been lying either in the nullah or upon the barren sides. "There is no tigress here," said Berry; "this is one of those sly brutes, that kills and eats, but does not remain near her kill; she is probably a couple of miles away while we are looking for her in these coverless nullahs."
These words were hardly uttered, when we suddenly heard a rushing sound like a strong wind, which seemed to disturb the dried leaves in the deep bottom somewhere in our front. At first I could hardly understand the cause, but in a few seconds a large tigress sprang up the bank, and appeared about 20 paces in our front. Without a moment's hesitation she uttered several short roars, and upon the beautifully clean ground she bounded forward in full charge straight for Moolah Bux. I never saw a more grand but unprovoked attack.
The elephant was startled by the unexpected apparition, and I could not fire, as he swung his mighty head upon one side, but almost immediately he received the tigress upon his long tusks, and with a swing to the right he sent her flying into the deep nullah from which she had just emerged.
Although the trees and shrubs were utterly devoid of leaves, there was unfortunately a large and dense evergreen bush exactly opposite, called karoonda; the tigress sprang up the bank, and disappeared behind this opaque screen before we had time to fire.
The mahout, who was a splendid fellow, perceived this in an instant, and driving his elephant a few paces forward, he turned his head to the right, giving me a beautiful clear sight of the tigress, bounding at full speed about 80 paces distant along the clean surface of parched herbage, up a slight incline.
I heard the crack of Berry's rifle close to my ear, but no effect was produced. The tigress was going directly away from us, and Moolah Bux stood as firm as a rock, without the least vibration. As I touched the trigger, the tigress performed a most perfect somersault, and lay extended on the bare soil with her head turned towards us, and her tail stretched in a straight line exactly in the opposite direction. A great cheer from our men, who had witnessed the flying shot from their position on the knoll, was highly satisfactory.
We now turned back, and at length discovered a spot where the elephant could descend and cross the deep nullah. We then measured the distance—82 yards, as nearly as we could step it. My .577 solid bullet of pure lead had struck the tigress in the back of the neck; it had reduced to pulp several of the vertebrae, and entering the brain, it had divided itself into two portions by cutting its substance upon the hard bones of the broken skull, which was literally smashed to pieces.
I found a sharp-pointed jagged piece of lead, representing about one-third of the bullet, protruding through the right eye-ball; the remaining two-thirds I discovered in the bones of the face by the back teeth, where it was fixed in a misshapen but compact mass among splinters of broken jaw.
Berry's bullet had also struck the tigress, but precisely in the same place, close to the root of the tail, where he had wounded the tiger a short time before. Upon arrival at the camp we skinned the animal, and took special pains to prove the effect of the unfortunate hollow bullet. This was conclusive, and a serious warning.
The penetration was only an inch in depth. We washed the flesh in cold water, and searched most carefully throughout the lacerated wound, which occupied a very small area of about 1 inch. In this we found two pieces of the copper plug which stopped the hole in front of the bullet, together with a number of very minute fragments or flakes of lead; these proved that the extremely hollow projectile had broken up, and was rendered abortive almost immediately upon impact.
The danger of such a bullet was manifest; it was almost as hollow as a hat, and almost as harmless as a hat would be, if thrown at a charging tiger.
This was an interesting exception to the rule that is generally accepted, that a tiger will not attack if left undisturbed. If any person had been walking along the margin of that nullah, he would have been seized and destroyed without doubt by that ferocious beast. There was a case in point last year (1888) in the Reipore district, when Mr. Lawes, the son of the missionary of that name, was killed by a tigress, which was the first to attack. This animal was reported by the natives to be in a certain nullah within a short distance of the camp. The young man, who was quite inexperienced, took a gun, and with a few natives proceeded to the spot on foot. Looking over the edge of the nullah in the hope of finding the tiger lying down, he was suddenly startled by an unexpected attack; a tigress bounded up the steep bank and seized Mr. Lawes before he had time to fire. The animal did not continue the attack, but merely shook him for a few moments, and then retreated to her lair; he was so grievously wounded that he died on the following day, after his arrival in a litter at Reipore.
Many people imagine that a tiger attacks man with the intention of eating him, as a natural prey; this is a great mistake. The greater number of accidents are occasioned by tigers which have no idea of making a meal of their victims; they may attack from various reasons. Self-defence is probably their natural instinct; the tiger may imagine that the person intends some injury, and it springs to the attack; or it may be lying half asleep, and when suddenly disturbed it flies at the intruder without any particular intention of destroying him, but merely as a natural result of being startled from its rest. When, driven by a line of beaters, the tiger breaks back, it may be readily understood that it will attack the first individual that obstructs its retreat, but in no case will the tiger eat the man, unless it is a professional man-eater.
The cunning combined with audacity of some man-eaters is extraordinary.
A few years ago there was a well-known tiger in the Mandla district which took possession of the road, and actually stopped the traffic. This was not the generally accepted specimen of a man-eater, old and mangy, but an exceedingly powerful beast of unexampled ferocity and audacity. It was a merciless highwayman, which infested a well-known portion of the road, and levied toll upon the drivers of the native carts, not by an attack upon their bullocks, but by seizing the driver himself, and carrying him off to be devoured in the neighbouring jungle. It had killed a number of people, and nothing would induce a native to venture upon that fatal road with a single cart; it had therefore become the custom to travel in company with several carts together, as numbers were supposed to afford additional security. This proved to be a vain expectation, as the tiger was in no way perplexed by the arrangement; it bounded from the jungle where it had lain in waiting, and having allowed the train of carts to pass in single file, it seized the driver of the hindmost, and as usual carried the man away, in spite of the cries of the affrighted companions.
Upon several occasions this terrible attack had been enacted, and the traffic was entirely stopped. A large reward was offered by the Government, but without effect; the man-eater never could be found by any of the shikaris.
At length the Superintendent of Police, Mr. Duff, who unfortunately had lost one arm by a gun accident, determined to make an effort at its destruction, and he adroitly arranged a plan that would be a fatal trap, and catch the tiger in its own snare. He obtained two covered carts, each drawn as usual by two bullocks. The leading cart was fitted in front and behind with strong bars of lashed bamboo, which formed an impervious cage; in this the driver was seated, while Mr. Duff himself sat with his face towards the rear, prepared to fire through the bars should the tiger, according to its custom, attack the driver of the rearmost cart. This would have been an exciting moment for the driver, but Mr. Duff had carefully prepared a dummy, dressed exactly to personate the usual native carter; the bullocks, being well trained, would follow closely in the rear of the leading cart, from which a splendid shot would be obtained should the tiger venture upon an attack.
All went well; the road was desolate, bordered by jungle upon one side, and wild grass-land upon the other. They had now reached the locality where the dreaded danger lay, and slowly the carts moved along the road in their usual apathetic manner. This must have been an exciting moment, and Mr. Duff was no doubt thoroughly on the lookout. Suddenly there was a roar; a large tiger bounded from the jungle, and with extraordinary quickness seized the dummy driver from his seat upon the rearmost cart, and dragged the unresisting victim towards the jungle!
Nothing could have been better planned, but one chance had been forgotten, which was necessary to success. No sooner had the tiger roared, and bounded upon the cart, than the affrighted bullocks, terrified by the dreadful sound, at once stampeded off the road, and went full gallop across country, followed by Mr. Duff's bullocks in the wildest panic. It was impossible to fire, and after a few seconds of desperate chariot race, both carts capsized among the numerous small nullahs of the broken ground, where bullocks and vehicles lay in superlative confusion; the victorious man-eater was left to enjoy rather a dry meal of a straw-stuffed carter, instead of a juicy native which he had expected.
This was a disappointment to all parties concerned, except the dummy driver, who was of course unmoved by the failure of the arrangement.
The story is thoroughly authenticated, and has been told to me by the Commissioner of the district exactly as I have described it. The tiger was subsequently killed by a native shikari, when watching from a tree over a tied buffalo.
Although the tiger as a "man-eater" is a terrible scourge, and frequently inflicts incredible loss upon the population of a district, there are tigers in existence which would never attack a human being, although they exist upon the cattle of the villages, and have every opportunity of seizing women and children in their immediate neighbourhood. About nine years ago there was a well-known animal of this character at a place called Bhundra in the Jubbulpur district, which was supposed to have killed upwards of 500 of the natives' cattle. This was a peculiarly large tiger, but so harmless to man that he was regarded merely in the light of a cattle-lifter, and neither woman nor child dreaded its appearance. The natives assured me that during fourteen years it had been the common object of pursuit, both by officers, civilians, and by their own shikaris, but as the tiger was possessed by the devil it was quite impossible to destroy it. This possession by an evil spirit is a common belief, and in this instance the people spoke of it as a matter of course that admitted of no argument; they assured me that the tiger was frequently met by the natives, and that it invariably passed them in a friendly manner without the slightest demonstration of hostility, but that it took away a cow or bullock in the most regular manner every fourth day. It varied its attentions, and having killed a few head of cattle belonging to one village, it would change the locality for a week or two, and, take toll from those within a radius of four or five miles, always returning to the same haunts, and occupying or laying up in the same jungle. The great peculiarity of this particular tiger consisted in the extreme contempt for fire-arms: it exposed itself almost without exception when driven by a line of beaters, and when shot at it simply escaped, only to reappear upon the following day. I was informed that everybody that had gone after it had obtained a shot, but bullets were of no use against a devil, therefore it was always missed.
I was 30 miles distant when I heard of this tiger, and I immediately directed our course towards Bhundra. It was a pretty and interesting place, where the presence of rich hematite iron ore has from time immemorial induced a settlement of smelters. There are jungle-covered low hills upon which large trees are growing, yet all such important mounds are composed of refuse from furnaces, which were worked some hundred years ago.
We arrived there early in May during the hottest season, and the clear stream below the village, rushing over a rocky bed, was a sufficient attraction to entice the animals from a great distance. This would account for the permanent residence of tigers.
The headman was a Thakur, a person of importance, and, as our camp had been sent forward on the previous day, we found everything in readiness upon our arrival; the Thakur and his people were in attendance.
After the usual salutations, I inquired concerning the celebrated tiger: " How long was it since it had been heard of?"
The Thakur placidly inquired of our attendant, and I was informed that three days had elapsed since it killed the last cow; it would therefore in all probability kill another animal to-morrow. There was no excitement visible, but the natives spoke of the tiger as coolly and as unconcernedly as though it had been the postman.
My shikari was present, and I ordered him to tie up a good large buffalo, in prime condition, as the tiger was in the habit of selecting the best cattle for attack. After some delay, an excellent buffalo was brought for inspection, about sixteen months old, in fine condition, and there was little doubt that the tiger would attack, as the period had arrived when they might expect a kill.
The Thakur knew the exact position for the buffalo as bait, and he coolly assured me that the tiger would certainly kill, and that on the following day I should as certainly get a shot, but that the bullet would either fall from the hide, or in some way miss the object. He declared that upon several occasions he had himself obtained a shot, like everybody else, but it was useless, therefore he had long since ceased to take the trouble. This was rather interesting, and added to the excitement.
At daybreak on the following morning my eager shikari with several natives arrived, with news that the buffalo was killed and dragged into a dry bed of a rocky nullah within the jungle; and from the high bank they had seen the tiger devouring the hind-quarters. This was satisfactory, although I was afraid that the tiger might have been disturbed by the inquisitiveness of the people; however, they laughed at the suggestion, and the beaters being ready, we sallied out to make a drive for a hopeless beast that was possessed by the devil.
The natives had been accustomed for so many years to act as beaters for this well-known animal that they had not the slightest nervousness; they knew the ground thoroughly, and the old mucharns, which had been vainly occupied so often, had simply been strengthened, but were ready in their original positions.
We had a large force of men, and several shikaris of long experience in the locality; it was accordingly a wise course to remain silent, as the people would have been confused by unnecessary orders.
Having left the line of men in position, we were taken about a mile in advance. I had given my shikari a double-barrelled gun, and I ordered him to take his stand as instructed by the natives; he accordingly disappeared, I knew not where. We entered the jungle, and presently descended the face of a small hill; then crossing a nullah, I was introduced to my mucharn; this was arranged upon a large tree which grew exactly upon the margin, and commanded not only the deep nullah beneath, but two other smaller nullahs which it met at right angles only a few paces distant. This looked well, as the tiger would probably slink along these secluded watercourses, in which case I should obtain a splendid shot. I climbed from the back of my steady elephant into the lofty perch; the people and animals left me to watch, squatted in a most uncomfortable position, as at that time I had not invented my charming turnstool.
At least an hour passed before I even heard the beaters. At length, amidst the cooing of countless doves, I detected the distant thud, thud of a tom-tom, and then the confused sound of many excited voices.
A few peacocks ran across the nullah; then a small jungle-sheep made the dead leaves rattle as it dashed wildly past; and almost immediately I heard a quick double shot about 200 yards upon my left.
I knew this must be my shikari, Sheik Jhan, and I felt sure that he had missed, as the two shots were in such rapid succession. If the first had struck the object, the second would not have been fired so quickly; if the first had missed, the exceeding quickness of the second shot would suggest confusion.
After waiting at least ten minutes without a sound of any animal, I whistled for the elephant, and descending from my post, I rode towards the position of Sheik Jhan.
A crowd of beaters were assembled, some of whom were engaged in searching for the bullets which he had fired, both of which had missed the tiger when within 12 yards' distance, although marching slowly over the sands and rocks in the bed of a large river; the natives were digging with pointed sticks into a grassy mound of sand.
Sheik Jhan described that an immense tiger had quietly passed close to him, but that no doubt it had a devil, as neither bullet had taken the least effect.
This was the customary termination; therefore no other course was left than to return to camp, the result having verified the prediction of the natives.
We now steered direct for the carcase of the buffalo, about 1 1/4 mile distant. Upon our arrival in the rocky bed of a dry river, where the smell of the tiger was extremely strong, we found the remains of the buffalo, a small portion of which had been eaten; I was assured by those who knew the habits of this tiger that it would return during the night, and that upon the following morning we should certainly obtain another shot.
I amused myself during the day by visiting the various smelting furnaces, all of which were upon a small scale, although numerous, and the method pursued was the same which I have found invariable among savage people. This consists in strong bellows worked by hand, the draught being sustained by continual relief of blowers, while the furnaces are constructed of clay, in the centre of which a small hole contains about a bushel of finely broken ore. Some powdered limestone was used as a flux, and the produce of a hard day's work, with five or six men employed, was about 15 lbs. of iron of the finest quality. This was never actually in a fluid molten state, but it was reduced when at white heat to a soft spongy mass resembling half-melted wax; it was then alternately hammered and again subjected to a white heat, until it arrived at the required degree of purity. The fuel was charcoal prepared from some special wood.
In the evening I pondered over the failure of Sheik Jhan, who declared that the tiger had taken him by surprise, as it had appeared while the beaters were so far distant that he could only just distinguish their voices. I came to the conclusion that this was the reason which explained the general escape of this wary animal, as it moved forward directly that the line of beaters entered the jungle, instead of advancing in the usual manner almost at the end of the beat. The sudden apparition of the tiger before it was expected would probably startle the gunner, who by firing in a hurry would in many instances entail a miss. Having well considered the matter, I determined to make myself more comfortable on the morrow, by padding the mucharn with the quilted pad of the riding elephant, and by sitting astride a tightly bound bundle of mats.
I would not allow any person to visit the carcase on the following morning, as I accepted the natives' assurance that the tiger would return to its kill; I gave orders that all beaters were to be in readiness, and we were to start together.
The morning arrived, and we started with a large force of nearly 200 men.
Upon approaching the spot where the carcase of the buffalo was left, I dismounted, and with only one man, I carefully inspected the position. The body had been dragged away. That was sufficient evidence, and I would not risk a disturbance of the jungle by advancing farther upon the tracks.
In order to maintain the most perfect silence, the beaters were kept at a considerable distance, and the line was to be formed only when a messenger should be sent back to say that the guns were already in position.
The native shikaris now assured me in the most positive manner that the tiger would certainly advance along the nullah, and would pass immediately beneath the tree upon which my mucharn of yesterday was placed.
Upon arrival at the tree I arranged the quilted pad and bundle of rugs in the mucharn, and having instructed my men to clear away a few overhanging creepers that in some places intercepted the line of sight along the nullah, I took my place, having carefully screened myself by intertwining a few green boughs to the height of 2 feet around my hiding-place.
I was comparatively in luxury upon the quilted mattress, and I waited with exemplary patience for the commencement of the beat in solitary quiet. A long time elapsed, as our messenger had to return about a mile before the line should receive orders to advance.
In the meanwhile I studied the ground minutely. I could see for 50 yards along the nullah, also there was a clear view where it joined the other approaches by which the tiger was expected. Exactly in front, on the other side the nullah beneath me, the jungle rose in a tolerably steep inclination upon a slope which continued for several hundred yards. If the tiger were to quit the nullah by which it would approach upon my left, it would probably cross over this hill to ensure a short cut, instead of continuing along the bottom of the nullah; this is frequently the habit of a tiger.
It was difficult to decide whether the beat had commenced, owing to the ceaseless cooing of the numerous doves, but presently a peacock flew into the tree upon my right, and almost immediately two peahens ran over the dead leaves, which made an exciting rustle in the quiet nullah. I felt sure that the beaters were advancing, as the peafowl were disturbed; I therefore kept in readiness, with rifle at full cock, as I felt sure that should the tiger exhibit himself, he would be far in advance of the approaching drive.
My ears were almost pricked with the strain of expectation, and I shortly heard the unmistakable beat of the native tom-tom.
Hardly had the sound impressed itself upon the ear, when a dull but heavy tread upon the brittle leaves which strewed the surface arrested my attention. This was repeated in so slow but regular a manner, that I felt sure it denoted the stealthy step of a tiger. I looked along the different nullahs, but could see nothing. The sound ceased for at least a minute, when once more the tread upon dead leaves decided me that the animal was somewhere not far distant. At this moment I raised my eyes from the nullahs in which he was expected, and I saw, through the intervening leafless mass of bushes upon the opposing slope, a dim outline of an enormous tiger, so indistinct that the figure resembled the fading appearance of a dissolving view. Slowly and stealthily the shadowy form advanced along the face of the slope, exactly crossing my line of sight. This was the "possessed of the devil" that had escaped during so many years, and I could not help thinking that, many persons would risk the shot in its present position, when the bullet must cut through a hundred twigs before it could reach the mark, and thus would probably be deflected. The tiger was now about 40 yards distant, and although the bushes were all leafless, there was one exception, which lay in the direct path the tiger was taking, a little upon my right; this was a very dense and large green bush called karoonda. Exactly to the right, upon the edge of this opaque screen, there was an open space about 9 or 10 feet wide, where a large rotten tree had been blown down; and should the tiger continue its present course it would pass the karoonda bush and cross over the clear opening. I resolved to wait; therefore, resting my left elbow upon my knee, I covered the shoulder of the unconscious tiger, and followed it with the .577 rifle carefully, resolved to exorcise the devil that had for so long protected it.
The shouts of the beaters were now heard distinctly, and the loud tom-tom sounded cheerfully as the line approached. Several times the tiger stopped, and turned its head to listen; then it disappeared from view behind the dense screen of the karoonda bush.
I lowered the rifle, to rest my arm for a moment. So long a time elapsed, that I was afraid the tiger had turned straight up the hill in a direct line with the bush, and thus lost to sight; I had almost come to this sad conclusion, when a magnificent head projected from the dark green bush into the bright light of the open space. For quite 15 seconds the animal thus stood with only the head exposed to view, turned half-way round to listen. I felt quite sure that I could have put a bullet through its brain; but I waited. Presently it emerged, a splendid form, and walked slowly across the open space. At the same moment as I touched the trigger, the tiger reared to its full height upon its hind legs, and with a roar that could have been heard at a couple of miles' distance it seized a small tree within its jaws, and then fell backwards; it gave one roll down the slope, and lay motionless. The devil was cast out.
I never saw such enthusiastic rejoicing as was occasioned by the death of this notorious tiger. The news ran like fire through the neighbouring villages before we had completed the packing of the animal upon Demoiselle. I had no means of weighing this tiger, but it was the heaviest I have ever seen, and although we had four poles beneath its body and a great number of willing men at the extremities, we had great difficulty in loading Demoiselle. By the time we had completed the operation we had a large crowd in attendance, all of whom followed the elephant upon the march towards our camp bearing the body of the tiger, which had been the scourge of their herds during so many years.
At least 300 women and children assembled to satisfy themselves that their enemy was really dead. The women kissed his feet and wiped their eyes with the tip of his tail; for what purpose could not be explained.
As this animal had lived in luxury, it was immensely fat, and we filled numerous chatties with this much-loved grease, to be used as ointment for rheumatic complaints. Unfortunately at that time I had no weighing machine, therefore it was impossible to judge the weight with accuracy, but we computed that the fat alone amounted to 70 lbs. avoirdupois. The tiger was certainly upwards of 500 lbs.
I found the '577 bullet of pure lead had entered exactly at the shoulder joint, which it had smashed to atoms, carrying splinters of bone through the lungs; passing through the ribs upon the opposite side, it had smashed the left shoulder, and was fixed beneath the skin, expanded like a mushroom.
There was no danger to any person employed in this hunt, but I have described it as an apt example of a cunning tiger, which escaped so many attempts upon its life that it was regarded as "uncanny."
My servant Thomas was quite delighted, as he had offered to bet that, "devil or no devil, his master's rifle would kill him, if he got a shot."
It has been generally admitted that the great variety of this species renders a classification almost impossible. Different countries adopt special names for the varieties which inhabit the localities; the leopard may be termed a panther, or cheetah, or wild cat, or even a jaguar, but it remains a leopard, differing in size, colour, and form of spots, but nevertheless a leopard. I shall therefore accept that name as including every variety. Although the genus Felis embraces in its nomenclature all the various representatives, from the lion (Felis Leo) to the ordinary domestic cat, the two principal examples of the race, the lion and tiger, are totally distinct from all others in their natural characters. The leopard is far more daring; at the same time it is infinitely more cautious, and difficult to discover.
No lion or tiger can ascend a tree unless the branches spring from within 4 or 5 feet of the ground; even then it would be contrary to the habits of the animal to attempt an ascent, although it might be possible under such favourable circumstances. A leopard will spring up a smooth-barked tree with the agility of a monkey; and there is a small species which almost lives among the branches (F. Macroscelis), from which it leaps upon its prey when passing unconsciously beneath.
An examination of the skins of leopards from various portions of the globe exhibits a striking difference in colouring and quality of fur. We find the snow leopard, which inhabits the Himalayahs and other lofty mountain ranges, with a fur of great value, deep and exceedingly close, while the spots are not determined as distinct black, but are shaded off by gray. This species is generally found at altitudes of from 8000 to 10,000 feet, or even higher. In Manchuria and the Corea there is a species which is unknown in India; this is a large animal, with a peculiarly rich and deep fur when killed during winter; the black spots are exceedingly large, and are formed in rings. A skin in my possession measures 7 ft. 9 in. in length; the tail is full, and the fur long; this is unusually beautiful, and it must have inhabited some lofty altitude where the temperature was generally moderate.
In Africa the leopards have almost invariably solid black spots, very close together upon the back, and becoming less crowded towards the belly and flanks. In Ceylon there are two distinct varieties-the large panther, generally about 7 ft. 6 in. in length, and a smaller leopard, which inhabits the mountains; in that island of misnomers they are both included in the name cheetah.
In India there are several varieties, and the largest is generally distinguished as a panther. There is no animal more commonly distributed in the world than the leopard, and no tropical country is free from this universal pest, unless an island formation has excluded its unwelcome presence.
It is difficult to determine the limit in the gradation of size at which this animal merges from the leopard into the wild cat. The varieties of cats are so numerous that I do not pretend to describe them; some are of sufficient importance to be classed among the smaller leopards, while others are no larger than the ordinary domestic cat. These vary through every shade of feline colouring, from spots to stripes, or to a fulvous brown similar to the tawny coat of a lioness; but, notwithstanding the difference in shades and spots, in cats and in the true leopard or panther the character is the same. They are all cunning, ferocious, and destructive, and I believe that far more cattle and goats are killed by leopards throughout the Indian Empire than by the usually accredited malefactor, the tiger.
The largest and most beautifully marked of the leopards is the jaguar of South America. This is the size of a small tigress, and is more heavily framed than any of the leopards; the head is especially large, and the animal might almost be termed a spotted tiger. The rings are peculiarly marked, and waved instead of being circular.
The cheetah or hunting leopard is a distinct species, and although classed among the leopards, it is altogether different, both in habits and appearance; the claws, although rather long, are not retractile, neither are they curved to the same extent as all others of the genus Felis, but they resemble somewhat the toe-nails of the dog. I shall accordingly separate this animal from the ordinary class of leopards, and give it a separate existence as an object of natural history.
The panther or larger variety of leopard is about 7 ft. 6 in. in length, and has been known to approach closely upon 8 feet, but this would be an unusual size. This animal is exceedingly powerful, with massive neck and strongly developed legs. The weight of a fine specimen would be from about 160 lbs. to 170 lbs. Although heavy, there is no animal more active, except the monkey, and even those wide-awake creatures are sometimes caught, by the ever-watchful panther. Stories are told of accidents that have occurred when the hunter has been pulled out of his tree, from which imaginary security he was watching for his expected game. It is impossible to deny such facts, although they are fortunately rare exceptions to the general rule; but there can be no doubt that a panther or leopard would attack upon many occasions when a tiger would prefer to slink away.
The habits of the leopard are invariably the same, it prowls stealthily about sunset and throughout the night in search of prey. It seizes by the throat and clings with tenacious claws to the animal's neck, until it succeeds either in breaking the spine, or in strangling its victim, should the bone resist its strength. When the animal is dead, the leopard never attacks the hind-quarters first, according to the custom of the tiger, but it tears the belly open, and drags out all the viscera, making its first meal upon the heart, lungs, liver, and the inside generally. It then retreats to some neighbouring hiding-place, and, if undisturbed, it will return to its prey a little after sundown on the following day.
It is far more difficult to circumvent a leopard than a tiger; the latter seldom or never looks upwards to the trees, therefore it does not perceive the hidden danger when the hunter is watching from his elevated post; but the leopard approaches its kill in the most wary and cautious manner, crouching occasionally, and examining every yard of the ground before it, at the same time scanning the overhanging boughs, which it so frequently seeks as a place of refuge. Upon many occasions, when the disappointed watcher imagines that the leopard has forsaken its kill, and that his patience will be unrewarded, the animal may be closely scanning him from the dense bush, under cover of which it was noiselessly approaching. In such a case the leopard would retreat as silently as it had advanced, and the watcher would return home from a fruitless vigil, under the impression that the leopard had never been within a mile of his position. One of the cleverest birds in creation is the ordinary crow of all tropical countries, which lives well by the exercise of its wits; nothing escapes the observation of this bird, and it is the first to discover the body of any animal that may have been killed. Should one or more of these birds be perched in the trees after sunset, near the carcase of an animal, and should it utter a "caw," when at that late hour it should have gone to roost, you may be assured that it has espied an approaching leopard, although it may be invisible to your own sight. The watcher should be careful not to move, but to redouble his vigilance in keeping a bright look-out, as the leopard will be equally upon its guard should it hear the cry of the warning crow.
There is very little sport afforded by this stealthy animal, and it is almost useless to organize a special hunt, as it is impossible to form any correct opinion respecting its locality after it has killed an animal. It may either be asleep in some distant ravine, or among the giant branches of some old tree, or beneath the rocks in some adjacent hill, or retired within a cave, but it has no special character or custom that would guide the hunter in arranging a beat according to the usual rules in the case of tigers. The leopard is merely a nuisance, and as such it should be treated as vermin, and exterminated if possible.
There are various forms of traps adopted by the natives in different countries; the most certain is the old-fashioned fall, similar upon a large scale to the common fall mouse-traps. These should be permanent fixtures in various portions of the jungles, and they should be baited whenever the tracks of a leopard may be discovered in the neighbourhood. The trap is formed by an oblong 10 feet by 3 of very strong and straight palisades, sunk 2 feet deep in the ground, and well pounded in with stones. These should be 5 feet high, with a fall door at one end. The top should be closely secured with heavy cross-pieces of parallel logs, well weighted with big stones.
The rear of this trap should be partitioned with bamboo cross-bars to form a cage, in which either a goat or a village dog should be tied as a living bait. Leopards are particularly fond of dogs, and the advantage of such a bait during the night consists in the certainty that the dog, finding itself alone in a strange place, will howl or bark, and thereby attract the leopard. The partition must be made of sufficient strength to protect the animal from attack. In Africa the natives form a trap by supporting the fallen trunk of a large tree in such a manner that it falls upon the leopard as it passes beneath to reach the bait. This is very effective in crushing the animal, but it is exceedingly dangerous, like all other African traps, as it would kill any person or other creature that should attempt to pass. Newera Ellia, the mountain sanatorium of Ceylon, was always well furnished with leopard-traps upon the permanent system, and the leopards, which were at one time a scourge of the neighbourhood, were considerably reduced. In 1846 I introduced English breeds of cattle and sheep, and started an agricultural settlement at that delightful mountain refuge from tropical heat; but the leopard became our greatest enemy, and although the cattle were well housed at night, and carefully watched when at pasture during the day, our losses were severe. I observed a peculiarity in the attacks by leopards; they seldom appeared upon a bright summer day, but during the rainy season, when the wind was howling across the plain, and driving the cold mist and rain, the cattle were off their guard, and generally turned their tails to the chilly blast. It was invariably during such weather that the leopards attacked. The watchman was probably wrapped in his blanket, wet, and shivering beneath a tree, instead of remaining on the alert, and this auspicious moment was selected by the leopard for a successful stalk upon the unsuspecting herd. I have frequently lost both cows and sheep, that were attacked and killed in broad daylight, and the leopards were generally of sufficient strength to break the neck of a full-grown beast. It should be remembered that the native cattle are much smaller than those of Europe, and I do not think it would be possible for a leopard to dislocate the neck of any English cow. An example occurred when unfortunately a valuable Ayrshire cow was attacked, and the leopard completely failed in the usual dexterous wrench, but the throat was so mangled that the cow died within a few days, although the leopard was driven away by the watchman almost immediately upon its onset.
The wounds from the claws of a leopard are exceedingly dangerous, as the animal is in the habit of feeding upon carcases some days after they have been killed; the flesh is at that time in an incipient stage of decomposition, and the claws, which are used to hold the flesh while it is torn by the teeth and jaws, become tainted and poisoned sufficiently to ensure gangrene by inoculation. The claws of all carnivora are five upon each of the fore feet, including the useful dew-claw, which is used as a thumb, and thoroughly secures the morsel while the animal is pulling and tearing away the muscles from the bones.
A wound from either a tiger or a leopard should be thoroughly syringed with cold water mixed with 1/35th part of carbolic acid, and this syringing process should be continued three times a day whenever the wound is dressed. Nothing should be done but to wrap the wound with linen rag soaked in the same solution, and keep it continually wetted.
The daring of a leopard during night is extraordinary. I have frequently during wet weather discovered in the early morning a regular beaten track in the soft earth, where a leopard has been prowling round and round a cattle-shed containing a herd of animals, vainly seeking for an entrance.
At one time my own blacksmith had a nocturnal adventure with a leopard which afforded a striking example of audacity. A native cow had a calf; this being her first-born, the mother was exceedingly vicious, and it was unsafe for a stranger to approach her, especially as her horns were unusually long, and pointed. The cattle-shed was scarped out of the hillside, and was within a few feet of the blacksmith's house. The roof was thatched. During the night, a leopard, which smelt the presence of the cow and calf, mounted the roof of the shed and proceeded to force an entrance by scratching through the thatch. The cow at the same time had detected the presence of the leopard, and, ever mindful of her calf, she stood ready to receive the intruder, with her sharp horns prepared for its appearance. It is supposed that upon the leopard's descent it was at once pinned to the ground, before it had time to make its spring.
The noise of a tremendous struggle aroused the blacksmith, who, with a lantern in his hand, opened the cattle-shed door and discovered the cow in a frantic state of rage, butting and tossing some large object to and fro, which evidently had lost all power of resistance. This was the leopard in the last gasp, having been run through the body by the ready horns of the courageous mother, whose little calf was nestled in a corner, unmindful of the maternal struggle.
No sooner had the blacksmith appeared upon the scene, than the character of the conflict changed, and the cow, regarding him in the light of a fresh enemy, left the crumpled body of her antagonist and charged straight at her proprietor, who dropped his lantern and flew to the arms of his wife, whom he had left in bed. After some delay, during which the courage of all parties was restored, excepting that of the crippled leopard, the cow was appeased, and a shot from a pistol through the head of the enemy closed the episode.
Every resident in India is aware of the depredations committed by this pestilent class of the carnivora. Lions and tigers may be dangerous in the jungles in every country which they inhabit, but they never invade the actual premises; it is exactly there where the leopard is to be feared. Nothing is too small or too large for its attack; from a fowl upon the roost to a cow in the pasturage, all that belongs to the domestic stock is fair game for the wily leopard.
The cautious approach of this animal is so wary that a dog is pinned by the neck and carried off before it is aware of the presence of its enemy. Upon one occasion in Africa we were bivouacked for the night on the banks of the Settite river, and no sound disturbed the repose of the camp. Suddenly a leopard bounded into the centre, where the Arabs were sleeping around the embers of a splendid fire, and seizing one of the dogs, it sprang into the darkness, carrying its captive with it. The remaining dogs rushed off in pursuit, together with all the Arabs with swords and shields, and the leopard dropped its prize about 150 yards from our enclosure. The unfortunate dog had been surprised in its sleep, and it died in a few hours from the injuries sustained, the neck and throat being terribly lacerated. It would have been natural to suppose that the dogs would have given an alarm on the approach of the wild animal, but the noiseless tread of the leopard, as usual, was unheard, even in the extreme stillness of a calm night. The sudden attack of a leopard is generally so unexpected that a dog has no time for self-defence, and being invariably seized by the neck, it is at once rendered helpless, and cannot utter a warning shriek before it is carried off. I was walking with a very powerful bull terrier at Newera Ellia in Ceylon, when the dog, who was running through the jungle within a few yards of me, suddenly disappeared without a cry, and was never heard of again; this same dog would have made a good defence had it confronted the leopard face to face.
On another occasion a dog named Matchless, a cross between foxhound and pointer, was seized by a leopard in open day when, together with a pack of hounds, walking through a jungle-path at Dimbola, not far from Newera Ellia. The leopard sprang suddenly from a tree, and, seizing the dog, immediately ascended, and took refuge among the boughs with the hound suspended in its mouth. The entire pack bayed the audacious enemy; it then dropped the dog and jumped from tree to tree, followed beneath by the excited hounds. At length the leopard reached a large tree, which was sufficiently isolated to prevent it from springing to any adjoining branches. In this position it was surrounded, and became the central object, where it remained snarling at the infuriated pack. The party of hunters now commenced a bombardment with stones, and a lucky hit induced the leopard to either jump or fall into the middle of the hounds. There was an exceedingly large dog named Pirate, a cross between mastiff and bloodhound; he immediately seized the leopard, and a general fight ensued, the whole pack supporting Pirate in his attack. Captain E. Palliser, late 7th Hussars, quickly thrust his hunting-knife under the shoulder, and in a few minutes the hounds were worrying a dead leopard.
Some few years ago the hounds belonging to the late Mr. Downall hunted a leopard at Newera Ellia, and a tremendous struggle ensued. There were several very powerful and large seizers among the pack, and the enemy was overmatched, but although the big dogs had the mastery of the animal, they could not actually kill it outright. General J. Wilkinson was on the spot, and he thrust his hunting-knife into the fatal spot; but he was a little to slow in withdrawing the blade; the dying leopard made a quick blow with its fore paw, and inflicted a serious wound upon his hand, lacerating the muscles of the thumb to a degree that rendered surgical treatment necessary for several weeks. When using the hunting-knife, extreme dexterity is to be observed in delivering the stab, and instantaneously recovering the weapon. There is no object to be gained by keeping the knife within the wound, and there is considerable danger of injury to the hand. If the knife is used by an expert it will never be held with the point downwards like a dagger, but the handle will be grasped for a direct thrust, as though the weapon were a sword. In this position the knife is always well under command, and it can be instantly withdrawn and the thrust repeated upon a favourable opportunity.
I had a very savage and powerful dog many years ago which was a cross of Manilla bloodhound with some big bitch at the Cape of Good Hope. This animal weighed upwards of 130 lbs., and became a well-known character in the pack, which I kept for seven years in Ceylon. Although I never actually witnessed a duel between this dog and a leopard, such an event frequently took place. It was the custom of Smut to decline all control, and when the hounds were secured in couples to prevent them from following the scent of a leopard, should recent tracks be visible in the jungle, this determined dog would erect the bristles on his back, emit low growls when summoned back, and would disappear to hunt up, single-handed, the scent of the dreaded enemy. Upon these occasions Smut would be unheard of during the remainder of the day, and he would return to kennel in the evening, proudly trotting along, covered with blood and wounds, but always so fierce that he refused all aid and medical attendance; he was merely ready for his dinner. He had of course tackled his adversary, and indulged his propensity for a stand-up fight, with results which we never could discover; probably the leopard had been glad to retire honourably from the uncertain conflict. This grand dog was ultimately killed in a fight with an immense boar, and his name will reappear in connection with the sambur deer, misnamed the "elk," throughout Ceylon.
It is most discouraging to lose good dogs through the stealthy attacks of leopards, and in looking back to the list of casualties among the pack when I kept hounds in Ceylon it is distressing to see the number which were taken by these unsparing animals. If a hound is lost in the jungle, it will certainly sit down and howl, thereby exhibiting considerable intelligence, as it is, in fact, crying for assistance; but such a cry will attract the ever-wary leopard, who will probably approach by leaping from tree to tree, and pounce upon the unfortunate dog before it is aware of the impending danger. The hound that would have offered a stout resistance if boldly attacked face to face, has no more chance than an Irish landlord when shot at by an assassin secreted behind a wall by the roadside.
This noiseless approach may be imagined from an incident which occurred to me in Abyssinia, when watching a pool by moonlight, in a deep bend of the river Royan during the dry season; all streams had evaporated, excepting an occasional deep hole in a sudden curve of the exhausted bed. Hours had been passed, but nothing larger than antelopes had appeared. We were sitting beneath a very large tree completely denuded of leaves, and the moon was shining brightly, producing a sharp outline of every bough. Suddenly my wife pulled my sleeve and directed my attention to a large animal crouched upon the branches exactly above us. I might have taken a splendid shot, but I at first imagined it to be a dog-faced baboon (Cynocephalus) that had been asleep upon the tree. I stood erect to obtain a clearer view, and at once the object sprang to the ground within a few feet of us and bounded into the jungle. This was a leopard, which had probably reached the tree by means of some neighbouring branch, and so noiselessly that we had not discovered its presence. The animal had evidently winded us, and determined to reconnoitre our position.
In every country the natives are unanimous in declaring that the leopard is more dangerous than the lion or tiger, and I quite agree in their theory that when any dangerous animal is met with, the traveller should endeavour to avoid its direct gaze. It is an error to suppose that the steady look from the human eye will affect an animal by a superior power, and thereby exert a subduing influence; on the contrary, I believe that the mere fact of this concentration of a fixed stare upon the responding eyes of a savage animal will increase its rage and incite attack. If an animal sees you, and it imagines that it is itself unobserved, it will frequently pass by, or otherwise retreat, as it believes that it is unseen, and therefore it has no immediate dread; but if it is convinced that you mean mischief, by staring it out of countenance, it will in all probability take the initiative and forestall the anticipated attack.
A leopard will frequently attack if it is certain that your eyes have met, and it is always advisable, if you are unarmed, to pretend to disregard it, at the same time that you keep an acute look-out lest it should approach you from behind. Wherever I have been in Africa, the natives have declared that they had no fear of a lion, provided that they were not hunting, as it would certainly not attack them unprovoked; but that a leopard was never to be trusted, especially should it feel that it was discovered. I remember an occasion when the dry grass had been fired, and a native boy, accompanied by his grown-up brother, was busily employed with others in igniting the yellow reeds on the opposite bank of a small stream, which had checked the advance of the approaching flames. Being thirsty and hot, the boy stooped down to drink, and he was immediately seized by a leopard, which sprang from the high grass. His brother, with admirable aim, hurled his spear at the leopard while the boy was in its jaws; the point separated the vertebrae of the neck, and the fierce brute fell stone dead. The boy was carried to my hut, but there was no chance of recovery, as the fangs had torn open his chest and injured the lungs; these were exposed to view through the cavity between his ribs. He died during the night. The muscular strength of the jaws and neck is very marked in all the carnivora, and the skull when cleaned is most disappointing, and insignificant if compared with the size of a living head. This is especially the case with leopards, and it is difficult to believe that so small a pair of jaws can inflict a deadly wound almost immediately.
I have already remarked upon the wide difference in the size of leopards, showing that the largest, which are sometimes known as panthers, are almost equal to a small tigress. Some of this class possess extraordinary power, in carrying a heavy weight within their jaws. At a place called Soonbarro, in the Jubbulpur district, we were camped upon a large open space entirely devoid of bush. The ground was free from grass, and dusty, therefore the surface would expose every track. Three full-grown sheep were tied to the cook's tent, well secured to a strong peg. In the morning only two remained, but the large tracks of a leopard or panther were deeply printed in the dust, and the sheep had been carried off bodily, as a big dog would carry a hare. The jungle at the base of a range of hills, almost perpendicular and full of caves, was the great resort of leopards, bears, and jackals; the sheep had been actually carried quite half a mile without leaving a trace upon the ground to show that it had been partially dragged, or that the leopard had stopped to rest. This was an admirable proof of a great carrying power, as nothing could have moved upon that dusty surface without leaving a well-printed trace.
Although the cubs of leopards are charming playthings, and exhibit much intelligence and apparent affection, it is a great mistake to adopt such companions, whose hereditary instincts are certain to become developed in full-grown life and lead to grave disaster. The common domestic cat is somewhat uncertain with her claws, and most people must have observed that should they be themselves spared the infliction of a feline scratch, the seats and backs of morocco chairs are well marked by the sharp talons, which cannot refrain from exercising their power upon any substance that tempts the operation. I remember a leopard in Khartoum that was considered tame; this beast broke its chain, and instead of enjoying its liberty in a peaceful manner, it at once fastened upon the throat of a much-prized cow, and would have killed the animal had it not been itself beaten to death with clubs by a number of stout slaves of the establishment. All such creatures are untrustworthy, and they should be avoided as domestic pets. The only class of leopard that should become the companion of man is the most interesting of the species: this is the hunting leopard (Felis jubata). I have never met a person who has shot one of this species in a wild state, and such an animal is rarely met with in the jungle. Most people are under the impression that the hunting leopard with non-retractile claws is incapable of climbing a tree; I was myself of this opinion until I actually witnessed the act, and the animal ran up a tree with apparent ease, ascending to the top.
The Felis jubata is totally different in shape from all other leopards. Instead of being low and long, with short but massive legs, it stands extremely high; the neck is long, the head small, the eyes large and piercing; the legs are long, and the body light. The tail is extremely long, and thick; this appears to assist it when turning sharply at full speed. The black spots upon the skin are very numerous, and are simply small dots of extreme black, without a resemblance of rings. It is generally admitted that the hunting leopard is the fastest animal in the world, as it can overtake upon open ground the well-known black-buck, which surpasses in speed the highest bred English greyhound. I have never had experience of this animal in a wild state; those I have known were as gentle as dogs. It is a common mistake to suppose that they invariably approach their game by a stealthy stalk, followed by a few tremendous bounds, only to slink back if disgraced by defeat. I have seen them run a long course in the open, exactly like a greyhound, although the pace and action have resembled the long swinging gallop of a monkey. The nature of this beautiful creature is entirely opposed to the cat-like crouching tactics of the ordinary leopard: its large and prominent eyes embrace a wide field of view; the length of neck and legs, combined with the erect attitude of the head, denotes the character of the animal, as it includes a vast distance in its gaze, showing that it seeks its game upon a wide expanse of plain, instead of surprising the prey by an unexpected and treacherous attack. This is the only species that is a useful companion to man when engaged in field sports; and the native princes of India have from time immemorial been accustomed to train the Felis jubata for hunting deer and antelopes, precisely as European nations have adopted the greyhound for the coursing of hares.
The Guikwar of Baroda possesses first-class hunting leopards, and I had an opportunity of witnessing many good hunts when enjoying his hospitality at Dubka in 1880. The whole of that country is rich alluvial soil, which produces vast agricultural wealth. The fields are divided by exceedingly thin live fences formed by a species of Euphorbia; the country being flat, it affords the perfection of ground for riding, therefore such sport as pig-sticking or coursing may be enjoyed to the fullest extent. During our visit the Guikwar had most kindly arranged every kind and style of sport, including a pack of hounds, half a dozen well-trained cheetahs (hunting leopards), and a posse of hawks and falcons with their numerous attendants. The position of Dubka was supposed to be most favourable for a hunting centre, about 18 miles from the capital Baroda. There was a large palace for the Guikwar, and a convenient bungalow for his friends, situated about 30 yards from the cliff, which, 100 feet above the stream, commanded an imposing view of the river; this flowed beneath, about 3/4 mile in width during floodtime, but was now reduced to 300 or 400 yards in the dry season. A few miles from the bungalow there was a magnificent country for the cheetahs, as the ground, having been subject to inundations, was now perfectly dry, and exposed a large plain, like an open race-course, upon which the young grass was about 2 inches high. In the neighbourhood of this plain there were a few low hills covered with sparse jungle, and for several miles around, the flat surface was more or less overgrown with bush, interspersed with patches of cultivation.
On the first day's journey we travelled along a dusty road, which had never been metalled, for the reason that no stone existed in the neighbourhood; the wheels of the carriages sank deeply in the sandy loam, and the saddle was a far more enjoyable seat than a struggling wheeled conveyance. The falconers enlivened the journey by several flights at herons and cranes, which were very numerous in the marshes that bordered occasional lakes or jheels. We had the opportunity of observing the sagacity of a peregrine falcon, which, immediately upon being unmasked, rose straight in the air, instead of following the heron on its direct course. At first I imagined that it did not see the bird, which flew very high, and kept above the lake. Presently the falcon took a totally opposite direction, soaring to an altitude that reduced it to a mere speck. By this time the heron had cleared the large expanse of water, and was at a great height, perpendicular with the dry land beneath. The falcon made a sudden swoop, and with the velocity of a meteor it shot downwards upon an oblique course towards the unlucky heron. This bird had evidently been watching the impending danger, and it attempted to evade the attack by rising rapidly in the air, in order to destroy the advantage which a higher altitude had conferred upon the enemy. It was too slow: the falcon shot like an arrow to the mark, and struck the heron with such force that for the moment both birds, hanging together, fell for about 100 feet, as though hit by a rifle bullet. After the first blow, the large wings of the heron expanded, and checked the rapid fall; the falcon was fixed upon its back, holding the neck in its sharp beak, while it clung to the body with its claws. In this position the two birds slowly descended towards the ground, twirling round and round in their descent from a height of about 1000 feet.
In the meantime the falconers had been galloping at full speed around the lake, towards the spot upon which they had expected the birds to fall. The falcon was very savage, and it continued to tear the neck of the heron even when captured by the men. This was a cruel exhibition, as the head falconer, having taken possession of the birds, brought them to be admired, the heron being still alive, while the peregrine was tearing at its bleeding neck. He appeared surprised that I insisted upon its being killed, and he at once replaced the hood upon the falcon and prepared for another flight. He explained the reason for the peculiar behaviour of the falcon in taking a different direction from its game; it was afraid of the water beneath, into which both birds must have fallen had the heron been struck before it had cleared the surface; it had therefore attained a high altitude in a different direction, from which it could swoop obliquely when the lake no longer lay beneath them. This man was a high authority, and he assured me that many well-trained falcons would decline to strike a bird when flying across water, as they thoroughly understood the danger.
We had several good flights, in one of which a large crane succumbed after a very severe struggle, which seemed to test the utmost strength of the peregrine, but in every case the attack was delivered from a superior altitude, which left no chance of escape to the bird beneath; the result depended upon the power of the falcon to continue its hold during the struggles of the heavier and more powerful bird.
On the day following our arrival at Dubka, we devoted ourselves to hunting the black-buck with cheetah. In this sport, all persons, excepting the keepers of the animals, are simply spectators, and no interference is permitted. Each cheetah occupies a peculiar cage, which forms the body of a cart, drawn by two bullocks. When game is expected, the cheetah is taken from the cage, and occupies the outside seat upon the top, together with the keeper. The animal is blinded by a hood, similar to that worn by the falcon, and it sits upright like a dog, with the master's arm around it, waiting to be released from the hood, which it fully understands is the signal that game is sighted.
There were plenty of black-buck, and we were not long in finding a herd, in which were several good old buck, as black as night. Nothing could be more favourable than the character of the ground, for the natural habits of the cheetah. The surface was quite flat and firm, being a succession of glades more or less open, surrounded by scattered bush. A cheetah was now taken from its cage, and it at once leapt to the top, and sat with its master, who had released it from the hood. After an advance of about 200 yards, the wheels making no noise upon the level surface, we espied the herd of about twenty antelopes, and the cart at once halted until they had slowly moved from view. Again the cart moved forward for 70 or 80 paces, and two bucks were seen trotting away to the left, as they had caught a glimpse of the approaching cart. In an instant the cheetah was loosed; for a moment it hesitated, and then bounded forward, although the two bucks had disappeared. We now observed that the cheetah not only slackened its pace, but it crept cautiously forward, as though looking for the lost game.
We followed quietly upon horseback, and in a few seconds we saw the two bucks about 120 yards distant, standing with their attention fixed upon us. At the same instant the cheetah dashed forward with an extraordinary rush; the two bucks, at the sight of their dreaded enemy, bounded away at their usual speed, with the cheetah following, until all animals were lost to view among the scattered bushes.
We galloped forward in the direction they had taken, and in less than 300 yards we arrived at the spot where the cheetah had pinned the buck; this was lying upon its back without a struggle, while the firm jaws of the pursuer gripped its throat.
The cheetah did not attempt to shake or tear the prey, but simply retained its hold, thus strangling the victim, which had ceased all resistance.
The keeper now arranged the hood upon the cheetah's head, thus masking the eyes, which were gleaming with wild excitement, but it in no way relaxed its grip. Taking a strong cord, the keeper now passed it several times around the neck of the buck, while it was still held in the jaws of the cheetah, and drawing the cord tight, he carefully cut the throat close to the teeth of the tenacious animal. As the blood spurted from the wound, it was caught in a large but shallow wooden bowl or ladle, furnished with a handle. When this was nearly full, the mask was taken off the cheetah, and upon seeing the spoon full of blood it relaxed its grasp and immediately began to lap the blood from its well-known ladle. When the meal was finished, the mask or hood was replaced, and the cheetah was once more confined within its cage, as it would not run again during that day.
The wooden ladle is, to the cheetah, an attraction corresponding to the "lure" of a falcon; the latter is an arrangement of feathers to imitate a bird. The ladle is known by the cheetah to be always connected with blood, which it receives as a reward after a successful hunt; therefore, when loose, and perhaps disobedient to a call, it will generally be recovered by exhibiting the much-loved spoon, to which it returns, like a horse to a sieve of oats.
We now uncarted a fresh cheetah, and were not kept long waiting before we came upon a lot of antelopes, most of which were females and young bucks. At length, after careful stalking by driving the bullock-cart in an opposite direction to the herd, and then slightly turning to the left, in the endeavour to decrease our distance, we saw a fine buck standing alone within 100 yards, as we had not been observed while advancing through the scattered bush.
The cheetah lost not a moment, but springing lightly to the ground, it was at full speed, and within 50 yards before the unwary buck perceived it. Taken by surprise, instead of bounding off in mad retreat, this gallant little buck lowered its sharp-pointed horns and stood on the defence against the onset of its fierce antagonist. This was a pretty but a pitiable sight, as I knew that the odds were terribly against the buck; but in another instant the actual encounter took place, and I was surprised to see how well the plucky buck conducted the defence. It actually charged the advancing cheetah, and stopped its rush. The cheetah held back, and again the buck rushed in; but as we advanced, the poor little beast was evidently frightened at the people, and it turned to run. The moment that the cheetah saw its opportunity, it sprang forward; we saw the blow of the paw, delivered as quick as lightning upon the right haunch, and the gallant little buck was on its back, with its throat hopelessly throttled in the cheetah's jaws.
We were sorry for this termination, as I should like to have witnessed the result, had we not disturbed the fight by our presence. The keepers did not regard the affair in the same light, as they declared the cheetah might have been injured severely by the horns, but that eventually it would have killed the black-buck.
In a couple of days we had killed a number of these beautiful animals, but I became tired of the sport, as the affair was invariably over in a couple of minutes. One thing was certain, the cheetahs were first-rate, and there was none of the skulking and slinking back, which I had read of as characteristic of the hunting leopard.
This style of hunting must naturally depend upon the condition of the ground. We had hunted the localities that were in favour of the cheetah, when scattered bush admitted of a tolerably close approach; but after a couple of days we had scared the black-buck to such a degree that they entirely forsook the sparse covert, and took to the bare open plain, where it was simply impossible to approach them unobserved. This intensified the pleasure, as hitherto the cheetahs had triumphed in almost every hunt.
I accordingly suggested that we should confine our party to three mounted persons and three carts, with of course the same number of cheetahs, and endeavour to obtain some real coursing upon the open plain.
We started. There was hardly a bush upon the wide expanse of level ground, as smooth as a billiard table; only two or three trees occupied this large area, and they were unhealthy specimens, which looked as though periodical inundations had disagreed with them. We arrived upon this great natural race-course, and the binoculars were at once in request to scan the distant surface in search of the desired game. In a short time, as we advanced leisurely, constantly halting to take an observation, we discovered a considerable herd of about thirty or forty antelopes, among which there were two bucks perfectly black; these were feeding upon the short young grass in the very centre of the open ground. The question arose, "How in the world shall we get near them?" It was determined that our three horses should as much as possible conceal themselves on the right side of the three carts, and that they should attempt the approach by moving in a circle, getting nearer and nearer to the herd, as the black-buck family might become less shy, and more accustomed to the appearance of the carts. This plan was cleverly carried out by the drivers, and in about twenty minutes we had, by circling and alternately advancing direct, got to within 300 yards' distance. The herd was all together, as several times they had stopped feeding to gaze at our party, after which they had trotted off a little distance, and then closed up, as though for mutual protection, which gave confidence. We again halted, to try the effect upon the herd. They merely looked up, and for the moment ceased feeding, but almost immediately one of the bucks made an unprovoked attack upon the other, apparently with the intention of driving it away from the females. Instead of retreating from the insult, the affronted buck at once returned to the encounter, and a tremendous fight was the immediate result, the two combatants charging each other like rams, and boring, first one, then the other backward, with the greatest fury. During this duel the herd of females stood entranced, as admiring spectators of the struggle.
Not so our drivers, who, instead of their hitherto wary tactics, now prodded their bullocks with the sharp-pointed sticks, and drove at full trot straight towards the combatants. In this manner we gained a position within half a minute that we should perhaps never have obtained had the bucks remained in peaceful tempers; the females perceived the danger of our approach, and they started off, leaping in their usual manner many feet in the air perpendicularly at every bound, leaving the two stupid males in the ecstasy of a mortal struggle.