News of a "kill"—Elephants in line—The jungle at early dawn— Half through
the Baree—A tiger charges—A bolting elephant —Smash goes the howdah—Escape
of "Butty"—Wasps and elephants—"Dotterel" — A razor-backed elephant — "That
demon of a dog"—Bolted—A shaker—How to tame a vicious tusker.
morning following the Monday, Joe awoke us all very early from a sound
sleep, with the welcome news that the scouts reported a "kill" near a
village to the south of the camp.
A cowherd had brought the news that a fine female buffalo and
calf had been killed during the night, dragged out of the batan, or
cattle camp, and, from various evidences, we concluded that it was no
ordinary robber that had thus paid his attentions to the unlucky herd, but a
ferocious, daring animal that might be expected to show sport. In the first
place, the brute had boldly ventured into the very midst of the enclosed
herd, and had singled out one of the finest and biggest of the buffaloes. It
had seized the unfortunate animal by the neck, breaking the vertebra, and
then dragged it clear of the batan, over
a dry watercourse and into a clump of reeds, where it had partially devoured
the carcase. The calf had been killed by a single blow of the brute's
powerful paw, and, notwithstanding a wild stampede by the herd, and all the
shouting of the
herdsmen, the tiger had managed to stick to his prey and undauntedly carry
All this was narrated with much volubility and breathless
haste. The khubberia—i.e., news-bearer—was
greatly excited; his action was dramatic enough to rouse our imaginations,
and from his description we were led to believe that the tiger must be a
"whopper." Already Joe had despatched "old Juggroo," his tracker, to the
spot, and after a plunge bath in the clear tank, and a hasty chota
or little breakfast, the elephants were marshalled in array, we climb into
our howdahs, and
off we set to beat up the baree in
which it was said the gorged tiger had lain up.
It is a fine sight to see a line of elephants set out from
camp at early morn, when the dew is yet glistening on the tall waving grass.
The green broom-like jovah is
beaded with pearly drops, which are shaken off in a glittering sparkling
shower as the mighty beasts go crashing through. As the howdah brushes
against some unusually tall clump of bushes, the dewy burden is showered
over cartridges and guns, and you objurgate the mahout for
his careless driving.
The heads of the riders on the smaller elephants, with their
red and blue puggries, bob
about among the tall jowah, like
poppies in a field of "Brobdingnagian corn. The
like drunken ships at sea, above the leafy foliage, suggesting to the tyro
the fear that the occupants are momentarily about to be pitched out. The
bright morning sun shoots down his cheering beams, which are reflected back
from the polished gun-barrels; the glittering kookries, or
jungle knives, of the peons, who are perched like monkeys on the pad
elephants, holding on to the ropes, and the gleaming silvery spear-heads of
perhaps a score of stalwart beaters, glint fitfully at intervals through the
openings in the tall jungle.
Ail is gaiety and animation. "We have certain khubbar,
of tiger. The grateful manilla scents the still air as the curling blue
puffs mount slowly into the crisp fresh atmosphere. It is not yet too hot,
and long dank quivering lines of mist lie in the hollows and by the
Far above, near the horizon, a full grey bank of dun cloud
looms, prophetic of a westerly, dust-laden, fiery-furnace blast about the
middle of the forenoon; but for the present all is dewy, fresh, and
The old boar, with his "sounder," is trotting slowly down by
the lily-covered lagoon. The hog deer is trampling down for his favourite
hinds a snug retreat in the cool dark recesses of the impenetrable jungle by
the old mound that marks the site of a ruined fortress, erstwhile manned by
grim Mussulman warriors, in the days of Aurungzebe. The black partridge is
crowing in the jowrah jungle;
the peafowl are leisurely sauntering to the deeper shade of the remote
forest, after a night of fearful dissipation in the grain fields; and the
quail are calling in the corn lands, while flocks of grey and golden plover,
circling flights of silvery teal and swooping pintails, or feathery clouds
of tiny ortolan and mooneas, flash like meteoric rain in the blinding
sunshine, over glassy pool and dew-bespangled mead. All over the vast plain
there is a soft diffused radiance—a fresh brightness, an exuberance of life
and colour—and the heart of the hunter is glad. We hum snatches of songs; we
exchange, gay repartee and banter; the elephants tramp along briskly, here
and there plucking down a succulent bunch of juicy reed tops, swishing it
against their mighty sides, and then slowly crunching it up with evident
satisfaction and gout. There
is a flap, flap, flap of the mighty ears—a swish, swish, swish of the great
ugly tufted tails—and the ponderous, flexible, marvellous trunks are. never
for an instant still.
Then, as we near the locale of
the "kill," pipes are laid aside, cartridges are sorted, and the locks
click, as the guns are tried. We form a line; the word is given by the
captain, and, slowly and majestically, the picturesque array of great
ponderous animals surge ahead through the swaying, waving grass, and the
tumultuous fierce excitement of a beat for tiger begins.
Our information led us to look for the tiger in a dense,
matted, difficult piece of tree jungle.
Cotton trees, fig trees, cork trees, Llianas, creepers, and prickly clinging
tendrils, twisted and twined in all directions, and sprawling bainhoos, and
the pendent rootlets of the Bhur trees
formed a dense, almost impenetrable tangle, through which the elephants had
laboriously to force a passage. Joe and myself were stationed on ahead, to
secure a shot if possible at the retreating tiger, if he should show his
The crashing of mighty branches as the elephants tore them
from the trees—the snapping of others like pistol shots, when the powerful
brutes broke them across, as a faggot gatherer would snap a withered stick;
and the swaying surging rush, as some tall leafy sapling, bent, reeled, and
uprooted, fell with a dull crash into the thick jungle below, all told us
that the line was advancing, and the elephants were being well handled.
The "Barce" as
such a jungle is termed, resounded with the shouts, oaths, and cries of the
excited beaters. The deafening clatter of several tom-toms, the occasional
shrill trumpeting of an impatient hathee (elephant),
as a tough prickly creeper would trail a scar across his trunk, and the
indescribable mingled medley of crashing sound, which always accompanies a
beat in the jungle by elephants, formed welcome music in our ears.
The line had got half through the "Baree," when, right in the
centre of the beaters, close under Butty's elephant, there was a fierce
roar, and an enormous tiger bounded out, flashed for a second his yellow
stripes before the startled sportsman, and, with a rush, disappeared in the
tangled undergrowth on ahead. Not two minutes later, Joe's trusty
bone-smasher rung out a sharp quick challenge, answered with a succession of
roars that showed the bullet had sped truly on its mission. The tiger, with
over an ounce of lead in his flank, bolted back, and charged the first
elephant he encountered. This was a half-broken, and not wholly staunch,
animal, belonging to a wealthy "mahunt," near
Emamnugger. It had never been charged before by a wounded tiger, and its
courage was not equal to such an unexpected strain. Spite of the mahout's hammering
and exertions, the poor brute turned tail and fled.
Now this is one of the most dangerous things that can happen
in tiger-shooting. Everything may depend on the staunchness of your
elephant. Rather than ride a coward
shikaree hathee, or
hunting elephant, you had better remain at In line. In
its blind unreasoning dread of the roaring demon, that with eyes blazing
wrath, bristles erect, lips retracted, and formidable fangs flashing, comes
bounding down upon it at the charge, an untried elephant will not
unnaturally turn tail and incontinently "skedaddle" as hard as it can lay
legs to the ground; and let me tell you, en
if fear does not absolutely lend wings to a bolting elephant, it can make
him go at a pace that would astonish the inexperienced in such matters.
Away, then, went the Mahunt's Mukna (the
native name for the short straight-tusked variety of elephant) and, roaring
like a fiend, the wounded tiger gave chase.
His pursuit did not last long. Pat again got a lucky shot,
which caught the monster in the fore shoulder, and crumpled him up like a
rose leaf. It was a regular smasher. Another bullet through the heart
quickly settled him.
Meantime the terror-stricken elephant crashed straight
through the heavy tree jungle. His one object was to get away from the
tiger. Butty's servant behind the Howdah
wisely threw himself off, that is, he slid over the fairly frightened
brute's rump, and rolled into a prickly bush, where he lay roaring to all
the Hindoo gods and goddesses for
end help. He fancied every minute he would make a mouthful for the tiger,
and his sudden descent and hideous outcry hut added to the blind terror of
the now fairly ungovernable "bolter."
The Mahout was
powerless. He tried to turn the brute aside from a low overhanging
branch—twisted, gnarled and moss-encrusted—that stretched like a giant arm
across the way as if determined to bar further passage. There was just room
for the elephant to pass beneath. It was a miracle Butty was not smashed to
pieces on the spot. His quick eye and ready resource saved him. As it was,
he clutched hold of an upper branch with all the energy of despair. By an
agile spring and strong muscular effort, he swung himself clear, just as the Howdah was
smashed into splinters and swept like touchwood from the back of the
unwieldy runaway, as it rushed beneath the branch. Poor Butty's guns were
sent flying in all directions, one of them exploding in the air, and sending
a bullet whistling through the trees in very unwelcome proximity to George's
ear. Soda-water bottles popped; cartridges, tumblers, a water-bottle,
cigars, fragments of canework, and splinters of wood, were scattered all
around, and with the wreckage of the unfortunate Huivdah banging
against her ribs, the now ten times more maddened elephant tore through the
jungle, fully persuaded that the devilish tiger was seated on her rump. She
was only found again late at night, miles away from the jungle, shrunken,
foundered, jaded, and still trembling in every limb.
The poor Mahout came
worst speed in the melee. He
got his thigh badly smashed, was knocked insensible, and had a narrow escape
of his life.
"Butty" had a very "close shave" of it, and this incident
affords a good illustration of the dangers of tiger-hunting. Of all the
perils, that of a bolting elephant is the most to be dreaded.
On one occasion "Mac" had nearly lost his life in a much
similar case, and out a short time before, poor young B., a genial gifted
gallant young cavalry officer, had been dashed against a tree while trying
to throw himself from a bolting elephant during a pig-sticking party, and
had been killed on the spot.
have known an elephant to bolt on more than one occasion, through the
attacks of wasps or ground hornets. The Indian wasp is no whit less
truculent a customer than his jimp-waisted yellow-ringed British cousin. In
many of the forests, colonies of wasps fabricate great conical nests, of
some papery material which are attached to the under side of the branch of
some over-arching giant of the woods. As the ponderous elephants crash
through the leafy jungle, tearing down creepers and clinging vines, these
sweep off the citadel of the wasps, and down they come in a swarm on the
unconscious cause of offence. The huge pachyderm that he is may be staunch
enough to face the furious onslaught of a boar at bay, the savage onset of
the bulky rhinoceros, or the fearsome charge of the Bengal tiger himself.
His thick hide may be tough enough and proof against the sounding whacks of
the gudjbaj or ihatha (elephant
goad and spear), but the buzzing, piercing, pungent, pertinacious, vicious
little devils, with their poisonous stings, are too much altogether for his
equanimity, and ten to one, that highly-trained, courageous and sagacious as
he is, he will rush trumpeting in frantic fear, and mad with pain and rage
through the forest.
Well for the occupant of the Howdah, then,
if he can guide the reckless rush of the poor maddened brute. Better for him
if he can slide over the rump of his elephant, but in that case he had
better take his blanket with him; or, in escaping the chance of having his
brains dashed out against a tree, he may be but jumping from the frying-pan
into the fire. The wasps will to a certainty transfer their attentions to
him, and if he be not immediately covered from head to foot in his blanket,
he stands a chance of being stung to death. I have known more than one case
in which natives have thus fallen victims.
The ground hornets, Bhowras,are
nearly if not quite as bad. They come buzzing out in an angry swarm from the
round funnel-shaped entrance to their underground stronghold, if the
unfortunate elephant have trod on their mossy mound, and then it is sauve
qui pent. Clean
heels must be shown, or woe betide you.
unfrequently too, in tree jungle, you may dislodge a colony of the fiery red
forest ants which come showering down on your howdah, and make matters very
lively for you while the engagement lasts. They tackle like bulldogs, and
stick to you like a Bathurst burr to a sheep's fleece, and one always tries
to give them a wide berth.
Once in particular I had the misfortune to experience an
involuntary canter on a bolting elephant. Talk of "rough riding," of sitting
a "buck jumper," of straddling a camel, or getting across a working bullock!
Being on a rough shambling galloping elephant is a combination of the worst
points of all these.
It was in this way.
my assistant, and myself, had gone over from Lutchmeepore to a factory some
ten or twelve miles distant, to look up a neighbour who the natives had
reported was down with fever.
We found "Dotterel" (of course I suppress real names)
suffering from a long debauch. The poor fellow had been unfortunate, and had
taken to a friend—the brandy bottle— to drown care, and quench regret, and
his friend (?) had brought him to a pretty pass. I had met him years before,
when his path in life promised well, and he was then a handsome, spirited,
intelligent youngster, full of hope and bright self-reliance, and possessed
of every one's good opinion and hearty good wishes.
Now we found a sad wreck. Poor Dotterel was sallow,
emaciated, unshorn, blear-eyed, a shivering, sodden drunkard, trembling as
with the palsy, and as utterly wretched-looking a mortal as I have ever come
across. His house, an old unused factory bungalow, was squalid and
unfurnished. The poor fellow was really ill, and I determined to take him
back to my place, and try to infuse a little vigour into him, and give him a
chance to recover his health and self-respect.
We had a cross, sullen, badly trained brute of a hatni with
us (Hatni is
a female elephant), which belonged to my factotum, Geerdharee Jha, a portly
Brahmin, who filled the post of confidential adviser to me, in my Zendndaree
Geerdharee was what the Scotch would call a "geyan grippy
sort o' body." He liked to keep an elephant—it added to his dignity—but he
grudged the keep of a competent
the poor brute was ill-fed, badly cared for, and some low-caste village "Jackaroo"
was generally told off to cut fodder for the half-starved brute, and drive
it on the rare, occasions when the loan of it was asked for by such an one
It was in the height of the rains, and the country was half
submerged, or I would never have tried such a journey on such a sorry steed
(if I can apply that title to a razor backed elephant).
The pad, too, was villainously dirty, badly stuffed, and
ragged, and the ropes that bound it to the elephant were rotten and knotted
in innumerable places.
We got Dotterel hoisted on to the pad. H. sat facing the
tail. I bestrode the lumbering brute, behind the greasy malodorous Mahout, who
straddled the neck of the hatni, and
off we set.
Now all elephants are timorsome of any animal, noise, or
thing that makes any demonstration at their rear. A well-trained hunting
elephant would face the foul fiend himself, tail, hoofs, sulphur and all, if
he confronted him face to face—but they do not like anything to approach too
closely behind them.
We got on pretty well till we reached a village about a mile
or so from the factory, when a yellow, mangy demon of a dog came bouncing
forth from the mound of ashes whereon he lay licking his sores, and began
barking and blustering close to the heels of our elephant; and his damnable
din aroused all the curs of the village, who, rushing out, added to the
demoniac chorus, and fairly frightened the senses out of our unmanageable
moving framework of bones and hide.
The "I)haus" lay before us. A villainous marsh, full of
rotten holes and treacherous quicksands—a slimy, quaking, abominable bog,
tangled o'er with matted tenacious marsh weeds; and indeed a nasty dangerous
was an old hand, and realised our danger at once. He slid off with as much
agility as he was capable of, and came bang upon mother earth, with all the
force of Antaeus, but not with the like favourable result. He required a
cushioned chair for a full fortnight afterwards.
Poor Dotterel was already shaken and exhausted with the long
rough ride, and when the infernal "bolter" plunged into the water with a
lurch, the shock threw my trembling unnerved guest headlong into the muddy
ooze, and there he stuck, and might have been fairly smothered, had not some
mullahs, or fishermen, close by come to his assistance, and extricated him
half-choked and wholly demoralised, from his involuntary mud bath.
The miserable apology for a mahout was
in a state of mortal funk. His teeth were chattering with fright, and he
could only howl out, "Aree
hap re bap!"—Dhodb jacga!"
"We'll be drowned! We'll be drowned!! Well be drowned!!!
By this time the elephant had somewhat recovered from her
funk, but plainly saw that she was mistress of the situation. She evidently
held her mahout in
She had recourse to a common trick of badly bred,
ill-tempered elephants. She commenced to rock violently to and fro,
endeavouring to shake us off her back. The fine succulent stalks of the
water-plants were forbidden forage to her. Elephants are passionately fond
of some kinds of this food, but, if unaccustomed to it, it has a tendency to
scour the animals. She was evidently determined to get quit of all
incumbrances, and enjoy a surreptitious feast.
She reckoned without her host, however.
I felt that a very little more of this awful shaking would
not only shake all the sense out of me, but would infallibly send the rotten
ropes and rickety pad flying. I was holding on like grim death to the ropes
with one hand, while the other clutched the mahout's snaky locks.
He still kept howling.
I slipped quickly behind him on to the neck of the elephant,
snatched the gudjlbaj, or
iron driving hook, from his hand, gave him a sounding whack on the side of
the head, and saw him take a regular dive into the Dhaus.
I could scarcely help laughing—but my situation was critical.
The mahout could
wade and swim like a Paddy-bird, so there was no fear for him.
I was alone in the middle of a dangerous morass, with a
cunning vicious elephant.
Her malicious little eyes twinkled. She tried her utmost to
shake me off; she ducked her head, nearly straining my back in two with the
jerks, but I was firmly seated behind her ears; and now I rained a shower of
blows on her huge long head, that rattled again like an anvil under the
lusty battery of the blacksmith.
The brute curled round her trunk several times, and tried to
seize me, but I met the proboscis each time with a shower of blows, and then
digging in the sharp point of the iron behind the root of the ear, I made
the vicious brute scream again, and trumpet for mercy and forgiveness.
She was soon fairly cowed, for I showed her no leniency, and
after infinite trouble I got safely across the dangerous ground.
Once or twice she tried to sidle off into deep water, where
of course, if she had dived, I would have been at her mercy, but I managed
to get to land all right.
H. and D. came over in a boat, and I never again asked
Geerdharee for the loan of his abominable uncanny brute of an elephant.
Poor Butty's disaster, and the death of the tiger, put an end
to that day's shooting, and we returned to camp after an al
beneath a fine old Bhur tree in the Baree.
[A Mahout is
the head of a religious order of Ascetics in India. Corresponds to the prior
or chief abbot of a monastery in mediaeval Europe. Many of these orders
presided over by the Mahout are
wealthy, having lands and property attached to their monastery.]