Not unfrequently we would meet in the zillah of a morning,
when we would invariably make for the nearest patch of grass or jungle, and
enjoy a hunt together. In the cool early mornings, when the heavy night dews
still lie glittering on the grass, when the cobwebs seem strung with pearls,
and faint lines of soft fleecy mist lie in the hollows by the watercourses;
long ere the hot, fiery sun has left his crimson bed behind the cold grey
horizon, we are out, each on our favourite horse, the wiry, long-limbed syce or
groom trotting along behind us. The mehter or
dog-keeper is also in attendance with a couple of greyhounds in leash, and a
motley pack of wicked little terriers frisking and frolicking behind him.
This mongrel collection is known as "the Bobbery Pack," and forms a certain
adjunct to every assistant's bungalow in the district. I had one very
noble-looking kangaroo hound that I had brought from Australia with me, and
my "bobbery pack" of terriers contained canine specimens of all sorts,
sizes, and colours.
On nearing a village, you would see one black fellow,
"Pincher," set off at a round trot ahead, with seemingly the most innocent
air in the world. "Tilly," "Tiny," and "Nipper," follow.
Then "Dandy," "Curly," ''Brandy," and "Nettle," till, spying
a cat in the distance, the whole pack with a whimper of excitement dash off
at a mad scramble, the hound straining meanwhile at the slip, till he almost
pulls the mehter off
his legs. Off goes the cat, round the corner of a hut with her tail puffed
up to fully three times its normal size. Bound in mad, eager pursuit rattle
the terriers, thirsting for her blood. The syce dashes
forward, vainly hoping to turn there from their quest. Now a village dog,
roused from his morning nap, bounds out with a demoniac howl, which is
caught up and echoed by all the curs in the village.
Meanwhile the row inside the. hut is fiendish. The. sleeping
family, rudely roused by the yelping pack, utter the most discordant
screams. The women, with garments fluttering behind them, rush out beating
their breasts, thinking the very devil is loose. The wails of the
unfortunate cat mingled with the short snapping barks of the pack, or a howl
of anguish as puss inflicts a caress on the face of some too careless or
reckless dog. A howling village cur bas rashly ventured too near. "Pincher"
has him by the hind leg before you could say "Jack Robinson." Leaving the
dead cat for "Toby" and "Nettle " to worry, the whole pack now fiercely
attack the luckless Pariah dog.
A dozen of his village mates dance madly outside the ring, but are too wise
or too cowardly to come to closer quarters. The kangaroo hound has now
fairly torn the rope from the keeper's hand, and with one mighty bound is in
the middle of the fight, scattering the village dogs right and left. The
whole village is now in commotion; the syce and
keeper shout the names of the terriers in vain. Oaths, cries, shouts, and
screams mingle with the yelping and growling of the combatants, till riding
up, I disperse the worrying pack with a few cracks of my hunting whip, and
so on again over the zillah, leaving the women and children to recover their
scattered senses, the 'old men to grumble over their broken slumbers, and
the boys and young men to wonder at the pluck and dash of the Bdaitee
The common Pariah dog, or village dog of India, is a perfect
cur; a mangy, carrion-loving, yellow-fanged, howling brute. A most unlovely
and unloving beast. As you pass his village he will bounce out on you with
the fiercest bark and the most menacing snarl; but lo! if a terrier the size
of a teacup but boldly go at him, down goes his tail like a pump-handle, he
turns white with fear, and, like the arrant coward that he is, tumbles on
his back and fairly screams for mercy. I have often been amused to see a
great hulking cowardly brute come out like an avalanche at "Pincher,"
expecting to make one mouthful of him. "What a look of bewilderment he would
put on, as my gallant little "Pincher," with a short, sharp, defiant bark,
would go boldly at him! The huge yellow brute would stop dead short on all
four legs, and as the rest of my pack would come scampering round the
corner, he would find himself the centre of a ring of indomitable
How he curses his short-sighted temerity. "With one long howl
of utter dismay and deadly fear, he manages to get away from the pack,
leaving my little doggies to come proudly round my horse with their mouths
full of fur, and each of their little tails as stiff as an iron ramrod.
That "Pincher," in some respects, was a very fiend incarnate.
There was no keeping him in. he was constantly getting into hot water
himself, and leading the pack into
all sorts of mischief. He was as bold as brass and as courageous as a lion.
He stole food, worried sheep and goats, and was never out of a scrape. I
tried thrashing him. tying him up. half starving him, but all to no purpose.
He would be into every hut in a village whenever he had the chance,
overturning brass pots, eating up rice and curries, and throwing the poor
villager's household into dismay and confusion. He would never leave a cat
if he once saw it. I've seen him scramble through the roofs of more than one
hut, and oust the cat from its fancied stronghold.
I put him into an indigo vat with a big dog jackal once, and
he whipped the jackal single-handed. He did not kill it, but he worried it
till the jackal shammed dead and would not "come to the scratch."
"Pincher's" scars were perfect shreds, and his scars were as numerous almost
as his hairs. My gallant "P'incher"! His was a sad end. He got eaten up by
an alligator in the "Pliaus," a sluggish stream in Bhungulpore. I had all my
pack in the boat with me, the stream was swollen and full of weeds. A jackal
gave tongue on the bank, and "P'incher" bounded over the side of the boat at
once. I tried to "grab" him, and nearly upset the boat in doing so. Our boat
was going rapidly down stream, and "Pincher" tried to get ashore, but got
among the weeds. He gave a bark, poor gallant little dog, for help, but just
then we saw a dark square snout shoot athwart the stream. A half-smothered
sobbing cry from "Pincher," and the bravest little dog I ever possessed was
gone for ever.
There is another breed of large, strong-limbed, big-boned
dogs, called Kampore hounds. They are a cross breed from the original
upcountry dog and the Persian greyhound. Some call them the Indian
greyhound. They seem to be bred principally in the Rampore-Bareilly
district, but one or more are generally to
be found in every planter's pack. They are fast and strong enough, but I
have often found them bad at tackling, and they are
too fond of their keeper ever to make an affectionate faithful dog to the
Another somewhat similar breed is the Tazi. This,
although not so large a dog as the Rampooree, is a much pluckier animal, and
when well trained will tackle a jackal with the utmost determination. lie
has a wrinkled almost hairless skin, but a very uncertain temper, and he is
not very amenable to discipline. Tazi is
simply the Persian word for a greyhound, and refers to no particular breed.
The common name for a dog is Kutta, pronounced Cootta,
but the Tazi has certainly been an importation from the North-west, hence
the Persian name. The wandering Caboolees, who come down to the plains once
a year with dried fruits, spices, and other products of field or garden,
also bring with them the dogs of their native country for sale, and on
occasion they bring lovely long-haired white Persian cats, very beautiful
animals. These Caboolee dogs are tall, long-limbed brutes, generally white,
with a long thin snout, very long silky-liaired drooping ears, and generally
wearing tufts of hair on their legs and tail, somewhat like the feathering
of a spaniel, which makes them look rather clumsy. They cannot stand the
heat of the plains at all well, and are difficult to tame, but fleet and
plucky, hunting well with an English pack.
My neighbour Anthony at Meerpore had some very fine English
greyhounds and bulldogs, and many a rattling burst have we had together
after the fox or the jackal. Imagine a wide level plain, with one uniform
dull covering of rice stubble, save where in the centre a mound rises some
two acres in extent, covered with long thatching grass, a few scrubby acacia
bushes, and other jungly brushwood. All round the circular horizon are dense
forest masses of sombre-looking foliage, save where some clump of palms
uprear their stately heads, or the white shining walls of some temple,
sacred to Shiva or Khristna, glitter In the sunshine. Far to the left, a
sluggish creek winds slowly along through the plain, its banks fringed with
acacias and wild rose iungle. On the far bank is a small patch of Sal forest
jungle, with a thick rank undergrowth of ferns, thistles, and rank grass. As
I am slowly riding along I hear a shout in the distance, and looking round
behold Anthony advancing at a rapid hard-gallop. His dogs and mine, being
old friends, rapidly fraternise, and we determine on a hunt.
"Let's try the old patch, Anthony!"
"All right," and away we go, making straight fur the mound.
"When we reach the grass the syces and keepers hold the hounds at the
corners outside, while we ride through the grass urging on the terriers,
who, quivering with excitement, utter short barks, and dash here and there
among the thick grass, all eager for a find.
"Gone away, gone away!" shouts Anthony, as a fleet fox dashes
out, closely followed by ''Pincher" and half-a-dozen others. The hounds are
slipped, and away go the pack full pursuit, we on our horses riding along
one on each side of the chase. The fox has a good start, but now the hounds
are nearing him, when with a sudden whisk he doubles round the ridge
encircling a rice field; the hounds overshoot him, and ere they turn the fox
has put the breadth of a good field between himself and his pursuers. lie is
now making back again for the grass, but encounters some of the terriers who
have tailed off behind. With panting chests and lolling tongues, they are
pegging stolidly along, when fortune gives them this welcome chance.
Redoubling their efforts, they dash at the fox. "Bravo, Tilly, you tumbled
him over that time!" But he is up and away again. Dodging, double-turning,
and twisting, he has nearly run the gauntlet, and the friendly covert is
close at hand, but the hounds are now up again and thirsting for his blood.
"Hurrah! Minnie has him!" cries Anthony, and riding up we divest poor
Reynard of his brush, pat the dogs, ease the girths for a minute, and then
again into the jungle for another beat.
This time a fat old jackal breaks to the left, long before
the dogs are up. Yelling to the mehters not
to slip the hounds, we gather the terriers together, and pound over the
stubble and ridges. He is going very leisurely, casting an occasional scared
look over his shoulder. "Curly" and "Legs," two of my fastest terriers, are
now in full view, they are laying themselves well to the ground, and Master
Jackal thinks it's high time to increase his pace. He 'puts on a spurt, but
condition tells. He is fat and pursy, and must have had a good feed last
night on some poor dead bullock. He is showing his teeth now. Curly makes
his rush, and they both roll over together. Up hurries Legs, and the jackal
gets a grip, gives him a shake, and then hobbles slowly on. The two terriers
now hamper him terribly. One minute they are at his heels, and as soon as he
turns, they are at his ear or shoulder. The rest of the pack are fast coming
Anthony has a magnificent bulldog, broad-chested, and a very
Goliath among dogs. He is called "Sailor." "Sailor" always pounds along at
the same steady pace; he never seems to get flurried. Sitting lazily at the
door, he seems toe; indolent even to snap at a fly. He is a true
philosopher, and nought seems to disturb his serenity. But see him after a
jackal, his big red tongue hanging out, his eyes flashing fire, and his hair
erected on his back like the bristles of a wild boar. He looks fiendish
then, and he is a true bulldog. There is no flinching with "Sailor." Once he
gets his grip it's no use trying to make him let go.
Up comes "Sailor" now.
He has the jackal by the throat.
A hoarse, rattling, gasping yell, and the jackal has gone to
the happy hunting grounds.
The sun is now mounting in the sky. The hounds and terriers
feel the heat, so sending them home by the keeper, we diverge on our
respective roads, ride over our cultivation, seeing the ploughing and
preparations generally, till hot, tired, and dusty, we reach home about
11.30, tumble into our bath, and feeling refreshed, sit down contentedly to
breakfast. If the dale or
postman has come in we get our letters and papers, and the afternoon is
devoted to office work and accounts, hearing complaints and reports from the
villages, or looking over any labour that may be going on in the zeraats or
at the workshops. In the evening we ride over the zeraats again, give orders
for the morrow's work, consume a little tobacco, have an early dinner, and
after a little reading retire soon to bed to dream of far-away friends and
the happy memories of home. Many an evening it is very lonely work. No
friendly face, and no congenial society within miles of your factory. Little
wonder that the arrival of a brother planter sends a thrill through the
frame, and that his advent is welcomed as the most agreeable break to the
irksome monotony of our ofttimes lonely life.