Kuderent jungle—Charged by a pig—The biter bit—"Mac" after
the big boar—The horse for pig-sticking—The line of beaters—The boar
breaks—"Away! Away!"—First spear—Pig-sticking at Teeprah— The old "lungra"
or cripple—A boar at bay— Hurrah for pigsticking!
a very fine pig jungle at a place called Kuderent, belonging to a wealthy
landowner who went by the name of the Mudhobunny Baboo. We occasionally had
a pig-sticking meet here, and as the jungle was strictly preserved, we were
never disappointed in finding plenty who gave us glorious sport. The jungles
consisted of great grass plains, with thickly-wooded patches of dense tree
jungle, intersected here and there by deep ravines, with stagnant pools of
water at intervals; the steep sides all thickly clothed with thorny clusters
of the wild dog-rose. It was a difficult country to beat, and we had always
to supplement the usual gang of beaters with as many elephants as we could
collect. In the centre of the jungle was an eminence of considerable height,
whence there was a magnificent view of the surrounding country.
Far in the distance the giant Himalayas towered into the
still clear air, the guardian barriers of an unknown land. The fretted
pinnacles and tremendous ridges, clothed in their pure white mantle of
everlasting snow, made a magnificent contrast to the dark, misty, wooded
masses formed by the lower ranges of hills. In the early morning, when the
first beams of the rising sun had but touched the mountain tops, leaving the
country below shrouded in the dim mists and vapours of retiring night, the
sight was most sublime. In presence of such hills and distances, such
wondrous-combinations of colour, scenery on such a gigantic scale, even the
most thoughtless become impressed with the majesty of nature.
Our camp was pitched on the banks of a clear running mountain
stream, brawling over rocks and boulders; and to eyes so long accustomed to
the never-ending flatness of the rich alluvial plains, and the terrible
sameness of the rice swamps, the stream w>as a source of unalloyed pleasure.
There were only a few places where the abrupt hanks gave facilities for
fording, and when a pig had broken fairly from the jungle, and was making
for the river (as they very frequently did), you would see the cluster of
horsemen scattering over the plain like a covey of partridges when the hawk
swoops down upon them. Each made for what he considered the most eligible
ford, in hopes of being first up with the pig on the further bank, and
securing the much coveted first spear.
When a pig is hard pressed, and comes to any natural
obstacle, as a ditch, bank, or stream, he almost invariably gets this
obstacle between himself and his pursuer; then wheeling round he makes his
stand, showing wonderful sagacity in choosing the moment of all others when
he has his enemy at most disadvantage. Experienced hands are aware of this,
and often try to outflank the boar, but the best men I have seen generally
wait a little, till the pig is again under weigh, and then clearing the
ditch or bank, put their horses at full speed, which is the best way to make
good your attack. The rush of the boar is so sudden, fierce, and determined,
that a horse at half speed, or going slow, has no chance of escape; but a
well-trained horse at full speed meets the pig in his rush, the spear is
delivered with unerring aim, and slightly swerving to the left, you draw it
out as you continue your course, and the poor pig is left weltering in his
blood behind you.
On one occasion I was very rudely made aware of this trait.
It was a fine fleet young hoar we were after, and we had had a long chase,
hut were now overhauling him fast. I had a good horse under me, and "Jamie"
and "Giblets" were riding nock and neck. There was a small mango orchard in
front surrounded by the usual ditch and bank. It was nothing of a leap; the
boar took it with ease, and we could just see him top the bank not twenty
spear lengths ahead. I was slightly leading, and full of eager anxiety and
emulation. Jamie called on me to pull up, but I was too excited to mind him.
I saw him and Giblets each take an outward wheel about, and gallop off to
catch the boar coming out of the cluster of trees on the far side, as I
thought. I could not see 1dm, but I made no doubt he was in full flight
through the trees. There was plenty of riding room between the rows, so
lifting my game little horse at the bank, I felt my heart bound with
emulation as I thought I was certain to come tip first, and take the spear
from two such noted heroes as my companions. I came, up with the pig first,
sure enough. He was
waiting for me, and
scarce giving my horse-time to recover his stride after the jump, he rushed
at me, every bristle erect, with a vicious grunt of spite and rage. My spear
was useless, I had it crosswise on my horse's neck; I intended to attack
first, and finding my enemy turning the tables on me in this way was rather
disconcerting. I tried to turn aside and avoid the charge, but- a branch
caught me across the face, and knocked my
In a trice the savage little brute, was on me. Leaping up fairly from the
ground, he got the heel of my riling boot in his mouth, pad tore off the
sole from the boot as if it had been so much paper. Jamie and Giblets were
sitting outside watching the scene, laughing at my discomfiture. Fortunately
the- boar had poor tusks, and my fine little horse was unhurt, but I got out
of that orchard as fast as I could, and ever after hesitated about attacking
a boar when he had got a bank or ditch between him and me, and was waiting
for me on the other side. The far better plan is to wait till he sees you
are not pressing him, he then goes off at a surly sling trot, ami you can
resume the chase with every advantage in your favour. When the blood however
is fairly up, ami all one's sporting instincts roused, it is hard to listen
to the dictates of prudence or the suggestions of caution and experience.
The very same day we had another instance. My manager, "Young
Mac," as we called him, had started a huge old boar. He was just over the
boar, and about to deliver his thrust, when his horse stumbled in a rat hole
(it was very rotten ground), and came floundering to earth, bringing his
rider with him. Nothing daunted, Mac picked himself up, lost the horse, but
so eager and excited was he, that he continued the chase on foot, calling to
some of us to catch his horse while he stuck his boar. The old boar was
quite blown, and took in the altered aspect of affairs at a glance; he
turned to charge, and we loudly called on Mac to "clear out." Not a bit of
it, he was too excited to realise his danger, but Pat fortunately interposed
his horse and spear in time, and no doubt saved poor Mac from a gruesome
mauling. It was very plucky, but it was very foolish, for heavily weighted
with boots, breeches, spurs, and spear, a man could have no chance against
the savage onset of an infuriated boar.
In the long thick grass with which the plain was covered the
riding was very dangerous. I remember seeing six riders come signally to
grief over a blind ditch in this jungle. It adds not a little to the
excitement, and really serious accidents are not so common as might be
imagined. It is no joke, however, when a riderless horse, intent on war,
comes ranging up alongside of you as you are sailing along; biting and
kicking at your own horse, he spoils your sport, throws you out of the
chase, and you are lucky if you do not receive some ugly cut or bruise from
bis too active heels. There is the great beauty of a well-trained Arab or
country-bred; if you get a spill, he waits beside you till you recover your
faculties, and get your bellows again in working order; if you are riding a
Cabool, or even a waler, it is even betting that he turns to bite or kick
you as you lie, or he rattles off in pursuit of your more firmly-seated
friends, spoiling their sport, and causing the most fearful explosions of
There is something to me intensely exciting in all the varied
incidents of a rattling burst across country after a fighting old grey boar.
You see the long waving line of staves and spear heads, and Quaint-shaped
axes, glittering and fluctuating above the feathery tops of the swaying
grass. There is an irregular line of stately elephants, each with its
towering howdah and dusky mahout, moving slowly along through the rustling
reeds. You hear the slurp report of fireworks, the rattling thunder of the
big doobla or
drum, and the ear-splitting clatter of innumerable tom-toms. Shouts,
oaths, and cries from a hundred noisy coolies, come floating down in bursts
of clamour on the soft morning air. The din waxes and wanes as the excited
beaters descry a "sounder" of pig ahead; with a mighty roar that makes your
blood tingle, the frantic coolies rally for the final burst. Like rockets
from a tube, the boar and his progeny come crashing through the brake, and
separate before you on the plain. With a wild cheer you dash after them in
hot pursuit; no time now to think of pitfalls, banks, or ditches; your
gallant steed strains his every muscle, every sense is on the alert, but you
see not the bush and brake and tangled thicket that you leave behind you.
Your eye is on the dusky glistening hide and the stiff erect bristles in
front; the shining tusks and foam-flecked chest are your goal, and the wild
excitement- culminates as you feel your keen steel go straight through
muscle, bone, and sinew, and you know that another grisly monster has
fallen. As you ease your girths and "wipe your heated brow, you feel that
few pleasures of the chase come up to the noblest, most thrilling sport of
all, that of pig-sticking.
The plain is alive with shouting beaters hurrying up to
secure the gory carcase of the slaughtered foe. A riderless horse is far
away, making off alone for the distant grove, where the snowy tents are
glistening through the foliage. On the distant horizon a small cluster of
eager sportsmen are fast overhauling another luckless tusker, and enjoying
in all their fierce excitement the same sensations you have just
experienced. Now is the time to enjoy the soothing weed, and quaff the
grateful "peg"; and as the syces and other servants come up in groups of
twos and threes, you listen with languid delight to all their remarks on the
incidents of the chase; and as, with their acute Oriental imaginations they
dilate in terms of truly Eastern exaggeration on your wonderful pluck and
daring, you almost fancy yourself really the hero they would make you out to
Then the reunion round the festive board at night, when every
one again lives through all the excitement of the day. Talk of fox-hunting
after pig-sticking, it is like comparing a penny candle to a lighthouse, or
a donkey race to the Grand National!
Peeprah Factory with its many patches of jungle, its various
lakes and line undulating country, was another favourite rendezvous for the
votaries of pig-sticking. The house itself was quite, palatial, built on the
bank of a lovely horseshoe lake, and embosomed in a grove of trees of great
rarity and beautiful foliage. It had been built long before the days of
overland routes and Suez canals, when a planter made India his home, and
spared no trouble nor expense to make his home comfortable. In the great
garden were fruit trees from almost every clime,; little channels of solid
masonry led water from the well to fill parts of the garden. Leading down to
the lake was a broad flight of steps, guarded on the one side by an immense
peepul tree, whose hollow trunk and wide stretching canopy of foliage had
braved the storms of over half a century, on the other side by a most
symmetrical almond-tree, which, when in blossom, w as the most beautiful
object for miles around. A well-kept shrubbery surrounded the house, and
tall casuarinas, and glossy dark green india-rubber and
bhur-trees, formed a thousand combinations of shade and colour. Here we
often met to experience the warm, large-hearted hospitality of dear old Pat
and his gentle little wife. At one time there was a pack of harriers, which
would lead us a fine sharp burst by the thickets near the river after a
doubling hare ; but as a ride a meet at Peeprah portended death to the
gallant tusker, for the jungles were full of pigs, and only honest hard work
was meant when the Peeprah beaters turned out.
The whole country was covered with patches of grass and
thorny jungle. Knowing they had another friendly cover close by, the pigs
always broke at the first beat, and the riding had to be fast and furious if
a spear was to be won. There were some nasty drop jumps, and deep, hidden
ditches and accidents are frequent. In one of these hot, sharp gallops poor
"Bonnie Morn," a favourite horse belonging to " Jamie," was killed. Xot
seeing the ditch, it came with tremendous force against the bank, and of
course its back was broken. Even in its death throes it recognised its
master's voice, and turned round and licked his hand. We were all collected
round, and let who will sneer, there were few dry eyes as we saw this last
mute tribute of affection from the poor dying animal.
THE DEATH UP "BONNIE MORN."
Alas, my "Brave Bonnie!" the pride of my heart,
The moment has come when from thee I must part;
No mere wilt thou hark to the huntsman's glad horn,
My brave little Arab, my poor "Bonnie Morn."
How proudly you bore me at bright break of day,
How gallantly "led," when the boar broke away!
But no more, alas ! thou the hunt shalt adorn,
For now thou art dying, my dear "Bonnie Morn."
He'd neigh with delight when I'd enter his stall,
And canter up gladly on hearing my call;
Rub his head on my shoulder while munching his corn,
My dear gentle Arab, my poor "Bonnie Morn."
Or out in the grass, when a pig was in view,
None so eager to start, when he heard a "halloo";
Off, off like a flash, the ground spurning with scorn,
He aye led the van, did my brave "Bonnie Morn."
O'er nullah and
ditch, o'er hedge, fence, or bank,
No matter, he'd clear
it, aye in the front rank;
A brave little hunter as ever was born
Was my grand Arab fav'rite, my good "Bonnie Morn."
Or when in the "ranks," who so steady and still?
None better than "Bonnie," more "up" in his drill;
His fine head erect—eyes flashing with scorn—
Bight fit for a charger was staunch "Bonnie Morn."
And then on the "Course," who so willing and true?
Past the "stand" like an arrow the bonnie horse flew;
No spur his good rider need ever have worn,
For he aye did his best, did my fleet "Bonnie Mom."
And now here he lies, the good little horse,
No more he'll career in the hunt or on "course":
Such a charger to lose makes me sad and forlorn;
I can't help
a tear, 'tis for poor "Bonnie Morn."
Ah! blame not my grief, for 'tis deep and sincere,
As a friend and companion I held "Bonnie" dear;
No true sportsman ever such feelings will scorn
As I heave a deep sigh for my brave "Bonnie Morn."
And even in death, when in anguish he lay,
When his life's blood was drip—-dripping—slowly away,
His last thought was still of the master he'd borne;
He neighed, licked my hand—and thus died "Bonnie Morn."
One tremendous old boar was killed here during one of our
meets, which was long celebrated in our after-dinner talks on boars and
hunting. It was called "the
means the cripple, because it had been wounded in the leg in some previous
encounter, perhaps in its hot youth, before age hail stiffened its joints
and tinged its whiskers with grey. It was the most undaunted pig I have ever
seen. It would not budge an inch for the beaters, and charged the elephants
time after time, ousting them repeatedly from the jungle. At length its
patience becoming exhausted, it slowly emerged from the jungle, coolly
surveyed the scene and its surroundings, and then, disdaining flight,
charged straight at the nearest horseman. Its hide was as tough as a
Highland targe, and though L. delivered his spear, the weapon turned aside
as if it was merely a thrust from a wooden pole. The old lungia made
good his charge, and ripped L.'s horse on the shoulder. It next charged Pat,
and ripped his horse, and cut another horse, a valuable black waler, across
the knee, laming it for life. Eider after rider charged down upon the fierce
old brute. Although repeatedly wounded none of the thrusts were very
serious, and already it had put five horses hors
de combat. It
now took up a position under a big "bliur" tree, close to some water, and
while the boldest of us held back fur a little, it took a deliberate mud
bath under our very noses. Doubtless feeling much refreshed, it again took
up its position under the tree, ready to face each fresh assailant, full of
fight, and determined to die but not to yield an inch.
Time after time we rode at the dauntless cripple. Each time
he charged right down, and our spears made little mark upon his toughened
hide. Our horses too were getting tired of such a customer, and little
inclined to face his charge. At length "Jamie" delivered a lucky spear and
the grey old warrior fell. It had kept us at bay for fully an hour and a
half, and among our number we reckoned some uf the best riders and boldest
pig-stickers in the district.
Such w as our sport in those good old days. Our meets came
but seldom, so that sport never interfered with the interests of honest hard
work; but meeting each other as we did, and engaging in exciting sport like
pig-sticking, cemented our friendship, kept us in health, and encouraged all
the hardy tendencies of our nature. It whetted our appetites, it roused all
those robust virtues that have made Englishmen the men they are, it sent us
back to work with lighter hearts and renewed energy. It built up many happy,
cherished memories of kindly words ami looks and deeds, that w ill only fade
when we in turn have to bow before the hunter, and render up our spirits to
God who gave them. Long live honest, hearty, true sportsmen, such as were
the friends of those happy days. Long may Indian sportsmen find plenty of
"foemen worthy of their steel" in the old grey boar, the fighting tusker of