The tiger's mode of attack—The food he prefers—Varieties of
prey— Examples—What he eats first—How to tell the kill of a tiger— Appetite
fierce—Tiger choked by a bone—Two varieties of tiger— The Royal
Bengal—Description—The Hill tiger—His description—The two compared—Length of
the tiger—How to measure tigers—Measurements—Comparison between male and
female—Number of young at a birth—The young cubs—Mother teaching cubs to
kill—Education and progress of the young tiger—Wariness and cunning of the
tiger— Hunting incidents showing their powers of concealment—Tigers taking
to water—Examples—Swimming powers—Caught by floods—Story of the Soonderbund
mode of attack is very characteristic of his whole nature. To see him
stealthily crouching, or crawling silently and sneakingly after a herd of
cattle, dodging behind every clump of bushes or tuft of grass, running
swiftly along the high bank of a watercourse, and sneaking under the
shadowing border of a belt of jungle, is to understand his cunning and
craftiness. His attitude, when he is crouching for the final bound, is the
embodiment of suppleness and strength. All his actions are graceful, and
half display and half conceal beneath their symmetry and elegance, the
tremendous power and deadly ferocity that lurks beneath. For a short
distance he is possessed of great speed, and with a few short agile bounds
he generally manages to overtake his prey. If baffled in his first attack,
he retires growling to lie in wait for a less fortunate victim. His onset
being so fierce and sudden, the animal he selects for his prey is generally
taken at a great disadvantage, and is seldom in a position to make any
strenuous or availing resistance.
Delivering the numbing blow with his mighty fore paw, be
fastens on the throat of the animal he has felled, and invariably tries to
tear open the jugular vein. This is his practice in nearly every case, and
it shows a wonderful instinct for selecting the most deadly spot in the
whole body of his luckless prey. When he has got hold of his victim by the
throat, he lies down, holding on to the bleeding carcase, snarling and
growling, and fastening and withdrawing his claws, much as a cat does with a
rat or mouse. Some writers say he then proceeds to drink the blood, but this
is just one of those broad general assertions which require proof. In some
cases he may quench his thirst and gratify his appetite for blood by
drinking it from the gushing veil s of his quivering victim, but in many
cases I know from observation that the blood is not drunk. If the tiger is
very hungry he then begins his feast, tearing huge fragments of flesh from
the dead body, and not unusually swallowing them whole. If he is not
particularly hungry, he drags the carcase away and hides it in some
well-known spot. This is to preserve it from the hungry talons and teeth of
vultures and jackals. He commonly remains on guard near his
he has acquired an appetite. If be cannot conveniently carry away his
quarry, because of its bulk, or the nature of the ground, or from being
disturbed, he returns to the place at night and satisfies his appetite.
Tigers can sneak crouchingly along as fast as they can trot,
and it is wonderful how silently they can steal on their prey. They seem to
have some stray provident fits, and on occasions make provision for future
wants. There are instances on record of a tiger dragging a kill after
him for miles, over water and through slush and weeds, and feasting on the
carcase days after he has killed it. It is a fact, now established beyond a
doubt, that he will eat carrion and putrid flesh, but only from necessity
and not from choice.
On one occasion my friends put up a tigress during the rains,
when there are few cattle in the dyarahs or
plains near the river. She had killed a pig, and was eagerly devouring the
carcase when she was disturbed. Snarling and grow ling, she made off with a
leg of pork in her mouth, when a bullet ended her career. They seemed to
prefer pork and venison to almost any other kind of food, and no doubt pig
and deer are their natural and usual prey. The influx, however, of vast
herds of cattle, and the consequent presence of man, drive away the wild
animals, and at all events make- them more wary and more difficult to kill.
Finding domestic cattle unsuspicious, and not very formidable foes, the
tiger contents himself at a p inch with beef, and judging from his ravages
he comes to like it. Getting bolder by impunity, he ventures in some straits
to attack man. He finds him a very easy prey; he finds the flesh too,
perhaps, not unlike his favourite pig. Henceforth he becomes a "man-eater,"
the most dreaded scourge and pestilent plague of the district. He sometimes
finds an old boar a tough customer, and never ventures to attack a buffalo
unless it be grazing alone, and away from the rest of the herd. When
buffaloes are attacked, they make common cause against their crafty and
powerful foe, and uniting together in a crescent-shaped line, their horns
all directed in a living chevaux-de-frist
against the tiger, they rush tumultuously at him, and fairly hunt him from
the jungle. The pig, having a short thick neck, and being tremendously
muscular, is hard to kill: but the poor inoffensive cow, with her long neck,
is generally killed at the first blow, or so disabled that it requires
little further effort to complete the work of slaughter.
Two friends of mine once shot an enormous old tiger on a
small island in the middle of the river, during the height of the annual
rains. The brute, had lost nearly all its hair from mange, and was an
emaciated, sorry-looking object. From the remains on the island—the skin,
scales, and bones— they found that he must have slain and eaten several
alligators during his enforced imprisonment on the island. They will eat
alligators when pressed by hunger, and they have been known to subsist on
turtles, tortoises, iguanas, and even jackals. Only the other day in Assam a
son of Dr. B. was severely mauled by a tiger which sprang into the verandah
after a dog. There were three gentlemen in the verandah, and, as you may
imagine, they were taken not a little by surprise. They succeeded in bagging
the tiger, but not until poor B. was very severely hurt.
After tearing the throat open, they walk round the prostrate
carcase of their prey, growling and spitting like "tabby" cats. They begin
their operations in earnest, invariably on the buttock. A leopard generally
eats the inner portion of the thigh first. A wolf tears open the belly, and
eats the intestines first. A vulture, hawk, or kite, begins on the eyes; but
a tiger invariably begins on the buttocks, whether of buffalo, cow, deer, or
pig. He then eats the fatty covering round the intestines, follows that up
with the liver and udder, and works his way round systematically to the
fore-quarters, leaving the head to the last. It is frequently the only part
of an animal that they do not eat.
A "man-eater" eats the buttocks, shoulders, and breasts
first. So many carcases are found in the jungle of animals that have died
from disease or old age, or succumbed to hurts and accidents, that the
whitened skeletons meet the eye. in hundreds. But one can always tell the,
kill of a tiger, and distinguish between it and the other bleached heaps.
The large bones of a tiger's kill are always broken. The broad massive rib
bones are crunched In two as easily as a dog would snap the drumstick of a
fowl. Vultures and jackals, the scavengers of the jungle, are incapable of
doing this; and when you see the fractured large bones, you can always tell
that the whiskered monarch has been on the war-path. George S. writes me:—
"I have known a tiger devour a whole bullock to his own cheek
in one day. Early in the morning a man came to inform me he had seen a tiger
pull down a bullock. I went after the fellow late in the afternoon, and
found him in a bush not more than twenty feet square, the only jungle he had
to hide in for some distance round, and in this he had polished off the
bullock, nothing remaining save the head. The jungle being so very small,
and he having lain the whole day in it, nothing in the way of vultures or
jackals could have assisted him in finishing off the bullock."
"When hungry they appear to bolt large masses of flesh
without masticating it. The same correspondent writes:—
"We cut out regular 'fids' once from a tiger's stomach, also
large pieces of bone. Joe heard a tremendous roaring through
which continued till near morning, not far from Kipunneah. He went out at
dawn to look for the tiger, which he found was dead. The brute had tried to
swallow the knee-joint of a bullock, and it had stuck in his gullet. This
made him roar from pain, and eventually choked him."
As there are two distinct varieties of wild pig in India, so
there seems to be little doubt that there are two distinct kinds of tigers.
As these have frequently crossed we find many hybrids. I cannot do better
than again quote from my obliging and observant friend George. The two kinds
he designates as "The Royal Bengal," and "The Hill Tiger," and goes on to
"As a rule, the stripes of a Royal Bengal are single and
dark. The skull is widely different from that of his brother the Hill tiger,
being low in the crown, wider in the jaws, rather flat in comparison, and
the brain-pan longer with a sloping curve at the end, the rest of the
brain-pan being a concave curve.
"The Hill tiger is much more massively built; squat and
thick-set, heavier in weight and larger in bulk, with shorter tail, and very
large and powerful neck, head, and shoulders. The stripes generally are
double, and of a more brownish tinge, with fawn colour between the double
stripes. The skull is high in the crown, and not quite so wide. The
brain-pan is shorter, and the crest slightly convex or nearly straight, and
the curve at the end of the skull rather abrupt. They never grow so long as
the 'Bengal,' yet look twice as big.
"The crosses are very numerous, and vary according to
pedigree, in stripes, skulls, form, weight, bulk, and tail. This I find most
remarkable when I look at my collection of over 100 skulls.
"The difference is better marked 'n tigers than in tigresses.
The Bengal variety are not as a rule as ferocious as the Hill tiger. Being
more supple and cunning, they can easier evade their pursuers by flight and
maneuver than their less agile brothers. The former, owing to deficiency of
strength, oftener meet with discomfiture, and consequently are more wary and
cunning; while the latter, prone to carry everything before them, trust more
to their strength and courage, anticipating victory as certain.
"In some the stripes are doubled throughout, in others only
partially so, while in some they are single throughout, and some have manes
to a slight extent."
I have no doubt this classification is correct. The tigers I
have seen in Nepaul near the hills, were sometimes almost a dull red, arid
at a distance looked like a huge dun cow, while those I have seen in the
plains during our annual hunts, were of a bright tawny yellow, longer, more
lanky, and not showing half such a bold front as their bulkier and bolder
brethren of the hills.
The length of the tiger has often given rise to fierce
discussions among sportsmen. The fertile imagination of the slayer of a
solitary "stripes," has frequently invested the brut*1 he
has himself shot, or seen shot, or perchance heard of as having been shot by
a friend, or the friend of a friend, with a fabulous length, inches swelling
to feet, and dimensions growing at each repetition of the yarn, till, as in
the case of boars, the twenty-eight incher becomes a forty-inch tusker, and
the eight-foot tiger stretches to twelve or fourteen feet.
Purists again, sticklers for stern truth, haters of bounce or
exaggeration, have perhaps erred as much on the other side; and in their
eagerness to give the exact measurement, and avoid the very appearance of
exaggeration, they actually stretch their tape line and refuse to measure
the curves of the body, taking it in straight lines. This I think is
Our mode of measurement in Purneah was to take the tiger as
he lay before he was put on the elephant, and measure from the tip of the
nose, over the crest of the skull, along the undulations of the body, to the
tip of the taiL That is, we followed the curvature of the spine along the
dividing ridge of the back, and always were careful and fair in our
attempts. I am of opinion that a tiger over ten feet long is an
exceptionally long one, but when I read of sportsmen denying altogether that
even that length can be attained, I can but pity the dogmatic scepticism
that refuses credence to well-ascertained and authenticated facts. I believe
also that tigers are not got nearly so large as in former days. I believe
that much longer and heavier tigers - animals larger in every way—were shot
some twenty years ago than those we can get now, but I account for this by
the fact that there is less land left waste and uncultivated, There are more
roads, ferries, and bridges, more improved communications, and in
consequence more travelling. Population and cultivation have increased;
fire-arms are more numerous; sport is more generally followed; shooting is
much more frequent and deadly; and, in a word, tigers have not the same
chances as they had some twenty years ago of attaining a ripe old age, and
reaching the extremest limit of their growth. The largest tigers being also
the most suspicions and wary, are only found in the remotest recesses of the
impenetrable jungles of Nepaul and the Terai. or in those parts of the
Indian wilds where the crack of the European rifle is seldom or never heard.
It has been so loudly asserted, and so boldly maintained that
no tiger was ever shot reaching, when fairly measured (that is, measured
with the skin on, as he lay), ten feet, that I will let Mr. George again
speak for himself, Referring to the Royal Bengal, he says:—
"These grow to great lengths. They have been shot as long as
twelve feet seven inches (my father shot one that length) or longer; twelve
feet seven inches, twelve feet six inches, twelve feet three inches, twelve
feet one inch, and twelve feet, have been shot and recorded in the old
sporting magazines by gentlemen of undoubted veracity in Purneah.
"I have seen the skin of one twelve feet one inch, compared
with which the skin of one I have by me that
measured as he lay (the
italics are mine) eleven feet one inch, looks like the skin of a cub. The
old skin looks more like that of a huge antediluvian species in comparison
with the other.
"The twelve-footer was so heavy that my uncle (C. A. S.)
tells me no number of mahouts could lift it. Several men, if they could have
approached at one and the same time, might have been able to do so, but a
sufficient number of men could not lay hold simultaneously to move the body
from the ground.
Eventually a. number of bamboos had to be cut and placed in
an incline from the ground to the elephant's saddle while the elephant knelt
down, and up this incline the tiger had to be regularly hauled and shoved,
and so fastened on the elephant.
"He (the tiger) mauled four elephants, one of whom died the
same day, and one other had a narrow butch, i.e.
escape, of its life."
In another communication to me, my friend goes over the same
ground, but as the matter is one of interest to sportsmen and naturalists, I
will give the extract entire. It proceeds as follows:—
'Tigers grow to great lengths, some assert to even fourteen
feet. I do not say they do not, but such cases are very rare, and require
authentication. The longest I have seen, measured as he lay, eleven feet one
inch (see 'Oriental Sporting Magazine,' for July, 1871, p. 308). He was
seven feet nine inches from tip of nose to root of tail; root of tail one
foot three inches in circumference ; round chest four feet six inches;
length of head one foot two inches; forearm two feet two inches; round the
head two feet ten inches; length of tail three feet four inches.
"Besides this, I have shot another eleven feet, and one ten
feet eleven inches.
"The largest tigress I have shot was at Sahareah, which
measured ten feet two inches. I shot another ten feet exactly " (see O. S.
M. Aug., 1871, p. 358).
"I have got the head of a tiger, shot by Joe, which measured
eleven feet live inches. It was shot at Baraila.
"The male is much bigger built in every way—length, weight,
size, &c., than the female. The males are more savage, the females more
cunning and agile. The arms, body, paws, head, skull, claws, teeth, &c., of
the female, are smaller. The tad of tigress longer; hind legs more lanky;
the prints look smaller and more contracted, and the toes nearer together.
It is said that though a large tiger may venture to attack a buffalo, the
tigress refrains from doing so, but I have found this otherwise in my
"I have kept a regular log of all tigers shot by me. The
average length of fifty-two tigers recorded in my journal is nine feet six and
a half inches (cubs excluded), and
of sixty-eight tigresses (cubs excluded), eight feet four inches.
"The average of tigers and tigresses is eight feet ten and a
quarter inches. This is excluding cubs I have taken alive."
As to measurements, he goes on to make a few remarks, and as
I cannot improve on them I reproduce the original passage:—
"Several methods have been recommended for measuring tigers.
I measure them on the ground, or when brought to camp before skinning, and
run the tape tight along the line, beginning at the tip of the nose, along
the middle of the skull, between the ears and neck, then along the spine to
the end of the tail, taking any curves of the body.
"No doubt measurements of skull, body, tail, legs, &c., ought
all to be taken, to give an adequate idea of the tiger, and for comparing
them with one another, but this is not always feasible."
Most of the leading sportsmen in India now-a-days are very
particular in taking the dimensions of e\ ery limb of the dead tiger. They
take his girth, length, and different proportions. Many even weigh the tiger
when it gets into camp, and no doubt this test is one of the best that can
be given for a comparison of the sizes of the different animals slain.
Another much disputed point in the natural history of the
animal, a point on which there has been much acrimonious discussion, is the
number of young that are given at a birth. Some writers have asserted, and
stoutly maintained, that two cubs, or at the most three, is the extreme
number of young brought forth at one time.
This may be the ordinary number, but the two gentlemen I have
already alluded to have assured me, that on frequent occasions they have
picked up four actually born, and have cut out five several times, and on
one occasion six, from the womb of a tigress.
I have myself picked up four male cubs, all in one spot, with
their eyes just beginning to open, and none of their teeth through the gums.
One had been trampled to death by buffaloes, the other three were alive and
scatheless, huddled into a bush, like three immense kittens. I kept the
three for a considerable time, and eventually took them to Calcutta and sold
them for a very satisfactory price.
It seems clear, however, that the tigress frequently has four
and even five cubs. It is rare, indeed, to find her accompanied by more than
two well-grown cubs, very seldom three; and the inference is, that one or
two of the young tigers succumb in very early life.
The young ones do not appear to grow very quickly; they are
about a foot long when they are born; they are born blind, with very minute
hair, almost none in fact, but with the stripes already perfectly marked on
the soft supple skin; they open their eyes when they are eight or ten days
old, at which time they measure about a foot and a half. At the age of nine
months they have attained to five feet in length, and are waxing
mischievous. Tiger cubs a year old average about five feet eight inches,
tigresses some three inches or so less. In two years they grow respectively
to—the male seven feet six inches, and the female seven feet. At about this
time they leave the mother, if they have not already done so, and commence
depredations on their own account. In fact, their education has been well
attended to. The mother teaches them to kill when they are about a year old.
A young cub that measured only six feet, and whose mother had been shot in
one of the annual beats, was killed while attacking a full-grown cow in the
Government pound at Dumdaha police-station. When they reach the length of
six feet six inches they can kill pretty easily, and numbers have been shot
by George and other Turneah sportsmen close to their "kills."
They are most daring and courageous when they have just left
their mother's care, and are cast forth to fight the battle of life for
themselves. While with the old tigress their lines have been cast in not
unpleasant places, they have seldom known hunger, and have experienced no
reverses. Accustomed to see every animal succumb to her well-planned and
audacious attacks, they fancy that nothing will withstand their onslaught.
They have been known to attack a line of elephants, and to charge most
determinedly, even in this adolescent stage.
Bye-and-bye, however, as they receive a few rude shocks from
buffaloes, or are worsted in a hand-to-hand encounter with some tough old
bull, or savage old grey boar, more especially if they get an ugly rip or
two from the sharp tusks of an infuriated fighting tusker, they begin to be
less aggressive, they learn that discretion may be the better part of valour,
and their cunning instincts are roused. In fact, their education is
progressing, and in time they instinctively discover every wile and dodge
and cunning stratagem, and display all the wondrous subtlety of their race
in procuring their prey.
Old tigers are invariably more wary, cautious, and suspicious
than young ones, and till they are fairly put to it by hunger, hurt, or
compulsion, they endeavour to keep their stripes concealed. When brought to
bay, however, there is little to reproach them with on the score of
cowardice, and it will be a matter of rejoicing if you or your elephants do
not come off second best in the encounter. Even in the last desperate case,
a cunning old tiger will often make a feint, or sham rush, or pretended
charge, when his whole object is flight. If he succeed in demoralising the
line of elephants, roaring and dashing furiously about, he will then try in
the confusion to double through, unless he is too badly wounded to be able
to travel fast, in which case he will fight to the end.
Old fellows are well acquainted with every maze and thicket
in the jungles, and they no sooner hear the elephants enter the "bush" or
"cover" than they make off for some distant shelter. If there is no apparent
chance of this being successful, they try to steal out laterally and
outflank the iine, or if that also is impossible, they hide in some secret
recess like a fox, or crouch low in some clumpy hush, and trust to you or
your elephant passing by without noticing their presence.
It is marvellous in what sparse cover they will manage, to
lie up. So admirably do their stripes mingle with the withered and charred
grass-stems and dried-up stalks, that it-is very difficult to detect the
dreaded robber when he is lying flat, extended close to the ground, so still
and motionless that you cannot distinguish a tremor or even a vibration of
the grass in which he is crouching.
On one occasion George followed an old tiger through some
stubble about three feet high. It had been well trampled down too by tame
buffaloes. The tiger had been tracked into the. field, and was known to be
in it. George was within ten yards of the cunning brute, and although
mounted on a tall elephant, and eagerly scanning the thin cover with his
•sharpest glance, he could not discern the concealed monster. His elephant
was within four paces of it, when it sprang up at the charge, giving a
mighty roar, which however also served as its death yell, as a bullet from
George's trusty gun crashed through its ribs and heart.
Tigers can lay themselves so flat on the ground, and lie so
perfectly motionless, that it is often a very easy thing to overlook them.
On another occasion, when the Purneah Hunt were out, a tigress that had been
shot got under some cover that was trampled down by a line of about twenty
elephants. The sportsmen knew that she had been severely wounded, as they
could tell by the gouts of blood, but there was no sign of the body. She had
disappeared. After a long search, beating the same ground over and over
again, an elephant trod on the dead body lying under the trampled canes, and
the mahout got down and discovered her lying quite dead. She was a large
animal and full grown.
On another occasion George was after a fine male tiger. He
was following up fast, hut coming to a broad nullah, full of water, he
suddenly lost sight of his game. He looked up and down the bank, and on the
opposite bank, but could see no traces of the tiger. Looking down, he saw in
the water what at first he took to be a large bull-frog. There was not a
ripple on the placid stagnant surface of the pool. He marvelled much, and
just then his mahout pointed to the supposed bull-frog, and in an excited
whisper implored George to fire. A keener look convinced George that it
really was the tiger. It was totally immersed all but the face, and lying so
still that not the faintest motion or ripple was perceptible. He fired and
indicted a terrible wound. The tiger bounded madly forward, and George gave
it its quietus through the spine as it tried to spring up the opposite bank.
A nearly similar case occurred to old Mr. C., one of the
veteran sportsmen of Purneah. A tiger had bolted towards a small tank or
pond, and although the line followed up in hot pursuit, the brute
disappeared. Old C., keener than the others, was loth to give up the
pursuit, and presently discerned a yellowish reflection in the clear water.
Peering more intently, he could discover the yellowish tawny outline of the
cunning animal, totally immersed in the water, save its eyes, ears, and
nose. He shot the tiger dead, and it sank to the bottom like a stone. So
perfectly had it concealed itself, that the other sportsmen could not for
the life of them imagine what old C. had fired at, till his mahout got down
and began to haul the dead animal out of the water.
Tigers are not at all afraid of water, and are fast and
powerful swimmers. They swim much after the fashion of a horse, only the
head out of the water, and they make scarcely any ripple.
"In another case," writes George, "though not five yards from
the elephant, and right under me, a tiger was swimming with so slight a
ripple that I mistook it for a rat, until I saw the stripes emerge, when I
perforated his jacket with a bullet."
Only their head remaining out of water when they are
swimming, they are very hard to hit, as shooting at an object on water is
very deceptive work as to judging distance, and a tiger's head is but a
small object to aim at when some little way off.
Old C. had another adventure with a cunning rogue, which all
but ended disastrously, lie was in hot pursuit of the tiger, and, finding no
safety on land, it took to swimming in a broad unfordable piece of water, a
sort of deep lagoon. Old C. procured a boat that was handy, and got a coolie
to paddle him out after the tiger. He fired several shots at the exposed
head of the brute, but missed. He thought he would wait till he got nearer
and make a sure shot, as he had only one bullet left in the heat. Suddenly
the tiger turned round and made straight for the boat. Here was a quandary.
Even if he killed the tiger with his single bullet it might upset the boat;
the lagoon was full of alligators, to say nothing of weeds, and there, was
no time to get his heavy boots off. He felt his life might depend on the
accuracy of his aim. He fired, and killed the tiger stone dead within four
or five yards of the boat.
On one occasion, when out with our worthy district
magistrate, Mr. S., I came on the tracks of what to all appearance was a
very large tiger. They led over the sand close to the water's edge, and were
very distinct I could see no returning marks, so I judged that the tiger
must have taken to the water. The stream was rapid and deep, and midway to
the further bank was a big, oblong-shaped, sandy islet, some five or six
hundred yards long, and having a few scrubby bushes growing sparsely on it.
We put our elephants into the rapid current, and got across. The river here
was nearly a quarter of a mile wide on each side of the islet. As we emerged
from the stream on to the island we found fresh tracks of the tiger. They
led us completely round the circumference of the islet. The tiger had
evidently been in quest of food. The prints were fresh and very well
defined. Finding that all was barren on the sandy shore, he entered the
current again, and following up we found his imprint once more on the
further bank, several hundred yards down the stream.
One tiger was killed stone dead by a single bullet during one
of our annual hunts, and falling back into the water, it sank to the bottom
like lead. Being unable to find the animal, we beat all round the place,
till I suggested it might have been hit and fallen into the river. One of
the men was ordered to dive down, and ascertain if the tiger was at the
bottom. The river water is generally muddy, so that the bottom cannot be
seen. Divesting himself of puggree, and girding up his loins, the diver sank
gently to the bottom, but presently reappeared in a palpable funk, puffing
and blowing, and declaring that the tiger was certainly at the bottom. The
foolish fellow thought it might be still alive. We soon disabused his mind
of that idea, and had the dead tiger hauled up to dry land.
Surprised by floods, a tiger has been known to remain for
days on an ant-hill, and even to take refuge on the branch of some large
tree, but he takes to water readily, and can swim for over a mile, and he
has been known to remain for days in from two to three feet depth of water.
A time-honoured tiger story with old hands, used to tell how
the Soonderbund tigers got carried out to sea. If the listener was a new
arrival, or a gobe
would explain that the tigers in the Soonderbunds often get carried out to
sea by the retiring tide. It would sweep them off as they were swimming from
island to island in the vast delta of Father Ganges. Only the young ones,
however, suffered this lamentable fate. The older and more wary fellows,
taught perhaps by sad experience, used always to dip their tails in, before
starting on a swim, so as to ascertain which way the tide was flowing. If it
was the flow of the tide they would boldly venture in, but if it was ebb
tide, and there was the slightest chance of their being carried out to sea,
they would patiently lie down, meditate on the fleeting vanity of life, and
like the hero of the song—
"Wait for the turn of the tide."
Without venturing an opinion on this story, I may confidently
assert, that the tiger, unlike his humble prototype the domestic cat, is not
really afraid of water, but will take to it readily to escape a threatened
danger, or if he can achieve any object by "paddling his own canoe."