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Sport and Work on the Nepaul Frontier
Chapter IX

Pig-sticking in India—Varieties of boar—Their size and height—Ingenious mode of capture by the natives—The "Baton" or buffalo herd—Pigs charging—Their courage and ferocity—Destruction of game—A close season for game.

The sport par excellence of India is pig-sticking. Call it hog-hunting if you will, I prefer the honest old-fashioned name. With a good horse under one, a fair country, with not too many pitfalls, and "lots of pig," this sport becomes the most exciting that can be practised. Some prefer tiger shooting from elephants, others like to stalk the lordly ibex on the steep Himalayan slopes, but anyone who has ever enjoyed a rattle after a pig over a good country, will recall the fierce delight, the eager thrill, the wild, mad excitement, that flushed his whole frame, as he met the infuriate charge of a good thirty-inch fighting boar, and drove his trusty spear well home, laying low the gallant grey tusker, the indomitable, unconquerable, grisly boar. The subject is well worn; and though the theme is a noble one, there are but few I fancy who have not read the record of some gallant fight, where the highest skill, the finest riding, the most undaunted pluck, and the cool, keen daring of a practised hand are not always successful against the headlong rash and furious charge of a Bengal boar at bay.

A record of planter life in India, however, such as this aims at being, would be incomplete without some reference to the gallant tusker, and so at the risk of tiring my readers, I must try to describe a pig-sticking party.

There are two distinct kinds of boar in India, the black and the grey. Their dispositions are very different, the grey being fiercer and more pugnacious. He is a vicious and implacable foe when roused, and always shows better fight than the black variety. The great difference, however, is in the shape of the skull; that of the black fellow being high over the frontal bone, and not very long in proportion to height, while the skull of the grey boar is never very high, but is long, and receding in proportion to height.

The black boar grows to an enormous size, and the grey ones are, generally speaking, smaller made animals than the black. The young of the two also differ in at least one important particular; those of the grey pig are always born striped, but the young of the black variety are born of that colour, and are not striped but a uniform black colour throughout. The two kinds of pig sometimes interbreed, but crosses are not common; and, from the colour, size, shape of the head, and general behaviour, one can easily tell at a glance what kind of pig gets up before his spear, whether it is the heavy, sluggish black boar, or the veritable fiery, vicious, fighting grey tusker.

Many stories are told of their enormous size, and a "forty-inch tusker " is the established standard for a Goliath among boars. The best fighting boars, however, range from twenty-eight to thirty-two inches in height, and 1 make bold to say that very few of the present generation of sportsmen have ever seen a veritable wild boar over thirty-eight inches high

G. S., who has had perhaps as much jungle experience as any man of his age in India, a careful observer, and a finished sportsman, tells me that the biggest boar he ever saw was only thirty-eight inches high; while the biggest pig he ever killed was a barren sow, with three inch tusks sticking out of her gums; she measured thirty-nine-and-a-half inches, and fought like a demon. I have shot pig—in heavy jungle where spearing was impracticable;—over thirty-six inches high, hut the biggest pig I ever stuck to my mm spear was only twenty-eight inches, anil I do not think any pig has been killed in Chumparun, within the last ten or a dozen years at any rate, over thirty-eight inches.

In some parts of India, where pigs are numerous and the jungle dense, the natives adopt a very ingenious mode of hunting. I have frequently seen it practised by the cowherds on the Koosee dyarns, i.e. the flat swampy jungles on the banks of the Koosee. When the annual floods have subsided, leaving behind a thick deposit of mud, wrack, and brushwood, the long thick grass soon shoots up to an amazing height, and vast herds of cattle and tame buffaloes come down to the jungles from the interior of the country, where natural pasture is scarce. They are attended by the owner and Ids assistants, all generally belonging to the gualla, or cowherd caste, although, of course, there are other castes employed. The owner of the herd gets leave to graze his cattle in the jungle, by paying a certain fixed sum per head. He fixes on a high dry ridge of land, where he runs up a few grass huts for himself and men, and there he erects lines of grass and bamboo screens, behind winch his cattle take shelter at night from the cold south-east wind. There are also a few huts of exceedingly frail construction for himself end his people. This small colony, in the midst of the universal jungle covering the country for miles round, is called a batan.

At earliest dawn the buffaloes are milked, and then with their attendant herdsmen they wend their way to the jungle, where they spend the day, and return again to the batan at night, when they are again milked. The milk is made into ghee, or clarified butter, and large quantities are sent down to the towns by country boats. When we want to get up a hunt, we generally send to the nearest batan for khubber, i.e. news, information. The Batanea, or proprietor of the establishment, is well posted up. Every herdsman as he comes in at night tells what animals he has seen through the day, and thus at the hat an you hear where tiger, and pig, and deer are to be met with; where an unlucky cow has been killed; in what ravine is the thickest jungle ; where the path is free from clay or quicksand; what fords are safest; and, in short, you get complete information on every point connected with the jungle and its wild inhabitants.

To these men the mysterious jungle reveals its most hidden secrets. Surrounded by his herd of buffaloes, the gualla ventures into the darkest recesses and the most tangled thickets. They have strange wild calls by which they give each other notice of the approach of danger, and when two or three of them meet, each armed with his heavy, iron-shod or brass-bound lathee or quarter staff, they will not budge an inch out of their way for buffalo or boar; nay, they have been known to face the terrible tiger himself, and fairly beat him away from the quivering carcase of some unlucky member of their herd. They have generally some favourite buffalo on whose broad back they perch themselves, as it browses through the jungle, and from this elevated seat they survey the rest of the herd, and note the incidents of jungle life. When they wish a little excitement, or a change from their milk and rice diet, there are hundreds of pigs around.

They have a broad, sharp spear-head, to which is attached a stout cord, often made of twisted hide or hair. Into the socket of the spear is thrust a bamboo pole or shaft, tough, pliant, and flexible. The cord is wound round the spear and shaft, and the loose end is then fastened to the middle of the pole. Having thus prepared his weapon, the herdsman mounts his buffalo, and guides it slowly, warily, and cautiously to the haunts of the pig. These are, of course, quite accustomed to see the buffaloes grazing round them on all sides, and take no notice until the gualla is within striking distance. When he has got close up to the pig he fancies, he throws Ids spear with all his force. The pig naturally bounds off, the shaft comes out of the socket, leaving the spearhead sticking in the wound. The rope uncoils of itself, hut being firmly fastened to the bamboo, it brings up the pig at each bush, and tears and lacerates the wound, until either the spearhead comes out, or the wretched pig drops down dead from exhaustion and loss of blood. The gualla follows upon his buffalo, and frequently finishes the pig with a few strokes of his lathee. In any ease he gets his pork, and it certainly is an ingenious and bold way of procuring it.

Wild pig are very destructive to crops. During the night they revel in the cultivated fields contiguous to the jungle, and they destroy more by rooting up than by actually eating. It is common for the ryot to dig a shallow pit, and ensconce himself inside with his matchlock beside him. His head being on a level with the ground, lie can discern any animal that comes between him and the sky-line. When a pig comes in sight, he waits till he is within sure distance, and then puts either a bullet or a charge of slugs into him.

The pig is perhaps the most stubborn and courageous animal in India. Even when pierced with several spears, and bleeding from numerous wounds, he preserves a sullen silence. He disdains to utter a cry of fear and pain, but maintains a bold front to the last, and dies with his face to the foe, defiant and unconquered. When hard pressed he scorns to continue his flight, but wheeling round, he makes a determined charge, very frequently to the utter discomfiture of his pursuer.

I have seen many a fine horse fearfully cut by a charging pig, and a determined boar over and over again break through a line of elephants, ami make good Ins escape. There is no animal in all the vast jungle that the elephant dreads more than a lusty hoar. I have seen elephants that would stand the repeated charges of a wounded tiger, turn tail and take to ignominious flight before the onset of an angry boar.

His thick short neck, ponderous body, and wedge-like head are admirably fitted for crashing through the thick jungle he inhabits, and when he has made up his mind to charge, very few animals can withstand his furious rush. Instances are quite common of his having made good his charge against a line of elephants, cutting and ripping more than one severely, lie has been known to encounter successfully even the kingly tiger himself. Can it be wondered, then, that we consider him a "foeman worthy of our steel"?

To be a good pig-sticker is a recommendation that wins acceptance everywhere in India. In a district like Clium-parun where nearly every planter was an ardent sportsman, a good rider, and spent nearly half his time on horseback, pig-sticking was a favourite pastime. Every factory bail at least one bit of likely jungle close by, where a pig could always be found. When I first went to India we used to take out our pig-spear over the zillah with us as a matter of course, as we never knew when we might hit on a boar.

Things are very different now. Cultivation has much increased. Many of the old jungles have been reclaimed, and I fancy many more pigs are shot by natives than formerly. A gun can be had now for a few rupees, and every loafing "ne'er-do-weel" in the village manages to procure one, and wages indiscriminate warfare on bird and beast. It is a growing evil, and threatens the total extinction of sport in some districts. I can remember when nearly every tank was good for a few brace of mallard, duck, or teal, where never a feather is now to be seen, save the ubiquitous paddy-bird. Jungles, where a pig was a certain find, only now contain a measly jackal, and not always that; and cover in which partridge, quail, and sometimes even florican were numerous, are now only tenanted by the great ground owl, or a colony of field rats. I am far from wishing to limit sport to the European community. I would let every native that so wished sport his double barrels or handle his spear with the best of us, but he should follow and indulge in his sport with reason. The breeding seasons of all animals should be respected, and there should he no indiscriminate slaughter of male and female, young and old. Until all true sportsmen in India unite in this matter, the evil will increase, and by-and-by there will be no animals left to afford sport of any kind.

There are cases where wild animals are so numerous and destructive that extraordinary measures have to be taken for protection from their ravages, but these are very rare. I remember having once to wage a war of extermination against a colony of pigs that had taken possession of some jungle lands near Maharajnugger, a village on the Koosee. I had a deal of indigo growing on cleared patches at intervals in the jungles, and there the pigs would root and revel in spite of watchmen, till at last I was forced in sheer self-defence to begin a crusade against them. We got a line of elephants, and two or three friends came to assist, and in one day, and round one village only, we shot sixty-three full-grown pigs. The villagers must have killed and carried away nearly double that number of young and wounded. That was a very extreme case, and in a pure jungle country; but in settled districts like Tirhoot and Chumparun the weaker sex should always be spared, and a close season for winged game should be insisted on. To the credit of the planters be it said, that this necessity is quite recognised; but every potbellied native who can beg, borrow, or steal a gun, or in any way procure one, is constantly on the look out for a pot shot at some unlucky hen-partridge or mail. A whole village will turn out to compass the destruction of some wretched sow that may have shown her bristles outside the jungle in the daytime.

In districts where cultivated land is scarce and population scattered, it is almost impossible to enjoy pig-sticking. The breaks of open land between the jungles are too small and narrow to afford galloping space, and though you turn the pig out of one patch of jungle, lie immediately finds safe shelter in the next. On the banks of some of the large rivers, however, such as the Gunduck and the Bagmuttee, there are vast stretches of undulating sand, crossed at intervals by narrow creeks, and spotted by patches of close, thick jungle. Here the grey tusker takes up his abode with his harem. When once you turn him out from his lair, there is grand hunting room before he can reach the distant patch of jungle to which he directs his flight. In some parts the jowah (a plant not unlike broom in appearance) is so thick, that even the elephants can scarcely force their way through, but as a rule the beating is pretty easy, and one is almost sure of a find.

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