The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Well my friends, I have found a couple of great chapters from Major General JG Elliott's treatise on field sports, written shortly after the heyday of the British Raj! It took me a bit of time to type out the two chapters, but I got it done, and I wanted to share them with you. Both chapters are pretty long, but well worth the read.
I also found a few really good pictures of that era. And the summa plus ultra find was a series of pictures of original hog sticking spearheads of that era!
So without further ado, Field Sports.
"The Finest View"
Field Sports in India 1800-1947
by Major General J.G Elliott
Chapter 4. The Early Days
The sport of hog hunting, or pig-sticking as it was later called, consists of the finding and pursuit of the wild boar by mounted sportsmen armed with a spear. After being chased, often for a mile or more, the boar becomes tired and annoyed and charges the hunter and, after a short or long battle, is killed, usually by a spear driven through his heart.
This bare statement quite fails to account for the spell it cast over those who took part in it. Fox-Hunting is said to be the King of Sports and the Sport of Kings, but anyone who has ever ridden after and killed a boar is certain that pig-sticking is the finest sport of them all. More than any other it inspired those who wrote the songs that were sung round the camp fire at the end of the day.
“Over the valley, over the level,
Through the dark jungle ride like the devil
There’s a nullah in front but a boar as well,
So damn the nullah and ride like hell.”
About 1800, the planters of Behar used to hunt the sloth bear with dogs, out of the cane fields into the grass of the open country where he could be ridden and speared. After a few years the bears tired of this amusement and retired to the heavy forest where the ground was unrideable.
The hunters then turned their attention to the wild boar. The idea spread to Calcutta, capital of the Bengal Presidency, and then to Bombay. Hunters originally rode singly or in pairs, but when the sport became popular, went out in groups of five or six and organised themselves as tent clubs. The one started at Poona claims to be the oldest in India, being founded at the time of the British occupation in the Peshwa’s days before the battle of Kirkee in 1817. The earliest records come from Oriental Field Sports where the plates show small parties in hard jockey caps, armed with long throwing spears, chasing boar which had been beaten out of high sugar-cane crops.
‘The first who can get within proper distance throws his spear, aiming at the hog’s head and filing off to make room for the next. I have seen a spear, thrown by a remarkably strong man at a hog moving at some yards distance in a parallel direction, dart through both shoulder blades, passing all but eight inches of shaft out at the opposite side. If the hog be very much exhausted, a person with a strong hand may await the charge and stab the spear between the shoulder blades and ribs or strike the forehead, by either of which methods the hog’s course may be usually stopt.’
These spears, thrown like javelins, were some ten feet long and had heavy triangular heads. Williamson offers this advice. ‘The best distance for delivering a spear is when the horse is about six feet behind the hog and nearly as much to the left, then turn your horse to the left immediately after delivering the spear, avoiding the charge and preventing him from ripping your horse. If it misses the hog and the point does not stick into the ground, the rider must dismount and pick it up, and by the time he has remounted hogs have often escaped.’
Photo Credit: DAVID ZINCAVAGE
Spearhead by Bodraj of Aurangabad
In 1830 another method of spearing, invented by Mr Mills, became general; the spear was shortened to about six feet six inches, the shaft of stout, solid male bamboo with a lighter diamond-shaped head, balanced by a lead weight on the butt. This spear was grasped near the butt end and used overhand, driven down at close quarters into the hog. This ‘short’ spear was used until 1938 by the Calcutta Tent Club as being most effective in the thick jungles in which they hunted. It was found that the hog when closely pressed usually turned and charged the hunter, enabling him to drive the spear well home, balking the hog’s attack and allowing the rider to get clear while still keeping a hold of his weapon. When used skillfully this method was deadly, as the spear often penetrated the hog’s heart or backbone and he died at once.
But with a less bold pig who jinked— twisted and turned in his gallop—the short spear was less effective and soon another method came to be generally adopted. This was the ‘long’ spear, used underhand, eight to nine feet long, still with a narrow steel head and weighted at the butt. This method was adopted all over India except in the Calcutta Tent Club who to the end never favoured it. It had the advantage of about two feet of reach both when spearing and when holding off the pig. Moreover, when overtaking a pig which was reluctant to charge the rider could effectively spear him as he galloped alongside.
The Oriental Sporting Magazine frequently carried reports of the activities of the various tent clubs. In 1828 at Deesa, two hundred miles north of Bombay, six men killed 22 hog on a ten day trip. In 1831 five on a trip near Poona killed 34 in six days. The ‘Nuggur Hunt’ at Ahmednagar was a very active body. A party of seven in seventeen days killed 110. A breakdown of this figure shows that only 25 of these were what would today he considered warrantable pig; boar standing at least 28 inches at the shoulder. One boar had a two-inch piece of broken off tush embedded in its face, the result of a battle with another boar which, by a coincidence, was killed the following day with a broken tush exactly fitting the missing piece. Of the bag, 50 were squeakers and 35 were sows. The killing of sows was then common, but later became forbidden, the Calcutta Tent Club in 1862 making a fine of one dozen of champagne on anyone who killed one. Elsewhere the fine was usually ‘one gold mohur’ —fifteen rupees.
Not that the sow was any less formidable than the boar. ‘When boars are scarce, the sportsmen are glad to pursue fat sow, these run faster than a boar and their bite is very severe. I was hunting near Lye with a gentleman who, on overtaking a sow, jabbed his spear into her, the horse reared and the sow laid hold of the gentleman’s toe with her teeth, to which she held fast pulling with all her strength. In a few minutes the top of his boot came away with part of his toenail, the agony of which produced faintness. Luckily the sow cleared off with the spear in her back and I was able to assist my friend. Severe falls frequently occur and it is desirable to carry a lancet. I have saved many lives after such falls by being able to draw off blood immediately on the spot. A wounded boar is a very formidable animal and it is better to let him escape than to run the risk of being made a cripple.’
Photo Credit: DAVID ZINCAVAGE
Spearhead by Bodraj of Aurangabad
The spear has claimed other victims. In Cavalry Surgeon there is a story of a clash with a party of mounted enemy at the time of the Mutiny: ‘Fortunately the adjutant of Beatson’s Horse of the Irregular Cavalry, Clay, a bold and intrepid pig-sticker was to the front and we dashed on them in some sort of line. They drew up in close order to receive our charge but, not liking the pace, broke and fled. Our men followed right well and the adjutant and myself set to work in earnest with our hog spears, made by Bodraj of Aurangabad. Clay was shot through the helmet and spear handle but otherwise unhurt. One of our best men lost his bridle arm which was completely severed by a sabre cut but, twisting a piece of turban round it, he begged me that I would not let it trouble me until we reached camp.’
A quarry only slightly less dangerous than man was the tiger. In 1803, Sir Robert Gillespie on hearing that a tiger had escaped from a menagerie, borrowed a lance from a Native Cavalry Officer and dispatched it on Bangalore racecourse. One may be sure that Pester would have a story about some such exploit. ‘Major Robert Nairn of the Bengal Native Cavalry was a great favourite of the Commander-in-Chief, General Lake, who once saw him spear a tiger on horseback, the only man probably to attempt so rash and desperate a thing.’ General Lake intervened and shot the tiger and sent the skin and the broken spear home to the Prince of Wales. Another formidable character was General James Outram who seems to have made a habit of tackling tigers with the spear. ‘In 1828 having heard of some tigers, Outram sharpened his old Maratha lance which had a knob of rusty iron on one end and a bayonet like bit of steel on the other and set out. The tiger got into a hole and we smoked it out. Outram stood above the hole and speared him in the neck as he came out. The tiger turned and broke the spear in pieces, when Tapp, and I (Douglas Graham, Outram’s adjutant) fired and knocked him over.’ And there is a story of one Adam Durnford Gordon, who, armed only with a common hog spear and a sharp sabre and mounted on an Arab, used to kill tigers single handed on open ground. Regrettably there are no details of how he did it.
A beat for pig might disturb a panther. Only a brave man on a very bold horse would tackle him and it was taken for granted that whoever first speared a panther had to finish off the animal himself. ‘Spearing leopard is a nasty business. I have on occasion speared three leopards myself On the north bank of the Sarda river in Oudh a very large leopard jumped out of a grass clump, snarled and ran off. I was on a very fast horse but did not catch him for about 3,000 yards, when he squatted. My spear went through him deep into the ground and he rolled over as I speared. They do this. Lionel Hearsey of the Royal Dragoons kindly gave me his spear with which I broke the leopard’s spine at the next attempt. When I thanked him for giving me his spear he said, “I thought you had wounded him the first time.” This is quite right and proper as a wounded leopard is a very nasty customer. Hearsey had a wounded leopard on his horse behind the saddle a couple of days before this.’
Wolf, nilghai and hog deer were often hunted with the spear but there is only one story of anyone tackling a crocodile. He was one ‘Empty Sahib’, an Indian corruption of the name Armitage. ‘Captain Darrock of the Argyles was riding with “Empty” when the latter spotted an eight or ten foot mugger crocodile in a shallow pool cut off from the main river. “Empty” said that anyone could kill a mugger with a spear, so he slipped off his horse and went for the mugger and the mugger for him. His tactics were very sound and consisted of getting to the mugger’s near foreleg and staying there. “There,” said “Empty”, “the mugger cannot bite you or break your leg with a stroke of his tail.” The mugger got hold of the first two spears with his teeth and made matchwood of them. “Empty” successfully disengaged both times, dragged Darrock’s best spear out of his hand and finished the mugger off with it, the spear being chewed to pieces before the beast died.’
Tomorrow we will go to Chapter V!
Hog Sticking Raj Style! Pt I
Hog Sticking Raj Style! Pt II
Pig Sticking: Andalusia, Spain
Hogs and Dogs!
Albert A Rasch
Member: Bagram Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...