Clive Phillipps-Wolley.

Sport in the Crimea and Caucasus online

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Outfit The droshky A merry party The Straits of Kertch
The steppe Wild-fowl Crops The Malos The ' Starrie
Metchat ' Game Tscherkess greyhounds Stalking bustards

A picnic Night on the steppe ...... 1



A frozen sea Swarms of wild-fowl The Indo-European tele-
graph Sledging on the Azov A desolate scene Tarnan
Journey inland Tumeruk Hotels A dangerous sleep
Foxes Wolves A hasty retreat Ekaterinodar Supper in
the forest of Crasnoi Lais An exciting night's sport Driving
the forest Cossack beaters -Wild deer Other game The
bag Rations of vodka A Cossack orgy Vulpine sagacity

Wolf stories Ileturn to Kertch . < . . .15



Mountaineers and Shikaree.' Outfit Journey from London to
Odessa Snipe-shooting on the Dnieper A drunken yra-
stchik A collision Prince VorontzofF Aloupka Yalta
Livadia and Orianda Miskitchee lake A Tartar butcher-
Native hovels A shooting party on the lake A dreary
bivounc . .......






Journey to Tamau Downpour on the steppe Tscherkess bourkas
Long-tailed horses Absence of cultivation The Moujiks
Causes of political discontent in Russia Veneration for the
Czar Cheapening supplies A Russian writer on English-
women Post stations A terrible tragedy Hotels Ekate-
rinodar The fair Russian tea Russian police Bivouack-
ing with Cossack foresters Exciting sport Shooting a white
boar Sad disappointment Pheasant^shooting A Cossack
colonel An execrable journey Caucasian women Great
consumption of supplies In a Cossack saddle Mineral
springs A scorching bath Lotus-eaters Incidents of the
road An insolent Tartar Parting . . . 69


Duapse Tscherkess emigrants By the sea-shore Superb
scenery Drunken guides A Cossack station Bears Take
possession of a ruined villa Hiding our provisions Wild
swine -Astray in the jungle A rougli breakfast Boars in
file A misslire Forest fruit Lose our horses A panther
Night-watch Shooting in the dark On the trail lian>c
A friendly Cossack Deserted by my servants .



Lunch in the forest Picturesque riding A spill Telegraph
shanty at Golovinsky Robinson Crusoe Native guns
Tracks of game Multitudes of pheasants Paucity of native
hunters Tscherkess mocassins Experiences of forest life
Killing a bear Cooking him Another bag A lost chance
Anecdotes of ' Michael Michaelovitch ' Shooling a bonr . 110





Unsuccessful sport Bruin and Stepan Black bread and onions
Forest music Mosquitoes Ticks and other insects
Bruin's fondness for honey Butterflies Our larder Narrow
escape of Stepan Unlucky days Watching for swine
Otters A cold vigil An exasperating march . . .132



Refitting Our mongrels Shipping our spoils Visitors
Stepan's yarns The hedgehog Legend of the bracken Ihe
Euxine in a fury Trebogging Traces of Tscherkess vill pts
Enormous boars Their feeding grounds Lose a b^ai
Impenetrable thickets hiding the proximity of big game A
rare day's sport Shooting in the moonlight An expedition
Fever Precautions against it Unsuccessful sport and
hard fare 145



Return to Ileiman's Batch Bears Stepan's shooting apparatus
Journey to Duapse A delightful dinner Interview wit 'i
the Governor Insects German farm A dangerous ad-
venture A wedding supper Leave Duapse for Ekaterinodar
Krimsky fair Russian roughs Peasant women A show
booth A hazardous road Inexpensive travelling Ekate-
rinodar Table d'hote at the Petersburg hotel The treasury
Droshky-racing A beaten rival Caucasian fish Arrival
at Kertch . IGo





The Russo-Turkish War Sukhoum Alleged abundance of game
Poti My fellow-travellers Sport in Kutais Arrival in
Tiflis Hotels and other features of the town The British
( Consul Organ-grinders in request A ' happy day ' Drink-
ing habits Native wines German settlers Shooting expe-
dition A caravan Karias steppe A lawless country
Fevers Antelope-hunting An unpleasant adventure: run-
ning for dear life A wounded antelope The lions of Tiflis
Museum and bazaar Schoolboys Prevalence of uniforms
and orders Phenomena of Russian life Buying a travelling
pass Professor Bryce's ascent of Ararat .... 186



Start from Tiflis My yemstchik Travelling carts Caucasian
road-makers Camel caravans On the bleak steppe Persian
hawking Subterranean dwellings Shooting at Kariur
Klizabetpol An execrable journey Hawks and starling
Banditti Curing official corruption at Tiflis Goktchai A
wearying day's sport Fear of highwaymen My guide, Allai
Arrival at Gerdaoul Hospitable Lesghians . . .231



Gerdaoul Shooting partridges Native wine-vaults Expedition
among the hills Native houses An inhospitable village
A dangerous ride A welcome reception Shepherd-boys
The Lesghians Russian love for the Czar Unsuitable educa-
tion Mountain-climbing Magnificent scenery lied deer
Vegetation A chamois A weary descent A happy people
Photographing the scenery A ' Baboushka ' ' Develop-



ing ' our photographs A mountain chalet The snow peaks
Wild goats and sheep Difficult mountaineering An
alluring chase Suspended over a precipice A bleak night's
lodging Mountain turkeys Black pheasants Lammergiers
Advice to travellers Return to Goktchai .... :2oo



Rough travelling Shooting by the way Shemakha and Aksu
Tarantasses and post-roads A wretched station Mud
volcanoes and naphtha springs Bustards On the road to
Salian Swarms of wild-fowl A rascally official Disap-
pointed hopes A good Samaritan Rival hosts Asiatic
fever The Mooghan steppe Pelicans and myriads of other
birds Tartar orgies Banished secretaries : the Molochans
and Skoptsi Arrival at Lenkoran A Persian gunsmith
Fellow-sportsmen 287



Lenkoran Abundance of game Eryvool forest Native fowlers
A hunting lodge Swarming coverts Wild boar A para-
dise for sportsmen Pigs at bay ' Old Shirka ' and his quairy
A dying eagle Caspian woodpeckers Festive nights
Watching for a tiger Forest life by night The eagle-owl
and his prey End of a long vigil The rainy season The
streets of Lenkoran The return journey to Tiflis Adventure
at adji Kabool Experiences of post-travel Bullying n
station-master Armenian Protestants Russian telegraph
service In miserable plight A spill over a precipice Refit-
ting our tarantasse Aryumentum ad hominem An awkward
predicament Chasing a yemstchik Renewed life at Tiflis
Great snow-fall Running down antelope The ' black death ' 31 1





Poti Chasing wild boar Red-deer Turks and Cossacks
Sotcha Lynxes Game in the Caucasus A hunting party
A wounded sow Beautiful scene An unexpected bag
Our cuisine The ' evil eye ' Overtaken by the rains Our
tent inundated Surrounded by wolves Cheerless days A
terrible catastrophe Welcome help Golovinsky A wild
scene Eluding the storm Fording a torrent A refuge
Scant supplies Cossack cradle-song The Cossacks of to-day
Russian plantations A terrible ride Struggling for life
Cossack loafers Ride to Duapse Forlorn days Mad
wolves Wrestling a Tartar Laid up with fever Return to
England 340

A verst is equal to three-quarters of an English mile.




Outfit The droshky A merry party The Straits of Kertch
The steppe Wild-fowl Crops The Malos The ' Starrie Met-
chat ' Game Tscherkess greyhounds Stalking bustards A
picnic Night on the steppe.

SCARCELY a week's journey from London, with de-
licious climates and any quantity of game, it always
seemed a marvel to me how few English sportsmen
ever found their way to the Crimea or Caucasus. It
is now something more than five years ago since I
first made myself acquainted with the breezy rose-
mary-clad steppes of the former, or the low wooded
hills on the Black Sea coast of the latter. For
nearly three years resident at Kertch, I had ample
opportunity of testing all the pleasures of the
steppe, and a better shooting-ground for the wild-
fowler or man who likes a lot of hard work, with
a plentiful and varied bag at the end of his day,
could nowhere be found. Of course the sportsman



in the Crimea must rough it to a certain extent,
but his roughing it, if he only has a civil tongue
and cheery manner, will be a good deal of the
' beer and beefsteak ' order. The Russians are
hospitable to all men, especially to the sportsman ;
and the peasants, even the Tartars, are cordial
good fellows if taken the right way.

On the steppes you need rarely want for a roof
overhead, if you prefer stuffiness, smoke, and do-
mestic insects to wild ones, with dew and the night
air. If you can put up with sour cream (very
good food when you are used to it), black bread,
an arboose, fresh or half-pickled, with a bumper
of fearful unsweetened gin (vodka) to digest the
foregoing, you need never suffer hunger long. But
for the most part sportsmen take then* food with
them. Perhaps if my readers will let me, it would
be better to take them at once on to the steppe, and
tell them all this en route.

Imagine then that for the last two days you
have been hard at work out of office hours loading
cartridges with every variety of shot, from the
small bullets used for the bustard down to the
dust-shot for the quail. Here, in Kertch, take a
victim's advice : make your own cartridges, don't
buy them. The month is July ; the first of July,
with an intensely blue sky, far away above you,
giving you an idea of distance and immensity that
you could never conceive in England, where the


clouds always look as if they would knock your
hat off. I should have said the sky will be blue
by-and-by, for at present it is too dark to see, and
we are carefully tucked away hi bed ; the im-
pedimenta of the coming journey cold meats,
flasks of shooting powder, and jumping powder ;
bread, guns, and a huge string of unsavoury
onions all on the floor beside us. Ding, ding,
ding ! as if the door-bell were in a fit, then a crash
and silence. No one ever rang a door-bell as a
Russian droshky-driver rings it. He likes the
muscular exertion, he loves the noise, and doesn't
in the least mind being sworn at if, as in the
present instance, he breaks the bell- wire. A year
in Russia has hardened us to all this, so merely
speculating as to whether our landlord will pay
more for broken bell-wires this half than last, we
bundle out of bed and submit meekly to the re-
proaches of our friends outside on the cart. They,
poor fellows, have had half an hour's less sleep
than we have, and it's only 4 A.M. now, so any
little hastiness of speech may be forgiven them.

But on such a morning as this, and on such a
conveyance as our droshky, no one could remain
sleepy or sulky long. The brisk bright air makes
the blood race through your veins, and the terrible
bumpings of the droshky on the uneven track, or half-
paved streets, keep you fully employed in striving
to avoid a spill or a fractured limb. Anything

B 2


more frightful to a novice in Russia than the
droshky I cannot conceive. This instrument of
torture is a combination of untrimmed logs and
ropes and wheels, with cruelly insinuating iron
bands, merciless knots, and ubiquitous splinters.
Manage your seat how you will, you are bound to
keep bumping up and down, and at each descent
you land on something more painful than that you
have encountered before.

In spite of all this, as the droshky leaves the town,
the old German jitger breaks out into a hunting
ditty, and, truth to tell, until the wind is fairly
jogged out of us we are a very noisy party. Then
we try to light our cigarettes and pipes, and if we
are lucky, only have the hot ashes jerked on to our
next neighbour's knee. Gradually the dawning
light increases, the clouds of pearly grey are
reddening, and the long undulating swell of the
steppeland slowly unfolds itself around us. On
our left are the Straits of Kertch, the sea looking
still and hazy, with some half-dozen English
steamers lording it amongst the mosquito fleet of
fruiterers and lighters which fills the bay. All
round us are chains of those small hills, whose
dome-like tops proclaim them tumuli of kings and
chiefs who went to rest ages ago, when the town
behind us was still a mighty city, rejoicing in the
name of Panticapa3um.

Once clear of the ranges of tumuli or kour-


gans, as they call them here, there is nothing but
steppe. On all points, except the seaside of the
view, a treeless prairie; no hills, no houses, scarcely
even a bush to break the monotony of bare or
weed-grown waste. On the right of the post-road
by which we are travelling (a mere beaten track
and really no road at all) run the lines of the
Indo-European Telegraph Company, their neat
slim posts of iron contrasting not unfavourably
with the crooked, misshapen posts which support
the Russian lines on our left. Unimportant as
these might appear elsewhere, they are important
objects here, where they are the only landmarks
to man, and the only substitute for trees to the
fowl of the ah*.

All along the road on either side of us the
wires are now becoming lined with kestrels, just
up evidently, and looking as though they were
giving themselves a shake, and rubbing their eyes
preparatory to a day's sport amongst the beetles
and field-mice that swarm on the steppe. The
number of kestrels round Kertcli is something
astonishing, and I almost think that with the other
hawks, the blue hen harrier, kites and crows, they
would almost outnumber the sparrows of the town.
Now, too, our lovely summer visitants, the golden-
throated bee-eaters, begin to shoot and poise
swallow-like over the heads of the tall yellow
hollyhock growing in wild profusion over the


plain; hoopoes, with broad crests erect, peck and
strut bantam-like by the roadside, while every now
and again the magnificent azure wings of the ; roller'
glitter in the morning sun among the flowers.

The ' bleak steppeland ' is what you always
hear of, and shudder as you hear, dread Siberian
visions being conjured up at the mere name. But
who that has seen the steppes in the later days of
spring, or in the glow of midsummer, would apply
such an epithet to lands that in their season are as
richly clad in flowers as any prairie of the West ?
Long strips of wild tulip, Nature's cloth of gold,
blue cornflower, crow's-foot and bird's-eye, the
canary- coloured hollyhock and crimson wild pea,
all vie in compensating the steppeland for her
chill snow-shroud in the months that are gone and
to come.

Rich as the land is, the crops by the roadside
are few and paltry, the chief being rye, maize,
millet, and sunflowers. The sunflowers are culti-
vated for their seed, which is either used for
making oil, or more generally is sold in a dry
state as ' cernitchkies.' ' Cernitchkies ' furnish the
Malo Russ, male and female, with one of their
most favourite means of wasting time. Go where
you will, at any time, in Kertch, you will find
people cracking these sunflower seeds, and trying
to make two bites of the kernel. At every street
corner you find a stall where they are sold, and


you rarely come in without finding one of the
little grey shards clinging to your dress, spat upon
you by some careless passer-by, or sent adrift from
some balcony overhead.

Beside these crops, you come across long strips
of water melons, the principal food of the Malo
Russ in the summer, and one of the chief sources
of the Asiatic cholera sometimes so prevalent here.
But for the most part the land is untilled left to
its wild-flowers and weeds.

The peasant of the Crimea makes but a sorry
agriculturist. The Malo Russ is a lazy, good-
natured ne'er-do-weel ; his days being more than
half ' prasniks ' (saints' days), he devotes the
holy half to getting drunk on vodka, the other half
to recovering from the effects of the day before.
One day you may see him in long boots and a
red shirt, with his arms round another big-bearded
moujik's neck in the drinking den, or husband and
wife, on the broad of their backs, dead drunk, on
the highway. The day after you'll find him in a
moralizing mood, seated on his doorstep, smoking
the eternal papiros, or nibbling sunflower seeds.

Russians have told me that there are more
holy days than calendar days in the year. To be
holy a day need not be a saint's day a birthday
in the Emperor's family is quite enough to make
a ' prasnik.' Of the actual Church fetes then;
are 128.


The best agriculturists here are the German
colonists, whose neat homesteads remind one for
the moment of lands nearer home. Even the
Tartars are better than the Malo Russ, but they
have lately been leaving the Crimea in large
numbers to escape the compulsory military service
which Russia seeks to impose upon them. Every-
where the army seems to be the worst enemy of
the State.

At last our ride comes to an end, and there is
a general stretching of limbs and buckling on of
shot-belts and powder-flasks, for with many muzzle-
loaders are still the fashion here. The place at which
we have stopped is the ' Starrie Metchat,' or old
church, a Tartar ruin near a well, embosomed in
rosemary- covered hills. Near this well we pitch our
tents, and then we each go off on a beat of our own.
Here there is room enough for all, and as some
excellent Russian sportsmen have a careless way
of shooting through their friends' legs at a bolting
hare, perhaps solitude has its peculiar advantages.

As you breast the first hill the sweet-scented
covert comes nearly up to your waist, and right
and left of you huge grasshoppers jump away or
into your face with a vicious snap that is at first
enough to upset the best regulated nerves. But
see, your dog is pointing, and as you near him a
large covey of grey birds, larger than our grouse,
get up with whistling, wings, and with smooth


undulating flight skim round the corner of the
next hill. You get one long shot and bag your
bird perhaps. The dog moves uncertainly forward,
and then stands again. Go up to him ; wherever
strepita (lesser bustard) have been you are sure to
find a hare or two close by. Time after time have
I found this, although I cannot account for the
fact in any way. The hares here are larger than
our English hares, and in winter turn almost
white, the skins in autumn having sometimes
most beautiful shades of silver and rose upon
them. The largest hare I ever remember to have
seen weighed nearly thirteen pounds it was an
old buck while in England a hare of eight
pounds is exceptionally large.

The dogs used in the Crimea for coursing are
called Tscherkess greyhounds ; they stand con-
siderably higher at the shoulder than our own
dogs, are broken-haired, with a much longer coat
than our staghound, and a feathered stern. I am
told that on the flat the English greyhound beats
them for a short distance ; but that in the hills,
or with a strong old hare well on her legs before
them, the Crimean dogs have it all their own
way. I never had the good fortune to see the
two breeds tried together. In fact, what cours-
ing I did see was utterly spoilt by the Russian
habit of cutting off the hare, and shooting her
under the dog's nose. This is, of course, utterly


alien to our notions of sport but so are most of
their sporting habits. They never shoot flying
if they can get a chance sitting. Bears and boars
and such large game they shoot from platforms in
trees at night ; and I never saw a horse jump hi
all my three years in Southern Russia. Of course,
what applies to the Crimea and the Caucasus may
not apply to other parts of Russia.

As long as we keep in the rosemary, hares,
quails, and strepita are all we are likely to meet
with, except that in the valley and on the less
sunny hillsides the dogs ever and anon flush
large owls, that sail away hardly as bewildered as
they are generally supposed to be by the sunlight.
Overhead kites and harriers swim about in the
clear sky, keeping a keen look-out for winged
quails or wounded hares. But as we get to the
top of the next rising ground we see in the plain
far away at our feet a long line of what might well
be grey-coated infantry. A closer inspection, or a
previous acquaintance with the objects before us, will
enable us to make them out to be bustards feeding
line upon line in a flock or herd, to speak correctly
of several hundreds. Most of them are busy with
their heads on the ground, gleaning what they can
from an old maize field ; but here and there, at a
slight distance from the rest, stands a sentry that
the most wary stalker cannot baflie, or the most
alluring grain tempt from his ceaseless watch.


Knowing that we are already seen, and being
perfectly well aware that by ordinary stalking on
these open plains we could never get nearer than
three hundred yards from the herd before the old
sentinel sets them all in motion with his shrill call,
we retrace our steps, and get our comrades together.
Then the horses are put to, and all with our guns
in readiness we drive towards the point at which
the bustards were seen. When within sight of
them we make arrangements among ourselves, and
then the drosky is driven quietly past the bustards
some five hundred yards from them. All their
heads are up, and the whole of the herd of two
hundred is watching us intently ; but they know
something of the range of a gun, and feel safe
enough to stay yet awhile. Watch hard as you
may, grey birds, you didn't notice that one of the
occupants of the droshky has just rolled off, gun in
hand, and is now lying flat buried in a deliciously
fragrant bed of rosemary. One by one, as the
droshky circles round the watchful birds, the occu-
pants drop off and lie still, until at last we have a
cordon of sportsmen drawn right round the herd,
and only the yemstchik remains on the droshky.
Slowly, so as not to frighten them, he narrows his
circle, while each hidden gunner keeps his eye
anxiously on his movements.

At last, having stretched their necks to the very
utmost limit and twisted them into gyrations that


would surprise a corkscrew, the bustards think they
have had enough of it, and there is a slow flapping
of wings, and hoisting of the heavy bodies into air.
Slowly, with a grand solemn flight, wonderfully in
keeping with the wild majesty of the boundless
plains on which they live, they sail away towards
the hills. Suddenly the leaders stop with a jerk,
and try too late to change their direction. From
the covert beneath the sportsman starts to his
feet, two bright flashes are seen, two reports follow,
one huge bird collapses at once and another lowers
for a moment, and then goes feebly on to fall at the
first discharge of the next hidden gun. Right and
left the remainder fly, rising somewhat as they do
so, but still not high enough to take them out of
danger, and when at last they have passed the fatal
circle, five fine birds reward our stratagem.

One of us has to face a storm of chaff hard for
a disappointed sportsman to bear, for in his excite-
ment he had neglected to change his cartridges ; and
although standing within short pistol-shot of a
passing monster, the quail -shot produces nothing
more than a shower of feathers, enough almost to
stuff a bolster with.

By thus surrounding them, and by shooting
them occasionally from a cart, a few of these mag-
nificent birds (larger than a turkey and finer eat-
ing) are killed from time to time throughout sum-
mer and autumn. A few too are sometimes picked

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Online LibraryClive Phillipps-WolleySport in the Crimea and Caucasus → online text (page 1 of 22)