Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell Baden-Powell of Gilwell.

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or those with shoulders to them, and especially the
" diamond-shaped," should be avoided ; they may slip in
easily enough between the bones if they happen to be
held the right way, but half a turn of the wrist in the
struggle will probably lock them against withdrawal by
placing them athwart the openings by which they
entered. The blade must also be of well-tempered steel,
and have strength at the point to enable it to pierce
bones and not to be bent or broken in the attempt.
English made medium -tempered heads are the most


satisfactory in the long run. An under-tempered blade,
the usual result of the Indian artificer's work, becomes
blunted after a few contacts with the boar's tough hide,
and its point becomes turned into a hook on striking
a bone ; while on the other hand an over-tempered blade,
which the English maker is rather apt to recommend, is
very liable to chip and break at the edges and point.
On the whole then it is better, within bounds of course,
to have a spear head rather under than over-tempered ;
sufficiently tough to pierce a bone, and yet not so
hardened as to be " chippy." A blade of this kind has
also the advantage of being easy to sharpen with the
roughest appliances, whereas a thoroughly hard piece of
steel would require a regular grinding apparatus.

41. Spear Shafts. In selecting a shaft for a spear,
a tough, springy, seasoned, male bamboo, with the
knots close together, should be chosen. Its absolute
straightness is not an indispensable point as ordinary
curves can be rectified by the native carpenter, or by
hanging the shaft with a 16 Ib. weight attached to it.
For a short spear the bamboo should be thick at the
butt and should taper rapidly towards the head, whereas
for a long spear it should be light, straight, and of very
gradual taper. Natives say that the bamboo for this
purpose should be cut at night when the moon is new,
but I will not advance this theory as one of my own ;
though I will say that it is preferable to cut your
bamboo at the end of the hot season, while the sap is
chiefly in the roots.

42. Fitting the Head. In attaching the spear head,
the thin end of the bamboo shaft should be fixed in
the socket with glue after having been cut to such a
length that the mouth of the socket fits on just where a


joint occurs, as extra strength of wood is thus obtained
at the critical point. Then either the outside of the
socket should be filed down to come flush with the
wood, or else the latter should be "whipped "with waxed
thread, or varnished string, for a few inches above the
socket. In any case the object is to ensure no pro-
jecting edge of the socket being left to catch under the
pig's tough hide, which is apt to close very tightly round
the shaft when the spear has passed into his body.
Native carpenters are very liable to trim the bamboo
down to fit the socket, or to level the edge of the socket
to the surface of the shaft by a gradually decreasing
coating of glue ; but both these methods are bad. The
former weake'ns the shaft at the point where it requires
to be particularly strong, and in the second case the
glue usually cracks and breaks off, leaving the rim of the
socket projecting to catch under the bones or skin of the

The point and edge of the spear head should be fre-
quently looked to and kept quite sharp. They are very
liable to become blunted from frequent contact with
the tough hide, bones, etc., of the pig, and with the
branches of jungle, and from being driven into the sand:
many a man has been unable to substantiate his claim to
first spear from carelessness in this respect where his
spear, although fairly delivered, has been too blunt to
pierce the tough hide opposed to it,

" His brawny sides with hairy bristles armed
Are better proof than thy spear point can enter."




43. The Ground Itself. Another obstacle to the
easy despatch of the boar is the nature and features
of the ground itself. As a general rule the country in
India is " trappy " and even where it is free and open it
is generally as hard as iron. The legs of the Indian
bred horses stand this ground in a marvellous degree,
but an English horse almost invariably goes to pieces
after a short experience of it. And not only is it heart-
breaking for the rider to listen to the banging of his
courser's hoofs on the unyielding surface, but it is also a
bone-breaking matter if he gets a fall, for a tumble here
is not like one in an English ploughed field.

The trappy nature of the ground is due to the fre-
quent occurrence of inexplicable holes and abysses,
which as a rule give no sign of their existence till you
are almost into them.

A melon field, for instance, gives the " new chum "
the idea of being merely a cultivated piece of ground
lightly harrowed over, when in reality it is what our pre-
sent day field-fortification-wise young officer would de-
scribe as troups-de-loup lightly filled in with sand, such
that when he tries to ride across it the ground gives way
under him and drops him into a hole ; while the pig, of
lighter weight, makes his way across it with all the rolling
and tumbling motion of a festive porpoise.



A melon bed serves only one useful purpose so far as
I know, and that is to cure a fidgety horse of his rest-
lessness. I saw one so used by Gopi Singh, the aide-de-
camp of His Highness the Rana of Dholepore, in this
wise. He was riding a jerky fidgeting horse, which,
considering the heat of the morning, was, as the British
soldier would describe it, " a regular treat." At last his
patience came to an end, and he quietly remarked " I'll
frighten the brute into keeping quiet." Taking him short
by the head, he rammed him at a low fence surround-
ing an open melon bed ; the horse cleared the fence but
floundered heavily amongst the melons. Gopi seemed
to land on his feet clear of the horse, with the reins in
hand, and in a few seconds afterwards had got it on to
its legs again, was in the saddle and back over the fence.
The horse went like a sheep for the rest of the ride.

These melon fields are generally to be found along
the river beds of Upper India, and any one who would
like to try them I would recommend to attend the
Ganges Cup Meet, near Cawnpore, when his curiosity
will be amply satisfied.

Black " cotton " soil is a kind of ground which, under
the power of the summer sun, bakes into the consistency
of forged iron, and cracks up into fissures just wide
enough to admit a horse's leg and deep enough to take
one to the Antipodes.

" Kimkur" pits, holes from which road-mending
material is quarried, are of all shapes, sizes, and depths.
They usually occur where least expected, and they give
no warning of their existence by surrounding heaps of
deblai, since all that is dug out of them is carted away.
They vary from 8 to 30 feet wide and 4 to 10 feet deep.

Nullahs are dry watercourses with broken and pre-


cipitous sides, sometimes of great depth and width, but
they are often invisible till you are almost on the edge.
They are generally crossed by goat tracks at intervals,
but a hunted boar will disdain to turn aside to avail
himself of these and consequently will often elude his
pursuers in a network of nullahs by jumping down
places impassable for horses.

Wells are very common in the fields for irrigation
purposes. Such a well is generally placed in the corner
of a field where the corners of other fields adjoin, so that
its water may be shared by all of them, and a mound of
excavated earth about it marks its position ; but very
often one finds a well in a most undesirable or unex-
pected place, such as close under a fence, in the middle
of a field, or in a jungle, and very often without any
silt thrown up at its mouth.

Canter down a narrow village lane bounded with high
walls, with a friend on each side of you, and you will
very likely find, as I have done, a well suddenly yawning
under your very horse's forefeet.

The moral therefore is, if you don't want to fall into
a well, avoid corners of fields and mounds of earth, and
don't be surprised to find your horse unexpectedly
" throwing leps."

Bullock Runs. In the larger wells of the North-West
country, the water is drawn up in a huge leather bucket
by a pair of bullocks with the aid of a pulley wheel
erected over the mouth of the well. A sloping path is
excavated for these bullocks to run down into as they
haul up the bucket. This bullock " run " varies from 6
to 10 feet deep, width 10 to 14 feet, and length about 15
yards. Until you are close to it there is nothing to show
in which direction this bullock run lies, as many wells

H 2


have two or three of them extending in different direc-
tions ; it is therefore advisable to give a wide berth to
all wells whose presence is indicated by a mound and
cross bars fitted with wheels. It is a very common thing
for these bullock runs to be excavated alongside an ordi-
nary field boundary wall, and in this position they form
an excellent trap for the unwary sportsman approaching
from the far side. The Rana of Dholepore and I have
both experienced the " Oh ! what a surprise " sensation
of finding a bullock run, complete with bullocks and
man, etc., right under us as we lobbed over a low mud
wall, but thanks to the readiness of our horses a nasty
fall was in each case saved by a sharp "kick-off" from
the top of the wall. My case also affords an instance of
what one inexperienced in their ways may expect from
natives. There were some half-dozen villagers sitting on
the top of the well mound enjoying the view of the chase ;
they saw me Doming straight for the nasty place and yet
not a note or finger of warning was raised, they took it
as consistent with the inscrutable madness of a white
man that I should purposely select the worst place I
could find to go at.

Holes. It is not unusual to find in the flattest and
most open ground small holes about 2 feet deep and
as many in diameter. Their raison d'etre is not at first
sight very obvious, but I believe them to be the "outcome
of the " sheer cussedness " of the mild Hindoo.

I can only suppose they are formed by men possessing
tools but having no legitimate employment for them ;
like a school-boy with a new knife, who brings it into use
on every slightest pretext. I only know one thing that
these holes are good for, and that is, to throw a horse

f, wat


Rat Warrens. Sandy hillocks, especially in the
neighbourhood of cornfields or villages, are generally
rotten and honeycombed with rat holes.

GoanchieS) or dried-up marsh, is a common and none
the less unpleasant kind of ground frequently met with
in pigsticking districts ; it consists of hard tussocks of
grass roots, i or 2 feet in diameter and I to 3 feet high,
lying about a foot or two apart.

Sheet rock is only found occasionally in Upper India
(e.g., Morar, Allahabad), but is quite common in the
Bombay districts, Deccan and Nagpore, in fact the
country lying between Poona and Sholapore, where
most of the Poona Tent Club Meets are held, may be
called one vast sheet rock interspersed with a few

Sheet rock, as its name implies, consists of huge flat
slabs of rock, which, especially in their usual position
sloping down a hillside and interspersed with holes and
boulders, present to the stranger the idea of a country if
not absolutely impassable to a horse, at least fatal to
his legs. But the veteran pigsticker of this country,
although his legs may be regular museums of old cuts,
bruises, and ossifications, will make his way across it
speedily and safely so long as his rider leaves it to him
to slide here, and prop there, as he finds the case
demands. Owing to the visibly dangerous nature of
the ground falls are perhaps not quite so frequent here
as in the more delusive going of holey grass or cotton
soil, but it is only right to add, what the falls may lack
in number they more than make up in quality.

Other impediments to the mounted hunter making
his way across country are to be found in woods, brush-
wood, crops, grass, etc., already described in Chapter IX.


44. Fences. Real fences are rare in India, as fields
are merely divided from one another by a low bank of
earth sufficient to hold the rainfall or irrigation water
within their limits ; but here and there fences are made
for the purpose of keeping cattle or wild animals off the
more valuable crops.

Walls. The commonest class of fence are the " mud "
walls made of clay and dried by the sun. They stand
from 2 to 4 feet high in the fields, but where protecting
a garden or very valuable crop, such as opium or tobacco,
they mount up to 6 and 7 feet, but even at this height
they are not insurmountable to the hunted boar, who, if
he cannot fly them will usually succeed in getting over
with a scramble.

EartJi banks, about 3^ feet high, with irrigation
runnels along the top, are common in the fields ; as
are also irrigation ditches about 3 feet wide and deep.
These ditches are not, by themselves, very formidable,
but they are often placed close alongside each other four
or more together, and in this case form an unpleasant
obstacle usually known as a " gridiron."

It was over a country near Muttra abounding in this
class of ditch that H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught won
his maiden first spear in 1884. That same run was the
more remarkable since it was the first ever watched by
an English Princess watched, too, at some personal
risk, by reason of her riding a strangely self-willed

The following is the account given in the " Times " of
this notable day:

"At an early hour on the 22nd inst. a general start was
made for the Aring jungles, distant 12 miles on the Deeg
road, where elephants, horses, and beaters had been sent


n Exciting Moment,


on the night before in readiness for a great day's pig-
sticking. The first spear for the first pig fell, as was but
right, to the Duke of Connaught, who had an exciting
gallop of nearly four miles, mounted on the well-known
Arab " Uncle G.," after one of the gamest pigs that ever
crossed a country. There were more than nineteen spears
out, and this, as pigstickers will understand, militated
somewhat against the chance of a large bag. But the
pigs that were killed afforded excellent sport.

"The performances during the whole day were wit-
nessed by the Duchess of Connaught, Lady Downe, and
the ladies of the I3th Hussars, who, mounted on elephants,
accompanied the beaters through the thick scrub jungles
in which the pigs are found. Her Royal Highness, who
was nearly six hours on an elephant, showed herself on
this occasion to be insensible to fatigue, and thereby
afforded gratifying proof that up to the present the
Indian climate has done her no harm. On one occasion
considerable alarm was caused by the elephant on which
Her Royal Highness was seated with Lady Russell
taking alarm, and making short rushes hither and thither
in a very peculiar manner, and not to be controlled by his
mahout. The Duchess and her companion were able to
dismount and get on to another and quieter elephant
before the eccentricities of the frightened beast became
too decided to be dangerous. This, however, happened
later in the day, when the conscience-stricken culprit had
to be conducted home between two steady-going police-
men of the same species."

" Bumbas" and " Rajmahals " are small distributory
irrigation canals branching out over the country from the
main canals. They are usually kept above the level
of the surrounding land by banks of from 4 to 6 feet


high and about 3 feet thick at the top. The width
of water between the banks is usually from 6 to 12 feet
and 4 feet deep. You please yourself as to whether you
skip over this with a standing leap, or plunge through it.

Mud walls or banks with a thick row of tiger grass
growing along the top are common in many parts. The
grass runs to a height of 8 to 10 feet, so you are not
expected to clear it, but merely to charge through it
with sufficient rise to clear the wall.

45. Rivers. If hard pressed in the neighbourhood
of a river the boar will have no hesitation in plung-
ing in and proceed with all speed to place it between
himself and his pursuers. Most rivers, even the largest,
are fordable in the dry season, but a native of the
locality should always be got to lead the way across
a ford as it may run in a most erratic direction. No
two fords are alike, nor does a ford remain long the
same. It does not at all follow because wheel marks
lead down one bank into the water and out again
directly opposite on the far bank that therefore the ford
runs straight across the stream. I have known a
ford having this appearance whose actual course was
that of the letter Z, owing to the presence of two
deep pools and a quicksand adjacent to it. In the
spring, when the rivers are filled with snow water
from the hills and in the early part of the rains it
will often become necessary to swim your horse across
a river. In this case it is a simple matter when boats
are obtainable as the horse has merely to be towed
across by his bridle or a rope held out on the down-
stream side of the boat.

If no boats are to be got the rider must swim his
horse ; with a horse accustomed to swimming you have


nothing to do but take your stirrups up, hang on by
the mane, lean well forward, and retain a light feeling of
the snaffle, the bit rein being knotted and left hanging on
the horse's neck. If the horse is unaccustomed to swim-
ming this method of crossing becomes a more difficult
matter. On first getting out of his depth the horse will
become alarmed, and in endeavouring to keep his
head above water will rear himself up and paw the
water without making way, and in so doing is very
liable to come over backwards ; it is, therefore, advis-
able for the rider to slip off and swim alongside the horse,
holding on to his mane ; the horse will soon settle down
to swimming although with a great deal of blowing
and unnecessary exertion at first. He will, however,
require gentle guidance to his proper landing point, and
no attempt should be made to regain his back in
the water, as it may very probably roll him over. If,
when swimming a rapid stream, you are carried past
your intended landing place do not attempt to regain it
by turning up-stream, but, on the contrary, turn down-
stream and look out for another favourable point for
landing lower down.

For these reasons it is a good practice to teach one's
pigstickers to swim rivers as part of their training ; it is
excellent exercise for them and can easily be taught by
towing them from a boat and gradually increasing
the length of tow-line until they become confident
and take a liking to the work, which they very
readily do.

While teaching the horse it would be as well for
the rider also to practice the art of swimming with
his mount if he is inexperienced in that line.

Quicksands. The danger in all river beds, both wet


and dry, is the presence of quicksands which are often
hard to detect until you are in them, when it is easy
enough but rather late. Colonel Barras, in his delightful
book " Our Indian Stations," thus gives his experiences
of quicksands : " I was crossing the bottom of a wide
nullah (ravine). It was a nice little piece of firm
sand for the horse to pull himself together upon. The
opposite ascent was not nearly so bad as it might
have been and the boar had just gone up it by a
nice little zigzag path worn by different animals who
went that way. I had only to make haste and I might
yet come up with the quarry crossing the next open
space and so on, with other golden visions. * Bless me,
what's this ? ' 1 mentally exclaimed, as I found myself
apparently in bed with my nag on the top of me. Only
a quicksand, which had sustained the weight of the hog
but given way under me and the horse. There we lay
wallowing in this treacherous pitfall, and for a time I and
my spear were under the horse. I soon extricated
myself and by directing the animal's plunges judiciously
I got him also on terra firma" .... "Once, in following
a native guide across a river bed, where the ground was of
damp-looking sand, but hard and firm, with large stones
and rocks plentifully scattered over its surface, I
followed the man without hesitation, but had not
gone many steps before I felt the crust give way under
us. On this I spurred the horse, hoping that I might
gain the opposite bank by the swiftness of a vigorous
rush. I had better, however, have pursued the less
spirited policy of at once reining back, for, as it was, the
poor ' Pig ' (as my steed was called) bounded forward and
sank helplessly into a terrible quicksand of the very
worst sort. In a moment I found myself standing


on the ground, with the nag almost buried at my feet.
In a few seconds he. had sunk so low that I could only
just get at the girth-buckles under the flap of the saddle,
which article I thought I might as well save since there
seemed no hope for the animal itself. The struggles of
the poor brute were quite painful to witness. Throwing
himself into an upright rearing position, he would get his
forelegs above the surface, but only to plunge them
straight down again without making any progress what-
ever. In the midst of this distressing scene my eye
lighted on the rascal whose duty it was to have kept us
out of such a plight. He was looking on at our agony
with a pose of such unconcerned nonchalance, that I could
not forbear rushing at and commencing to beat him.
This apparently senseless and even reprehensible pro-
ceeding turned out, as on a former occasion, already
recorded, to be the proper course after all for, waking
as it were from his lethargy, the delinquent deftly
whipped the spear out of my hand and with it swiftly
probed the quicksand in various directions to ascertain
the shortest way out of it. In much less time than
it takes to tell, solid land was found to exist a little
to the left of the terrified and almost exhausted horse.
Not more than five yards intervened between him
and safety but would he be able to accomplish this
immense journey ? I doubted it, for when I marked the
prodigious efforts it cost him to rear and then plunge for-
ward so as to gain only a few inches each time, it seemed
impossible that his strength could hold out to traverse
some fifteen feet. He succeeded eventually in extricating
himself, but I shall never forget the miserable aspect that
the poor brute presented as he stood beside me after
emerging from the deadly and clinging embrace of the


quicksand. Never, after the severest race, have I seen
an animal look so tucked up and shrunken. His very
skin had a dead and wrinkled look, and it was cold and
clammy to the touch."

There is thus plenty to contend with apart from the
pig or inadequate weapons.








46. Their Share in the Sport. The third con-
dition that helps to make pigsticking the sport it is, is
that the sportsman enjoys the power of controlling under
his will the motions of his horse to aid him in the chase.
The fact that at one moment the rider is trusting to the
daring or agility of his horse, and at another the horse
finds himself saved from an attack of the boar by some
action of his rider establishes, after a few runs, a re-
ciprocal feeling of esteem, and a mutual understanding
between the two, which, while giving the man a truer
pleasure, leads the horse to take a real delight in the

Mr. Saunders, in his excellent work called " Our
Horses," gives the horse perhaps too little credit for
courage. He says, truly enough, that " the horse is as
nervous as a lady, timid as a partridge, and as simple as
a child ;" that " ignorance and panic is the simple key to
most of the romance we read and hear about the horse
enjoying the battle, the chase, or the race/' But surely
he must allow that in the finish of a close race it is not fear
that makes a horse strain every muscle to put himself in
front on the post, nor at any rate when in pigsticking

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Online LibraryRobert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell Baden-Powell of GilwellPigsticking; or, Hoghunting: a complete account for sportsmen, and others → online text (page 7 of 14)