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

Pigsticking; or, Hoghunting: a complete account for sportsmen, and others online

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he follows every twist and turn of the boar, and finally
when the charge comes he springs to meet it with ears


cocked, and limbs ready to carry his rider into and
safely through the encounter.

The attraction of most mounted pastimes, such as tent-
pegging, polo, hunting, etc., would at least be seriously
diminished were an attempt made to carry them out on
foot ; and so too would pigsticking lose most of its

So its excellence does not wholly lie in the sport itself,
but is completed by the camaraderie that is engendered
between horse and rider.

" No slave but a comrade staunch in this

Is the horse, for he takes his share
Not in peril alone but in feverish bliss,
And in longing to do and dare." GORDON.

In the hands of a bold rider the horse undoubtedly
becomes similarly bold, and indeed in many instances
the pupil ends by excelling its master in this respect,
thanks to its want of such highly organised nerves, or
of far-seeing discretion.

But let a horse get into the hands of a half-hearted
rider, and it is like letting a man " marry beneath him "
he is sure to be dragged down to the level of his
tyrant, even if he does not sink below it.

The horse appears to recognise the fact that the man
has the superior mind, and trusts itself to his guidance
accordingly. It also has the power of recognising,
almost as soon as the rider himself, when his heart is in
his mouth. Consequently if, on approaching a difficulty,
it finds that the rider is becoming frightened, it takes the
alarm at once, to a more exaggerated extent, since it
cannot see sufficient danger to warrant all the perturba-
tion, and therefore suspects other dangers lying unseen.

Perhaps some day, when Mr. Stuart Cumberland or


some other psychical student has developed the science
of " muscle reading," we shall have revealed to us some-
thing of the mutual relations that exist between the
man and his mount.

" There may be more links 'tween the horse and his rider
Than ever your shallow philosophy guessed."

One need only watch the behaviour of a seasoned
pigsticker at the cover side to recognise the sporting
spirit that fills his well his mind ; for people may say
what they like about ^soul y but nothing can lead me to
doubt but that the horse has at least a mind.

Picture to yourself the brown Waler mare whose well-
loved form is yet strongly painted in my memory ;
there she goes on the way to cover, larking and playing
about, imagining a boar in every bush, and snatching at
her bit as if the hard-baked soil before her were nothing
but an expanse of velvet turf. Thus she goes, jigging
and squirming along, with a mischievous enjoyment of
its effect on her rider, who, although possibly the hero of
the previous night's mess table, is little better than the
early worm at five o'clock on this hot-weather morning.

Once posted outside the covert, her whole demeanour
changes ; she restrains her ebullitions of gaiety, and as
the distant cries of the beaters in the jungle strike her
ear, she becomes motionless as a statue, while a slight
tremor of her limbs and a quick eager glancing of the
eye from point to point, betray her readiness for the
fray. As a jackal hitches by with drooping brush, or a
peacock scuttles in undignified haste across the open
before the din of the beaters, her ears prick and her
head goes up for a momentary scrutiny of the fugitive,
and at once returns to its position of watchfulness. At



length a sudden quick throbbing of the heart, a jerk
up of the head, with ears flung forward, warn the rider
that a pig is afoot, and in a few moments more she is
bounding away in pursuit almost regardless of her rider's
wishes in the first mad rush of her joy.

Her keen and evident determination to beat the other
contestants for the " first spear " would almost lead one
to think she was throwing every ounce of her energy
into the opening burst did we not know from experience
that she will still retain a small reserve in hand for the
final rush up to the pig at the critical moment.

A green pigsticker will tear along at best pace from
start to finish, straining every power to be first in the
race, until exhaustion compels it to drop back hope-
lessly beat, while our seasoned hunter comes by at a
steady untiring swing, with a reserve of " go " in hand to
be applied at the proper moment to collar the pig with
a fresh accession of activity.

On a "jink," even were the reins lying loose on her
neck (experto crede), she will fling herself round on to the
boar's new line, endeavouring with all her power and
strength to emulate his quick turn, and to bring herself
quickly in the new direction.

When the pig "shoots " himself (as only a pig can do)
over a mud wall she follows, flying the fence clearly and
with just sufficient impetus to carry her clear of any
hidden ditch or danger on the far side.

She is ever on the alert to clear an ugly hole, or ready
to negotiate a yawning nullah by dropping into it and
springing out again on the far side.

I remember on one occasion when our pig, in running
across an open grass plain, suddenly disappeared from
view, and a few seconds later a wide and steep-sided


kunkur hole lay under the mare's nose. Equally impos-
sible for her to stop or to clear it, she took the sensible
middle course of dropping into it, without attempting
to leap out on the far side. She knew that the boar was
unable to get out and had to be tackled there, and so
our battle was fought out in the pit.

When the time has arrived for fighting and receiving
the charges of the boar, the mare goes at the work
coolly and temperately, obedient to every indication of
her rider's hand and leg, and yet exercising her own
wits as well when an opportune turn or a sudden leap
will take her clear of a mischievous rush of the foe.

With such an animal ally as this success in the hog-
hunting field is assured to the hunter. As in the hunt-
ing field so it is in pigsticking ; nerve and eye for a
country serve a man better than proficiency in horse-
manship, but in neither case will they avail if the horse
is not of the kind required for the work.

This may appear at first sight a rather free assertion
to make, but the more one studies the question in either
field, the more plainly its truth becomes apparent. As
a writer stated in the " Field " some time back : " Com-
paratively few of the horses one sees close to the hounds
are difficult to ride. For one instance, take the hunts-
man ; he is generally in his place ; but for the most part
he rides horses, as it is right he should, that require no
particular horsemanship to get them along. One may
be just a trifle rash, and another may want a dig with
the spurs ; but no rider of average experience would be
overtasked if he had the good luck to find his legs across
them." And so it is with the large proportion of those
who are to the fore in good runs after pig half the
battle is the horse.

I 2


47. Points of a Pigsticker. The chief desiderata
in a " pigsticker " may be summarized thus : he should
be quick rather than fast, quick to get on his legs,
quick to turn, quick in bad ground ; he should be well
bred, for here, as everywhere, "blood w/7/tell ;" he must
be thoroughly handy, active, and game ;" small in
stature, with good shoulders, legs, and feet. For ordi-
nary pigsticking countries 14 hands to 14.3 is generally
found to be the best size of horse, as being the most
handy and safest in broken ground ; although in parts of
Bengal, where open grass plains are met with, and ground
is not so trappy, 15 hands to 15.2 is the favoured height,
as the greater stride is advantageous here and greater
weight to get through the heavy resistance of the grass.
One well-known horse in Bengal stood nearly 17 hands.

In addition to such physical points in a pigsticker,
" Old Shekarry " demands the following moral qualities,
bravery to take any jump, courage to face visible dangers,
gameness to carry on to the bitter end in spite of physical

48. The Ara&.The horse that best fulfils the
qualifications of a pigsticker is undoubtedly the
Arab. Standing rarely over 14.3, he is, as a general
rule, well-bred, compact, quick and fairly fast, handy
and game, with sound feet and legs, and of good con-
stitution and great sagacity. His short stride stands
him in good stead in the rough and trappy ground so
generally met with in a pigsticking country ; and his
healthy nature enables him to withstand the effects
of climate and of " roughing it " in camp, better than
any other breed of horse. His handsome form and
kind courageous disposition invariably make him a
favourite with his master, and, as before shown, a mutual


good-feeling once established between the rider and his
mount tells its tale in the many crises incident to pig-

The chief objections to an Arab are his high price,
his frequent inability to jump and to carry weight, and
his common failing of bad shoulders-. This latter is an
unpardonable fault in a pigsticker ; far better, if you
cannot get him good at both ends, to have a horse bad
behind so long as he is good in front. The Arab is used
almost entirely on the Bombay side of India, to the ex-
clusion of other breeds, as he is most easily procured
there, and his short stride and cat-like activity are
peculiarly well adapted to that country. Of all horses
used in pigsticking the Arab is undoubtedly the most
popular, his many admirers agreeing with Captain Upton,
who, in his "Arabia and Newmarket," affirms that the
Arab is the direct descendant of those specimens of the
equine race that were especially selected for salvation in
the Ark.

49. The Waler. The Australian, or " Waler," is,
compared with the Arab, faster, up to greater weight,
and a superior fencer, but as a rule he is too big a horse
for the work. He stands about 15.2, and is "fast"
rather than " quick." In the bad and trappy ground
common to all pigsticking localities his great stride
rushes him into difficulties, and he is wanting in the
compactness and handiness so requisite for following the
turnings and jinks of the pig among boulders and
bushes. In addition to these faults he is a delicate
horse, and is liable, until he becomes thoroughly accli-
matized, to feel the effects of camping out in the hot

Still, in spite of these failings, the Waler finds many


friends among the pigsticking fraternity, and I venture
to say none firmer than the writer. Were the average
ground only more of a good open hunting country with
fair fences, no other breed could touch him. In Lower
Bengal he is in greatest favour, as he is most easily pro-
cured there, and his speed and weight tell to some
advantage on the plains and through the heavy grass
and crops of that region.

The English horse fails as a pigsticker for similar
reasons, with the additional serious drawback that his
feet and legs rarely stand the " 'ammer, 'ammer, 'ammer,"
on the hard-baked soil of the Indian plains.

It is a common idea that the Waler breed is almost
universally vicious in temper, but I scarcely think this
is borne out by experience of the horse as he is now
found in India. Of course there is vice to be met with
here and there in the breed, but I do not think in any
great quantity, although I will admit that where it does
occur its quality is undeniable.

Walers are imported in large numbers every year
during the autumn, and, landed in Calcutta, command
from 600 to 2,000 Rs.

Government take a large number for remount pur-
poses at an average price of 600 Rs. (SO/.), and obtain a
good well-bred stamp of trooper for their money.

50. The Cape Horse. The Cape horse is not so
commonly found in India now as formerly, otherwise
it would probably be as popular among pigstickers as
any breed in the world. There has been some talk
lately of reviving the horse trade between South Africa
and India, but if the matter is going to be left solely
to the enterprise of the Natal and Transvaal colonists,
I would not foretell any great advance in it, at least in


the immediate future. There is good enough stock in
the Cape country, and good ground on the higher
plateaux, where pastures are rich and " horse sickness,"
the scourge of the lower plains, unknown. But some-
how there is no great interest taken in the question, no
desire to sell abroad, and no capital for starting opera-
tions on an extended scale. In the Cape Colony itself
Government has lately offered prizes up to 3,ooo/. to en-
courage the production of a good class of horse, and it
is to be hoped that a good stamp of sires, such as well-
bred Norfolk trotters, will be imported for the purpose.

The Cape horse is small and lightly built, but capable
of a wonderful amount of work, and as a rule is handy,
active, and game. His price in India varies from 25/. to
6o/. I was enabled to judge for myself of the powers of
the Cape horse as a roadster not long ago when I made
a trip of six hundred miles along the Natal frontier,
riding on one horse and leading another carrying my
kit. The marching averaged thirty-eight miles a day,
and the horses were in no way any the worse for their
work at the end of three weeks, in spite of the fact
that a feed of corn and a good grooming were luxuries
of only occasional occurrence. The late Tom Prender-
gast, of Rajahmemdry, used to prefer Cape horses to any
others for pigsticking, and always had a number of
them, and all of them up to weight.

51. The Country-bred. The C.B. (country-bred)
or indigenous horse of India is the most readily
obtainable, and exists in almost every size and shape,
and certainly in every colour, of the equine species. He
has the great merit of being low priced as a rule, which
is no small consideration when purchasing an animal
about to be exposed to the dangers of bad ground, for-


midable boars, and an unhealthy climate. So long as
the purchaser does not expect beauty or power for his
money he will not be totally disappointed in the country-
bred. With his narrow chest, slack loins, ewe neck,
;ind hammer head he is undeniably " a rum 'un " to look
at, and as a "good 'un " to go his powers are inferior to
those of other breeds. He is, nevertheless, quite good
enough for ordinary pigsticking, especially if his owner
has compensated the want of quality in his stable by

Large native horse fairs are held annually at various
places, under Government encouragement. At the
larger of these it is not uncommon to see some 5POO or
6,000 horses collected for sale, and if he is satisfied to take
them between 13.3 and 14.2 the sportsman will always
be able to supply himself with mounts at a pretty low
figure. Those above 14.2 are quickly bought up, at
fairly big prices, as remounts for native cavalry regi-
ments, while those under 13.3 command fabulous sums
as polo ponies, but between I5/. and 3O/. (200 to 400
Rs.) ought to secure a good C.B. hunter of the above
medium size.

The Cabul horse often makes a good pigsticker, but
as a general rule he is too heavy and slow, although
reliable, plucky, and up to weight.

For regular hunting, two or three days a week, four
horses are required, and thus the class of horse bought
is generally regulated by the state of the buyer's pocket ;
in such case it will be seen that to a certain degree quan-
tity rather than quality is required. More sport will
be got with two fair country-breds than with one good
Arab. A man to whom money is no great object will
naturally complete his " string" with Arabs or small


thoroughbred Walers ; but unfortunately this class of
man is not the rule in India ; the general run of sports-
men there being large in heart but small in purse ; so
luckily, the fact that a medium quality of animal will
ensure good sport, brings pigsticking within the reach
of all.

It has somewhere been truly said, " It is no excuse
for a man to say he cannot afford a 1,500 Rs. Arab,
when a 150 Rs. country-bred will see him through many
a good run."

For the price of one English hunter the sportsman in
India can supply himself with three pigstickers, and for
5/. to 61. per mensem can keep that number well groomed
and fed.

The description of the beau ideal of a horse for pig-
sticking is to be found in the " Oriental Sporting
Magazine," for January, 1829.

52. Purchasing. In India when anyone has a
horse or other property to dispose of he inserts an
advertisement to that effect in the daily newspapers,
giving full details as to nature, quality, and price. This
system is carried out to a far greater extent in India
than in England, and since the advertisement nearly
always bears the name of the advertiser, fair and satis-
factory sales as a rule result. Owing to the great dis-
tances that lie between stations in that country a great
proportion of the buying and selling transactions is
carried on by post ; and thus a varied, and often
amusing, correspondence comes to the man who has
thus offered his belongings to the bids of the public. A
short time back one seldom advertised a horse for sale
without receiving by return of post a communication
from some harmless old Anglo-Indian idiot, whose


hobby it was to ask a string of questions about every
horse whose advertisement he saw ; viz., such questions
as "Has he two white hind legs? Has he a white nose?
Does he rear?" And other such odd questions as must
in some instances have subjected him to a good deal of

I have before me a correspondence that took place be-
tween a certain sporting surgeon-major and an equally
sporting old lady. The doctor had advertised a horse
for sale as " a dun S.B.G." (stud-bred gelding), " aged,
good hack and pigsticker, and a fast trapper, believed
sound ; price 200 Rs." The would-be Amazon imme-
diately wrote : " Please state colour and sex of the horse
you advertise, and tell me, is he perfectly free from
tricks and vice in harness ? You say he is aged, what is
his age? Is he a willing and free mover? Is he clean-
skinned and healthy ? Has he any defects about his
body ? Will there be any reduction in his price ? Will
you give your word that he will suit (sic) ? And what
about the railway fare who stands that ?"

This catechism might have taken many an owner
rather aback, but the doctor at once perceived the proper
treatment to adopt, and replied as follows : " Madam,
In reply to your letter of the 9th inst, I beg to state
that my dun S.B. gelding (aged twenty years last
grass) is in harness as docile as the sheep, but a fizzer
under the saddle (see sketch). Barring an attack of
'Acaris scabiei' his skin is as spotless as that of the
proverbial lamb, and as for health he does not know
what dyspepsia is. His only defect is that his tail is set
crooked. As regards his breed, he is by ' Will-o'-the-
Wisp,' out of ' Brian Boriuhe.' For a horse of his sin-
gular parts I could not think of accepting a reduction.


Hoping to have the pleasure of sending him to you. I
am, etc., etc."

As the early spring is the season for going on leave
to England or the " Hills," a large number of horses are
then in the market, and are thus available to sportsmen,
at fair prices, just at the beginning of the pigsticking
season (March). They are hunted through the summer
until a continuance of the rains puts an end to sport
(August), and they are then rested till the end of the
rains (October), which is coincident with the end of the
leave season, arid commencement of the trooping season,
when a good demand exists for horses among officers
returning from leave and from England ; and thus the
market is favourable to pigstickers, both in buying and

Another, more risky, way of finding a horse, is to
apply to a native horse-dealer. These gentry travel
from one station to another with small droves of horses
and ponies, and are probably among the greatest black-
guards still remaining unhung. But often, if they see
that it is unmistakably to their interest to do so, they
will procure a good horse, but it is somewhat out of
their line, and they much prefer to do a good bit of
horse-coping, in which they are quite at home, and
perhaps without rivals in any country.

53. Making a Pigsticker. Having by one way
or another supplied himself with three or four horses,
the sportsman will devote himself to getting them
into condition, and (particularly if they come raw from
a native dealer) to educate them. For this purpose
it is well worth while to keep up a small line of natural
jumps somewhere in the neighbourhood of your dwelling.
The majority of horses of this class are not easily got to


face a palpably artificial jump, but with small, natural
fences they soon become active and confident, and
develop a fondness for jumping. In addition to the
foregoing instruction a few hours of quiet suppling and
bending will amply repay the trouble, by forming the
horse into a handy, as well as active and safe, hunter.

Very few horses are perfectly docile when first re-
ceived from the hands of natives, where they are fre-
quently bullied (at a safe distance) by masters who at
heart are afraid of them ; but if treated kindly and with
evident fearlessness their feeling of nervous dislike of
man soon gives way to a sense of confiding obedience.
I have often found that liberal treatment exercises a
powerful changing influence on such horses ; and if left
with their stable bars down, free to go in and out to
graze as they please, their temper becomes sweetened
and their health and condition improve with wonderful

Ahorse with a naturally nasty disposition finds in pig-
sticking a great number of opportunites of thwarting
your wishes, such as by rushing through bad places,
refusing to go up to the boar, etc., etc. ; but because
your new mount hangs back from the pig on his first
few runs, do not therefore give him up at once as a con-
firmed refuser. Such a horse should be ridden on a line
parallel to that of the boar in such a way that he forges
past him on his near side, and then gradually closes on
him from his left front ; the boar seeing this, will, as a
rule, deviate from his exact line against the horse's off
quarter, and so run on to the spear point that is awaiting
him. When a few spears have been taken in this way
the horse begins to take an interest in the work, and
usually ends by expending his ill humours on the pig.


A horse with a spice of bad temper in him is often, for
this reason, the best and keenest pigsticker.

A certain English mare well known in the Muttra
hunt, had a sour vein in her temper which she vented
entirely on the pig, doing her utmost to come up with
and trample on him, and many a boar charging her from
behind as had to retire worsted from the range of her
heels, with the loss of tusks and the gain of more than
one "lovely black eye." She might often be seen
tearing about the "compound," loose, in pursuit of a
small wild boar, a jungle foundling, who lived there.
She followed his every "jink" or jump striving to get
him under her forefeet, but luckily for himself the little
monster was marvellously quick and active, and actually
seemed to take a delight in being so keenly hunted.

The object of having three or four horses at a meet is
to enable the rider to change frequently to a fresh
mount. It is a fatal mistake to try and get too much
out of a horse in a morning, as towards the end of it he
is sure to become more or less slack, and under this loss
of energy is more liable to fall or to strain himself,
and is of course not so well " in it " as fresher horses ;
and, moreover, after one or two experiences of this kind
he imbibes a distaste for the sport, and also soon " goes
to pieces." Say that an average gallop after a boar
takes three-quarters of a mile, and add to it the hacking
to and waiting about at the jungle cover, plus a few false
alarms and abortive starts after sows, etc., followed by
the real gallop and its concomitant twistings, pullings
up and spurts, etc., all at 97 in the shade, it will be seen
that a horse must get quite as much as he cares for in,
say, two runs ; and as on a good morning a sportsman
may expect to be in for some six or seven runs it will


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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 8 of 14)