Chapter III. Sport.
I once adjured Mr. Rudyard Kipling to add to his jungle yarns some notice of the two greatest characters of the wild, who felt that so far their existence was rather ignored in his jungle books these were the Boar and the Mallard, both of them creatures of character.
The Boar, who deserves a big B whenever he is mentioned, is the King of the Jungle. He is the one beast that no other, except possibly the blundering old rhino, will face. When he comes down to drink at the water-hole all other people, including tiger and buffalo and elephant (especially elephant), sneak away, and believe that after all they are not very thirsty or think they will try for a drink somewhere else.
It isn’t that he smells or slobbers, but he is so nasty with his tusks. He is the only animal that will go for you without being first roused, because he is the only beast that is habitually crusty.
An old African buffalo, or a Canadian bison, has, of course, his spells of crustiness, and is then unpleasant, but the boar is always peeved about something or other.
He is plucky and tough, as fast as a horse, and can jump where a horse cannot. He stands as high as a table, is long in the leg, and very muscular. He doesn’t hesitate to swim a river, even when it is inhabited by crocodiles; he seems to think that the crops which the natives raise of melons, sugar cane’ grain, etc., are meant for him to devour, which he does extensively, and if a native objects he knocks him down and tries to disembowel him with his murderous tusks.
Well, that is the fellow we hunt in India on horseback with spears, and there is no sport can touch hog-hunting for excitement or valuable training.
Three or four riders form a " party." Beaters drive the pig out of his lair in the jungle, and the party then race after him, but for the first three-quarters of a mile he can generally outpace them.
The honours then go to the man who can first come up with and spear him. But so soon as- the boar finds himself in danger of being overtaken he either " jinks," that is, darts off sideways, or else turns round and charges his pursuer.
A spear-thrust, unless delivered in a vital spot, has little effect beyond making him more angry, and then follows a good deal of charging on both sides, and it is not always the boar that comes off second best.
He has a wonderful power of quick and effective use of his tusks and many a good horse has been fatally gashed by the animal he was hunting.
Among the Indian Princes and cavalry leaders are a number of good pig-stickers, and it is on this common ground of sportsmanship that our officers of both British and Indian Regiments are on such good terms of friendship.
A great man after pig was Lord William Beresford, at that time Military Secretary to the Viceroy. And I remember him taking a toss, which would have killed any ordinary man, when riding after a pig at the Stud Farm at Saharunpur.
Here the paddocks were divided by stout post and rail fences with wooden gates. His pig instead of jumping the fence charged through the gate, smashing the bottom bar, lifting the gate off the latch, so that as Beresford’s horse rose to jump it the gate swung open under him and landing on the top of it he came a heavy crumpler on the hard roadway.
But Beresford was an Irishman and no harm resulted.
TESTED IN PIG-STICKING
I did most of my hog-hunting when with my Regiment, during three glorious years at Muttra. I never took the usual leave to the hills in hot weather because I could not tear myself away from the sport.
Some fourteen years later, after service in South Africa and at home, I returned to India to take command of the 5th Dragoon Guards.
A few days after I had joined the Regiment I was politely asked by the officers whether we might not have a day’s pig-sticking I felt in my bones that there was something underlying this question, and that these young men were anxious to put their new Colonel to the test in the hunting held to see what he was made of.
It was an anxious moment for me. I wasn’t sure whether my nerve for the game had survived the years of abstinence from the sport which had intervened. (And it requires some nerve.)
However, once a pig was afoot I forgot all my doubts. We had a great run in which the boar eventually got into a big isolated strip of bushy jungle.
I galloped to the far end to see whether he came out while others watched the sides. Knowing he was in there we called up the beaters and they went through the covert from end to end. Not a sign of him, so I got of f my horse and went in myself with the beaters, carrying my spear with me, to make sure that the place was thoroughly searched. As we advanced through the jungle for the third time I noticed that the beaters in the centre of the line edged outwards as they came to one particularly thick bush.
I pushed forwards towards it, urging them to close in and drive the old beggar out. But there was little need for my exhortation, for he came out of his own accord, not only willingly but with eagerness, and straight at me.
I had just time to lower my spear as he rushed on to it and it went deep into his chest. But the shock of the impact threw me over on my back and, while I held tight to the spear-shaft, he was there just over me, trying to reach me with his tusks but held off sufficiently by the spear stuck in him.
The natives, stout fellows, immediately cleared out of the jungle with loud cries to the horsemen outside, railing in Hindustani: " It’s all right, the pig was there; he has killed the Colonel Sahib ! "
In a few moments they were off their horses and dashing in to my rescue. One small officer in his impetuosity dashed at the pig with his spear, missed him clean, and fell over on the top of him. However, better efforts prevailed, and the pig was promptly dispatched.
Then came the awed question: " Do you always go in on foot, sir ? " and in self-defence I had to say: "Of course, why not?"
But this involved me in frequent repetitions of the feat, and in the end we adopted it as a habit, as adding to the excitement of the chase. It certainly gave it an added flavour.
THE KADIR CUP
Every year a hog-hunting competition is held in the Kadir Jungle near Meerut. Sportsmen from all parts of India congregate here to run off the eliminating heats after pig, till the final heat, which decides who is to hold the Cup.
This race is known as the Hog-hunters’ Cup.
The Prince of Wales, during his visit to India, came to the camp to witness the final run for the Kadir Cup and then said he would like to ride for the Hog-hunters’ Cup. But as this was limited to those who had ridden in the Kadir Cup he was told that it was impossible, and this was urged upon him because nobody wanted to see him ride over that country where falls are the rule and often very bad falls at that.
However, His Royal Highness insisted on starting, on the understanding that he would be disqualified. He was one of the very few that did not fall and though a total stranger to that kind of country he won the race and was disqualified. A great performance.
Being keen on pig-sticking it was only natural that I should enter such horses as I had for the Kadir Cup and this I did on three different occasions. The last was when I was in the 5th Dragoon Guards. The other two men drawn in my heat happened also to be in my Regiment.
We had a ding-dong gallop after a pig. Shortly after starting one of them fell, and the race lay between the other man and myself. We were going all out, neck and neck, when suddenly my rival collapsed, head over heels, and I was left with a tired pig just in front of me.
I had only to push on, stick him and win. BUT-I glanced back to see how my fallen rival, Dunbar, was faring, and I saw that both horse and man were stunned and that he was lying with his head too near to the horse’s hoofs to be safe. So saying goodbye to the pig I went back and lugged the lad clear. After giving him a rest the umpire started us anew after another pig, when Dunbar, most ungraciously I consider, streaked past me and speared the pig right away, and so won the heat. This put him into the final which he eventually won, bringing the Cup at all events to the Regiment. And that was all that mattered.
On the two previous occasions on which I had entered I had managed to get placed in the final heat, and one of them brought me one of the bombshells of my life, in the shape of the Kadir Cup.
I had won all the preliminary heats with the two horses I had entered, namely Hagarene and Patience; thus both had to run in the final heat against a shirt competitor.
I rode Hagarene, my favorite, and Ding MacDougall, a brother officer in the 13th rode Patience for me. Hagarene quickly outstripped her rivals and was leading by many lengths when the pig dived through a thick hedge-like line of bush.
As Hagarene jumped it I realised that there was no landing on the other side but a fall into the river. Here we soused under almost on top of the pig, who turned and crawled out again where he had entered, and while I was getting out on one side and Hagarene on the other, the pig met MacDougall coming up on Patience and was promptly speared.
Thus I won the Cup at the hands of MacDougall.
A BRUTAL SPORT
You who sit at home will naturally condemn it. But again I say, like the drunkard to the parson, try it before you judge.
See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full
Yes, hog-hunting is a brutal sport–and yet I loved it, as I loved also the fine old fellow I fought against. I cannot pretend that I am not inconsistent. But are many of us entirely consistent ? Do what we will and say what we like, although we have a veneer of civilisation, the primitive man’s instincts are still not far below the surface. Murder will out. Did we not see it in all its horridness in the War ?
But apparently the Churches recognised the fact; at any rate one does not remember that they made any attempt to stop us killing our fellow-men, our fellow-Christians.
Until we get our education upon a more spiritual foundation instead of being content with mere academical scholarship, more of character training than standard of knowledge, we shell only have the veneer.