Part 3 out of 5
occasional level platforms of waving grass, descend to the
river's bed. These patina mountains are crowned by extensive
forests, and narrow belts of jungle descend from the summit to
the base, clothing the numerous ravines which furrow the
mountain's side. Thus the entire surface of the mountains forms
a series of rugged grasslands, so steep as to be ascended with
the greatest difficulty, and the elk lie in the forests on the
summits and also in the narrow belts which cover the ravines.
The whole country forms a gorge, like a gigantic letter V. At the
bottom roars the dreaded torrent, Fort M'Donald river, in a
succession of foaming cataracts, all of which, however grand
individually, are completely eclipsed by its last great plunge of
three hundred feet perpendicular depth into a dark and narrow
chasm of wall-bound cliffs.
The bed of the river is the most frightful place that can be
conceived, being choked by enormous fragments of rock, amidst
which the irresistible torrent howls with a fury that it is
impossible to describe.
The river is confined on either side by rugged cliffs of gneiss
rock, from which these fragments have from time to time become
detached, and have accordingly fallen into the torrent, choking
the bed and throwing the obstructed waters into frightful
commotion. Here they lie piled one upon the other, like so many
inverted cottages; here and there forming dripping caverns; now
forming walls of slippery rock, over which the water falls in
thundering volumes into pools black from their mysterious depth,
and from which there is no visible means of exit. These dark and
dangerous pools are walled in by hoary-looking rocks, beneath
which the pent-up water dives and boils in subterranean caverns,
until it at length escapes through secret channels, and reappears
on the opposite side of its prison-walls; lashing itself into
foam in its mad frenzy, it forms rapids of giddy velocity through
the rocky bounds; now flying through a narrowed gorge, and
leaping, striving and wrestling with unnumbered obstructions, it
at length meets with the mighty fall, like death in a madman's
course. One plunge! without a single shelf to break the fall,
and down, down it sheets; at first like glass, then like the
broken avalanche of snow, and lastly! - we cannot see more - the
mist boils from the ruin of shattered waters and conceals the
bottom of the fall. The roar vibrates like thunder in the rocky
mountain, and forces the grandeur of the scene through every
No animal or man, once in those mysterious pools, could ever
escape without assistance. Thus in years post, when elk were not
followed up in this locality, the poor beast, being hard pressed
by the hounds, might have come to bay in one of these fatal
basins, in which case, both he and every bound who entered the
trap found sure destruction.
The hard work and the danger to both man and bound in this
country may be easily imagined when it is explained that the
nature of the elk prompts him to seek for water as his place of
refuge when hunted; thus he makes off down the mountain for the
river, in which he stands at bay. Now the mountain itself is
steep enough, but within a short distance of the bottom the river
is in many places guarded by precipices of several hundred feet
in depth. A few difficult passes alone give access to the
torrent, but the descent requires great caution.
Altogether, this forms the wildest and most arduous country that
can be imagined for hunting, but it abounds with elk.
The morning was barely gray when I woke up the servants and
ordered coffee, and made the usual preparations for a start. At
last, thank goodness! the boots are laced! This is the
troublesome part of dressing before broad daylight, and
nevertheless laced ankle-boots must be worn as a protection
against sprains and bruises in such a country. Never mind the
trouble of lacing them; they, are on now, and there is a good
day's work in store for them.
It was the 30th May, 1853, a lovely hunting morning and a fine
dew on the patinas; rather too windy, but that could not be
Quiet now! - down, Bluebeard! - back, will you, Lucifer! Here's a
smash! there goes the jungle kennel! the pack squeezing out of it
in every direction as they hear the preparations for departure.
Now we are all right; ten couple out, and all good ones. Come
along, yo-o-i, along here! and a note on the horn brings the pack
close together as we enter the forest on the very summit of the
ridge. Thus the start was completed just as the first tinge of
gold spread along the eastern horizon, about ten minutes before
The jungles were tolerably good, but there were not as many elk
tracks as I had expected; probably the high wind on the ridge had
driven them lower down for shelter; accordingly I struck an
oblique direction downward, and I was not long before I
discovered a fresh track; fresh enough, certainly, as the thick
moss which covered the ground showed a distinct path where the
animal had been recently feeding.
Every hound had stolen away; even the greyhounds buried their
noses in the broad track of the buck, so fresh was the scent; and
I waited quietly for "the find." The greyhounds stood round me
with their cars cocked and glistening eyes, intently listening
for the expected sound.
There they are! all together, such a burst! They must have stolen
away mute and have found on the other side the ridge, for they
were now coming down at full speed from the very summit of the
>From the amount of music I knew they had a good start, but I had
no idea that the buck would stand to such a pack at the very
commencement of the hunt. Nevertheless there was a sudden bay
within a few hundred yards of me, and the elk had already turned
to fight. I knew that he was an immense fellow from his track,
and I at once saw that he would show fine sport.
Just as I was running through the jungle toward the spot, the bay
broke and the buck had evidently gone off straight away, as I
heard the pack in full cry rapidly increasing their distance and
going off down the mountain.
Sharp following was now the order of the day, and away we went.
The mountain was so steep that it was necessary every now and
then to check the momentum of a rapid descent by clinging to the
tough saplings. Sometimes one would give way and a considerable
spill would be the consequence. However, I soon got out on the
patina about one-third of the way down the mountain, and here I
met one of the natives, who was well posted. Not a sound of the
pack was now to be heard; but this man declared most positively
that the elk had suddenly changed his course, and, instead of
keeping down the hill, had struck off to his left along the side
of the mountain. Accordingly, off I started as hard as I could
go with several natives, who all agreed as to the direction.
After running for about a mile along the patinas in the line
which I judged the pack had taken, I heard one hound at bay in a
narrow jungle high up on my left. It was only the halt of an
instant, for the next moment I heard the same hound's voice
evidently running on the other side of the strip of jungle, and
taking off down the mountain straight for the dreaded river.
Here was a day's work cut out as neatly as could be.
Running toward the spot, I found the buck's track leading in that
direction, and I gave two or three view halloos at the top of my
voice to bring the rest of the pack down upon it. They were
close at hand, but the high wind had prevented me from hearing
them, and away they came from the jungle, rushing down upon the
scent like a flock of birds. I stepped of the track to let them
pass as they swept by, and "For-r-r-a-r-d to him! For-r--r-ard!"
was the word the moment they had passed, as I gave them a halloo
down the hill. It was a bad look-out for the elk now; every
hound knew that his master was close up, and they went like
The "Tamby" * was the only man up, and he and I immediately
followed in chase down the precipitous patinas; running when we
could, scrambling, and sliding on our hams when it was too steep
to stand, and keeping good hold of the long tufts of grass, lest
we should gain too great an impetus and slide to the bottom. *An
exceedingly active Moorman, who was my great ally in hunting.
After about half a mile passed in this manner, I heard the bay,
and I saw the buck far beneath, standing upon a level, grassy
platform, within three hundred yards of the river. The whole
pack was around him except the greyhounds, who were with me; but
not a hound had a chance with him, and he repeatedly charged in
among them, and regularly drove them before him, sending any
single hound spinning whenever he came within his range. But the
pack quickly reunited, and always returned with fresh vigor to
the attack. There was a narrow, wooded ravine between me and
them, and, with caution and speed combined, I made toward the
spot down the precipitous mountain, followed by the greyhounds "
Bran" and Lucifer."
I soon arrived on a level with the bay, and, plunging into the
ravine, I swung myself down from tree to tree, and then climbed
up the opposite side. I broke cover within a few yards of him.
What a splendid fellow he looked! He was about thirteen hands
high, and carried the most beautiful head of horns that I had
ever seen upon an elk. His mane was bristled up, his nostril was
distended, and, turning from the pack, he surveyed me, as though
taking the measure of his new antagonist. Not seeming satisfied,
he deliberately turned, and, descending from the level space, he
carefully, picked his way. Down narrow elk-runs along the steep
precipices, and, at a slow walk, with the whole pack in single
file at his heels, he clambered down toward the river. I
followed on his track over places which I would not pass in cold
blood; and I shortly halted above a cataract of some eighty feet
in depth, about a hundred paces from the great waterfall of three
It was extremely grand; the roar of the falls so entirely hushed
all other sounds that the voices of the hounds were perfectly
inaudible, although within a few yards of me, as I looked down
upon them from a rock that overhung the river.
The elk stood upon the brink of the swollen torrent; he could not
retreat, as the wall of rock was behind him, with the small
step-like path by which he had descended; this was now occupied
by the yelling pack.
The hounds knew the danger of the place; but the buck, accustomed
to these haunts from his birth, suddenly leapt across the boiling
rapids, and springing from rock to rock along the verge of the
cataract, he gained the opposite side. Here he had mistaken his
landing-place, as a shelving rock, upon which he had alighted,
was so steep that he could not retain his footing, and he
gradually slid down toward the river.
At this moment, to my horror, both "Bran" and Lucifer" dashed
across the torrent, and bounding from rock to rock, they sprung
at the already tottering elk, and in another moment both he and
they rolled over in a confused mass into the boiling torrent.
One more instant and they reappeared, the buck gallantly stemming
the current, which his great length of limb and weight enabled
him to do; the dogs, overwhelmed in the foam of the rapids, were
swept down toward the fall, in spite of their frantic exertions
to gain the bank.
They were not fifteen feet from the edge of the fall, and I saw
them spun round and round in the whirlpools being hurried toward
certain destruction. The poor dogs seemed aware of the danger,
and made the most extraordinary efforts to avoid their fate.
They were my two favorites of the pack, and I screamed out words
of encouragement to them, although the voice of a cannon could
not have been heard among the roar of waters. They had nearly
gained the bank oil the very ver-e of the fall, when a few tufts
of lemon grass concealed them from my view. I thought they were
over, and I could not restrain a cry of despair at their horrible
fate. I felt sick with the idea. But the next moment I was
shouting hurrah! they are all right, thank goodness, they were
saved. I saw them struggling up the steep bank, through the same
lemon grass, which had for a moment obscured their fate. They
were thoroughly exhausted and half drowned.
In the mean time, the elk had manfully breasted the rapids,
carefully choosing the shallow places; and the whole pack, being
mad with excitement, had plunged into the waters regardless of
the danger. I thought every hound would have been lost. For an
instant they looked like a flock of ducks, but a few moments
afterward they were scattered in the boiling eddies, hurrying
with fatal speed toward the dreadful cataract. Poor "Phrenzy!"
round she spun in the giddy vortex; nearer and nearer she
approached the verge - her struggles were unavailing - over she
went, and was of course never heard of afterward.
This was a terrible style of hunting; rather too much so to be
pleasant. I clambered down to the edge of the river just in time
to see the elk climbing, as nimbly as a cat up the precipitous
bank on the opposite side, threading his way at a slow walk under
the overhanging rocks, and scrambling up the steep mountain with
a long string of hounds at his heels in single file. "Valiant,"
"Tiptoe" and "Ploughboy" were close to him, and I counted the
other hounds in the line, fully expecting to miss half of them.
To my surprise and delight, only one was absent; this was poor
"Phrenzy." The others had all managed to save themselves. I now
crossed the river by leaping from rock to rock with some
difficulty, and with hands and knees I climbed the opposite bank.
This was about sixty feet high, from the top of which the
mountain commenced its ascent, which, though very precipitous was
so covered with long lemon grass that it was easy enough to
climb. I looked behind me, and there was the Tamby, all right,
within a few paces.
The elk was no longer in sight, and the roar of the water was so
great that it was impossible to hear the hounds. However, I
determined to crawl along his track, which was plainly
discernible, the high grass being broken into a regular lane
which skirted the precipice of the great waterfall in the
direction of the villages.
We were now about a hundred feet above, and on one side of the
great fall, looking into the deep chasm into which the river
leapt, forming a cloud of mist below. The lemon grass was so
high in tufts along the rocks that we could not see a foot before
us, and we knew not whether the next step would land us on firm
footing, or deposit us some hundred feet below. Clutching fast
to the long grass, therefore, we crept carefully on for about a
quarter of a mile, now climbing the face of the rocks, now
descending by means of their irregular surfaces, but still
stirring the dark gorge down which the river fell.
At length, having left the fall some considerable distance
behind us, the ear was somewhat relieved from the bewildering
noise of water, and I distinctly heard the pack at bay not very
far in advance. In another moment I saw the elk standing on a
platform of rock about a hundred yards ahead, on a lower shelf of
the mountain, and the whole pack at bay. This platform was the
top of a cliff which overhung the deep gorge; the river flowing
in the bottom after its great fall, and both the elk and hounds
appeared to be in "a fix." The descent had been made to this
point by leaping down places which he could not possibly
reascend, and there was only one narrow outlet, which was covered
by the hounds. Should he charge through the hounds to force this
passage, half a dozen of them must be knocked over the
However, I carefully descended, and soon reached the platform.
This was not more than twenty feet square, and it looked down in
the gorge of about three hundred feet. The first seventy of this
depth were perpendicular, as the top of the rock overhung, after
which the side of the cliff was marked by great fissures and
natural steps formed by the detachment from time to time of
masses of rock which had fallen into the river below. Bushes and
rank grass filled the interstices of the rocks, and an old
deserted water-course lay exactly beneath the platform, being
cut and built out of the side of the cliff.
It was a magnificent sight in such grand scenery to see the buck
at bay when we arrived upon the platform. He was a dare-devil
fellow, and feared neither hounds nor man, every now and then
charging through the pack, and coming almost within reach of the
Tamby's spear. It was a difficult thing to know how to kill him.
I was afraid to go in at him, lest in his struggles he should
drag the hounds over the precipice, and I would not cheer the
seizers on for the same reason. Indeed, they seemed well aware of
the danger, and every now and then retreated to me, as though to
entice the elk to make a move to some better ground.
However, the buck very soon decided the question. I made up my
mind to halloo the hounds on, and to hamstring the elk, to
prevent him from nearing the precipice: and, giving a shout, the
pack rushed at him. Not a dog could touch him; he was too quick
with his horns and fore feet. He made a dash into the pack, and
then regained his position close to the verge of the precipice.
He then turned his back to the hounds, looked down over the edge,
and, to the astonishment of all, plunged into the abyss below! A
dull crash sounded from beneath, and then nothing was heard but
the roaring of the waters as before. The hounds looked over the
edge and yelled with a mixture of fear and despair. Their game
By making a circuit of about half a mile among these frightful
precipices and gorges, we at length arrived at the foot of the
cliff down which the buck had leapt. Here we of course found him
lying dead, as he had broken most of his bones. He was in very
fine condition; but it was impossible to move him from such a
spot. I therefore cut off his head, as his antlers were the
finest that I have ever killed before or since.
To regain the tent, I had a pull for it, having to descend into
the village of Peréwellé, and then to reascend the opposite
mountain of three thousand feet; but even this I thought
preferable to returning in cold blood by the dangerous route I
Tugging up such a mountain was no fun after a hard morning's
work, and I resolved to move the encampment to a large cave, some
eight hundred feet lower down the mountain. Accordingly, I
struck the tent, and after breakfast we took up our quarters in a
cavern worthy of Robin Hood. This had been formed by a couple of
large rocks the size of a moderate house, which had been detached
from the overhanging cliff above, and had fallen together. There
was a smaller cavern within, which made a capital kennel; rather
more substantial than the rickety building of yesterday
Some of the village people, hearing that the buck was killed and
lying in the old water-course, went in a gang to cut him up.
What was their surprise on reaching the spot to find the carcase
removed! It had evidently been dragged along the water-course, as
the trail was distinct in the high grass, and upon following it
up, away went two fine leopards, bounding along the rocks to
their adjacent cave. They had consumed a large portion of the
flesh, but the villagers did not leave them much for another
meal. Skin, hoofs, and in fact every vestige of an elk, is
consumed by these people.
For my own part, I do not think much of elk venison, unless it be
very fit, which is rarely the case. It is at all times more like
beef than any other meat, for which it is a very good substitute.
The marrow-bones are the "bonne bouche," being peculiarly rich
and delicate. Few animals can have a larger proportion of marrow
than the elk, as the bones are more hollow than those of most
quadrupeds. This cylindrical formation enables them to sustain
the severe shocks in descending rough mountains at full speed.
It is perfectly wonderful to see an animal of near six hundred
pounds' weight bounding down a hillside, over rocks and ruts and
every conceivable difficulty of ground, at a pace which will
completely distance the best hound; and even at this desperate
speed, the elk will never make a false step; sure-footed as a
goat, he will still fly on through bogs, ravines, tangled jungles
and rocky rivers, ever certain of his footing.
The foregoing description of an elk-hunt will give the reader a
good idea of the power of this animal in stemming rapids and
climbing dangerous precipices; but even an elk is not proof
against the dangers of Fort M'Donald river, an example of which
we had on the following morning.
The hounds found a doe who broke cover close to me in a small
patina and made straight running for the river. She had no
sooner reached it than I beard her cry out, and as she was
closely followed I thought she was seized. However, the whole
pack shortly returned, evidently thrown out, and I began to abuse
them pretty roundly, thinking that they had lost their game in
the river. So they had, but in an excusable manner; the poor doe
had been washed down a rapid, and had broken her thigh. We found
her dead under a hollow rock in the middle of the river.
Here we had a fine exemplification of the danger of the
While I was opening the elk, with the pack all round me licking
their lips in expectation, old "Madcap" was jostled by one of the
greyhounds, and slipped into a basin among the rocks, which
formed an edge of about two feet above the surface.
The opposite side of the pool was hemmed in by rocks about six
feet high, and the direction of the under-current was at once
shown by poor old "Madcap" being swept up against this high wall
of rock, where she remained paddling with all her might in an
I saw the poor beast would be sucked under, and yet I could not
save her. However, I did my best at the risk of falling in
I took off my handkerchief and made a slip-knot, and begging
Pelly to lie down on the top of the rock, I took his hand while I
clung to the face of the wall as I best could by a little ledge
of about two inches' width.
With great difficulty I succeeded in hooking the bitch's head in
the slip-knot, but in my awkward position I could not use
sufficient strength to draw her out. I could only support her
head above the water, which I could distinctly feel was drawing
her from me. Presently she gave a convulsive struggle, which
freed her head from the loop, and in an instant she disappeared.
I could not help going round the rock to see if her body should
be washed out when the torrent reappeared, when, to my
astonishment, up she popped all right, not being more than half
drowned by her subterranean excursion, and we soon helped her
safe ashore. Fortunately for her, the passage had been
sufficiently large to pass her, although I have no doubt a man
would have been held fast and drowned.
There was so much water in the river that I determined to move
from this locality as too dangerous for hunting. I therefore
ordered the village people to assemble on the following morning
to carry the loads and tent. In the mean time I sent for the
There could riot be a better place for a hunting-box than that
cave. We soon had a glorious fire roaring round the kennel-pot,
which, having been well scoured with sand and water, was to make
the soup. Such soup! - shades of gourmands, if ye only smelt
that cookery! The pot held six gallons, and the whole elk, except
a few steaks, was cut up and alternately boiled down in sections.
The flesh was then cut up small for the pack, the marrowbones
reserved for "master," and the soup was then boiled until it had
evaporated to the quantity required. A few green chilies, onions
in slices fried, and a little lime-juice, salt, black pepper and
mushroom ketchup, and - in fact, there is no rise thinking of it,
as the soup is not to be had again. The fire crackled and blazed
as the logs were heaped upon it as night grew near, and lit up
all the nooks and corners of the old cave. Three beds in a row
contained three sleepy mortals. The hounds snored and growled,
and then snored again. The servants jabbered, chewed betel,
spit, then jabbered a little more, and at last everything and
everybody was fast asleep within the cave.
The next morning we had an early breakfast and started, the
village people marching off in good spirits with the loads. I was
now en route for Bertram's patinas, which lay exactly over the
mountain on the opposite side of the river. This being
perpendicular, I was obliged to make a great circuit by keeping
the old Newera Ellia path along the river for two or three miles,
and then, turning off at right angles, I knew an old native trace
over the ridge. Altogether, it was a round of about six miles,
although the patinas were not a mile from the cave in a straight
The path in fact terminates upon the high peak, exactly opposite
the cave, looking down upon my hunting-ground of the day before,
and on the other side the ridge lie Bertram's patinas.
The extreme point of the ridge which I had now gained forms one
end of a horse -shoe or amphitheatre; the other extremity is
formed by a high mountain exactly opposite at about two miles'
distance. The bend of the horse-shoe forms a circuit of about
six miles, the rim of which is a wall of precipices and steep
patina mountains, which are about six or seven hundred feet above
the basin or the bottom of the amphitheatre. The tops of the
mountains are covered with good open forest, and ribbon-like
strips descend to the base. Now the base forms an uneven shelf
of great extent, about two thousand feet above the villages. This
shelf or valley appears to have suffered at some remote period
from a terrible inundation. Landslips of great size and
innumerable deep gorges and ravines furrow the bottom of the
basin, until at length a principal fissure carries away the
united streams to the paddy-fields below.
The cause of this inundation is plain enough. The basin has been
the receptacle for the drainage of an extensive surface of
mountain. This drainage has been effected by innumerable small
torrents, which have united in one general channel through the
valley. The exit of this stream is through a narrow gorge, by
which it descends to the low country. During the period of heavy
rains a landslip has evidently choked up this passage, and the
exit of the water being thus obstructed, the whole area of the
valley has become a lake. The accumulated water has suddenly
burst through the obstruction and swept everything before it.
The elk are very fond of lying under the precipices in the strips
of jungle already mentioned. When found, they are accordingly
forced to take to the open country and come down to the basin
below, as they cannot possibly ascend the mountain except by one
or two remote deer-runs. Thus the whole hunt from the find to
the death is generally in view.
>From every point of this beautiful locality there is a
boundless and unbroken panorama of the low country.
Unfortunately, although the weather was perfectly fine, it was
the windy season, and a gale swept across the mountains that
rendered ears of little use, as a hound's voice was annihilated
in such a hurricane This was sadly against sport, as the main
body of the pack would have no chance of joining the finding
However, the hounds were unkenneled at break of day, and, the
tent being pitched at the bottom of the basin, we commenced a
pull up the steep patinas, hoping to find somewhere on the edge
of the jungles.
"There's scent to a certainty! - look at old Bluebeard's nose
upon the ground and the excited wagging of his stern. Ploughboy
notices it - now Gaylass they'll hit it off presently to a
certainty, though it's as cold as charity. That elk was feeding
here early in the night; the scent is four hours old if a minute.
There they go into the jungle, and we shall lose the elk, ten to
one, as not another hound in the pack will work it up. It can't
be helped; if any three hounds will rouse him out, those are the
For a couple of hours we had sat behind a rock, sheltered from
the wind, watching the immense prospect before us. The whole
pack were lying around us except the three missing hounds, of
whom we had seen nothing since they stole away upon the cold
That elk must have gone up to the top of the mountains after
feeding, and a pretty run he must be having, very likely off to
Matturatta plains; if so, good-bye to all sport for to-day, and
the best hounds will be dead tired for to-morrow.
I was just beginning to despair when I observed a fine large buck
at about half a mile distance, cantering easily toward us across
an extensive flat of table-land. This surface was a fine sward,
on the same level with the point upon which we sat, but separated
from us by two small wooded ravines, with a strip of patina
between them. I at once surmised that this was the hunted elk,
although, as yet, no hounds were visible.
On arrival at the first ravine we immediately descended, and
shortly after he reappeared on the small patina between the two
ravines, within three hundred yards of us. Here the strong gale
gave him our scent. It was a beautiful sight to see him halt in
an instant, snuff the warning breeze and, drawing up to his full
height, and wind the enemy before him.
Just at this moment I heard old "Bluebeard's" deep note swelling
in the distance, and I saw him leading across the table-land as
true as gold upon the track; "Ploughboy" and "Gaylass" were both
with him but they were running mute.
The buck heard the hounds as well as we did, and I was afraid
that the whole pack would also catch the sound, and by hurrying
toward it, would head the elk him from his course. Up to the
present time and turn they had not observed him.
Still the buck stood in an attitude of acute suspense. He winded
an enemy before him and he heard another behind, which was
rapidly closing up, and, as though doubting his own power of
scent, he gave preference to that of hearing, and gallantly
continued his course and entered the second ravine just beneath
I immediately jumped up, and, exciting the hounds in a subdued
voice, I waved my cap at the spot, and directed a native to run
at full speed to the jungle to endeavor to meet the elk, as I
knew the hounds would then follow him. This they did; and they
all entered the jungle with the man except the three greyhounds,
"Lucifer," "Bran" and "Hecate," who remained with me.
A short time passed in breathless suspense, during which the
voices of the three following hounds rapidly approached as they
steadily persevered in the long chase; when suddenly, as I had
expected, the main body of the pack met the elk in the strip of
Joyful must have been the burst of music to the ears of old
"Bluebeard" after his long run. Out crashed the buck upon the
patinas near the spot where the pack had entered, and away he
went over the grassy hills at a pace which soon left the hounds
behind. The greyhounds will stretch his legs for him. Yo-i-ck
to him, Lucifer! For-r-r-ard to him, Hecate !
Off dashed the three greyhounds from my side at a railway pace,
but, as the buck was above them and had a start of about two
hundred yards, in such an uphill race both Bran and Lucifer
managed to lose sight of him in the undulations.
Now was the time for Hecate's enormous power of loin and thigh to
tell, and, never losing a moment's view of her game, she sped up
the steep mountain side and was soon after seen within fifty
yards of the brick all alone, but going like a rocket.
Now she has turned him ! that pace could not last up hill, and
round the elk doubled and came flying down the mountain side.
>From the point of the hill upon which we stood we had a splendid
view of the course; the bitch gained upon him at every bound, and
there was a pitiless dash in her style of going that boded little
mercy to her game. What alarmed me, however, was the direction
that the buck was taking. An abrupt precipice of about two
hundred and fifty feet was lying exactly in his path; this sunk
sheer down to a lower series of grass-lands.
At the tremendous pace at which they were going I feared lest
their own impetus should carry both elk and dog to destruction
before they could see the danger.
Down they flew with unabated speed; they neared the precipice,
and a few more seconds would bring them to the verge.
The stride of the buck was no match for the bound of the
greyhound: the bitch was at his flanks, and he pressed along at
He was close to the danger and it was still unseen: a moment more
and "Hecate" sprang at his ear. Fortunately she lost her hold as
the ear split. This check saved her. I shouted, "He'll be
over!" and the next instant he was flying through the air to
Bounding from a projecting rock upon which he struck, he flew
outward, and with frightfully increasing momentum he spun round
and round in his descent, until the centrifugal motion drew out
his legs and neck as straight as a line. A few seconds of this
multiplying velocity and - crash!
It was all over. The bitch had pulled up on the very brink of
the precipice, but it was a narrow escape.
Sportsmen are contradictory creatures. If that buck had come to
bay, I should have known no better sport than going in at him
with the knife to the assistance of the pack; but I now felt a
great amount of compassion for the poor brute who had met so
terrible a fate. It did not seem fair; and yet I would not have
missed such a sight for anything. Nothing can be conceived more
terribly grand than the rush of so large an animal through the
air; and it was a curious circumstance that within a few days no
less than two bucks had gone over precipices, although I had
never witnessed one such an accident more than once before.
Upon reaching the fatal spot, I, of course, found him lying stone
dead. He had fallen at least two hundred and fifty feet to the
base of the precipice; and the ground being covered with detached
fragments of rock, he had broken most of his bones, beside
bursting his paunch and smashing in the face. However, we cut
him up and cleaned him, and, with the native followers heavily
laden, we reached the tent.
The following morning I killed another fine buck after a good run
on the patinas, where he was coursed and pulled down by the
greyhounds; but the wind was so very high that it destroyed the
pleasure of hunting. I therefore determined on another move - to
the Matturatta Plains, within three miles of my present hunting
After hunting four days at the Matturatta Plains, I moved on to
the Elephant Plains, and from thence returned home after twelve
days' absence, having killed twelve elk and two red deer.
The animal known as the "red deer" in Ceylon is a very different
creature to his splendid namesake in Scotland; he is particularly
unlike a deer in the disproportionate size of his carcase to his
length of leg. He stands about twenty-six inches high at the
shoulder and weighs (live weight) from forty-five to fifty
pounds. He has two sharp tusks in the upper jaw, projecting
about an inch and a half from the gum. These are exactly like
the lower-jaw tusks of a boar, but they incline in the contrary
direction, viz., downward, and they are used as weapons of
The horns of the red deer seldom exceed eight inches in length,
and have no more than two points upon each antler, formed by a
fork-like termination. This kind of deer has no brow antler.
They are very fast, and excel especially in going up hill, in
which ground they frequently escape from the best grey-hounds.
There is no doubt that the red-deer venison is the best in
Ceylon, but the animal itself is not generally sought after for
sport. He gives a most uninteresting run; never going straight
away like a deer, but doubling about over fifty acres of ground
like a hare, until he is at last run into and killed. They exist
in extraordinary numbers throughout every portion of Ceylon, but
are never seen in herds.
Next to the red deer is the still more tiny species, the "mouse
deer." This animal seldom exceeds twelve inches in height, and
has the same characteristic as the red deer in the heavy
proportion of body to its small length of limb. The skin is a
mottled ash-gray, covered with dark spots. The upper jaw is
furnished with sharp tusks similar to the red deer, but the head
is free from horns.
The skull is perfectly unlike the head of a deer, and is closely
allied to the rat, which it would exactly resemble, were it not
for the difference in the teeth. The mouse deer lives
principally upon berries and fruits; but I have seldom found much
herbage upon examination of the paunch. Some people consider the
flesh very good, but my ideas perhaps give it a "ratty" flavor
that makes it unpalatable.
These little deer make for some well-known retreat the moment
that they are disturbed by dogs, and they are usually found after
a short run safely ensconced in a hollow tree.
It is a very singular thing that none of the deer tribe in Ceylon
have more than six points on their horns, viz., three upon each.
These are, the brow-antler point, and the two points which form
the extremity of each horn. I have seen them occasionally with
more, but these were deformities in the antlers.
A stranger is always disappointed in a Ceylon elk's antlers; and
very naturally, for they are quite out of proportion to the great
size of the animal. A very large Scotch red deer in not more
than two-thirds the size of a moderately fine elk, and yet he
carries a head of horns that are infinitely larger.
In fact, so rare are fine antlers in Ceylon that I could not pick
out more than a dozen of really handsome elk horns out of the
great numbers that I have killed.
A handsome pair of antlers is a grand addition to the beauty of a
fine buck, and gives a majesty to his bearing which is greatly
missed when a fine animal breaks cover with only a puny pair of
horns. There is as great a difference in his appearance as there
would be in a life-guardsman in full uniform or in his shirt.
The antlers of the axis, or spotted deer, are generally longer
than those of the elk; they are also more slender and graceful.
Altogether, the spotted deer is about the handsomest of that
beautiful tribe. A fine spotted stag is the perfection of
elegance, color, strength, courage and speed. He has a proud
and thorough-bred way of carrying his head, which is set upon his
neck with a peculiar grace. Nothing can surpass the beauty of
his full black eye. His hide is as sleek as satin - a rich
brown, slightly tinged with red, and spotted as though mottled
with flakes of snow. His weight is about two hundred and fifty
It is a difficult thing to judge of a deer's weight with any
great accuracy; but I do not think I am far out in my estimation
of the average, as I once tried the experiment by weighing a dead
elk. I had always considered that a mountain elk, which is
smaller than those of the low country, weighed about four hundred
pounds when cleaned, or five hundred and fifty pounds live
weight. I happened one day to kill an average-sized buck, though
with very small horns, close to the road; so, having cleaned him,
I sent a cart for his carcase on my return home. This elk I
weighed whole, minus his inside, and he was four hundred and
eleven pounds. Many hours had elapsed since his death, so that
the carcase must have lost much weight by drying; this, with the
loss of blood and offal, must have been at least one hundred and
fifty pounds, which would have made his live weight five hundred
and sixty-one pounds.
Of the five different species of deer in Ceylon, the spotted deer
is alone seen upon the plains. No climate can be too hot for his
exotic constitution, and he is never found at a higher elevation
than three thousand feet. In the low country, when the midday
sun has driven every other beast to the shelter of the densest
jungles, the sultan of the herd and his lovely mates are
sometimes contented with the shade of an isolated tree or the
simple border of the jungle, where they drowsily pass the day,
flipping their long ears in listless idleness until the hotter
hours have passed away. At about four in the afternoon they
stroll upon the open plains ,bucks, does and fawns, in beautiful
herds; when undisturbed, as many as a hundred together. This is
the only species of deer in Ceylon that is gregarious.
Neither the spotted deer, nor the bear or buffalo, is to be found
at Newera Ellia. The axis and the buffalo being the usual
denizens of the hottest countries, are not to be expected to
exist in their natural state in so low a temperature; but it is
extraordinary that the bear, who in most countries inhibits the
mountains, should in Ceylon adhere exclusively to the low
The Ceylon bear is of that species which is to be seen in the
Zoological Gardens as the "sloth bear;" an ill-bred-looking
fellow with a long-haired black coat and a gray face.
A Ceylon bear's skin is not worth preserving; there is no fur
upon it, but it simply consists of rather a stingy allowance of
black hairs. This is the natural effect of his perpetual
residence in a hot country, where his coat adapts itself to the
climate. He is desperately savage, and is more feared by the
natives than any other animal, as he is in the constant habit of
attacking people without the slightest provocation. His mode of
attack increases the danger, as there is a great want of fair
play in his method of fighting. Lying in wait, either behind a
rock or in a thick bush, he makes a sudden spring upon the unwary
wanderer, and in a moment he attacks his face with teeth and
claws. The latter are about two inches long, and the former are
much larger than a leopard's; hence it may easily be imagined how
even a few seconds of biting and clawing might alter the most
handsome expression of countenance.
Bears have frequently been known to tear off a man's face like a
mask, leaving nothing but the face of a skull.
Thus the quadrupeds of Newera Ellia and the adjacent highlands
are confined to the following classes: the elephant, the hog, the
leopard, the chetah, the elk, the red deer, the mouse deer, the
hare, the otter, the jackal, the civet cat, the mongoose and two
others (varieties of the species), the black squirrel, the gray
squirrel, the wanderoo monkey (the largest species in Ceylon),
the porcupine, and a great variety of the rat.
Imagine the difficulty of breaking in a young hound for
elk-hunting when the jungles are swarming with such a list of
vermin! The better the pup the more he will persevere in hunting
everything that he can possibly find; and with such a variety of
animals, some of which have the most enticing scent, it is a
source of endless trouble in teaching a young hound what to limit
and what to avoid.
It is curious to witness the sagacity of the old hounds in
joining or despising the opening note of a newcomer.
The jungles are fearfully thick, and it requires great exertion
on the part of the dog to force his way through at a pace that
will enable him to join the finding hound; thus he fears
considerable disappointment if upon his arrival he finds the
scent of a monkey or a cat instead of his legitimate game. An
old hound soon marks the inexperienced voice of the babbler, and
after the cry of "wolf" has been again repeated, nothing will
induce him to join the false finder.
Again, it is exceedingly interesting to observe the quickness of
all hounds in acknowledging their leader. Only let them catch the
sound of old "Bluebeard's" voice, and see the dash with which
they rush through the jungle to join him. They know the old
fellows note is true to an elk or hog, and, with implicit
confidence in his "find," they never hesitate to join.
There are numerous obstacles to the breaking and training of dogs
of all kinds in such a country. A hound when once in the jungle
is his own master. He obeys the sound of the halloo or the born,
or not, as he thinks proper. It is impossible to correct him, as
he is out of sight.
Now, the very fact of having one or two first-rate finders in a
pack, will very likely be the cause of spoiling the other hounds.
After repeated experience their instinct soon shows them that, no
matter how the whole pack may individually hunt, the "find" will
be achieved by one of the first-rate hounds, and gradually they
give up hunting and take to listening for the opening note of the
favorite. Of course in an open country they would be kept to
their work by the whip, but at Newera Ellia this is impossible.
This accounts for the extreme paucity of first-rate "finders."
Hunting in a wild country is a far more difficult task for hounds
than the ordinary chase at home. Wherever a country is cultivated
it must be enclosed. Thus, should a flock of sheep have thrown
the hounds out by crossing the scent, a cast round the fences
must soon hit it off again if the fox has left the field. But in
elk-hunting it is scarcely possible to assist the hounds; a dozen
different animals, or even a disturbed elk, may cross the scent
in parts of the jungle where the cry of the hounds is even out of
hearing. Again, an elk has a constant habit of running or
swimming down a river, his instinct prompting him to drown his
own scent, and thus throw off his pursuers. Here is a trial for
the hounds! - the elk has waded or swum down the stream, and the
baffled pack arrive upon the bank; their cheering music has
ceased; the elk has kept the water for perhaps a quarter of a
mile, or he may have landed several times during that distance
and again have taken to water.
Now the young hounds dash thoughtlessly across the river,
thinking of nothing but a straight course, and they are thrown
out on the barren bank on the other side. Back they come again,
wind about the last track for a few minutes, and then they are
forced to give it up - they are thrown out altogether.
Mark the staunch old hounds! - one has crossed the river; there
is no scent, but he strikes down the bank with his nose close to
the ground, and away he goes along the edge of the river casting
for a scent. Now mark old "Bluebeard," swimming steadily down
the stream; he knows the habits of his game as well as I do, and
two to one that he will find, although "Ploughboy" has just
started along the near bank so that both sides of the river are
Now this is what I call difficult hunting; bad enough if the
huntsman be up to assist his hounds, but nine times out of ten
this happens in the middle of a run, without a soul within a
The only way to train hounds in this style of country is to
accustom them to complete obedience from puppyhood. This is
easily effected by taking them out for exercise upon a road
coupled to old hounds. A good walk every morning, accompanied by
the horn and the whip, and they soon fall into such a habit of
obedience that they may be taken out without the couples.
The great desideratum, then, is to gain their affection and
confidence, otherwise they will obey upon the road and laugh at
you when in the jungle. Now "affection" is a difficult feeling
to instill into a foxhound, and can only be partially attained by
the exercise of cupboard love; thus a few pieces of dry liver or
bread, kept in the pocket to be given to a young hound who has
sharply answered to his call, will do more good than a month of
scolding and rating.
" Confidence," or the want of it, in a hound depends entirely
upon the character of his master. There is an old adage of "like
master, like man;" and this is strongly displayed in the hound.
The very best seizer would be spoiled if his master were a leetle
slow in going in with the knife; and, on the other hand, dogs
naturally shy of danger turn into good seizers where their master
invariably leads them in.
Not only is their confidence required and gained at these times,
but they learn to place implicit reliance upon their master's
knowledge of hunting, in the same manner that they acknowledge
the superiority of a particular hound. This induces them to obey
beyond any method of training, as they feel a certain dependence
upon the man, and they answer his halloo or the horn without a
Nothing is so likely to destroy the character of a pack as a
certain amount of laziness or incapacity upon the master's part
in following them up. This is natural enough, as the best
hounds, if repeatedly left unassisted for hours when at bay with
their game until they are regularly beaten off, will lose their
relish for the sport. On the other hand, perseverance on the
huntsman part will ensure a corresponding amount in the hounds;
they will become so accustomed to the certain appearance of their
master at the bay at some time or other that they will stick to
their game till night. I have frequently killed elk at two or
three o'clock in the afternoon that have been found at six in the
morning. Sometimes I have killed them even later than this when,
after wandering fruitlessly the whole day in every direction but
the right one, my ears have at length been gladdened by the
distant sound of the bay. The particular moment when hope and
certainty combined reward the day's toil is the very quintessence
of joy and delight. Nothing in the shape of enjoyment can come
near it. What a strange power has that helpless-looking mass -
the brain! One moment, and the limbs are fagged, the shins are
tender with breaking all day through the densest jungles, the
feet are worn with unrequited labor and - hark! The bay! no doubt
of it - the bay! There is the magic spell which, acting on the
brain, flies through every nerve. New legs, new feet, new
everything, in a moment! fresh as though just out of bed; here we
go tearing through the jungle like a buffalo, and as happy as
though we had just come in for a fortune - happier, a great
Nevertheless, elk-hunting is not a general taste, as people have
not opportunities of enjoying it constantly. Accordingly, they
are out of condition, and soon be, come distressed and of
necessity "shut up" (a vulgar but expressive term). This must be
fine fun for a total stranger rather inclined to corpulency, who
has dauntlessly persevered in keeping up with the huntsman,
although at some personal inconvenience. There is a limit to all
endurance, and he is obliged to stop, quite blown, completely
done. He loses all sounds of hounds and huntsman, and everything
connected with the hunt. Where is he? How horrible the idea that
flashes across his mind! he has no idea where he is, except that
he is quite certain that he is in some jungle in Ceylon.
Distraction! Ceylon is nearly all jungle, two hundred and eighty
miles long and he is in this - somewhere He tries to recollect by
what route he has come; impossible! He has been up one mountain,
and then he turned to the right, and got into a ravine; he
recollects the ravine, for he fell on his head with the end of a
dead stick in his stomach just as he got to the bottom; he
forgets every other part of his route, simply having an idea that
he went down a great many ravines and up a number of hills, and
turned to the right and left several times. He gives it up; he
finds himself "lost," and, if he is sensible, he will sit down
and wait till some one comes to look for him, when he will start
with joy at the glad sound of the horn. But should he attempt to
find his way alone through those pathless jungles, he will only
increase his distance from the right course.
One great peculiarity in Newera Ellia is the comparative freedom
from poisonous vermin. There are three varieties of snakes, only
one of which is hurtful, and all are very minute. The venomous
species is the "carrawellé," whose bite is generally fatal; but
this snake is not often met with. There are no ticks, nor bugs,
nor leeches, nor scorpions, nor white ants, nor wasps, nor
mosquitoes; in fact, there is nothing venomous except the snake
alluded to, and a small species of centipede. Fleas there are
certainly - indeed, a fair sprinkling of fleas; but they are not
troublesome, except in houses which are unoccupied during a
portion of the year. This is a great peculiarity of a Ceylon
flea - he is a great colonist; and should a house be untenanted
for a few months, so sure will it swarm with these "settlers."
Even a grass hut built for a night's bivouac in the jungle,
without a flea in the neighborhood, will literally swarm with
them if deserted for a couple of months. Fleas have a great
fancy for settling upon anything white; thus a person with white
trowsers will be blackened with them, while a man in darker
colors will be comparatively free. I at first supposed that they
appeared in larger numbers on the white ground because they were
more easily distinguished; but I tried the experiment of putting
a sheet of writing-paper and a piece of brown talipot leaf in the
midst of fleas; the paper was covered with them, while only two
or three were on the talipot.
The bite of the small species of centipede alluded to is not very
severe, being about equivalent to a wasp's sting. I have been
bitten myself, and I have seen another person suffering from the
bite, which was ludicrous enough.
The sufferer was Corporal Phinn, of H.M. Fifteenth Regiment. At
that time he was one of Lieutenant de Montenach's servants, and
accompanied his master on a hunting-trip to the Horton Plains.
Now Phinn was of course an Irishman; an excellent fellow, a dead
hand at tramping a bog and killing a snipe, but (without the
slightest intention of impugning his veracity) Phinn's ideality
was largely developed. He was never by himself for five minutes
in the jungle without having seen something wonderful before his
return; this he was sure to relate in a rich brogue with great
However, we had just finished dinner one night, and Phinn had
then taken his master's vacant place (there being only one room)
to commence his own meal, when up he jumped like a madman,
spluttering the food out of his mouth, and shouting and skipping
about the room with both hands clutched tightly to the hinder
part of his inexpressibles. "Oh, by Jasus! help, sir, help! I've
a reptile or some divil up my breeches! Oh! bad luck to him, he's
biting me! Oh! oh! it's sure a sarpint that's stinging me! quick,
sir, or he'll be the death o' me!"
Phinn was frantic, and upon lowering his inexpressibles we found
the centipede about four inches long which had bitten him. A
little brandy rubbed on the part soon relieved the pain.
CHAPTER VIII. Observations on Nature in the Tropics - The Dung
Beetle - The Mason-fly - Spiders - Luminous Insects - Efforts of
a Naturalist - Dogs Worried by Leeches - Tropical Diseases -
Malaria - Causes of Infection - Disappearance of the "Mina" -
Poisonous Water - Well-digging Elephants.
How little can the inhabitant of a cold or temperate climate
appreciate the vast amount of "life" in a tropical country. The
combined action of light, heat and moisture calls into existence
myriads of creeping things, the offspring of the decay of
vegetation. "Life" appears to emanate from "death" - the
destruction of one material seems to multify the existence of
another - the whole surface of the earth seems busied in one vast
system of giving birth.
An animal dies - a solitary beast - and before his unit life has
vanished for one week, bow many millions of living creatures owe
their birth to his death? What countless swarms of insects have
risen from that one carcase! - creatures which never could have
been brought into existence were it not for the presence of one
dead body which has received and hatched the deposited eggs of
millions that otherwise would have remained unvivified.
Not a tree falls, not a withered flower droops to the ground, not
a fruit drops from the exhausted bough, but it is instantly
attacked by the class of insect prepared by Nature for its
destruction. The white ant scans a lofty tree whose iron-like
timber and giant stem would seem to mock at his puny efforts; but
it is rotten at the core and not a leaf adorns its branches, and
in less than a year it will have fallen to the earth a mere
shell; the whole of the wood will have been devoured.
Rottenness of all kinds is soon carried from the face of the land
by the wise arrangements of Nature for preserving the world from
plagues and diseases, which the decaying and unconsumed bodies of
animals and vegetables would otherwise engender.
How beautiful are all the laws of Nature! how perfect in their
details! Allow that the great duty of the insect tribe is to
cleanse the earth and atmosphere from countless impurities
noxious to the human race, how great a plague would our
benefactors themselves become were it not for the various classes
of carnivorous insects who prey upon them, and are in their turn
the prey of others! It is a grand principle of continual strife,
which keeps all and each down to their required level.
What a feast for an observant mind is thus afforded in a tropical
country! The variety and the multitude of living things are so
great that a person of only ordinary observation cannot help
acquiring a tolerable knowledge of the habits of some of the most
interesting classes. In the common routine of daily life they
are continually in his view, and even should he have no taste for
the study of Nature and her productions, still one prevailing
characteristic of the insect tribe must impress itself upon his
mind. It is the natural instinct not simply of procreating their
species, but of laying by a provision for their expected
offspring. What a lesson to mankind! what an example to the
nurtured mind of mail from one of the lowest classes of living
Here we see no rash matrimonial engagements; no penniless lovers
selfishly and indissolubly linked together to propagate large
families Of starving children. Ail the arrangements of the
insect tribe, though prompted by sheer instinct are conducted
with a degree of rationality that in some cases raises the mere
instinct of the creeping thing above the assumed "reason" of man.
The bird builds her nest and carefully provides for the comfort
of her young long ere she lays her fragile egg. Even look at
that vulgar-looking beetle, whose coarse form would banish the
idea of any rational feeling existing in its brain - the
Billingsgate fish-woman of its tribe in coarseness and rudeness
of exterior (Scarabaeus carnifex) - see with what quickness she
is running backward, raised almost upon her head, while with her
bind legs she trundles a large ball; herself no bigger than a
nutmeg, the ball is four times the size. There she goes along the
smooth road. The ball she has just manufactured from some
fresh-dropped horse-dung; it is as round as though turned by a
lathe, and, although the dung has not lain an hour upon the
ground, she and her confederates have portioned out the spoil,
and each has started off with her separate ball. Not a particle
of horsedung remains upon the road. Now she has rolled the ball
away from the hard road, and upon the soft, sandy border she has
stopped to rest. No great amount of rest; she plunges her head
into the ground, and with that shovel-like projection of stout
horn she mines her way below: she has disappeared even in these
Presently the apparently deserted ball begins to move, as though
acted on by some subterranean force; gradually it sinks to the
earth, and it vanishes altogether.
Some persons might imagine that she feeds upon the ordure, and
that she has buried her store as a dog hides a bone; but this is
not the case; she has formed a receptacle for her eggs, which she
deposits in the ball of dung, the warmth of which assists in
bringing the larvae into life, which then feed upon the manure.
It is wonderful to observe with what rapidity all kinds of dung
are removed by these beetles. This is effected by the active
process of rolling the loads instead of carrying, by which method
a large mass is transported at once.
The mason-fly is also a ball-maker, but she carries her load and
builds an elaborate nest. This insect belongs to the order
"Hymenoptera," and is of the Ichneumon tribe, being a variety of
upward of four hundred species of that interesting fly.
The whole tribe of Ichneumon are celebrated for their courage; a
small fly will not hesitate to attack the largest cockroach, who
evinces the greatest terror at sight of his well-known enemy; but
the greatest proof of valor in a fly is displayed in the war of
the ichneumon against the spider.
There is a great variety of this insect in Ceylon, from the large
black species, the size of the hornet down to the minute
tinsel-green fly, no bigger than a gnat; but every one of these
different species wages perpetual war against the arch enemy of
In very dry weather in some districts, when most pools and
water-holes are dried up, a pail of water thrown upon the ground
will as assuredly attract a host of mason-flies as carrion will
bring together "blow-flies." They will be then seen in excessive
activity upon the wet earth, forming balls of mud, by rolling the
earth between their fore feet until they have manufactured each a
pill. With this they fly away to build their nest, and
immediately return for a further supply.
The arrangement of the nest is a matter of much consideration, as
the shape depends entirely upon the locality in which it is
built: it may be in the corner of a room, or in a hole in a wall,
or in the hollow of a bamboo; but wherever it is, the principle
is the same, although the shape of the nest may vary. Everything
is to be hermetically sealed.
The mason-fly commences by flattening the first pill of clay upon
the intended site (say the corner of a room); she then spreads it
in a thin layer over a surface of about two inches, and retires
for another ball of clay. This she dabs upon the plastic
foundation, and continues the apparently rude operation until
some twenty or thirty pills of clay are adhering at equal
distances. She then forms these into a number of neat
oval-shaped cells, about the size of a wren's egg, and in each
cell she deposits one egg. She then flies off in search of
spiders, which are to be laid tip in stores within the cells as
food for the young larvae, when hatched.
Now the transition from the larva to the fly takes place in the
cell, and occupies about six weeks from the time the egg is first
laid; thus, as the egg itself is not vivified for some weeks
after it is deposited, the spiders have to be preserved in a
sound and fresh state during that interval until the larva is in
such an advanced stage as to require food.
In a tropical country every one knows that a very few hours
occasion the putrefaction of all dead animal substances;
nevertheless these spiders are to be kept fresh and good, like
our tins of preserved meats, to be eaten when required.
One, two, or even three spiders, according to their size, the
mason-fly deposits in each cell, and then closes it hermetically
with clay. The spiders she has pounced upon while sunning
themselves in the centre of their delicate nets, and they are
hurried off in a panic to be converted into preserved provisions.
Each cell being closed, the whole nest is cemented over with a
thick covering of clay. In due time the young family hatch, eat
their allowance of spiders, undergo their torpid change, and
emerge from their clay mansion complete mason-flies.
Every variety of Ichneumon, however (in Ceylon), chooses the
spider as the food for its young. It is not at all uncommon to
find a gun well loaded with spiders, clay and grubs, some
mason-fly having chosen the barrel for his location. A bunch of
keys will invite a settlement of one of the smaller species, who
make its nest in the tube of a key, which it also fills with
In attacking the spider, the mason-fly his a choice of his
antagonist, and he takes good care to have a preponderance of
weight on his own side. His reason for choosing this in
preference to other insects for a preserved store may be that the
spider is naturally juicy, plump and compact, combining
advantages both for keeping and packing closely.
There are great varieties of spiders in Ceylon, one of which is
of such enormous size as to resemble the Aranea avicularia of
America. This species stands on an area of about three inches,
and never spins a web, but wanders about and lives in holes; his
length of limb, breadth of thorax and powerful jaws give him a
most formidable appearance. There is another species of a
large-sized spider who spins a web of about two and a half feet
in diameter. This is composed of a strong, yellow, silky fibre,
and so powerful is the texture that a moderate-sized walking-cane
thrown into the web will be retained by it. This spider is about
two inches long, the color black, with a large yellow spot upon
the back, and the body nearly free from hair.
Some years ago an experiment was made in France of substituting
the thread of the spider for the silk of the silkworm: several
pairs of stockings and various articles were manufactured with
tolerable success in this new material, but the fibre was
generally considered as too fragile.
A sample of such thread as is spun by the spider described could
not have failed to produce the desired result, as its strength is
so great that it can be wound upon a card without the slightest
care required in the operation. The texture is far more silky
than the fibre commonly produced by spiders, which has more
generally the character of cotton than of silk.
Should this ever be experimented on, a question might arise of
much interest to entomologists, whether a difference in the food
of the spider would affect the quality of the thread, as is well
known to be the case with the common silkworm.
A Ceylon night after a heavy shower of rain is a brilliant sight,
when the whole atmosphere is teeming with moving lights bright as
the stars themselves, waving around the tree-tops in fiery
circles, now threading like distant lamps through the intricate
branches and lighting up the dark recesses of the foliage, then
rushing like a shower of sparks around the glittering boughs.
Myriads of bright fire-flies in these wild dances meet their
destiny, being entangled in opposing spiders' webs, where they
hang like fairy lamps, their own light directing the path of the
destroyer and assisting in their destruction.
There are many varieties of luminous insects in Ceylon. That
which affords the greatest volume of light is a large white grub
about two inches in length, This is a fat, sluggish animal, whose
light is far more brilliant than could be supposed to emanate
from such a form.
The light of a common fire-fly will enable a person to
distinguish the hour on a dial in a dark night, but the glow from
the grub described will render the smallest print so legible that
a page may be read with case. I once tried the experiment of
killing the grub, but the light was not extinguished with life,
and by opening the tail, I squeezed out a quantity of glutinous
fluid, which was so highly phosphorescent that it brilliantly
illumined the page of a book which I had been reading by its
light for a trial.
All phosphorescent substances require friction to produce their
full volume of light; this is exemplified at sea during a calm
tropical night, when the ocean sleeps in utter darkness and
quietude and not a ripple disturbs the broad surface of the
water. Then the prow of the advancing steamer cuts through the
dreary waste of darkness and awakens into fiery life the spray
which dashes from her sides. A broad stream of light illumines
the sea in her wake, and she appears to plough up fire in her
rush through the darkened water.
The simple friction of the moving mass agitates the millions of
luminous animalcules contained in the water; in the same manner a
fish darting through the sea is distinctly seen by the fiery
course which is created by his own velocity.
All luminous insects are provided with a certain amount of
phosphorescent fluid, which can be set in action at pleasure by
the agitation of a number of nerves and muscles situated in the
region of the fluid and especially adapted to that purpose. It
is a common belief that the light of the glow-worm is used as a
lamp of love to assist in nocturnal meetings, but there can be
little doubt that the insect makes use of its natural brilliancy
without any specific intention. It is as natural for the
fire-fly to glitter by night as for the colored butterfly to be
gaudy by day.
The variety of beautiful and interesting insects is so great in
Ceylon that an entomologist would consider it a temporary
elysium; neither would he have much trouble in collecting a host
of different species who will exhibit themselves without the
necessity of a laborious search. Thus, while he may be engaged
in pinning out some rare specimen, a thousand minute eye-flies
will be dancing so close to his eyeballs that seeing is out of
the question. These little creatures, which are no larger than
pin's heads, are among the greatest plagues in some parts of the
jungle; and what increases the annoyance is the knowledge of the
fact that they dance almost into your eyes out of sheer vanity.
They are simply admiring their own reflection in the mirror of
the eye; or, may be, some mistake their own reflected forms for
other flies performing the part of a "vis-à-vis" in their
A cigar is a specific against these small plagues, and we will
allow that the patient entomologist has just succeeded in putting
them to flight and has resumed the occupation of setting out his
specimen. Ha! see him spring out of his chair as though
electrified. Watch how, regardless of the laws of buttons, he
frantically tears his trowsers from his limbs; he has him! no he
hasn't! - yes he has! - no - no, positively he cannot get him
off. It is a tick no bigger than a grain of sand, but his bite
is like a red-hot needle boring into the skin. If all the royal
family had been present, he could not have refrained from tearing
off his trowsers.
The naturalist has been out the whole morning collecting, and a
pretty collection he has got - a perfect fortune upon his legs
alone. There are about a hundred ticks who have not yet
commenced to feed upon him; there are also several fine specimens
of the large flat buffalo tick; three or four leeches are
enjoying themselves on the juices of the naturalist; these he had
not felt, although they had bitten him half an hour before; a
fine black ant has also escaped during the recent confusion,
fortunately without using his sting.
Oil is the only means of loosening the hold of a tick; this
suffocates him and he dies; but he leaves an amount of
inflammation in the wound which is perfectly surprising in so
minute an insect. The bite of the smallest species is far more
severe than that of the large buffalo or the deer tick, both of
which are varieties.
Although the leeches in Ceylon are excessively annoying, and
numerous among the dead leaves of the jungle and the high grass,
they are easily guarded against by means of leech-gaiters: these
are wide stockings, made of drill or some other light and close
material, which are drawn over the foot and trowsers up to the
knee, under which they are securely tied. There are three
varieties of the leech : the small jungle leech, the common leech
and the stone leech. The latter will frequently creep up the
nostrils of a dog while he is drinking in a stream, and, unlike
the other species, it does not drop off when satiated, but
continues to live in the dog's nostril. I have known a leech of
this kind to have lived more than two months in the nose of one
of my hounds; he was so high up that I could only see his tail
occasionally when lie relaxed to his full length, and injections
of salt and water had no effect on him. Thus I could not relieve
the dog till one day when the leech descended, and I observed the
tail working in and out of the nostril; I then extracted him in
the usual way with the finger and thumb and the tail of the coat.
I should be trespassing too much upon the province of the
naturalist, and attempting more than I could accomplish, were I
to enter into the details of the entomology of Ceylon; I have
simply mentioned a few of those insects most common to the
every-day observer, and I leave the description of the endless
varieties of classes to those who make entomology a study.
It may no doubt appear very enticing to the lovers of such
things, to hear of the gorgeous colors and prodigious size of
butterflies, moths and beetles; the varieties of reptiles, the
flying foxes, the gigantic crocodiles; the countless species of
waterfowl, et hoc genus omne; but one very serious fact is apt to
escape the observation of the general reader, that wherever
insect and reptile life is most abundant, so sure is that
locality full of malaria and disease.
Ceylon does not descend to second-class diseases: there is no
such thing as influenza; whooping-cough, measles, scarlatina,
etc., are rarely, if ever, heard of; we ring the changes upon
four first-class ailments - four scourges, which alternately
ascend to the throne of pestilence and annually reduce the circle
of our friends - cholera, dysentery, small-pox and fever. This
year (1854) there has been some dispute as to the routine of
succession; they have accordingly all raged at one time.
The cause of infection in disease has long been a subject of
controversy among medical men, but there can be little doubt
that, whatever is the origin of the disease, the same is the
element of infection. The question is, therefore, reduced to the
prime cause of the disease itself.
A theory that animalcules are the cause of the various contagious
and infectious disorders has created much discussion; and
although this opinion is not generally entertained by the
faculty, the idea is so feasible, and so many rational arguments
can be brought forward in its support, that I cannot help
touching upon a topic so generally interesting.
In the first place, nearly all infectious diseases predominate in
localities which are hot, damp, swampy, abounding in stagnant
pools and excluded from a free circulation of air. In a tropical
country, a residence in such a situation would be certain death
to a human being, but the same locality will be found to swarm
with insects and reptiles of all classes.
Thus, what is inimical to human life is propitious to the insect
tribe. This is the first step in favor of the argument.
Therefore, whatever shall tend to increase the insect life must
in an inverse ratio war with human existence.
When we examine a drop of impure water, and discover by the
microscope the thousands of living beings which not only are
invisible to the naked eye, but some of whom are barely
discoverable even by the strongest magnifying power, it certainly
leads to the inference, that if one drop of impure fluid contains
countless atoms endowed with vitality, the same amount of impure
air may be equally tenanted with its myriads of invisible
It is well known that different mixtures, which are at first pure
and apparently free from all insect life, will, in the course of
their fermentation and subsequent impurity, generate peculiar
species of animalcules. Thus all water and vegetable or animal
matter, in a state of stagnation and decay, gives birth to insect
life; likewise all substances of every denomination which are
subjected to putrid fermentation. Unclean sewers, filthy hovels,
unswept streets, unwashed clothes, are therefore breeders of
animalcules, many of which are perfectly visible without
Now, if some are discernible by the naked eye, and others are
detected in such varying sizes that some can only just be
distinguished by the most powerful lens, is it not rational to
conclude that the smallest discernible to human intelligence is
but the medium of a countless race? that millions of others still
exist, which are too minute for any observation?
Observe the particular quarters of a city which suffers most
severely during the prevalence of an epidemic, In all dirty,
narrow streets, where the inhabitants are naturally of a low and
uncleanly class, the cases will be tenfold. Thus, filth is
admitted to have at least the power of attracting disease, and we
know that it not only attracts, but generates animalcules;
therefore filth, insects and disease are ever to he seen closely
Now, the common preventives against infection are such as are
peculiarly inimical to every kind of insect; camphor, chloride of
lime, tobacco-smoke, and powerful scents and smokes of any kind.
The first impulse on the appearance of an infectious disease is
to purify everything as much as possible, and by extra
cleanliness and fumigations to endeavor to arrest its progress.
The great purifier of Nature is a violent wind, which usually
terminates an epidemic immediately; this would naturally carry
before it all insect life with which the atmosphere might be
impregnated, and the disease disappears at the same moment. It
will he well remembered that the plague of locusts inflicted upon
Pharaoh was relieved in the same manner: "And the Lord turned a
mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts and cast
them into the Red Sea; there remained not one locust in all the
coasts of Egypt."
Every person is aware that unwholesome air is quite poisonous to
the human system as impure water; and seeing that the noxious
qualities of the latter are caused by animalcules, and that the
method used for purifying infected air are those most generally
destructive to insect life, it is not irrational to conclude that
the poisonous qualities of bad water and bad air arise from the
Man is being constantly preyed upon by insects; and were it not
for ordinary cleanliness, he would become a mass of vermin; even
this does not protect him from the rapacity of ticks, mosquitoes,
fleas and many others. Intestinal worms feed on him within, and,
unseen, use their slow efforts for his destruction.
The knowledge of so many classes which actually prey upon the
human system naturally leads to the belief that many others
endowed with the same propensities exist, of which we have at
present no conception. Thus, different infectious disorders
might proceed from peculiar species of animalcules, which, at
given periods, are wafted into certain countries, carrying
pestilence and death in their invisible course.
A curious phenomenon has recently occurred at Mauritus, where
that terrible scourge, the cholera, has been raging with
There is a bird in that island called the "martin," but it is
more property the "mina." This bird is about the size of the
starling, whose habits its possesses in a great degree. It
exists in immense numbers, and is a grand destroyer of all
insects. On this account it is seldom or never shot at,
especially as it is a great comforter to all cattle, whose hides
it entirely cleans from ticks and other vermin, remaining for
many hours perched upon the back of one animal, while its bill is
actively employed in searching out and destroying every insect.
During the prevalence of the cholera at Mauritius these birds
disappeared. Such a circumstance had never before occurred, and
the real cause of their departure is still a mystery.
May it not have been, that some species of insect upon which they
fed had likewise migrated, and that certain noxious animalcules,
which had been kept down by this class, had thus multiplied
within the atmosphere until their numbers caused disease? All
suppositions on such a subject must, however, remain in
obscurity, as no proof can be adduced of their correctness. The
time may arrive when science may successfully grapple with all
human ailments, but hitherto that king of pestilence, the
"cholera," has reduced the highest medical skill to miserable
Upon reconsidering the dangers of fevers, dysentery, etc., in the
swampy and confined districts described, the naturalist may
become somewhat less ardent in following his favorite pursuit.
Of one fact I can assure him that no matter how great the natural
strength of his constitution, the repeated exposure to the
intense heat of the sun, the unhealthy districts that he will
visit, the nights redolent of malaria, and the horrible water
that he must occasionally drink, will gradually undermine the
power of the strongest man. Both sportsman and naturalist in
this must share alike.
No one who has not actually suffered from the effect can
appreciate the misery of bad water in a tropical country, or the
blessings of a cool, pure draught. I have been in districts of
Ceylon where for sixteen or twenty miles not a drop of water is
to be obtained fit for an animal to drink; not a tree to throw a
few yards of shade upon the parching ground; nothing but stunted,
thorny jungles and sandy, barren plains as far as the eye can
reach; the yellow leaves crisp upon the withered branches, the
wild fruits hardened for want of sap, all moisture robbed from
vegetation by the pitiless drought of several months.
A day's work in such a country is hard indeed carrying a heavy
rifle for some five-and-twenty miles, sometimes in deep sand,
sometimes on good ground, but always exposed to the intensity of
that blaze, added to the reflection from the sandy soil, and the
total want of fresh air and water. All Nature seems stagnated; a
distant pool is seen, and a general rush takes place toward the
cheering sight. The water is thicker than pea soup, a green scum
floats through the thickened mass, and the temperature is upward
of 130 Fahrenheit. All kinds of insects are swarming in the
putrid fluid, and a saltish bitter adds to its nauseating flavor.
I have seen the exhausted coolies spread their dirty cloths on
the surface, and form them into filters by sucking the water
through them. Oh for a glass of Newera Ellia water, the purest
and best that ever flows, as it sparkles out of the rocks on the
mountain-tops! what pleasure so perfect as a long, deep and
undisturbed draught of such cold, clear nectar when the throat is
parched with unquenchable thirst!
In some parts of Ceylon, especially in the neighborhood of the
coast, where the land is flat and sandy, the water is always
brackish, even during the rainy season, and in the dry months it
The natives then make use of a berry for cleansing it and
precipitating the impurities. II know the shrub and the berry
well, but it has no English denomination. The berries are about
the size of a very large pea, and grow in clusters of from ten to
fifteen together, and one berry is said to be sufficient to
cleanse a gallon of water. The method of using them is curious,
although simple. The vessel which is intended to contain the
water, which is generally an earthen chatty, is well rubbed in
the inside with a berry until the latter, which is of a horny
consistency, like vegetable ivory, is completely worn away. The
chatty is then filled with the muddy water, and allowed to stand
for about an hour or more, until all the impurities have
precipitated to the bottom and the water remains clear.
I have constantly used this berry, but I certainly cannot say
that the water has ever been rendered perfectly clear; it has
been vastly improved, and what was totally undrinkable before has
been rendered fit for use; but it has at the best been only
comparatively good; and although the berry has produced a decided
effect, the native accounts of its properties are greatly
During the prolonged droughts, many rivers of considerable
magnitude are completely exhausted, and nothing remains but a dry
bed of said between lofty banks. At these seasons the elephants,
being hard pressed for water, make use of their wonderful
instinct by digging holes in the dry sand of the river's bed;
this they perform with the horny toes of their fore feet, and
frequently work to a depth of three feet before they discover the
liquid treasure beneath. This process of well-digging almost
oversteps the boundaries of instinct and strongly, savors of
reason, the two powers being so nearly connected that it is
difficult in some cases to define the distinction. There are so
many interesting cases of the wonderful display of both these
attributes in animals, that I shall notice some features of this
subject in a separate chapter.
CHAPTER IX. Instinct and Reason - Tailor Birds and Grosbeaks -
The White Ant - Black Ants at War - Wanderoo Monkeys - Habits of
Elephants - Elephants in the Lake - Herd of Elephants Bathing -
Elephant-shooting - The Rencontre - The Charge - Caught by the
Tail - Horse Gored by a Buffalo - Sagacity of Dogs - " Bluebeard
" - His Hunt - A True Hound.
There can be no doubt that man is not the only animal endowed
with reasoning powers: he possesses that faculty to an immense
extent, but although the amount of the same power possessed by
animals may be infinitely small, nevertheless it is their share
of reason, which they occasionally use apart from mere instinct.
Although instinct and reason appear to be closely allied, they
are easily separated and defined.
Instinct is the faculty with which Nature has endowed all animals
for the preservation and continuation of their own species. This
is accordingly exhibited in various features, as circumstances
may call forth the operation of the power; but so wonderful are
the attributes of Nature that the details of her arrangements
throughout the animal and insect creation give to every class an
amount of sense which in many instances surmounts the narrow
bounds of simple instinct.
The great characteristic of sheer instinct is its want of
progression; it never increases, never improves. It is possessed
now in the nineteenth century by every race of living creatures
in no larger proportion than was bestowed upon them at the
In general, knowledge increases like a rolling snowball; a
certain amount forms a base for extra improvement, and upon
successive foundations of increasing altitude the eminence has
been attained of the present era. This is the effect of
"reason;" but "instinct," although beautiful in its original
construction, remains, like the blossom of a tree, ever the same
- a limited effect produced by a given cause; an unchangeable law
of Nature that certain living beings shall perform certain
functions which require a certain amount of intelligence; this
amount is supplied by Nature for the performance of the duties
required; this is instinct.
Thus, according to the requirements necessitated by the habits of
certain living creatures to an equivalent amount is their share
of instinct. Reason differs from instinct as combining the
effects of thought and reflection; this being a proof of
consideration, while instinct is simply a direct emanation from
the brain, confined to an impulse.
In our observations of Nature, especially in tropical countries,
we see numberless exemplifications of these powers, in some of
which the efforts of common instinct halt upon the extreme
boundary and have almost a tinge of reason.
What can be more curious than the nest of the tailor-bird - a
selection of tough leaves neatly sewn one over the other to form
a waterproof exterior to the comfortable little dwelling within?
Where does the needle and thread come from? The first is the
delicate bill of the bird itself, and the latter is the strong
fibre of the bark of a tree, with which the bird sews every leaf,
lapping one over the other in the same manner that slates are
laid upon a roof.
Nevertheless this is simple instinct; the tailor-bird in the days
of Adam constructed her nest in a similar manner, which will be
continued without improvement till the end of time.
The grosbeak almost rivals the tailor-bird in the beautiful
formation of its nest. These birds build in company, twenty or
thirty nests being common upon one tree. Their apparent
intention in the peculiar construction of their nests is to avoid
the attacks of snakes and lizards. These nests are about two
feet long, composed of beautifully woven grass, shaped like an
elongated pear. They are attached like fruit to the extreme end
of a stalk or branch, from which they wave to and fro in the
wind, as though hung out to dry. The bird enters at a
funnel-like aperture in the bottom, and by this arrangement the
young are effectually protected from reptiles.
All nests, whether of birds or insects, are particularly
interesting, as they explain the domestic habits of the
occupants; but, however wonderful the arrangement and the beauty
of the work as exhibited among birds, bees, wasps, etc., still it
is the simple effect of instinct on the principle that they never
The white ant - that grand destroyer of all timber - always works
under cover; he builds as he progresses in his work of
destruction, and runs a long gallery of fine clay in the
direction of his operations; beneath this his devastation
proceeds until he has penetrated to the interior of the beam, the
centre of which he entirely demolishes, leaving a thin shell in
the form of the original log encrusted over the exterior with
There is less interest in the habits of these destructive
wretches than in all other of the ant tribe; they build
stupendous nests, it is true, but their interior economy is less
active and thrifty than that of many other species of ants, among
which there is a greater appearance of the display of reasoning
powers than in most animals of a superior class.
On a fine sunny morning it is not uncommon, to see ants busily
engaged in bringing out all the eggs from the nest and laying
them in the sun until they become thoroughly warmed, after which
they carry them all back again and lay them in their respective
places. This looks very like a power of reasoning, as it is
decidedly beyond instinct. If they were to carry out the eggs
every morning, wet or dry, it would be an effort of instinct to
the detriment of the eggs; but as the weather is uncertain, it
is an effort of reason on the part of the ants to bring out the
eggs to the sun, especially as it is not an every-day occurrence,
even in fine weather.
In Mauritius, the negroes have a custom of turning the reasoning
powers of the large black ant to advantage.
White ants are frequently seen passing in and out of a small hole
from underneath a building, in which case their ravages could
only be prevented by taking up the flooring and destroying the
The negroes avoid this by their knowledge of the habits of the
black ant, who is a sworn enemy to the white.
They accordingly pour a little treacle on the ground within a
yard of the hole occupied by the white ants. The smell of the
treacle shortly attracts some of the black species, who, on their
arrival are not long in observing their old enemies passing in
and out of the hole. Some of them leave the treacle; these are
evidently messengers, as in the course of the day a whole army of
black ants will be seen advancing, in a narrow line of many yards
in length, to storm the stronghold of the white ants. They enter
the hole, and they destroy every white ant in the building.
Resistance there can be none, as the plethoric, slow-going white
ant is as a mouse to a cat in the encounter with his active
enemy, added to which the black ant is furnished with a most
venomous sting, in addition to a powerful pair of mandibles. I
have seen the black ants returning from their work of
destruction, each carrying a slaughtered white ant in his mouth,
which he devours at leisure. This is again a decided effort of
reason, as the black ant arrives at the treacle without a thought
of the white ant in his mind, but, upon seeing his antagonist, he
despatches messengers for reinforcements, who eventually bring up
the army to the "rendezvous."
Numerous instances might be cited of the presence of reasoning
powers among the insect classes, but this faculty becomes of
increased interest when seen in the larger animals.
Education is both a proof and a promoter of reason in all
animals. This removes them from their natural or instinctive
position, and brings forth the full development of the mental
powers. This is exhibited in the performance of well-trained
dogs, especially among pointers and setters. Again, in the feats
performed by educated animals in the circus, where the elephant
has lately endeavored to prove a want of common sense by standing
on his head. Nevertheless, however absurd the trick, which man
may teach the animal to perform, the very fact of their
performance substantiates an amount of reason in the animal.
Monkeys, elephants and dogs are naturally endowed with a larger
share of the reasoning power than other animals, which is
frequently increased to a wonderful extent by education. The
former, even in their wild state, are so little inferior to some
natives, either in their habits or appearance, that I should feel
some reluctance in denying them an almost equal share of reason;
the want Of speech certainly places them below the Veddahs, but
the monkeys, on the other hand, might assert a superiority by a
show of tails.
Monkeys vary in intelligence according to their species, and may
be taught to do almost anything. There are several varieties in
Ceylon, among which the great black wanderoo, with white
whiskers, is the nearest in appearance to the human race. This
monkey stands upward of three feet high, and weighs about eighty
pounds. He has immense muscular power, and he has also a great
peculiarity in the formation of the skull, which is closely
allied to that of a human being, the lower jaw and the upper
being in a straight line with the forehead. In monkeys the jaws
usually project. This species exists in most parts of Ceylon,
but I have seen it of a larger size at Newera Ellia thin in any
of the low-country districts.
Elephants are proverbially sagacious, both in their wild state
and when domesticated. I have previously described the building
of a dam by a tame elephant, which was an exhibition of reason
hardly to be expected in any animal. They are likewise
wonderfully sagacious in a wild state in preserving themselves
from accidents, to which, from their bulk and immense weight,
they would be particularly liable, such as the crumbling of the
verge of a precipice, the insecurity of a bridge or the
suffocating depth of mud in a lake.
It is the popular opinion, and I have seen it expressed in many
works, that the elephant shuns rough and rocky ground, over which
he moves with difficulty, and that he delights in level plains,
etc., etc. This may be the case in Africa, where his favorite
food, the mimosa, grows upon the plain, but in Ceylon it is
directly the contrary. In this country the elephant delights in
the most rugged localities; he rambles about rocky hills and
mountains with a nimbleness that no one can understand without
personal experience. So partial are elephants to rocky and
uneven ground that should the ruins of a mountain exist in rugged
fragments along a plain of low, thorny jungle, five chances to
one would be in favor of tracking the herd to this very spot,
where they would most likely be found, standing among the alleys
roamed by the fragments heaped around them. It is surprising to
witness the dexterity of elephants in traversing ground over
which a man can pass with difficulty. I have seen places on the
mountains in the neighborhood of Newera Ellia bearing the
unmistakable marks of elephants where I could not have conceived
it possible for such an animal to stand. On the precipitous
sides of jungle-covered mountains, where the ground is so steep
that a man is forced to cling to the underwood for support, the
elephants still plough their irresistible course. In descending
or ascending these places, the elephant a always describes a
zigzag, and thus lessens the abruptness of the inclination.
Their immense weight acting on their broad feet, bordered by
sharp horny toes, cuts away the side of the hill at every stride
and forms a level step; thus they are enabled to skirt the sides
of precipitous hills and banks with comparative case. The trunk
is the wonderful monitor of all danger to an elephant, from
whatever cause it may proceed. This may arise from the approach
of man or from the character of the country; in either case the
trunk exerts its power; in one by the acute sense of smell, in
the other by the combination of the sense of scent and touch. In
dense jungles, where the elephant cannot see a yard before him,
the sensitive trunk feels the hidden way, and when the roaring of
waterfalls admonishes him of the presence of ravines and
precipices, the never-failing trunk lowered upon the around keeps
him advised of every inch of his path.
Nothing is more difficult than to induce a tame elephant to cross
a bridge which his sagacity assures him is insecure; he will
sound it with his trunk and press upon it with one foot, but he
will not trust his weight if he can perceive the slightest
Their power of determining whether bogs or the mud at the bottom
of tanks are deep or shallow is beyond my comprehension.
Although I have seen elephants in nearly every position, I have
never seen one inextricably fixed in a swamp. This is the more
extraordinary as their habits induce them to frequent the most
extensive morasses, deep lakes, muddy tanks and estuaries, and
yet I have never seen even a young one get into a scrape by being
overwhelmed. There appears to be a natural instinct which warns
them in their choice of ground, the same as that which influences
the buffalo, and in like manner guides him through his swampy
It is a grand sight to see a large herd of elephants feeding in a
fine lake in broad daylight. This is seldom witnessed in these
days, as the number of guns have so disturbed the elephants in
Ceylon that they rarely come out to drink until late in the
evening or during the night; but some time ago I had a fine view
of a grand herd in a lake in the middle of the day.
I was out shooting with a great friend of mine, who is a
brother-in-arms against the game of Ceylon, and than whom a
better sportsman does not breathe, and we had arrived at a wild
and miserable place while en route home after a jungle trip.
Neither of us was feeling well; we had been for some weeks in the
most unhealthy part of the country, and I was just recovering
from a touch of dysentery: altogether, we were looking forward
with pleasure to our return to comfortable quarters, and for the
time we were tired of jungle life. However, we arrived at a
little village about sixty miles south of Batticaloa, called
"Gollagangwelléwevé" (pronunciation requires practice), and a
very long name it was for so small a place; but the natives
insisted that a great number of elephants were in the
They also declared that the elephants infested the neighboring
tank even during the forenoon, and that they nightly destroyed
their embankment, and would not be driven away, as there was not
a single gun possessed by the village with which to scare them.
This looked all right; so we loaded the guns and started without
loss of time, as it was then one P. M., and the natives described
the tank as a mile distant. Being perfectly conversant with the
vague idea of space described by a Cingalese mile, we mounted our
horses, and, accompanied by about five-and-twenty villagers,
twenty of whom I wished at Jericho, we started. By the by, I
have quite forgotten to describe who "we" are - F. H. Palliser,
Esq., and myself.
Whether or not it was because I did not feel in brisk health, I
do not know, but somehow or other I had a presentiment that the
natives had misled us, and that we should not find the elephants
in the tank, but that, as usual, we should be led tip to some
dense, thorny jungle, and told that the elephants were somewhere
in that direction. Not being very sanguine, I had accordingly
taken no trouble about my gun-bearers, and I saw several of my
rifles in the bands of the villagers, and only one of my regular
gun-bearers had followed me; the rest, having already had a
morning's march, were glad of an excuse to remain behind.
Our rate lay for about a quarter of a mile through deserted
paddy-land and low jungle, after which we entered fine open
jungle and forest. Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains bad
filled the tank, which had overflowed the broken dam and
partially flooded the forest. This was in all parts within two
hundred yards from the dam a couple of feet deep in water, with a
proportionate amount of sticky mud beneath, and through this we
splashed until the dam appeared about fifty yards on our right.
It was a simple earthen mound, which rose about ten feet from the
level of the forest, and was studded with immense trees,
apparently the growth of ages. We knew that the tank lay on the
opposite side, but we continued our course parallel with the dam
until we bad ridden about a mile from the village, the natives,
for a wonder, having truly described the distance.
Here our guide, having motioned us to stop, ran quickly up the
dam to take a look out on the opposite side. He almost
immediately beckoned us to come up. This we did without loss of
time, and knowing that the game was in view, I ordered the horses
to retire for about a quarter of a mile.
On our arrival on the dam there was a fine sight. The lake was
about five miles round, and was quite full of water, the surface
of which was covered with a scant, but tall, rushy grass. In the
lake, browsing upon the grass, we counted twenty-three elephants,
and there were many little ones, no doubt, that we could not
distinguish in such rank vegetation. Five large elephants were
not more than a hundred and twenty paces distant; the remaining
eighteen were in a long line about a quarter of a mile from the
shore, feeding in deep water.
We were well concealed by the various trees which grew upon the
dam, and we passed half an hour in watching the manoeuvres of the
great beasts as they bathed and sported in the cool water.
However, this was not elephant-shooting, and the question was,
how to get at them? The natives had no idea of the sport, as
they seemed to think it very odd that we did not fire at those
within a hundred paces' distance. I now regretted my absent
gun-bearers, as I plainly saw that these village people would be
worse than useless.
We determined to take a stroll along the base of the dam to
reconnoitre the ground, as at present it seemed impossible to
make an attack; and even were the elephants within the forest,
there appeared to be no possibility of following them up through
such deep water and heavy ground with any chance of success.
however, they were not in the forest, being safe, belly and
shoulder deep, in the tank.
We strolled through mud and water thigh-deep for a few hundred
paces, when we suddenly came upon the spot where in ages past the
old dam had been carried away. Here the natives had formed a mud
embankment strengthened by sticks and wattles. Poor fellows! we
were not surprised at their wishing the elephants destroyed; the
repair of their fragile dam was now a daily occupation, for the
elephants, as though out of pure mischief, had chosen this spot
as their thoroughfare to and from the lake, and the dam was
trodden down in all directions.
We found that the margin of the forest was everywhere flooded to
a width of about two hundred yards, after which it was tolerably
dry; we therefore returned to our former post.
It struck me that the only way to secure a shot at the herd would
be to employ a ruse, which I had once practiced successfully some
years ago. Accordingly we sent the greater part of the villagers
for about a half a mile along the edge of the lake, with orders
to shout and make a grand hullaballoo on arriving at their
station. It seemed most probable that on being disturbed the
elephants would retreat to the forest by their usual
thoroughfare; we accordingly stood on the alert, ready for a rush
to any given point which the herd should attempt in their
Some time passed in expectation, when a sudden yell broke from
the far point, as though twenty demons had cramp in the stomach.
Gallant fellows are the Cingalese at making a noise, and a grand
effect this had upon the elephants; up went tails and trunks, the
whole herd closed together and made a simultaneous rush for their
old thoroughfare. Away we skipped through the water, straight in
shore through the forest, until we reached the dry ground, when,
turning sharp to our right, we soon halted exactly opposite the
point at which we knew the elephants would enter the forest.
This was grand excitement; we had a great start of the herd, so
that we had plenty of time to arrange gun-bearers and take our
position for the rencontre.