Part 1 out of 5
The Rifle and Hound in Ceylon
Sir Samuel White Baker
Upwards of twenty years have passed since the 'Rifle and Hound in
Ceylon' was published, and I have been requested to write a preface for
a new edition. Although this long interval of time has been spent in a
more profitable manner than simple sport, nevertheless I have added
considerably to my former experience of wild animals by nine years
passed in African explorations. The great improvements that have been
made in rifles have, to a certain extent, modified the opinions that I
expressed in the 'Rifle and Hound in Ceylon.' Breech-loaders have so
entirely superseded the antiquated muzzle-loader, that the hunter of
dangerous animals is possessed of an additional safeguard. At the same
time I look back with satisfaction to the heavy charges of powder that
were used by me thirty years ago and were then regarded as absurd, but
which are now generally acknowledged by scientific gunners as the only
means of insuring the desiderata of the rifle, i.e., high velocity, low
trajectory, long range, penetration, and precision.
When I first began rifle-shooting thirty-seven years ago, not one man in
a thousand had ever handled such a weapon. Our soldiers were then
armed*(*With the exception of the Rifle Brigade) with the common old
musket, and I distinctly remember a snubbing that I received as a
youngster for suggesting, in the presence of military men, 'that the
army should throughout be supplied with rifles.' This absurd idea
proposed by a boy of seventeen who was a good shot with a weapon that
was not in general use, produced such a smile of contempt upon my
hearers, that the rebuke left a deep impression, and was never
forgotten. A life's experience in the pursuit of heavy game has
confirmed my opinion expressed in the `Rifle and Hound' in 1854--that
the best weapon for a hunter of average strength is a double rifle
weighing fifteen pounds, of No. 10 calibre. This should carry a charge
of ten drachms of No. 6 powder (coarse grain). In former days I used six
or seven drachms of the finest grained powder with the old
muzzle-loader, but it is well known that the rim of the breech-loading
cartridge is liable to burst with a heavy charge of the fine grain,
therefore No. 6 is best adapted for the rifle.
Although a diversity of calibres is a serious drawback to the comfort of
a hunter in wild countries, it is quite impossible to avoid the
difficulty, as there is no rifle that will combine the requirements for
a great variety of game. As the wild goose demands B B shot and the
snipe No. 8, in like manner the elephant requires the heavy bullet, and
the deer is contented with the small-bore.
I have found great convenience in the following equipment for hunting
every species of game in wild tropical countries.
One single-barrel rifle to carry a half-pound projectile, or a four
ounce, according to strength of hunter.
Three double-barrelled No. 10 rifles, to carry ten drachms No. 6 powder.
One double-barrelled small-bore rifle, sighted most accurately for
deer-shooting. Express to carry five or six drachms, but with hardened
Two double-barrelled No. 10 smooth-bores to carry shot or ball; the
latter to be the exact size for the No. 10 rifles.
According to my experience, such a battery is irresistible.
The breech-loader has manifold advantages over the muzzle-loader in a
wild country. Cartridges should always be loaded in England, and they
should be packed in hermetically sealed tin cases within wooden boxes,
to contain each fifty, if large bores, or one hundred of the smaller
These will be quite impervious to damp, or to the attacks of insects.
The economy of ammunition will be great, as the cartridge can be drawn
every evening after the day's work, instead of being fired off as with
the muzzle-loader, in order that the rifle may be cleaned.
The best cartridges will never miss fire. This is an invaluable quality
in the pursuit of dangerous game.
Although I advocate the express small-bore with the immense advantage of
low trajectory, I am decidedly opposed to the hollow expanding bullet
for heavy, thick-skinned game. I have so frequently experienced
disappointment by the use of the hollow bullet that I should always
adhere to the slightly hardened and solid projectile that will preserve
its original shape after striking the thick hide of a large animal.
A hollow bullet fired from an express rifle will double up a deer, but
it will be certain to expand upon the hard skin of elephants,
rhinoceros, hippopotami, buffaloes, &c.; in which case it will lose all
power of penetration. When a hollow bullet strikes a large bone, it
absolutely disappears into minute particles of lead,--and of course it
For many years I have been supplied with firstrate No. 10 rifles by
Messrs. Reilly & Co. of Oxford Street, London, which have never become
in the slightest degree deranged during the rough work of wild hunting.
Mr. Reilly was most successful in the manufacture of explosive shells
from my design; these were cast-iron coated with lead, and their effect
Mr. Holland of Bond Street produced a double-barrelled rifle that
carried the Snider Boxer cartridge. This was the most accurate weapon up
to 300 yards, and was altogether the best rifle that I ever used; but
although it possessed extraordinary precision, the hollow bullet caused
the frequent loss of a wounded animal. Mr. Holland is now experimenting
in the conversion of a Whitworth-barrel to a breech-loader. If this
should prove successful, I should prefer the Whitworth projectile to any
other for a sporting rifle in wild countries, as it would combine
accuracy at both long and short ranges with extreme penetration.
The long interval that has elapsed since I was in Ceylon, has caused a
great diminution in the wild animals.
The elephants are now protected by game laws, although twenty years ago
a reward was offered by the Government for their destruction. The 'Rifle
and Hound' can no longer be accepted as a guidebook to the sports in
Ceylon; the country is changed, and in many districts the forests have
been cleared, and civilization has advanced into the domains of wild
beasts. The colony has been blessed with prosperity, and the gradual
decrease of game is a natural consequence of extended cultivation and
In the pages of this book it will be seen that I foretold the
destruction of the wild deer and other animals twenty years ago. At that
time the energetic Tamby's or Moormen were possessed of guns, and had
commenced a deadly warfare in the jungles, killing the wild animals as a
matter of business, and making a livelihood by the sale of dried flesh,
hides, and buffalo-horns. This unremitting slaughter of the game during
all seasons has been most disastrous, and at length necessitated the
establishment of laws for its protection.
As the elephants have decreased in Ceylon, so in like manner their
number must be reduced in Africa by the continual demand for ivory.
Since the 'Rifle and Hound' was written, I have had considerable
experience with the African elephant.
This is a distinct species, as may be seen by a comparison with the
Indian elephant in the Zoological Gardens of the Regent's Park.
In Africa, all elephants are provided with tusks; those of the females
are small, averaging about twenty pounds the pair. The bull's are
sometimes enormous. I have seen a pair of tusks that weighed 300 lbs.,
and I have met with single tusks of 160 lbs. During this year (1874) a
tusk was sold in London that weighed 188 lbs. As the horns of deer vary
in different localities, so the ivory is also larger and of superior
quality in certain districts. This is the result of food and climate.
The average of bull elephant's tusks in equatorial Africa is about 90
lbs. or 100 lbs. the pair.
It is not my intention to write a treatise upon the African elephant;
this has been already described in the `Nile Tributaries of
Abyssinia,'*(* Published by Messrs. Macmillan and Co.) but it will be
sufficient to explain that it is by no means an easy beast to kill when
in the act of charging. From the peculiar formation of the head, it is
almost impossible to kill a bull elephant by the forehead shot; thus the
danger of hunting the African variety is enhanced tenfold.
The habits of the African elephant are very different from those of his
Indian cousins. Instead of retiring to dense jungles at sunrise, the
African will be met with in the mid-day glare far away from forests,
basking in the hot prairie grass of ten feet high, which scarcely
reaches to his withers.
Success in elephant shooting depends materially upon the character of
the ground. In good forests, where a close approach is easy, the African
species can be killed like the Indian, by one shot either behind the ear
or in the temple; but in open ground, or in high grass, it is both
uncertain and extremely dangerous to attempt a close approach on foot.
Should the animal turn upon the hunter, it is next to impossible to take
the forehead-shot with effect. It is therefore customary in Africa, to
fire at the shoulder with a very heavy rifle at a distance of fifty or
sixty yards. In Ceylon it was generally believed that the shoulder-shot
was useless; thus we have distinct methods of shooting the two species
of elephants: this is caused, not only by the difference between the
animals, but chiefly by the contrast in the countries they inhabit.
Ceylon is a jungle; thus an elephant can be approached within a few
paces, which admit of accurate aim at the brain. In Africa the elephant
is frequently upon open ground; therefore he is shot in the larger mark
(the shoulder) at a greater distance. I have shot them successfully both
in the brain and in the shoulder, and where the character of the country
admits an approach to within ten paces, I prefer the Ceylon method of
aiming either at the temple or behind the ear.
Although the African elephant with his magnificent tusks is a higher
type than that of Ceylon, I look back to the hunting of my younger days
with unmixed pleasure. Friends with whom I enjoyed those sports are
still alive, and are true friends always, thus exemplifying that
peculiar freemasonry which unites the hearts of sportsmen.
After a life of rough experience in wild countries, I have found some
pleasure in referring to the events of my early years, and recalling the
recollection of many scenes that would have passed away had they not
been chronicled. I therefore trust that although the brightest days of
Ceylon sports may have somewhat faded by the diminution of the game,
there may be Nimrods (be they young or old) who will still discover some
interest in the `Rifle and Hound in Ceylon.'
S. W. BAKER.
THE LOVE OF SPORT is a feeling inherent in most Englishmen, and whether
in the chase, or with the rod or gun, they far excel all other nations.
In fact, the definition of this feeling cannot be understood by many
foreigners. We are frequently ridiculed for fox-hunting: 'What for all
dis people, dis horses, dis many dog? dis leetle (how you call him?) dis
"fox" for to catch? ha! you eat dis creature; he vary fat and fine?'
This is a foreigner's notion of the chase; he hunts for the pot; and by
Englishmen alone is the glorious feeling shared of true, fair, and manly
sport. The character of the nation is beautifully displayed in all our
rules for hunting, shooting, fishing, fighting, etc.; a feeling of fair
play pervades every amusement. Who would shoot a hare in form? who would
net a trout stream? who would hit a man when down? A Frenchman would do
all these things, and might be no bad fellow after all. It would be HIS
way of doing it. His notion would be to make use of an advantage when an
opportunity offered. He would think it folly to give the hare a chance
of running when he could shoot her sitting; he would make an excellent
dish of all the trout he could snare; and as to hitting his man when
down, he would think it madness to allow him to get up again until he
had put him hors de combat by jumping on him. Their notions of sporting
and ours, then, widely differ; they take every advantage, while we give
every advantage; they delight in the certainty of killing, while our
pleasure consists in the chance of the animal escaping.
I would always encourage the love of sport in a lad; guided by its true
spirit of fair play, it is a feeling that will make him above doing a
mean thing in every station of life, and will give him real feelings of
humanity. I have had great experience in the characters of thorough
sportsmen, who are generally straightforward, honourable men, who would
scorn to take a dirty advantage of man or animal. In fact, all real
sportsmen that I have met have been tender-hearted men--who shun
cruelty to an animal, and are easily moved by a tale of distress.
With these feelings, sport is an amusement worthy of a man, and this
noble taste has been extensively developed since the opportunities of
travelling have of late years been so wonderfully improved. The facility
with which the most remote regions are now reached, renders a tour over
some portion of the globe a necessary adjunct to a man's education; a
sportsman naturally directs his path to some land where civilisation has
not yet banished the wild beast from the soil.
Ceylon is a delightful country for the sporting tourist. In the high
road to India and China, any length of time may be spent en passant, and
the voyage by the Overland route is nothing but a trip of a few weeks of
This island has been always celebrated for its elephants, but the other
branches of sport are comparatively unknown to strangers. No account has
ever been written which embraces all Ceylon sports: anecdotes of
elephant-shooting fill the pages of nearly every work on Ceylon; but the
real character of the wild sports of this island has never been
described, because the writers have never been acquainted with each
separate branch of the Ceylon chase.
A residence of many years in this lovely country, where the wild sports
of the island have formed a never-failing and constant amusement, alone
confers sufficient experience to enable a person to give a faithful
picture of both shooting and hunting in Ceylon jungles.
In describing these sports I shall give no anecdotes of others, but I
shall simply recall scenes in which I myself have shared, preferring
even a character for egotism rather than relate the statements of
hearsay, for the truth of which I could not vouch. This must be accepted
as an excuse for the unpleasant use of the first person.
There are many first-rate sportsmen in Ceylon who could furnish
anecdotes of individual risks and hairbreadth escapes (the certain
accompaniments to elephant-shooting) that would fill volumes; but enough
will be found, in the few scenes which I have selected from whole
hecatombs of slaughter, to satisfy and perhaps fatigue the most patient
One fact I wish to impress upon all--that the colouring of every
description is diminished and not exaggerated, the real scene being in
all cases a picture, of which the narration is but a feeble copy.
Wild Country--Dealings in the Marvellous--Enchanting Moments--The
Wild Elephant of Ceylon--'Rogues'--Elephant Slaughter--Thick Jungles
--Character of the Country--Varieties of Game in Ceylon--'Battery for
Ceylon Sport'--The Elk or 'Samber Deer'--Deer-coursing
Newera Ellia--The Turn-out for Elk-hunting--Elk-hunting--
Elk turned to Bay--The Boar
Minneria Lake--Brush with a Bull--An Awkward Vis-a-vis
--A Bright Thought--Bull Buffalo Receives his Small Change
--What is Man?--Long Shot with the Four-ounce--Charged by
a Herd of Buffaloes--The Four-ounce does Service--The
'Lola'--A Woman killed by a Crocodile--Crocodile at Bolgodde
Lake--A Monster Crocodile--Death of a Crocodile
Equipment for a Hunting Trip--In Chase of a Herd of Elephants--Hard
Work--Close Quarters--Six Feet from the Muzzle--A Black with a Devil
The Four-ounce again--Tidings of a Rogue--Approaching a Tank Rogue
--An Exciting Moment--Ruins of Pollanarua--Ancient Ruins--Rogues at
Doolana--B. Charged by a Rogue--Planning an Attack--A Check--Narrow
Escape--Rogue-stalking--A Bad Rogue--Dangers of Elephant-shooting
--The Phatamahatmeya's Tale
Character of the Veddahs--Description of the Veddahs--A Monampitya
Rogue--Attacking the Rogue--Breathless Excitement--Death of a Large
Rogue--Utility of the Four-ounce--A Curious Shot--Fury of a Bull
Buffalo--Character of the Wild Buffalo--Buffalo-shooting at Minneria
Lake--Charge in High Reeds--Close of a Good Day's Sport--Last Day at
Minneria--A Large Snake--An Unpleasant Bedfellow
Capabilities of Ceylon--Deer at Illepecadewe--Sagacity of a Pariah
Dog--Two Deer at One Shot--Deer-stalking--Hambantotte Country
--Kattregam Festival--Sitrawelle--Ruins of Ancient Mahagam
--Wiharewel1e--A Night Attack upon Elephants--Shooting by Moonlight
--Yalle River--Another Rogue--A Stroll before Breakfast--A Curious
Shot--A Good Day's Sport
Best Hounds for Elk-hunting--Smut--Killbuck--The Horton Plains--A
Second Soyer--The Find--The Buck at Bay--The Bay--The Death--Return
of Lost Dogs--Comparative Speed of Deer--Veddah Ripped by a Boar--A
Melee--Buck at Black Pool--Old Smut's Ruse--Margosse Oil
A Morning's Deer-coursing--Kondawataweny--Rogue at Kondawataweny--A
Close Shave--Preparations for Catching an Elephant--Catching an
Elephant--Taming Him--Flying Shot at a Buck--Cave at Dimbooldene
--Awkward Ground--A Charmed Life
Another Trip to the Park--A Hard Day's Work--Discover a Herd--Death of
the Herd--A Furious Charge--Caught at Last--The Consequences--A
Thorough Rogue--Another Herd in High Lemon Grass--Bears--A Fight
between a Moorman and a Bear--A Musical Herd--Herd Escape--A Plucky
Buck--Death of 'Killbuck'--Good Sport with a Herd--End of the Trip
Excitement of Elephant-shooting--An Unexpected Visitor--A Long Run
with a Buck--Hard Work Rewarded--A Glorious Bay--End of a Hard Day's
Work--Bee-hunters--Disasters of Elk-hunting--Bran Wounded--'Old Smut's'
Buck--Boar at Hackgalla--Death of 'Old Smut'--Scenery from the
Perewelle Mountains--Diabolical Death of 'Merriman'--Scene of the
A Jungle Trip
THE RIFLE AND HOUND.
Wild Country-Dealings in the Marvellous-Enchanting Moments The Wild
Elephant of Ceylon--'Rogues'-Elephant Slaughter-Thick Jungles-Character
of the Country-Varieties of Game in Ceylon--'Battery for Ceylon
Sport'-The Elk or 'Samber Deer'-Deer-coursing.
It is a difficult task to describe a wild country so exactly, that a
stranger's eye shall at once be made acquainted with its scenery and
character by the description. And yet this is absolutely necessary, if
the narration of sports in foreign countries is supposed to interest
those who have never had the opportunity of enjoying them. The want of
graphic description of localities in which the events have occurred, is
the principal cause of that tediousness which generally accompanies the
steady perusal of a sporting work. You can read twenty pages with
interest, but a monotony soon pervades it, and sport then assumes an
appearance of mere slaughter.
Now, the actual killing of an animal, the death itself, is not sport,
unless the circumstances connected with it are such as to create that
peculiar feeling which can only be expressed by the word `sport.' This
feeling cannot exist in the heart of a butcher; he would as soon
slaughter a fine buck by tying him to a post and knocking him down, as
he would shoot him in his wild native haunts--the actual moment of
death, the fact of killing, is his enjoyment. To a true sportsman the
enjoyment of a sport increases in proportion to the wildness of the
country. Catch a six-pound trout in a quiet mill-pond in a populous
manufacturing neighbourhood, with well-cultivated meadows on either side
of the stream, fat cattle grazing on the rich pasturage, and, perhaps,
actually watching you as you land your fish: it may be sport. But catch
a similar fish far from the haunts of men, in a boiling rocky torrent
surrounded by heathery mountains, where the shadow of a rod has seldom
been reflected in the stream, and you cease to think the former fish
worth catching; still he is the same size, showed the same courage, had
the same perfection of condition, and yet you cannot allow that it was
sport compared with this wild stream. If you see no difference in the
excitement, you are not a sportsman; you would as soon catch him in a
washing tub, and you should buy your fish when you require him; but
never use a rod, or you would disgrace the hickory.
This feeling of a combination of wild country with the presence of the
game itself, to form a real sport, is most keenly manifested when we
turn our attention to the rifle. This noble weapon is thrown away in an
enclosed country. The smooth-bore may and does afford delightful sport
upon our cultivated fields; but even that pleasure is doubled when those
enclosures no longer intervene, and the wide-spreading moors and
morasses of Scotland give an idea of freedom and undisturbed nature. Who
can compare grouse with partridge shooting? Still the difference exists,
not so much in the character of the bird as in the features of the
country. It is the wild aspect of the heathery moor without a bound,
except the rugged outline of the mountains upon the sky, that gives such
a charm to the grouse-shooting in Scotland, and renders the
deer-stalking such a favourite sport among the happy few who can enjoy
All this proves that the simple act of killing is not sport; if it were,
the Zoological Gardens would form as fine a field to an elephant shot as
the wildest Indian jungle.
Man is a bloodthirsty animal, a beast of prey, instinctively; but let us
hope that a true sportsman is not savage, delighting in nothing but
death, but that his pursuits are qualified by a love of nature, of noble
scenery, of all the wonderful productions which the earth gives forth in
different latitudes. He should thoroughly understand the nature and
habits of every beast or bird that he looks upon as game. This last
attribute is indispensable; without it he may kill, but he is not a
We have, therefore, come to the conclusion that the character of a
country influences the character of the sport. The first question,
therefore, that an experienced man would ask at the recital of a
sporting anecdote would be, `What kind of country is it?' That being
clearly described to him, he follows you through every word of your tale
with a true interest, and in fact joins in imagination in the chase.
There is one great drawback to the publication of sporting
adventures--they always appear to deal not a little in the marvellous;
and this effect is generally heightened by the use of the first person
in writing, which at all events may give an egotistical character to a
work. This, however, cannot easily be avoided, if a person is describing
his own adventures, and he labours under the disadvantage of being
criticised by readers who do not know him personally, and may,
therefore, give him credit for gross exaggeration.
It is this feeling that deters many men who have passed through years of
wild sports from publishing an account of them. The fact of being able
to laugh in your sleeve at the ignorance of a reader who does not credit
you, is but a poor compensation for being considered a better shot with
a long bow than with a rifle. Often have I pitied Gordon Cumming when I
have heard him talked of as a palpable Munchausen, by men who never
fired a rifle, or saw a wild beast, except in a cage; and still these
men form the greater proportion of the `readers' of these works.
Men who have not seen, cannot understand the grandeur of wild sports in
a wild country. There is an indescribable feeling of supremacy in a man
who understands his game thoroughly, when he stands upon some elevated
point and gazes over the wild territory of savage beasts. He feels
himself an invader upon the solitudes of nature. The very stillness of
the scene is his delight. There is a mournful silence in the calmness of
the evening, when the tropical sun sinks upon the horizon--a conviction
that man has left this region undisturbed to its wild tenants. No hum of
distant voices, no rumbling of busy wheels, no cries of domestic animals
meet the ear. He stands upon a wilderness, pathless and untrodden by the
foot of civilisation, where no sound is ever heard but that of the
elements, when the thunder rolls among the towering forests or the wind
howls along the plains. He gazes far, far into the distance, where the
blue mountains melt into an indefinite haze; he looks above him to the
rocky pinnacles which spring from the level plain, their swarthy cliffs
glistening from the recent shower, and patches of rich verdure clinging
to precipices a thousand feet above him. His eye stretches along the
grassy plains, taking at one full glance a survey of woods, and rocks,
and streams; and imperceptibly his mind wanders to thoughts of home, and
in one moment scenes long left behind are conjured up by memory, and
incidents are recalled which banish for a time the scene before him.
Lost for a moment in the enchanting power of solitude, where fancy and
reality combine in their most bewitching forms, he is suddenly roused by
a distant sound made doubly loud by the surrounding silence--the shrill
trumpet of an elephant. He wakes from his reverie; the reality of the
present scene is at once manifested. He stands within a wilderness where
the monster of the forest holds dominion; he knows not what a day, not
even what a moment, may bring forth; he trusts in a protecting Power,
and in the heavy rifle, and he is shortly upon the track of the king of
The king of beasts is generally acknowledged to be the 'lion'; but no
one who has seen a wild elephant can doubt for a moment that the title
belongs to him in his own right. Lord of all created animals in might
and sagacity, the elephant roams through his native forests. He browses
upon the lofty branches, upturns young trees from sheer malice, and from
plain to forest he stalks majestically at break of day 'monarch of all
A person who has never seen a wild elephant can form no idea of his real
character, either mentally or physically. The unwieldy and
sleepy-looking beast, who, penned up in his cage at a menagerie,
receives a sixpence in his trunk, and turns round with difficulty to
deposit it in a box; whose mental powers seem to be concentrated in the
idea of receiving buns tossed into a gaping mouth by children's
hands,--this very beast may have come from a warlike stock. His sire may
have been the terror of a district, a pitiless highwayman, whose soul
thirsted for blood; who, lying in wait in some thick bush, would rush
upon the unwary passer-by, and know no pleasure greater than the act of
crushing his victim to a shapeless mass beneath his feet. How little
does his tame sleepy son resemble him! Instead of browsing on the rank
vegetation of wild pasturage, he devours plum-buns; instead of bathing
his giant form in the deep rivers and lakes of his native land, he steps
into a stone-lined basin to bathe before the eyes of a pleased
multitude, the whole of whom form their opinion of elephants in general
from the broken-spirited monster which they see before them.
I have even heard people exclaim, upon hearing anecdotes of
elephant-hunting, 'Poor things!'
Poor things, indeed! I should like to see the very person who thus
expresses his pity, going at his best pace, with a savage elephant after
him : give him a lawn to run upon if he likes, and see the elephant
gaining a foot in every yard of the chase, fire in his eye, fury in his
headlong charge; and would not the flying gentleman who lately exclaimed
'Poor thing!' be thankful to the lucky bullet that would save him from
There are no animals more misunderstood than elephants; they are
naturally savage, wary, and revengeful; displaying as great courage when
in their wild state as any animal known. The fact of their great natural
sagacity renders them the more dangerous as foes. Even when tamed, there
are many that are not safe for a stranger to approach, and they are then
only kept in awe by the sharp driving hook of the mohout.
In their domesticated state I have seen them perform wonders of sagacity
and strength; but I have nothing to do with tame elephants; there are
whole books written upon the subject, although the habits of an elephant
can be described in a few words.
All wild animals in a tropical country avoid the sun. They wander forth
to feed upon the plains in the evening and during the night, and they
return to the jungle shortly after sunrise.
Elephants have the same habits. In those parts of the country where such
pasturage abounds as bamboo, lemon grass, sedges on the banks of rivers,
lakes, and swamps, elephants are sure to be found at such seasons as are
most propitious for the growth of these plants. When the dry weather
destroys this supply of food in one district, they migrate to another
part of the country.
They come forth to feed about 4 P.M., and they invariably, retire to the
thickest and most thorny jungle in the neighbourhood of their
feeding-place by 7 A.M. In these impenetrable haunts they consider
themselves secure from aggression.
The period of gestation with an elephant is supposed to be two years,
and the time occupied in attaining full growth is about sixteen years.
The whole period of life is supposed to be a hundred years, but my own
opinion would increase that period by fifty.
The height of elephants varies to a great degree, and in all cases is
very deceiving. In Ceylon, an elephant is measured at the shoulder, and
nine feet at this point is a very large animal. There is no doubt that
many elephants far exceed this, as I have shot them so large that two
tall men could lie at full length from the point of the forefoot to the
shoulder; but this is not a common size: the average height at the
shoulder would be about seven feet.*(*The males 7 ft.6 in., the females
7 ft., at the shoulder.)
Not more than one in three hundred has tusks; they are merely provided
with short grubbers, projecting generally about three inches from the
upper jaw, and about two inches in diameter; these are called 'tushes'
in Ceylon, and are of so little value that they are not worth extracting
from the head. They are useful to the elephants in hooking on to a
branch and tearing it down.
Elephants are gregarious, and the average number in a herd is about
eight, although they frequently form bodies of fifty and even eighty in
one troop. Each herd consists of a very large proportion of females, and
they are constantly met without a single bull in their number. I have
seen some small herds formed exclusively of bulls, but this is very
rare. The bull is much larger than the female, and is generally more
savage. His habits frequently induce him to prefer solitude to a
gregarious life. He then becomes doubly vicious. He seldom strays many
miles from one locality, which he haunts for many years. He becomes what
is termed a 'rogue.' He then waylays the natives, and in fact becomes a
scourge to the neighbourhood, attacking the inoffensive without the
slightest provocation, carrying destruction into the natives'
paddy-fields, and perfectly regardless of night fires or the usual
precautions for scaring wild beasts.
The daring pluck of these 'rogues' is only equalled by their extreme
cunning. Endowed with that wonderful power of scent peculiar to
elephants, he travels in the day-time DOWN the wind; thus nothing can
follow upon his track without his knowledge. He winds his enemy as the
cautious hunter advances noiselessly upon his track, and he stands with
ears thrown forward, tail erect, trunk thrown high in the air, with its
distended tip pointed to the spot from which he winds the silent but
approaching danger. Perfectly motionless does he stand, like a statue in
ebony, the very essence of attention, every nerve of scent and hearing
stretched to its cracking point; not a muscle moves, not a sound of a
rustling branch against his rough sides; he is a mute figure of wild and
fierce eagerness. Meanwhile, the wary tracker stoops to the ground, and
with a practised eye pierces the tangled brushwood in search of his
colossal feet. Still farther and farther he silently creeps forward,
when suddenly a crash bursts through the jungle; the moment has arrived
for the ambushed charge, and the elephant is upon him.
What increases the danger is the uncertainty prevailing in all the
movements of a 'rogue'. You may perhaps see him upon a plain or in a
forest. As you advance, he retreats, or he may at once charge. Should he
retreat, you follow him; but you may shortly discover that he is leading
you to some favourite haunt of thick jungle or high grass, from which,
when you least expect it, he will suddenly burst out in full charge upon
Next to a 'rogue' in ferocity, and even more persevering in the pursuit
of her victim, is a female elephant when her young one has been killed.
In such a case she will generally follow up her man until either he or
she is killed. If any young elephants are in the herd, the mothers
frequently prove awkward customers.
Elephant-shooting is doubtless the most dangerous of all sports if the
game is invariably followed up; but there is a great difference between
elephant-killing and elephant-hunting; the latter is sport, the former
Many persons who have killed elephants know literally nothing about the
sport, and they may ever leave Ceylon with the idea that an elephant is
not a dangerous animal. Their elephants are killed in this way, viz.:
The party of sportsmen, say two or three, arrive at a certain district.
The headman is sent for from the village; he arrives. The enquiry
respecting the vicinity of elephants is made; a herd is reported to be
in the neighbourhood, and trackers and watchers are sent out to find
In the meantime the tent is pitched, our friends are employed in
unpacking the guns, and, after some hours have elapsed, the trackers
return: they have found the herd, and the watchers are left to observe
The guns are loaded and the party starts. The trackers run quickly on
the track until they meet one of the watchers who has been sent back
upon the track by the other watchers to give the requisite information
of the movements of the herd since the trackers left. One tracker now
leads the way, and they cautiously proceed. The boughs are heard
slightly rustling as the unconscious elephants are fanning the flies
from their bodies within a hundred yards of the guns.
The jungle is open and good, interspersed with plots of rank grass; and
quietly following the head tracker, into whose hands our friends have
committed themselves, they follow like hounds under the control of a
huntsman. The tracker is a famous fellow, and he brings up his employers
in a masterly manner within ten paces of the still unconscious
elephants. He now retreats quietly behind the guns, and the sport
begins. A cloud of smoke from a regular volley, a crash through the
splintering branches as the panic-stricken herd rush from the scene of
conflict, and it is all over. X. has killed two, Y. has killed one, and
Z. knocked down one, but he got up again and got away; total, three
bagged. Our friends now return to the tent, and, after perhaps a month
of this kind of shooting, they arrive at their original headquarters,
having bagged perhaps twenty elephants. They give their opinion upon
elephant-shooting, and declare it to be capital sport, but there is no
danger in it, as the elephants INVARIABLY RUN AWAY.
Let us imagine ourselves in the position of the half-asleep and
unsuspecting herd. We are lying down in a doze during the heat of the
day, and our senses are half benumbed by a sense of sleep. We are
beneath the shade of a large tree, and we do not dream that danger is
A frightful scream suddenly scatters our wandering senses. It is a rogue
elephant upon us! It was the scream of his trumpet that we heard! and he
is right among us. How we should bolt! How we should run at the first
start until we could get a gun! But let him continue this pursuit, and
how long would he be without a ball in his head?
It is precisely the same in attacking a herd of elephants or any other
animals unawares; they are taken by surprise, and are for the moment
panic-stricken. But let our friends X., Y., Z., who have just bagged
three elephants so easily, continue the pursuit, hunt the remaining
portion of the herd down till one by one they have nearly all fallen to
the bullet--X., Y., Z. will have had enough of it; they will be blinded
by perspiration, torn by countless thorns, as they have rushed through
the jungles determined not to lose sight of their game, soaked to the
skin as they have waded through intervening streams, and will entirely
have altered their opinion as to elephants invariably running away, as
they will very probably have seen one turn sharp round from the
retreating herd, and charge straight into them when they least expected
it. At any rate, after a hunt of this kind they can form some opinion of
the excitement of the true sport.
The first attack upon a herd by a couple of first-rate elephant-shots
frequently ends the contest in a few seconds by the death of every
elephant. I have frequently seen a small herd of five or six elephants
annihilated almost in as many seconds after a well-planned approach in
thick jungle, when they have been discovered standing in a crowd and
presenting favourable shots. In such an instance the sport is so soon
concluded that the only excitement consists in the cautious advance to
the attack through bad jungle.
As a rule, the pursuit of elephants through bad, thorny jungles should
if possible be avoided: the danger is in many cases extreme, although
the greater portion of the herd may at other times be perhaps easily
killed. There is no certainty in a shot. An elephant may be discerned by
the eye looming in an apparent mist formed by the countless intervening
twigs and branches which veil him like a screen of network. To reach the
fatal spot the ball must pass through perhaps fifty little twigs, one of
which, if struck obliquely, turns the bullet, and there is no answering
for the consequence. There are no rules, however, without exceptions,
and in some instances the following of the game through the thickest
jungle can hardly be avoided.
The character of the country in Ceylon is generally very unfavourable to
sport of all kinds. The length of the island is about two hundred and
eighty miles, by one hundred and fifty in width; the greater portion of
this surface is covered with impenetrable jungles, which form secure
coverts for countless animals.
The centre of the island is mountainous, torrents from which, form the
sources of the numerous rivers by which Ceylon is so well watered. The
low country is flat. The soil throughout the island is generally poor
This being the character of the country, and vast forests rendered
impenetrable by tangled underwood forming the principal features of the
landscape, a person arriving at Ceylon for the purpose of enjoying its
wild sports would feel an inexpressible disappointment.
Instead of mounting a good horse, as he might have fondly anticipated,
and at once speeding over trackless plains till so far from human
habitations that the territories of beasts commence, he finds himself
walled in by jungle on either side of the highway. In vain he asks for
information. He finds the neighbourhood of Galle, his first landing
place, densely populated; he gets into the coach for Colombo. Seventy
miles of close population and groves of cocoa-nut trees are passed, and
he reaches the capital. This is worse and worse--he has seen no signs of
wild country during his long journey, and Colombo appears to be the
height of civilisation. He books his place for Kandy; he knows that is
in the very centre of Ceylon--there surely must be sport there, he
The morning gun fires from the Colombo fort at 5 A.M. and the coach
starts. Miles are passed, and still the country is thickly
populated--paddy cultivation in all the flats and hollows, and even the
sides of the hills are carefully terraced out in a laborious system of
agriculture. There can be no shooting here!
Sixty miles are passed; the top of the Kaduganava Pass is reached,
eighteen hundred feet above the sea level, the road walled with jungle
on either side. From the summit of this pass our newly arrived sportsman
gazes with despair. Far as the eye can reach over a vast extent of
country, mountain and valley, hill and dale, without one open spot, are
clothed alike in one dark screen of impervious forest.
He reaches Kandy, a civilised town surrounded by hills of jungle--that
interminable jungle!--and at Kandy he may remain, or, better still,
return again to England, unless he can get some well-known Ceylon
sportsman to pilot him through the apparently pathless forests, and in
fact to 'show him sport.' This is not easily effected. Men who
understand the sport are not over fond of acting `chaperon' to a young
hand, as a novice must always detract from the sport in some degree. In
addition to this, many persons do not exactly know themselves; and,
although the idea of shooting elephants appears very attractive at a
distance, the pleasure somewhat abates when the sportsman is forced to
seek for safety in a swift pair of heels.
I shall now proceed to give a description of the various sports in
Ceylon--a task for which the constant practice of many years has
afforded ample incident.
The game of Ceylon consists of elephants, buffaloes, elk, spotted deer,
red or the paddy-field deer*(*A small species of deer found in the
island), mouse deer, hogs, bears, leopards, hares, black partridge,
red-legged partridge, pea-fowl, jungle-fowl, quail, snipe, ducks,
widgeon, teal, golden and several kinds of plover, a great variety of
pigeons, and among the class of reptiles are innumerable snakes, etc.,
and the crocodile.
The acknowledged sports of Ceylon are elephant-shooting,
buffalo-shooting, deer-shooting, elk-hunting, and deer-coursing: the two
latter can only be enjoyed by a resident in the island, as of course the
sport is dependent upon a pack of fine hounds. Although the wild boar is
constantly killed, I do not reckon him among the sports of the country,
as he is never sought for; death and destruction to the hounds generally
being attendant upon his capture. The bear and leopard also do not form
separate sports; they are merely killed when met with.
In giving an account of each kind of sport I shall explain the habits of
the animal and the features of the country wherein every incident
occurs, Ceylon scenery being so diversified that no general description
could give a correct idea of Ceylon sports.
The guns are the first consideration. After the first year of my
experience I had four rifles made to order, which have proved themselves
perfect weapons in all respects, and exactly adapted for heavy game.
They are double-barrelled, No. 10 bores, and of such power in metal that
they weigh fifteen pounds each. I consider them perfection; but should
others consider them too heavy, a pound taken from the weight of the
barrels would make a perceptible difference. I would in all cases
strongly deprecate the two grooved rifle for wild sports, on account of
the difficulty in loading quickly. A No. 10 twelve-grooved rifle will
carry a conical ball of two ounces and a half, and can be loaded as
quickly as a smooth-bore. Some persons prefer the latter to rifles for
elephant-shooting, but I cannot myself understand why a decidedly
imperfect weapon should be used when the rifle offers such superior
advantages. At twenty and even thirty paces a good smooth-bore will
carry a ball with nearly the same precision as a rifle; but in a country
full of various large game there is no certainty, when the ball is
rammed down, at what object it is to be aimed. A buffalo or deer may
cross the path at a hundred yards, and the smooth-bore is useless; on
the other hand, the rifle is always ready for whatever may appear.
My battery consists of one four-ounce rifle (a single barrel) weighing
twenty-one pounds, one long two-ounce rifle (single barrel) weighing
sixteen pounds, and four double-barrelled rifles, No. 10 weighing each
fifteen pounds. Smooth-bores I count for nothing, although I have
frequently used them.
So much for guns. It may therefore be summed up that the proper battery
for Ceylon shooting would be four large-bored double-barrelled rifles,
say from No. 10 to No. 12 in size, but all to be the same bore, so as to
prevent confusion in loading. Persons may suit their own fancy as to the
weight of their guns, bearing in mind that single barrels are very
Next to the `Rifle' in the order of description comes the 'Hound.'
The `elk' is his acknowledged game, and an account of this animal's size
and strength will prove the necessity of a superior breed of hound.
The `elk' is a Ceylon blunder and a misnomer. The animal thus called is
a `samber deer,' well known in India as the largest of all Asiatic deer.
A buck in his prime will stand fourteen hands high at the shoulder, and
will weigh 600 pounds, live weight. He is in colour dark brown, with a
fine mane of coarse bristly hair of six inches in length; the rest of
his body is covered with the same coarse hair of about two inches in
length. I have a pair of antlers in my possession that are thirteen
inches round the burr, and the same size beneath the first branch, and
three feet four inches in length; this, however, is a very unusual size.
The elk has seldom more than six points to his antlers. The low-country
elk are much larger than those on the highlands; the latter are seldom
more than from twelve to thirteen hands high; and of course their weight
is proportionate, that of a buck in condition being about 400 pounds
when gralloched. I have killed them much heavier than this on the
mountains, but I have given about the average weight.
The habits of this animal are purely nocturnal. He commences his
wanderings at sunset, and retires to the forest at break of day. He is
seldom found in greater numbers than two or three together, and is
generally alone. When brought to bay he fights to the last, and charges
man and hound indiscriminately, a choice hound killed being often the
price of victory.
The country in which he is hunted is in the mountainous districts of
Ceylon. Situated at an elevation of 6,200 feet above the sea is Newera
Ellia, the sanatorium of the island. Here I have kept a pack and hunted
elk for some years, the delightful coolness of the temperature (seldom
above 66 degrees Fahr.) rendering the sport doubly enjoyable. The
principal features of this country being a series of wild marsh, plains,
forests, torrents, mountains and precipices, a peculiar hound is
required for the sport.
A pack of thoroughbred fox-hounds would never answer. They would pick up
a cold scent and open upon it before they were within a mile of their
game. Roused from his morning nap, the buck would snuff the breeze, and
to the distant music give an attentive ear, then shake the dew from his
rough hide, and away over rocks and torrents, down the steep mountain
sides, through pathless forests; and woe then to the pack of
thoroughbreds, whose persevering notes would soon be echoed by the rocky
steeps, far, far away from any chance of return, lost in the trackless
jungles and ravines many miles from kennel, a prey to leopards and
starvation! I have proved this by experience, having brought a pack of
splendid hounds from England, only one of which survived a few months'
The hound required for elk-hunting is a cross between the fox-hound and
blood-hound, of great size and courage, with as powerful a voice as
possible. He should be trained to this sport from a puppy, and his
natural sagacity soon teaches him not to open unless upon a hot scent,
or about two hundred yards from his game; thus the elk is not disturbed
until the hound is at full speed upon his scent, and he seldom gets a
long start. Fifteen couple of such hounds in full cry put him at his
best pace, which is always tried to the uttermost by a couple or two of
fast and pitiless lurchers who run ahead of the pack, the object being
to press him at first starting, so as to blow him at the very
commencement: this is easily effected, as he is full of food, and it is
his nature always to take off straight UP the hill when first disturbed.
When blown he strikes down hill, and makes at great speed for the
largest and deepest stream; in this he turns to bay, and tries the
mettle of the finest hounds.
The great enemy to a pack is the leopard. He pounces from the branch of
a tree upon a stray hound, and soon finishes him, unless of great size
and courage, in which case the cowardly brute is soon beaten off. This
forms another reason for the choice of large hounds.
The next sport is 'deer-coursing.' This is one of the most delightful
kinds of sport in Ceylon. The game is the axis or spotted deer, and the
open plains in many parts of the low country afford splendid ground for
both greyhound and horse.
The buck is about 250 pounds live weight, of wonderful speed and great
courage, armed with long and graceful antlers as sharp as needles. He
will suddenly turn to bay upon the hard ground, and charge his pursuers,
and is more dangerous to the greyhounds than the elk, from his wonderful
activity, and from the fact that he is coursed by only a pair of
greyhounds, instead of being hunted by a pack.
Pure greyhounds of great size and courage are best adapted for this
sport. They cannot afford to lose speed by a cross with slower hounds.
Newera Ellia - The Turn-out for Elk-Hunting - Elk-Hunting - Elk turned
to Bay - The Boar.
Where shall I begin? This is a momentous question, when, upon glancing
back upon past years, a thousand incidents jostle each other for
precedence. How shall I describe them? This, again, is easier asked than
answered. A journal is a dry description, mingling the uninteresting
with the brightest moments of sport. No, I will not write a journal; it
would be endless and boring. I shall begin with the present as it is,
and call up the past as I think proper.
Here, then, I am in my private sanctum, my rifles all arranged in their
respective stands above the chimney-piece, the stags' horns round walls
hung with horn-cases, powder-flasks and the various weapons of the
chase. Even as I write the hounds are yelling in the kennel.
The thermometer is at 62 degrees Fahr., and it is mid-day. It never
exceeds 72 degrees in the hottest weather, and sometimes falls below
freezing point at night. The sky is spotless and the air calm. The
fragrance of mignonettes, and a hundred flowers that recall England,
fills the air. Green fields of grass and clover, neatly fenced, surround
a comfortable house and grounds. Well-fed cattle of the choicest breeds,
and English sheep, are grazing in the paddocks. Well-made roads and
gravel walks run through the estate. But a few years past, and this was
Dense forest reigned where now not even the stump of a tree is standing;
the wind howled over hill and valley, the dank moss hung from the
scathed branches, the deep morass filled the hollows; but all is changed
by the hand of civilisation and industry. The dense forests and rough
plains, which still form the boundaries of the cultivated land, only add
to the beauty. The monkeys and parrots are even now chattering among the
branches, and occasionally the elephant in his nightly wanderings
trespasses upon the fields, unconscious of the oasis within his
territory of savage nature.
The still, starlight night is awakened by the harsh bark of the elk; the
lofty mountains, grey with the silvery moonlight, echo back the sound;
and the wakeful hounds answer the well-known cry by a prolonged and
This is 'Newera Ellia,' the sanatorium of Ceylon, the most perfect
climate of the world. It now boasts of a handsome church, a public
reading-room, a large hotel, the barracks, and about twenty private
The adjacent country, of comparatively table land, occupies an extent of
some thirty miles in length, varying in altitude from 6,200 to 7,000
feet, forming a base for the highest peaks in Ceylon, which rise to
nearly 9,000 feet.
Alternate large plains, separated by belts of forest, rapid rivers,
waterfalls, precipices, and panoramic views of boundless extent, form
the features of this country, which, combined with the sports of the
place, render a residence at Newera Ellia a life of health, luxury, and
The high road from Colombo passes over the mountains through Newera
Ellia to Badulla, from which latter place there is a bridle road,
through the best shooting districts in Ceylon, to the seaport town of
Batticaloa, and from thence to Trincomalee. The relative distances of
Newera Ellia are, from Galle, 185 miles; from Colombo, 115 miles; from
Kandy, 47 miles; from Badulla, 36 miles; from Batticaloa, 148 miles.
Were it not for the poverty of the soil, Newera Ellia would long ago
have become a place of great importance, as the climate is favourable to
the cultivation of all English produce; but an absence of lime in the
soil, and the cost of applying it artificially, prohibit the cultivation
of all grain, and restrict the produce of the land to potatoes and other
vegetables. Nevertheless, many small settlers earn a good subsistence,
although this has latterly been rendered precarious by the appearance of
the well-known potato disease.
Newera Ellia has always been a favourite place of resort during the
fashionable months, from the commencement of January to the middle of
May. At that time the rainy season commences, and visitors rapidly
All strangers remark the scanty accommodation afforded to the numerous
visitors. To see the number of people riding and walking round the
Newera Ellia plain, it appears a marvel how they can be housed in the
few dwellings that exist. There is an endless supply of fine timber in
the forests, and powerful sawmills are already erected; but the island
is, like its soil, 'poor.' Its main staple, 'coffee,' does not pay
sufficiently to enable the proprietors of estates to indulge in the
luxury of a house at Newera Ellia. Like many watering-places in England,
it is overcrowded at one season and deserted at another, the only
permanent residents being comprised in the commandant, the officer in
command of the detachment of troops, the government agent, the doctor,
the clergyman, and our own family.
Dull enough! some persons may exclaim; and so it would be to any but a
sportsman; but the jungles teem with large game, and Newera Ellia is in
a central position, as the best sporting country is only three days'
journey, or one hundred miles, distant. Thus, at any time, the guns may
be packed up, and, with tents and baggage sent on some days in advance,
a fortnight's or a month's war may be carried on against the elephants
without much trouble.
The turn-out for elk-hunting during the fashionable season at Newera
Ellia is sometimes peculiarly exciting. The air is keen and frosty, the
plains snow-white with the crisp hoar frost, and even at the early hour
of 6 A.M. parties of ladies may be seen urging their horses round the
plain on their way to the appointed meet. Here we are waiting with the
anxious pack, perhaps blessing some of our more sleepy friends for not
turning out a little earlier. Party after party arrives, including many
of the fair sex, and the rosy tips to all countenances attest the
quality of the cold even in Ceylon.
There is something peculiarly inspiriting in the early hour of sunrise
upon these mountains--an indescribable lightness in the atmosphere,
owing to the great elevation, which takes a wonderful effect upon the
spirits. The horses and the hounds feel its influence in an equal
degree; the former, who are perhaps of sober character in the hot
climate, now champ the bit and paw the ground: their owners hardly know
them by the change.
We have frequently mustered as many as thirty horses at a meet; but on
these occasions a picked spot is chosen where the sport may be easily
witnessed by those who are unaccustomed to it. The horses may, in these
instances, be available, but as a rule they are perfectly useless in
elk-hunting, as the plains are so boggy that they would be hock-deep
every quarter of a mile. Thus no person can thoroughly enjoy elk-hunting
who is not well accustomed to it, as it is a sport conducted entirely on
foot, and the thinness of the air in this elevated region is very trying
to the lungs in hard exercise. Thoroughly sound in wind and limb, with
no superfluous flesh, must be the man who would follow the hounds in
this wild country--through jungles, rivers, plains and deep ravines,
sometimes from sunrise to sunset without tasting food since the previous
evening, with the exception of a cup of coffee and a piece of toast
before starting. It is trying work, but it is a noble sport: no weapon
but the hunting-knife; no certainty as to the character of the game that
may be found; it may be either an elk, or a boar, or a leopard, and yet
the knife and the good hounds are all that can be trusted in.
It is a glorious sport certainly to a man who thoroughly understands it;
the voice of every hound familiar to his ear; the particular kind of
game that is found is at once known to him, long before he is in view,
by the style of the hunting. If an elk is found, the hounds follow with
a burst straight as a line, and at a killing pace, directly up the hill,
till he at length turns and bends his headlong course for some
stronghold in a deep river to bay. Listening to the hounds till certain
of their course, a thorough knowledge of the country at once tells the
huntsman of their destination, and away he goes.
He tightens his belt by a hole, and steadily he starts at a long,
swinging trot, having made up his mind for a day of it. Over hills and
valleys, through tangled and pathless forests, but all well known to
him, steady he goes at the same pace on the level, easy through the bogs
and up the hills, extra steam down hill, and stopping for a moment to
listen for the hounds on every elevated spot. At length he hears them!
No, it was a bird. Again he fancies that he hears a distant sound--was
it the wind? No; there it is--it is old Smut's voice--he is at bay!
Yoick to him! he shouts till his lungs are well-nigh cracked, and
through thorns and jungles, bogs and ravines, he rushes towards the
welcome sound. Thick-tangled bushes armed with a thousand hooked thorns
suddenly arrest his course; it is the dense fringe of underwood that
borders every forest; the open plain is within a few yards of him. The
hounds in a mad chorus are at bay, and the woods ring again with the
cheering sound. Nothing can stop him now--thorns, or clothes, or flesh
must go--something must give way as he bursts through them and stands
upon the plain.
There they are in that deep pool formed by the river as it sweeps round
the rock. A buck! a noble fellow! Now he charges at the hounds, and
strikes the foremost beneath the water with his fore-feet; up they come
again to the surface--they hear their master's well-known shout--they
look round and see his welcome figure on the steep bank. Another moment,
a tremendous splash, and he is among his hounds, and all are swimming
towards their noble game. At them he comes with a fierce rush. Avoid him
as you best can, ye hunters, man and hounds!
Down the river the buck now swims, sometimes galloping over the
shallows, sometimes wading shoulder-deep, sometimes swimming through the
deep pools. Now he dashes down the fierce rapids and leaps the opposing
rocks, between which, the torrent rushes at a frightful pace. The hounds
are after him; the roaring of the water joins in their wild chorus; the
loud holloa of the huntsman is heard above every sound as he cheers the
pack on. He runs along the bank of the river, and again the enraged buck
turns to bay. He has this time taken a strong position: he stands in a
swift rapid about two feet deep; his thin legs cleave the stream as it
rushes past, and every hound is swept away as he attempts to stem the
current. He is a perfect picture: his nostrils are distended, his mane
is bristled up, his eyes flash, and he adds his loud bark of defiance to
the din around him. The hounds cannot touch him. Now for the huntsman's
part; he calls the stanchest seizers to his side, gives them a cheer on,
and steps into the torrent, knife in hand. Quick as lightning the buck
springs to the attack; but he has exposed himself, and at that moment
the tall lurchers are upon his ears; the huntsman leaps upon one side
and plunges the knife behind his shoulder. A tremendous struggle takes
place--the whole pack is upon him; still his dying efforts almost free
him from their hold: a mass of spray envelopes the whole scene. Suddenly
he falls--he dies--it is all over. The hounds are called off, and are
carefully examined for wounds.
The huntsman is now perhaps some miles from home, he, therefore, cuts a
long pole, and tying a large bunch of grass to one end, he sticks the
other end into the ground close to the river's edge where the elk is
lying. This marks the spot. He calls his hounds together and returns
homeward, and afterwards sends men to cut the buck up and bring the
flesh. Elk venison is very good, but is at all times more like beef than
The foregoing may be considered a general description of elk-hunting,
although the incidents of the sport necessarily vary considerably.
The boar is our dangerous adversary, and he is easily known by the
character of the run. The hounds seldom open with such a burst upon the
scent as they do with an elk. The run is much slower; he runs down this
ravine and up that, never going straight away, and he generally comes to
bay after a run of ten minutes' duration.
A boar always chooses the very thickest part of the jungle as his
position for a bay, and from this he makes continual rushes at the
The huntsman approaches the scene of the combat, breaking his way with
difficulty through the tangled jungle, until within about twenty yards
of the bay. He now cheers the hounds on to the attack, and if they are
worthy of their name, they instantly rush in to the boar regardless of
wounds. The huntsman is aware of the seizure by the grunting of the boar
and the tremendous confusion in the thick jungle; he immediately rushes
to the assistance of the pack, knife in hand.
A scene of real warfare meets his view--gaping wounds upon his best
hounds, the boar rushing through the jungle covered with dogs, and he
himself becomes the immediate object of his fury when observed.
No time is to be lost. Keeping behind the boar if possible, he rushes to
the bloody conflict, and drives the hunting-knife between the shoulders
in the endeavour to divide the spine. Should he happily effect this, the
boar falls stone dead; but if not, he repeats the thrust, keeping a good
look-out for the animal's tusks.
If the dogs were of not sufficient courage to rush in and seize the boar
when halloaed on, no man could approach him in a thick jungle with only
a hunting-knife, as he would in all probability have his inside ripped
out at the first charge. The animal is wonderfully active and ferocious,
and of immense power, constantly weighing 4 cwt.
The end of nearly every good seizer is being killed by a boar. The
better the dog the more likely he is to be killed, as he will be the
first to lead the attack, and in thick jungle he has no chance of
escaping from a wound.
Minneria Lake--Brush with a Bull--An Awkward Vis-a-vis--A Bright
Thought--Bull Buffalo Receives his Small Change--What is Man?--Long Shot
with the Four-ounce--Charged by a Herd of Buffaloes--the Four-ounce does
Service--The 'Lola'--A Woman Killed by a Crocodile--Crocodile at
Bolgodde Lake--A Monster Crocodile--Death of a Crocodile.
THE foregoing description may serve as an introduction to the hill
sports of Ceylon. One animal, however, yet remains to be described, who
surpasses all others in dogged ferocity when once aroused. This is the
The haunts of this animal are in the hottest parts of Ceylon. In the
neighbourhood of lakes, swamps, and extensive plains, the buffalo exists
in large herds; wallowing in the soft mire, and passing two-thirds of
his time in the water itself, he may be almost termed amphibious.
He is about the size of a large ox, of immense bone and strength, very
active, and his hide is almost free from hair, giving a disgusting
appearance to his India-rubber-like skin. He carries his head in a
peculiar manner, the horns thrown back, and his nose projecting on a
level with his forehead, thus securing himself from a front shot in a
fatal part. This renders him a dangerous enemy, as he will receive any
number of balls from a small gun in the throat and chest without
evincing the least symptom of distress. The shoulder is the acknowledged
point to aim at, but from his disposition to face the guns this is a
difficult shot to obtain. Should he succeed in catching his antagonist,
his fury knows no bounds, and he gores his victim to death, trampling
and kneeling upon him till he is satisfied that life is extinct.
This sport would not be very dangerous in the forests, where the buffalo
could be easily stalked, and where escape would also be rendered less
difficult in case of accident; but as he is generally met with upon the
open plains, free from a single tree, he must be killed when once
brought to bay, or he will soon exhibit his qualifications for mischief.
There is a degree of uncertainty in their character which much increases
the danger of the pursuit. A buffalo may retreat at first sight with
every symptom of cowardice, and thus induce a too eager pursuit, when he
will suddenly become the assailant. I cannot explain their character
better than by describing the, first wild buffaloes that I ever saw.
I had not been long in Ceylon, but having arrived in the island for the
sake of its wild sports, I had not been idle, and I had already made a
considerable bag of large game. Like most novices, however, I was guilty
of one great fault. I despised the game, and gave no heed to the many
tales of danger and hair-breadth escapes which attended the pursuit of
wild animals. This carelessness on my part arose from my first debut
having been extremely lucky; most shots had told well, and the animal
had been killed with such apparent ease that I had learnt to place an
implicit reliance in the rifle. The real fact was that I was like many
others; I had slaughtered a number of animals without understanding
their habits, and I was perfectly ignorant of the sport. This is now
many years ago, and it was then my first visit to the island. Some
places that were good spots for shooting in those days have since that
time been much disturbed, and are now no longer attractive to my eyes.
One of these places is Minneria Lake.
I was on a shooting trip accompanied by my brother, whom I will
designate as B. We had passed a toilsome day in pushing and dragging our
ponies for twenty miles along a narrow path through thick jungle, which
half-a-dozen natives in advance were opening before us with bill-hooks.
This had at one time been a good path, but was then overgrown. It is now
an acknowledged bridle road.
At 4 P.M., and eighty miles from Kandy, we emerged from the jungle, and
the view of Minneria Lake burst upon us, fully repaying us for our day's
march. It was a lovely afternoon. The waters of the lake; which is
twenty miles in circumference, were burnished by the setting sun. The
surrounding plains were as green as an English meadow, and beautiful
forest trees bordered the extreme boundaries of the plains like giant
warders of the adjoining jungle. Long promontories densely wooded
stretched far into the waters of the lake, forming sheltered nooks and
bays teeming with wild fowl. The deer browsed in herds on the wide
extent of plain, or lay beneath the shade of the spreading branches.
Every feature of lovely scenery was here presented. In some spots groves
of trees grew to the very water's edge; in others the wide plains, free
from a single stem or bush, stretched for miles along the edge of the
lake; thickly wooded hills bordered the extreme end of its waters, and
distant blue mountains mingled their dim summits with the clouds.
It was a lovely scene which we enjoyed in silence, while our ponies
feasted upon the rich grass.
The village of Minneria was three miles farther on, and our coolies,
servants, and baggage were all far behind us. We had, therefore, no
rifles or guns at hand, except a couple of shot-guns, which were carried
by our horsekeepers : for these we had a few balls.
For about half an hour we waited in the impatient expectation of the
arrival of our servants with the rifles. The afternoon was wearing away,
and they did not appear. We could wait no longer, but determined to take
a stroll and examine the country. We therefore left our horses and
The grass was most verdant, about the height of a field fit for the
scythe in England, but not so thick. From this the snipe arose at every
twenty or thirty paces, although, the ground was perfectly dry. Crossing
a large meadow, and skirting the banks of the lake, from which the ducks
and teal rose in large flocks, we entered a long neck of jungle which
stretched far into the lake. This was not above two hundred paces in
width, and we soon emerged upon an extensive plain bordered by fine
forest, the waters of the lake stretching far away upon our left, like a
sheet of gold. A few large rocks rose above the surface near the shore;
these were covered with various kinds of wild fowl. The principal
tenants of the plain were wild buffaloes.
A herd of about a hundred were lying in a swampy hollow about a quarter
of a mile from us: Several single bulls were dotted about the green
surface of the level plain, and on the opposite shores of the lake were
many dark patches undistinguishable in the distance; these were in
reality herds of buffaloes. There was not a sound in the wide expanse
before us, except the harsh cry of the water-fowl that our presence had
already disturbed--not a breath of air moved the leaves of the trees
which shaded us--and the whole scene was that of undisturbed nature. The
sun had now sunk low upon the horizon, and the air was comparatively
cool. The multitude of buffaloes enchanted us, and with our two light
double-barrels, we advanced to the attack of the herd before us.
We had not left the obscurity of the forest many seconds before we were
observed. The herd started up from their muddy bed and gazed at us with
astonishment. It was a fair open plain of some thousand acres, bounded
by the forest which we had just quitted on the one side, and by the lake
on the other; thus there was no cover for our advance, and all we could
do was to push on.
As we approached the herd they ranged up in a compact body, presenting a
very regular line in front. From this line seven large bulls stepped
forth, and from their vicious appearance seemed disposed to show fight.
In the meantime we were running up, and were soon within thirty paces of
them. At this distance the main body of the herd suddenly wheeled round
and thundered across the plain in full retreat. One of the bulls at the
same moment charged straight at us, but when within twenty paces of the
guns he turned to one side, and instantly received two balls in the
shoulder, B. and I having fired at the same moment. As luck would have
it, his blade-bone was thus broken, and he fell upon his knees, but
recovering himself in an instant, he retreated on three legs to the
We now received assistance from an unexpected quarter. One of the large
bulls, his companions, charged after him with great fury, and soon
overtaking the wounded beast, he struck him full in the side, throwing
him over with a great shock on the muddy border of the lake. Here the
wounded animal lay unable to rise, and his conqueror commenced a slow
retreat across the plain.
Leaving B. to extinguish the wounded buffalo, I gave chase to the
retreating bull. At an easy canter he would gain a hundred paces and
then, turning, he would face me; throwing his nose up, and turning his
head to one side with a short grunt, he would advance quickly for a few
paces, and then again retreat as I continued to approach.
In this manner he led me a chase of about a mile along the banks of the
lake, but he appeared determined not to bring the fight to an issue at
close quarters. Cursing his cowardice, I fired a long shot at him, and
reloading my last spare ball I continued the chase, led on by ignorance
The lake in one part stretched in a narrow creek into the plain, and the
bull now directed his course into the angle formed by this turn. I
thought that I lead him in a corner, and, redoubling my exertions, I
gained upon him considerably. He retreated slowly to the very edge of
the creek, and I had gained so fast upon him that I was not thirty paces
distant, when he plunged into the water and commenced swimming across
the creek. This was not more than sixty yards in breadth, and I knew
that I could now bring him to action.
Running round the borders of the creek as fast as I could, I arrived at
the opposite side on his intended landing-place just as his black form
reared from the deep water and gained the shallows, into which I had
waded knee-deep to meet him. I now experienced that pleasure as he stood
sullenly eyeing me within fifteen paces. Poor stupid fellow! I would
willingly, in my ignorance, have betted ten to one upon the shot, so
certain was I of his death in another instant.
I took a quick but steady aim at his chest, at the point of connection
with the throat. The smoke of the barrel passed to one side;--there he
stood--he had not flinched; he literally had not moved a muscle. The
only change that had taken place was in his eye; this, which had
hitherto been merely sullen, was now beaming with fury; but his form was
as motionless as a statue. A stream of blood poured from a wound within
an inch of the spot at which I had aimed; had it not been for this fact,
I should not have believed him struck.
Annoyed at the failure of the shot, I tried him with the left-hand
barrel at the same hole. The report of the gun echoed over the lake, but
there he stood as though he bore a charmed life;--an increased flow of
blood from the wound and additional lustre in his eye were the only
signs of his being struck.
I was unloaded, and had not a single ball remaining. It was now his
turn. I dared not turn to retreat, as I knew he would immediately
charge, and we stared each other out of countenance.
With a short grunt he suddenly sprang forward, but fortunately, as I did
not move, he halted; he had, however, decreased his distance, and we now
gazed at each other within ten paces. I began to think buffalo-shooting
somewhat dangerous, and I would have given something to have been a mile
away, but ten times as much to have had my four-ounce rifle in my hand.
Oh, how I longed for that rifle in this moment of suspense! Unloaded,
without the power of defence, with the absolute certainty of a charge
from an overpowering brute, my hand instinctively found the handle of my
hunting-knife, a useless weapon against such a foe.
Knowing that B. was not aware of my situation at the distance which
separated us (about a mile), without taking my eyes from the figure
before me, I raised my hand to my mouth and gave a long and loud
whistle; this was a signal that I knew would be soon answered if heard.
With a stealthy step and another short grunt, the bull again advanced a
couple of paces towards me. He seemed aware of my helplessness, and he
was the picture of rage and fury, pawing the water and stamping
violently with his forefeet.
This was very pleasant! I gave myself up for lost, but putting as fierce
an expression into my features as I could possibly assume, I stared
hopelessly at my maddened antagonist.
Suddenly a bright thought flashed through my mind. Without taking my
eyes off the animal before me, I put a double charge of powder down the
right-hand barrel, and tearing off a piece of my shirt, I took all the
money from my pouch, three shillings in sixpenny pieces, and two anna
pieces, which I luckily had with me in this small coin for paying
coolies. Quickly making them into a rouleau with the piece of rag, I
rammed them down the barrel, and they were hardly well home before the
bull again sprang forward. So quick was it that I had no time to replace
the ramrod, and I threw it in the water, bringing my gun on full cock in
the same instant. However, he again halted, being now within about seven
paces from me, and we again gazed fixedly at each other, but with
altered feelings on my part. I had faced him hopelessly with an empty
gun for more than a quarter of an hour, which seemed a century. I now
had a charge in my gun, which I knew if reserved till he was within a
foot of the muzzle would certainly floor him, and I awaited his onset
with comparative carelessness, still keeping my eyes opposed to his
At this time I heard a splashing in the water behind me, accompanied by
the hard breathing of something evidently distressed. The next moment I
heard B.'s voice. He could hardly speak for want of breath, having run
the whole way to my rescue, but I could understand that he had only one
barrel loaded, and no bullets left. I dared not turn my face from the
buffalo, but I cautioned B. to reserve his fire till the bull should be
close into me, and then to aim at the head.
The words were hardly uttered, when, with the concentrated rage of the
last twenty minutes, he rushed straight at me! It was the work of an
instant. B. fired without effect. The horns were lowered, their points
were on either side of me, and the muzzle of the gun barely touched his
forehead when I pulled the trigger, and three shillings' worth of small
change rattled into his hard head. Down he went, and rolled over with
the suddenly checked momentum of his charge. Away went B. and I as fast
as our heels would carry us, through the water and over the plain,
knowing that he was not dead but only stunned. There was a large fallen
tree about half a mile from us, whose whitened branches, rising high
above the ground, offered a tempting asylum. To this we directed our
flying steps, and, after a run of a hundred yards, we turned and looked
behind us. He had regained his feet and was following us slowly. We now
experienced the difference of feeling between hunting and being hunted,
and fine sport we must have afforded him.
On he came, but fortunately so stunned by the collision with her
Majesty's features upon the coin which he had dared to oppose that he
could only reel forward at a slow canter. By degrees even this pace
slackened, and he fell. We were only too glad to be able to reduce our
speed likewise, but we had no sooner stopped to breathe, than he was
again up and after us. At length, however, we gained the tree, and we
beheld him with satisfaction stretched powerless upon the ground, but
not dead, within two hundred yards of us.
We retreated under cover of the forest to the spot at which we had left
the horses, fortunately meeting no opposition from wild animals, and we
shortly arrived at the village at which we took up our quarters, vowing
vengeance on the following morning for the defeat that we had sustained.
A man is a poor defenceless wretch if left to defend himself against
wild animals with the simple natural weapons of arms, legs, and teeth. A
tom-cat would almost be a match for him. He has legs which will neither
serve him for pursuit or escape if he is forced to trust only in his
speed. He has strength of limb which is useless without some artificial
weapon. He is an animal who, without the power of reason, could not even
exist in a wild state; his brain alone gives him the strength to support
his title of lord of the creation.
Nevertheless, a lord of the creation does not appear in much majesty
when running for his life from an infuriated buffalo;--the assumed title
sits uneasily upon him when, with scarcely a breath left in his body, he
struggles along till he is ready to drop with fatigue, expecting to be
overtaken at every step. We must certainly have exhibited poor specimens
of the boasted sway of man over the brute creation could a stranger have
witnessed our flight on this occasion.
The next morning we were up at daybreak, and we returned to the
battlefield of the previous evening in the full expectation of seeing
our wounded antagonist lying dead where we had left him. In this we were
disappointed--he was gone, and we never saw him again.
I now had my long two-ounce and my four-ounce rifles with me, and I was
fully prepared for a deep revenge for the disgrace of yesterday.
The morning was clear but cloudy; a heavy thunderstorm during the night
had cooled the air, and the whole plain was glistening with bright
drops; the peacocks were shrieking from the tree-tops and spreading
their gaudy plumage to the cool breeze; and the whole face of nature
seemed refreshed. We felt the same invigorating spirit, and we took a
long survey of the many herds of buffaloes upon the plain before we
could determine which we should first attack.
A large single bull, who had been lying in a swampy hollow unobserved by
us, suddenly sprang up at about three hundred yards' distance, and
slowly cantered off. I tried the long two-ounce rifle at him, but,
taking too great an elevation, I fired over him. The report, however,
had the effect of turning him, and, instead of retreating, he wheeled
round and attempted to pass between the guns and the banks of the lake.
We were about three hundred yards from the water's edge, and he was soon
passing us at full gallop at right angles, about midway or a hundred and
fifty yards distant.
I had twelve drachms of powder in the four-ounce rifle, and I took a
flying shot at his shoulder. No visible effect was produced, and the
ball ricochetted completely across the broad surface of the lake (which
was no more than a mile wide at this part) in continuous splashes. The
gun-bearers said I had fired behind him, but I had distinctly heard the
peculiar 'fut' which a ball makes upon striking an animal, and although
the passage of the ball across the lake appeared remarkable,
nevertheless I felt positive that it had first passed through some
portion of the animal.
Away the bull sped over the plain at unabated speed for about two
hundred paces, when he suddenly turned and charged toward the guns. On
he came for about a hundred yards, but evidently slackening his speed at
every stride. At length he stopped altogether. His mouth was wide open,
and I could now distinguish a mass of bloody foam upon his lips and
nostrils--the ball had in reality passed through his lungs, and, making
its exit from the opposite shoulder, it had even then flown across the
lake. This was the proof of the effect of the twelve drachms of powder.
Having reloaded, I now advanced towards him, and soon arrived within
fifty paces. He was the facsimile of the bull that had chased us on the
previous day--the same picture of fury and determination; and, crouching
low, he advanced a few paces, keeping his eyes fixed upon us as though
we were already his own.
A short cough, accompanied by a rush of blood from his mouth, seemed to
cause him great uneasiness, and he halted.
Again we advanced till within twenty paces of him. I would not fire, as
I saw that he already had enough, and I wished to see how long he could
support a wound through the lungs, as my safety in buffalo-shooting
might in future depend upon this knowledge.
The fury of his spirit seemed to war with death, and, although reeling
with weakness and suffocation, he again attempted to come on. It was his
last effort; his eyes rolled convulsively, he gave a short grunt of
impotent rage, and the next moment he fell upon his back with his heels
in the air; he was stone dead, and game to the last moment.
I had thus commenced a revenge for the insult of yesterday; I had proved
the wonderful power of the four-ounce rifle--a weapon destined to make
great havoc amongst the heavy game of Ceylon.
Upon turning from the carcass before us, we observed to our surprise
that a large herd of buffaloes, that were at a great distance when we
had commenced the attack upon the bull, had now approached to within a
few hundred yards, and were standing in a dense mass, attentively
watching us. Without any delay we advanced towards them, and, upon
arriving within about a hundred paces, we observed that the herd was
headed by two large bulls, one of which was the largest that I had ever
seen. The whole herd was bellowing and pawing the ground. They had
winded the blood of the dead bull and appeared perfectly maddened.
We continued to advance, and we were within about ninety paces of them
when suddenly the whole herd of about two hundred buffaloes, headed by
the two bulls before noticed, dashed straight towards us at full gallop.
So simultaneous was the onset that it resembled a sudden charge of
cavalry, and the ground vibrated beneath their heavy hoofs. Their tails
were thrown high above their backs, and the mad and overpowering phalanx
of heads and horns came rushing forward as though to sweep us at once
from the face of the earth.
There was not an instant to be lost; already but a short space
intervened between us and apparently certain destruction. Our
gun-bearers were almost in the act of flight; but catching hold of the
man who carried the long two-ounce rifle, and keeping him by my side, I
awaited the irresistible onset with the four-ounce.
The largest of the bulls was some yards in advance, closely followed by
his companion, and the herd in a compact mass came thundering down at
their heels. Only fifty yards separated us; we literally felt among
them, and already experienced a sense of being over-run. I did not look
at the herd, but I kept my eye upon the big bull leader. On they flew,
and were within thirty paces of us, when I took a steady shot with the
four-ounce, and the leading bull plunged head-foremost in the turf,
turning a complete summersault. Snatching the two-ounce from the
petrified gun-bearer, I hadjust time for a shot as the second bull was
within fifteen paces, and at the flash of the rifle his horns ploughed
up the turf, and he lay almost at our feet. That lucky shot turned the
whole herd. When certain destruction threatened us, they suddenly
wheeled to their left when within twenty paces of the guns, and left us
astonished victors of the field. We poured an ineffectual volley into
the retreating herd from the light guns as they galloped off in full
retreat, and reloaded as quickly as possible, as the two bulls, although
floored, were still alive. They were, however, completely powerless, and
a double-barrelled gun gave each the "coup-de-grace" by a ball in the
forehead. Both rifle shots had struck at the point of junction of the
throat and chest, and the four-ounce ball had passed out of the
hind-quarter. Our friend of yesterday, although hit in precisely the
same spot, had laughed at the light guns.
Although I have since killed about two hundred wild buffaloes I have
never witnessed another charge by a herd. This was an extraordinary
occurrence, and fortunately stands alone in buffalo-shooting. Were it
not for the two heavy rifles our career might have terminated in an
unpleasant manner. As I before mentioned, this part of the country was
seldom or never disturbed at the time of which I write, and the
buffaloes were immensely numerous and particularly savage, nearly always
turning to bay and showing good sport when attacked.
Having cut out the tongues from the two bulls, we turned homeward to
breakfast. Skirting along the edge of the lake, which abounded with
small creeks, occasioning us many circuits, we came suddenly upon a
single bull, who, springing from his lair of mud and high grass, plunged
into a creek, and, swimming across, exposed himself to a dead shot as he
landed on the opposite bank about a hundred paces from us. The
four-ounce struck him in the hind-quarters and broke the hip joint, and,
continuing its course along his body, it pierced his lungs and lodged in
the skin of the throat. The bull immediately fell, but regaining his
feet he took to the water, and swam to a small island of high grass
about thirty yards from the shore. Upon gaining this he turned and faced
us, but in a few seconds he fell unable to rise, and received a merciful
shot in the head, which despatched him.
We were just leaving the border of the lake on our way to the village,
when two cow buffaloes sprang up from one of the numerous inlets and
retreated at full gallop towards the jungle, offering a splendid side
shot at about a hundred paces. The leading cow plunged head-foremost
into the grass as the four-ounce struck her through both shoulders. She
was a fine young cow, and we cut some steaks from her in case we should
find a scarcity of provisions at Minneria and, quitting the shores of
the lake, we started for breakfast.
It was only 8 A.M. when we arrived. I had bagged five buffaloes, four of
which were fine bulls. Our revenge was complete, and I had proved that
the four-ounce was perfectly irresistible if held straight with the
heavy charge of twelve drachms of powder. Since that time I have
frequently used sixteen drachms (one ounce) of powder to the charge, but
the recoil is then very severe, although the effect upon an animal with
a four-ounce steel-tipped conical ball is tremendous.
On our return to the village of Minneria we found a famous breakfast,
for which a bath in the neighbouring brook increased an appetite already
sharpened by the morning exercise. The buffalo steaks were coarse and
bad, as tough as leather, and certainly should never be eaten if better
food can be obtained. The tongues are very rich, but require salting.
In those days Minneria was not spoiled by visitors, and supplies were
accordingly at a cheap rate--large fowls at one penny each, milk at any
price that you chose to give for it. This is now much changed, and the
only thing that is still ridiculously cheap is fish.
Give a man sixpence to catch you as many as he can in the morning, and
he forthwith starts on his piscatorial errand with a large basket, cone
shaped, of two feet diameter at the bottom and about eight inches at the
top. This basket is open at both ends, and is about two feet in length.
The fish that is most sought after is the 'lola.' He is a ravenous
fellow, in appearance between a trout and a carp, having the habits of
the former, but the clumsy shoulders of the latter. He averages about
three pounds, although he is often caught of nine or ten pounds weight.
Delighting in the shallows, he lies among the weeds at the bottom, to
which he always retreats when disturbed. Aware of his habits, the
fisherman walks knee-deep in the water, and at every step he plunges the
broad end of the basket quickly to the bottom. He immediately feels the
fish strike against the sides, and putting his hand down through the
aperture in the top of the basket he captures him, and deposits him in a
basket slung on his back.
These 'lola' are delicious eating, being very like an eel in flavour,
and I have known one man catch forty in a morning with no other
apparatus than this basket.
Minneria Lake, like all others in Ceylon, swarms with crocodiles of a
very large size. Early in the morning and late in the evening they may
be seen lying upon the banks like logs of trees. I have frequently
remarked that a buffalo, shot within a few yards of the lake, has
invariably disappeared during the night, leaving an undoubted track
where he has been dragged to the water by the crocodiles. These brutes
frequently attack the natives when fishing or bathing, but I have never
heard of their pursuing any person upon dry land.
I remember an accident having occurred at Madampi, on the west coast of
Ceylon, about seven years ago, the day before I passed through the
village. A number of women were employed in cutting rushes for
mat-making, and were about mid-deep in the water. The horny tail of a
large crocodile was suddenly seen above the water among the group of
women, and in another instant one of them was seized by the thigh and
dragged towards the deeper part of the stream. In vain the terrified
creature shrieked for assistance; the horror-stricken group had rushed
to the shore, and a crowd of spectators on the bank offered no aid
beyond their cries. It was some distance before the water deepened, and
the unfortunate woman was dragged for many yards, sometimes beneath the
water, sometimes above the surface, rending the air with her screams,
until at length the deep water hid her from their view. She was never
Some of these reptiles grow to a very large size, attaining the length
of twenty feet, and eight feet in girth, but the common size is fourteen
feet. They move slowly upon land, but are wonderfully fast and active in
the water. They usually lie in wait for their prey under some hollow
bank in a deep pool, and when the unsuspecting deer or even buffalo
stoops his head to drink, he is suddenly seized by the nose and dragged
beneath the water. Here he is speedily drowned and consumed at leisure.
The two lower and front teeth of a crocodile project through the upper
jaw, and their white points attract immediate notice as they protrude
through the brown scales on the upper lip. When the mouth is closed, the
jaws are thus absolutely locked together.
It is a common opinion that the scales on the back of a crocodile will
turn a ball; this is a vulgar error. The scales are very tough and hard,
but a ball from a common fowling-piece will pass right through the body.
I have even seen a hunting-knife driven at one blow deep into the
hardest part of the back; and this was a crocodile of a large size,
about fourteen feet long, that I shot at a place called Bolgodde,
twenty-two miles from Colombo.
A man had been setting nets for fish, and was in the act of swimming to
the shore, when he was seized and drowned by a crocodile. The next
morning two buffaloes were dragged into the water close to the spot, and
it was supposed that these murders were committed by the same crocodile.
I was at Colombo at the time, and, hearing of the accident, I rode off
to Bolgodde to try my hand at catching him.
Bolgodde is a very large lake of many miles in circumference, abounding
with crocodiles, widgeon, teal, and ducks.
On arrival that evening, the moodeliar (headman) pointed out the spot
where the man had been destroyed, and where the buffaloes had been
dragged in by the crocodile. One buffalo had been entirely devoured, but
the other had merely lost his head, and his carcass was floating in a
horrible state of decomposition near the bank. It was nearly dark, so I
engaged a small canoe to be in readiness by break of day.
Just as the light streaked the horizon I stepped into the canoe. This
required some caution, as it was the smallest thing that can be
conceived to support two persons. It consisted of the hollow trunk of a
tree, six feet in length and about one foot in diameter. A small
outrigger prevented it from upsetting, but it was not an inch from the
surface of the water when I took my narrow seat, and the native in the
stern paddled carefully towards the carcass of the buffalo.
Upon approaching within a hundred yards of the floating carcass, I
counted five forms within a few yards of the flesh. These objects were
not above nine inches square, and appeared like detached pieces of rough
bark. I knew them to be the foreheads of different crocodiles, and
presently one moved towards the half-consumed buffalo. His long head and
shoulders projected from the water as he attempted to fix his fore-claws
into the putrid flesh; this, however, rolled over towards him, and
prevented him from getting a hold; but the gaping jaws nevertheless made
a wide breach in the buffalo's flank. I was now within thirty yards of
them, and, being observed, they all dived immediately to the bottom.
The carcass was lying within a few yards of the bank, where the water
was extremely deep and clear. Several large trees grew close to the edge
and formed a good hiding-place; I therefore landed, and, sending the
canoe to a distance, I watched the water.
I had not been five minutes in this position before I saw in the water
at my feet, in a deep hole close to the bank, the immense form of a
crocodile as he was slowly rising from his hiding-place to the surface.
He appeared to be about eighteen feet long, and he projected his horny
head from the surface, bubbled, and then floated with only his forehead
and large eyes above the water. He was a horrible-looking monster, and
from his size I hoped he was the villain that had committed the late
depredations. He was within three yards of me; and, although I stood
upon the bank, his great round eyes gazed at me without a symptom of
fear. The next moment I put a two-ounce ball exactly between them, and
killed him stone dead. He gave a convulsive slap with his tail, which
made the water foam,, and, turning upon his back, he gradually sank,
till at length I could only distinguish the long line of his white belly
twenty feet below me.
Not having any apparatus for bringing him to the surface, I again took
to the canoe, as a light breeze that had sprung up was gradually moving
the carcass of the buffalo away. This I slowly followed, until it at
length rested in a wide belt of rushes which grew upon the shallows near
the shore. I pushed the canoe into the rushes within four yards of the
carcass, keeping to windward to avoid the sickening smell.
I had not been long in this position before the body suddenly rolled
over as though attacked by something underneath the water, and the next
moment the tall reeds brushed against the sides of the canoe, being
violently agitated in a long line, evidently by a crocodile at the
The native in the stern grew as pale as a black can turn with fright,
and instantly began to paddle the canoe away. This, however, I soon
replaced in its former position, and then took his paddle away to
prevent further accidents. There sat the captain of the fragile vessel
in the most abject state of terror. We were close to the shore, and the
water was not more than three feet deep, and yet he dared not jump out
of the canoe, as the rushes were again brushing against its sides, being
moved by the hidden beast at the bottom. There was no help for him, so,
after vainly imploring me to shove the canoe into deep water, he at
length sat still.
In a few minutes the body of the buffalo again moved, and the head and
shoulders of a crocodile appeared above water and took a bite of some
pounds of flesh. I could not get a shot at the head from his peculiar
position, but I put a ball through his shoulders, and immediately shoved
the canoe astern. Had I not done this, we should most likely have been
upset, as the wounded brute began to lash out with his tail in all
directions, till he at length retired to the bottom among the rushes.
Here I could easily track him, as he slowly moved along, by the movement
of the reeds. Giving the native the paddle, I now by threats induced him
to keep the canoe over the very spot where the rushes were moving, and
we slowly followed on the track, while I kept watch in the bow of the
canoe with a rifle.
Suddenly the movement in the rushes ceased, and the canoe stopped
accordingly. I leaned slightly over the side to look into the water,
when up came a large air-bubble, and directly afterwards an apparition
in the shape of some fifteen pounds of putrid flesh. The stench was
frightful, but I knew my friend must be very bad down below to disgorge
so sweet a morsel. I therefore took the paddle and poked for him; the
water being shallow, I felt him immediately. Again the rushes moved; I
felt the paddle twist as his scaly back glided under it, and a pair of
gaping jaws appeared above the water, wide open and within two feet of
the canoe. The next moment his head appeared, and the two-ounce ball
shattered his brain. He sank to the bottom, the rushes moved slightly
and were then still.
I now put the canoe ashore, and cutting a strong stick, with a crook at
one end, I again put out to the spot and dragged for him. He was quite
dead; and catching him under the fore-leg, I soon brought him gently to
the surface of the water. I now made fast a line to his fore-leg, and we
towed him slowly to the village, the canoe being level with the water's
His weight in the water was a mere trifle, but on arrival at the village
on the banks of the lake, the villagers turned out with great glee, and
fastened ropes to different parts of his body to drag him out. This
operation employed about twenty men. The beast was about fourteen feet
long; and he was no sooner on shore than the natives cut him to pieces
with axes, and threw the sections into the lake to be devoured by his
own species. This was a savage kind of revenge, which appeared to afford
them great satisfaction.
Taking a large canoe, I paddled along the shores of the lake with a
shot-gun, and made a good bag of ducks and teal, and returned to
breakfast. The fatness and flavour of the wild ducks in Ceylon are quite
equal to the best in England.
Equipment for a Hunting Trip--In Chase of a Herd of Buffaloes-- Hard
Work--Close Quarters--Six Feet from the Muzzle--A Black with a Devil.
There is one thing necessary to the enjoyment of sport in Ceylon, and
without which no amount of game can afford thorough pleasure; this is
personal comfort. Unlike a temperate climate, where mere attendance
becomes a luxury, the pursuit of game in a tropical country is attended
with immense fatigue and exhaustion. The intense heat of the sun, the
dense and suffocating exhalations from swampy districts, the constant
and irritating attacks from insects, all form drawbacks to sport that
can only be lessened by excellent servants and by the most perfect
arrangements for shelter and supplies. I have tried all methods of
travelling, and I generally manage to combine good sport with every
comfort and convenience.
A good tent, perfectly waterproof, and of so light a construction as to
travel with only two bearers, is absolutely indispensable. My tent is on
the principle of an umbrella, fifteen feet in diameter, and will house
three persons comfortably. A circular table fits in two halves round the
tent-pole; three folding chairs have ample space; three beds can be
arranged round the tent walls; the boxes of clothes, etc., stow under
the beds; and a dressing-table and gun-rack complete the furniture.
Next in importance to the tent is a good canteen. Mine is made of
japanned block tin, and contains in close-fitting compartments an entire
dinner and breakfast service for three persons, including everything
that can be required in an ordinary establishment. This is slung upon a
bamboo, carried by two coolies.
Clothes must always be packed in tin boxes, or the whole case will most
likely be devoured by white ants.
Cooking utensils must be carried in abundance, together with a lantern,
axe, bill-hook, tinder-box, matches, candles, oil, tea, coffee, sugar,
biscuits, wine, brandy, sauces, etc., a few hams, some tins of preserved
meats and soups, and a few bottles of curacea, a glass of which, in the
early dawn, after a cup of hot coffee and a biscuit, is a fine
preparation for a day's work.
I once tried the rough system of travelling, and started off with
nothing but my guns, clothes, a box of biscuits, and a few bottles of
brandy--no bed, no pillow, no tent nor chairs or table, but, as my
distressed servant said, 'no nothing.' This was many years ago, when the
excitement of wild sports was sufficient to laugh at discomfort. I
literally depended upon my gun for food, and my cooking utensils
consisted of one saucepan and a gridiron, a 'stew' and a 'fry' being all
that I looked forward to in the way of gourmandism. Sleeping on the bare
ground in native huts, dining cross-legged upon mother earth, with a
large leaf as a substitute for a plate, a cocoa-nut shell for a glass,
my hunting-knife comprising all my cutlery, I thus passed through a
large district of wild country, accompanied by B., and I never had more
It was on this occasion that I had a memorable hunt in the neighbourhood
of Narlande, within thirty miles of Kandy. It was our first day's stage,
and, upon our arrival, at about 2 P.M., we left our guns at the
post-holder's hut, while we proceeded to the river to bathe.
We were hardly dressed before a native came running to tell us that
several elephants were devouring his crop of korrakan--a grain something
like clover-seed, upon which the people in this part almost entirely
Without a moment's delay we sent for the guns. The post-holder was a
good tracker, and a few minutes of sharp walking through a path bordered
on either side by dense thorny bush brought us to a chena jungle ground,
or cultivated field. The different watch-houses erected in the large
trees were full of people, who were shrieking and yelling at the top of
their voices, having just succeeded in scaring the elephants into the
The whole of the country in this neighbourhood has, in successive ages,
been cleared and cultivated: the forest has been felled. The poverty of
the soil yields only one crop, and the lately cleared field is again
restored to nature. Dense thorny jungle immediately springs up, which a
man cannot penetrate without being torn to pieces by the briars. This is
called chena jungle, and is always the favourite resort of elephants and
all wild animals, the impervious character of the bush forming a secure
From these haunts the elephants commit nocturnal descents upon the crops
of the natives. The korrakan is a sweet grass, growing about two feet
high, and so partial are the elephants to this food that they will
invade the isolated field even during the daytime. Driven out by shouts
and by shots fired by the natives from their secure watch-houses, they
will retreat to their cover, but in a few minutes they reappear from
another part of the jungle and again commence their depredations.
The havoc committed by a large herd of elephants can well be imagined.
In this instance there were only three elephants--a large bull, with a
mother and her young one, or what we call a 'poonchy.' On entering the
korrakan field we distinctly heard them breaking the boughs at no great
distance. We waited for some time to see if they would return to the
field; but they apparently were aware of some impending danger, as they
did not move from their strong position. This was a cunning family of
elephants, as they had retreated 'down wind,' and the jungle being so
thick that we could with difficulty follow even upon their track, made
it very doubtful whether we should kill them.
We cautiously entered. It was one mass of thorns, and we were shortly
compelled to crawl upon our hands and knees. This was arduous work, as
we had great difficulty in carrying the guns so as to avoid the
slightest noise. I was leading the way, and could distinctly hear the
rustling of the leaves as the elephants moved their ears. We were now
within a few feet of them, but not an inch of their bodies could be
seen, so effectually were they hidden by the thick jungle. Suddenly we
heard the prolonged wh-r-r, wh-r-r-r-r-r, as one of the elephants winded
us: the shrill trumpet sounded in another direction, and the crash
through the jungle took place which nothing but an elephant can produce.
In such dense jungle, where the elephants are invisible, this crash is
most exciting if close at hand, as in the present instance.
It is at the first burst impossible to tell whether the elephant is
coming at you or rushing away. In either case it is extremely dangerous,
as these chena jungles are almost devoid of trees; thus there is no
cover of sufficient strength to protect a man should he attempt to jump
on one side, and he may even be run over by accident.
A few moments assured us of their retreat, and we instantly followed
upon their track, running at full speed along the lane which they had
crushed in their headlong flight. This was no easy matter; the jungle
itself was certainly broken down, but innumerable hooked thorns, hanging
from rope-like creepers, which had been torn down by the rush of the
elephants, caught us upon every side. In a few minutes our clothes were
in rags, and we were bleeding from countless scratches, but we continued
the chase as fast as we could run upon the track. The prickly cactus
which abounds in these jungles, and grows to the height of twenty feet,
in some places checked us for a few moments, being crushed into a heap
by the horny-footed beasts before us. These obstacles overcome, we again
pushed on at a rapid pace, occasionally listening for a sound of the
We now observed that the herd had separated; the bull had gone off in
one direction, and the female with her half-grown poonchy in another.
Following the latter, we again pushed on at a quick run, as the
elephants had evidently gone off at a great pace and were far in
advance. For about half an hour we had continued the pursuit at the same
speed, when we suddenly heard the warning wh-r-r-r-r as the elephants
winded us at a distance of 200 yards, and the crash instantly following
this sound told us too plainly that the game was fearfully on the alert,
and gave us little hopes of overtaking them, as they were travelling
directly down wind.
Speed was our only chance, and again we rushed forward in hot pursuit
through the tangled briars, which yielded to our weight, although we
were almost stripped of clothes. Another half hour passed, and we had
heard no further signs of the game. We stopped to breathe, and we
listened attentively for the slightest sound. A sudden crash in the
jungle at a great distance assured us that we were once more discovered.
The chase seemed hopeless; the heat was most oppressive; and we had been
running for the last hour at a killing pace through a most distressing
country. Once more, however, we started off, determined to keep up the
pursuit as long as daylight would permit. It was now 5 P.M., and we had