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Littell's Living Age/Volume 132/Issue 1707/Pig-Sticking

From Land and Water.


To pig-stick, or hunt the wild-boar, armed with a hog-spear or lance, is, I believe, a sport essentially and exclusively belonging to India. The boar is hunted in various other countries, but it is only in India that he is followed without firearms and in true British style. There is just that amount of danger about it that adds salt to the sport, and which, in riding for first spear, brings out the best points in the horse and horseman.

The boar, when domesticated, may look a sluggard; met in his own wild jungle, and disturbed from his lair, early on a "cold weather" morning, is quite a different beast; he is full of fight, and fight he can, either at bay, or charging home. Nothing turns his charge; woe to the careless hunter who has not a ready spear, and a steady hand, for let the beast once get under, or close to your horse's legs, the chances are you will require a new mount; with one upward motion of that solid head, and those cruel tusks, your horse is either lame for life, or ripped right open. The boar, when he charges, is not particular; on one occasion I saw him make right for a horseman, who was not prepared for his foe, and begin to champ his foot; had it not been for timely assistance the damage might have been worse, as it was, the brute left his mark! . . .

The country in which the boar loves to roam is in places very dangerous and treacherous, covered with a tall grass, yclept pig-grass. The holes made by the animal in its rootings cannot be seen until your horse blunders into one, and over you go, unless your seat is well back and your hands low. The amount of falls is something wonderful to see. Of course this is to be expected, considering the break-neck pace. A good large "solah topee," or sun-hat (bought in the country at a moderate price), made of pith an inch thick, with its wide-spreading leaf, is a great protection, and has saved many a man's head and collar-bone. An instance occurred of this kind to a friend while pigsticking. Every one was racing for first blood, when B.'s horse stumbled into a pignut, throwing his rider badly; B—— was insensible for a week, but recovered; his planter's "solah topee," when picked up, though broken to pieces, evidenced how it had saved his life. The boar, if pressed for food, comes close to outlying farms, and commits great depredations amongst the ryots' cultivated fields. They (the ryots) are always glad to give the sahibs news of such arrival, on which a party is made up for hunting. . . .

When once the game is a-foot (the correct manner of accomplishing this is to drive the jungle with a line of elephants), horses are taken well in hand, and the ambition of every one is to get the first spear, or first blood, as it is sometimes called. The honor is as stoutly contested as the brush of Master Reynard is in old England. The boar is a dodgy beast. Away he goes with a grunt, and regulates his pace by that of his pursuer. Should the country admit of full steam being turned on, he does ditto; you go slow, so does piggy; he will do anything but run straight. Now you think you "have him right under your spear — a sharp "jink" to one side, or right across your horse, gives your left-hand man, perhaps, an equally disappointing chance! Like every other mounted sport, much depends on the judgment of the rider. Want of that necessary article finds you "shot ahead" and the coveted glory won by another. Men are mounted on every kind of horse from the Arab, Caboolee, Waler (or Australian), to the Cape horse, stud, Punjaubee, or vicious countrybred, "bought under a tree," well hocussed with bang or opium, to conceal his native inclination to bite and kick the European. Pity help the unlucky rider should he get pitched from one of the latter, as their first performance is to eat the unfortunate cast horseman! Horses with this little peculiarity have been rightly named "man-eaters."

The Arab or Caboolee are the best mounts for this sport; yet I have seen Australians, when accustomed to the work — which they soon are — second to none in cleverness in the field, entering heartily into the sport Like their brethren in stock-riding, in their own native land, their wonderful power of "turning on a sixpence" (as old stock-riders say) is invaluable for this kind of chase. A well-bred Caboolee is also a good little beast. A friend had one, which, when he neared his pig, always tried his best to bite it.

The Bengal spear or lance is held (in action) differently to what it is in Madras. The Bengalee holds it short, by the leaded end, and "jobs" his pig. The haft or shaft being about eight feet, one end is heavily loaded with a big knob of lead, to give the stroke force. It must, however, be borne in mind as very unsportsmanlike to lose your spear. This is difficult to avoid at times, both from the pace you may be going, and the weight of your loaded spear. I have seen spears sent almost through a beast, in which position it was impossible to recover them, and if not put in well behind the shoulders, or in a vital spot, the boar will carry away a good number before he gives in. The Madrassee handle is longer, and is not so heavily shod with lead. The spear is held in that presidency (when sticking) more as a lancer carries it, couched under the right arm. Much depends on the spear-head, which must be of the best steel. The boar has big bones, which would soon damage soft or bad metal. The haft is made of "male bamboo," that which is grown on some ranges in lower Bengal, near Bhagelpore, I think, being considered the best. Not having tried both ways of holding the spear, I am not in a position to say which is the best for real work. The Bengal man swears by his, those of the southern presidency admire their own.