Two British officers, Captain Edwards and Lieutenant Coldgrave of the Central Indian Horse, a well known fine regiment, were currently assigned as instructors for officers and men of the native Maratha regiments, and acted as consultants and guides during maneuvers. They invited me and the men of my entourage to a pigsticking, hunting wild boars with lances on horses in the plains of Gwalior. Very eager to learn more about this sport new to me, though I had already heard much and was very curious, I accepted the invitation to participate with pleasure. I must confess that this hunting expedition did exceed my expectations; Pigsticking is an entertaining and exciting sport that requires much dexterity and endurance.
We drove 14 km into the countryside to a small hunting lodge of the Maratha, where horses, service horses supplied by in the Central Indian horse regiment, and mounted shikaris of Gwalior were waiting. Because of a throat infection I’ve been suffering from since the stay in Kalawewa, to my great chagrin and following the doctor’s advice, I had to abstain from joining the hunting party myself and had to settle with riding after them in the second party with Wurmbrand.
The hunting terrain was an extended plain, with a meter high burnt blady grass (Imperata cylindrica), of which only a few small areas remained free, so that galloping in this grass was not exactly pleasant, neither horse nor rider could see where the foot rests, and there are also countless little cracks in the earth of the savannas, and especially deep, hole-shaped burrows of porcupines.
After a short search a drove of pigs was discovered, the loud „Tallyho“ of the riders sounded and immediately they chased after them with couched lances at full pace. I rode a very enterprising horse that could not understand that I remained constrained by the doctor’s order to hold back and kept me fully occupied, which is why I only noticed that Wurmbrand was overthrown when his riderless horse rode past me. He was tripped by a burrow of a porcupine, but was luckily not injured. I followed the riders slowly. They first continued in a straight line, but then, when they had come close to the pigs and had separated out a boar, they went after him with great skill until it lay at our feet pierced by many hits of the lances. The English chased only male or old wild boars and manage to pick the appropriate target out of a drove in the high grass with amazing aplomb.
Soon a second boar was found in this game-rich area, so the hunting resumed. The run was over quickly, because one of the gentlemen scored an early hit the boar with his skillful lance. During this gallop Captain Edward fell pretty nastily on his head, continued to ride the next two runs, but then had to return home and could not attend the dinner in the evening.
Now, it was time to rest our tired horses, but they couldn’t rest for long, because I spotted a drove of black bucks in the distance and informed the gentleman about my find. Everyone was immediately in the saddle again. But now, I could no longer restrain my hunting and riding passion; the instruction and strict prohibitions of my physician were forgotten, I rode at a gallop towards the hunting party which was riding in my direction. I cut off the wild boar’s path. The wild boar stopped in its tracks. I used this moment to catch him with my lance. I looked at my own first trophy in the pigsticking with satisfaction.
Our tired horses, the great heat and the upcoming hunt in the afternoon made our leaders decide to return home. We had barely covered a few hundred paces when multiple black bucks suddenly appeared. Naturally we couldn’t resist the temptation to pursue them. Our hunting party automatically split in two as the male boars in the drove escaped in different directions: Crawford and Coldgrave pursued one, my entourage, Fairholme and I the other. The run lasted longer as the horses were already spent. It concluded in a dramatic fight, a wild confusion raged. The boar stopped and stared at the horses and even slammed into the rear legs of Prónay’s white horse. Finally it came down to a jovial contest between me and Wurmbrand; we were the closest to the pig but had no stirrups to force the horses to engage our enemy. Thus our lances only hit the air time and again until we managed after a long struggle to kill the boar. It is hard to believe how difficult it is for a beginner to use a lance effectively against an escaping boar and how many times one has to miss to lance a single strike. The other group with Crawford was also lucky to bag their boar and thus we rode back with five bagged pieces to the hunting lodge where breakfast awaited us.
As I noticed some vultures in the air, I had one of the pigs be placed as bait next to the villa. Truly, it did not take ten minutes for the Egyptian vultures and in the end large white-rumped vultures (Gyps bengalensis) to approach. I bagged multiple specimens. Unfortunately, I missed an eagle which reminded me of our Eastern imperial eagle with an untested rifle.
In the afternoon we wanted to hunt black bucks and marsh game in the surrounding area and split into different groups. I tried my luck with Fairholme first seeking black bucks which we approached on a peasant wagon. The animals, however, had already been made timid by the commotions caused by the pigsticking so that despite all caution it was impossible to get close to them. We therefore rode to the ponds nearby to hunt waterfowl. The plain in whicch we were hunting is criss-crossed by numerous canals and contains many irrigation ponds that serves various waterfowl as habitat. In the first pond sat a flock of at least four tot five hundred different ducks of whom I bagged three. The shots flushed out various birds among them three particularly noticeable majestic sarus cranes (Grus antigone).
Close to this pond there was a second larger one which seemed to be very rich in game as a quick scan with the spyglass revealed I approached with cautious through the high reeds. On the water surface swam a row of beautiful brown ruddy shelducks and in between were various other ducks, from the small Eurasian teal to the large red-crested pochard; in the reed I saw the lean necks and the carmine red heads of two sarus cranes; the sky was full of ducks, snipes, waders, fighting cocks and black-winged stilts. Despite all my precautions the game soon took notice of me so that I could only try a ball shot at the cranes which unfortunately missed.
Continuing at the edge of the pond I bagged a number of ducks and two common coots, multiple black-necked stilts and a marsh harrier. All my efforts were set upon the majestic sarus cranes which I spotted in great distance in a wheat field. Fortunately, a winding stream in a deep cut was running next to the wheat field; on this I based my operational plan and let myself down the bank of the stream, wading in the stream to sneak as closely as possible so that I fired at both cranes with two shots. One lay dead, the other was deeply hurt. A hunter, however, should never be greedy, a wise lesson that proved itself again here. As soon as I had shot at the two cranes I saw a large egret fly above my head and shot at it instead of taking care of the wounded crane. At this moment, the wounded crane took flight and departed never to be seen again while I had to see him go with an empty rifle. Thus I had to make do with a single specimen of this giant bird which with its neck extended reaches the height of a grown man.
A new approach on the black bucks proved as unsuccessful as the first one and thus I turned to bagging various ducks, among them Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) as well as some fighting cocks, and returned to the bungalow where I met the other gentlemen who had also made fine catches.
The beautiful shine of the moon accompanied our return drive to Gwalior. Here we said good-bye after the dinner to our hunting companions end entered the train to Calcutta.