Lt.-Col. Arthur Brooke, D.S.O., M.C., R.A.
This essay is from "Horsemanship, The Way of Man With A Horse" by Maj.-Gen. Geoffrey Brooke, originally published in 1929. In India, pig-sticking (boar hunting) was popular with British officers during Victorian and Edwardian times. The "sport" was encouraged by military authorities as good cavalry training because of the degree of horsemanship required, and because of the cunning and ferocity of the boar.
HUNTING the wild boar with hounds and spearing him on foot when brought to bay is a very old sport. The story of the death of Adonis is evidence that it was practised by the ancient Greeks, and that it still flourishes in very similar form among the gypsy tribes of India is well known to every Tent Club secretary who attempts to preserve pig in that country.
But the sport of hog-hunting or pig-sticking as known to-day, that is, riding down the boar and spearing him from the horse's back, seems to have originated no further back than the end of the eighteenth or beginning of the nineteenth century.
Since then Tent Clubs have been organised, more country has been opened up by the railway and motor-car and the class of horse obtainable has greatly improved. But the sport itself is still conducted on the same lines as it was a hundred years ago, and the etiquette and rules remain much as they were then.
Tent Clubs. The Tent Club in India is to pig- sticking what the Hunt Club in England is to fox- hunting. It is managed by an honorary secretary, who corresponds to the M.F.H. in an English hunting country, and in his hands are all the arrangements for providing shikaris, preserving the country, arranging meets and attending to finance and the collection of subscriptions. In the field his word is law; he arranges the composition of the heats, and where each heat is to go, and decides, in consultation with the shikaris, on how the country is to be beaten. He is the best man to whom to go for advice on any points in connection with pigsticking at his own particular station, and can be relied on to welcome new recruits to the club.
Formation of a Stud of Pig-stickers. A new arrival at a pig-sticking station who wishes to try his hand at the sport will find that his first and greatest difficulty lies in the collection of a stud of suitable horses. All the rest of his necessary outfit is cheap enough and easy enough to come by, but a good trained pig-sticker, staunch to pig and reasonably sound, is difficult to find and really first-class performers are few and far between.
If he arrives in January or February and wishes to start pig-sticking at once and is prepared to pay the price, he may be able to get what he wants from someone who is short of cash or who is going on leave, but the supply of made pig-stickers is very restricted and they are hard to find in a hurry.
On the other hand, if he arrives in September or October, he will have four or five months in which to look round and collect his stud before serious pig-sticking commences, and he can either watch his opportunity and buy made pig-stickers when they come on to the market or select green horses and train them himself.
In most district, with average good luck and provided he starts with his horses fit and sound, he will be able to see the whole season through with four horses, and if he is very lucky he will see it through with three: but a less number will not suffice except in countries where the meets only last one or two days and are within easy reach.
He would be well advised to buy, if he can, at least one made pig-sticker who knows the game and is a safe and handy conveyance across rough country. If he is a good horseman he will have no difficulty in training and making the rest of his stud himself once he knows what is wanted, and he will find plenty to choose from at prices round about £100 in the stables in Bombay and Calcutta, or for less in the Government Remount Depots if he happens to be an officer entitled to buy a charger.
The Type of Horse Required. In choosing a pig- sticker the first thing to remember is that temperament is more important than conformation. A man can see a lot of fun fox-hunting in a great many countries on a horse that is neither bold nor generous, even though he does not enjoy himself as much as he would on a top-sawyer. But this is not so in pig- sticking. If his horse is not bold and free over rough, blind going, and is too cunning and careful to take him within spearing distance of the pig, it will be much better for his temper and his pocket to stay at home.
His horse may give him heavy and painful falls and may be clumsy to turn and hard to stop, or may be a savage in the stable and look like nothing on earth, and will still be forgiven if he will gallop over hairy, blind country and go boldly up to an angry boar and face a charge: but a horse that will not do this is no use as a pig-sticker and is not worth his keep as such.
It is easy enough to try how a horse will go over rough country, but one can never be sure of his staunchness till he meets a boar. It is safe to say, however, that the great majority of well-bred horses of good quality, whose heads do not show signs of a sullen or jady temper, will be staunch enough if they are properly trained and ridden.
Many good horses which start staunch learn to shy off a pig, just as they learn to shy off the ball at polo, because they get into bad hands.
The following are the qualities and points in the order of their importance which the writer would look for if he was choosing a horse to train as a pig- sticker:
(1) He must be well-bred, quick, active and sensitive to the leg.
(2) He must have a good bold eye and a good head. A common head with a prominent forehead or a pig-eye nearly always means that sooner or later its owner will be found to be pig-shy, usually sooner.
(3) He must be bold and free over rough blind country. The "Waler" generally has this quality in abundance, probably owing to the experience of his young days when galloping over the rough clearings of his home run in Australia.
(4) He should have a well-set-on head and neck and a light sloping shoulder, which he can use well.
A visitor to the Kadir Cup Meeting who looks round the stables will be struck by the fact that nearly every horse with a reputation as a pig-sticker has a good light forehand, whatever other faults of conformation he may have.
(5) He should have good true action.
(6) He should have hard, sound legs and feet and good sloping pasterns.
(7) He should have strong loins, thighs and hocks, the latter placed well under him.
(8) He should have plenty of heart room, deep, well-sprung back ribs, and be a good doer.
(9) His height should not be more than 15-3 hands.
Training. Before discussing the special training necessary for a pig-sticker, it will be as well to consider exactly what we want him to be able to do when the test comes.
The boar, not the man, chooses the ground over which the hunt takes place. He is a wily animal, and in a district where the sport has flourished for some years he knows from the experience acquired and passed on to him by generations of ancestors who have been hunted and escaped that the horse is more handicapped by rough going than he is, but that on smooth ground the horse has the legs of him. It follows that when hunted he will take good care to select a line where the ground is as rough and the covert as thick as he can find, and over this blind, bad, even treacherous going, the horse will have to follow and carry his rider safely.
When the boar finds he is being overhauled, he still has lots up his sleeve. Just as he seems to be within reach of the spear he will suddenly jink sharp right or left, almost as quickly as a hare turning from a greyhound. The horse flashes on past him and if his rider cannot pull him up short on his hocks and come round quickly, still keeping his eye on the boar, there is a very good chance that the latter will disappear and escape, especially if the jungle is at all thick.
If the man and horse manage to keep on the boar, and succeed in following him jink for jink, the time will soon arrive when the latter is tired and blown, and he will then either charge or give his pursuer an opportunity to rush up alongside him and deliver his spear. The rider must now be able to regulate his pace by the pig, checking it when necessary: if he presses on too hard the pig will turn short or squat, and if this happens where the jungle is thick he may very easily lose him: but at the same time he must be able to seize the opportunity of a few yards of flat or open going to increase his pace and gallop into the pig with his spear. If his horse is not quick off the mark, easily collected and extended and responsive to hand and leg, he will miss chance after chance: and even if he succeeds in killing the boar he will not do so in the short, sharp, decisive way which is the right sort of finish to a good hunt.
We can now sum up the qualities which we wish to bring out in the pig-sticker during his training:
(1) He must be well balanced and quick off the mark.
(2) He must change cleanly and swing right or left at all paces.
(3) He must come down from a fast gallop to a collected canter, and vice versa, smoothly and quietly.
(5) He must be able to pull up short from a fast gallop, turn on his hocks and jump off again at once.
(5) He must passage at a canter so that he can be taken sideways into a pig which declines to charge.
(6) He must go kindly and well and do all the above correctly when the rider has only one hand on the reins.
(7) He must be able to gallop fast and stand up over rough, blind going: must be as active as a cat in jumping into and out of, or over blind nullahs which he cannot see until the very last moment: and must always have a spare leg for any emergency.
It will be seen that the first part of his training differs not at all from the training of a polo pony, and the reader may rest assured that the more perfect he can make his horse in the school, the better the fun he will have off him when it comes to riding a pig in the open.
The next thing to do is to teach him to go well over rough ground and improve his activity and cleverness.
As has been said earlier in this chapter, most "Walers " are naturally very quick and active over bad going, and they start with an advantage over other breeds in this respect. But given the right quick sort of temperament, most horses will become very clever with practice.
The great thing is to begin slowly and not ask too much at first. Trot your young horse over rough ground where he will always have to look where he is going. Jump every sort of small jump or ditch or nullah that you can find, the more unconventional as regards take-off and landing-place the better; trot up and down steep banks and over drops; take him through thick grass or jhow, or any other sort of covert; and when he goes freely and well at a trot increase the pace first to a slow collected canter and then by degrees to a fast hard gallop.
Leave his head alone as much as possible and he will soon learn to take care of himself. Every horse hates falling just as much as his rider does, and nearly all the falls out pig-sticking are due either to the rider interfering with his horse's mouth too much, or to the horse going at a bit faster pace than that at which he can keep balanced; most horses very soon learn after one or two falls to limit their pace of their own accord to what they know is the fastest at which they can stand up, and no amount of driving with the legs will make a really experienced old pig-sticker exceed this limit.
When your horse is .schooled to your satisfaction and goes well over rough ground, it is a good plan to take him out and canter him quietly about for a few hundred yards at a time after a young bullock, which it is easy enough to cut out from a grazing herd. It gives him the idea of following the pig and turning to his jinks.
Another good exercise is to get two other riders to come out and canter about with you as if you formed a heat riding a pig; but when you begin to do this remember to go very slowly for the first few days and only increase the pace by degrees to a good hard gallop, just as you would begin with slow chukkers for a young polo pony: if you begin at too fast a pace you are apt to make your horse hot and excitable.
When your horse is well schooled, obedient to hand and leg and clever across country, the only essential quality which remains to be proved is his staunchness.
Some horses seem to be naturally staunch, and it is a curious fact that those which are bad- tempered in the stable are very often in this category. But the writer's experience is that practically all honest, generous horses are staunch provided they are really well schooled and are properly ridden up to a pig. Many a good performer is made unstaunch by bad hands. It stands to reason that if a horse is hit in the mouth with a severe bit just when the rider is getting ready to use his spear, he will become pig-shy just as much as he would learn to shy off the ball at polo from similar treatment. The, best way to ensure that a young green horse will be staunch is to put him through the riding-school training already advocated and make him absolutely obedient to hand and leg.
If it can be managed there is nothing that will do him more good than actually playing polo on him, where riding off and meeting other ponies is excellent for his nerve. Polo players who do not pig-stick are inclined to look on pig-sticking much as the Spaniards look on bull-fighting, at least as far as the horse is concerned their attitude is that any old crock is good enough to risk at it, and that no one but a lunatic would pig-stick a valuable polo pony. This idea is so universal outside the pig-sticking world that it adds nothing to a polo pony's value to be able to say that he is also a first-class pig-sticker, in fact rather the reverse But if when you are selling your stud of pig-stickers you are able to advertise them not as pig-stickers at all, but as first-class polo ponies, they will command very big prices, and on this ground, as well as because it improves them greatly as pig-stickers, it is well worth teaching them the game.
Pig-sticking Rules and Etiquette. As stated earlier in this chapter, the secretary of the Tent Club is responsible for all arrangements in the field, and his word is law.
His first duty, after arranging the beats, is to decide on the number and composition of each party of spears or "heats." As a rule a heat is composed of three spears, though it may consist sometimes of four and sometimes only of two, and one spear is detailed in each heat to take charge of it. The secretary gives each heat its instructions and tells them whether they are to move along with the line of beaters or whether they are to stand near some particular point and watch for a boar breaking covert. If the latter, he usually points out zones to each heat in which any pig which appears belongs by rights to them, and leaves the details of taking up their position to the spears themselves.
Every hog-hunter should bear in mind that the wild pig has a very acute sense of smell and of hearing. When placing himself outside a covert he should pay great attention to these characteristics and should carefully study the direction of the wind. The pig's vision is nothing like so good as that of the antelope or deer or even of man, and provided his enemy does not move he will often fail to spot him until he is within a few yards. But if the breeze is blowing from the watcher towards the pig, he will scent danger from a couple of hundred yards away and will at once turn back into covert, and he will do the same if he hears the slightest strange noise.
When a boar goes away the spear who is in charge of the heat gives the signal to ride when he thinks that the right moment has arrived, and the whole heat start together in pursuit. On the other hand, if the heat moves along with the line it will spread out so as to divide up its own part of the line equally among its members; and if a boar gets up the nearest spear at once starts after it and the rest of his heat join in as soon as possible.
In some Tent Clubs there is a regular printed code of rules as to what is fair or unfair in riding a pig, and in others there is nothing in writing. But whether in writing or not, the recognised rules are practically the same everywhere.
No spear may be delivered on the near side (they are generally ineffective and often dangerous to other riders and horses).
No bumping or boring or riding off is allowed, and no one may cross or interfere with the man who is on the line of the pig or cut in in front of him, if by so doing he causes him to check his pace to avoid a collision. What this amounts to in practice is that the man on the line of the pig must be left alone and not interfered with as long as he is close up to the pig.
The first spear to draw blood entitles the rider who delivers it to the boar's tushes; and he is also the man who is fined by the secretary (usually sixteen shillings) if a sow is speared in mistake for a boar or if the boar turns out to be not up to standard in height and weight.
If a boar is speared and lost and given up, but is afterwards picked up afresh and hunted and killed, the first spear goes to the man who gets it in the final hunt.
It is hardly necessary to say that when the first spear has been delivered it is the duty of each member of the heat to do all in his power to assist in killing the boar.
Everyone should make as little noise as possible when moving along with the line or waiting outside covert, and should enforce silence on his syces as well, but when a member of a heat starts after a boar, it is his duty to shout at once and go on shouting as long as he is on the line of the boar, so as to help and guide the rest of his heat: if the boar jinks and another spear takes up the running, it becomes his duty to shout as long as he is on the line, and so on.
Lastly, when a boar is killed, the rider who gets first spear must stay on the spot until the coolies arrive to remove the carcase, or must mark the place clearly with a handkerchief or in some other way. This point is more important than would appear at first sight. If dead pigs are left lying out in a jungle instead of being brought into camp, that particular jungle may fail to hold again for many months.
Riding a Pig and Horsemanship when Pig-sticking. It has been emphasised earlier in this chapter how important it is to leave your horse's head alone when training him to gallop over bad going. To have a strong enough seat and good enough balance to be certain of being able to do this under all conditions of pace and ground, and to be able to use
your legs properly to guide and control your horse, are the essential requirements of horsemanship in pig-sticking.
If you hang on to your horse's mouth you are bound to bring him down sooner or later, and you will have falls enough - unavoidable falls - without adding to their number unnecessarily; besides, even if your horse stands up, he will never gallop freely and well if he is afraid of your hands on the reins.
It is far better to lose contact altogether, throw your reins at him, and trust to your legs to guide him, than to risk interfering with his mouth. If he is well trained and answers to the leg he will follow the pig without much guidance from the reins, though he will have to be steadied and kept in hand when the pig begins to come back to you.
It is wise to use the mildest bit which gives you adequate control. A Ward-Union, a short-cheeked half-moon Pelham, or the Army pattern reversible bit should be enough for any properly trained horse. The unexpected is always happening in a. day's pig-sticking, and however certain your seat and however good your hands you will find yourself occasionally interfering with the reins without meaning to, and the more severe the bit the worse the damage.
When riding with the line keep your eyes skinned for any sign of a pig on the move. If you can be the first of your heat to get on to the boar you will begin the hunt with six to four the best of it, and your horse will go much more freely and kindly through thick grass and jhow if he can see the boar in front and use him as a pilot : it will not be nearly so easy or pleasant for the other members of your heat who have to push along through the same sort of covert on your right and left with nothing to lead them: and you will enjoy your hunt twice as much if you are cutting out the work.
When you have picked up a boar and are fairly on his line, you must press him hard. If he is a good-galloping 29-inch boar you will find this no easy task, even on a good horse, as long as he is fresh and has got his wind. You will hardly ever be able to keep him in sight the whole time. You may only be able to catch an occasional glimpse of him when he is crossing a nullah, or some open space twenty or thirty yards ahead, or perhaps you will have to depend on seeing the grass moving or the dust kicked up by his feet. You must think quickly and act on the smallest sign.
When he begins to come back to you, you must steady up and collect your horse so as not to override him, and be ready for the jink which is almost certain to come. If you lose sight of him after a jink your best chance of picking him up again is to cast well forward in the direction in which he was originally going. A boar may squat for a moment after a jink if he is in a thick patchy but nineteen times out of twenty he will move on again almost at once.
After two or three jinks the pig will get much slower as he gets more tired and blown, and you can begin to think of spearing him. Keep your horse collected and get slightly on his left rear, and then you are ready for him if he turns into you while if he declines to come in, you are well placed to increase your pace and go into him sideways.
The great thing is always to press him as much as the ground allows: the lighter the jungle and the smoother the going the more you can press him without fear of losing him: but whatever the ground is like, if he will not come into you, you must go into him.
In spearing a pig never thrust at him: keep your spear up till the last possible moment and then just drop the point, hold it steady, and let the force of the collision do the rest. If your spear is sharp it will go in like a hot knife into butter, unless you hit the shoulder-blade or some other thick bone, and even if this happens you will knock the pig over. But if you thrust at him, as you are very apt to do in your excitement, you will miss him clean nine times out of ten.
Always go as fast as you can when spearing or meeting a charge: if you are going fast it is long odds against the pig being able to get in and cut your horse even if you miss him with your spear: while if you go slow or stand still to receive a charge you will find it difficult to get, your spear well into him, however sharp it is.
Never spear a pig which is crossing your bows from the off side, unless you can turn and swing with him : if you do you are very likely to be brought down, and the spear may be forced out of your hand, and will then swing round and perhaps go into your horse on the near side. Most of the worst accidents to man and horse from spears have happened in this way.
Always manoeuvre your horse so as to avoid an end-on charge or one from your left front. You will find it very difficult to meet the former unless you can lean out and spear the pig behind the forehead, and you are practically powerless to meet the latter. But if he comes in at you from the right front you have a good chance of getting him in the neck - a very deadly spear - or down through the withers or behind the shoulder.
Your great ambition should be to kill your pig with one spear. The further forward the wound the more deadly it is, so when you spear a pig which is moving in the same direction as yourself or which is coming into you from a flank, aim at hitting him well forward behind his shoulder. As well as being less deadly, the impact of a spear delivered far behind his middle will turn his head round towards you and he may get in and cut your horse.
Spears, Kit, and Saddlery. A few words on the subject of articles of kit and gear may be useful in winding up this chapter.
For the man himself the most important things are his spear and helmet. These two articles are not things on which to economise.
You will have plenty of falls, often on your head, and a few extra rupees spent on a real good sound "Cawnpore topi," with strong, firmly attached anti-crash bands inside, and a good chin-strap outside, may easily save you from bad concussion or worse.
Your spear should be carefully selected, with a good head and a good strong male bamboo shaft. The head should be firmly put on, the end of the shaft being tapered off to fit into it. On no account should the head be "counter-sunk" on to the shaft to avoid having the steel projecting above the surface of the wood : this projecting ridge can be smoothed down by having twine bound round for an inch or two below the head. Above all have your spears as sharp as razors and their points like needles. Messrs. Bodraj, Aurungabad, Deccan, are famous for their hog-spears, and the writer strongly recommends them. Spare shafts are generally obtainable locally or through the Tent Club.
There is nothing special to say about saddlery, except that it is difficult in India to get saddles satisfactorily restuffed and lined, and for this reason it pays to use a leather numnah which wears well and does not much increase the thickness between the rider and his horse's back; by protecting the saddle from sweat it makes the lining and stuffing wear much longer.
Opinions differ as to the advantage of putting boots on horses' legs. They certainly protect them from thorns and from being knocked by jhow bushes: but they need very careful adjusting and even then when wet and muddy are apt to chafe the skin and make it sore.
Lastly, it is wise to provide yourself with a small, easily portable medicine-box containing some antiseptic, bandages, cotton-wool, scissors, etc. You never know when they may be wanted for your horse or yourself and prompt attention will save many days, perhaps weeks, in healing an injury.