(.700 member)
08/08/22 06:57 PM
Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett


np HESE jungle stories by Jim Corbett merit as much popularity
JL and as wide a circulation as Rudyard Kipling's Jungle
Books. Kipling's Jungle Books were fiction, based on great
knowledge of jungle life; Corbett's stories are fact, and fact is
often stranger than fiction. These stories should prove of
entrancing interest to all boys and girls who like exciting yarns;
they should be of equal interest to all who take any interest in
the wild life of the jungle; they should prove of great value to
any genuine sportsman who wishes to earn by his own efforts
the credit of shooting a tiger; they will be of interest even to the
so-called sportsman who feels some pride in killing a tiger when
all that he has done is to fire straight from a safe position on a
machan or on the back of a staunch elephant, when all the hard
work involved in beating up a tiger to his death has been done
by others.

Corbett's description of his campaign against the man-eaters
of the Kumaon Hills shows the qualities that a successful shikari
needs, physical strength, infinite patience, great power of
observation and power not only to notice small signs but also to
draw the right inference from those signs. To these must be
added great courage. I will not make quotations from the book
to prove this statement. Read the book for 1 yourself; you will
soon see the truth of it; these qualities were exhibited by Corbett
himself, by his friends who helped him in some of these cam-
paigns, by the villagers whom he went to protect, and by his
big-hearted and faithful companion Robin.

Jim Corbett's name is already a household word in Kumaon;
I hope that as a result of this bodk it will get still wider fame.



HP HESE stories are the true account of Major Corbett' s
JL experiences with man-eating tigers in the jungles -'of the
United Provinces. I am most glad to commend them to all
who enjoy a tale well told of action and adventure.

The sportsman will find much to entertain and inform him
in Major Corbett's book. If every beginner would study it before
tackling his first tiger, fewer persons would be killed or seriously
injured when hunting these creatures. For something more is
required than courage and good marksmanship for the success-
ful pursuit of dangerous game. Forethought, preparation, and
persistence are indispensable to success.

Over wide areas of the United Provinces the authors name
is familiar to the village folk as that of the man who has brought
them relief from the great fear inspired by a cruel and malignant
presence in their midst. Many a District Officer, faced with the
utter disorganization of rural life that attends the presence of a
man-eating tiger or panther, has turned to Jim Corbett for help
never, I believe, in vain. Indeed the destruction of these
abnormal and dangerous animals is a service of great value both
to the afflicted population and to Government.

The reader will find in these stories many proofs of the
author's love of nature. Having spent in. Major Corbett's
company some part of such holidays as I have contrived to
take during my time in India, I can with confidence write of him
that no man with whom I have hunted in any continent better
understands the signs of the jungle. Very often he has told me
of the intense happiness he has derived from his observations of
wild life. I make no doubt that it is in large part the recollection
of all that his own eyes have brought him that moves him now
to dedicate this first edition of his book to the aid of soldiers
blinded in war, and to arrange that all profits from its sale shall
be devoted to the funds of St Dunstan's, the famous institution

viii Man-eaters of Kumaon

in which men who have given their sight for their country and
for the great cause of human freedom may learn, despite their
affliction, to lead useful and happy lives; and whose beneficent
ministrations are extended now to the armed forces in India.

Viceroy's House LINLITHGOW

New Delhi











THE THAK MAN-EATER - - - - 168



Photographs by the author unless otherwise stated
THE AUTHOR - - - - Frontispiece


MOUNTAIN AND VALE ' - - Facing page 32








SKETCH MAP OF KUMAON - - End-paper (back)


As many of the stories in this book are about man-eating
tigers, it is perhaps desirable to explain why these animals
develop man-eating tendencies.

A man-eating tiger is a tiger that has been compelled, through
stress of circumstances beyond its control, to adopt a diet alien
to it. The stress of circumstances is, in nine cases out of ten,
wounds, and in the tenth case old age. The wound that has
caused a particular tiger to take to man-eating might be the
result of a carelessly fired shot and failure to follow up and
recover the wounded animal, or be the result of the tiger having
lost his temper when killing a porcupine. Human beings are
not the natural prey of tigers, and it is only when tigers have
been incapacitated through wounds or old age that, in order to
five, they are compelled to take to a diet of human flesh.

A tiger when killing its natural prey, which it does either
by stalking or lying in wait for it, depends for the success of its
attack on its speed and, to a lesser extent, on the condition of its
teeth and claws. When, therefore, a tiger is suffering from one
or more painful wounds, or when its teeth are missing or defec-
tive and its claw worn down, and it is unable to catch the ani-
mals it has been accustomed to eating, it is driven by necessity to
killing human beings. The change-over from animal to human
flesh is, I believe, in most cases accidental. As an illustration
of what I mean by ' accidental ' I quote the case of the Muktesar
man-eating tigress. This tigress, a comparatively young animal,
in an encounter with a porcupine lost an eye and got some fifty
quills, varying in length from one to nine inches, embedded in
the arm and under the pad of her right foreleg. Several of these
quills after striking a bone had doubled back in the form of a
U, the point, and the broken-off end, being quite close together.
Suppurating sores formed where she endeavoured to extract the
quills with her teeth, and while she was lying up in a thick patch

Author's^fote xi

of grass, starving and licking Her wounds, a woman selected this
particular patch of grass to cut as fodder for her cattle. At first
the tigress took no notice, but when the woman had cut the grass
right up to where she was lying the tigress struck once, the blow
crushing in the woman's skull. Death was instantaneous, for,
when found the following day, she was grasping her sickle with
one hand and holding a tuft of grass, which she was about to
cut when struck, with the other. Leaving the woman lying
where she had fallen, the tigress limped off for a distance of over
a mile and took refuge in a little hollow under a fallen tree.
Two days later a man came to chip firewood off this fallen tree,
and the tigress who was lying on the far side killed him. The
man fell across the tree, and as he had removed his coat and
shirt and the tigress had clawed his back when killing him,
it is possible that the smell of the blood trickling down his
body as he hung across the bole of the tree first gave her the
idea that he was something that she could satisfy her hunger
with. However that may be, before leaving him she ate a
small portion from his back. A clay after she killed her third
victim deliberately, and without having received any pro-
vocation. Thereafter she became an established man-eater
and had killed twenty-four people before slie was finally
accounted for.

A tiger on a fresh kill, or a wounded tiger, or a tigress with
small cubs, will occasionally kill human beings who disturb
them; but these tigers cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be
called man-eaters, though they are often so called. Personally I
would give a tiger the benefit of the doubt once, and once again,
before classing it as a man-eater, and whenever possible I would
subject the alleged victim to a post-mortem before letting the kill
go down on the records as the kill of a tiger or a leopard, as the
case might be. This subject of post-mortems of human beings
alleged to have been killed by either tigers or leopards or, in the
plains, by wolves or hyenas, is of great imporfance, for, though

xii Man-eaters of Kumaon

I rfefrain from giving instances, I know of cases where deaths
have wrongly been ascribed to carnivora.

It is a popular fallacy that all man-eaters are old and mangy,
the mange being attributed to the excess of salt in human flesh.
I am not competent to give any opinion on the relative quantity
of salt in human or animal flesh; but I can, and I do, assert that
a diet of human flesh, so far from having an injurious effect on
the coat of man-eaters, has quite the opposite effect, for all the
man-eaters I have seen have had remarkably fine coats.

Another popular belief in connexion with man-eaters is that
the cubs of these animals automatically become man-eaters.
This is quite a reasonable supposition; but it is not borne out
by actual facts, and the reason why the cubs of a man-eater do
not themselves become man-eaters, is that human beings are
not the natural prey of tigers, or of leopards.

A cub will eat whatever its mother provides, and I have even
known of tiger cubs assisting their mothers to kill human beings:
but I do not know of a single instance of a cub, after it had left
the protection of its parent, or after that parent had been killed,
taking to killing human beings.

In the case of human beings killed by carnivora, the doubt is
often expressed' as to whether the animal responsible for the kill
is a tiger or leopard. As a general rule to which I have seen
no exceptions tigers are responsible for all kills that take place
in daylight, and leopards are responsible for all kills that take
place in the dark. Both animals are semi-nocturnal forest-
dwellers, have much the same habits, employ similar methods of
killing, and both are capable of carrying their human victims for
long distances. It would be natural, therefore, to expect them to
hunt at the same hours; and that they do not do so is due to the
difference in courage of the two animals. When a tiger becomes
a man-eater it loses all fear of human beings and, as human
beings move about more freely in the day than they do at night,
it is able to secure its victims during daylight hours and there

Author's Note xiii

is no necessity for it to visit their habitations at night. A leopard
on the other hand, even after it has killed scores of human be-
ings, never loses its fear of man; and, as it is unwilling to face up
to human beings in daylight, it secures its victims when they are
moving about at night, or by breaking into their houses at night.
Owing to these characteristics of the two animals, namely, that
one loses its fear of human beings and kills in the daylight,
while the other retains its fear and kills in the dark, man-eating
tigers are easier to shoot than man-eating leopards.

The frequency with which a man-eating tiger kills depends on
(a) the supply of natural food in the area in which it is operating;
(6) the nature of the disability which has caused it to become
a man-eater, and (c) whether it is a male or a female with cubs.

Those of us who lack the opportunity of forming our own
opinion on any particular subject are apt to accept the opinions
of others, and in no case is this more apparent than in the case
of tigers here I do not refer to man-eaters in particular, but to
tigers in general. The author who first used the words ' as cruel
as a tiger' and 'as bloodthirsty as a tiger', when attempting
to emphasize the evil character of the villain of his piece, not
only showed a lamentable ignorance of the animal he defamed,
but coined phrases which have come into universal circulation,
and which are mainly responsible for the wrong opinion of tigers
held by all except that very small proportion of the public who
have the opportunity of forming their own opinions.

When I sec the expression ' as cruel as a tiger ' and ' as blood-
thirsty as a tiger ' in print, I think of a small boy armed with an
old muzzle-loading gun the right barrel of which was split for
six inches of its length, and the stock and barrels of which were
kept from falling apart by lashings of brass wire wandering
through the jungles of the terai and bhabar in the days when
there were ten tigers to every one that now survives; sleeping
anywhere he happened to be when night came on, with a small
fire to give him company and warmth, wakened at intervals by

xiv Man-eaters of Kumaon

the calling of tigers, sometimes in the distance, at other times
near at hand; throwing another stick on the fire and turning over
and continuing his interrupted sleep without one thought of un-
ease; knowing from his own short experience and from what
others, who like himself had spent their days in the jungles, had
told him, that a tiger, unless molested, would do him no harm;
or during daylight hours avoiding any tiger he saw, and when
that was not possible, standing perfectly still until it had passed
and gone, before continuing on his way. And I think of him on
one occasion stalking half-a-dozen jungle fowl that were feeding
in the open, and on creeping up to a plum bush and standing up
to peer over, the bush heaving and a tiger walking out on the far
side and, on clearing the bush, turning round and looking at the
boy with an expression on its face which said as clearly as any
words, 'Hello, kid, what the hell are you doing here?' and, re-
ceiving no answer, turning round and waiting away very slowly
without once looking back.. And then again I think of the tens
of thousands of men, women and children who, while working
in the forests or cutting grass or collecting dry sticks, pass day
after day close to where tigers are lying up and who, when they
return safely to their homes, do not even know that they have
been under the observation of this so called ' cruel ' and ' blood-
thirsty' animal.

Half a century has rolled by since the day the tiger walked
out of the plum bush, the latter thirty-two years of which have
been spent in the more or less regular pursuit of man-eaters, and
though sights have been seen which would have causfiiLa. stone
^ I have not seen a case where a tiger has been deli-

berately cruel or where it has been bloodthirsty to the extent
that it has killed, without provocation, more than it has needed
to satisfy its hunger or the hunger of its cubs.

A tiger's function in the scheme of things is to help maintain
the balance in nature and if, OJQ. rare occasions when driven by
dire necessity, he kills a human being or ^ehen his natural food

Author's Note xv

has been ruthlessly exterminated by man he kills two per cent
of the cattle he is alleged to have killed, it is not fair that for
these acts a whole species should be branded as being cruel and

Sportsmen are admittedly conservative, the reason being that it
has taken them years to form their opinions, and as each indivi-
dual has a different point of view, it is only natural that opinions
should differ on minor, or even in some cases on major, points,
and for this reason I do not flatter myself that all the opinions
I have expressed will meet with universal agreement.

There is, however, one point on which I am convinced that
all sportsmen no matter whether their viewpoint has been a
platform on a tree, the back of an elephant or their own feet
will agree with me, and that is, that a tiger is a large-hearted
gentleman with boundless courage and that when he is exter-
minated as exterminated he will be unless public opinion rallies
to his support India will be the poorer by having lost the
finest of her fauna.

Leopards, unlike tigers, are to a certain extent scavengers and
become man-eaters by acquiring a taste for human flesh when
unrestricted slaughter of game has deprived them of their
natural food.

The dwellers in our hills are predominantly Hindu, and as
such cremate their dead. The cremation invariably takes place
on the bank of a stream or river in order that the ashes may be
washed down into the Ganges and eventually into the sea* As
most of the villages are situated high up on the hills, while the
streams or rivers are in many cases miles away down in the
valleys, it will be realized that a funeral entails a considerable
tax on the man-power of a small community when, in addition
to the carrying party, labour has to be provided to collect and
carry the fuel needed for the cremation. In normal times these

xvi Man-eaters of Kumaon

rites are carried out very effectively; but when disease in
epidemic form sweeps through the hills and the inhabitants die
faster than they can be disposed of, a very simple rite, which
consists of placing a live coal in the mouth of the deceased, is
performed in the village and the body is then carried to the
edge of the hill and cast into the valley below.

A leopard, in an area in which his natural food is scarce,
finding these bodies very soon acquires a taste for human flesh,
and when the disease dies down and normal conditions are
established, he very naturally, on finding his food supply cut
off, takes to killing human beings.

Of the two man-eating leopards of Kumaon, which between
them killed five hundred and twenty-five human beings, one
followed on the heels of a very severe outbreak of cholera,
while the other followed the mysterious disease which swept
through India in 1918 and was called 'war fever'.

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