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Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett
      #368183 - 08/08/22 06:52 PM

Man-Eaters of Kumaon
by Jim Corbett

Publisher: Oxford University Press 1944
ISBN/ASIN: 0195622553
Number of pages: 253

Jim Corbett was every inch a hero, something like a "sahib" Davy Crockett: expert in the ways of the jungle, fearless in the pursuit of man-eating big cats, and above all a crack shot. Brought up on a hill-station in north-west India, he killed his first leopard before he was nine and went on to achieve a legendary reputation as a hunter. Corbett was also an author of great renown. His books on the man-eating tigers he once tracked are not only established classics, but have by themselves created almost a separate literary genre. Man Eaters of Kumaon is the best known of Corbett's books, one which offers ten fascinating and spine-tingling tales of pursuing and shooting tigers in the Indian Himalayas during the early years of this century. The stories also offer first-hand information about the exotic flora, fauna, and village life in this obscure and treacherous region of India, making it as interesting a travelogue as it is a compelling look at a bygone era of big-game hunting.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
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With an Introduction by


and a Prefatp by



Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.C.j




Jim Corbett 1944

First published 1944


Reprinted 1949, 1952,



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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368185 - 08/08/22 06:57 PM


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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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368186 - 08/08/22 07:00 PM


I WAS shooting with Eddie Knowles in Malani when I first
heard of the tiger which later received official recognition
as the ' Champawat man-eater ' .

Eddie, who will long be remembered in this province as a
sportsman par excellence and the possessor of an inexhaustible
fund of shikar yarns, was one of those few, and very fortunate,
individuals who possess the best of everything in life. His
rifle was without equal in accuracy and striking power, and while
one of his brothers was the best gun shot in India, another
brother was the best tennis player in the Indian Army. When
therefore Eddie informed me that his brother-in-law, the best
shikari in the world, had been deputed by Government to shoot
the Champawat man-eater, it was safe to assume that a very
definite period had been put to the animal's activities.

The tiger, however, for some inexplicable reason, did not
die, and was causing Government a great deal of anxiety when
I visited Naini Tal four years later. Rewards were offered,
special shikaris employed, and parties of Gurkhas sent out from
the depot in Almora. Yet in spite of these measures, the toll
of human victims continued to mount alarmingly.

The tigress, for such the animal turned out to be, had arrived
in Kumaon as a full-fledged man-eater, from Nepal, from
whence she had been driven out by a body of armed Nepalese
after she had killed two hundred human beings, and during the
four years she had been operating in Kumaon had added two
hundred and thirty-four to this number.

This is how matters stood, when shortly after my arrival
in Naini Tal I received a visit from Berthoud. Berthoud, who
was Deputy Commissioner of Naini Tal at that time, and who
after his tragic death now lies buried in an obscure grave in
Haldwani, was a man who was loved and respected by all who

2 Man-eaters of Kumaon

knew him, and it is not surprising therefore that when he told
me of the trouble the man-eater was giving the people of his
district, and the anxiety it was causing him, he took my promise
with him that I would start for Champawat immediately on
receipt of news of the next human kill.

Two conditions I made, however: one that the Government
rewards be cancelled, and the other, that the special shikaris,
and regulars from Almora, be withdrawn. My reasons for
making these conditions need no explanation for I am sure
all sportsmen share my aversion to being classed as a reward-
hunter and are as anxious as I am to avoid the risk of being
accidentally shot. These conditions were agreed to, and a week
later Berthoud paid me an early morning visit and informed
me that news had been brought in during the night by runners
that a woman had been killed by the man-eater at Pali, a village
between Dabidhura and Dhunaghat.

In anticipation of a start at short notice, I had engaged six
men to carry my camp kit, and leaving after breakfast, we did
a march the first day of seventeen miles to Dhari. Breakfasting
at Mornaula next morning, we spent the night at Dabidhura,
and arrived at Pali the following evening, five days after the
woman had been killed.

The people of the village, numbering some fifty men, women
and children, weire in a state of abject terror, and though the
sun was still up when I arrived I found the entire population
inside their homes behind locked doors, and it was not until
my men had made a fire in the courtyard and I was sitting
down to a cup of tea that a door here and there was cautiously
opened, and the frightened inmates emerged.

I was informed that for five days no one had gone beyond
their own doorsteps the insanitary condition of the courtyard
testified to the truth of this Statement that food was running
short, and that the people would starve if the tiger was not
killed or driven away.

The Champawat Man-eater J

That the tiger was still in the vicinity was apparent. For
three nights it had been heard calling on the road, distant a
hundred yards from the houses, and that veiy day it had been
seen on the cultivated land at the lower end of the village.

The Headman of the village very willingly placed a room
at my disposal, but as there were eight of us to share it, and
the only door it possessed opened on to the insanitary court-
yard, I elected to spend the night in the open.

After a scratch meal which had to do duty for dinner, I saw
my men safely shut into the room and myself took up a position
on the side of the road, with my back to a tree. The villagers
said the tiger was in the habit of perambulating along this
road, and as the moon was at the full I thought there was a
chance of my getting a shot provided I saw it first.

I had spent many nights in the jungle looking for game, but
this was the first time I had ever spent a night looking for a
man-eater. The length of road immediately in front of me
was brilliantly lit by the moon, but to right and left the over-
hanging trees cast dark shadows, and when the night wind agi-
tated the branches and the shadows moved, I saw a dozen tigers
advancing on me, and bitterly regretted the impulse that had
induced me to place myself at the man-eater's mercy. I lacked
the courage to return to the village and admit I was too fright-
ened to carry out my self-imposed task, and with teeth chatter-
ing, as much from fear as from cold, I sat out the long night.
As the grey dawn was lighting up the snowy range which I
was facing, I rested my head on my drawn-up knees, and it
was in this position my men an hour later found me fast
asleep; of the tiger I had neither heard nor seen anything.

Back in the village I tried to get the men who I could see
were very surprised I had survived the night to take me to
the places where the people of the village had from time to time
been killed, but this they were unwilling to do. From the
courtyard they pointed out the direction in which the kills had

4 Man-eaters of Kurnaon

taken place; the last kill the one that had brought me to the
spot I was told, had taken place round the shoulder of the
hill to the west of the village. The women and girls, some
twenty in number, who had been out collecting oak leaves for
the cattle when the unfortunate woman had been killed, were
eager to give me details of the occurrence. It appeared that
the party had set out two hours before midday and, after going
half a mile, had climbed into trees to cut leaves. The victim
and two other women had selected a tree growing on the edge
of a ravine, which I subsequently found was about four feet
deep and ten to twelve feet wide. Having cut all the leaves
she needed, the woman was climbing down from the tree when
the tiger, who had approached unseen, stood up on its hind
legs and caught her by the foot. Her hold was torn from the
branch she was letting herself down by, and, pulling her into
the ravine, the tiger released her foot, and while she was
struggling to rise caught her by the throat. After killing her
it sprang up the side of the ravine and disappeared with her
into some heavy undergrowth.

All this had taken place a few feet from the two women on
the tree, and had been witnessed by the entire party. As soon
as the tiger and its victim were out of sight, the terror-stricken
women and girls ran back to the village. The men had just
come in for their midday meal and, when all were assembled
and armed with drums, metal cooking-pots anything in fact
that would produce a noise the rescue party set off, the men
leading and the women bringing up the rear.

Arrived at the ravine in which the woman had been killed,
the very important question of ' what next? * was being debated
when the tiger interrupted the proceedings by emitting a loud
roar from the bushes thirty yards away. As one man the party
turned and fled helter-skelter back to the village. When breath
had been regained, accusations were made against one and
another of having been the first to run and cause the stampede.

The Chartipawat Man-eater $

Words ran high until it was suggested that if no one was
afraid and all were as brave as they claimed to be, why not go
back and rescue the woman without loss of more time? The
suggestion was adopted, and three times the party got as far
as the ravine. On the third occasion the one man who was
armed with a gun fired it off, and brought the tiger roaring
out of the bushes; after this the attempted rescue was very wisely
abandoned. On my asking the gun man why he had not dis-
charged his piece into the bushes instead of up into the air,
he said the tiger was already greatly enraged and that if by any
mischance he had hit it, it would undoubtedly have killed him.

For three hours that morning I walked round the village
looking for tracks and hoping, and at the same time dreading,
to meet the tiger. At one place in a dark heavily-wooded
ravine, while I was skirting some bushes, a covey of kaleege
pheasants fluttered screaming out of them, and I thought my
heart had stopped beating for good.

My men had cleared a spot under a walnut tree for my
meals, and after breakfast the Headman of the village asked
me to mount guard while the wheat crop was being cut. He
said that if the crop was not harvested in my presence, it would
not be harvested at all, for the people were too frightened to
leave their homes. Half an hour later the entire population of
the village, assisted by my men, were hard at work while I
stood on guard with a loaded rifle. By evening the crop from
five large fields had been gathered, leaving only two small
patches close to the houses, which the Headman said he would
have no difficulty in dealing with the next day.

The sanitary condition of the village had been much im-
proved, and a second room for my exclusive use placed at my
disposal; and that night, with thorn bushes securely wedged
in the doorway to admit ventilation and exclude the man-eater,
I made up for the sleep I had lost the previous night.

My presence was beginning to put new heart into the people

Man-eaters of Kumaon

and they were moving about more freely, but I had not yet
gained sufficient of their confidence to renew my request of
being shown round the jungle, to which I attached some im-
portance. These people knew every foot of the ground for
miles round, and could, if they wished, show me where I was
most likely to find the tiger, or in any case, where I could see
its pug marks. That the man-eater was a tiger was an estab-
lished fact, but it was not known whether the animal was
young or old, a male or a female, and this information, which
I believed would help me to get in touch with it, I could only
ascertain by examining its pug marks.

After an early tea that morning I announced that I wanted
meat for my men and asked the villagers if they could direct
me to where I could shoot a ghooral (mountain goat). The
village was situated on the top of a long ridge running east and
west, and just below the road on which I had spent the night
the hill fell steeply away to the north in a series of grassy slopes;
on these slopes I was told ghooral were plentiful, and several
men volunteered to show me over the ground. I was careful
not to show my pleasure at this offer and, selecting three men,
I set out, telling the Headman that if I found the ghooral as
plentiful as he said they were, I would shoot two for the village
in addition to shooting one for my men.

Crossing the road we went down a very steep ridge, keeping
a sharp lookout to right and left, but saw nothing. Half a mile
down the hill the ravines converged, and from their junction
there was a good view of the rocky, and grass-covered, slope to
the right. I had been sitting for some minutes, scanning the
slope, with my back to a solitary pine which grew at this spot,
when a movement high up on the hill caught my eye. When
the movement was repeated I saw it was a ghooral flapping its
ears; the animal was standing in grass and only its head was
visible. The men had not seen the movement, and as the head
was now stationary and blended in with its surroundings it

The Champawat Man-eater

was not possible to point it out to them. Giving them a general
idea of the animal's position I made them sit down and watch
while I took a shot. I was armed with an old Martini Henry
rifle, a weapon that atoned for its vicious kick by being dead
accurate up to any range. The distance was as near 200 yards
as made no matter and, lying down and resting the rifle on a
convenient pine root, I took careful aim, and fired.

The smoke from the black powder cartridge obscured my
view and the men said nothing had happened and that I had
probably fired at a rock, or a bunch of dead leaves. Retaining
my position I reloaded the rifle and presently saw the grass, a
little below where I had fired, moving, and the hind quarters
of the ghooral appeared. When the whole animal was free of
the grass it started to roll over and over, gaming momentum as
it came down the steep hill. When' it was half-way down it
disappeared into heavy grass, and disturbed two ghooral that
had been lying up there. Sneezing their alarm call, the two
animals dashed out of the grass and went bounding up the
hill. The range was shorter now, and, adjusting the leaf sight,
I waited until the bigger of the two slowed down and put a
bullet through its back, and as the other one turned, and made
off diagonally across the hill, I shot it through the shoulder.

On occasions one is privileged to accomplish the seemingly
impossible. Lying in an uncomfortable position and shooting
up at an angle of sixty degrees at a range of 200 yards at the
small white mark on the ghooral's throat, there did not appear
to be one chance in a million of the shot coming off, and yet
the heavy lead bullet driven by black powder had not been
deflected by a hair's breadth and had gone true to its mark,
killing the animal instantaneously. Again, on the steep hillside
which was broken up by small ravines and jutting rocks, the
dead animal had slipped and rolled straight to the spot where
its two companions were lying up; and before it had cleared
the patch of grass the two companions in their turn were slipping

Man-eaters of Kumadn

rolling down the hill. As the three dead animals landed
in the ravine in front of us it was amusing to observe the
surprise and delight of the men who never before had seen a
rifle in action. All thought of the man-eater was for the time
being forgotten as they scrambled down into the ravine to
retrieve the bag.

The expedition was a great success in more ways than one;
for in addition to providing a ration of meat for everyone, it
gained me the confidence of the entire village. Shikar yarns,
as everyone knows, never lose anything in repetition, and while
the ghooral were being skinned and divided up the three men
who had accompanied me gave full rein to *heir imagination,
and from where I sat in the open, having breakfast, I could hear
the exclamations of the assembled crowd when they were told
that the ghooral had been shot at a range of over a mile, and
that the magic bullets used had not only killed the animals
like that but had also drawn them to the sahib's feet.

After the midday meal the Headman asked me where I
wanted to go, and how many men I wished to take with me.
From the eager throng of men who pressed round I selected
two of my late companions, and with them to guide me set off
to visit the scene of the last human tragedy.

The people of our hills are Hindus and cremate their dead,
and when one of their number has been carried off by a man-
eater it is incumbent on the relatives to recover some portion of
the body for cremation even if it be only a few splinters of
bone. In the case of this woman the cremation ceremony was
yet to be performed, and as we started out, the relatives re-
quested us to bring back any portion of the body we might find.

From early boyhood I have made a hobby of reading, and
interpreting, jungle signs. In the present case I had the account
of the eye-witnesses who were present when the woman was
killed, but eye-witnesses are not always reliable, whereas jungle
signs are a true record of all that has transpired. On arrival

The Champawat Man-eater

at the spot a glance at the ground showed me that the
could only have approached the tree one way, without
seen, and that was up the ravine. Entering the ravine a hundred
yards below the tree, and working up, I found the pug marks
of a tiger in some fine earth that had sifted down between two
big rocks; these pug marks showed the animal to be a tigress,
a little past her prime. Further up the ravine, and some ten
yards from the tree, the tigress had lain down behind a rock,
presumably to wait for the woman to climb down from the tree.
The victim had been the first to cut all the leaves she needed,
and as she was letting herself down by a branch some two
inches in diameter the tigress had crept forward and, standing
up on her hind legs, had caught the woman by the foot and
pulled her down into the ravine. The branch showed the des-
peration with which the unfortunate woman had clung to it,
for adhering to the rough oak bark where the branch, and
eventually the leaves, had slipped through her grasp were
strands of skin which had been torn from the palms of her hands
and fingers. Where the tigress had killed the woman there were
signs of a struggle and a big patch of dried blood; from here
the blood trail, now dry but distinctly visible, led across the
ravine and up the opposite bank. Following the blood trail
from where it left the ravine we found the place in the bushes
where the tigress had eaten her kill.

It is a popular belief that man-eaters do not eat the head,
hands, and feet of the human victims. This is incorrect. Man-
eaters, if not disturbed, eat everything including the blood-
soaked clothes, as I found on one occasion; however, that is
another story, and will be told some other time.

On the present occasion we found the woman's clothes, and a
few pieces of bone which we wrapped up in the clean cloth we
had brought for the purpose . Pitifully little as these remains were,
they would suffice for the cremation ceremony which would en-
sure the ashes of the high caste woman reaching Mother Ganges.

Man-eaters of Kumaon

tea I visited the scene of yet another tragedy. Separated
ftoirn th6 main village by the public road was a small holding
of a few acres. The owner of this holding had built himself
a hut on the hillside just above the road. The man's wife, and
the mother of his two children, a boy and a girl aged four and
six respectively, was the younger of two sisters. These two
sisters were out cutting grass one day on the hill above the
hut when the tigress suddenly appeared and carried off the elder
sister. For a hundred yards the younger woman ran after the
tigress brandishing her sickle and screaming at the tigress to
let her sister go, and take her instead. This incredible act of
heroism was witnessed by the people in the main village. After
carrying the dead woman for a hundred yards the tigress put
her down and turned on her pursuer. With a loud roar it
sprang at the brave woman who, turning, raced down the
hillside, across the road, and into the village, evidently with
the intention of telling the people what they, unknown to her,
had already witnessed. The woman's incoherent noises were
at the time attributed to loss of breath, fear, and excitement,
and it was not until the rescue party that had set out with all
speed had returned, unsuccessful, that it was found the woman
had lost her power of speech. I was told this tale in the village,
and when I climbed the path to the two-roomed hut where
the woman was engaged in washing clothes, she had then been
dumb a twelvemonth.

Except for a strained look in her eyes the dumb woman
appeared to be quite normal and, when I stopped to speak to
her and tell her I had come to try and shoot the tiger that had
killed her sister, she put her hands together and stooping down
touched my feet, making me feel a wretched impostor. True,
I had come with the avowed object of shooting the man-eater,
but with an animal that had the reputation of never killing
twice in the same locality, never returning to a kill, and whose
domain extended over an area of many hundred square miles,

The Champawat Man-eater II

the chance of my accomplishing my object was about as good
as finding a needle in two haystacks.

Plans in plenty I had made way back in Naini Tal; one I
had already tried and wild horses would not induce me to try
it again, and the others now that I was on the ground were
just as unattractive. Further there was no one I could ask
for advice, for this was the first man-eater that had ever been
known in Kumaon; and yet something would have to be done.
So for the next three days I wandered through the jungles
from sunrise to sunset, visiting all the places for miles round
where the villagers told me there was a chance of my seeing
the tigress.

I would like to interrupt my tale here for a few minutes
to refute a rumour current throughout the hills that on this,
and on several subsequent occasions, 'I assumed the dress of a
hill woman and, going into the jungle, attracted the man-eaters
to myself and killed them with either a sickle or an axe. 11"
I have ever done in the matter of alteration of dress has been.
to borrow a sari and with it draped round me cut grass, '<&
climbed into trees and cut leaves, and in no case has the rusif
proved successful; though on two occasions to my knowledge
man-eaters have stalked the tree I was on, taking cover, on
one occasion behind a rock and on the other behind a fallen
tree, and giving me no opportunity of shooting them.

To continue. As the tigress now appeared to have left this
locality I decided, much to the regret of the people of Pali, to
move to Champawat fifteen miles due east of Pali. Making an
early start, I breakfasted at Dhunaghat, and completed the
journey to Champawat by sunset. The roads in this area were
considered very unsafe, and men only moved from village to vil-
lage or to the bazaars in large parties. After leaving Dhuna-
ghat, my party of eight was added to by men from villages
adjoining the road, and we arrived at Champawat thirty strong.
Some of the men who joined me had been in a party of twenty

12 Man-eaters of Kumaon

men who had visited Champawat two months earlier, and they
told me the following very pitiful story.

'The road for a few miles on this side of Champawat runs
along the south face of the hill, parallel to, and about fifty
yards above the valley. Two months ago a party of twenty
of us men were on our way to the bazaar at Champawat, and
as we were going along this length of the road at about midday,
we were startled by hearing the agonized cries of a human being
coming from the valley below. Huddled together on the edge
of the road we cowered in fright as these cries drew nearer and
nearer, and presently into view came a tiger, carrying a naked
woman. The woman's hair was trailing on the ground on one
side of the tiger, and her feet on the other the tiger was hold-
ing her by the small of the back and she was beating her chest
and calling alternately on God and man to help her. Fifty
yards from, and in clear view of us, the tiger passed with its
burden, and when the cries had died away in the distance we
continued on our way.'

' And you twenty men did nothing? '

'No, sahib, we did nothing for we were afraid, and what
can men do when they are afraid? And further, even if we
had been able to rescue the woman without angering the tiger
and bringing misfortune on ourselves, it would have availed
the woman nothing, for she was covered with blood and would
of a surety have died of her wounds/

I subsequently learned that the victim belonged to a village
near Champawat, and that she had been carried off by the
tiger while collecting dry sticks. Her companions had run back
to the village and raised an alarm, and just as a rescue party
was starting the twenty frightened men arrived. As these men
knew the direction in which the tiger had gone with its victim,
they joined the party, and can best carry on the story.

' We were fifty or sixty strong when we set out to rescue the
woman, and several of the party were armed with guns. A

The Champawat Man-eater 1$

furlong from where the sticks collected by the woman were
lying, and from where she had been carried off, we found her
torn clothes. Thereafter the men started beating their drums
and firing off their guns, and in this way we proceeded for
more than a mile right up to the head of the valley, where
we found the woman, who was little more than a girl, lying
dead on a great slab of rock. Beyond licking off all the blood
apd making her body clean the tiger had not touched her, and,
there being no woman in our party, we men averted our faces
as we wrapped her body in the loincloths which one and
another gave, for she looked as she lay on her back as one who
sleeps, and would waken in shame when touched/

With experiences such as these to tell and retell through the
long night watches behind fast-shut doors, it is little wonder
that the character and outlook on life of people living year
after year in a man-eater country should change, and that one
coming from the outside should feel that he had stepped right
into a world of stark realities and the rule of the tooth and claw,
which forced man in the reign of the sabre-toothed tiger to
shelter in dark caverns. I was young and inexperienced in
those far-off Champawat days, but, even so, the conviction I
came to after a brief sojourn in that stricken land, that there
is no more terrible thing than to live and have one's being
under the shadow of a man-eater, has been strengthened by
thirty-two years' subsequent experience.

The Tahsildar of Champawat, to whom I had been given
letters of introduction, paid me a visit that night at the Dak
Bungalow where I was putting up, and suggested I should move
next day to a bungalow a few miles away, in the vicinity of
which many human beings had been killed.

Early next morning, accompanied by the Tahsildar, I set out
for the bungalow, and while I was having breakfast on the
verandah two men arrived with news that a cow had been killed
by a tiger in a village ten miles away. The Tahsildar excused

14 Man-eaters of Kumaon

himself to attend to some urgent work at Champawat, and
said he would return to the bungalow in the evening and stay
the night with me. My guides were good walkers, and as the
track went downhill most of the way we covered the ten miles
in record time. Arrived at the village I was taken to a cattle-
shed in which I found a week-old calf, killed and partly eaten
by a leopard. Not having the time or the inclination to shoot
the leopard I rewarded my guides, and retraced my steps to
the bungalow. Here I found the Tahsildar had not returned,
and as there was still an hour or more of daylight left I went
out with the chowkidar of the bungalow to look at a place where
he informed me a tiger was in the habit of drinking; this place
I found to be the head of the spring which supplied the garden
with irrigation water. In the soft earth round the spring were
tiger pug marks several days old, but these tracks were quite
different from the pug marks I had seen, and carefully
examined, in the ravine in which the woman of Pali village had
been killed.

On returning to the bungalow I found the Tahsildar was
back, and as we sat on the verandah I told him of my day's
experience. Expressing regret at my having had to go so far
on a wild-goose chase, he rose, saying that as he had a long
way to go he must start at once. This announcement caused
me no little surprise, for twice that day he had said he would
stay the night with me. It was not the question of his staying
the night that concerned me, but the risk he was taking; how-
ever, he was deaf to all my arguments and, as he stepped off
the verandah into the dark night, with only one man following
him carrying a smoky lantern which gave a mere glimmer of
light, to do a walk of four miles in a locality in which men
only moved in large parties in daylight, I took off my hat to
a very brave man. Having watched him out of sight I turned
and entered the bungalow.

I have a tale to tell of that bungalow but I will not tell it

The Champawat Man-eater 15

here, for this is a book of jungle stories, and tales ' beyond the
laws of nature ' do not consort well with such stories.


I spent the following morning in going round the very
extensive fruit orchard and tea garden and in having a bath at
the spring, and at about midday the Tahsildar, much to my
relief, returned safely from Champawat.

I was standing talking to him while looking down a long
sloping hill with a village surrounded by cultivated land in the
distance, when I saw a man leave the village and start up the
hill in our direction. As the man drew nearer I saw he was
alternately running and walking, and was quite evidently the
bearer of important news. Telling the Tahsildar I would return
in a few minutes, I set off at a run 'down the hill, and when
the man saw me coming he sat down to take breath. As soon
as I was near enough to hear him he called out, ' Come quickly,
sahib, the man-eater has just killed a girl/ 'Sit still/ I called
back, and turning ran up to the bungalow. I passed the news
on to the Tahsildar while I was getting a rifle and some cart-
ridges, and asked him to follow me down to the village.

The man who had come for me was one of those exasperating
individuals whose legs and tongue cannot function at the same
time. When he opened his mouth he stopped dead, and when
he started to run his mouth closed; so telling him to shut his
mouth and lead the way, we ran in silence down the hill.

At the village an excited crowd of men, women and children
awaited us and, as usually happens on these occasions, all started
to talk at the same time. One man was vainly trying to quieten
the babel. I led him aside and asked him to tell me what had
happened. Pointing to some scattered oak trees on a gentle
slope a furlong or so from the village, he said a dozen people
were collecting dry sticks under the trees when a tiger suddenly
appeared and caught one of their number, a girl sixteen or

16 Man-eaters of Kumaon

seventeen years of age. The rest of the party had run back to
the village, and as it was known that I was staying at
the bungalow a man had immediately been dispatched to
inform me.

The wife of the man I was speaking to had been of the party,
and she now pointed out the tree, on the shoulder of the hill,
under which the girl had been taken. None of the party had
looked back to see if the tiger was carrying away its victim
and, if so, in which direction it had gone.

Instructing the crowd not to make a noise, and to remain in
the village until I returned, I set off in the direction of the tree.
The ground here was quite open and it was difficult to conceive
how an animal the size of a tiger could have approached twelve
people unseen, and its presence not detected, until attention
had been attracted by the choking sound made by the girl.

The spot where the girl had been killed was marked by a
pool of blood and near it, and in vivid contrast to the crimson
pool, was a broken necklace of brightly coloured blue beads
which the girl had been wearing. From this spot the track led
up and round the shoulder of the hill.

The track of the tigress was clearly visible. On one side
of it were great splashes of blood where the girl's head had
hung down, and on the other side the trail of her feet. Half
a mile up the hill I found the girl's sari, and on the brow of
the hill her skirt. Once again the tigress was carrying a naked
woman, but mercifully on this occasion her burden was dead.

On the brow of the hill the track led through a thicket
of blackthorn, on the thorns of which long strands of the girl's
raven-black hair had caught. Beyond this was a bed of nettles
through which the tigress had gone, and I was looking for a
way round this obstruction when I heard footsteps behind me.
Turning round I saw a man armed with a rifle coming towards
me. I asked him why he had followed me when I had left
instructions at the village that no one was to leave it. He said

The Champawat Man-eater J7

the Tahsildar had instructed him to accompany me, and that he
was afraid to disobey orders. As he appeared determined to
carry out his orders, and to argue the point would have meant
the loss of valuable time, I told him to remove the heavy pair
of boots he was wearing and, when he had hidden them under
a bush, I advised him to keep close to me, and to keep a sharp
lookout behind.

I was wearing a very thin pair of stockings, shorts, and a
pair of rubber-soled shoes, and as there appeared to be no way
round the nettles I followed the tigress through them much to
my discomfort.

Beyond the nettles the blood trail turned sharply to the left,
and went straight down the very steep hill, which was densely
clothed with bracken and ringals. 1 A hundred yards down,
the blood trail led into a narrow and very steep watercourse,
down which the tigress had gone with some difficulty, as could
be seen from the dislodged stones and earth. I followed this
watercourse for five or six hundred yards, my companion getting
more and more agitated the further we went. A dozen times
he caught my arm and whispered in a voice full of tears that
he could hear the tiger, either on one side or the other, or behind
us. Half-way down the hill we came on a great pinnacle of
rock some thirty feet high, and as the man had by now had all
the man-eater hunting he could stand, I told him to climb the
rock and remain on it until I returned. Very gladly he went
up, and when he straddled the top and signalled to me that
he was all right I continued on down the watercourse, which,
after skirting round the rock, went straight down for a hundred
yards to where it met a deep ravine coming down from the left.
At the junction was a small pool, and as I approached it I saw
patches of blood on my side of the water.

The tigress had carried the girl straight down on this spot,
and my approach had disturbed her at her meal. Splinters of

1 Hill bamboos.


18 Man-eaters of Kumaon

bone were scattered round the deep pug marks into which
discoloured water was slowly seeping and at the edge of the
pool was an object which had puzzled me as I came down
the watercourse, and which I now found was part of a human
leg. In all the subsequent years I have hunted man-eaters I
have not seen anything as pitiful as that young comely leg bit-
ten off a little below the knee as clean as though severed by the
stroke of an axe out of which the warm blood was trickling.

While looking at the leg I had forgotten all about the tigress
until I suddenly felt that I was in great danger. Hurriedly
grounding the butt of the rifle I put two fingers on the triggers,
raising my head as I did so, and saw a little earth from the
fifteen-foot bank in front of me, come rolling down the steep
side and plop into the pool. I was new to this game of man-
eater hunting or I should not have exposed myself to an attack
in the way I had done. My prompt action in pointing the rifle
upwards had possibly saved my life, and in stopping her spring,
or in turning to get away, the tigress had dislodged the earth
from the top of the bank.

The bank was too steep for scrambling, and the only way
of getting up was to take it at a run. Going up the watercourse
a short distance I sprinted down, took the pool in my stride,
and got far enough up the other side to grasp a bush and pull
myself on to the bank. A bed of Strobilanthes, the bent stalks
of which were slowly regaining their upright position, showed
where, and how recently, the tigress had passed, and a little
further on under an overhanging rock I found where she had
left her kill when she came to have a look at me.

Her tracks now as she carried away the girl led into a
wilderness of rocks, some acres in extent, where the going was
both difficult and dangerous. The cracks and chasms between
the rocks were masked with ferns and blackberry vines, and a
false step, which might easily have resulted in a broken limb,
would have been fatal. Progress under these conditions was of

The Chnmpawat Man-eater 19

necessity slow, and the tigress was taking advantage of it tci
continue her meal. A dozen times I found where she had rested;
and after each of these rests the blood trail became more distinct.

This was her four hundred and thirty-sixth human kill and
she was qulfe' accustomed to being disturbed at her meals by
rescue parties, but this, I think, was the first time she had been
followed up so persistently and she now began to show her
resentment by growling. To appreciate a tiger's growl to the
full it is necessary to be situated as I then was rocks all round
with dense vegetation between, and the imperative necessity of
testing each footstep to avoid falling headlong into unseen
chasms and caves.

I cannot expect you who read this at your fireside to
appreciate my feelings at the time. The sound of the growling
and the expectation of an attack terrified me at the same time
as it gave me hope. If the tigress lost her temper sufficiently
to launch an attack, it would not only give me an opportunity
of accomplishing the object for which I had come, but it would
enable me to get even with her for all the pain and suffering
she had caused.

The growling, however, was only a gesture, and when she
found that instead of shooing me off it was bringing me faster
on her heels, she abandoned it.

I had now been on her track for over four hours. Though
I had repeatedly seen the undergrowth moving I had not seen
so much as a hair of her hide, and. a glance at the shadows
climbing up the opposite hillside warned me it was time to
retrace my steps if I was to reach the village before dark.

The late owner of the severed leg was a Hindu, and some
portion of her would be needed for the cremation, so as I
passed the pool I dug a hole in the bank and buried the leg
where it would be safe from the tigress, and could be found
when wanted.

My companion on the rock was very relieved to see me.

20 Man-eaters of Kumaon

My long absence, and the growling he had heard, had con-
vinced him that the tigress had secured another kill and his
difficulty, as he quite frankly admitted, was how he was going
to get back to the village alone.

I thought when we were climbing down the watercourse
that I knew of no more dangerous proceeding than walking in
front of a nervous man carrying a loaded gun, but I changed
my opinion when on walking behind him he slipped and fell,
and I saw where the muzzle of his gun a converted .450 with-
out a safety catch was pointing. Since that day except when
accompanied by Ibbotson I have made it a hard and fast rule
to go alone when hunting man-eaters, for if one's companion
is unarmed it is difficult to protect him, and if he is armed,
it is even more difficult to protect oneself.

Arrived at the crest of the hill, where the man had hidden
his boots, I sat down to have a smoke and think out my plans
for the morrow.

The tigress would finish what was left of the kill during
the night, and would to a certainty lie up among the rocks
next day.

On the ground she was on there was very little hope of my
being able to stalk her, and if I disturbed her without getting
a shot, she would probably leave the locality and I should lose
touch with her. A beat therefore was the only thing to do,
provided I could raise sufficient men.

I was sitting on the south edge of a great amphitheatre of
hills, without a habitation of any kind in sight. A stream
entering from the west had fretted its way down, cutting a deep
valley right across the amphitheatre. To the east the stream
had struck solid rock, and turning north had left the amphi-
theatre by a narrow gorge.

The hill in front of me, rising to a height of some two
thousand feet, was clothed in short grass with a pine tree dotted
here and there, and the hill to the east was too precipitous for

The Champawat Man-eater 2i

anything but a ghooral to negotiate. If I could collect sufficient
men to man the entire length of the ridge from the stream to
the precipitous hill, and get them to stir up the tigress, her most
natural line of retreat would be through the narrow gorge.

Admittedly a very difficult beat, for the steep hillside facing
north, on which I had left the tigress, was densely wooded and
roughly three-quarters of a mile long and half-a-mile wide;
however, if I could get the beaters to carry out instructions,
there was a reasonable chance of my getting a shot.

The Tahsildar was waiting for me at the village. I explained
the position to him, and asked him to take immediate steps to
collect as many men as he could, and to meet me at the tree
where the girl had been killed at ten o'clock the following
morning. Promising to do his best, he left for Champawat,
while I climbed the hill to the bungalow.

I was up at crack of dawn next morning, and after a sub-
stantial meal told my men to pack up and wait for me at
Champawat, and went down to have another look at the ground
I intended beating. I could find nothing wrong with the plans
I had made, and an hour before my time I was at the spot
where I had asked the Tahsildar to meet me.

That he would have a hard time in collecting the men I
had no doubt, for the fear of the man-eater had sunk deep into
the countryside and more than mild persuasion would be needed
to make the men leave the shelter of their homes. At ten
o'clock the Tahsildar and one man turned up, and thereafter
the men came in twos, and threes, and tens, until by midday
two hundred and ninety-eight had collected.

The Tahsildar had let it be known that he would turn a
blind eye towards all unlicensed fire-arms, and further that he
would provide ammunition where required; and the weapons
that were produced that day would have stocked a museum.

When the men were assembled and had received the ammu-
nition they needed I took them to the brow of the hill where

22 Man-eaters of Kumaon

the girl's skirt was lying, and pointing to a pine tree on the
opposite hill that had been struck by lightning and stripped
of bark, I told them to line themselves up along the ridge and,
when they saw me wave a handkerchief from under the pine,
those of them who were armed were to fire off their pieces,
while the others beat drums, shouted, and rolled down rocks,
and that no one was on any account to leave the ridge until
I returned and personally collected him. When I was assured
that all present had heard and understood my instructions, I
set off with the Tahsildar, who said he would be safer with
me than with the beaters whose guns would probably burst and
cause many casualties.

Making a wide detour I crossed the upper end of the valley,
gained the opposite hill, and made my way down to the blasted
pine. From here the hill went steeply down and the Tahsildar,
who had on a thin pair of patent leather shoes, said it was
impossible for him to go any further. While he was removing
his inadequate foot-gear to ease his blisters, the men on the
ridge, thinking I had forgotten to give the pre-arranged signal,
fired off their guns and set up a great shout. I was still a
hundred and fifty yards from the gorge, and that I did not
break my neck a dozen times in covering this distance was due
to my having been brought up on the hills, and being in
consequence as sure-footed as a goat.

As I ran down the hill I noticed that there was a patch of
green grass near the mouth of the gorge, and as there was no
time to look round for a better place, I sat down in the grass,
with my back to the hill down which I had just come. The
grass was about two feet high and hid half my body, and if
I kept perfectly still there was a good chance of my not being
seen. Facing me was the hill that was being beaten, and the
gorge that I hoped the tigress would make for was behind my
left shoulder.

Pandemonium had broken loose on the ridge. Added to

The Champawat Man-eater 23

the fusillade of guns was the wild beating of drums and the
shouting of hundreds of men, and when the din was at its worst
I caught sight of the tigress bounding down a grassy slope
between two ravines to my right front, and about three hundred
yards away. She had only gone a short distance when the
Tahsildar from his position under the pine let off both barrels
of his short-gun. On hearing the shots the tigress whipped
round and went straight back the way she had come, and as
she disappeared into thick cover I threw up my rifle and sent
a despairing bullet after her.

The men on the ridge, hearing the three shots, not un-
naturally concluded that the tigress had been killed. They
emptied all their guns and gave a final yell, and I was holding
my breath and listening for the screams that would herald the
tigress's arrival on the ridge, when she suddenly broke cover
to my left front and, taking the stream at a bound, came straight
for the gorge. The .500 modified cordite rifle, sighted at sea
level, shot high at this altitude, and when the tigress stopped
dead I thought the bullet had gone over her back, and that
she had pulled up on finding her retreat cut off; as a matter
of fact I had hit her all right, but a little far back. Lowering
her head, she half turned towards me, giving me a beautiful
shot at the point of her shoulder at a range of less than thirty
yards. She flinched at this second shot but continued, with
her ears laid flat and bared teeth, to stand her ground, while
I sat with rifle to shoulder trying to think what it would be
best for me to do when she charged, for the rifle was empty
and I had no more cartridges. Three cartridges were all that
I had brought with me, for I never thought I should get a
chance of firing more than two shots, and the third cartridge
was for an emergency.

Fortunately the wounded animal most unaccountably decided
against a charge. Very slowly she turned, crossed the stream
to her right, climbed over some fallen rocks, and found a

24 Man-eaters of Kumaon

narrow ledge that went diagonally up and across the face of
the precipitous hill to where there was a great flat projecting
rock. Where this rock joined the cliff a small bush had found
root-hold, and going up to it the tigress started to strip its
branches. Throwing caution to the winds I shouted to the
Tahsildar to bring me his gun. A long reply was shouted back,
the only word of which I caught was ' feet ': Laying down my
rifle I took the hill at a run, grabbed the gun out of the Tahsil-
dar 's hands and raced back.

As I approached the stream the tigress left the bush and
came out on the projecting rock towards me. When I was
within twenty feet of her I raised the gun and found to my
horror that there was a gap of about three-eighths of an inch
between the barrels and the breech-block. The gun had not
burst when both barrels 'had been fired, and would probably
not burst now, but there was danger of being blinded by a
blow back. However, the risk would have to be taken, and,
aligning the great blob of a bead that did duty as a sight on
the tigress's open mouth, I fired. Maybe I bobbed, or maybe
the gun was not capable of throwing the cylindrical bullet accu-
rately for twenty feet; anyway, the missile missed the tigress's
mouth and struck her on the right paw, from where I removed
it later with my finger-nails. Fortunately she was at her last
gasp, and the tap on the foot was sufficient to make her lurch
forward. She came to rest with her head projecting over the
side of the rock.

From the moment the tigress had broken cover in her
attempt to get through the gorge I had forgotten the beaters,
until I was suddenly reminded of their existence by hearing
a shout, from a short distance up the hill, of 'There it is on
the rock! Pull it down and let us hack it to bits.' I could
not believe my ears when I heard 'hack it to bits', and yet I
had heard aright, for others now had caught sight of the tigress
and from all over the hillside the shout was being repeated.

The Champawat Man-eater 25

The ledge by which the wounded animal had gained the
projecting rock was fortunately on the opposite side from the
beaters, and was just wide enough to permit my shuffling along
it sideways. As I reached the rock and stepped over the tigress
hoping devoutly she was dead for I had not had time to
carry out the usual test of pelting her with stones the men
emerged from the forest and came running across the open,
brandishing guns, axes, rusty swords, and spears.

At the rock, which was twelve to fourteen feet in height,
their advance was checked, for the outer face had been worn
smooth by the stream when in spate and afforded no foothold
even for their bare toes. The rage of the crowd on seeing
their dread enemy was quite understandable, for there was not
a man among them who had not suffered at her hands. One
man, who appeared demented and was acting as ring-leader,
was shouting over and over again as he ran to and fro brandish-
ing a sword, ' This is the shaitan l that killed my wife and my
two sons/ As happens with crowds, the excitement died down
as suddenly as it had flared up, and to the credit of the man
who had lost his wife and sons be it said that he was the first
to lay down his weapon. He came near to the rock and said,
' We were mad, sahib, when we saw our enemy, but the madness
has now passed, and we ask you and the Tahsildar sahib to
forgive us/ Extracting the unspent cartridge, I laid the gun
across the tigress and hung down by my hands and was assisted
to the ground. When I showed the men how I had gained
the rock the dead animal was very gently lowered and carried
to an open spot, where all could crowd round and look at her.

When the tigress had stood on the rock looking down at
me I had noticed that there was something wrong with her
mouth, and on examining her now I found that the upper
and lower canine teeth on the right side of her mouth were
broken, the upper one in half, and the lower one right down

* Devil.

26 Man-eaters of Kumaon

to the bone. This permanent injury to her teeth the result
of a gun-shot wound had prevented her from killing her natural
prey, and had been the cause of her becoming a man-eater.

The men begged me not to skin the tigress there, and
asked me to let them have her until nightfall to carry through
their villages, saying that if their womenfolk and children did
not see her with their own eyes, they would not believe that
their dread enemy was dead.

Two saplings were now cut and laid one on either side of
the tigress, and with pugrees, waistbands and loincloths she was
carefully and very securely lashed to them. When all was
ready the saplings were manned and we moved to the foot of
the precipitous hill; the men preferred to take the tigress up this
hill, on the far side of which their villages lay, to going up the
densely wooded hill which they had just beaten. Two human
ropes were made by the simple expedient of the man behind
taking a firm grip of the waistband, or other portion of clothing,
of the man in front of him. When it was considered that the
ropes were long and strong enough to stand the strain, they
attached themselves to the saplings, and with men on either
side to hold the feet of the bearers and give them foothold, the
procession moved up the hill, looking for all the world like an
army of ants carrying a beetle up the face of a wall. Behind
the main army was a second and a smaller one the Tahsildar
being carried up. Had the ropes broken at any stage of that
thousand-foot climb, the casualties would have been appalling,
but the rope did not break. The men gained the crest of the hill
and set off eastwards, singing on their triumphal march, while
the Tahsildar and I turned west and made for Champa wat.

Our way lay along the ridge and once again I stood among
the blackthorn bushes on the thorns of which long tresses of
the girl's hair had caught, and for the last time looked down
into the amphitheatre which had been the scene of our recent

The Champawat Man-eater 27

On the way down the hill the beaters had found the head
of the unfortunate girl, and a thin column of smoke rising
straight up into the still air from the mouth of the gorge showed
where the relations were performing the last rites of the
Champawat man-eater's last victim, on the very spot on which
the man-eater had been shot.

After dinner, while I was standing in the courtyard of the
Tahsil, I saw a long procession of pine torches winding its way
down the opposite hillside, and presently the chanting of a
hill song by a great concourse of men was borne up on the
still night air. An hour later, the tigress was laid down at
my feet.

It was difficult to skin the animal with so many people
crowding round, and to curtail the job I cut the head and paws
from the trunk and left them adhering to the skin, to be dealt
with later. A police guard was then mounted over the carcass,
and next day, when all the people of the countryside were
assembled, the trunk, legs and tail of the tigress were cut up
into small pieces and distributed. These pieces of flesh and
bone were required for the lockets which hill children wear
round their necks, and the addition of a piece of tiger to the
other potent charms is credited with giving the wearer courage,
as well as immunity from the attacks of wild animals. The
fingers of the girl which the tigress had swallowed whole were
sent to me in spirits by the Tahsildar, and were buried by me
in the Naini Tal lake close to the Nandadevi temples.

While I had been skinning the tigress the Tahsildar and his
staff, assisted by the Headmen and greybeards of the surround-
ing villages and merchants of the Champawat bazaar, had been
busy drawing up a programme for a great feast and dance for
the morrow, at which I was to preside. Round about midnight,
when the last of the great throng of men had left with shouts
of delight at being able to use roads and village paths that the
man-eater had closed for four years, I had a final smoke with

28 Man-eaters of Kumaon

the Tahsildar, and telling him that I could not stay any longer
and that he would have to take my place at the festivities, my
men and I set off on our seventy-five-mile journey, with two
days in hand to do it in.

At sunrise I left my men and, with the tigress's skin strapped
to the saddle of my horse, rode on ahead to put in a few hours
in cleaning the skin at Dabidhura, where I intended spending
the night. When passing the hut on the hill at Pali it occurred
to me that it would be some little satisfaction to the dumb
woman to know that her sister had been avenged, so leaving the
horse to browse he had been bred near the snow-line and could
eat anything from oak trees to nettles I climbed the hill to the
hut, and spread out the skin with the head supported on a stone
facing the door. The children of the house had been round-
eyed spectators of these proceedings and, hearing me talking to
them, their mother, who was inside cooking, came to the door.

I am not going to hazard any theories about shock, and
counter-shock, for I know nothing of these matters. All I know
is that this woman, who was alleged to have been dumb a
twelvemonth and who four days previously had made no at-
tempt to answer any questions, was now running backwards and
forwards from the hut to the road calling to her husband and the
people in the village to come quickly and see what the sahib
had brought. This sudden return of speech appeared greatly
to mystify the children, who could not take their eyes off their
mother's face.

I rested in the village while a dish of tea was being prepared
for me and told the people who thronged round how the man-
eater had been killed. An hour later I continued my journey
and for half a mile along my way I could hear the shouts of
goodwill of the men of Pali.

I had a very thrilling encounter with a leopard the following
morning, which I only mention because it delayed my start
from Dabidhura and put an extra strain on my small mount

Robin 29

and myself. Fortunately the little pony was as strong on his
legs as he was tough inside, and by holding his tail on the
up-grades, riding him on the flat, and running behind him on
the down-grades, we covered the forty-five miles to Naini Tal
between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

At a durbar held in Naini Tal a few months later Sir John
Hewett, Lieutenant-Governor of the United Provinces, presented
the Tahsildar of Champa wat with a gun, and the man who
accompanied me when I was looking for the girl with a beautiful
hunting-knife, for the help they had given me. Both weapons
were suitably engraved and will be handed down as heirlooms
in the respective families.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
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Reged: 25/12/02
Posts: 35787
Loc: Barossa Valley, South Australi...
Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368187 - 08/08/22 07:02 PM


I NEVER saw either of his parents. The Knight of the Broom
I purchased him from said he was a spaniel, that his name
was Pincha, and that his father was a 'keen gun dog*. This
is all I can tell you about his pedigree.

I did not want a pup, and it was quite by accident that I
happened to be with a friend when the litter of seven was
decanted from a very filthy basket for her inspection. Pincha
was the smallest and the thinnest of the litter, and it was
quite evident he had reached the last ditch in his fight for
survival. Leaving his little less miserable brothers and sisters,
he walked once round me, and then curled himself up between
my big feet. When I picked him up and put him inside my
coat it was a bitterly cold morning he tried to show his
gratitude by licking my face, and I tried to show him I was
not aware of his appalling stench.

He was rising three months then, and I bought him for fifteen
rupees. He is rising thirteen years now, and all the gold in
India would not buy him.

30 Man-eaters of Kumaon

When I got him home and he had made his first acquain-
tance with a square meal, warm water and soap, we scrapped
his kennel name of Pincha and rechristened him Robin, in
memory of a faithful old collie who had saved my young
brother, aged four, and myself, aged six, from the attack of an
infuriated she-bear.

Robin responded to regular meals as parched land does to
rain, and after he had been with us for a few weeks, acting on
the principle that a boy's and a pup's training cannot be started
too early, I took him out one morning, intending to get a little
away from him and fire a shot or two to get him used to the
sound of gunfire.

At the lower end of our estate there are some dense thorn
bushes, and while I was skirting round them a peafowl got
up, and forgetting all about Robin, who was following at heel,
I brought the bird fluttering down. It landed in the thorn
bushes and Robin dashed in after it. The bushes were too thick
and thorny for me to enter them, so I ran round to the far side
where beyond the bushes was open ground, and beyond that
again heavy tree and grass jungle which I knew the wounded
bird would make for. The open ground was flooded with
morning sunlight, and if I had been armed with a movie
camera I should have had an opportunity of securing a unique
picture. The peafowl, an old hen, with neck feathers stuck
out at right angles, and one wing broken, was making for the
tree jungle, while Robin, with stern to the ground, was hanging
on to her tail and being dragged along. Running forward I
very foolishly caught the bird by the neck and lifted it clear
of the ground, whereon it promptly lashed out with both legs,
and sent Robin heels-over-head. In a second he was up and on
his feet again, and when I laid the dead bird down, he danced
round it making little dabs alternately at its head and tail. The
lesson was over for that morning, and as we returned home it
would have been difficult to say which of us was the more

Robin 31

proud Robin, at bringing home his first bird, or I, at having
picked a winner out of a filthy basket. The shooting season
was now drawing to a close, and for the next few days Robin
was not given anything larger than quail, doves and an occa-
sional partridge to retrieve.

We spent the summer on the hills, and on our annual migra-
tion to the foothills in November, at the end of a long fifteen-
mile march as we turned a sharp corner, one of a big troop
of langurs jumped off the hillside and crossed the road a few
inches in front of Robin's nose. Disregarding my whistle, Robin
dashed down the khudside after the langur, which promptly
sought safety in a tree. The ground was open with a few trees
here and there, and after going steeply down for thirty or forty
yards flattened out for a few yards, before going sharply down
into the valley below. On the right-hand side of this flat ground
there were a few bushes, with a deep channel scoured out by
rain-water running through them. Robin had hardly entered
these bushes when he was out again, and with ears laid back and
tail tucked in was running for dear life, with an enormous leo-
pard bounding after him and gaining on him at every bound. I
was unarmed and all the assistance I could render was to ' Ho '
and ' Har ' at the full extent of my lungs. The men carrying M.'s
dandy joined in lustily, the pandemonium reaching its climax
when the hundred or more langurs added their alarm-calls in
varying keys. For twenty-five or thirty yards the desperate and
unequal race continued, and just as the leopard was within reach
of Robin, it unaccountably swerved and disappeared into the
valley, while Robin circled round a shoulder of the hill and
rejoined us on the road. Two very useful lessons Robin learned
from his hairbreadth escape, which he never in after-life forgot.
First, that it was dangerous to chase langurs, and second that
the alarm-call of a langur denoted the presence of a leopard.

Robin resumed his training where it had been interrupted in
spring, but it soon became apparent that his early neglect and

32 Man-eaters of Kutnaon

starvation had affected his heart, for he fainted now after the
least exertion.

There is nothing more disappointing, for a gun dog than to
be teft at home when his master goes out, and as bird-shooting
was now taboo for Robin, I started taking him with me when
I went out after big game. He took to this new form of sport
as readily as a duck takes to water, and from then on has
accompanied me whenever I have been out with a rifle.

The .method we employ is to go out early in the morning,
pick up the tracks of a leopard or tiger, and follow them. When
the pug marks can be seen, I do the tracking, and when the
animal we are after takes to the jungle, Robin does the tracking.
In this way we have on occasions followed an animal for miles
before coming up with it.

When shooting on foo't, it is very much easier to kill an
animal outright than when shooting down on it from a machan,
or from the back of an elephant. For one thing, when wounded
animals have to be followed up on foot, chance shots are not
indulged in, and for another, the vital parts are more accessible
when shooting on the same level as the animal than when shoot-
ing down on it. However, even after exercising the greatest care
over the shot, I have sometimes only wounded leopards and
tigers, who have rampaged round before being quietened by
a second or third shot, and only once during all the years that
we have shot together has Robin left me in a tight corner.
When he rejoined me after his brief absence that day, we decided
that the incident was closed and would never be referred to
again, but we are older now and possibly less sensitive, anyway
Robin who has exceeded the canine equivalent of three-score-
years-and-ten, and who , lies at my feet as I write, on a bed he
will never again leave has with a smile from his wise brown
eyes and a wag of his small stump of a tail given me permission
to go ahead and tell you the story.

We did not see the leopard until it stepped clear of the



'An area of i ,r )( x> square miles oi mountain and vale
where the snow lies deep during winter, and the

valleys are seoiehing hot in summer ' Sec p. 41

See p. 29


See p.

Robin 3t

thick undergrowth and, coming to a stand, looked back'.OV^I
its left shoulder.

He was an outsized male with a beautiful dark glossy coat,
the rosettes on his skin standing out like clear-cut designs on
a rich velvet ground. I had an unhurried shot with an accurate
rifle at his right shoulder, at the short range of fifteen yards.
By how little I missed his heart makes no matter, and while
the bullet was kicking up the dust fifty yards away he was
high in the air, and, turning a somersault, landed in the thick
undergrowth he had a minute before left. For twenty, forty,
fifty yards we heard him crashing through the cover, and then
the sound ceased as abruptly as it had begun. This sudden
cessation of sound could be accounted for in two ways: either
the leopard had collapsed and died in his tracks, or fifty yards
away he had reached open ground.

We had walked 'far that day; the sun was near setting and!
we were still four miles from home. This part of the jungle
was not frequented by man, and there was not one chance in
a million of anyone passing that way by night, and last, and
the best reason of all for leaving the leopard, M. was unaaroed
and could neither be left alone nor taken along to follow .up
the wounded animal so we turned to the north and made for
home. There was no need for me to mark the spot, for I had
walked through these jungles by day and often by night for
near on half a century, and could have found my way blind-*
fold to any part of them.

Night had only just given place to day the following morn-
ing when Robin who had not been with us the previous
evening and I arrived at the spot I had fired, from. Very
warily Robin, who was leading, examined the ground where
the leopard had stood, and then raising his head and snuffing
the air he advanced to the edge of the undergrowth, where
the leopard in falling had left great splashes of blood. There
was no need for me to examine the blood to determine the

34 Man-eaters of Kumaon

position of the wound, for at the short range I had fired at I
had seen the bullet strike, And the spurt of dust on the far side
was proof that the bullet had gone right through the leopard's

It might be necessary later on to follow up the blood trail >
but just at present a little rest after our four-mile walk in the
dark would do no harm, and might on the other hand prove
of great value to us. The sun was near rising, and at that
early hour of the morning all the jungle folk were on the move,
and it would be advisable to hear what they had to say on the
subject of the wounded animal before going further.

Under a nearby tree I found a diy spot to which the saturat-
ing dew had not penetrated, and with Robin stretched out at my
feet had finished my cigarette when a chital hind, and then a
second and a third, started calling some sixty yards to our left
front. Robin sat up and slowly turning his head looked at me,
and, on catching my eye, as slowly turned back in the direction
of the calling deer. He had travelled far along the road of
experience since that day he had first heard the alarm-call of
a langur, and he knew now as did every bird and animal within
hearing that the chital were warning the jungle folk of the
presence of a leopard.

From the manner in which the chital were calling it was
evident that the leopard was in full view of them. A little more
patience and they would tell us if he was alive. They had
been calling for about five minutes when suddenly, and all
together, they called once and again, and then settled down to
their regular call; the leopard was alive and had moved, and
was now quiet again. All that we needed to know now was
the position of the leopard, and this information we could get
by stalking the chital.

Moving down-wind for fifty yards we entered the thick
undergrowth, and started to stalk the deer not a difficult task,
for Robin can move through any jungle as silently as a cat,

Robin gfi

and long practice has taught me where to place -my feet.
The chital were not visible until we wer$ within a few feet
of them. They were standing in the open and looking towards
the north in the exact direction, as far as I was able to judge,
in which the crashing sound of the evening before had

Up to this point the chital had been of great help to us; they
had told us the leopard was lying out in the open and that it
was alive, and they had now given us the direction. It had
taken us the best part of an hour to acquire this information,
and if the chital now caught sight of us and warned the jungle
folk of our presence, they would in one second undo the good
they had so far done. I was debating whether it would be
better to retrace our steps and work down below the calling deer
and try to get a shot from behind them, or move them from our
vicinity by giving the call of a leopard, when one of the hinds
turned her head and looked straight into my face. Next second,
with a cry of ' Ware man ', they dashed away at top speed. I
had only about five yards to cover to reach the open ground,
but quick as I was the leopard was quicker, and I was only in
time to see his hind quarters and tail disappearing behind some
bushes. The chital had very effectively spoilt my chance of a
shot, and the leopard would now have to be located and marked
down all over again this time by Robin.

I stood on the open ground for some minutes, to give the
leopard time to settle down and the scent he had left in his
passage to blow past us, and then took Robin due west across
the track of the wind, which was blowing from the north.
We had gone about sixty or seventy yards when Robin, who
was leading, stopped and turned to face into the wind. Robin
is mute in the jungles, and has a wonderful control over his
nerves. There is one nerve, however, running down the back
of his hind legs, which he cannot control when he is looking at
a leopard, or when the scent of a leopard is warm and strong.

S6 Man-eaters of Kumaon

This nerve was now twitching, and agitating the long hair on
the upper part of his hind legs.

A very violent cyclonic storm had struck this part of the
forest the previous summer, uprooting a number of trees; it
was towards one of these fallen trees, forty yards from where
we were standing, that Robin was now looking. The branches
were towards us, and on either side of the trunk there were
light bushes and a few scattered tufts of short grass.

At any other time Robin and I would have made straight
for our quarry; but on this occasion a little extra caution was
advisable. Not only were we dealing with an animal who
when wounded knows no fear, but in addition we were deal-
ing with a leopard who had had fifteen hours in which to nurse
his grievance against man, and who could in consequence be
counted on to have all his fighting instincts thoroughly aroused.

When leaving home that morning I had picked up the
.275 rifle I had used the previous evening. A good rifle to
carry when miles have to be covered, but not the weapon one
would select to deal with a wounded leopard; so instead of a
direct approach, I picked a line that would take us fifteen yards
from, and parallel to, the fallen tree. Step by step, Robin lead-
ing, we moved along this line, and had passed the branches and
were opposite the trunk when Robin stopped. Taking the
direction from him, I presently saw what had attracted his
attention the tip of the leopard's tail slowly raised, and as
slowly lowered the warning a leopard invariably gives before
charging. Pivoting to the right on my heels, I had just got
the rifle to my shoulder when the leopard burst through the
intervening bushes and sprang at us. My bullet, fired more
with the object of deflecting him than with any hope of killing
or even hitting him, passed under his belly and went through
the fleshy part of his left thigh. The crack of the rifle, more
than the wound, had the effect of deflecting the leopard suffi-
ciently to make him pass my right shoulder without touching

Robin 37

me, and before I could get in another shot, he disappeared into
the bushes beyond.

Robin had not moved from my feet, and together we now
examined the ground the leopard had passed over. Blood we
found in plenty, but whether it had come from the old wounds
torn open by the leopard's violent exertions, or from my recent
shot, it was impossible to say. Anyway it made no difference
to Robin, who without a moment's hesitation took up the trail.
After going through some very heavy cover we came on knee-
high undergrowth, and had proceeded about a couple of hundred
yards when I saw the leopard get up in front of us, and before
I could get the rifle to bear on him, he disappeared under a
lantana bush. This bush with its branches resting on the
ground was as big as a cottage tent, and in addition to afford-
ing the leopard ideal cover gave him all the advantages for
launching his next attack.

Robin and I had come very well out of our morning's
adventure and it would have been foolish now, armed as I
was, to pursue the leopard further, so without more ado we
turned about and made for home.

Next morning we were back on the ground. From a very
early hour Robin had been agitating to make a start, and,
ignoring all the interesting smells the jungle holds in the morn-
ing, would have made me do the four miles at a run had that
been possible.

I had armed myself with a 450/400, and was in consequence
feeling much happier than I had done the previous day. When
we were several hundred yards from the lantana bush, I made
Robin slow down and advance cautiously, for it is never safe
to assume that a wounded animal will be found where it has
been left hours previously, as the following^regrettable incident

A sportsman of my acquaintance wounded a tiger one after-
noon, and followed the blood trail for several miles along a

38 Man-eaters of Kumaon-

valley. Next morning, accompanied by a number of men, one
of whom was carrying his empty rifle and leading the way,
he set out intending to take up the tracking where he had left
off. His way led over the previous day's blood trail, and while
still a mile from the spot where the tiger had been left, the
leading man, who incidentally was the local shikari, walked
on to the wounded tiger and was killed. The rest of the party
escaped, some by climbing trees and others by showing a clean
pair of heels.

I had marked the exact position of the lantana bush, and
now took Robin along a line that would pass a few yards on
the lee side of it. Robin knew all that was worth knowing
about this method of locating the position of an animal by
cutting across the wind, and we had only gone a short dis-
tance, and were still a hundred yards from the bush, when he
stopped, turned and faced into the wind, and communicated
to me that he could smell the leopard. As on the previous day,
he was facing a fallen tree which was lying along the edge of,
and parallel to, the thick undergrowth through which we had
followed the leopard to the lantana bush after he had charged
us. On our side of the tree the ground was open, but on the
far side there was a dense growth of waist-high basonta bushes.
Having signalled to Robin to carry on along our original line,
we went past the lantana bush, in which he showed no interest,
to a channel washed out by rain-water. Here, removing my
coat, I filled it with as many stones as the stitches would hold,
and with this improvised sack slung over my shoulder returned
to the open ground near the tree.

Resuming my coat, and holding the rifle ready for instant
use, I took up a position fifteen yards from the tree and started
throwing the stones, first on to the tree and then into the bushes
on the far side of it with the object of making the leopard
assuming he was still alive charge on to the open ground where
I could deal with him. When all my ammunition was exhausted

Robin, 89

I coughed, clapped my hands, and shouted, and neither during
the bombardment nor after it did the leopard move or make
any sound to indicate that he was alive.

I should now have been justified in walking straight up to
the tree and looking on the far side of it, but remembering an
old jungle saying, ' It is never safe to assume that a leopard is
dead until it has been skinned ' , I set out to circle round the
tree, intending to reduce the size of the circle until I could
see right under the branches and along the whole length of the
trunk. I made the radius of the first circle about twenty-five
yards, and had gone two-thirds of the way round when Robin
stopped. As I looked down to see what had attracted his
attention, there was a succession of deep-throated, angry grunts,
and the leopard made straight for us. All I could see was the
undergrowth being violently agitated 'in a direct line towards
us, and I only just had time to swing half right and bring the
rifle up, when the head and shoulders of the leopard appeared
out of the bushes a few feet away.

The leopard's spring and my shot were simultaneous, and
side-stepping to the left and leaning back as far as I could I fired
the second barrel from my hip into his side as he passed me.

When a wounded animal, be he leopard or tiger, makes a
headlong charge and fails to contact he invariably carries on
and does not return to the attack until he is again disturbed.

I had side-stepped to the left to avoid crushing Robin, and
when I looked down for him now, he was nowhere to be seen.
For the first time in all the years we had hunted together we
had parted company in a tight corner, and he was now probably
trying to find his way home, with very little chance of being
able to avoid the many dangers that lay before him in the
intervening four miles of jungle. Added to the natural dangers
he would have to face in a jungle with which, owing to its
remoteness from home, he was not familiar, was the weak
condition of his heart. And it was therefore with very great

4Q Man-eaters of Kumaon

misgivings that I turned about to go in search of him; as I did
so, I caught sight of his head projecting from behind a tree
trunk at the edge of a small clearing only a hundred yards away.
When I raised my hand and beckoned, he disappeared into the
undergrowth, but a little later, with drooped eyes and drooping
ears, he crept silently to my feet. Laying down the rifle 1
picked him up in my arms and, for the second time in his life,
he licked my face telling me as he did so, with little throaty
sounds, how glad he was to find me unhurt, and how terribly
ashamed he was of himself for having parted company from me.

Our reactions to the sudden and quite unexpected danger
that had confronted us were typical of how a canine and a
human being act in an emergency, when the danger that threa-
tens is heard, and not seen. In Robin's case it had impelled
him to seek safety in sil'ent and rapid retreat; whereas in my
case it had the effect of gluing my feet to the ground and
making retreat rapid or otherwise impossible.

When I had satisfied Robin that he was not to blame for
our temporary separation, and his small body had stopped
trembling, I put him down and together we walked up to where
the leopard, who had put up such a game fight, and had so
nearly won the last round, was lying dead.

I have told you the story, and while I have been telling it
Robin the biggest-hearted and the most faithful friend man
ever had has gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds, where I
know I shall find him waiting for me.

Post Extras: Print Post   Remind Me!   Notify Moderator  
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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368188 - 08/08/22 07:07 PM


THE map of Eastern Kumaon that hangs on the wall before
me is marked with a number of crosses, and below each
cross is a date. These crosses indicate the locality, and the
date, of the officially recorded human victims of the man-eating
tiger of Chowgarh. There are sixty-four crosses on the map.
I do not claim this as being a correct tally, for the map was
posted up by me for two years and during this period all kills
were not reported to me; further, victims who were only
mauled, and who died subsequently, have not been awarded a
cross and a date.

The first cross is dated 15 December 1925, and the last,
21 March 1930. The distance between the extreme crosses,
north to south, is fifty miles, and east to west, thirty miles, an
area of 1,500 square miles of mountain and vale where the snow
lies deep during winter, and the valleys are scorching hot in
summer. Over this area the Chowgarh tiger had established
a reign of terror. Villages of varying size, some with a popula-
tion of a hundred or more, and others with only a small family
or two, are scattered throughout the area. Footpaths, beaten
hard by bare feet, connect the villages. Some of these paths
pass through thick forests, and when a man-eater renders their
passage dangerous inter-village communication is carried on by
shouting. Standing on a commanding point, maybe a big rock
or the roof of a house, a man cooees to attract the attention
of the people in a neighbouring village, and when the cooee is
answered, the message is shouted across in a high-pitched voice.
From village to village the message is tossed, and is broadcast
throughout large areas in an incredibly short space of time.

It was at a District Conference in February 1929 that I found
myself committed to have a try for this tiger. There were at
that time three man-eaters in the Kumaon Division, and as the


Village Number







CHAMOLI ......








LOHAR ......








TANDA ......








KALA AGAR ......






KUNDAL ......


BABYAR ......










PAKHARI ......









1926 15 KILLED

1927 9 KILLED

1928 14 KILLED

1929 17 KILLED

1930 9 KILLED


The Chowgarh Tigers 43.

Chowgarh tiger had done most damage I promised to go in
pursuit of it first.

The map with the crosses and dates, furnished to me by
Government, showed that the man-eater was most active in the
villages on the north and east face of the Kala Agar ridge. This
ridge, some forty miles in length, rises to a height of 8,500 feet
and is thickly wooded along the crest. A forest road runs along
the north face of the ridge, in some places passing for miles
through dense forests of oak and rhododendron, and in others
forming a boundary between the forest and cultivated land.
In one place the road forms a loop, and in this loop is situated
the Kala Agar Forest Bungalow. This bungalow was my
objective, and after a four days' march, culminating in a stiff
climb of 4,000 feet, I arrived at it one evening in April 1929.
The last human victim in this area was a young man of twenty-
two, who had been killed while out grazing cattle, and while
I was having breakfast, the morning after my arrival, the grand-
mother of the young man came to see me.

She informed me that the man-eater had, without any pro-
vocation, killed the only relative she had in the world. After
giving me her grandson's history from the day he was born,
and extolling his virtues, she pressed me to accept her three
milch buffaloes to use as bait for the tiger, saying that if I
killed the tiger with the help of her buffaloes she would have
the satisfaction of feeling that she had assisted in avenging her
grandson. These full-grown animals were of no use to me,
but knowing that refusal to accept them would give offence, I
thanked the old lady and assured her I would draw on her
for bait as soon as I had used up the four young male buffaloes
I had brought with me from Naini Tal. The Headmen of
nearby villages had now assembled, and from them I learned
that the tiger had last been seen ten days previously in a village
twenty miles away, on the eastern slope of the ridge, where
it had killed and eaten a man and his wife.

44 Man-eaters of Kumaon

A trail ten days old was not worth following up, and after
a long discussion with the Headmen I decided to make for
Dalkania village on the eastern side of the ridge. Dalkania
is ten miles from Kala Agar, and about the same distance from
the village where the man and his wife had been killed.

From the number of crosses Dalkania and the villages adjoin-
ing it had earned, it appeared that the tiger had its headquarters
in the vicinity of these villages.

After breakfast next morning I left Kala Agar and followed
the forest road, which I was informed would take me to the
end of the ridge, where I should have to leave the road and take
a path two miles downhill to Dalkania. This road, running
right to the end of the ridge through dense forest was very
little used, and, examining it for tracks as I went along, I
arrived at the point where the path took off at about 2 p.m.
Here I met a number of men from Dalkania. They had heard
via the cooee method of communication of my intention of
camping at their village and had come up to the ridge to inform
me that the tiger had that morning attacked a party of women,
while they had been cutting their crops in a village ten miles
to the north of Dalkania.

The men carrying my camp equipment had done eight miles
and were quite willing to carry on, but on learning from the
villagers that the path to this village, ten miles away, was very
rough and ran through dense forest I decided to send my men
with the villagers to Dalkania, and visit the scene of the tiger's
attack alone. My servant immediately set about preparing a
substantial meal for me, and at 3 p.m., having fortified myself,
I set out on my ten-mile walk. Ten miles under favourable
conditions is a comfortable two-and-a-half hours 1 walk, but here
the conditions were anything but favourable. The track run-
ning along the east face of the hill wound in and out through
deep ravines and was bordered alternately by rocks, dense
undergrowth, and trees; and when every obstruction capable of

The Chowgarh Tigers 45

concealing sudden death, in the form of a hungry man-eater,
had to be approached with caution, progress was of necessity
slow. I was still several miles from my objective when the
declining day warned me it was time to call a halt.

In any other area, sleeping under the stars on a bed of dry
leaves would have ensured a restful night, but here, to sleep
on the ground would have been to court death in a very un-
pleasant form. Long practice in selecting a suitable tree, and
the ability to dispose myself comfortably in it, has made sleep-
ing up aloft a simple matter. On this occasion I selected an
oak tree, and, with the rifle tied securely to a branch, had been
asleep for some hours when I was awakened by the rustling of
several animals under the tree. The sound moved on, and
presently I heard the scraping of claws on bark and realized
that a family of bears were climbing sofne karphal L trees I had
noticed growing a little way down the hillside. Bears are very
quarrelsome when feeding, and sleep was impossible until they
had eaten their fill and moved on.

The sun had been up a couple of hours when I arrived at
the village, which consisted of two huts and a cattle-shed, in a
clearing of five acres surrounded by forest. The small com-
munity were in a state of terror and were overjoyed to see me.
The wheatfield, a few yards from the huts, where the tiger,
with belly to ground, had been detected only just in time,
stalking the three women cutting the crop, was eagerly pointed
out to me. The man who had seen the tiger, and given the
alarm, told me the tiger had retreated into the jungle, where
it had been joined by a second tiger, and that the two animals
had gone down the hillside into the valley below. The occupants
of the two huts had had no sleep, for the tigers, baulked of their

1 Karphal is found on our hills at an elevation of 6,000 feet. The
tree grows to a height of about forty feet and produces a small red and
very sweet berry, which is greatly fancied by both human beings and

46 Man-eaters of Kumaon

prey, had called at short intervals throughout the night, and had
only ceased calling a little before my arrival. This statement, that
there were two tigers, confirmed the reports I had already re-
ceived that the man-eater was accompanied by a full-grown cub.

Our hill folk are very hospitable, and when the villagers
learned that I had spent the night in the jungle, and that my
camp was at Dalkania, they offered to prepare a meal for me.
This I knew would strain the resources of the small community,
so I asked for a dish of tea, but as there was no tea in the
village I was given a drink of fresh milk sweetened to excess
with jaggery, a very satisfying and not unpleasant drink when
one gets used to it. At the request of my hosts I mounted
guard while the remaining portion of the wheat crop was cut;
and at midday, taking the good wishes of the people with me,
I went down into the valley in the direction in which the tigers
had been heard calling.

The valley, starting from the watershed of the three rivers
Ladhya, Nandhour and Eastern Goula, runs south-west for
twenty miles and is densely wooded. Tracking was impossible,
and my only hope of seeing the tigers was to attract them to
myself, or helped by the jungle folk to stalk them.

To those of you who may be inclined to indulge in the
sport of man-eater hunting on foot, it will be of interest to
know that the birds and animals of the jungle, and the four
winds of heaven, play a very important part in this form of
sport. This is not the place to give the names of the jungle
folk on whose alarm-calls the sportsman depends, to a great
extent, for his safety and knowledge of his quarry's movements;
for in a country in which a walk up or down hill of three or
four miles might mean a difference in altitude of as many
thousand feet the variation in fauna, in a well-stocked area, is
considerable. The wind, however, at all altitudes, remains a con-
stant factor, and a few words relevant to its importance in con-
nexion with man-eater hunting on foot will not be out of place.

The Chowgarh Tigers 47

Tigers do not know that human beings have no sense of
smell, and when a tiger becomes a man-eater it treats human
beings exactly as it treats wild animals, that is, it approaches
its intended victims up-wind, or lies up in wait for them

The significance of this will be apparent when it is realized
that, while the sportsman is trying to get a sight of the tiger,
the tiger in all probability is trying to stalk the sportsman, or
is lying up in wait for him. The contest, owing to the tiger's
height, colouring, and ability to move without making a sound,
would be very unequal were it not for the wind-factor operating
in favour of the sportsman.

In all cases where killing is done by stalking or stealth, the
victim is approached from behind. This being so, it would be
suicidal for the sportsman to enter dense jungle, in which he
had every reason to believe a man-eater was lurking, unless he
was capable of making full use of the currents of air. For
example, assuming that the sportsman has to proceed, owing
to th$ nature of the ground, in the direction from which the
wind IB blowing, the danger would lie behind him, where he
would be least able to deal with it, but by frequently tacking
across the wind he could keep the danger alternately to right
and left of him. In print this scheme may not appear very
attractive, but in practice it works; and, short of walking back-
wards, I do not know of a better or safer method of going
up-wind through dense cover in which a hungry man-eater is

By evening I had reached the upper end of the valley, with-
out having seen the tigers and without having received any
indication from bird or animal of their presence in the jungle.
The only habitation then in sight was a cattle-shed, high up on
the north side of the valley.

I was careful in the selection of a tree on this second night,
and was rewarded by an undisturbed night's rest. Not long

48 Man-eaters of Kumaon

after dark the tigers called, and a few minutes later two shots
from a muzzle-loader came echoing down the valley, followed
by a lot of shouting from the graziers at the cattle station.
Thereafter the night was silent.

By the afternoon of the following day I had exploded every
bit of the valley, and I was making my way up a grassy slope
intent on rejoining my men at Dalkania when I heard a long-
drawn-out cooee from the direction of the cattle-shed. The
cooee was repeated once and again, and on my sending back
an answering call I saw a man climb on a projecting rock, and
from this vantage point he shouted across the valley to ask if
I was the sahib who had come from Naini Tal to shoot the
man-eater. On my telling him I was that sahib, he informed
me that his cattle had stampeded out of a ravine on my side
of the valley at about midday, and that when he counted them
on arrival at the cattle station he found that one a white cow
was missing.

He suspected that the cow had been killed by the tigers he
had heard calling the previous night, half a mile to the west
of where I was standing. Thanking him for his information, I
set off to investigate the ravine. I had gone but a short distance
along the edge of the ravine when I came on the tracks of the
stampeding cattle, and following these tracks back I had no diffi-
culty in finding the spot where the cow had been killed. After
killing the cow the tigers had taken it down the steep hillside
into the ravine. An approach along the drag was not advisable,
so going down into the valley I made a wide detour, and
approached the spot where I expected the kill to be from the
other side of the ravine. This side of the ravine was less steep
than the side down which the kill had been taken, and was deep
in young bracken ideal ground for stalking over. Step by step,
shadow, I made my way through the

Bracken, which reached above my waist, and when I was some
thirty yards from the bed of the ravine a movement in front of

The Chowgarh Tigers 49

me caught my eye. A white leg was suddenly thrust up into the
air and violently agitated, and next moment there was a deep-
throated growl the tigers were on the kill and tfere having a
difference of opinion over some toothful morsel.

For several minutes I stood perfectly still; the leg continued
to be agitated, but the growl was not repeated. A nearer
approach was not advisable, for even if I succeeded in covering
the thirty yards without being seen, and managed to kill one
of the tigers, the other, as likely as not, would blunder into me,
and the ground I was on would give me no chance of defending
myself. Twenty yards to my left front, and about the same
distance from the tigers, there was an outcrop of rock, some
ten to fifteen feet high. If I could reach this rock without
being seen, I should in all probability get an easy shot at the
tigers. Dropping on hands and knees, and pushing the rifle
before me, I crawled through the bracken to the shelter of the
rocks, paused a minute to regain my breath and make quite
sure the rifle was loaded, and then climbed the rock. When
my eyes were level with the top, I looked over, and saw the
two tigers.

One was eating at the hind quarters of the cow, while the
other was lying near by licking its paws. Both tigers appeared
to be about the same size, but the one that was licking its paws
was several shades lighter than the other; and concluding that
her light colouring was due to age and that she was the old
man-eater, I aligned the sights very carefully on her, and fired.
At my shot she reared up and fell backwards, while the other
bounded down the ravine and was out of sight before I could
press the second trigger. The tiger I had shot did not move
again, and after pelting it with stones to make sure it was dead,
I approached and met with a great disappointment; for a glance
at close quarters showed me I had made a mistake and shot the
cub a mistake that during the ensuing twelve months cost the
district fifteen lives and incidentally nearly cost me my own life.


50 Man-eaters of Kumaon

Disappointment was to a certain extent mitigated by the
thought that this young tigress, even if she had not actually
killed any human beings herself, had probably assisted her old
mother to kill (this assumption I later found to be correct),
and in any case, having been nurtured on human fltsh, she
could to salve my feelings be classed as a potential man-

Skinning a tiger with assistance on open ground and with
the requisite appliances is an easy job, but here the job was
anything but easy, for I was alone, surrounded by thick cover,
and my only appliance was a penknife; and though there was
no actual danger to be apprehended from the man-eater, for
tigers never kill in excess of their requirements, there was the
uneasy feeling in the back of my mind that the tigress had
returned and was watching my every movement.

The sun was near setting before the arduous task was
completed, and as I should have to spend yet another night
in the jungles I decided to remain where I was. The tigress
was a very old animal, as I could see from her pug marks, and
having lived all her life in a district in which there are nearly
as many fire-arms as men to use them, had nothing to learn
about men and their ways. Even so, there was just a chance
that she might return to the kill some time during the
night, and remain in the vicinity until light came in the

My selection of a tree was of necessity limited, and the one
I spent that night in proved, by morning, to be the most un-
comfortable tree I have ever spent twelve hours in. The tigress
called at intervals throughout the night, and as morning drew
near the calling became fainter and fainter, and eventually died
away on the ridge above me.

Cramped, and stiff, and hungry I had been without food
for sixty-four hours and with my clothes clinging to me it
had rained for an hour during the night I descended from the

The Chowgarh Tigers 51

tree when objects were clearly visible, and, after tying the
tiger's skin up in a coat, set off for Dalkania.

I have never weighed a tiger's skin when green, and if the
skin, plus the head and paws, which I carried for fifteen miles
that day weighed 40 pounds at the start, I would have taken my
oath it weighed 200 pounds before I reached my destination.

In a courtyard, flagged with great slabs of blue slate, and
common to a dozen houses, I found my men in conference with
a hundred or more villagers. My approach, along a yard- wide
lane between two houses, had not been observed, and the wel-
come I received when, bedraggled and covered with blood, I
staggered into the circle of squatting men will live in my
memory as long as memory lasts.

My 40-lb. tent had been pitched in a field of stubble a
hundred yards from the village, and I had hardly reached it
before tea was laid out for me on a table improvised out of a
couple of suitcases and planks borrowed from the village. I
was told later by the villagers that my men, who had been
with me for years and had accompanied me on several similar
expeditions, refusing to believe that the man-eater had claimed
me as a victim, had kept a kettle on the boil night and day
in anticipation of my return, and, further, had stoutly opposed
the Headmen of Dalkania and the adjoining villages sending a
report to Almora and Naini Tal that I was missing.

A hot bath, taken of necessity in the open and in full view
of the village I was too dirty and too tired to care who saw
me was followed by an ample dinner, and I was thinking of
turning in for the night when a flash of lightning succeeded
by a loud peal of thunder heralded the approach of a storm.
Tent-pegs are of little use in a field, so long stakes were hurried-
ly procured and securely driven into the ground, and to these
stakes the tent-ropes were tied. For further safety all the avail-
able ropes in camp were criss-crossed over the tent and lashed to
the stakes. The storm of wind and rain lasted an hour and was

52 Man-eaters of Kumaon

one of the worst the little tent had ever weathered. Several of
the guy-ropes were torn from the canvas, but the stakes and
criss-cross ropes held. Most of my things were soaked through,
and a little stream several inches deep was running from end to
end of the tent; my bed, however, was comparatively dry, and
by 10 o'clock my men were safely lodged behind locked doors
in the house the villagers had placed at their disposal, while I,
with a loaded rifle for company, settled down to a sleep which
lasted for twelve hours.

The following day was occupied in drying my kit and in
cleaning and pegging out the tiger's skin. While these opera-
tions were in progress the villagers, who had taken a holiday
from their field work, crowded round to hear my experiences
and to tell me theirs. Every man present had lost one or more
relatives, and several bore tooth and claw marks, inflicted by
the man-eater, which they will carry to their graves. My regret
at having lost an opportunity of killing the man-eater was not
endorsed by the assembled men. True, there had originally
been only one man-eater; but, of recent months, rescue parties
who had gone out to recover the remains of human victims had
found two tigers on the kills, and only a fortnight previously
a man and his wife had been killed simultaneously, which was
proof sufficient for them that both tigers were established man-

My tent was on a spur of the hill, and commanded an
extensive view. Immediately below me was the valley of the
Nandhour river, with a hill, devoid of any cultivation, rising
to a height of 9,000 feet on the far side. As I sat on the edge
of the terraced fields that evening with a pair of good bino-
culars in my hand and the Government map spread out beside
me, the villagers pointed out the exact positions where twenty
human beings had been killed during the past three years.
These kills were more or less evenly distributed over an area of
forty square miles.

The Chowgarh Tigers 53

The forests in this area were open to grazing, and on the
cattle-paths leading to them I decided to tie up my four young

During the following ten days no news was received of the
tigress, and I spent the time in visiting the buffaloes in the
morning, searching the forests in the day, and tying out the
buffaloes in the evening. On the eleventh day my hopes were
raised by the report that a cow had been killed on a ravine on
the hill above my tent. A visit to the kill, however, satisfied
me the cow had been killed by an old leopard, whose pug marks
I had repeatedly seen. The villagers complained that the leo-
pard had for several years been taking heavy toll of their cattle
and goats, so I decided to sit up for him. A shallow cave close
to the dead cow gave me the cover I needed. I had not been
long in the cave when I caught sight of the leopard coming
down the opposite side of the ravine, and I was raising my rifle
for a shot when I heard a very agitated voice from the direction
of the village calling to me.

There could be but one reason for this urgent call, and
grabbing up my hat I dashed out of the cave, much to the
consternation of the leopard, who first flattened himself out
on the ground, and then with an angry woof went bounding
back the way he had come, while I scrambled up my side of
the ravine; and, arriving at the top, shouted to the man that
I was coming, and set off at top speed to join him.

The man had run all the way uphill from the village, and
when he regained his breath he informed me that a woman
had just been killed by the man-eater, about half a mile on the
far side of the village. As we ran down the hillside I saw a
crowd of people collected in the courtyard already alluded to.
Once again my approach through the narrow lane was not
observed, and looking over the heads of the assembled men, I
saw a girl sitting on the ground.

The upper part of her clothing had been torn off her young

54 Man-eaters of Kumaon

body, and with head thrown back and hands resting on the
ground behind to support her, she sat without sound or move-
ment, other than the heaving up and down of her breast, in
the hollow of which the blood, that was flowing down her face
and neck, was collecting in a sticky congealed mass.

My presence was soon detected and a way made for me
to approach the girl. While I was examining her wounds, a
score of people, all talking at the same time, informed me
that the attack on the girl had been made on comparatively
open ground in full view of a number of people including the
girl's husband; that alarmed at their combined shouts the tiger
had left the girl and gone off in the direction of the forest; that
leaving the girl for dead where she had fallen her companions
had run back to the village to inform me; that subsequently
the girl had regained consciousness and returned to the village;
that she would without doubt die of her injuries in a few
minutes; and that they would then carry her back to the scene
of the attack, and I could sit up over the corpse and shoot
the tiger.

While this information was being imparted to me the girl's
eyes never left my face and followed my every movement with
the liquid pleading gaze of a wounded and frightened animal.
Room to move unhampered, quiet to collect my wits, and clean
air for the girl to breathe were necessary, and I am afraid the
methods I employed to gain them were not as gentle as they
might have been. When the last of the men had left in a
hurry, I set the women, who up to now had remained in the
background, to winning water and to tearing my shirt, which
was comparatively clean and dry, into bandages, while one girl,
who appeared to be on the point of getting hysterics, was bund-
led off to scour the village for a pair of scissors. The water and
bandages were ready before the girl I had sent for the scissors
returned with the only pair, she said, the village could produce.
They had been found in the house of a tailor, long since dead,

The Chowgarh Tigers 55

and had been used by the widow for digging up potatoes. The
rusty blades, some eight inches long, could not be made to meet
at any point, and after a vain attempt I decided to leave the
thick coils of blood-caked hair alone.

The major wounds consisted of two claw cuts, one starting
between the eyes and extending right over the head and down
to the nape of the neck, leaving the scalp hanging in two halves,
and the other, starting near the first, running across the fore-
head up to the right ear. In addition to these ugly gaping
wounds there were a number of deep scratches on the right
breast, right shoulder and neck, and one deep cut on the back
of the right hand, evidently inflicted when the girl had put up
her hand in a vain attempt to shield her head.

A doctor friend whom I had once taken out tiger-shooting
on foot had, on our return after an exciting morning, presented
me with a two-ounce bottle of yellow fluid which he advised
me to carry whenever I went out shooting. I had carried the
bottle in the inner pocket of my shooting jacket for over a
year and a portion of the fluid had evaporated; but the bottle
was still three-parts full, and after I had washed the girl's
head and body I knocked the neck off the bottle and poured
the contents, to the last drop, into the wounds. This done I
bandaged the head, to try to keep the scalp in position, and
then picked up the girl and carried her to her home a single
room combining living quarters, kitchen and nursery with the
women following behind.

Dependent from a rafter near the door was an open basket,
the occupant of which was now clamouring to be fed. This
was a complication with which I could not deal, so I left the
solution of it to the assembled women. Ten days later, when
on the eve of my departure I visited the girl for the last time,
I found her sitting on the doorstep of her home with the baby
asleep in her lap.

Her wounds, except for a sore at the nape of her neck where

56 Man-eaters of Kumaon

the tiger's claws had sunk deepest into the flesh, were all healed,
and when parting her great wealth of raven-black hair to show
me where the scalp had made a perfect join, she said, with a
smile, that she was very glad her young sister had quite by
mistake borrowed the wrong pair of scissors from the tailor's
widow (for a shorn head here is the sign of widowhood). If
these lines should ever be read by my friend the doctor I
should like him to know that the little bottle of yellow fluid he
so thoughtfully provided for me, saved the life of a very brave
young mother.

While I had been attending to the girl my men had procured
a goat. Following back the blood trail made by the girl I found
the spot where the attack had taken place, and tying the goat
to a bush I climbed into a stunted oak, the only tree in the
vicinity, and prepared for an all-night vigil. Sleep, even in
snatches, was not possible, for my seat was only a few feet from
the ground, and the tigress was still without her dinner. How-
ever, I neither saw nor heard anything throughout the night.

On examining the ground in the morning I had not had
time to do this the previous evening I found that the tigress,
after attacking the girl, had gone up the valley for half a mile
to where a cattle track crossed the Nandhour river. This track
it had followed for two miles, to its junction with the forest
road on the ridge above Dalkania. Here on the hard ground
I lost the tracks.

For two days the people in all the surrounding villages kept
as close to their habitations as the want of sanitary conveniences
permitted, and then on the third day news was brought to me
by four runners that the man-eater had claimed a victim at
Lohali, a village five miles to the south of Dalkania. The run-
ners stated that the distance by the forest road was ten miles,
but only five by a short cut by which they proposed taking me
back. My preparations were soon made, and a little after mid-
day I set off with my four guides.

The Chowgarh Tigers 57

A very stiff climb of two miles brought us to the crest of
the long ridge south of Dalkania and in view of the valley three
miles below, where the ' kill ' was reported to have taken place.
My guides could give me no particulars. They lived in a small
village a mile on the near side of Lohali, and at 10 a.m. a mes-
sage had come to them in the manner already described that
a woman of Lohali had been killed by the man-eater, and they
were instructed to convey this information to me at Dalkania.

The top of the hill on which we were standing was bare
of trees, and, while I regained my breath and had a smoke, my
companions pointed out the landmarks. Close to where we were
resting, and under the shelter of a great rock, there was a
small ruined hut, with a circular thorn enclosure near by. Ques-
tioned about this hut, the men told me the following story.
Four years previously a Bhutia (a mari from across the border) ,
who had all the winter been sending packages of gur, salt, and
other commodities from the bazaars at the foothills into the
interior of the district, had built the hut with the object of
resting and fattening his flock of goats through the summer
and rains, and getting them fit for the next winter's work.
After a few weeks the goats wandered down the hill and
damaged my informants' crops, and when they came up to
lodge a protest, they found the hut empty, and the fierce sheep-
dog these men invariably keep with them, to guard their camps
at night, chained to an iron stake and dead. Foul play was
suspected, and next day men were collected from adjoining
villages and a search organized. Pointing to an oak tree scored
by lightning and distant some four hundred yards, my infor-
mants said that under it the remains of the man his skull and
a few splinters of bone and his clothes had been found. This
was the Chowgarh man-eater's first human victim.

There was no way of descending the precipitous hill from
where we were sitting, and the men informed me we should
have to proceed half a mile along the ridge to where we should

58 Man-eaters of Kumaon

find a very steep and rough track which would take us straight
down, past their village, to Lohali, which we could see in the
valley below. We had covered about half the distance we had
to go along the ridge, when all at once, and without being able
to ascribe any reason for it, I felt we were being followed.
Arguing with myself against this feeling was of no avail; there
was only one man-eater in all this area and she had procured
a kill three miles away which she was not likely to leave.
However, the uneasy feeling persisted, and as we were now at
the widest part of the grassy ridge I made the men sit down,
instructing them not to move until I returned, and myself set
out on a tour of investigation. Retracing my steps to where
we had first come out on the ridge I entered the jungle, and
carefully worked round the open ground and back to where
the men were sitting. N.o alarm-call of animal or bird indicated
that a tiger was anywhere in the vicinity, but from there on I
made the four men walk in front of me, while I brought up
the rear, with thumb on safety-catch and a constant lookout

When we arrived at the little village my companions had
started from, they asked for permission to leave me. I was very
glad of this request, for I had a mile of dense scrub jungle to
go through, and though the feeling that I was being followed
had long since left me, I felt safer and more comfortable with
only my own life to guard. A little below the outlying terraced
fields, and where the dense scrub started, there was a crystal-
clear spring of water, from which the village drew its water-
supply. Here in the soft wet ground I found the fresh pug
marks of the man-eater.

These pug marks, coming from the direction of the village
I was making for, coupled with the uneasy feeling I had ex-
perienced on the ridge above, convinced me that something had
gone wrong with the ' kill ' and that my quest would be fruitless.
As I emerged from the scrub jungle I came in view of Lohali,

The Chowgarh Tigers 59

which consisted of five or six small houses. Near the door of
one of these houses a group of people were collected.

My approach over the steep open ground and narrow terraced
fields was observed, and a few men detached themselves from
the group nekr the door and advanced to meet me. One of the
number, an old man, bent down to- touch my feet, and with
tears streaming down his cheeks implored me to save the life
of his daughter. His story was as short as it was tragic. His
daughter, who was a widow and the only relative he had in the
world, had gone out at about ten o'clock to collect dry sticks
with which to cook their midday meal. A small stream flows
through the valley, and on the far side of the stream from the
village the hill goes steeply up. On the lower slope of this hill
there are a few terraced fields. At the edge of the lowest field,
and distant about 150 yards from the home, the woman had
started to collect sticks. A little later, some women who were
washing their clothes in the stream heard a scream, and on
looking up saw the woman and a tiger disappearing together
into the dense thorn bushes, which extended from the edge of
the field right down to the stream. Dashing back to the village,
the women raised an alarm. The frightened villagers made no
attempt at a rescue, and a message for help was shouted to a
village higher up the valley, from where it was tossed back to
the village from which the four men had set out to find me.
Half an hour after the message had been sent, the wounded
woman crawled home. Her story was that she had seen the
tiger just as it was about to spring on her, and as there was no
time to run, she had jumped down the almost perpendicular
hillside and while she was in the air the tiger had caught her
and they had gone down the hill together. She remembered
nothing further until she regained consciousness and found her-
self near the stream; and being unable to call for help, she had
crawled back to the village on her hands and knees.

We had reached the door of the house while this tale was

60 Man-eaters of Kumabn

being told. Making the people stand back from the door
the only opening in the four walls of the room I drew the
blood-stained sheet off the woman, whose pitiful condition I
am not going to attempt to describe. Had I been a qualified
doctor, armed with modern appliances, instead of just a mere
man with a little permanganate of potash in his pocket, I do not
think it would have been possible to have saved the woman's
life; for the deep tooth and claw wounds in her face, neck, and
other parts of her body had, in that hot unventilated room,
already turned septic. Mercifully she was only semi-conscious.
The old father had followed me into the room, and, more for
his satisfaction than for any good I thought it would do, I
washed the caked blood from the woman's head and body, and
cleaned out the wounds as best I could with my handkerchief
and a strong solution of permanganate.

It was now too late to think of returning to my camp, and
a place would have to be found in which to pass the night.
A little way up the stream, and not far from where the women
had been washing their clothes, there was a giant pipal tree,
with a foot-high masonry platfrom round it used by the villagers
for religious ceremonies.

I undressed on the platform and bathed in the stream; and
when the wind had carried out the functions of a towel, dressed
again, put my back to the tree and, laying the loaded rifle by
my side, prepared to see the night out. Admittedly it was an
unsuitable place in which to spend the night, but any place was
preferable to the village, and that dark room, with its hot fetid
atmosphere and swarm of buzzing flies, where a woman in
torment fought desperately for breath.

During the night the wailing of women announced that the suf-
ferer's troubles were over, and when I passed through the village
at day break preparations for the funeral were well advanced.

From the experience of this unfortunate woman, and that
of the girl at Dalkania, it was now evident that the old tigress

The Chowgarh Tigers 61

had depended, to a very great extent, on her cub to kill the
human beings she attacked. Usually only one out of every
hundred people attacked by man-eating tigers escapes, but in
the case of this man-eater it was apparent that more people
would be mauled than killed outright, and as the nearest hospi-
tal was fifty miles away, when I returned to Naini Tal I
appealed to Government to send a supply of disinfectants and
dressings to all the Headmen of villages in the area in which
the man-eater was operating. On my subsequent visit I was
glad to learn that the request had been complied with, and that
the disinfectants had saved the lives of a number of people.

I stayed at Dalkania for another week and announced on
a Saturday that I would leave for home the following Monday.
I had now been in the man-eater's domain for close on a month,
and the constant strain of sleeping in- an open tent, and of
walking endless miles during the day with the prospect of
every step being the last, was beginning to tell on my nerves.
The villagers received my announcement with consternation,
and only desisted from trying to make me change my decision
when I promised them I would return at the first opportunity.

After breakfast on Sunday morning the Headmen of Dalkania
paid me a visit and requested me to shoot them some game
before I left. The request was gladly acceded to, and half an
hour later, accompanied by four villagers and one of my own
men, and armed with a .275 rifle and a clip of cartridges, I
set off for the hill on the far side of the Nandhour river, on the
upper slopes of which I had, from my camp, frequently seen
ghooral feeding.

One of the villagers accompanying me was a tall gaunt man
with a terribly disfigured face. He had been a constant visitor to
my camp, and finding in me a good listener had told and retold
his encounter with the man-eater so often that I could, without
effort, repeat the whole story in my sleep. The encounter had ta-
ken place four years previously and is best told in his own words.

62 Man-eaters of Kumbon

' Do you see that pine tree, sahib, at the bottom of the grassy
slope on the shoulder of the hill? Yes, the pine tree with a
big white rock to the east of it. Well, it was at the upper edge
of the grassy slope that the man-eater attacked me. The grassy
slope is as perpendicular as the wall of a house, and none but
a hillman could find foothold on it. My son, who was eight
years of age at the time, and I had cut grass on that slope on
the day of my misfortune, carrying the grass up in armfuls to
the belt of trees where the ground is level.

' I was stooping down at the very edge of the slope, tying
the grass into a big bundle, when the tiger sprang at me and
buried its teeth, one under my right eye, one in my chin and
the other two here at the back of my neck. The tiger's mouth
struck me with a great blow and I fell over on my back, while
the tiger lay on top of me chest to chest, with its stomach
between my legs. When falling backwards I had flung out my
arms and my right hand had come in contact with an oak
sapling. As my fingers grasped the sapling, an idea came to me.
My legs were free, and if I could draw them up and insert my
feet under and against the tiger's belly, I might be able to push
the tiger off, and run away. The pain, as the tiger crushed all
the bones on the right side of my face, was terrible; but I did
not lose consciousness, for you see, sahib, at that time I was a
young man, and in all the hills there was no one to compare
with me in strength. Very slowly, so as not to anger the tiger
I drew my legs up on either side of it, and gently inserted my
bare feet against its belly. Then placing my left hand against
its chest and pushing and kicking upwards with all my might, I
lifted the tiger right off the ground and, we being on the very
edge of the perpendicular hillside, the tiger went crashing down
and belike would have taken me with him, had my hold on
the sapling not been a good one.

'My son had been too frightened to run away, and when
the tiger had gone, I took his loincloth from him and wrapped

The Chowgarh Tigers 65

it round my head, and holding his hand I walked back to the
village. Arrived at my home I told my wife to call all my
friends together, for I wished to see their faces before I died.
When my friends were assembled and saw my condition, they
wanted to put me on a charpoy and carry me fifty miles to
the Almora hospital, but this I would not consent to; for my
suffering was great, and being assured that my time had come,
I wanted to die where I had been born, and where I had lived
all my life. Water was brought, for I was thirsty and my head
was on fire, but when it was poured into my mouth, it all
flowed out through the holes in my neck. Thereafter, for a
period beyond measure, there was great confusion in my mind,
and much pain in my head and in my neck, and while I waited
and longed for death to end my sufferings my wounds healed
of themselves, and I became well.

'And now, sahib, I am as you see me, old and thin, and
with white hair, and a face that no man can look on without
repulsion. My enemy lives and continues to claim victims but do
not be deceived into thinking it is a tiger, for it is no tiger but an
evil spirit, who, when it craves for human flesh and blood, takes
on for a little while the semblance of a tiger. But they say
you are a sadhu, sahib, and the spirits that guard sadhus are
more powerful than this evil spirit, as is proved by the fact
that you spent three days and three nights alone in the jungle,
and came out as your men said you would alive and unhurt/

Looking at the great frame of the man, it was easy to picture
him as having been a veritable giant. And a giant in strength
he must have been, for no man, unless he had been endowed
with strength far above the average, could have lifted the tigress
into the air, torn its hold from the side of his head, carrying
away, as it did, half his face with it, and hurled it down the
precipitous hill.

My gaunt friend constituted himself our guide, and with a
beautifully polish^ axe, with long tapering handle, over his

64 Man-eaters of Kumaon

shoulder, led us by devious steep paths to the valley below.
Fording the Nandhour river, we crossed several wide terraced
fields, now gone out of cultivation for fear of the man-eater,
and on reaching the foot of the hill started what proved to
be a very atiff climb, through forest, to the grass slopes above.
Gaunt my friend may have been, but he lacked nothing in wind,
and tough as I was it was only by calling frequent halts to
admire the view that I was able to keep up with him.

Emerging from the tree forest, we went diagonally across
the grassy slope, in the direction of a rock cliff that extended
upwards for a thousand feet or more. It was on this cliff,
sprinkled over with tufts of short grass, that I had seen ghooral
feeding from my tent. We had covered a few hundred yards
when one of these small mountain-goats started up out of a
ravine, and at my shot 'crumpled up and slipped back out of
sight. Alarmed by the report of the rifle, another ghooral, that
had evidently been lying asleep at the foot of the cliff, sprang
to his feet and went up the rock face, as only he or his big
brother the tahr could have done. As he climbed upwards, I
lay down and, putting the sight to 200 yards, waited for him
to stop. This he presently did, coming out on a projecting
rock to look down on us. At my shot he staggered, regained
his footing, and very slowly continued his climb. At the second
shot he fell, hung for a second or two on a narrow ledge, and
then fell through space to the grassy slope from whence he had
started. Striking the ground he rolled over and over, passing
within a hundred yards of us, and eventually came to rest on a
cattle track a hundred and fifty yards below.

I have only once, in all the years I have been shooting,
witnessed a similar sight to the one we saw during the next
few minutes, and on that occasion the marauder was a leopard.

The ghooral had hardly come to rest when a big Himalayan
bear came lumbering out of a ravine on the side of the grassy
slope and, with never a pause or backwok, came at a


w p

* i


W fc

S fe


See p. ii j


The Chowgarh Tigers 65

fast trot along the cattle track. On reaching the dead goat
he sat down and took it into his lap, and as he started nosing
the goat, I fired. Maybe I hurried over my shot, or allowed
too much for refraction; anyway the bullet went low and struck
the bear in the stomach instead of in the chest. To the six of
us who were intently watching, it appeared that the bear took
the smack of the bullet as an assault from the ghooral, for, rear-
ing up, he flung the animal from him and came galloping along
the track, emitting angry grunts. As he passed a hundred yards
below us I fired my fifth and last cartridge, the bullet, as I
found later, going through the fleshy part of his hind quarters.

While the men retrieved the two ghooral, I descended to
examine the blood trail. The blood on the track showed the
bear to be hard hit, but even so there was danger in following
it up with an empty rifle, for bears are bad-tempered at the
best of times, and are very ugly customers to deal with when

When the men rejoined me a short council of war was held.
Camp was three and a half miles away, and as it was now
2 p.m. it would not be possible to fetch more ammunition, track
down and kill the bear, and get back home by dark; so it was
unanimously decided that we should follow up the wounded
animal and try to finish it off with stones and the axe.

The hill was steep and fairly free of undergrowth, and by
keeping above the bear there was a sporting chance of our being
able to accomplish our task without serious mishap. We accord-
ingly set off, I leading the way, followed by three men, the rear
being brought up by two men each with a ghooral strapped
to his back. Arrived at the spot where I had fired my last
shot, additional blood on the track greatly encouraged us. Two
hundred yards further on, the blood trail led down into a deep
ravine. Here we divided up our force, two men crossing to the
far side, the owner of the axe and I remaining on the near side,
with the men carrying the ghooral following in our rear. On


66 Man-eaters of Kumaon

the word being given we started to advance down the hill. In
the bed of the ravine, and fifty feet below us, was a dense patch
of stunted bamboo, and when a stone was thrown into this
thicket, the bear got up with a scream of rage; and six men,
putting their best foot foremost, went straight up the hill. I
was not trained to this form of exercise, and on looking back
to see if the bear was gaining on us, I saw, much to my relief,
that he was going as hard downhill as we were going uphill.
A shout to my companions, a rapid change of direction, and we
were off in full cry and rapidly gaining on our quarry. A few
well-aimed shots had been registered, followed by delighted
shouts from the marksmen, and angry grunts from the bear,
when at a sharp bend in the ravine, which necessitated a cauti-
ous advance, we lost touch with the bear. To have followed the
blood trail would have been easy, but here the ravine was full
of big rocks, behind any of which the bear might have been
lurking, so while the encumbered men sat down for a rest, a cast
was made on either side of the ravine. While my companion
went forward to look down into the ravine, I went to the right
to prospect a rocky cliff that went sheer down for some two
hundred feet. Holding to a tree for support, I leaned over and
saw the bear lying on a narrow ledge forty feet immediately
below me. I picked up a stone, about thirty pounds in weight,
and, again advancing to the edge and in imminent danger of
going over myself, I raised the stone above my head with both
hands and hurled it.

The stone struck the ledge a few inches from the bear's head,
and scrambling to his feet he disappeared from sight, to reappear
a minute later on the side of the hill. Once again the hunt was
on. The ground was here more open and less encumbered with
rocks, and the four of us who were running light had no
difficulty in keeping up with him. For a mile or more we ran
him at top speed, until we eventually cleared the forest and
emerged on to the terraced fields. Rainwater had cut several

The Chowgarh Tigers 67, ,

deep and narrow channels across the fields, and in one of these r
channels the bear took cover.

The man with the distorted face was the only armed member
of the party and he was unanimously elected executioner.
Nothing loth, he cautiously approached the bear and, swinging
his beautifully polished axe aloft, brought the square head down
on the bear's skull. The result was as alarming as it was un-
expected. The axe-head rebounded off the bear's skull as
though it had been struck on a block of rubber, and with a
scream of rage the animal reared up on his hind legs. Fortu-
nately he did not follow up his advantage, for we were bunched
together, and in trying to run got in each other's way.

The bear did not appear to like this open ground, and after
going a short way down the channel again took cover. It was
now my turn for the axe. The bear,, however, having once
been struck resented my approach, and it was only after a great
deal of manoeuvring that I eventually got within striking dis-
tance. It had been my ambition when a boy to be a lumber-
man in Canada, and I had attained sufficient proficiency with an
axe to split a match-stick. I had no fear, therefore, as the
owner had, of the axe glancing off and getting damaged on the
stones, and the moment I got within reach I buried the entire
blade in the bear's skull.

Himalayan bearskins are very greatly prized by our hill folk,
and the owner of the axe was a very proud and envied man
when I told him he could have the skin in addition to a double
share of the ghooral meat. Leaving the men, whose numbers
were being rapidly augmented by new arrivals from the village,
to skin and divide up the bag, I climbed up to the village and
paid, as already related, a last visit to the injured girl. The day
had been a strenuous one, and if the man-eater had paid me a
visit that night she would have ' caught me napping ' .

On the road I had taken when coming to Dalkania there
were several long stiff climbs up treeless hills, and when I

68 Man-eaters of Kumaon

mentioned the discomforts of this road to the villagers they had
suggested that I should go back via Haira Khan. This route
Would necessitate only one climb to the ridge above the village,
from where it was downhill all the way to Ranibagh, whence
I could complete the journey to Naini Tal by car.

I had warned my men overnight to prepare for an early
start, and a little before sunrise, leaving them to pack up and
follow me, I said good-bye to my friends at Dalkania and start-
ed on the two-mile climb to the forest road on the ridge above.
The footpath I took was not the one by which my men, and
later I, had arrived at Dalkania, but was one the villagers used
when going to, and returning from, the bazaars in the foot-hills.
The path wound in and out of deep ravines, through thick
oak and pine forests and dense undergrowth. There had been
no news of the tigress for a week. This absence of news made
me all the more careful, and an hour after leaving camp I
arrived without mishap at an open glade near the top of the
hill, within a hundred yards of the forest road.

The glade was pear-shaped, roughly a hundred yards long
and fifty yards wide, with a stagnant pool of rain-water in the
centre of it. Sambur and other game used this pool as a
drinking place and wallow and, curious to see the tracks round
it, I left the path, which skirted the left-hand side of the glade
and passed close under a cliff of rock which extended up to
the road. As 'I approached the pool I saw the pug marks of
the tigress in the soft earth at the edge of the water. She had
approached the pool from the same direction as I had, and,
evidently disturbed by me, had crossed the water and gone
into the dense tree and scrub jungle on the right-hand side of
the glade. A great chance lost, for had I kept as careful a
lookout in front as I had behind I should have seen her before
she saw me. However, though I had missed a chance, the
advantages were now all on my side and distinctly in my favour.
The tigress had seen me, or she would not have crossed

The Chowgarh Tigers 69

the pool and hurried for shelter, as her tracks showed she had
done. Having seen me she had also seen that I was alone, and
watching me from cover as she undoubtedly was, she would
assume I was going to the pool to drink as she had done. My
movements up to this had been quite natural, and if I could
continue to make her think I was unaware of her presence, she
would possibly give me a second chance. Stooping down and
keeping a very sharp lookout from under my hat, I coughed
several times, splashed the water about, and then, moving very
slowly and gathering dry sticks on the way, I went to the foot
of the steep rock. Here I built a small fire, and putting my
back to the rock lit a cigarette. By the time the cigarette had
been smoked the fire had burnt out. I then lay down, and
pillowing my head on my left arm placed the rifle on the ground
with rny finger on the trigger.

The rock above me was too steep for any animal to find
foothold on. I had therefore only my front to guard, and
as the heavy cover nowhere approached to within less than
twenty yards of my position I was quite safe. I had all this
time neither seen nor heard anything; nevertheless, I was con-
vinced that the tigress was watching me. The rim of my hat,
while effectually shading my eyes, did not obstruct my vision
and inch by inch I scanned every bit of the jungle within my
range of view. There was not a breath of win^blowing, and
not a leaf or blade of grass stirred. My men, whom I had
instructed to keep close together and sing from the time they
left camp until they joined me on the forest road, were not
due for an hour and a half, and during this time it was more
than likely that the tigress would break cover and try to stalk,
or rush, me.

There are oc

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368189 - 08/08/22 07:09 PM


THREE miles from our winter home, and in the heart of the
forest, there is an open glade some four hundred yards long
and half as wide, grassed with emerald-green and surrounded
with big trees interlaced with cane creepers. It was in this
glade, which for beauty has no equal, that I first saw the tiger
who was known throughout the United Provinces as 'The
Bachelor of Powalgarh', who from 1920 to 1930 was the most
sought-after big-game trophy in the province.

The sun had just risen one winter's morning when I crested
the high ground overlooking the glade. On the far side, a

96 Man-eaters of Kumaon

score of red jungle fowl were scratching among the dead leaves
bordering a crystal-clear stream, and scattered over the emerald-
green grass, now sparkling with dew, fifty or more chital were
feeding. Sitting on a tree stump and smoking, I had been
looking at this scene for some time when the hind nearest to
me raised her head, turned in my direction and called; and a
moment later the Bachelor stepped into the open, from the thick
bushes below me. For a long minute he stood with head held
high surveying the scene, and then with slow unhurried steps
started to cross the glade. In his rich winter coat, which the
newly risen sun was lighting up, he was a magnificent sight as,
with head turning now to the right and now to the left, he
walked down the wide lane the deer had made for him. At
the stream he lay down and quenched his thirst, then sprang
across and, as he entered the dense tree jungle beyond, called
three times in acknowledgement of the homage the jungle folk
had paid him, for from the time he had entered the glade every
chital had called, every jungle fowl had cackled, and every one
of a troupe of monkeys on the trees had chattered.

The Bachelor was far afield that morning, for his home was
in a ravine six miles away. Living in an area in which the
majority of tigers are bagged with the aid of elephants, he had
chosen his home wisely. The ravine, running into the foot-hills,
was half a mile long, with steep hills on either side rising to a
height of a thousand feet. At the upper end of the ravine there
was a waterfall some twenty feet high, and at the lower end,
where the water had cut through red clay, it narrowed to four
feet. Any sportsman, therefore, who wished to try conclusions
with the Bachelor, while he was at home, would of a necessity
have to do so on foot. It was this secure retreat, and the
Government rules prohibiting night shooting, that had enabled
the Bachelor to retain possession of his much sought-after skin.

In spite of the many and repeated attempts that had been
made to bag him with the aid of buffalo bait, the Bachelor had

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 97

never been fired at, though on two occasions, to my knowledge,
he had only escaped death by the skin of his teeth. On the
first occasion, after a perfect beat,, a guy rope by which the
machan was suspended interfered with the movementof Fred
Anderson's rifle at the_cjjjjcal moment, and ocT the second.
occasion |the Bachelor arrived at the machan before the beat
started and found Huish Edye filling his pipej On both these
occasions he had been viewed at a range of only a few feet, and
while Anderson described him as being as big as a Shetland
pony, Edye said he was as big as a donkey.

The winter following these and other unsuccessful attempts,
I took Wyndham, our Commissioner, who knows more about
tigers than any other man in India, to a fire track skirting the
upper end of the ravine in which the Bachelor lived, to show
him the fresh pug marks of the tiger which I had found on the
fire track that morning. Wyndham was accompanied by two
of his most experienced shikaris, and after the three of them had
carefully measured and examined the pug marks, Wyndham
said that in his opinion the tiger was ten feet between pegs, and
while one shikari said he was 10' 5" over curves, the other said
he was 10' 6" or a little more. All three agreed that they had
never seen the pug marks of a bigger tiger.

In 1930 the Forest Department started extensive fellings in
the area surrounding the Bachelor's home and annoyed at the
disturbance he changed his quarters; this I learnt from two
sportsmen who had taken out a shooting pass with the object
of hunting down the tiger. Shooting passes are only issued for
fifteen days of each month, and throughout that winter, shooting
party after shooting party failed to make contact with the tiger.

Towards the end of the winter an old dak runner, who
passes our gate every morning and evening on his seven-mile
run through the forest to a hill village, came to me one evening
and reported that on his way out that morning he had seen the
biggest pug marks of a tiger that he had seen during the thirty

98 Man-eaters of Kumaon

years of his service. The tiger, he said, had come from the
west and after proceeding along the road for two hundred yards
had gone east, taking a path that started from near an almond
tree. This tree was about two miles from our home, and was a
well-known landmark. The path the tiger had taken runs
through very heavy jungle for half a mile before crossipg a wide
watercourse, and then joins a cattle track which skirts the foot
of the hills before entering a deep and well-wooded valley; a
favourite haunt of tigers.

Early next morning, with Robin at my heels, I set out to
prospect, my objective being the point where the cattle track
entered the valley, for at this point the tracks of all the animals
entering or leaving the valley are to be found. From the time
we started Robin appeared to know that we had a special job
in hand and he paid not the least attention to the jungle fowl
we disturbed, the kakar (barking deer) that let us get quite
close to it, and the two sambur that stood and belled at us.
Where the cattle track entered the valley the ground was hard
and stony, and when we reached this spot Robin put down his
head and very carefully smelt the stones, and on receiving a
signal from me to carry on he turned and started down the
track, keeping a yard ahead of me; I could tell from his be-
haviour that he was on the scent of a tiger, and that the scent
was hot. A hundred yards further down, where the track
flattens out and runs along the foot of the hill, the ground is
soft; here I saw the pug marks of a tiger, and a glance at them
satisfied me we were on the heels of the Bachelor and that he
was only a minute or two ahead of us.

Beyond the soft ground the track runs for three hundred
yards over stones, before going steeply down onto an open plain.
If the tiger kept to the track we should probably see him on this
open ground. We had gone another fifty yards when Robin
stopped and, after running his nose up and down a blade of
grass on the left of the track, turned and entered the grass which

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 99

was here about two feet high. On the far side of the grass there
was a patch of clerodendron, about forty yards wide. This plant
grows in dense patches to a height of five feet, and has widely
spread leaves and a big head of flowers not unlike horse-chest-
nut. It is greatly fancied by tiger, sambur and pig because of the
shade it gives. When Robin reached the clerodendron he stopped
and backed towards me, thus telling me that he could not see
into the bushes ahead and wished to be carried. Lifting him up,
I put his hind legs into my left-hand pocket, and when he had
hooked his forefeet over my left arm, he was safe and secure,
and I had both hands free for the rifle. On these occasions
Robin was always in deadly earnest, and no matter what he
saw, or how our quarry behaved before or after fired at, he
never moved and spoilt my shot, or impeded my view. Proceed-
ing very slowly, we had gone half-way through the clerodendron
when I saw the bushes directly in front of us swaying. Waiting
until the tiger had cleared the bushes, I went forward expecting
to see him in the more or less open jungle, but he was nowhere
in sight, and when I put Robin down he turned to the left and
indicated that the tiger had gone into a deep and narrow ravine
nearby. This ravine ran to the foot of an isolated hill on which
there were caves frequented by tigers, and as I was not armed
to deal with a tiger at close quarters, and further, as it was
time for breakfast, Robin and I turned and made for home.

After breakfast I returned alone, armed with a heavy .450
rifle, and as I approached the hill, which in the days of the
long ago had been used by the local inhabitants as a rallying
point against the Gurkha invaders, I heard the boom of a big
buffalo bell, and a man shouting. These sounds were coming
from the top of the hill, which is flat, and about half an acre
in extent, so I climbed up and saw a man on a tree, striking a
dead branch with the head of his axe and shouting, while at the
foot of the tree a number of buffaloes were collected. When
he saw me the man called out, saying I had just arrived in

100 Man-eaters of Kumaon

time to save him and his buffaloes from a shaitan of a tiger,
the size of a camel, that had been threatening them for hours.
From his story I gathered that he had arrived on the hill shortly
after Robin and I had left for home, and that as he started to
cut bamboo leaves for his buffaloes he saw a tiger coming to-
wards him. He shouted to drive the tiger away, as he had done
on many previous occasions with other tigers, but instead of
going away this one had started to growl. He took to his heels,
followed by his buffaloes, and climbed up the nearest tree. The
tiger, paying no heed to his shouts, had then set to pacing round
and round, while the buffaloes kept their heads towards it.
Probably the tiger had heard me coming, for it had left only a
moment before I had arrived. The man was an old friend, who
before his quarrel with the Headman of his village had done a
considerable amount of poaching in these jungles with the
Headman's gun. He now begged me to conduct both himself
and his cattle safely out of the jungle; so telling him to lead on,
I followed behind to see that there were no stragglers. At first
the buffaloes were disinclined to break up their close formation,
but after a little persuasion we got them to start, and we had
gone half-way across the open plain I have alluded to when the
tiger called in the jungle to our right. The man quickened his
pace, and I urged on the buffaloes, for a mile of very thick
jungle lay between us and the wide, open watercourse beyond
which lay my friend's village and safety for his buffaloes.

I have earned the reputation of being keener on photograph-
ing animals than on killing them, and before I left my friend
he begged me to put aside photography for this once, and kill
the tiger, which he said was big enough to eat a buffalo a day,
and ruin him in twenty-five days. I promised to do my best
and turned to retrace my steps to the open plain, to meet with
an experience every detail of which has burnt itself deep into
my memory.

On reaching the plain I sat down to wait for the tiger to

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 101

disclose his whereabouts, or for the jungle folk to tell me where
he was. It was then about 3 p.m., and as the sun was warm
and comforting, I put my head down on my drawn-up knees
and had been dozing a few minutes when I was awakened by the
tiger calling; thereafter he continued to call at short intervals.

Between the plain and the hills there is a belt, some half-
mile wide, of the densest scrub jungle for a hundred miles
round, and I located the tiger as being on the hills on the far
side of the scrub about three-quarters of a mile from me
and from the way he was calling it was evident he was in
search of a mate.

Starting from the upper left-hand corner of the plain, and
close to where I was sitting, an old cart track, used some years
previously for extracting timber, ran in an almost direct line to
where the tiger was calling. This track would take me in the
direction of the calling animal, but on the hills was high grass,
and without Robin to help me there would be little chance of
my seeing him. So instead of my going to look for the tiger,
I decided he should come and look for me. I was too far away
for him to hear me, so I sprinted up the cart track for a few
hundred yards, laid down my rifle, climbed to the top of a high
tree and called three times. I was immediately answered by the
tiger. , After climbing down, I ran back, calling as I went, and
shrived on the plain without having found a suitable place in
which to sit and await the tiger. Something would have to be
done and done in a hurry, for the tiger was rapidly coming
nearer, so, after rejecting a little hollow which I found to be
full of black stinking water, I lay down flat in the open, twenty
yards from where the track entered the scrub. From this point
I had a clear view up the track for fifty yards, to where a bush,
leaning over it, impeded my further view. If the tiger came
down the track, as I expected him to, I decided to fire at him
as soon as he cleared the obstruction.

After opening the rifle to make quite sure it was loaded,

102 Man-eaters of Kumaon

I threw off the safety-catch, and with elbows comfortably resting
on the soft ground waited for the tiger to appear. I had not
called since I came out on the plain, so to give him direction
I now gave a low call, which he immediately answered from
a distance of a hundred yards. If he came on at his usual pace,
I judged he would clear the obstruction in thirty seconds. I
counted this number very slowly, and went on counting up
to eighty, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a movement
to my right front, where the bushes approached to within ten
yards of me. Turning my eyes in that direction I saw a great
head projecting above the bushes, which here were four feet
high. The tiger was only a foot or two inside the bushes, but
all I could see of him was his head. As I very slowly swung
the point of the rifle round and ran my eyes along the sights I
noticed that his head was not quite square on to me, and as I
was firing up and he was looking down, I aimed an inch below
his right eye, pressed the trigger, and for the next half -hour
nearly died of fright.

Instead of dropping dead as I expected him to, the tiger went
straight up into the air above the bushes for his full length,
falling backwards onto a tree a foot thick which had been blown
down in a storm and was still green. With unbelievable fury
he attacked this tree and tore it to bits, emitting as he did so
roar upon roar, and what was even worse, a dreadful blood-
curdling sound as though he was savaging his worst enemy.
The branches of the tree tossed about as though struck by a
tornado, while the bushes on my side shook and bulged out,
and every moment I expected to have him on top of me, for he
had been looking at me when I fired, and knew where I was.

Too frightened even to recharge the rifle for fear the slight
movement and sound should attract the attention of the tiger, I
lay and sweated for half an hour with my finger on the left trig-
ger. At last the branches of the tree and the bushes ceased
waving about, and the roaring became less frequent, and

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 103

eventually, to my great relief, ceased. For another half-hour
I lay perfectly still, with arms cramped by the weight of the
heavy rifle, and then started to pull myself backwards with my
toes. After progressing for thirty yards in this manner I got
to my feet, and, crouching low, made for the welcome shelter of
the nearest tree. Here I remained for some minutes, and as
all was now silent I turned and made for home.


Next morning I returned accompanied by one of my men,
an expert tree-climber. I had noticed the previous evening that
there was a tree growing on the edge of the open ground, and
about forty yards from where the tiger had fallen. We
approached this tree very cautiously, and I stood behind it while
the man climbed to the top. After a long and a careful scrutiny
he looked down and shook his head, and when he rejoined me
on the ground he told me that the bushes over a big area had
been flattened down, but that the tiger was not in sight.

I sent him back to his perch on the tree with instructions
to keep a sharp lookout and warn 'me if he saw any movement
in the bushes, and went forward to have a look at the spot
where the tiger had raged. He had raged to some purpose, for,
in addition to tearing branches and great strips of wood off the
tree, he had torn up several bushes by the roots, and bitten
down others. Blood in profusion was sprinkled everywhere,
and on the ground were two congealed pools, near one of which
was lying a bit of bone two inches square, which I found on
examination to be part of the tiger's skull.

No blood trail led away from this spot and this, combined
with the two pools of blood, was proof that the tiger was still
here when I left and that the precautions I had taken the previ-
ous evening had been very necessary, for when I started on
my ' get-away ' I was only ten yards from the most dangerous
animal in the world a freshly wounded tiger. On circling

104 Man-eaters of Kumaon

round the spot I found a small smear of blood here and there
on leaves that had brushed against his face. Noting that these
indications of the tiger's passage led in a direct line to a giant
semul tree l two hundred yards away, I went back and climbed
the tree my man was on in order to get a bird's-eye view of the
ground I should have to go over, for I had a very uneasy
feeling that I should find him alive: a tiger shot in the head can
live for days and can even recover from the wound. True,
this tiger had a bit of his skull missing, and as I had never
dealt with an animal in his condition before I did not know
whether he was likely to live for a few hours or days, or live
on to die of old age. For this reason I decided to treat him as
an ordinary wounded tiger, and not to take any avoidable risks
when following him up.

From my elevated position on the tree I saw that, a little
to the left of the line to the semul tree, there were two trees,
the nearer one thirty yards from where the blood was, and the
other fifty yards further on. Leaving my man on the tree, I
climbed down, picked up my rifle and a shot-gun and bag of a
hundred cartridges, and very cautiously approached the nearer
tree and climbed up it to a height of thirty feet, pulling the
rifle and gun, which I had tied to one end of a strong cord,
up after me. After fixing the rifle in a fork of the tree where
it would be handy if needed, I started to spray the bushes with
small shot, yard by yard up to the foot of the second tree. I
did this with the object of locating the tiger, assuming he was
alive and in that area, for a wounded tiger, on hearing a shot
fired close to him, or on being struck by a pellet, will either
growl or charge. Receiving no indication of the tiger's presence
I went to the second tree, and sprayed the bushes to within a
few yards of the semul tree, firing the last shot at the tree itself.
After this last shot I thought I heard a low growl, but it was
not repeated and I put it down to my imagination. My bag of
1 Bombax malabaricum, the silk cotton tree.

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 105

cartridges was now empty, so after recovering my man I called
it a day, and went home.

When I returned next morning I found my friend the buffalo
man feeding his buffaloes on the plain. He appeared to be very
much relieved to see me, and the reason for this I learnt later.
The grass was still wet with dew, but we found a dry spot and
there sat down to have a smoke and relate our experiences. My
friend, as I have already told you, had done a lot of poaching,
and having spent all his life in tiger-infested jungles tending his
buffaloes, or shooting, his jungle knowledge was considerable.

After I had left him that day at the wide, open water-course,
he had crossed to the far side and had sat down to listen for
sounds coming from the direction in which I had gone. He
had heard two tigers calling; he had heard my shot followed
by the continuous roaring of a tiger, and very naturally con-
cluded I had wounded one of the tigers and that it had killed
me. On his return next morning to the same spot, he had been
greatly mystified by hearing a hundred shots fired, and this
morning, not being able to contain his curiosity any longer, he
had come to see what had happened. Attracted by the smell of
blood, his buffaloes had shown him where the tiger had fallen,
and he had seen the patches of dry blood and had found the bit
of bone. No animal in his opinion could possibly live for more
than a few hours after having a bit of its skull blown away, and
so sure was he that the tiger was dead that he offered to take
his buffaloes into the jungle and find it for me. I had heard of
this method of recovering tigers with the help of buffaloes but
had never tried it myself, and after my friend had agreed to
accepting compensation for any damage to his cattle I accepted
his offer.

Rounding up the buffaloes, twenty-five in number, and keep-
ing to the line I had sprinkled with shot the previous day, we
made for the semul tree, followed by the buffaloes. Our pro-
gress was slow, for not only had we to move the chin-high

106 Man-eaters of Kumaon

bushes with our hands to see where to put our feet, but we also
had frequently to check a very natural tendency on the part of
the buffaloes to stray. As we approached the semul tree, where
the bushes were lighter, I saw a little hollow filled with dead
leaves that had been pressed flat and on which were several
patches of blood, some dry, others in process of congealing, and
one quite fresh; and when I put my hand to the ground I found
it was warm. Incredible as it may appear, the tiger had lain
in this hollow the previous day while I had expended a hundred
cartridges, and had only moved off when he saw us and the
buffaloes approaching. The buffaloes had now found the blood
and were pawing up the ground and snorting, and as the pros-
pect of being caught between a charging tiger and angry buffa-
loes did not appeal to me, I took hold of my friend's arm,
turned him round and made for the open plain, followed by the
buffaloes. When we were back on safe ground I told the man
to go home, and said I would return next day and deal with
the tiger alone.

The path through the jungles that I had taken each day
when coming from and going home ran for some distance over
soft ground, and on this soft ground, on this fourth day, I saw
the pug marks of a big male tiger. By following these pug
marks I found the tiger had entered the dense brushwood a
hundred yards to the right of the semul tree. Here was an
unexpected complication, for if I now saw a tiger in this jungle
I should not know unless I got a very close look at it whether
it was the wounded or the unwounded one. However, this
contingency would have to be dealt with when met, and in the
meantime worrying would not help, so I entered the bushes and
made for the hollow at the foot of the semul tree.

There was no blood trail to follow so I zigzagged through
the bushes, into which it was impossible to see further than a
few inches, for an hour or more, until I came to a ten-foot-wide
dry watercourse. Before stepping down into this watercourse

The Bachelor of Powalgarh 107

I looked up it, and saw the left hind leg and tail of a tiger.
The tiger was standing perfectly still with its body and head
hidden by a tree, and only this one leg visible. I raised the
rifle to my shoulder, and then lowered it. To have broken the
leg would have been easy, for the tiger was only ten yards away,
and it would have been the right thing to do if its owner was
the wounded animal; but there were two tigers in this area, and
to have broken the leg of the wrong one would have doubled
my difficulties, which were already considerable. Presently the
leg was withdrawn and I heard the tiger moving away, and going
to the spot where he had been standing I found a few drops of
blood too late now to regret not having broken that leg.

A quarter of a mile further on there was a little stream, and
it was possible that the tiger, now recovering from his wound,
was making for this stream. With the object of intercepting
him or failing that, waiting for him at the water, I took a game
path which I knew went to the stream and had proceeded along
it for some distance when a sambur belled to my left, and went
dashing off through the jungle. It was evident now that I was
abreast of the tiger, and I had only taken a few more steps when
I heard the loud crack of a dry stick breaking as though some
heavy animal had fallen on it; the sound had come from a
distance of fifty yards and from the exact spot where the sambur
had belled. The sambur had in unmistakable tones warned
the jungle folk of the presence of a tiger, and the stick therefore
could only have been broken by the same animal; so getting
down on my hands and knees I started to crawl in the direction
from which the sound had come.

The bushes here were from six to eight feet high, with
dense foliage on the upper branches and very few leaves on the
stems, so that I could see through them for a distance of ten
to fifteen feet. I had covered thirty yards, hoping fervently
that if the tiger charged he would come from in front (for in
no other direction could I have fired), when I caught sight of

108 Man-eaters of Kumaon

something red on which the sun, drifting through the upper
leaves, was shining; it might only be a bunch of dead leaves;
on the other hand, it might be the tiger. I could get a better
view of this object from two yards to the right so, lowering my
head until my chin touched the ground, I crawled this distance
with belly to ground, and on raising my head saw the tiger
in front of me. He was crouching down looking at me, with
the sun shining on his left shoulder, and on receiving my two
bullets he rolled over on his side without making a sound.

As I stood over him and ran my eyes over his magnificent
proportions it was not necessary to examine the pads of his feet
to know that before me lay the Bachelor of Powalgarh.

The entry of the bullet fired four days previously was hidden
by a wrinkle of skin, and at the back of his head was a big
hole which, surprisingly, was perfectly clean and healthy.

The report of my rifle was, I knew, being listened for, so I
hurried home to relieve anxiety, and while I related the last
chapter of the hunt and drank a pot of tea my men
were collecting.

Accompanied by my sister and Robin and a carrying party
of twenty men, I returned to where the tiger was lying, and
before he was roped to a pole my sister and I measured him
from nose to tip of tail, and from tip of tail to nose. At home
we again measured him to make quite sure we had made no
mistake the first time. These measurements are valueless, for
there were no independent witnesses present to certify them;
they are however interesting as showing the accuracy with which
experienced woodsmen can judge the length of a tiger from his
pug marks. Wyndham, you will remember, said the tiger was
ten feet between pegs, which would give roughly 10' 6" over
curves; and while one shikari said he was 10' 5" over curves,
the other said he was 10' 6" or a little more. Shot seven years
after these estimates were made, my sister and I measured the
tiger as being 10' 7" over curves.

The Mohan Man-eater 109

I have told the story at some length, as I feel sure that those
who hunted the tiger between 1920 and 1930 will be interested
to know how the Bachelor of Powalgarh met his end.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368190 - 08/08/22 07:12 PM


EIGHTEEN miles from our summer home in the Himalayas
there is a long ridge running east and west, some 9,000 feet
in height. On the upper slopes of the eastern end of this ridge
there is a luxuriant growth of oat grass; below this grass the
hill falls steeply away in a series of rock cliffs to the Kosi river

One day a party of women and girls from the village on the
north t f ace of the ridge were cutting the oat grass, when a tiger
suddenly appeared in their midst. In the stampede that
followed an elderly woman lost her footing, rolled down the
steep slope, and disappeared over the cliff. The tiger, evidently
alarmed by the screams of the women, vanished as mysteriously
as it had appeared, and when the women had reassembled and
recovered from their fright, they went down the grassy slope
and, looking over the cliff, saw their companion lying on a
narrow ledge some distance below them.

The woman said she was badly injured it was found later
that she had broken a leg and fractured several ribs and that
she could not move. Ways and means of a rescue were dis-
, cussed, and it was finally decided that it was a job for men;
and as no one appeared to be willing to remain at the spot, they
informed the injured woman that they were going back to the
village for help. The woman begged not to be left alone, how-
ever, and at her entreaty a girl, sixteen years of age, volunteered
to stay with her. So, while the rest of the party set off for the
village, the girl made her way down to the right, where a rift
in the cliff enabled her to get a foothold on the ledge.

110 Man-eaters of Kumaon

This ledge only extended half-way across the face of the
cliff and ended, a few yards from where the woman was lying,
in a shallow depression. Fearing that she might fall off the
ledge and be killed on the rocks hundreds of feet below the
woman asked the girl to move her to this depression, and this
difficult and dangerous feat the girl successfully accomplished.
There was only room for one in the depression, so that the girl
squatted, as only an Indian can squat, on the ledge facing the

The village was four miles away, and once, and once again,
the two on the ledge speculated as to the length of time it
would take their companions to get back to the village; what
men they were likely to find in the village at that time of day;
how long it would take to explain what had happened, and
finally, how long it would take the rescue party to arrive.

Conversation had been carried on in whispers for fear the
tiger might be lurking in the vicinity and hear them and then,
suddenly, the woman gave a gasp and the girl, seeing the look
of horror on her face and the direction in which she was look-
ing, turned her head and over her shoulder saw the tiger,
stepping out of the rift in the cliff onto the ledge.

Few of us, I imagine, have escaped that worst of all night-
mares in which, while our limbs and vocal cords are paralysed
with fear, some terrible beast in monstrous form approaches to
destroy us; the nightmare from which, sweating fear in every
pore, we waken with a cry of thankfulness to Heaven that it
was only a dream. There was no such happy awakening from
the nightmare of that unfortunate girl, and little imagination is
needed to picture the scene. A rock cliff with a narrow ledge
running partly across it and ending in a little depression in
which an injured woman is lying; a young girl frozen with ter-
jor squatting on the ledge, and a tiger slowly creeping towards
her; retreat in every direction cut off, and no help at hand.

Mothi Singh, an old friend of mine, was in the village

The Mohan Man-eater 111

visiting a sick daughter when the women arrived, and he headed
the rescue party. When this party went down the grassy slope
and looked over the cliff, they saw the woman lying in a swoon,
and on the ledge they saw splashes of blood.

The injured woman was carried back to the village, and
when she had been revived and had told her story, Mothi Singh
set out on his eighteen-mile walk to me. He was an old man
well over sixty, but he scouted the suggestion that he was tired
and needed a rest, so we set off together to make investigations.
But there was nothing that I could do, for twenty-four hours
had elapsed and all that the tiger had left of the brave young
girl, who had volunteered to stay with her injured companion,
were a few bits of bone and her torn and blood-stained clothes.

This was the first human being killed by the tiger which
later received recognition in Government records as ' The Mohan
Man-eater ' .

After killing the girl, the tiger went down the Kosi valley
for the winter, killing on its way among other people two
men of the Public Works Department, and the daughter-in-law
of our member of the Legislative Council. As summer
approached it returned to the scene of its first kill, and for
several years thereafter its beat extended up and down the Kosi
valley from Kakrighat to Gargia a distance of roughly forty
miles until it finally took up its quarters on the hill above
Mohan, in the vicinity of a village called Kartkanoula.

At the District Conference, to which reference has been made
in a previous story, the three man-eating tigers operating at that
time in the Kumaon Division were classed as follows in their
order of importance:

ist Chowgarh, Naini Tal District.
2nd Mohan, Almora District.
3rd Kanda, Garhwal District.

After the Chowgarh tiger had been accounted for I was

112 Man-eaters of Kumaon

reminded by Baines, Deputy Commissioner, Almora, that only
a part of my promise made at the conference had been fulfilled,
and that the Mohan tiger was next on the list. The tiger, he
stated, was becoming more active and a greater menace every
day, and had during the previous week killed three human
beings, residents of Kartkanoula village. It was to this village
Baines now suggested I should go.

While I had been engaged with the Chowgarh tiger, Baines
had persuaded some sportsmen to go to Kartkanoula, but though
they had sat up over human and animal kills they had failed to
make contact with the man-eater and had returned to their
depot at Ranikhet. Baines informed me I should now have the
ground to myself a very necessary precaution, for nerves wear
thin when hunting man-eaters, and accidents are apt to result
when two or more parties are hunting the same animal.


It was on a blistering hot day in May that I, my two servants,
and the six Garhwalis I had brought with me from Naini Tal
alighted from the i p.m. train at Ramnagar and set off on our
twenty-four-mile foot journey to Kartkanoula. Our first stage
was only seven miles, but it was evening before we arrived at
Gargia. I had left home in a hurry on receiving Baines 1 letter,
and had not had time to ask for permission to occupy the Gargia
Forest Bungalow, so I slept out in the open.

On the far side of the Kosi river at Gargia there is a cliff
several hundred feet high, and while I was trying to get sleep
I heard what I thought were stones falling off the cliff on the
rocks below. The sound was exactly the same as would be
made by bringing two stones violently together. After some
time this sound worried me, as sounds will on a hot night, and
as the moon was up and the light good enough to avoid
stepping on snakes, I left my camp bed and set out to make
investigations. I found that the sound was being made by a

The Mohan Man-eater 113

colony ofjrogs in a marsh by the side of the road. I have heard
land-, water- and tree-frogs making strange sounds in different
parts of the world, but I have never heard anything so strange
as the sound made by the frogs at Gargia in the month of May.

After a very early start next morning we did the twelve
miles to Mohan before the sun got hot, and while my men
were cooking their food and my servants were preparing my
breakfast, the chowkidar of the bungalow, two Forest Guards,
and several men from the Mohan bazaar, entertained me with
stories of the man-eater, the most recent of which concerned
the exploits of a fisherman who had been fishing the Kosi river.
One of the Forest Guards claimed to be the proud hero of this
exploit, and he described very graphically how he had been
out one day with the fisherman and, on turning a bend in the
river, they had come face to face with the man-eater; and how
the fisherman had thrown away his rod and had grabbed the
rifle off his the Forest Guard's shoulder; and how they had
run for their lives with the tiger close on their heels. ' Did
you look back?' I asked. 'No, sahib/ said he, pitying my
ignorance. ' How could a man who was running for his life
from a man-eater look back?'; and how the fisherman, who
was leading by a head, in a thick patch of grass had fallen over
a sleeping bear, after which there had been great confusion and
shouting and everyone, including the bear, had run in different
directions and the fisherman had got lost; and how after a long
time the fisherman had eventually found his way back to the
bungalow and had said a lot to him the Forest Guard on the
subject of having run away with his rifle and left him empty-
handed to deal with a man-eating tiger and an angry bear. The
Forest Guard ended up his recital by saying that the fisherman
had left Mohan the following day saying that he had hurt his
leg when he fell over the bear, and that anyway there were
no fish to be caught in the Kosi river.

By midday we were ready to continue our journey, and,


114 Man-eaters of Kumaon

with many warnings from the small crowd that had collected
to see us off to keep a sharp lookout for the man-eater while
going through the dense forest that lay ahead of us, we set out
on our four-thousand-foot climb to Kartkanoula.
1 Our progress was slow, for my men were carrying heavy
loads and the track was excessively steep, and the heat terrific.
There had been some trouble in the upper villages a short time
previously, necessitating the dispatch from Naini Tal of a small
police force, and I had been advised to take everything I needed
for myself and my men with me, as owing to the unsettled con-
ditions it would not be possible to get any stores locally. This
was the reason for the heavy loads my men were carrying.

After many halts we reached the edge of the cultivated land
in the late afternoon, and as there was now no further danger
to be apprehended for my men from the man-eater, I left them
and set out alone for the Foresters' Hut which is visible from
Mohan, and which had been pointed out to me by the Forest
Guards as the best place for my stay while at Kartkanoula.

The hut is on the ridge of the high hill overlooking Mohan,
and as I approached it along the level stretch of road running
across the face of the hill, in turning a corner in a ravine where
there is some dense undergrowth, I came on a woman filling
an earthenware pitcher from a little trickle of water flowing
down a wooden trough. Apprehending that my approach on
rubber-soled shoes would frighten her, I coughed to attract her
attention, noticed that she started violently a*s I did so, and a
few yards beyond her, stopped to light a cigarette. A minute
or two later I asked, without turning my head, if it was safe
for anyone to be in this lonely spot, and after a little hesitation
the woman answered that it was not safe, but that water had
to be fetched and as there was no one in the home to accompany
her, she had come alone. Was there no man? Yes, there was
a man, but he was in the fields ploughing, and in any case it
was the duty of women to fetch water. How long would it

The Mohan Man-eater H5

take to fill the pitcher? Only a little longer. The woman had;
got over her fright and shyness, and I was now subjected to $
close cross-examination. Was I a policeman? No. Was I a
Forest Officer? No, Then who was I? Just a man. Why
had I come? To try and help the people of Kartkanoula. In
what way? By shooting the man-eater. Where had I heard
about the man-eater? Why had I come alone? Where were
my men? How many were there? How long would I stay?
And so on.

The pitcher was not declared full until the woman had
satisfied her curiosity, and as she walked behind me she pointed
to one of several ridges running down the south face of the hill,
and pointing out a big tree growing on a grassy slope said that
three days previously the man-eater had killed a woman under
it; this tree I noted, with interest, was only two or three hundred
yards from my objective the Foresters' Hut. We had now
come to a footpath running up the hill, and as she took it the
woman said the village from which she had come was just round
the shoulder of the hill, and added that she was now quite safe.

Those of you who know the women of India will realize
that I had accomplished a lot, especially when it is remembered
that there had recently been trouble in this area with the police.
So far from alarming the woman and thereby earning the
hostility of the entire countryside I had, by standing by while*
she filled her pitcher and answering a few questions, gained
a friend who would in the shortest time possible acquaint the
whole population of the village of my arrival; that I was not
an officer of any kind, and that the sole purpose of my visit was
to try to rid them of the man-eater.


The Foresters' Hut was on a little knoll some twenty yards
to the left of the road, and as the door was only fastened with
91 chain I opened it and walked inside. The room was about

116 Man-eaters of Knmaon

iien feet square and quite clean, but had a mouldy disused
smell; I learnt later that the hut had not been occupied since
the advent of the man-eater in that area eighteen months
previously. On either side of the main room there were two
narrow slips of rooms, one used as a kitchen, and the other
as a fuel store. The hut would make a nice safe shelter for
my men, and having opened the back door to let a current of
air blow through the room, I went outside and selected a spot
between the hut and the road for my 40-lb. tent. There was no
furniture of any kind in the hut, so I sat down on a rock near
the road to await the arrival of my men.

The ridge at this point was about fifty yards wide, and as
tjxe hut was on the south edge of the ridge, and the village on
ttie north face of the hill, the latter was not visible from the
former. I had been sitting on the rock for about ten minutes
when a head appeared over the crest from the direction of the
village, followed by a second and a third. My friend the water-
carrier had not been slow in informing the village of my arrival.

When strangers meet in India and wish to glean information
on any particular subject from each other, it is customary to
refrain from broaching the subject that has brought them
together whether accidentally or of set purpose until the very
last moment, and to fill up the interval by finding out everything
concerning each other's domestic and private affairs; as for
instance, whether married and if so the number and sex of
children and their ages; if not married, why not; occupation
and amount of pay, and so on. Questions that would in any
other part of the world earn one a thick ear are in India and
especially in our hills asked so artlessly and universally that no
one who has lived among the people dreams of taking offence
at them.

In my conversation with the woman I had answered many
of the set questions, and the ones of a domestic nature which
it is not permissible for a woman to ask of a man were being

The Mohan Man-eater 117

put to me when my men arrived. They had filled a kettle at
the little spring, and in an incredibly short time dry sticks were
collected, a fire lit, the kettle boiled, and tea and biscuits pro-
duced. As I opened a tin of condensed milk I heard the men
asking my servants why condensed milk was being used instead
of fresh milk and receiving the answer that there was no fresh
milk; and further that, as it had been apprehended that owing
to some previous trouble in this area no fresh milk would
be available, a large supply of tinned milk had been brought.
The men appeared to be very distressed on hearing this and
after a whispered conversation one of them, who I learnt later
was the Headman of Kartkanoula, addressed me and said it
was an insult to them to have brought tinned milk, when all
the resources of the village were at my disposal. I admitted
my mistake, which I said was due to my being a stranger to
that locality, and told the Headman that if he had any milk
to spare I would gladly purchase a small quantity for my daily
requirements, but that beyond the milk, I wanted for nothing.

My loads had now been unstrapped, while more men had
arrived from the village, and when I told my servants where
I wanted them to pitch my tent there was a horrified exclama-
tion from the assembled villagers. Live in a tent indeed!
Was I ignorant of the fact that there was a man-eating tiger in
this area and that it used this road regularly every night? If I
doubted their word, let me come and see the claw marks on the
doors of the houses where the road ran through the upper end
of the village. Moreover, if the tiger did not eat me in the
tent it would certainly eat my men in the hut, if I was not
there to protect them. This last statement made my men prick
up their ears and add their entreaties to the advice of the
villagers, so eventually I agreed to stay in the main room,
while my two servants occupied the kitchen, and the six
Garhwalis the fuel store.

The subject of the man-eater having been introduced, it was

118 Man-eaters of Kumaofi

now possible for me to pursue it without admitting that it was
the one object I had wished to introduce from the moment
the first man had put his head over the ridge. The path leading
down to the tree where the tiger had claimed its last victim was
pointed out to me, and the time of day, and the circumstances
tinder which the woman had been killed, explained. The
road along which the tiger came every night, I was informed,
tan eastward to Baital Ghat with a branch down to Mohan, and
westward to Chaknakl on the Ramganga river. The road going
west, after running through the upper part of the village and
through cultivated land for half a mile, turned south along the
face of the hill, and on rejoining the ridge on whigh the hut
was, followed the ridge right down to Chaknakl. This portion
of the road between Kartkanoula and Chaknakl, some six miles
long, was considered to be very dangerous, and had not been
used since the advent of the man-eater; I subsequently found
that after leaving the cultivated land the road entered dense tree
and scrub jungle, which extended right down to the river.

The main cultivation of Kartkanoula village is on the north
face of the hill, and beyond this cultivated land there are several
small ridges with deep ravines between. On the nearest of these
ridges, and distant about a thousand yards from the Foresters'
Hut, there is a big pine tree. Near this tree, some ten days
previously, the tiger had killed, partly eaten and left, a woman,
and as the three sportsmen who were staying in a Forest
Bungalow four miles away were unable to climb the pine tree the
villagers had put up three machans in three separate trees, at
distances varying from one hundred to one hundred and fifty
yards from the kill, and the machans had been occupied by the
sportsmen and their servants a little before sunset. There was a
young moon at the time, and after it had set the villagers heard
a number of shots being fired, and when they questioned the
servants next morning the servants said they did not know what
had been fired at for they themselves had not seen anything.

The Mohan Man-eater 119

Two days later a cow had been- killed over which the sportsmen
had sat /and again; as on the previous occasion, shots had been
fired after the moon had set. It is these admittedly sporting
but unsuccessful attempts to bag man-eaters that makes them
so wary, and the more difficult to shoot the longer they live.*

The villagers gave me one very interesting item of news in
connexion with the tiger. They said they always knew when
it had come into the village by the low moaning sound it made.
On questioning them closely I learnt that at times the sound
was continuous as the tiger passed between the houses, while
at other times the sound stopped for sometimes short, and other
times long periods.

From this information I concluded (a) that the tiger was
suffering from a wound, (b) that the wound was of such a
nature that the tiger only felt it when in motion, and that
therefore, (c) the wound was in one of its legs. I was assured
that the tiger had not been wounded by any local shikari, or
by any of the sportsmen from Ranikhet who had sat up for it;
however, this was of little importance, for the tiger had been
a man-eater for years, and the wound that I believed it was
suffering from might have been the original cause of its be-
coming a man-eater. A very interesting point and one that
could only be cleared up by examining the tiger after it
was dead.

The men were curious to know why I was so interested in
the sound made by the tiger, and when I told them that it
indicated the animal had a wound in one of its legs and that
the wound had been caused either by a bullet, or porcupine
quills, they disagreed with my reasoning and said that on the
occasions they had seen the tiger it appeared to be in sound
condition, and further, that the ease with which it killed and
carried off its victims was proof that it was not crippled in any
way. However, what I told them was remembered and later
earned me the reputation of being gifted with second sight.

120 Man-eaters of Kumaon


When passing through Ramnagar I had asked the Tahsildar
to purchase two young male buffaloes for me and to send them
to Mohan, where my men would take them over.

I told the villagers I intended tying up one of the buffaloes
near the tree where three days previously the woman had been
killed and the other on the road to Chaknakl, and they said
they could think of no better sites, but that they would talk
the matter over among themselves, and let me know in the
morning if they had any other suggestions to make. Night was
now drawing in, and before leaving the Headman promised
to send word to all the adjoining villages in the morning to let
them know of my arrival, the reason for my coming, and to
impress on them the urgency of letting me know without loss
of time of any kills, or attacks by the tiger in their areas.

The musty smell in the room had much decreased though
it was still noticeable. However, I paid no attention to it, and
after a bath and dinner put two stones against the doors there
being no other way of keeping them shut and being bone-tired
after my day's exertions went to bed and to sleep. I am a
light sleeper, and two or three hours later I awoke on hearing
an animal moving about in the jungle. It came right up to
the back door. Getting hold of a rifle and a torch, I moved
the stone aside with my foot and heard an animal moving off
as I opened the door it might from the sound it was making
have been the tiger, but it might also have been a leopard or
a porcupine. However, the jungle was too thick for me to see
what it was. Back in the room and with the stone once more
in position, I noticed I had developed a sore throat, which I
attributed to having sat in the wind after the hot walk up from
Mohan; but when my servant pushed the door open and brought
in my early-morning cup of tea, I found I was suffering from
an attack of laryngitis, due possibly to my having slept in
a long-disused hut, the roof of which was swarming with bats.

The Mohan Man-eater 121

My servant informed me that * he and his companion had
escaped infection, but that the six Garhwalis in the fuel store
were all suffering from the same complaint as I was. My stock
of medicine consisted of a two-ounce bottle of iodine and a few
tablets of quinine, and on rummaging in my gun-case I found
a small paper packet of permanganate which my sister had
provided for me on a previous occasion. The packet was soaked
through with gun oil, but the crystals were still soluble, and
I put a liberal quantity of the crystals into a tin of hot water,
together with some iodine. The resulting gargle was very
potent, and while it blackened our teeth it did much to relieve
the soreness in our throats.

After an early breakfast I sent four men down to Mohan
to bring up the two buffaloes, and myself set off to prospect
the ground where the woman had been killed. From the direc-
tions I had received overnight I had no difficulty in finding the
spot where the tiger had attacked and killed the woman, as she
was tying the grass she had cut into a bundle. The grass, and
the rope she was using, were lying just as they had been left,
as were also two bundles of grass left by her companions when
they had run off in fright to the village. The men had told
me that the body of the woman had not been found, but from
the fact that three perfectly good lengths of rope and the dead
woman's sickle had been left in the jungle, I am inclined to
think that no attempt had been made to find her.

The woman had been killed at the upper end of a small
landslide, and the tiger had taken her down the slide and into*
a thick patch of undergrowth. Here the tiger had waited,
possibly to give the two women time to get out of sight, and
had then crossed the ridge visible from the hut, after which it
had gone with its kill straight down the hill for a mile or more
into dense tree and scrub jungle. The tracks were now four
days old, and as there was nothing to be gained by following
them further, I turned back to the hut.

122 Man-eaters of Kumaon

'. The climb back to the ridge was a very steep one, and when
I reached the hut at about midday I found an array of pots and
pans of various shapes and sizes on the verandah, all containing
milk. In contrast to the famine of the day before there was
now abundance, sufficient milk in fact for me to have bathed
in. My servants informed me they had protested to no effect
and that each man had said, as he deposited his vessel on the
verandah, that he would take good care that I used no more
condensed milk while I remained in their midst.

I did not expect the men to return from Mohan with the
buffaloes before nightfall, so after lunch I set out to have a
look at the road to Chaknakl.

From the hut the hill sloped gradually upwards to a height
of about five hundred feet, and was roughly triangular in shape.
The road, after running through cultivated land for half a mile,
turned sharply to the left, went across a steep rocky hill until
it regained the ridge, and then turned to the right and followed
the ridge down to Chaknakl. The road was level for a short
distance after coming out on the ridge, and then went steeply
down, the gradient in places being eased by hairpin bends.

I had the whole afternoon before me, and examined about
three miles of the road very carefully. When a tiger uses a
road regularly it invariably leaves signs of its passage by making
scratch marks on the side of the road. These scratch marks,
made for the same purpose as similar marks made by domestic
cats and all other members of the cat family, are of very great
interest to the sportsman, for th<ey provide him with the follow-
ing very useful information, ~{/L) whether the animal that has
made the mark is a male or a female, ^(4) the direction in which
it was travelling, (3^ the length of time that has elapsed since
it passed, (4)- the direction and approximate distance of its head-
quarters, (5} the nature of its kills, and finally \6) whether the
animal has recently had a meal of human flesh. The value of
this easily-acquired information to one who is hunting a man-

The Mohan Man-eater 123

ekter on strange ground will be easily understood. Tigers
leave their pug marks on the roads they use and these pug marks
can provide one with quite a lot of useful information, as for
instance the direction and speed at which the animal was
travelling, its sex and age, whether all four limbs are sound,
and if not sound, wjudx^particular limb, is.. defective.

The road I was on had through long disuse got overgrown
with short stiff grass and was therefore not, except in one or
two damp places, a good medium on which to leave pug marks.
One of these "damp places was within a few yards of where the
road came out on the ridge, and just below this spot there was
a green and very stagnant pool of water; a regular drinking
place for sambur.

I found several scratch marks just round the corner where
the road turned to the left after leaving the cultivated ground,
the most recent of which was three days old. Two hundred
yards from these scratch marks the road, for a third of its width,
ran under an overhanging rock. This rock was ten feet high
and at the top of it there was a flat piece of ground two or three
yards wide, which was only visible from the road when
approaching the rock from the village side. On the ridge I
found more scratch marks, but I did not find any pug marks
until I got to the first hairpin bend. Here, in cutting across the
bend, the tiger had left its tracks where it had jumped down
onto some soft earth. The tracks, which were a day old, were
a little distorted, but even so it was possible to see that they
had been made by a big, old, male tiger.

When one is moving in an area in which a man-eating tiger
is operating progress is of necessity very slow, for every
obstruction in one's line of walk, be it a bush, a tree, rock, or
an inequality in the ground capable of concealing death, has
to be cautiously approached, while at the same time, if a wind
is not blowing and there was no wind that evening a careful
and constant lookout has to be maintained behind and on either

124 Man-eaters of Kumaori

side. Further, there was much of interest to be looked at,
for it was the month of May, when orchids at this elevation
4,000 to 5,000 feet are at their best, and I have never seen a
greater variety or a greater wealth of bloom than the forests on
that hill had to show. The beautiful white butterfly orchid
was in greatest profusion, and every second tree of any size
appeared to have decked itself out with them.

It was here that I first saw a bird that Prater of the Bombay
Natural History Society later very kindly identified for me as
the Mountain Crag Martin, a bird of a uniform ash colour,
with a slight tinge of pink on its breast, and in size a little
smaller than a Rosy Pastor. These birds had their broods with
them, and while the young ones four to a brood sat in a row
on a dry twig at the top of a high tree, the parent birds kept
darting away often to a distance of two or three hundred yards
to catch insects. The speed at which they flew was amazing,
and I am quite sure there is nothing in feathers in North India,
not excluding our winter visitor the great Tibetan Swallow, that
these Martins could not make rings round. Another thing about
these birds that was very interesting was their wonderful eye-
sight. On occasions they would fly in a dead straight line for
several hundred yards before turning and coming back. It was
not possible, at the speed they were going, that they were chas-
ing insects on these long flights, and as after each flight the bird
invariably thrust some minute object into one of the gaping
mouths, I believe they were able to see insects at a range at
which they would not have been visible to the human eye
through the most powerful field-glasses.

Safeguarding my neck, looking out for tracks, enjoying nature
generally, and listening to all the jungle sounds a sambur a
mile away down the hillside in the direction of Mohan was
warning the jungle folk of the presence of a tiger, and a kakar
and a langur (Entellus monkey) on the road to Chaknakl were
warning other jungle folk of the presence of a leopard time

The Mohan Man-eater 125

passed quickly, and I found myself back at the overhanging
rock as the sun was setting. As I approached this rock I
marked it as being quite the most dangerous spot in all the
ground I had so far gone over. A tiger lying on the grass-
covered bit of ground above the rock would only have to wait
until anyone going either up or down the road was under or
had passed it to have them at his mercy a very dangerous spot
indeed, and one that needed remembering.

When I got back to the hut I found the two buffaloes had
arrived, but it was too late to do anything with them that

My servants had kept a fire going most of the day in th4
hut, the air of which was now sweet and clean, but even so
I was not going to risk sleeping in a closed room again; so I
made them cut two thorn bushes and wedge them firmly into
the doorways before going to bed. There was no movement
in the jungle near the back door that night, and after a sound
sleep I woke in the morning with my throat very much better.

I spent most of the morning talking to the village people
and listening to the tales they had to tell of the man-eater and
the attempts that had been made to shoot it, and after lunch
I tied up one buffalo on the small ridge the tiger had crossed
when carrying away the woman, and the other at the hairpin
bed where I had seen the pug marks.

Next morning I found both buffaloes sleeping peacefully after
having eaten most of the big feed of grass I had provided them
with. I had tied bells round the necks of both animals, and the
absence of any sound from these bells as I approached each
buffalo gave me two disappointments for, as I have said, I found
both of them asleep. That evening I changed the position of
the second buffalo from the hairpin bend to where the road came
out on the ridge, close to the pool of stagnant water.

The methods most generally employed in tiger shooting can
briefly be described as (a) sitting up, and (6) beating, and

126s Man-eaters of Kumaon

young male buffaloes are used as bait in both cases. The
procedure followed is to select the area most convenient -for
a sit-up, or for a beat, and to tie the bait out in the late evening
using a rope which the bait cannot, but which the tiger can,
break; and when the bait is taken to either sit up over the kill
on a machan in a tree, or beat the cover into which the kill
has been taken.

In the present case neither of these methods was feasible.
My throat, though very much better, was still sore and it would
not have been possible for me to have sat up for any length
of time without coughing, and a beat over that vast area of
heavily wooded and broken ground would have been hopeless
even if I had been able to muster a thousand men, so I decided
to stalk the tiger, and to this end carefully sited my two buffaloes
and tied them to stout saplings with four one-inch-thick hemp
ropes, and left them out in the jungle for the whole twenty-
four hours.

I now stalked the buffaloes in turn each morning as soon as 1
there was sufficient light to shoot by, and again in the evening,
for tigers, be they man-eaters or not, kill as readily in the day as
they do at night in areas in which they are not disturbed, and
during the day, while I waited for news from outlying villages,
nursed my throat, and rested, my six Garhwalis fed and watered
the buffaloes.

On the fourth evening when I was returning at sunset after
visiting the buffalo on the ridge, as I came round a bend in the'
road thirty yards from the overhanging rock, I suddenly, and
for the first time since my arrival at Kartkanoula, felt I was
in danger, and that the danger that threatened me was on the
rock in front of me. For five minutes I stood perfectly still
with my eyes fixed on the upper edge of the rock, watching
for movement. At that short range the flicker of an eyelid
would have caught my eyes, but there was not even this small
movement; and after going forward ten paces, I again stood

The Mohan Man-eater 127

watching for several minutes. The fact that I had seen no
movement did not in any way reassure me the man-eater was
on the rock, of that I was sure; and the question was, what was
I going to do about it? The hill, as I have already told you,
was very steep, had great rocks jutting out of it, and was
overgrown with long grass and tree and scrub jungle. Bad as
the going was, had it been earlier in the day I would have gone
back and worked round and above the tiger to try to get a*
shot at him, but with only half an hour of daylight left, and
the best part of a mile still to go, it would have been madness
to have left the road. So, slipping up the safety-catch and
putting the rifle to my shoulder, I started to pass the rock.

The road here was about eight feet wide, and going to the
extreme outer edge I started walking crab-fashion, feeling each
step with my feet before putting my weight down to keep from
stepping off into space. Progress was slow and difficult, but
as I drew level with the overhanging rock and then began to
pass it, hope rose high that the tiger would remain where he
was until I reached that part of the road from which the flat
bit of ground above the rock, on which he was lying, was
visible. The tiger, however, having failed to catch me off my
guard was taking no chances, and I had just got clear of the
rock when I heard a low muttered growl above me, and a little
later first a kakar went off barking to the right, and then two
hind sambur started belling near the crest of the triangular

The tiger had got away with a sound skin, but for the
matter of that, so had I, so there was no occasion for regrets,
and from the place on the hill where the sambur said he was,
I felt sure he would hear the bell I had hung round the neck
of the buffalo that was tied on the ridge near the stagnant

When I reached the cultivated land I found a group of men
waiting for me. They had heard the kakar and sambur and

128 Man-eaters of Kumaon

were very disappointed that I had not seen the tiger, but cheered
up when I told them I had great hopes for the morrow.

During the night a dust-storm came on, followed by heavy
rain, and I found to my discomfort that the roof of the hut
was very porous. However, I eventually found a spot where
it was leaking less than in others, dragged my camp bed to
it and continued my sleep. It was a brilliantly clear morning
when I awoke; the rain had washed the heat haze and dust
out of the atmosphere, and every leaf and blade of grass was
glistering in the newly risen sun.

Hitherto I had visited the nearer buffalo first, but this morn-
ing I had an urge to reverse the daily procedure, and after
instructing my men to wait until the sun was well up and then
go to feed and water the nearer buffalo, I set off with high
hopes down the Chaknakl road; having first cleaned and oiled
my 450/400 rifle a very efficient weapon, and a good and
faithful friend of many years' standing.

The overhanging rock that I passed with such trouble the
previous evening did not give me a moment's uneasiness now,
and after passing it I started looking for tracks, for the rain had
softened the surface of the road. I saw nothing however until
I came to the damp place on the road, which, as I have said,
was on the near side of the ridge and close to the pool where the
buffalo was tied. Here in the soft earth I found the pug marks
of the tiger, made before the storm had come on, and going in
the direction of the ridge. Close to this spot there is a rock
about three feet high, on the khud side of the road. On the
previous occasions that I had stalked down the road I had
found that by standing on this rock I could look over a hump
in the road and see the buffalo where it was tied forty yards
away. When I now climbed on to the rock and slowly raised
my head, I found that the buffalo had gone. This discovery

The Mohan Man-eater 129

was as disconcerting as it was inexplicable. To prevent the*
tiger from carrying the buffalo away to some distant part of
the jungle, where the only method of getting a shot would
have been by sitting up on the ground or in a tree a hopeless
proceeding with my throat in the condition it was in I had
used four thicknesses of strong one-inch-thick hemp rope, and
even so the tiger had got away with the kill.

I was wearing the thinnest of rubber-soled shoes, and very
silently I approached the sapling to which the buffalo had been
tied and examined the ground. The buffalo had been killed
before the storm, but had been carried away after the rain had
stopped, without any portion of it having been eaten. Three
of the ropes I had twisted together had been gnawed through,
and the fourth had been broken. Tigers do not usually gnaw
through ropes; however, this one had done so, and had carried
off the kill down the hill facing Mohan. My plans had been
badly upset, but very fortunately the rain had come to my
assistance. The thick carpet of dead leaves which the day before
had been as dry as tinder were now wet and pliable, and pro-
vided I made no mistakes, the pains the tiger had been to in
getting away with the kill might yet prove his undoing.

When entering a jungle in which rapid shooting might at
any moment become necessary, I never feel happy until I have
reassured myself that my rifle is loaded. To pull a trigger in
an emergency and wake up in the Happy Hunting Grounds
or elsewhere because one had omitted to load a weapon, would
be one of those acts of carelessness for which no excuse could
be found; so though I knew I had loaded my rifle before I came
to the overhanging rock, I now opened it and extracted the
cartridges. I changed one that was discoloured and dented,
and after moving the safety-catch up and down several times
to make sure it was working smoothly I have never carried a
cocked weapon I set off to follow the drag.

This word 'drag', when it is used to describe the mark left

130 Man-eaters of Kumaon

on the ground by a tiger when it is moving its kill from one
place to another, is misleading, for a tiger when taking its kill
any distance (I have seen a tiger cany a full-grown cow for four
miles) does not drag it, it carries it; and if the kill is too heavy
to be carried, it is left. The drag is distinct or faint according
to the size of the animal that is being carried, and the manner
in which it is being held. For instance, assuming the kill is a
sambur and the tiger is holding it by the neck the hind quarters
will trail on the ground leaving a distinct drag mark. On the other
hand, if the sambur is being held by the middle of the back,
there may be a faint drag mark, or there may be none at all.
In the present case the tiger was carrying the buffalo by the
neck, and the hind quarters trailing on the ground were leaving
a drag mark it was easy to follow. For a hundred yards the
tiger went diagonally across the face of the hill until he came to
a steep clay bank. In attempting to cross this bank he had
slipped and relinquished his hold of the kill, which had rolled
down the hill for thirty or forty yards until it had fetched up
against a tree. On recovering the kill the tiger picked it up by
the back, and from now on only one leg occasionally touched
the ground, leaving a faint drag mark, which nevertheless,
owing to the hillside being carpeted with bracken, was not
very difficult to follow. In his fall the tiger had lost direction,
and he now appeared to be undecided where to take the kill.
First he went a couple of hundred yards to the right, then a
hundred yards straight down the hill through a dense patch of
ringals (stunted bamboo). After forcing his way with consider-
able difficulty through the ringals he turned to the left and went
diagonally across the hill for a few hundred yards until he came
to a great rock, to the right of which he skirted. This rock
was flush with the ground on the approach side, and, rising
gently for twenty feet, appeared to project out over a hollow
or dell of considerable extent. If there was a cave or recess
under the projection, it would be a very likely place for the

The Mohan Man-eater 131

tiger to have taken his kill to, so leaving the drag I stepped on
to the rock and moved forward very slowly, examining every
yard of ground below, and on either side of me, as it came into
view. On reaching the end of the projection and looking over
I was disappointed to find that the hill came up steeply to meet
the rock, and that there was no cave or recess under it as I
had expected there would be.

As the point of the rock offered a good view of the dell and
of the surrounding jungle and was comparatively safe from
an attack from the man-eater I sat down; and as I did so, I
caught sight of a red and white object in a dense patch of short
undergrowth, forty or fifty yards directly below me. When one
is looking for a tiger in heavy jungle everything red that
catches the eye is immediately taken for the tiger, and here, not
only could I see the red of the tiger, but I could also see his
stripes. For a long minute I watched the object intently, and
then, as the face you are told to look for in a freak picture
suddenly resolves itself, I saw that the object I was looking at
was the kill, and not the tiger; the red was blood where he had
recently been eating, and the stripes were the ribs from which
he had torn away the skin. I was thankful for having held my
fire for that long minute, for in a somewhat similar case a friend
of mine ruined his chance of bagging a very fine tiger by putting
two bullets into a kill over which he had intended sitting;
fortunately he was a good shot, and the two men whom he had
sent out in advance to find the kill and put up a machan over
it, and who were, at the time he fired, standing near the kill
screened by a bush, escaped injury.

When a tiger that has not been disturbed leaves his kill out
in the open, it can be assumed that he is lying up close at hand
to guard the kill from vultures and other scavengers, and the
fact that I could not see the tiger did not mean that he was
not lying somewhere close by in the dense undergrowth.

Tigers are troubled by flies and do not lie long in one

132 Man-eaters of Kumaon

position, so I decided to remain where I was and watch for
movement; but hardly had I come to this decision, when I felt
an irritation in my throat. I had not quite recovered from my
attack of laryngitis and the irritation grew rapidly worse until
it became imperative for me to cough. The usual methods one
employs on these occasions, whether in church or the jungle,
such as holding the breath and swallowing hard, gave no relief
until it became a case of cough, or burst; and in desperation I
tried to relieve my throat by giving the alarm-call of the langur.
Sounds are difficult to translate into words and for those of you
who are not acquainted with our jungles I would try to describe
this alarm-call, which can be heard for half a mile, as khok,
khok, khofy, repeated again and again at short intervals, and
ending up with khokorror. All langurs do not call at tigers, but
the ones in our hills certainly do, and as this tiger had -probably
heard the call every day of his life it was the one sound I could
make to which he would not pay the slightest attention. My
rendering of the call in this emergency did not sound very con-
vincing, but it had the desired effect of removing the irritation
from my throat.

For half an hour thereafter I continued to sit on the rock,
watching for movement and listening for news from the jungle
folk, and when I had satisfied myself that the tiger was not
anywhere within my range of vision, I got off the rock, and,
moving with the utmost caution, went down to the kill.


I regret I am not able to tell you what weight of flesh a
full-grown tiger can consume at a meal, but you will have
some idea of his capacity when I tell you he can eat a sambur
in two days, and a buffalo in three, leaving possibly a small
snack for the fourth day.

The buffalo I had tied up was not full-grown but he was
by no means a small animal, and the tiger had eaten

The Mohan Man-eater 133

approximately half of him. With a meal of that dimension
inside of him I felt sure he had not gone far, and as the ground
was still wet, and would remain so for another hour or two, I
decided to find out in what direction he had gone, and if pos-
sible, stalk him.

There was a confusion of tracks near the kill but by going
round in widening circles I found the track the tiger had made
when leaving. Soft-footed animals are a little more difficult to
track than hard-footed ones, yet after long years of experience
tracking needs as little effort as a gun dog exerts when following
a scent. As silently and as slowly as a shadow I took up the
track, knowing that the tiger would be close at hand. When
I had gone a hundred yards I came on a flat bit w of ground,
twenty feet square, and carpeted with that variety of short soft
grass that has highly scented roots; on this grass the tiger had
lain, the imprint of his body being clearly visible.

As I was looking at the imprint and guessing at the size of
the animal that had made it, I saw some of the blades of grass
that had been crushed down, spring erect. This indicated that
the tiger had been gone only a minute or so.

You will have some idea of the lay-out when I tell you
that the tiger had brought the kill down from the north, and
on leaving it had gone west, and that the rock on which I had
sat, the kill, and the spot where I was now standing, formed
the points of a triangle, one side of which was forty yards, and
the other two sides a hundred yards long.

My first thought on seeing the grass spring erect was that
the tiger had seen me and moved off, but this I soon found
was not likely, for neither the rock nor the kill was visible
from the grass plot, and that he had not seen me and moved
after I had taken up his track I was quite certain. Why then
had he left his comfortable bed and gone away? The sun
shining on the back of my neck provided the answer. It was
now nine o'clock of an unpleasantly hot May morning, and a

134 Man-eaters of Kumaon

glance at the sun and the tree-tops over which it had come
showed that it had been shining on the grass for ten minutes.
The tiger had evidently found it too hot, and gone away a few
minutes before my arrival to look for a shady spot.

I have told you that the grass plot was twenty feet square.
On the far side to that from which I had approached there was
a fallen tree, lying north and south. This tree was about four
feet in diameter, and as it was lying along the edge of the grass
plot in the middle of which I was standing, it was ten feet away
from me. The root end of the tree was resting on the hillside,
which here went up steeply and was overgrown with brushwood,
and the branch end (which had been snapped off when the tree
had fallen) was projecting out over the hillside. Beyond the
tree the hill appeared to be more or less perpendicular, and
running across the face of it was a narrow ledge of rock, which
disappeared into dense jungle thirty yards further on.

If my surmise, that the sun had been the cause of the tiger
changing his position, was correct, there was no more suitable
place than the lee of the tree for him to have taken shelter in,
and the only way of satisfying myself on this point was, to walk
up to the tree and look over. Here a picture seen long years
ago in Punch flashed into memory. The picture was of a lone
sportsman who had gone out to hunt lions and who on glancing
up, on to the rock he was passing, looked straight into the
grinning face of the most enormous lion in Africa. Underneath
the picture was written, ' When you go out looking for a lion,
be quite sure that you want to see him'. True, there would
be this small difference, that whereas my friend in Africa looked
up into the lion's face, I would look down into the tiger's;
otherwise the two cases assuming that the tiger was on the far
side of the tree would be very similar.

Slipping my feet forward an inch at a time on the soft grass,
I now started to approach the tree, and had covered about
half the distance that separated me from it when I caught sight

The Mohan Man-eater 135

of a black-and-yellow object about three inches long on the
rocky ledge, which I now saw was a well-used game path. For
a long minute I stared at this motionless object, until I was
convinced that it was the tip of the tiger's tail. If the tail was
pointing away from me the head must obviously be towards
me, and as the ledge was only some two feet wide, the tiger
could only be crouching down and waiting to spring the moment
my head appeared over the bole of the tree. The tip of the
tail was twenty feet from me, and allowing eight feet for the
tiger's length while crouching, his head would be twelve feet
away. But I should have to approach much nearer before I
should be able to see enough of his body to get in a crippling
shot, and a crippling shot it would have to be if I wanted to
leave on my feet. And now, for the first time in my life, I
regretted my habit of carrying an uncocked rifle. The safety-
catch of my 450/400 makes a very distinct click when thrown
off, and to make any sound now would either bring the tiger
right on top of me, or send him straight down the steep hillside
without any possibility of my getting in a shot.

Inch by inch I again started to creep forward, until the whole
of the tail, and after it the hind quarters, came into view. When
I saw the hind quarters, I could have shouted with delight, for
they showed that the tiger was not crouching and ready to
spring, but was lying down. As there was only room for his
body on the two-foot-wide ledge, he had stretched his hind legs
out and was resting them on the upper branches of an oak
sapling growing up the face of the almost perpendicular hillside.
Another foot forward and his belly came into view, and from the
regular way in which it was heaving up and down I knew that he
was asleep. Less slowly now I moved forward, until his shoul-
der, and then his whole length, was exposed to my view. The
back of his head was resting on the edge of the grass plot, which
extended for three or four feet beyond the fallen tree; his eyes
were fast shut, and his nose was pointing to heaven.

136 Man-eaters of Kumaon

Aligning the sights of the rifle on his forehead I pressed the
trigger and, while maintaining a steady pressure on it, pushed
up the safety-catch. I had no idea how this reversal of the
usual method of discharging a rifle would work, but it did work;
and when the heavy bullet at that short range crashed into
his forehead not so much as a quiver went through his body.
His tail remained stretched straight out; his hind legs continued
to rest on the upper branches of the sapling; and his nose still
pointed to heaven. Nor did his position change in the slightest
when I sent a second, and quite unnecessary, bullet to follow
the first. The only change noticeable was that his stomach had
stopped heaving up and down, and that blood was trickling
down his forehead from two surprisingly small holes.

I do not know how the close proximity of a tiger reacts on
others, but me it always leaves with a breathless feeling due
possibly as much to fear as to excitement and a desire for a
little rest. I sat down on the fallen tree and lit the cigarette
I had denied myself from the day my throat had got bad, and
allowed my thoughts to wander. Any task well accomplished
gives satisfaction, and the one just completed was no exception.
The reason for my presence at that spot was the destruction of
,the man-eater, and from the time I had left the road two hours
previously right up to the moment I pushed up the safety-catch
everything including the langur call had worked smoothly
and without a single fault. In this there was great satisfaction,
the kind of satisfaction I imagine an author must feel when he
writes FINIS to the plot that, stage by stage, has unfolded itself
just as he desired it to. In my case, however, the finish had
not been satisfactory, for I had killed the animal, that was
lying five feet from me, in his sleep.

My personal feelings in the matter are I know of little interest
.to others, but it occurs to me that possibly you also might think
and in that case I should like to put the

arguments before you that I used on myself, in the hope that

The Mohan Man-eater 137

you will find tlfem more satisfactory than I did. These argu-
ments were~"(6) ihe tiger was a man-eater that was better dead
than alive, (bf therefore it made no difference whether he was
awake or asleep when killed, and (of that had I walked away
when I saw his belly heaving up and down I should have been
morally responsible for the deaths of all the human beings he
killed thereafter. All good and sound arguments, you will
admit, for my having acted as I did; but the regret remains
that through fear of the consequences to myself, or fear of
losing the only chance I might ever get, or possibly a com-
bination of the two, I did not awaken the sleeping animal and
give him a sporting chance.

The tiger was dead, and if my trophy was to be saved from
falling into the valley below and rumeJrit was advisable to get
him off the ledge with as little delay as possible. Leaning the
rifle, for which I had no further use, against the fallen tree,
I climbed up to the road and, once round the corner near the
cultivated land, I cupped my hands and sent a cooee echoing
over the hills and valleys. I had no occasion to repeat the call,
for my men had heard my two shots when returning from
attending to the first buffalo and had run back to the hut to
collect as many villagers as were within calling distance. Now,
on hearing my cooee, the whole crowd came helter-skelter down
the road to meet me.

When stout ropes and an axe had been procured I took the
crowd back with me, and after I had secured the ropes round
the tiger, willing hands half carried and half dragged him off
the ledge and over the fallen tree, on to the plot of grass. Here
I would have skinned him, but the villagers begged me not to
do so, saying that the women and children of Kartkanoula and
the adjoining villages would be very disappointed if they were
not given an opportunity of seeing the tiger with their own
eyes and satisfying themselves tha

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368191 - 08/08/22 07:13 PM


FISHING for mahseer in a well-stocked submontane river is,
in my opinion, the most fascinating of all field sports. Our
environments, even though we may not be continuously consci-
ous of them, nevertheless play a very important part in the sum
total of our enjoyment of any form of outdoor sport. I am
convinced that the killing of the fish of one's dreams in un-
congenial surroundings would afford an angler as little pleasure

140 Man-eaters of Kumaon

as the winning of the Davis Cup would to a tennis player if
the contest were staged in the Sahara.

The river I have recently been fishing in flows, for some forty
miles of its length, through a beautifully wooded valley, well
stocked with game and teeming with bird life. I had the curiosity
to count the various kinds of animals and birds seen in one day,
and by the evening of that day my count showed, among animals,
sambur, chital, kakar, ghooral, pig, langur and red monkeys;
and among birds seventy-five varieties including peafowl, red
jungle fowl, kaleege pheasants, black partridge and bush quail.

In addition to these I saw a school of five otter in the river,
several small mugger and a python. The python was lying on
the surface of a big still pool, with only the top of its flat head
and eyes projecting above the gin-clear water. The subject was
one I had long wished to photograph, and in order to do this
it was necessary to cross the river above the pool and climb the
opposite hillside; but unfortunately I had been seen by those
projecting eyes, and as I cautiously stepped backwards, the
reptile, which appeared to be about eighteen feet long, sub-
merged, to retire to its subterranean home among the piled-up
boulders at the head of the pool.

In some places the valley through which the river flows is
so narrow that a stone can be tossed with ease from one side
to the other, and in other places it widens out to a mile or more.
In these open spaces grow amaltas with their two-feet-long
sprays of golden bloom, karaunda and box bushes with their
white star-shaped flowers. The combined scent from these flow-
ers fills the air, throbbing with the spring songs of a multitude of
birds, with the most delicate and pleasing of perfumes. In these
surroundings angling for mahseer might well be described as
sport fit for kings. My object in visiting this sportsman's para-
dise was not, however, to kill mahseer, but to try to secure a day-
light picture of a tiger, and it was only when light conditions
were unfavourable that I laid aside my movie camera for a rod.

The Fish of My Dreams 141

I had been out from dawn one day, trying, hour after hour,
to get a picture of a tigress and her two cubs. The tigress was
a young animal, nervous as all young mothers are, and as often
as I stalked her she retired with the cubs into heavy cover.
There is a limit to the disturbance a tigress, be she young or old,
will suffer when accompanied by cubs, and when the limit on
this occasion had been reached I altered my tactics and tried
sitting up in trees over open glades, and lying in high grass near
a stagnant pool in which she and her family were accustomed to
drink, but with no better success.

When the declining sun was beginning to cast shadows over
the open places I was watching, I gave up the attempt, and
added the day to the several hundred days I had already spent
in trying to get a picture of a tiger in its natural surroundings.
The two men I had brought from camp had passed the day in
the shade of a tree on the far side of the river. I instructed
them to return to camp by way of the forest track, and,
exchanging my camera for a rod, set off along the river, intent
on catching a fish for my dinner.

The fashion in rods and tackle has altered, in recent years,
as much as the fashion in ladies' dress. Gone, one often won-
ders where, areTlhe i8-foot greenheart rods with their unbreak-
able accompaniments, and gone the muscles to wield them, and
their place has been taken by light one-handed fly rods.

I was armed with an n-foot tournament trout rod, a reel
containing 50 yards of casting line and 200 yards of fine silk
backing, a medium gut cast, and a one-inch home-made brass

When one has unlimited undisturbed water to fish one is
apt to be over-critical. A pool is discarded because the
approach to it is over rough ground, or a run is rejected because
of a suspected snag. On this occasion, half a mile had been
traversed before a final selection was made: a welter of white
water cascading over rocks at the head of a deep oily run

142 Man-eaters of Kumaon

80 yards long, and at the end of the run a deep still pool
200 yards long and 70 yards wide. Here was the place to
catch the fish for my dinner.

Standing just clear of the white water I flicked the spoon
into the run, pulling a few yards of line off the reel as I did so,
and as I raised the rod to allow the line to run through the rings
the spoon was taken by a fish, near the bank, and close to where
I was standing. By great good luck the remaining portion of the
slack line tightened on the drum of the reel and did not foul the
butt of the rod or handle of the reel, as so often happens.

In a flash the fish was off downstream, the good well-oiled
reel singing a paean of joy as the line was stripped off it. The
50 yards of casting line followed by 100 yards of backing were
gone, leaving in their passage burned furrows in the fingers of
my left hand, when all at once the mad rush ceased as abruptly
as it had begun, and the line went dead.

The speculations one makes on these occasions chased each
other through my mind, accompanied by a little strong language
to ease my feelings. The hold had been good without question.
The cast, made up a few days previously from short lengths of
gut procured from the Pilot Gut Coy., had been carefully tied
and tested. Suspicion centred on the split ring: possibly, crack-
ed on a stone on some previous occasion, it had now given way.

Sixty yards of the line are back on the reel, when the slack line
is seen to curve to the left, and a moment later is cutting a strong
furrow upstream the fish is still on, and is heading for the white
water. Established here, pulling alternately from upstream, at
right angles, and downstream fails to dislodge him. Time drags
on, and the conviction grows that the fish has gone, leaving the
line hung up on a snag. Once again and just as hope is being
abandoned the line goes slack, and then tightens a moment
later, as the fish for the second time goes madly downstream.

And now he appears to have made up his mind to leave this
reach of the river for the rapids below the pool. In one strong

The Fish of My Dreams 143

steady run he reaches the tail of the pool. Here, where the
water fans out and shallows, he hesitates, and finally returns to
the pool. A little later he shows on the surface for the first
time, and but for the fact that the taut line runs direct from the
point of the rod to the indistinctly seen object on the far side of
the pool, it would be impossible to believe that the owner of
that great triangular fin, projecting five inches out of the water,
had taken a fly spoon a yard or two from my feet.

Back in the depths of the pool, he was drawn inch by inch
into slack water. To land a big fish single-handed on a trout
rod is not an easy accomplishment. Four times he was stranded
with a portion of his great shoulders out of water, and four
times at my very cautious approach he lashed out, and, return-
ing to the pool, had to be fought back inch by inch. At the fifth
attempt, with the butt of the rod held at the crook of my
thumb and reversed, rings upwards to avoid the handle of the
reel coming into contact with him, he permits me to place one
hand and then the other against his sides and very gently propel
him through the shallow water up on to dry land*

A fish I had set out to catch, and a fish I had caught, but
he would take no part in my dinner that night, for between
me and camp lay three and a half miles of rough ground, half
of which would have to be covered in the dark.

When sending away my n-lb. camera I had retained the
cotton cord I use for drawing it up after me when I sit in trees.
One end of this cord was passed through the gills of the fish
and out at his mouth, and securely tied in a loop. The other
end was made fast to the branch of a tree. When the cord was
paid out the fish lay snugly against a great slab of rock, in
comparatively still water. Otter were the only danger, and to
scare them off I made a flag of my handkerchief, and fixed the
end of the improvised flagstaff in the bed of the river a little
below the fish.
The sun was gilding the mountain tops next morning when

144 Man-eaters of Kumaon

I was back at the pool, and found the fish lying just where I
had left it the previous evening. Having unfastened the cord
from the branch, I wound it round my hand as I descended the
slab of rock towards the fish. Alarmed at my approach, or feel-
ing the vibration of the cord, the fish suddenly galvanized into
life, and with a mighty splash dashed upstream. Caught at a
disadvantage, I had no time to brace my feet on the sloping and
slippery rock, but was jerked headlong into the pool.

1 have a great distaste for going over my depth in these
submontane rivers, for the thought of being encircled by a
hungry python is very repugnant to me, and I am glad there
were no witnesses to the manner in which I floundered out of
that pool. I had just scrambled out on the far side, with the
fish still attached to my right hand, when the men I had instruct-
ed to follow me arrived. Handing the fish over to them to take
down to our camp on the bank of the river, I went on ahead
to change and get my camera ready.

I had no means of weighing the fish and at a rough guess
both the men and I put it at 50 Ib.

The weight of the fish is immaterial, for weights are soon for-
gotten. Not so forgotten are the surroundings in which the sport
is indulged in. The steel blue of the fern-fringed pool where
the water rests a little before cascading over rock and shingle to
draw breath again in another pool more beautiful than the one
just left the flash of the gaily-coloured kingfisher as he breaks
the surface of the water, shedding a shower of diamonds from
his wings as he rises with a chirp of delight, a silver minnow
held firmly in his vermilion bill the belling of the sambur and
the clear tuneful call of the chital apprising the jungle folk that
the tiger, whose pug marks show wet on the sand where a
few minutes before he crossed the river, is out in search of his
dinner. These are things that will not be forgotten and will
live in my memory, the lodestone to draw me back to that
beautiful valley, as yet unspoiled by the hand of man.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368192 - 08/08/22 07:15 PM


HOWEVER little faith we have in the superstitions we share
with others thirteen at a table, the passing of wine at
dinner, walking under a ladder, and so on our own private
superstitions, though a source of amusement to our friends, are
very real to us.

I do not know if sportsmen are more superstitious than the
rest of mankind, but I do know that they take their superstitions
very seriously. One of my friends invariably takes five car-
tridges, never more and never less, when he goes out after big
game, and another as invariably takes seven cartridges.
Another, who incidentally was the best-known big-game sports-
man in Northern India, never started the winter shooting season
without first killing a mahseer. My own private superstition
concerns snakes. When after man-eaters I have a deep rooted
conviction that, however much I may try, all my efforts will be
unavailing until I have first killed a snake.

During the hottest days of one May I had from dawn to
dark climbed innumerable miles up and down incredibly steep
hills, and through thick thorn bushes that had left my hands
and knees a mass of ugly scratches, in search of a very wary
man-eater. I returned on that fifteenth evening, dog-tired, to
the two-roomed Forest Bungalow I was staying at to find a
deputation of villagers waiting for me with the very welcome
news that the man-eater, a tiger, had been seen that day on the
outskirts of their village. It was too late to do anything that
night, so the deputation were provided with lanterns and sent
home with strict injunctions that no one was to leave the village
the following day.

The village was situated at the extreme end of the ridge on
which the bungalow was, and because of its isolated position
and the thick forest that surrounded it, had suffered more from
the depredations of the tiger than any other village in the

146 Man-eaters of Kumaon

district. The most recent victims were two women and a man.

I had made one complete circle of the village the following
morning and had done the greater part of a second circle, a
quarter of a mile below the first, when after negotiating a diffi-
cult scree of shale I came on a little nullah made by the rush
of rain-water down the steep hillside. A glance up and down
the nullah satisfied me that the tiger was not in it, and then a
movement just in front of me, and about twenty-five feet away,
caught my eye. At this spot there was a small pool of water
the size of a bath-tub, and on the far side of it was a snake that
had evidently been drinking. The lifting of the snake's head
had caught my eye and it was not until the head had been
raised some two or three feet from the ground and the hood
expanded that I realized it was a hamadryad. It was the most
beautiful snake I had ever seen. The throat, as it faced me,
was a deep orange red shading to golden yellow where the body
met the ground. The back, olive green, was banded by ivory-
coloured chevrons, and some four feet of its length from the tip
of its tail upwards was shiny black, with white chevrons. In
length the snake was between thirteen and fourteen feet.

One hears many tales about hamadryads, their aggressiveness
when disturbed, and the speed at which they can travel. If,
as it seemed about to do, the snake attacked, up or down hill I
should be at a disadvantage, but across the shale scree I felt that
I could hold my own. A shot at the expanded hood, the size
of a small plate, would have ended the tension, but the rifle in
my hands was a heavy one and I had no intention of disturbing
the tiger that had showed up after so many days of weary wait-
ing and toil. After an interminably long minute, during which
time the only movement was the flicking in and out of a long
and quivering forked tongue, the snake closed his hood, lowered
his head to the ground and, turning, made off up the opposite
slope. Without taking my eyes off him I groped with my hand
on the hillside and picked up a stone that filled my hand as

The Kanda Man-eater 147

comfortably as a cricket ball. The snake had just reached a
sharp ridge of hard clay when the stone, launched with the
utmost energy I was capable of, struck it on the back of the
head. The blow would have killed any other snake outright
but the only, and very alarming, effect it had on the hamadryad
was to make it whip round and come straight towards me. A
second and a larger stone fortunately caught it on the neck when
it had covered half the distance between us, and after that the
rest was easy. With a great feeling of satisfaction I completed
the second circle round the village, and though it proved as
fruitless as the first, I was elated at having killed the snake.
Now, for the first time in many days, I had a feeling that my
search for the man-eater would be successful.

The following day I again searched the forest surrounding
the village, and towards evening found the fresh pug marks
of the tiger at the edge of a ploughed field overlooking the
village. The occupants of the village, numbering about a
hundred, were by now thoroughly alarmed, and leaving them
with the assurance that I would return early next day I set out
on my lonely four-mile walk back to the Forest Bungalow.

To walk with safety through forests or along deserted roads
in an area in which a man-eater is operating calls for the utmost
caution and the strict observance of many rules. It is only
when the hunter has repeatedly been the hunted that the senses
can be attuned to the required pitch, and those rules be strictly
adhered to, the breaking of which would provide the man-eater
with an easy victim.

The reader may ask, ' Why a lonely walk?', when I probably
had men and to spare with me in camp. My answer to this
very natural question would be: first, because one is apt to get
careless and rely too much on one's companions, and second,
because in a mix-up with a tiger one has a better chance when
one is alone.

The next morning, as I approached the village, I saw an

148 Man-eaters of Kumaon

eager throng of men waiting for me, and when within earshot
I was greeted with the gratifying news that a buffalo had been
killed during the night. The animal had been killed in the
village, and after being dragged some distance along the ridge
had been taken down into a narrow, deep, and very heavily
wooded valley on the north face of the hill.

A very careful reconnaissance from a projecting rock on the
ridge satisfied me that an approach down the steep hill, along
the line of the drag, would not be advisable, and that the only
thing to do was to make a wide detour, enter the valley from
the lower end and work up to the spot where I expected to find
the kill.

This manoeuvre was successfully accomplished, and by mid-
day I had arrived at the spot marked from above where the
valley flattened out for a hundred yards before going straight
up three hundred yards to the ridge above. It was at the upper
end of this flat bit of ground that I expected to find the kill,
and with luck, the tiger. The long and difficult climb up the
valley through dense thickets of thorn bush and stunted bamboo
had brought out a bath of sweat, and as it was not advisable to
take on a job where quick firing might be necessary with sweaty
hands, I sat down for a much-needed rest and for a smoke.

The ground in front of me was strewn with large smooth
boulders among which a tiny stream meandered, forming wher-
ever possible small crystal-clear pools. Shod with the thinnest
of rubber-soled shoes, the going over these boulders was ideal
for my purpose, and when I had cooled and dried I set off to
stalk the kill in the hope of finding the tiger lying asleep near
it. When three-quarters of the ground had been covered I
caught sight of the kill tucked away under a bank of ferns, and
about twenty-five yards away from where the hill went steeply
tip to the ridge. The tiger was not in sight, and, very cautious-
ly drawing level with the kill I took up my position oil a flat
boulder to scan every inch of ground visible.

The Kanda Man-eater 149

The premonition of impending danger is too well known and
established a fact to need any comment. For three or four
minutes I had stood perfectly still with no thought of danger
and then all at once I became aware that the tiger was looking
at me at a very short range. The same sense that had conveyed
the feeling of impending danger to me had evidently operated
in the same way on the tiger and awakened him from his sleep.
To my left front were some dense bushes, growing on a bit
of flat ground. On these bushes, distant fifteen to twenty feet
from me, and about the same distance from the kill, my interest
centred. Presently the bushes were gently stirred and the next
second I caught sight of the tiger going at full speed up the
steep hillside. Before I could get the rifle to bear on him he
disappeared behind a creeper-covered tree, and it was not until
he had covered about sixty yards that I again saw him, as he
was springing up the face of a rock. At my shot he fell back-
wards and came roaring down the hill, bringing an avalanche of
stones with him. A broken back, I concluded; and just as I
was wondering how best to deal with him when he should arrive
all-of-a-heap at my feet, the roaring ceased, and the next
minute, as much to my relief as to my disappointment, I saw
him going fullout, and apparently unwounded, across the side
of the hill. The momentary glimpses I caught of him offered
no shot worth taking, and with a crash through some dry bam-
boos he disappeared round the shoulder of the hill into the next

I subsequently found that my bullet, fired at an angle of
seventy-five degrees, had hit the tiger on the left elbow and
chipped out a section from that bone which some cynical humo-
rist has named the ' funny bone '. Carrying on, the bullet had
struck the rock and, splashing back, had delivered a smashing
blow on the point of the jaw. Neither wound, however painful
it may have been, was fatal, and the only result of my follow-
ing up the very light blood trail into the next valley was to be

150 Man-eaters of Kumaon

growled at from a dense thorn thicket, to enter which would
have been suicidal.

My shot had been heard in the village and an expectant
crowd were waiting for me on the ridge. They were even more
disappointed, if that were possible, than I was at the failure of
my carefully planned and as carefully executed stalk.

On visiting the kill the following morning I was very pleased
and not a little surprised to find that the tiger had returned to
it during the night and taken a light meal. The only way now
of getting a second shot was to sit up over the kill; and here a
difficulty presented itself. There were no suitable trees within
convenient distance of the kill, and the very unpleasant experi-
ence I had had on a former occasion had effectively cured me
of sitting at night on the ground for a man-eater. While still
undecided where to sit I heard the tiger call, some distance down
the valley up which I had climbed the previous day. The call-
ing of the tiger offered me a very welcome chance of shooting
it in the most pleasant way it is possible of bringing one of these
animals to bag. .The conditions under which a tiger can be
called up are (tfj when rampaging through the forest in search
of a mate, and (#j when lightly wounded. It goes without
saying that the sportsman must be able to call sufficiently well to
deceive the tiger, and that the call must come from a spot to
which the tiger will quite naturally come a dense thicket, or a
patch of heavy grass and that the sportsman must be prepared
to take his shot at a very close range. I am quite certain that
many sportsmen will be sceptical of the statement I have made
that a lightly wounded tiger will come to a call. I would ask all
such to reserve their judgement until they have tried to experi-
ment for themselves. On the present occasion, however, though
the tiger answered me, call for call, for upwards of an hour, he
refused to come any nearer, and I attributed my failure to the
fact that I was calling from the spot where the previous day the
tiger had met with an unfortunate experience.

The Kanda Man-eater 151

The tree I finally selected was growing on the very edge of
a perpendicular bank and had a convenient branch about eight
feet from the ground. When sitting on this branch I should be
thirty feet from, and directly above, the boulder-strewn ravine
up which I expected the tiger to come. The question of the
tree settled, I returned to the ridge where I had instructed my
men to meet me with breakfast.

By four o'clock in the evening I was comfortably seated on
the branch and prepared for a long and a hard sit-up. Before
leaving my men I had instructed them to cooee to me from
the ridge at sunrise next morning. If I answered with the call
of a leopard they were to sit tight, but if they received no
answer, they were to form two parties with as many villagers as
they could collect and come down on either side of the valley,
shouting and throwing stones.

I have acquired the habit of sleeping in any position on a
tree, and as I was tired the evening did not pass unpleasantly.
As the setting sun was gilding the hilltops above me I was
roused to full consciousness by the alarm-call of a langur. I
soon located the monkey, sitting in a tree-top on the far side of
the valley, and as it was looking in my direction I concluded
it had mistaken me for a leopard. The alarm-call was repeated
at short intervals, and finally ceased as darkness came OR.

Hour after hour I strained my eyes and ears, and was suddenly
startled by a stone rolling down the hillside and striking my tree.
The stone was followed by the stealthy padding of a heavy,
soft-footed animal, unmistakably the tiger. At first I comforted
myself with the thought that his coming in this direction, instead
of up the valley, was accidental, but this thought was soon dis-
pelled when he started to emit low deep growls from imme-
diately behind me. Quite evidently he had come into the valley
while I was having breakfast, and, taking up a position on the
hill, where the monkey had later seen him, had watched me
climbing into the tree. Here was a situation I had not counted

152 Man-eaters of Kumaon

on and one that needed careful handling. The branch that had
provided a comfortable seat while daylight lasted, admitted of
little change of position in the dark. I could, of course, have
fired off my rifle into the air, but the terrible results I have seen
following an attempt to drive away a tiger at very close quarters
by discharging a gun dissuaded me from taking this action.
Further, even if the tiger had not attacked, the discharge of the
rifle (a 450/400) so near him would probably have made him
leave the locality and all my toil would have gone for nothing.

I knew the tiger would not spring for that would have carried
him straight down a drop of thirty feet on to the rocks below.
But there was no need for him to spring, for by standing on
his hind legs he could easily reach me. Lifting the rifle off my
lap and reversing it, I pushed the barrel between my left ami
and side, depressing the muzzle and slipping up the safety-catch
as I did so. This movement was greeted by a deeper growl than
any that had preceded it. If the tiger now reached up for me
he would in all probability come in contact with the rifle, round
the triggers, of which my fingers were crooked, and even if I
failed to kill him the confusion following on my shot would give
me a sporting chance of climbing higher into the tree. Time
dragged by on leaden feet, and, eventually, tiring of prowling
about the hillside and growling, the tiger sprang across a little
ravine on my left and a few minutes later I heard the welcome
sound of a bone being cracked at the kill. At last I was able to
relax in my uncomfortable position and the only sounds I heard
for the rest of the night came from the direction of the kill.

The sun had been up but a few minutes and the valley was
still in deep shadow when my men cooeed from the ridge, and
almost immediately afterwards I caught sight of the tiger mak-
ing off at a fast canter up, and across, the hill on my left. In
the uncertain light and with my nightlong-strained eyes the shot
was a very difficult one, but I took it, and had the satisfaction
of seeing the bullet going home. Turning with a great roar, he

The Kanda Man-eater 153

came straight for my tree, and as he was in the act of springing
the second bullet, with great good fortune, crashed into his
chest. Diverted in his spring by the impact of the heavy bullet,
the tiger struck the tree just short of me, and ricochetting off it
went headlong into the valley below, where his fall was broken
by one of the small pools already alluded to. He floundered
out of the water, leaving it dyed red with his blood, and went
lumbering down the valley and out of sight.

Fifteen hours on the hard branch had cramped every muscle
in my body, and it was not until I had swarmed down the tree,
staining my clothes in the great gouts of blood the tiger had
left on it, and had massaged my stiff limbs, that I was able to
follow him. He had gone but a short distance, and I found him
lying dead at the foot of a rock in another pool of water.

Contrary to my orders the men, collected on the ridge, hear-
ing my shot and the tiger's roar followed by a second shot,
came in a body down the hill. Arrived at the bloodstained tree,
at the foot of which my soft hat was lying, they not unnaturally
concluded I had been carried off by the tiger. Hearing their
shouts of alarm I called out to them, and again they came run-
ning down the valley, only to be brought up with a gasp of
dismay when they saw my blood-stained clothes. Reassured
that I was not injured and that the blood on my clothes was
not mine, a moment later they were crowding round the tiger.
A stout sapling was soon cut and lashed to him with creepers,
and the tiger, with -no little difficulty and a great deal of shout-
ing, was carried up the steep hill to the village.

In remote areas in which long-established man-eaters are
operating, many gallant acts of heroism are performed, which
the local inhabitants accept as everyday occurrences and the
outside world have no means of hearing about. I should like
to put on record one such act concerning the Kanda man-eater's
last human victim. I arrived on the scene shortly after the
occurrence, and from details supplied by the villagers and from


The promise mentioned on page 112, was made after receiving

this petition

From The Public of patty Painaun, Bungi and Bickla Badalpur

District Garhwal
To Captain J. E. Carbitt, Esq., I.A.R.O., Kaladhungi

Distt. Naini Tal

Respected Sir

We all the public (of the above 3 Patties) most humbly and respectfully
beg to lay the following lew lines lor your kind consideration and doing

That in this vicinity a tiger has turned out man-eater since December
last. Up to this date he has killed 5 men and wounded 2. So we the
public are in a great distress. By the fear of this tiger we cannot watch
our wheat crop at night so the cleers have ncaily ruined it. We cannot
go in the forest for fodder grass nor we can enter our catties in the forest
to graze so many of our cattle are to die. Under the ciicumstances we
are nearly to be ruined. The Forest Ollicials are doing every possible
arrangement to kill this tiger but there is no hope of any success.
2 shikari gentlemen also tried to shoot it but unfoitunatcly they could not
get it. Our kind District Magistrate has notified Rs. 150 reward for
killing this tiger, so every one is trying to kill it but no success. We
have heard that your kind self have killed many man-eater tigers and
leopards. For this you have earned a good name specially in Kumaon
revenue Division. The famous mari-catcr leonaid of Nagpur has been
shoot by you. This is the voice of all the public here that this tiger also
will be killed only by you. So we the public venture to request that you
very kindly take trouble to come to this place and shoot this tiger (our
enemy) and save the public from this calamity. For this act of kindness
we the public will be highly obliged and will pray for your long life
and prosperity. Hope you will surely consider on our condition and
take trouble to come here for saving us from this calamity. The route
to this place is as follows Ramnagar to Sultan, Sultan to Lahachaur,
Lahachaur to Kanda. If your honour kindly inform us the date of your
arrival at Ramnagar we will send our men and cart to Ramnagar to
meet you and accompany you.

We beg to remain


Your most sincerely

Dated Jharat Signed Govind Singh Ncgi

The i8th February 1933 Headman Village Jharat

followed by 40 signatures and 4 thumb impressions of
inhabitants of Painaun f Bungi and Bickla Badalpur Patties.

The Govind Singh Negi
Village Jharat Patty
Painaun, P.O.
Badialgaon Dist., Garhwal, U.P.

The Kanda Man-eater 155

a careful examination of the ground, which had not been dis-
turbed in the interval, I am able to present you with a story
which I believe to be correct in every detail.

In the village near which I shot the Kanda man-eater lived
an elderly man and his only son. The father had served in
the army during the 1914-18 war and it was his ambition to
get his son enlisted in the Royal Garhwal Rifles not as simple
a job in the 'piping days of peace ', when vacancies were few
and applicants many, as it is today. Shortly after the lad's
eighteenth birthday a party of men passed through the village on
their way to the bazaar at Lansdowne. The lad joined this party
and immediately on arrival at Lansdowne presented himself at
the Recruiting Office. As his father had taught him to salute
with military precision and how to conduct himself in the pres-
ence of a Recruiting Officer, he was accepted without any hesi-
tation, and, after enrolment, was given leave to deposit his few
personal possessions at home before starting his army training.

He arrived back home at about midday, after an absence of
five days, and was told by the friends who thronged round him
to hear his news that his father was away ploughing their small
holding at the extreme end of the village and would not return
before nightfall. (The field that was being ploughed was the
same one on which I had seen the pug marks of the man-eater
the day I killed the hamadryad.)

One of the lad's jobs had been to provide fodder for their
cattle, and after he had partaken of the midday meal in a
neighbour's house he set out with a party of twenty men to
collect leaves.

The village, as I have told you, is situated on a ridge, and is
surrounded by forests. Two women had already been killed by
the man-eater while cutting grass in these forests, and for several
months the cattle had been kept alive on leaves cut from the
trees surrounding the village. Each day the men had to go
further afield to get their requirements, and on this particular

156 Man-eaters of Kumaon

day the party of twenty-one, after crossing the cultivated land, v
went for a quarter of a mile down a very steep rocky hill to
the head of the valley which runs east for eight miles, through
dense forest, to where it meets the Ramganga river opposite the
Dhikala Forest Bungalow.

At the head of the valley the ground is more or less flat and
overgrown with big trees. Here the men separated, each climb-
ing into a tree of his choice, and after cutting the quantity of
leaves required they tied them into bundles with rope brought
for the purpose, and returned to the village in twos and threes.

Either when the party of men were coming down the hill,
talking at the tops of their voices to keep up their courage and
scare away the man-eater, or when they were on the trees shout-
ing to each other, the tiger, who was lying up in a dense patch
of cover half a mile down the valley, heard them. Leaving the
cover, in which it had four days previously killed and eaten a
sambur hind, the tiger crossed a stream and by way of a cattle
track that runs the entire length of the valley hurried up in the
direction of the men. (The speed at which a tiger has travelled
over any ground on which he has left signs of his passage can
be easily determined from the relative position of his fore and
hind pug marks.)

The lad of my story had selected a Bauhinea tree from which
to cut leaves for his cattle. This tree was about twenty yards
above the cattle track, and the upper branches were leaning out
over a small ravine in which there were two rocks. From a
bend in the cattle track the tiger saw the lad on the tree, and
after lying down and watching him for some time it left the
track and concealed itself behind a fallen silk cotton tree some
thirty yards from the ravine. When the lad had cut all the
leaves he needed he descended from the tree and collected them
in a heap, preparatory to tying them into a bundle. While doing
this on the open flat ground he was comparatively safe, but un-
fortunately he had noticed that two of the branches he had cut

The Kanda Man-eater 157

had fallen into the ravine between the two big rocks, and he
sealed his fate by stepping down into the ravine to recover them.
As soon as he was out of sight the tiger left the shelter of the
fallen tree and crept forward to the edge of the ravine, and as
the lad was stooping down to pick up the branches, it sprang
on him and killed him. Whether the killing took place while
the other men were still on the trees, or after they had left, it
was not possible for me to determine.

The father of the lad returned to the village at sunset and
was greeted with the very gratifying news that his son had been
accepted for the army, and that he had returned from Lans-
downe on short leave. Asking where the lad was, he was told
that he had gone out earlier in the day to get fodder, and sur-
prise was expressed that the father had not found him at home.
After bedding down the bullocks the father went from house to
house to find his son. All the men who had been out that day
were questioned in turn, and all had the same tale to tell that
they had separated at the head of the valley, and no one could
remember having seen the lad after that.

Crossing the terraced cultivated land the father went to the
edge of the steep hill, and called, and called again, to his son,
but received no answer.

Night was by now setting in. The man returned to his home
and lit a small smoke-dimmed lantern, and as he passed through
the village he horrified his neighbours by telling them, in reply
to their questions, that he was going to look for his son. He
was asked if he had forgotten the man-eater and answered that
it was because of the man-eater that he was so anxious to find
his son, for it was possible he had fallen off a tree and injured
himself and, for fear of attracting the man-eater, had not
answered to his call.

He did not ask anyone to accompany him, and no one
offered to do so, and for the whole of that night he searched
up and down that valley in which no one had dared to set foot

158 Man-eaters of Kumaon

since the advent of the man-eater. Four times during the night
as I saw from his foot-prints when going along the cattle
track he had passed within ten feet of where the tiger was lying
eating his son.

Weary and heartsick he climbed a little way up the rocky
hill as light was coming, and sat down for a rest. From this
raised position he could see into the ravine. At sunrise he saw a
glint of blood on the two big rocks, and hurrying down to the
spot he found all that the tiger had left of his son. These remains
he collected and took back to his home, and when a suitable
shroud had been procured, his friends helped him to carry the
remains to the burning ghat on the banks of the Mandal river.

I do not think it would be correct to assume that acts such
as these are performed by individuals who lack imagination and
who therefore do not realize the grave risks they run. The
people of our hills, in addition to being very sensitive to their
environments, are very superstitious, and every hill-top, valley,
and gorge is credited with possessing a spirit in one form or
another, all of the evil and malignant kind most to be feared
during the hours of darkness. A man brought up in these sur-
roundings, and menaced for over a year by a man-eater, who,
unarmed and alone, from sunset to sunrise, could walk through
dense forests which his imagination peopled with evil spirits, and
in which he had every reason to believe a man-eater was lurk-
ing, was in my opinion possessed of a quality and a degree of
courage that is given to few. All the more do I give him credit
for his act of heroism for not being conscious that he had done
anything unusual, or worthy of notice. When at my request he
sat down near the man-eater to enable me to take a photograph,
he looked up at me and said, in a quiet and collected voice, ' I
am content now, sahib, for you have avenged my son.'

This was the last of the three man-eaters that I had promised
the District Officials of Kumaon, and later the people of Garh-
wal, that I would do my best to rid them of.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368193 - 08/08/22 07:16 PM


"QEYOND the fact that he was born in a ravine running deep
JDinto the foot-hills and was one of a family of three, I know
nothing of his early history.

He was about a year old when, attracted by the calling of a
chital hind early one November morning, I found his pug marks
in the sandy bed of a little stream known locally as Pipal Pani.
I thought at first that he had strayed from his mother's care,
but, as week succeeded week and his single tracks showed on
the game paths of the forest, I came to the conclusion that the
near approach of the breeding season was an all-sufficient reason
for his being alone. Jealously guarded one day, protected at
the cost of the parent life if necessary, and set adrift the next,
is the lot of all jungle folk; nature's method of preventing

That winter he lived on peafowl, kakar, small pig and an
occasional chital hind, making his home in a prostrate giant of
the forest felled for no apparent reason, and hollowed out by
time and porcupines. Here he brought most of his kills, bask-
ing, when the days were cold, on the smooth bole of the tree,
where many a leopard had basked before him.

It was not until January was well advanced that I saw the
cub at close quarters. I was out one evening without any defi-
nite object in view, when I saw a cfow rise from the ground and
wipe its beak as it lit on the branch of a tree. Crows, vultures
and magpies always interest me in the jungle, and many are the
kills I have found both in India and in Africa with the help of
these birds. On the present occasion the crow led me to the
scene of an overnight tragedy. A chital had been killed and
partly eaten and, attracted to the spot probably as I had been,
a party of men passing along the road, distant some fifty yards,
had cut up and removed the remains. All that was left of the
chital were a few splinters of bone and a little congealed blood

160 Man-eaters of Kumaon

off which the crow had lately made his meal. The absence of
thick cover and the proximity of the. road convinced me that
the animal responsible for the kill had not witnessed the removal
and that it would return in due course; so I decided to sit up,
and made myself as comfortable in a plum tree as the thorns

I make no apology to you, my reader, if you differ with me
on the ethics of the much-debated subject of sitting up over kills.
Some of my most pleasant shikar memories centre round the
hour or two before sunset that I have spent in a tree over a
natural kill, ranging from the time when, armed with a muzzle-
loader whipped round with brass wire to prevent the cracked
barrel from bursting, I sat over a langur killed by a leopard,
to a few days ago, when with the most modern rifle across my
knees, I watched a tigress and her two full-grown cubs eat up
the sambur stag they had killed, and counted myself no poorer
for not having secured a trophy.

True, on the present occasion there is no kill below me, but,
for the reasons given, that will not affect any chance of a shot;
scent to interest the jungle folk there is in plenty in the blood-
soaked ground, as witness the old grey-whiskered boar who
has been quietly rooting along for the past ten minutes, and who
suddenly stiffens to attention as he comes into the line of the
blood-tainted wind. His snout held high, and worked as only
a pig can work that member, tells him more than I was able to
glean from the ground which showed no tracks; his method of
approach, a short excursion to the right and back into the wind,
and then a short excursion to the left and again back into the
wind, each manoeuvre bringing him a few yards nearer, indicates
the chital was killed by a tiger. Making sure once and again
that nothing worth eating has been left, he finally trots off and
disappears from view.

Two chital, both with horns in velvet, now appear and from
the fact that they are coming down-wind, and making straight


Jit' r /to





The Pipat Pani Tiger 161

for the blood-soaked spot, it is evident they wer witnesses to
the overnight tragedy. Alternately snuffing the ground, or
standing rigid with every muscle tensed for instant flight, they
satisfy their curiosity and return the way they came.

uriosity |[t is not a humanmonopolyi many an animal's life
is cut short by indulging in it. A dog leaves th.e verandah, to
bark at a shadow, a deer leaves the herd to investigate a .tuft
of grass that no wind agitated, and the waiting leopard is pro-
vided with a meal.

The sun is nearing the winter line when a movement to the
right front attracts attention. An animal has crossed an open-
ing between two bushes at the far end of a wedge of scrub that
terminates thirty yards from my tree. Presently the bushes at
my end part, and out into the open, with never a look to right
or left, steps the cub. Straight up to the spot where his kill
had been he goes, his look of expectancy giving place to one
of disappointment as he realizes that his chital, killed, possibly,
after hours of patient stalking, is gone. The splinters of bone
and congealed blood are rejected, and his interest centres on a
tree stump lately used as a butcher's block, to Which some
shreds of flesh are adhering. I was not the only one who car-
ried fire-arms in these jungles and, if the cub was to grow into
a tiger, it was necessary he should be taught the danger of care-
lessly approaching kills in daylight. A scatter-gun and dust-shot
would have served my purpose better, but the rifle will have to
do this time; and, as he raises his head to smell the stump, my
bullet crashes into the hard wood an inch from his- nose. Only
once in the years that followed did the cub forget that lesson.

The following winter I saw him several times. His ears
did not look so big now and he had changed his baby hair for
a coat of rich tawny red with well-defined stripes. The hollow
tree had been given up to its rightful owners a pair of leopards,
new quarters found in a thick belt of scrub skirting the foot-
hills, and young sambur added to his menu.

162 Man-eaters of Kumaon

On my annual descent from the hills next winter, the familiar
pug marks no longer showed on the game paths and at the
drinking places, and for several weeks I thought the cub had
abandoned his old haunts and gone further afield. Then one
morning his absence was explained for, side by side with his
tracks, were the smaller and more elongated tracks of the mate
he had gone to find. I only once saw the tigers, for the cub was
a tiger now, together. I had been out before dawn to try to
bag a serow that lived on the foot-hills, and returning along a
fire track my attention was arrested by a vulture, perched on
the dead limb of a sal tree.

The bird had his back towards me and was facing a short
stretch of scrub with dense jungle beyond. Dew was still heavy
on the ground, and without a sound I reached the tree and peer-
ed round. One antler of a dead sambur, for no living deer would
lie in that position, projected above the low bushes. A convenient
moss-covered rock afforded my rubbershod feet silent and safe
hold, and as I drew myself erect, the sambur came into full
view. The hind quarters had been eaten away and, lying on
either side 6f the kill, were the pair, the tiger being on the far
side with only his hind legs showing. Both tigers were asleep.
Ten feet straight in front, to avoid a dead branch, and thirty
feet to the left would give me a shot at the tiger's neck, but in
planning the stalk I had forgotten the silent spectator. Where
I stood I was invisible to him, but before the ten feet had been
covered I came into view and, alarmed at my near proximity,
he flapped of his perch, omitting as he did so to notice a thin
creeper dependent from a branch above him against which he
collided, and came ignominiously to ground. The tigress was
up and away in an instant, clearing at a bound the kill and her
mate, the tiger not being slow to follow; a possible shot, but too
risky with thick jungle ahead where a wounded animal would
have all the advantages. To those who have never tried it, I
can recommend the stalking of leopards and tigers on their

The Pipal Pant Tiger 163

kills as a most pleasant form of sport. Great care should how-
ever be taken over the shot, for if the animal is not killed out-
right, or anchored, trouble is bound to follow.

A week later the tiger resumed his bachelor existence. A
change had now come over his nature. Hitherto he had not
objected to my visiting his kills but, after his mate left, at the
first drag I followed up I was given very clearly to understand
that no liberties would in future be permitted. The angry growl
of a tiger at close quarters, than which there is no more terrify-
ing sound in the jungles, has to be heard to be appreciated.

Early in March the tiger killed his first full-grown buffalo.
I was near the foot-hills one evening when the agonized bellow-
ing of a buffalo, mingled with the angry roar of a tiger, rang
through the forest. I located the sound as coming from a
ravine about six hundred yards away. The going was bad,
mostly over loose rocks and through thorn bushes, and when
I crawled up a steep bluff commanding a view of the ravine the
buffalo's struggles were over, and the tiger nowhere to be seen.
For an hour I lay with finger on trigger without seeing any-
thing of the tiger. At dawn next morning I again crawled up
the bluff, to find the buffalo lying just as I had left her. The
soft ground, torn up by hoof and claw, testified to the desperate
nature of the struggle and it was not until the buffalo had been
hamstrung that the tiger had finally succeeded in pulling her
down, in a fight which had lasted from ten to fifteen minutes.
The tiger's tracks led across the ravine and, on following them
up, I found a long smear of blood on a rock, and, a hundred
yards further on, another smear on a fallen tree. The wound
inflicted by the buffalo's horns was in the tiger's head and
sufficiently severe to make the tiger lose all interest in the kill,
for he never returned to it.

Three years later the tiger, disregarding the lesson received
when a cub (his excuse may have been that it was the close
season for tigers), incautiously returned to a kill, over which a

164 Man-eaters of Kumaon

zatnindar and some of his tenants were sitting at night, and
received a bullet in the shoulder which fractured the bone. No
attempt was made to follow him up, and thirty-six hours later,
his. shoulder covered with a swarm of flies, he limped through
the compound of the Inspection Bungalow, crossed a bridge
flanked on the far side by a double row of tenanted houses, the
occupants of which stood at their doors to watch him pass,
entered the gate of a walled-in compound and took possession of
a vacant godown. Twenty-four hours later, possibly alarmed
by the number of people who had collected from neighbouring
villages to see him, he left the compound the way he had entered
it, passed our gate, and made his way to the lower end of our
village. A bullock belonging to one of our tenants had died the
previous night and had been dragged into some bushes at the
edge of the village; this the tiger found, and here he remained
a few days, quenching his thirst at an irrigation furrow.

When we came down from the hills two months later the
tiger was living on small animals (calves, sheep, goats, etc.)
that he was able to catch on the outskirts of the village. By
March his wound had healed, leaving his right foot turned
inwards. Returning to the forest where he had been wounded,
he levied heavy toll on the village cattle, taking, for safety's
sake, but one meal off each and in this way killing five times as
many as he would ordinarily have done. The zamindar who
had wounded him and who had a herd of some four hundred
head of cows and buffaloes was the chief sufferer.

In the succeeding years he gained as much in size as in
reputation, and many were the attempts made by sportsmen,
and others, to bag him.

One November evening, a villager, armed with a single-barrel
muzzle-loading gun, set out to try to bag a pig, selecting for his
ground machan an isolated bush growing in a twenty-yard-wide
rowkah (dry watercourse) running down the centre of some
broken ground, This ground was rectangular, flanked on the

The Pipal Pani Tiger 165

long sides by cultivated land and on the short sides by a road,
and by a ten-foot canal that formed the boundary between our
cultivation and the forest. In front of the man was a four-foot-
high bank with a cattle track running along the upper edge;
behind him a patch of dense scrub. At 8 p.m. an animal appear-
ed on the track and, taking what aim he could, he fired. On
receiving the shot the animal fell off the bank, and passed with-
in a few feet of the man, grunting as it entered the scrub behind.
Casting aside his blanket, the man ran to his hut two hundred
yards away. Neighbours soon collected and, on hearing the
man's account, came to the conclusion that a pig had been hard
hit. It would be a pity, they said, to leave the pig for hyenas
and jackals to eat, so a lantern was lit and as a party of six bold
spirits set out to retrieve the bag, one of my tenants (who declin-
ed to join the expedition, and who confessed to me later that he
had no stomach for looking for wounded pig in dense scrub in
the dark) suggested that the gun should be loaded and taken.

His suggestion was accepted and, as a liberal charge of powder
was being rammed home, the wooden ramrod jammed and broke
inside the barrel. A trivial accident which undoubtedly saved
the lives of six men. The broken rod was eventually and after
great trouble extracted, the gun loaded, and the party set off.

Arrived at the spot where the animal had entered the bushes,
a careful search was made and, on blood being found, every
effort to find the ' pig ' was made; it was not until the whole area
had been combed out that the quest for that night was finally
abandoned. Early next morning the search was resumed, with
the addition of my informant of weak stomach, who was a bet-
ter woodsman than his companions and who, examining the
ground under a bush where there was a lot of blood, collected
and brought some blood-stained hairs to me which I recognized
as tiger's hairs, A brother sportsman was with me for the day
and together we went to have a look at the ground.

The reconstruction of jungle events from signs on the ground

166 Man-eaters of Kumaon

has always held great interest for me. True, one's deductions
are sometimes wrong, but they are also sometimes right. In the
present instance I was right in placing the wound in the inner
forearm of the right foreleg, but was wrong in assuming the
leg had been broken and that the tiger was a young animal and
a stranger to the locality.

There was no blood beyond the point where the hairs had
been found and, as tracking on the hard ground was impossible,
I crossed the canal to where the cattle track ran through a bed
of sand. Here from the pug marks I found that the wounded
animal was not a young tiger as I had assumed, but my old
friend the Pipal Pani tiger who, when taking a short cut through
the village, had in the dark been mistaken for a pig.

Once before when badly wounded he had passed through the
settlement without harming man or beast, but he was older
now, and if driven by pain and hunger might do considerable
damage. A disconcerting prospect, for the locality was thickly
populated, and I was due to leave within the week, to keep an
engagement that could not be put off.

For three days I searched every bit of the jungle between
the canal and the foot-hills, an area of about four square miles,
without finding any trace of the tiger. On the fourth afternoon,
as I was setting out to continue the search, I met an old woman
and her son hurriedly leaving the jungle. From them I learnt
that the tiger was calling near the foot-hills and that all the
cattle in the jungle had stampeded. When out with a rifle I
invariably go alone; it is safer in a mix-up, and one can get
through the jungle more silently. However, I stretched a point
on this occasion, and let the boy accompany me since he was
very keen on showing me where he had heard the tiger.

Arrived at the foot-hills, the boy pointed to a dense bit of
cover, bounded on the far side by the fire-track to which I have
already referred, and on the near side by the Pipal Pani stream.
Running parallel to and about a hundred yards from the stream

The Pipal Pani Tiger 167

was a shallow depression some twenty feet wide, more or less
open on my side and fringed with bushes on the side nearer the
stream. A well-used path crossed the depression at right angles.
Twenty yards from the path, and on the open side of the depres-
sion, was a small tree. If the tiger came down the path he
would in all likelihood stand for a shot on clearing the bushes.
Here I decided to take my stand and, putting the boy into the
tree with his feet on a level with my head and instructing him to
signal with his toes if from his raised position he saw the tiger
before I did, I put my back to the tree and called.

You, who have spent as many years in the jungle as I have,
need no description of the call of a tigress in search of a mate,
and to you less fortunate ones I can only say that the call, to
acquire which necessitates close observation and the liberal use
of throat salve, cannot be described in words.

To my great relief, for I had crawled through the jungle for
three days with finger on trigger, I was immediately answered
from a distance of about five hundred yards, and for half an hour
thereafter it may have been less and certainly appeared more
the call was tossed back and forth. On the one side the urgent
summons of the king, and on the other, the subdued and coaxing
answer of his handmaiden. Twice the boy signalled, but I had
as yet seen nothing of the tiger, and it was not until the setting
sun was flooding the forest with golden light that he suddenly
appeared, coming down the path at a fast walk with never a
pause as he cleared the bushes. When half-way across the
depression, and just as I was raising the rifle, he turned to the
right and came straight towards me.

This manoeuvre, unforeseen when selecting my stand, brought
him nearer than I had intended he should come and, moreover,
presented me with a head shot which at that short range I was
not prepared to take. Resorting to an old device, learned long
years ago and successfully used on similar occasions, the tiger
was brought to a stand without being alarmed. With one paw

168 Man-eaters of Kumaon

poised, he slowly raised his head, exposing as he did so his
chest and throat. After the impact of the heavy bullet, he
struggled to his feet and tore blindly through the forest, coming
down with a crash within a few yards of where, attracted by
the calling of a chital hind one November morning, I had first
seen his pug marks.

It was only then that I found he had been shot under a
misapprehension, for the wound which I feared might make him
dangerous proved on examination to be almost healed and
caused by a pellet of lead having severed a small vein in his
right forearm.

Pleasure at having secured a magnificent trophy he measured
10' 3" over curves and his winter coat was in perfect condition
was not unmixed with regret, for never again would the jungle
folk and I listen with held breath to his deep-throated call
resounding through the foot-hills, and never again would his
familiar pug marks show on the game paths that he and I had
trodden for fifteen years.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368194 - 08/08/22 07:21 PM


PEACE had reigned in the Ladhya valley for many months
when in September '38 a report was received in Naini Tal
that a girl, twelve years of age, had been killed by a tiger at
Kot Kindri village. The report which reached me through
Donald Stewart of the Forest Department gave no details, and
it was not until I visited the village some weeks later that I was
able to get particulars of the tragedy. It appeared that, about
noon one day, this girl was picking up windfalls from a mango
tree close to and in full view of the village, when a tiger suddenly
appeared. Before the men working nearby were able to render
any assistance, it carried her off. No attempt was made to

The Thak Man-eater 169

follow up the tiger, and as all signs of drag and blood trail had
been obliterated and washed away long before I arrived on the
scene, I was unable to find the place where the tiger had taken
the body to.

Kot Kindi is about four miles south-west of Chuka, and
three miles due west of Thak. It was in the valley between
Kot Kindri and Thak that the Chuka man-eater had been shot
the previous April.

During the summer of '38 the Forest Department had marked
all the trees in this area for felling, and it was feared that if
the man-eater was not accounted for before November when
the felling of the forest was due to start the contractors would
not be able to secure labour, and would repudiate their contracts.
It was in this connexion that Donald Stewart had written to me
shortly after the girl had been killed, and when in compliance
with his request I promised to go to Kot Kindri, I must confess
that it was more in the interests of the local inhabitants than
in the interest of the contractors that I gave my promise.

My most direct route to Kot Kindri was to go by rail to
Tanakpur, and from there by foot via Kaldhunga and Chuka.
This route, however, though it would save me a hundred miles
of walking, would necessitate my passing through the most
deadly malaria belt in northern India, and to avoid it I decided
to go through the hills to Mornaula, and from there along the
abandoned Sherring road to its termination on the ridge above
Kot Kindri.

While my preparations for this long trek were still under way
a second report reached Naini Tal of a kill at Sem, a small
village on the left bank of the Ladhya and distant about half
a mile from Chuka.

The victim on this occasion was an elderly woman, the
mother of the Headman of Sem. This unfortunate woman had
been killed while cutting brushwood on a steep bank between
two terraced fields. She had started work at the further end of

170 Man-eaters of Rumaoii

the fifty-yard-long bank, and had cut the brushwood to within
a yard of her hut when the tiger sprang on her from the field
above. So sudden and unexpected was the attack that the
woman only had time to scream once before the tiger killed her,
and taking her up the twelve-foot-high bank crossed the upper
field and disappeared with her into the dense jungle beyond.
Her son, a lad some twenty years of age, was at the time work-
ing in a paddy field a few yards away and witnessed the whole
occurrence, but was too frightened to try to render any assist-
ance. In response to the lad's urgent summons the Patwari
arrived at Sem two days later, accompanied by eighty men he
had collected. Following up in the direction the tiger had gone,
he found the woman's clothes and a few small bits of bone.
This kill had taken place at 2 p.m. on a bright sunny day, and
the tiger had eaten its victim only sixty yards from the hut
where it had killed her.

On receipt of this second report Ibbotson, Deputy Commis-
sioner of the three Districts of Almora, Naini Tal and Garhwal,
and I held, a council of war, the upshot of which was that
Ibbotson, who was on the point of setting out to settle a land
dispute at Askot on the border of Tibet, changed his tour
programme and, instead of going via Bagashwar, decided to
accompany me to Sem, and from there go on to Askot.

The route I had selected entailed a considerable amount of
hill-climbing so we eventually decided to go up the Nandhour
valley, cross the watershed between the Nandhour and Ladhya,
and follow the latter river down to Sem. The Ibbotsons accord-
ingly left Naini Tal on I2th October, and the following day I
joined them at Chaurgallia.

Going up the Nandhour and fishing as we went our best
day's catch on light trout rods was a hundred and twenty fish
we arrived on the fifth day at Durga Pepal. Here we left the
river, and after a very stiff climb camped for the night on the
watershed. Making an early start next morning we pitched our

The Thak Man-eater 171

tents that night on the left bank of the Ladhya, twelve miles
from Chalti.

The monsoon had given over early, which was very fortunate
for us, for owing to the rock cliffs that run sheer down into the
valley the river has to be crossed every quarter of a mile or so.
At one of these fords my cook, who stands five feet in his boots,
was washed away and only saved from a watery grave by the
prompt assistance of the man who was carrying our lunch basket.

On the tenth day after leaving Chaurgallia we made camp
on a deserted field at Sem, two hundred yards from the hut
where the woman had been killed, and a hundred yards from
the junction of the Ladhya and Sarda rivers.

Gill Waddell, of the Police, whom we met on our way down
the Ladhya, had camped for several days at Sem and had tied
out a buffalo that MacDonald of the Forest Department had
very kindly placed at our disposal, and though the tiger had
visited Sem several times during Waddell' s stay, it had not
killed the buffalo.

The day following our arrival at Sem, while Ibbotson was
interviewing Patwaris, Forest Guards, and Headmen of the
surrounding villages, I went out to look for pug marks.
Between our camp and the junction, and also on both banks of
the Ladhya, there were long stretches of sand. On this sand I
found the tracks of a tigress, and of a young male tiger possibly
one of the cubs I had seen in April. The tigress had crossed
and recrossed the Ladhya a number of times during the last
few days, and the previous night had walked along the strip of
sand in front of our tents. It was this tigress the villagers sus-
pected of being the man-eater, and as she had visited Sem
repeatedly since the day the Headman's mother had been killed
they were probably correct.

An examination of the pug marks of the tigress showed her
as being an average-sized animal, in the prime of life. Why she
had become a man-eater would have to be determined later, but

172 Man-eaters of Kumaon

one of the reasons might have been that she had assisted to eat
the victims of the Chuka tiger when they were together the
previous mating season, and having acquired a taste for human
flesh and no longer having a mate to provide her with it, had
now turned a man-eater herself. This was only a surmise, and
proved later to be incorrect.

Before leaving Naini Tal I had written to the Tahsildar of
Tanakpur and asked him to purchase four young male buffaloes
for me, and to send them to Sem. One of these buffaloes died
on the road, the other three arrived on the 24th , and we tied
them out the same evening together with the one MacDonald
had given us. On going out to visit these animals next morning
I found the people of Chuka in a great state of excitement. The
fields round the village had been recently ploughed, and the
tigress the previous night had passed close to three families who
were sleeping out on the fields with their cattle; fortunately in
each case the cattle had seen the tigress and warned the sleepers
of her approach. After leaving the cultivated land the tigress had
gone up the track in the direction of Kot Kindri, and had passed
close to two of our buffaloes without touching either of them.

The Patwari, Forest Guards, and villagers had told us on our
arrival at Sem that it would be a waste of time tying out our
young buffaloes, as they were convinced the man-eater would
not kill them. The reason they gave was that this method of
trying to shoot the man-eater had been tried by others without
success, and that in any case if the tigress wanted to eat
buffaloes there were many grazing in the jungles for her to
choose from. In spite of this advice however we continued to
tie out our buffaloes, and for the next two nights the tigress
passed close to one or more of them, without touching them.

On the morning of the 27th, just as we were finishing break-
fast, a party of men led by Tewari, the brother of the Headman
of Thak, arrived in camp and reported that a man of their
village was missing. They stated that this man had left the

The Thak Man-eater 173

village at about noon the previous day, telling his wife before
leaving that he was going to see that his cattle did not stray
beyond the village boundary, and as he had not returned they
feared he had been killed by the man-eater.

Our preparations were soon made, and at ten o'clock the
Ibbotsons and I set off for Thak, accompanied by Tewari and
the men he had brought with him. The distance was only
about two miles but the climb was considerable, and as we did
not want to lose more time than we could possibly help we
arrived at the outskirts of the village out of breath, and in a
lather of sweat.

As we approached the village over the scrub-covered flat bit
of ground which I have reason to refer to later, we heard a
woman crying. The wailing of an Indian woman mourning her
dead is unmistakable, and on emerging from the jungle we came
on the mourner the wife of the missing man and some ten or
fifteen men, who were waiting for us on the edge of the culti-
vated land. These people informed us that from their houses
above they had seen some white object, which looked 4ike part of
the missing man's clothing, in a field overgrown with scrub thirty
yards from where we were now standing. Ibbotson, Tewari and
I set off to investigate the white object, while Mrs Ibbotson
took the woman and the rest of the men up to the village.

The field, which had been out of cultivation for some years,
was covered with a dense growth of scrub not milike chrysanthe-
mum, and it was not until we were standing right over the white
object that Tewari recognized it as the loin-cloth of the missing
man. Near it was the man's cap. A struggle had taken place
at this spot, but there was no blood. The absence of blood
where the attack had taken place and for some considerable
distance along the drag could be accounted for by the tigress
having retained her first hold, for no blood would flow in such
a case until the hold had been changed.
Thirty yards on the hill above us there was a clump of bushes

174 Man-caters of Kumaon

roofed over with creepers. This spot would have to be looked
at before following up the drag, for it was not advisable to
have the tigress behind us. In the soft earth under the bushes
we found the pug marks of the tigress, and where she had lain
before going forward to attack the man.

Returning to our starting point we agreed on the following
plan of action. Our primary object was to try to stalk the
tigress and shoot her on her kill: to achieve this end I was to
follow the trail and at the same time keep a lookout in front,
with Tewari who was unarmed a yard behind me keeping a
sharp lookout to right and left, and Ibbotson a yard behind
Tewari to safeguard us against an attack from the rear. In the
event of either Ibbotson or I seeing so much as a hair of the
tigress, we were to risk a shot.

Cattle had grazed over this area the previous day, disturbing
the ground, and as there was no blood and the only indication
of the tigress's passage was an occasional turned-up leaf or
crushed blade of grass, progress was slow. After carrying the
man for tw> hundred yards the tigress had killed and left him,
and had returned and carried him off several hours later, when
the people of Thak had heard several sambur calling in this
direction. The reason for the tigress not having carried the man
away after she had killed him was possibly due to his cattle
having witnessed the attack on him, and driven her away.

A big pool ot blood had formed where the man had been
lying, and as the blood from the wound in his throat had stop-
ped flowing by the time the tigress had picked him up again, and
further, as she was now holding him by the small of the back,
whereas she had previously held him by the neck, tracking be-
came even more difficult. The tigress kept to the contour of
the hill, and as the undergrowth here was very dense and visi-
bility only extended to a few yards, our advance was slowed
down. In two hours we covered half a mile, and reached a ridge
beyond which lay the valley in which, six months previously, we

The Thak Man-eater 175

had tracked down and killed the Chuka man-eater. On this
ridge was a great slab of rock, which sloped upwards and away
from the direction in which we had come. The tigress's tracks
went down to the right of the rock and I felt sure she was lying
up under the overhanging portion of it, or in the close vicinity.

Both Ibbotson and I had on light rubber-soled shoes Tewari
was bare-footed and we had reached the rock without making
a sound. Signing to my two companions to stand still and keep
a careful watch all round, I got a foothold on the rock, and inch
by inch went forward. Beyond the rock was a short stretch of
flat ground, and as more of this ground came into view, I felt
certain my suspicion that the tigress was lying under the pro-
jection was correct. I had still a foot or two to go before I could
look over, when I saw a movement to my left front. A golden-
rod that had been pressed down had sprung erect, and a second
later there was a slight movement in the bushes beyond, and a
monkey in a tree on the far side of the bushes started calling.

The tigress had chosen the spot for her after-dinner sleep with
great care, but unfortunately for us she was not asleep; and
when she saw the top of my head I had removed my hat
appearing over the rock, she had risen and, taking a step side-
ways, had disappeared under a tangle of blackberry bushes.
Had she been lying anywhere but where she was she could not
have got away, no matter how quickly she had moved, without
my getting a shot at her. Our so-carefully-carried-out stalk had
failed at the very last moment, and there was nothing to be done
now but find the kill, and see if there was sufficient of it left for
us to sit up over. To have followed her into the blackberry
thicket would have been useless, and would also have reduced
our chance of getting a shot at her later.

The tigress had eaten her meal close to where she had been
lying and as this spot was open to the sky and to the keen
eyes of vultures she had removed the kill to a place of safety
where it would not be visible from the air. Tracking now was

176 Man-eaters of Kumaon

easy, for there was a blood trail to follow. The trail led over a
ridge of great rocks and fifty yards beyond these rocks we found
the kill.

I am not going to harrow your feelings by attempting to
describe that poor torn and mangled thing; stripped of every
stitch of clothing and atom of dignity, which only a few hours
previously had been a Man, the father of two children and the
breadwinner of the wailing woman who was facing without
any illusions the fate of a widow of India. I have seen many
similar sights, each more terrible than the one preceding it, in
the thirty-two years I have been hunting man-eaters, and on
each occasion I have felt that it would have been better to have
left the victim to the slayer than recover a mangled mass of
flesh to be a nightmare ever after to those who saw it. And yet
the cry of blood for blood, and the burning desire to rid a
countryside of a menace than which there is none more terrible,
is irresistible; and then there is always the hope, no matter how
absurd one knows it to be, that the victim by some miracle may
still be alive and in need of succour.

The chance of shooting over a kill an animal that has in all
probability become a man-eater through a wound received over
a kill, is very remote, and each succeeding failure, no matter
what its cause, tends to make the animal more cautious, until
it reaches a state when it either abandons its kill after one meal
or approaches it as silently and as slowly as a shadow, scanning
every leaf and twig with the certainty of discovering its would-be
slayer, no matter how carefully he may be concealed or how silent
and motionless he may be; a one-in-a-million chance of getting a
shot, and yet, who is there among us who would not take it?

The thicket into which the tigress had retired was roughly
forty yards square, and she could not leave it without the
monkey seeing her and warning us, so we sat down back to
back, to have a smoke and listen if the jungle had anything
further to tell us while we considered our next move.

he seroii:! largest of the group of tigers passing within
leu feel of I he tainera

Tin 1 largest of (lit- I igers lifiitig OIK* end of the kill -
an old cart buifulo~-prcparutory to tarrying it away


See p.

Five tigers watching while (he sixth descends on the kill

The white tigress si/ ing up a new arrival


The Thak Man-eater 177

To make a machan it was necessary to return to the village,
and during our absence the tigress was almost certain to cany
away the kill. It had been difficult when she was carrying a
whole human being to track her, but now, when her burden was
considerably lighter and she had been disturbed, she would
probably go for miles and we might never find her kill again,
so it was necessary for one of us to remain on the spot, while
the other two went back to the village for ropes.

Ibbotson, with his usual disregard for danger, elected to go
back, and while he and Tewari went down the hill to avoid the
difficult ground we had recently come over, I stepped up on to a
small tree close to the kill. Four feet above ground the tree divid-
ed in two, and by leaning on one half and putting my feet against
the other, I was able to maintain a precarious seat which was
high enough off the ground to enable me to see the tigress if she
approached the kill, and also high enough, if she had any designs
on me, to see her before she got to within striking distance.

Ibbotson had been gone fifteen or twenty minutes when I
heard a rock tilt forward, and then back. The rock was evident-
ly very delicately poised, and when the tigress had put her
weight on it and felt it tilt forward she had removed her foot
and let the rock fall back into place. The sound had come
from about twenty yards to my left front, the only direction in
which it would have been possible for me to have fired without
being knocked out of the tree.

Minutes passed, each pulling my hopes down a little lower
from the heights to which they had soared, and then, when
tension on my nerves and the weight of the heavy rifle were
becoming unbearable, I heard a stick snap at the upper end of
the thicket. Here was an example of how a tiger can move
through the jungle. From the sound she had made I knew her
exact position, had kept my eyes fixed on the spot, and yet she
had come, seen me, stayed some time watching me, and then gone
away without my having seen a leaf or a blade of grass move.


178 Man-eaters of Kumaon

When tension on nerves is suddenly relaxed cramped and
aching muscles call loudly for ease, and though in this case it
only meant the lowering of the rifle on to my knees to take the
strain off my shoulders and arms, the movement, small though
it was, sent a comforting feeling through the whole of my body.
No further sound came from the tigress, and an hour or two
later I heard Ibbotson returning.

Of all the men I have been on shikar with Ibbotson is by far
and away the best, for not only has he the heart of a lion, but
he thinks of everything, and with it all is the most unselfish man
that carries a gun. He had gone to fetch a rope and he returned
with rugs, cushions, more hot tea than even I could drink and
an ample lunch; and while I sat on the windward side of the
kill to refresh myself , Ibbotson put a man in a tree forty yards
away to distract the tigress's attention, and climbed into a tree
overlooking the kill to make a rope machan.

When the machan was ready Ibbotson moved the kill a few
feet a very unpleasant job and tied it securely to the foot of a
sapling to prevent the tigress carrying it away, for the moon
was on the wane and the first two hours of the night at this
heavily wooded spot would be pitch dark. After a final smoke
I climbed on to the machan, and when I had made myself
comfortable Ibbotson recovered the man who was making a
diversion and set off in the direction of Thak to pick up Mrs
Ibbotson and return to camp at Sem.

The retreating party were out of sight but were not yet out
of sound when I heard a heavy body brushing against leaves,
and at the same moment the monkey, which had been silent all
this time and which I could now see sitting in a tree on the far
side of the blackberry thicket, started calling. Here was more
luck than I hoped for, and our ruse of putting a man up a tree
to cause a diversion appeared to be working as successfully as
it had done on a previous occasion. A tense minute passed,
a second, and a third, and then from the ridge where I had

The Thak Man-eater 179

climbed on to the big slab of rock a kakar came dashing down
towards me, barking hysterically. The tigress was not coming
to the kill but had gone off after Ibbotson. I was now in a
fever of anxiety, for it was quite evident that she had aban-
doned her kill and gone to try to secure another victim.

Before leaving Ibbotson had promised to take every pre-
caution but on hearing the kakar barking on my side of the
ridge he would naturally assume the tigress was moving in the
vicinity of the kill, and if he relaxed his precautions the tigress
would get her chance. Ten very uneasy minutes for me passed,
and then I heard a second kakar barking in the direction of
Thak; the tigress was still following, but the ground there was
more open, and there was less fear of her attacking the party.
The danger to the Ibbotsons was, ( however, not over by any
means for they had to go through two miles of very heavy jun-
gle to reach camp; and if they stayed at Thak until sundown
listening for my shot, which I feared they would do and which
as a matter of fact they did do, they would run a very grave
risk on the way down. Ibbotson fortunately realized t the danger
and kept his party close together, and though the tigress fol-
lowed them the whole way as her pug marks the following
morning showed they got back to camp safely.

The calling of kakar and sambur enabled me to follow the
movements of the tigress. An hour after sunset she was down
at the bottom of the valley two miles away. She had the whole
night before her, and though there was only one chance in a
million of her returning to the kill I determined not to lose that
chance. Wrapping a rug round me, for it was a bitterly cold
night, I made myself comfortable in a position in which I could
remain for hours without movement,

I had taken my seat on the machan at 4 p.m., and at 10 p.m.
I heard two animals coming down the hill towards me. It was
too dark under the trees to see them, but when they got to the
lee of the kill I knew they were porcupines. Rattling their

180 Man-eaters of Kumaon

quills, and making the peculiar booming noise that only a porcu-
pine can make, they approached the kill and, after walking
round it several times, continued on their way. An hour later,
and when the moon had been up some time, I heard an animal
in the valley below. It was moving from east to west, and when
it came into the wind blowing downhill from the kill it made a
long pause, and then came cautiously up the hill. While it was
still some distance away I heard it snuffing the air, and knew
it to be a bear. The smell of blood was attracting him, but
mingled with it was the less welcome smell of a human being,
and taking no chances he was very carefully stalking the kill.
His nose, the keenest of any animal's in the jungle, had
apprised him while he was still in the valley that the kill was
the property of a tiger. This to a Himalayan bear who fears
nothing, and who will, as I have on several occasions seen, drive
a tiger away from its kill, was no deterrent, but what was, and
what was causing him uneasiness, was the smell of a human
being mingled with the smell of blood and tiger.

On reaching the flat ground the bear sat down on his haunches
a few yards from the kill, and when he had satisfied himself that
the hated human smell held no danger for him he stood erect and
turning his he'ad sent a long-drawn-out cry, which I interpreted
as a call to a mate, echoing down into the valley. Then without
any further hesitation he walked boldly up to the kill, and as he
nosed it I aligned the sights of my rifle on him. I know of only
one instance of a Himalayan bear eating a human being; on
that occasion a woman cutting grass had fallen down a cliff and
been killed, and a' bear finding the mangled body had carried it
away and had eaten it. This bear, however, on whose shoulder
my sights were aligned, appeared to draw the line at human
flesh, and after looking at and smelling the kill continued his in-
terrupted course to the west. When the sounds of his retreat died
away in the distance the jungle settled down to silence until in-
terrupted! a little after sunrise, by Ibbotson's very welcome arrival.

The Thak Man-eater 181

With Ibbotson came the brother and other relatives of the
dead man, who very reverently wrapped the remains in a clean
white cloth and, laying it on a cradle made of two saplings and
rope which Ibbotson provided, set off for the burning ghat on
the banks of the Sarda, repeating under their breath as they
went the Hindu hymn of praise 'Ram nam sat hai' with its
refrain, ' Satya bol gat hai'.

Fourteen hours in the cold had not been without its effect
on me, but after partaking of the hot drink and food Ibbotson
had brought, I felt none the worse for my long vigil.


After following the Ibbotsons down to Chuka on the evening
of the ayth the tigress, some time during the night, crossed the
Ladhya into the scrub jungle at the back of our camp. Through
this scrub ran a path that had been regularly used by the villag-
ers of the Ladhya valley until the advent of the man-eater had
rendered its passage unsafe. On the 28th the two mail-runners
who carried Ibbotson's dak on its first stage to T^jiakpur got
delayed in camp and to save time took, or more correctly started
to take, a short cut through this scrub. Very fortunately the
leading man was on the alert and saw the tigress as she crept
through the scrub and lay down near the path ahead of them.

Ibbotson and I had just got back from Thak when these two
men dashed into camp, and taking our rifles we hurried off to
investigate. We found the pug marks of the tigress where she had
come out on the path and followed the men for a short distance,
but we did not see her though in one place where the scrub was
very dense we saw a movement and heard an animal moving off.

On the morning of the 2Qth, a party of men came down from
Thak to report that one of their bullocks had not returned to
the cattle-shed the previous night, and on a search being made
where it had last been seen a little blood had been found. At
2 p.m. the Ibbotsons and I were at this spot, and a glance at the

182 Man-eaters of Kumaon

ground satisfied us that the bullock had been killed and carried
away by a tiger. After a hasty lunch Ibbotson and I, with two
men following carrying ropes for a machan, set out along the
drag. It went diagonally across the face of the hill for a hundred
yards and then straight down into the ravine in which I had
fired at and missed the big tiger in April. A few hundred yards
down this ravine the bullock, which was an enormous animal,
had got fixed between two rocks and, not being able to move
it, the tiger had eaten a meal off its hind quarters and left it.

The pug marks of the tiger, owing to the great weight she
was carrying, were splayed out and it was not possible to say
whether she was the man-eater or not; but as every tiger in this
area was suspect I decided to sit up over the kill. There was
only one tree within reasonable distance of the kill, and as the
men climbed into it to make a machan the tiger started calling
in the valley below. Very hurriedly a few strands of rope were
tied between two branches, and while Ibbotson stood on guard
with his rifle I climbed the tree and took my seat on what, during
the next fourteen hours, proved to be the most uncomfortable
as well as the most dangerous machan I have ever sat on. The
tree was leaning away from the hill, and from the three uneven
strands of rope I was sitting on there was a drop of over a
hundred feet into the rocky ravine below.

The tiger called several times as I was getting into the tree
and continued to call at longer intervals late into the evening,
the last call coming from a ridge half a mile away. It was now
quite evident that the tiger had been lying up close to the kill
and had seen the men climbing into the tree. Knowing from
past experience what this meant, she had duly expressed resent-
ment at being disturbed and then gone away, for though I sat
on the three strands of rope until Ibbotson returned next morn-
ing I did not see or hear anything throughout the night.

Vultures were not likely to find the kill, for the ravine was
deep and overshadowed by trees, and as the bullock was large

The Thak Man-eater 183

enough to provide the tiger with several meals we decided not
to sit up over it again where it was now lying, hoping the tiger
would remove it to some more convenient place where we should
have a better chance of getting a shot. In this however we were
disappointed, for the tiger did not again return to the kill.

Two nights later the buffalo we had tied out behind our camp
at Sera was killed, and through a little want of observation on
my part a great opportunity of bagging the man-eater was lost.

The men who brought in the news of this kill reported that
the rope securing the animal had been broken, and that the kill
had been carried away up the ravine at the lower end of which
it had been tied. This was the same ravine in which MacDonald
and I had chased a tigress in April, and as on that occasion she
had taken her kill some distance up the ravine I now very
foolishly concluded she had done the same with this kill.

After breakfast Ibbotson and I went out to find the kill and
see what prospect there was for an evening sit-up.

The ravine in which the buffalo had been killed was about
fifty yards wide and ran deep into the foot-hills. For two hundred
yards the ravine was straight and then bent round to the left.
Just beyond the bend, and on the left-hand side of it, there was
a dense patch of young saplings backed by a hundred-foot ridge
on which thick grass was growing. In the ravine, and close to
the saplings, there was a small pool of water. I had been up the
ravine several times in April and had failed to mark the patch
of saplings as being a likely place for a tiger to lie up in, and did
not take the precautions I should have taken when rounding the
bend, with the result that the tigress who was drinking at the
pool saw us first. There was only one safe line of retreat for
her and she took it. This was straight up the steep hill, over
the ridge, and into the sal forest beyond.

The hill was too steep for us to climb, so we continued on
up the ravine to where a sambur track crossed it, and following
this track we gained the ridge. The tigress was now in a

184 Man-eaters of Kumaon

triangular patch of jungle bounded by the ridge, the Ladhya,
and a cliff down which no animal could go. The area was not
large, and there were several deer in it which from time to time
advised us of the position of the tigress, but unfortunately the
ground was cut up by a number of deep and narrow rain-water
channels in which we eventually lost touch with her.

We had not yet seen the kill, so we re-entered the ravine by
the sambur track and found the kill hidden among the saplings.
These saplings were from six inches to a foot in girth, and were
not strong enough to support a machan, so we had to abandon
the idea of a machan. With the help of a crowbar a rock could
possibly have been prised from the face of the hill and a place
made in which to sit, but this was not advisable when dealing
with a man-eater.

Reluctant to give up the chance of a shot we considered the
possibility of concealing ourselves in the grass near the kill, in
the hope that the tigress would return before dark and that we
should see her before she saw us. There were two objections to
this plan: (a) if we did not get a shot and the tigress saw us
near her kill she might abandon it as she had done her other two
kills and (6) between the kill and camp there was very heavy
scrub jungle, and if we tried to go through this jungle in the
dark the tigress would have us at her mercy. So very reluctantly
we decided to leave the kill to the tigress for that night, and
hope for the best on the morrow.

On our return next morning we found that the tigress had
carried away the kill. For three hundred yards she had gone
up the bed of the ravine, stepping from rock to rock, and leaving
no drag marks. At this spot three hundred yards from where
she had picked up the kill we were at fault, for though there
were a number of tracks on a wet patch of ground, none of
them had been made while she was carrying the kill. Eventually,
after casting round in circles, we found where she had left the
ravine and gone up the hill on the left.

The Thak Man-eater 185

This hill up which the tigress had taken her kill was over-
grown with ferns and goldenrod and tracking was not difficult,
but the going was, for the hill was very steep and in places a
detour had to be made and the track picked up further on.
After a stiff climb of a thousand feet we came to a small plateau,
bordered on the left by a cliff a mile wide. On the side of the
plateau nearest the cliff the ground was seamed and cracked,
and in these cracks a dense growth of sal, two to six feet in
height, had sprung up. The tigress had taken her kill into this
dense cover and it was not until we actually trod on it that we
were aware of its position.

As we stopped to look at all that remained of the buffalo there
was a low growl to our right. With rifles raised we waited for a
minute and then, hearing a movement in the undergrowth a little
beyond where the growl had come from, we pushed our way
through the young sal for ten yards and came on a small clear-
ing, where the tigress had made herself a bed on some soft grass.
On the far side of this grass the hill sloped upwards for twenty
yards to another plateau, and it was from this slope that the
sound we had heard had come. Proceeding up the slope as
silently as possible we had just reached the flat ground, which
was about fifty yards wide, when the tigress left the far side and
went down into the ravine, disturbing some kaleege pheasants
and a kakar as she did so. To have followed her would have been
useless, so we went back to the kill and, as there was still a good
meal on it, we selected two trees to sit in, and returned to camp.

After an early lunch we went back to the kill and, hampered
with our rifles, climbed with some difficulty into the trees we had
selected. We sat up for five hours without seeing or hearing
anything. At dusk we climbed down from our trees, and
stumbling over the cracked and uneven ground eventually
reached the ravine when it was quite dark. Both of us had an
uneasy feeling that we were being followed, but by keeping close
together we reached camp without incident at 9 p.m.

186 Man-eaters of Kumaon

The Ibbotsons had now stayed at Sem as long as it was pos-
sible for them to do so, and early next morning they set out on
their twelve days' walk to keep their appointment at Askot.
Before leaving, Ibbotson extracted a promise from me that I
would not follow up any kills alone, or further endanger my life
by prolonging my stay at Sem for more than a day or two.

After the departure of the Ibbotsons and their fifty men, the
camp, which was surrounded by dense scrub, was reduced to
my two servants and myself my coolies were living in a room
in the Headman's house so throughout the day I set all hands
to collecting driftwood, of which there was an inexhaustible
supply at the junction, to keep a fire going all night. The fire
would not scare away the tigress but it would enable us to see
her if she prowled round our tents at night, and anyway the
nights were setting in cold and there was ample excuse, if one
were needed, for keeping a big fire going all night.

Towards evening, when my men were safely back in camp,
I took a rifle and went up the Ladhya to see if the tigress Iiad
crossed the river. I found several tracks in the sand, but no
fresh ones, and at dusk I returned, convinced that the tigress
was still on our side of the river. An hour later, when it was
quite dark, a kakar started barking close to our tents and barked
persistently for half an hour.

My men had taken over the job of tying out the buffaloes,
a task which Ibbotson's men had hitherto performed, and next
morning I accompanied them when they went out to bring in
the buffaloes. Though we covered several miles I did not find
any trace of the tigress. After breakfast I took a rod and went
down to the junction, and had one of the best day's fishing I
have ever had. The junction was full of big fish, and though
my light tackle was broken frequently I killed sufficient mahseer
to feed the camp.

Again, as on the previous evening, I crossed the Ladhya, with
the intention of taking up a position on a rock overlooking the

The Thak Man-eater 187

open ground on the right bank of the river and watching for the
tigress to cross. As I got away from the roar of the water at
the junction I heard a sambur and a monkey calling on the hill
to my left, and as I neared the rock I came on the fresh tracks
of the tigress. Following them back I found the stones still wet
where she had forded the river. A few minutes' delay in camp
to dry my fishing line and have a cup of tea cost a man his
life, several thousand men weeks of anxiety, and myself many
days of strain, for though I stayed at Sem for another three
days I did not get another chance of shooting the tigress.

On the morning of the yth, as I was breaking camp and
preparing to start on my twenty-mile walk to Tanakpur, a big
contingent of men from all the surrounding villages arrived, and
begged me not to leave them to the tender mercies of the man-
eater. Giving them what advice it was possible to give people
situated as they were, I promised to return as soon as it was
possible for me to do so.

I caught the train at Tanakpur next morning and arrived back
in Naini Tal on 9 November, having been away nearly a month.


I left Sem on the 7th of November and on the I2th the tigress
killed a man at Thak. I received news of this kill through the
Divisional Forest Officer, Haidwani, shortly after we had moved
down to our winter home at the foot of the hills, and by doing
forced marches I arrived at Chuka a little after sunrise on
the 24th.

It had been my intention to breakfast at Chuka and then go
on to Thak and make that village my headquarters, but the
Headman of Thak, whom I found installed at Chuka, informed
me that every man, woman, and child had left Thak immediately
after the man had been killed on the 12th, and added that if I
carried out my intention of camping at Thak I might be able to
safeguard my own life, but it would not be possible to safeguard

188 Man-eaters of Kumaon

the lives of my men. This was quite reasonable, and while
waiting for my men to arrive, the Headman helped me to select
a site for my camp at Chuka where my men would be reasonably
safe and I should have some privacy from the thousands of men
who were now arriving to fell the forest.

On receipt of the Divisional Forest Officer's telegram
acquainting me of the kill, I had telegraphed to the Tahsildar at
Tanakpur to send three young male buffaloes to Chuka. My
request had been promptly complied with and the three animals
had arrived the previous evening.

After breakfast I took one of the buffaloes and set out for
Thak, intending to tie it up on the spot where the man had
been killed on the I2th. The Headman had given me a very
graphic account of the events of that date, for he himself had
nearly fallen a victim to the tigress. It appeared that towards
the afternoon, accompanied by his granddaughter, a girl ten
years of age, he had gone to dig up ginger tubers in a field some
sixty yards from his house. This field is about half an acre in
extent and is surrounded on three sides by jungle, and being on
the slope of a fairly steep hill it is visible from the Headman's
house. After the old man and his granddaughter had been at
work for some time his wife, who was husking rice in the court-
yard of the house, called out in a very agitated voice and asked
him if he was deaf that he could not hear the pheasants and
other birds that were chattering in the jungle above him. Fortu-
nately for him, he acted promptly. Dropping his hoe, he grabbed
the child's hand and together they ran back to the house, urged
on by the woman who said she could now see a red animal in
the bushes at the upper end of the field. Half an hour later the
tigress killed a man who was lopping branches off a tree in a
field three hundred yards from the Headman's house.

From the description I had received from the Headman I
had no difficulty in locating the tree. It was a small gnarled
tree growing out of a three-foot-high bank between two terraced

The Thak Man-eater 189

fields, and had been lopped year after year for cattle fodder.
The man who had been killed was standing on the trunk holding
one branch and cutting another, when the tigress came up from
behind, tore his hold from the branch and, after killing him,
carried him away into the dense brushwood bordering the fields.
Thak village was a gift from the Chand Rajas, who ruled
Kumaon for many hundreds of years before the Gurkha occupa-
tion, to the forefathers of the present owners in return for their
services at the Punagiri temples. (The promise made by the
Chand Rajas that the lands of Thak and two other villages
would remain rent-free for all time has been honoured by the
British Government for a hundred years.) From a collection of
grass huts the village has in the course of time grown into a
very prosperous settlement with masonry houses roofed with
slate tiles, for not only is the land very fertile, but the revenue
from the temples is considerable.

Like all other villages in Kumaon, Thak during its hundreds
of years of existence has passed through many vicissitudes, but
never before in its long history had it been deserted as it now
was. On my previous visits I had found it a hive of industry,
but when I went up to it this afternoon, taking the young
buffalo with me, silence reigned over it. Every one of the hun-
dred or more inhabitants had fled taking their livestock with
them the only animal I saw in the village was a cat, which gave
me a warm welcome; so hurried had the evacuation been that
many of the doors of the houses had been left wide open. On
every path in the village, in the courtyard of the houses and in
the dust before all the doors I found the tigress's pug marks.
The open doorways were a menace, for the path as it wound
through the village passed close to them, and in any of the
houses the tigress might have been lurking.

On the hill thirty yards above the village were several cattle
shelters, and in the vicinity of these shelters I saw more kaleege
pheasants, red jungle fowl and white-capped babblers than I

190 Man-eaters of Kumaon

have ever before seen, and from the confiding way in which
they permitted me to walk among them it is quite evident that
the people of Thak have a religious prejudice against the taking
of life.

From the terraced fields above the cattle shelters a bird's-eye
view of the village is obtained, and it was not difficult, from the
description the Headman had given me, to locate the tree where
the tigress had secured her last victim. In the soft earth under
the tree there were signs of a struggle and a few clots of dried
blood. From here the tigress had carried her kill a hundred
yards over a ploughed field, through a stout hedge, and into the
dense brushwood beyond. The foot-prints from the village, and
back the way they had come, showed that the entire population
of the village had visited the scene of the kill, but from the tree
to the hedge there was only one track, the track the tigress had
made when carrying away her victim. No attempt had been
made to follow her up and recover the body.

Scraping away a little earth from under the tree I exposed a
root and to this root I tied my buffalo, bedding it down with a
liberal supply of straw taken from a nearby haystack.

The village, which is on the north face of the hill, was now
in shadow, and if I was to get back to camp before dark it was
time for me to make a start. Skirting round the village to
avoid the menace of the open doorways, I joined the path
below the houses.

This path after it leaves the village passes under a giant
mango tree from the roots of which issues a cold spring of clear
water. After running along a groove cut in a massive slab of
rock, this water falls into a rough masonry trough, from where
it spreads onto the surrounding ground, rendering it soft and
slushy. I had drunk at the spring on my way up, leaving my
foot-prints in this slushy ground, and on approaching the spring
now for a second drink, I found the tigress's pug marks superim-
posed on my foot-prints. After quenching her thirst the tigress

The Thak Man-eater 191

had avoided the path and had gained the village by climbing a
steep bank overgrown with strobilanthes and nettles, and taking
up a position in the shelter of one of the houses had possibly
watched me while I was tying up the buffalo, expecting me to
return the way I had gone; it was fortunate for me that I had
noted the danger of passing those open doorways a second time,
and had taken the longer way round.

When coming up from Chuka I had taken every precaution
to guard against a sudden attack, and it was well that I had
done so, for I now found from her pug marks that the tigress
had followed me all the way up from my camp, and next morn-
ing when I went back to Thak I found she had followed me
from where I had joined the path below the houses, right down
to the cultivated land at Chuka.

Reading with the illumination I had brought with me was
not possible, so after dinner that night, while sitting near a
fire which was as welcome for its warmth as it was for the
feeling of security it gave me, I reviewed the whole situation
and tried to think out some plan by which it would be possible
to circumvent the tigress.

When leaving home on the 22nd I had promised that I would
return in ten days, and that this would be my last expedition
after man-eaters. Years of exposure and strain and long absences
from home extending as in the case of the Chowgarh tigress
and the Rudraprayag leopard to several months on end were
beginning to tell as much on my constitution as on the nerves
of those at home, and if by the 30th of November I had not
succeeded in killing this man-eater, others would have to be
found who were willing to take on the task.

It was now the night of the 24th, so I had six clear days
before me. Judging from the behaviour of the tigress that even-
ing she appeared to be anxious to secure another human victim,
and it should not therefore be difficult for me, in the time at my
disposal, to get in touch with her. There were several methods

192 Man-eaters of Kumaon

by which this could be accomplished, and each would be tried
in turn. The method that offers the greatest chance of success
of shooting a tiger in the hills is to sit up in a tree over a kill,
and if during that night the tigress did not kill the buffalo I
had tied up at Thak, I would the following night, and every
night thereafter, tie up the other two buffaloes in places I had
already selected, and failing to secure a human kill it was just
possible that the tigress might kill one of my buffaloes, as she
had done on a previous occasion when the Ibbotsons and I were
camped at Sem in April. After making up the fire with logs
that would burn all night, I turned in, and went to sleep listen-
ing to a kakar barking in the scrub jungle behind my tent.

While breakfast was being prepared the following morning I
picked up a rifle and went out to look for tracks on the stretch
of sand on the right bank of the river, between Chuka and Sem.
The path, after leaving the cultivated land, runs for a short
distance through scrub jungle, and here I found the tracks of a
big male leopard, possibly the same animal that had alarmed
the kakar jLhe previous night. A small male tiger had crossed
and recrossed the Ladhya many times during the past week, and
in the same period the man-eater had crossed only once, coming
from the direction of Sem. A big bear had traversed the sand
a little before my arrival, and when I got back to camp the
timber contractors complained that while distributing work that
morning they had run into a bear which had taken up a very
threatening attitude, in consequence of which their labour had
refused to work in the area in which the bear had been seen.

Several thousand men the contractors put the figure at five
thousand had now concentrated at Chuka and Kumaya Chak
to fell and saw up the timber and carry it down to the motor
road that was being constructed, and all the time this consider-
able labour force was working they shouted at the tops of their
voices to keep up their courage. The noise in the valley result-
ing from axe and saw, the crashing of giant trees down the steep

The Thak Man-eater 193

hillside, the breaking of rocks with sledge hammers, and com-
bined with it all the shouting of thousands of men, can better be
imagined than described. That there were many frequent alarms
in this nervous community was only natural, and during the
next few days I covered much ground and lost much valuable
time in investigating false rumours of attacks and kills by the
man-eater, for the dread of the tigress was not confined to the
Ladhya valley but extended right down the Sarda through
Kaldhunga to the gorge, an area of roughly fifty square miles in
which an additional ten thousand men were working.

That a single animal should terrorize a labour force of these
dimensions in addition to the residents of the surrounding vil-
lages and the hundreds of men who were bringing foodstuffs for
the labourers or passing through the valley with hill produce in
the way of oranges (purchasable at twelve annas a hundred),
walnuts, and chillies to the market at Tanakpur, is incredible,
and would be unbelievable were it not for the historical, and
nearly parallel, case of the man-eater of Tsavo, where a pair
of lions, operating only at night, held up work for Iqng periods
on the Uganda Railway.

To return to my story. Breakfast disposed of on the morning
of the 25th, I took a second buffalo and set out for Thak. The
path, after leaving the cultivated land at Chuka, skirts along
the foot of the hill for about half a mile before it divides. One
arm goes straight up a ridge to Thak and the other, after con-
tinuing along the foot of the hill for another half-mile, zigzags
up through Kumaya Chak to Kot Kindri.

At the divide I found the pug marks of the tigress and
followed them all the way back to Thak. The fact that she had
come down the hill after me the previous evening was proof
that she had not killed the buffalo. This, though very disap-
pointing, was not at all unusual; for tigers will on occasions visit
an animal that is tied up for several nights in succession before
they finally kill it, for tigers do not kill unless they are hungry.

194 Man-eaters of Kumaon

Leaving the second buffalo at the mango tree, where there
was an abundance of green grass, I skirted round the houses and
found No. i buffalo sleeping peacefully after a big feed and a
disturbed night. The tigress, coming from the direction of the
village as her pug marks showed, had approached to within a
few feet of the buffalo, and had then gone back the way she had
come. Taking the buffalo down to the spring I let it graze for
an hour or two, and then took it back and tied it up at the same
spot where it had been the previous night.

The second buffalo I tied up fifty yards from the mango tree
and at the spot where the wailing woman and villagers had met
us the day the Ibbotsons and I had gone up to investigate the
human kill. Here a ravine a few feet deep crossed the path, on
one side of which there was a dry stump, and on the other an
almond tree in which a machan could be made. I tied No. 2
buffalo to the stump, and bedded it down with sufficient hay to
keep it going for several days. There was nothing more to be
done at Thak so I returned to camp and, taking the third buffalo,
crossed the Ladhya and tied it up behind Sem, in the ravine
where the tigress had killed one of our buffaloes in April.

At my request the Tahsildar of Tanakpur had selected three
of the fattest young male buffaloes he could find. All three were
now tied up in places frequented by the tigress, and as I set out
to visit them on the morning of the 26th I had great hopes that
one of them had been killed and that I should get an opportunity
of shooting the tigress over it. Starting with the one across the
Ladhya, I visited all in turn and found that the tigress had not
touched any of them. Again, as on the previous morning, I
found her tracks on that path leading to Thak, but on this
occasion there was a double set of pug marks, one coming down
and the other going back. On both her journeys the tigress had
kept to the path and had passed within a few feet of the buffalo
that was tied to the stump, fifty yards from the mango tree.

On my return to Chuka a deputation of Thak villagers led

The Thak Man-eater 195

by the Headman came to my tent and requested me to accom-
pany them to the village to enable them to replenish their supply
of foodstuffs, so at midday, followed by the Headman and his
tenants, and by four of my own men carrying ropes for a machan
and food for me, I returned to Thak and mounted guard while
the men hurriedly collected the provisions they needed.

After watering and feeding the two buffaloes I retied No. 2
to the stump and took No. i half a mile down the hill and tied
it to a sapling on the side of the path. I then took the villagers
back to Chuka and returned a few hundred yards up the hill
for a scratch meal while my men were making the machan.

It was now quite evident that the tigress had no fancy for my
fat buffaloes, and as in three days I had seen her tracks five
times on the path leading to Thak, I decided to sit up over the
path and try to get a shot at her that way. To give me warning
of the tigress's approach I tied a goat with a bell round its neck
on the path, and at 4 p.m. I climbed into the tree. I told my men
to return at 8 a.m. the following morning, and began my watch.

At sunset a cold wind started blowing and while I was
attempting to pull a coat over my shoulders the ropes on one
side of the machan slipped, rendering my seat very uncomfort-
able. An hour later a "storm came on, and though it did not rain
for long it wet me to the skin, greatly adding to my discomfort.
During the sixteen hours I sat in the tree I did not see or hear
anything. The men turned up at 8 a.m. I returned to camp
for a hot bath and a good meal, and then, accompanied by six
of my men, set out for Thak.

The overnight rain had washed all the old tracks off the path,
and two hundred yards above the tree I had sat in I found the
fresh pug marks of the tigress, where she had come out of the
jungle and gone up the path in the direction of Thak. Very
cautiously I stalked the first buffalo, only to find it lying asleep
on the path; the tigress had skirted round it, rejoined the path
a few yards further on and continued up the hill. Following on

196 Man-eaters of Kumaon

her tracks I approached the second buffalo, and as I got near
the place where it had been tied two blue Himalayan magpies
rose off the ground and went screaming down the hill.

The presence of these birds indicated (a) that the buffalo was
dead, (b) that it had been partly eaten and not carried away,
and (c) that the tigress was not in the close vicinity.

On arrival at the stump to which it had been tied I saw that
the buffalo had been dragged off the path and partly eaten, and
on examining the animal I found that it had not been killed by
the tigress but that it had in all probability died of snake-bite
(there were many hamadryads in the surrounding jungles), and
that, finding it lying dead on the path, the tigress had eaten a
meal off it and had then tried to drag it away. When she
found she could not break the rope, she had partly covered the
kill over with dry leaves and brush-wood and continued on her
way up to Thak.

Tigers as a rule are not carrion eaters but they do on occasions
eat animals they themselves have not killed. For instance, on
one occasion I left the carcass of a leopard on a fire track and,
when I returned next morning to recover a knife I had for-
gotten, I found that a tiger had removed the carcass to a dis-
tance of a hundred yards and eaten two-thirds of it.

On my way up from Chuka I had dismantled the machan I
had sat on the previous night, and while two of my men climbed
into the almond tree to make a seat for me the tree was not
big enough for a machan the other four went to the spring

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368195 - 08/08/22 07:22 PM


I THINK that all sportsmen who have had the opportunity of
indulging in the twin sports of shooting tigers with a camera
and shooting them with a rifle will agree with me that the
difference between these two forms of sport is as great, if not
greater, than the taking of a trout on light tackle in a snow-fed
mountain stream, and the killing of a fish on a fixed rod on
the sun-baked bank of a tank.

Apart from the difference in cost between shooting with a
camera and shooting with a rifle, and the beneficial effect it has
on our rapidly decreasing stock of tigers, the taking of a good

lust Tigers 217

photograph gives far more pleasure to the sportsman than the
atemisition of a trophy; and further, while the photograph is of
hfferest to all lovers of wild life, the trophy is only of interest to
ttie individual who acquired it. As an illustration, I would in-
stance Fred Champion. Had Champion shot his tigers with a
rifle instead of with a camera his trophies would long since have
lost their hair and been consigned to the dustbin, whereas the
% ecords made by his camera are a constant source of pleasure to
lim, and are of interest to sportsmen in all parts of the world.

It was looking at the photographs in Champion's book With
> Camera in Tiger-Land that first gave me the idea of taking
Aofpgraphs of tigers. Champion's photographs were taken with

still camera by flashlight and I decided to go one better and
try to take tiger pictures with a cinecamera by daylight. The
gift by a very generous friend of a Bell and Ho well i6-mm.
camera put just the weapon I needed into my hands, and the
' freedom of the Forests ' which I enjoy enabled me to roam at
large over a very wide field. For ten years I stalked through
many hundreds of miles of tiger country, at times being seen off
by tigers that resented my approaching their kills, and at other
times being shooed out of the jungle by tigresses that objected
to my goifcg near their cubs. During this period I learnt a little
about the habits and ways of tigers, and though I saw tigers on,
possibly, two hundred occasions I did not succeed in getting one
satisfactory picture. I exposed films on many occasions, but the
results were disappointing owing either to overexposure, under-
exposure, obstruction of grass or leaves or cobwebs on the lens;
and in one case owing to the emulsion on the film having been
melted while being processed.

Finally in 1938 I decided to devote the whole winter to making
one last effort to get a good picture. Having learnt by experience
that it was not possible to get a haphazard picture of a tiger, my
first consideration was to find a suitable site, and I eventually
selected an open ravine fifty yards wide, with a tiny stream

218 Man-eatgrs of Kumaon

flowing down the centre of it, and flanked on either side by dense
tree and scrub jungle. To deaden the sound of my camera when
taking pictures at close range I blocked the stream in several
places, making miniature waterfalls a few inches high. I then cast
round for my tigers, and having located seven, in three widely
separated areas, started to draw them a few yards at a time to mv
jungle studio. This was a long and a difficult job, with many
setbacks and disappointments, for the area in which I was oper-
ating is heavily shot over, and it was only by keeping my tigers
out of sight that I eventually got them to the exact spot where I
wanted them. One of the tigers for some reason unknown to me
left the day after her arrival, but not before I had taken a pic-
ture of her; the other six I kept together and I exposed a thou-
sand feet of film on them. Unfortunately it was one of the
wettest winters we have ever had and several hundred feet of the
film were ruined through moisture on the lens, underexposure,
and packing of the film inside the camera due to hurried and care-
less threading. But, even so, I have got approximately six hun-
dred feet of film of which I am inordinately proud, for they are
a living record of six full grown tigers four males, two of which
are over ten feet, and two females, one of which is a white tigress
filmed in daylight, at ranges varying from ten to sixty feet.

The whole proceeding from start to finish took four and a half
months, and during the countless hours I lay near the tiny stream
and my miniature waterfalls, not one of the tigers ever saw me.

The stalking to within a few feet of six tigers in daylight
would have been an impossible feat, so they were stalked in the
very early hours of the morning, before night had gone and
daylight come the heavy winter dew making this possible and
were filmed as light, and opportunity, offered.

No matter how clear i6-mm. films may appear when projected
they do not make good enlargements. However, the accompany-
ing photographs will give some idea of my jungle studio and
the size and condition of the subjects I filmed.

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Re: Man-Eaters of Kumaon by Jim Corbett [Re: NitroX]
      #368197 - 08/08/22 07:26 PM

Discussion thread - click here

John aka NitroX

Govt get out of our lives NOW!
"I love the smell of cordite in the morning."
"A Sharp spear needs no polish"

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