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India 1870
Image Details:

India 1870

Author: Unknown
Year: 1870
Description: Note on this picture by Joachim Bautze
A hunter sitting on the dismembered head of a rhinoceros. Albumen print on mount. Photographer unknown (for Johnston & Hoffmann 1870ies Size: 19,1 x 24,7<br>This photograph was either taken in the Nepalese Terai (1) or in Assam, areas where a few rhinoceroses survive to this day. Anybody who still believes that western hunters in India were not snobbish and did not find greatest pleasure in killing even the most harmless animals will have to reconsider his ideas about them when looking at this photograph. This picture is exceptional as the hunter also made use of the feet of the animal (2); normally, only the head was cut and the trunk left to the vultures. An excerpt from the diary kept by Colonel Pollok in 1870 may illustrate, what happened in those days in Assam: <br>"April 20. - This time we started in earnest. We went a long way. I shot a couple of swamp deer, both bucks, but the horn had not formed, so the heads were useless. We then came upon fresh rhinoceros tracks and followed them up. We found one asleep in the bed of a nullah [a kind of ditch], without even a blade of grass to screen him from the sun: probably it was only a siesta, and that he wnuld have retired to a heavier jungle later on. He looked for all the world like a huge pig. I was the nearest to him, but did not like to fire as there was no vital spot visible. Sookur [a native shikhari] had the sense to whistle, which awoke the sleeping, beauty, and Jackson [another hunter] and I fired at his chest. He was on his legs in a second and came at us open-mouthed, but before he could climb up the bank he fell back dead - our battery was too much for him. We then shot a couple of buffaloes with good heads, which Jackson wanted. We breakfasted, rested half-an-hour, and then resumed our journey. Jackson then shot a stag. We were within sight of Matagoorie, and were going along the left bank of the Manass, when I saw a huge rhinoceros standing under a monarch of the forest. Its head and shoulders were protected by the trunk, but I could see its shoulder, and my first shot with the 2-groove rifle knocked it over. I fired two more shots as it lay struggling on the ground, but it recovered its legs and went off at a slow trot.<br>I went in chase, loading and firing, but could not gain an inch on my quarry. All the thrashing in the world could not induce the Muckna [name of the old elephant, on which Pollok sits] to go faster than its usual pace. The dense jungle was only a hundred yards ahead, and once in that I should never see the monster again. Just then Jackson on a fast elephant hurried up, ran alongside, and laid the rhinoceros dead. This was one of the largest rhinoceros I ever shot. It length from snout to tip of tail was 13 feet 4 inches; height at shoulder, 6 feet 2 inches; length of horn 13 inches. I went direct to the huts, but Jackson shot on. He came across another giant and fired seven shots into it, but it got into a tangled brake and there he had to leave it. He arrived at camp at 4 p.m. We then went to the Manass. Jackson caught the first fish, a 6-pounder; I then caught three - 19, 8, 25 Ibs. each. The mahouts that went to bring in the head of the rhinoceros I had killed came across a tiger eating a deer, but as it was all but dark we put off going after it till the morning. We had pitched our tents too close to the river; the wind came down in a tornado all night, and we had six inches of sand over us in the morning, so moved further away-this night breeze is deadly<br>April 21.-This morning, instead of going after the tiger, Jackson persuaded me to search for his rhinoceros. He said his mahout (a Gurkha) knew the place it went into; but these jungles are so alike he could not find it, and we lost some valuable time, so we had to give it up; but seeing fresh tracks we followed them up, and in passing through a narrow belt of long grass Jackson saw a rhinoceros and fired into him. The wounded one spun round and round, uttering the usual grunting squeals, and I should say the noise was echoed by some dozen others. I never heard such a pandemonium in my life, and whilst the pachyderms were making this noise not an elephant would go into the long grass, which was very dense and high. Not wishing to get any of our beasts cut, we waited until all this excitement should be over; we tried to burn the grass, but it was too wet with the night's dew, so we sat down to breakfast under a tree. Before we had half finished, a mahout said: ‘There is a rhinoceros...’”(3)
In Pollok’s diary the killing of rhinos and other animals goes on and on. Rhinos, by the way, are vegetarians. In one photograph, Pollok proudly presents the cut heads of five rhonoceroses in addition to a number of buffalo-heads.<br>Was James Ricalton aware of such senseless killing, when he complained about the "horrid sacrifice to the Hindu goddess” in the Kalighat temple of Calcutta? Did Ricalton know that each sacrificed goat was turned into a delicious Curry wheras thousands of large buffaloes, rhinos and other grass-eating animals were killed by Western hunters just for the fun, the „kick”? <br>Endnotes 03.04.<br>1) It seems that the handle of a Nepalese kukri, a kind of knife with curved blade typical for Nepal, is tucked into the man’s belt. This does, however, not necessarily indicate that the photograph was taken in Nepal too.
2) „Of the carnivores there were the skins, with heads, to be preserved intact; of the rhinoceroses the heads, and in some cases the feet”, Ellison 1925, p.169.<br>3) Pollok / Thom 1900, pp.465-466.<br>4) Pollok / Thom 1900, plate facing p.466. This picture is not an exception. Another photograph, taken in Nepal in 1911, shows the bodies of seven tigers, two bears and two cut rhino-heads, cf Fabb 1986, plate 96. For photographs documenting the cutting of the head see Ellison 1925, plates facing p.21.<br>5) Cf. Ricalton 1907, pp.161-164. The stereograph was also used as photograph, cf. Dekobra 1931, illustration facing p.98
Quoted sources
Dekobra, Maurice: Perfumed Tigers. Adventures in the Land of the Maharajahs. Translated by Metcalfe Wood. London [etc.]: Cassell & Company Ltd., 1931 [originally published in French, 1929
Ellison, Bernard C.: H.R.H. The Prince of Wales Sport in India. Edited by Sir H. Perry Robinson. With an Introduction by The Earl of Cromer. London: William Heinemann, Ltd., 1925
Fabb, John: The British Empire from photographs. India. London: B.T. Batsford, 1986
Pollok, F.T. / Thom, W.S.: Wild Sports of Burma and Assam. With Illustrations and Maps. London: Hurst and Blackett, Limited, 1900
Ricalton, James: India through the Stereoscope. A Journey through Hindustan Conducted By James Ricalton... New York and London: Underwood and Underwood, (1907).
Location: Asia - South Asia - India
Subject: History
Species: Indian Rhino
File Size: 589,6 kb
Dimensions: 3164x2419 px
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