Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Pig-Sticking in India

Hunting wild boars on horseback was a popular recreation for British officers in India during the Age of Empire. According to the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, it was encouraged by military authorities as good training because "a startled or angry wild boar is ... a desperate fighter [and therefore] the pig-sticker must possess a good eye, a steady hand, a firm seat, a cool head and a courageous heart."

The founder of scouting, Robert Baden-Powell, was a big believer in pig-sticking, even writing an 1889 book about it called Pigsticking or Hoghunting. In his Lessons from the Varsity of Life (1933), Baden-Powell wrote that "I never took the usual leave to the hills in hot weather because I could not tear myself away from the sport." Pig-stickers were apparently criticized for the barbarity of this sport, leading Baden-Powell to reply:
Try it before you judge. See how the horse enjoys it, see how the boar himself, mad with rage, rushes wholeheartedly into the scrap, see how you, with your temper thoroughly roused, enjoy the opportunity of wreaking it to the full. Yes, hog-hunting is a brutal sport—and yet I loved it, as I loved also the fine old fellow I fought against.
There is a fascinating article about pig-sticking by William Livingston Alden that originally appeared in Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 61, issue 366, June 1880. It notes that "For pig-sticking there are two requisites in addition to the pig—a fast, steady horse, and a good hog spear." You can find this essay reprinted here.

The image above, "Pig Sticking on the Churs of the Brahmapootra--Surprised by a Tiger," appeared in The Graphic in 1891. I found it here with other images from The Graphic and the Illustrated London News.


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