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 Post subject: The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon
 Post Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:30 pm 
The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon

by Sir Samuel White Baker
Source: Project Gutenberg



Upwards of twenty years have passed since the 'Rifle and Hound in
Ceylon' was published, and I have been requested to write a preface for
a new edition. Although this long interval of time has been spent in a
more profitable manner than simple sport, nevertheless I have added
considerably to my former experience of wild animals by nine years
passed in African explorations. The great improvements that have been
made in rifles have, to a certain extent, modified the opinions that I
expressed in the 'Rifle and Hound in Ceylon.' Breech-loaders have so
entirely superseded the antiquated muzzle-loader, that the hunter of
dangerous animals is possessed of an additional safeguard. At the same
time I look back with satisfaction to the heavy charges of powder that
were used by me thirty years ago and were then regarded as absurd, but
which are now generally acknowledged by scientific gunners as the only
means of insuring the desiderata of the rifle, i.e., high velocity, low
trajectory, long range, penetration, and precision.

When I first began rifle-shooting thirty-seven years ago, not one man in
a thousand had ever handled such a weapon. Our soldiers were then
armed*(*With the exception of the Rifle Brigade) with the common old
musket, and I distinctly remember a snubbing that I received as a
youngster for suggesting, in the presence of military men, 'that the
army should throughout be supplied with rifles.' This absurd idea
proposed by a boy of seventeen who was a good shot with a weapon that
was not in general use, produced such a smile of contempt upon my
hearers, that the rebuke left a deep impression, and was never
forgotten. A life's experience in the pursuit of heavy game has
confirmed my opinion expressed in the `Rifle and Hound' in 1854--that
the best weapon for a hunter of average strength is a double rifle
weighing fifteen pounds, of No. 10 calibre. This should carry a charge
of ten drachms of No. 6 powder (coarse grain). In former days I used six
or seven drachms of the finest grained powder with the old
muzzle-loader, but it is well known that the rim of the breech-loading
cartridge is liable to burst with a heavy charge of the fine grain,
therefore No. 6 is best adapted for the rifle.


Although a diversity of calibres is a serious drawback to the comfort of
a hunter in wild countries, it is quite impossible to avoid the
difficulty, as there is no rifle that will combine the requirements for
a great variety of game. As the wild goose demands B B shot and the
snipe No. 8, in like manner the elephant requires the heavy bullet, and
the deer is contented with the small-bore.

I have found great convenience in the following equipment for hunting
every species of game in wild tropical countries.

One single-barrel rifle to carry a half-pound projectile, or a four
ounce, according to strength of hunter.

Three double-barrelled No. 10 rifles, to carry ten drachms No. 6 powder.

One double-barrelled small-bore rifle, sighted most accurately for
deer-shooting. Express to carry five or six drachms, but with hardened
solid bullet.

Two double-barrelled No. 10 smooth-bores to carry shot or ball; the
latter to be the exact size for the No. 10 rifles.

According to my experience, such a battery is irresistible.

The breech-loader has manifold advantages over the muzzle-loader in a
wild country. Cartridges should always be loaded in England, and they
should be packed in hermetically sealed tin cases within wooden boxes,
to contain each fifty, if large bores, or one hundred of the smaller

These will be quite impervious to damp, or to the attacks of insects.
The economy of ammunition will be great, as the cartridge can be drawn
every evening after the day's work, instead of being fired off as with
the muzzle-loader, in order that the rifle may be cleaned.

The best cartridges will never miss fire. This is an invaluable quality
in the pursuit of dangerous game.

Although I advocate the express small-bore with the immense advantage of
low trajectory, I am decidedly opposed to the hollow expanding bullet
for heavy, thick-skinned game. I have so frequently experienced
disappointment by the use of the hollow bullet that I should always
adhere to the slightly hardened and solid projectile that will preserve
its original shape after striking the thick hide of a large animal.

A hollow bullet fired from an express rifle will double up a deer, but
it will be certain to expand upon the hard skin of elephants,
rhinoceros, hippopotami, buffaloes, &c.; in which case it will lose all
power of penetration. When a hollow bullet strikes a large bone, it
absolutely disappears into minute particles of lead,--and of course it
becomes worthless.

For many years I have been supplied with firstrate No. 10 rifles by
Messrs. Reilly & Co. of Oxford Street, London, which have never become
in the slightest degree deranged during the rough work of wild hunting.
Mr. Reilly was most successful in the manufacture of explosive shells
from my design; these were cast-iron coated with lead, and their effect
was terrific.

Mr. Holland of Bond Street produced a double-barrelled rifle that
carried the Snider Boxer cartridge. This was the most accurate weapon up
to 300 yards, and was altogether the best rifle that I ever used; but
although it possessed extraordinary precision, the hollow bullet caused
the frequent loss of a wounded animal. Mr. Holland is now experimenting
in the conversion of a Whitworth-barrel to a breech-loader. If this
should prove successful, I should prefer the Whitworth projectile to any
other for a sporting rifle in wild countries, as it would combine
accuracy at both long and short ranges with extreme penetration.

The long interval that has elapsed since I was in Ceylon, has caused a
great diminution in the wild animals.

The elephants are now protected by game laws, although twenty years ago
a reward was offered by the Government for their destruction. The 'Rifle
and Hound' can no longer be accepted as a guidebook to the sports in
Ceylon; the country is changed, and in many districts the forests have
been cleared, and civilization has advanced into the domains of wild
beasts. The colony has been blessed with prosperity, and the gradual
decrease of game is a natural consequence of extended cultivation and
increased population.

In the pages of this book it will be seen that I foretold the
destruction of the wild deer and other animals twenty years ago. At that
time the energetic Tamby's or Moormen were possessed of guns, and had
commenced a deadly warfare in the jungles, killing the wild animals as a
matter of business, and making a livelihood by the sale of dried flesh,
hides, and buffalo-horns. This unremitting slaughter of the game during
all seasons has been most disastrous, and at length necessitated the
establishment of laws for its protection.

As the elephants have decreased in Ceylon, so in like manner their
number must be reduced in Africa by the continual demand for ivory.
Since the 'Rifle and Hound' was written, I have had considerable
experience with the African elephant.

This is a distinct species, as may be seen by a comparison with the
Indian elephant in the Zoological Gardens of the Regent's Park.

In Africa, all elephants are provided with tusks; those of the females
are small, averaging about twenty pounds the pair. The bull's are
sometimes enormous. I have seen a pair of tusks that weighed 300 lbs.,
and I have met with single tusks of 160 lbs. During this year (1874) a
tusk was sold in London that weighed 188 lbs. As the horns of deer vary
in different localities, so the ivory is also larger and of superior
quality in certain districts. This is the result of food and climate.
The average of bull elephant's tusks in equatorial Africa is about 90
lbs. or 100 lbs. the pair.

It is not my intention to write a treatise upon the African elephant;
this has been already described in the `Nile Tributaries of
Abyssinia,'*(* Published by Messrs. Macmillan and Co.) but it will be
sufficient to explain that it is by no means an easy beast to kill when
in the act of charging. From the peculiar formation of the head, it is
almost impossible to kill a bull elephant by the forehead shot; thus the
danger of hunting the African variety is enhanced tenfold.

The habits of the African elephant are very different from those of his
Indian cousins. Instead of retiring to dense jungles at sunrise, the
African will be met with in the mid-day glare far away from forests,
basking in the hot prairie grass of ten feet high, which scarcely
reaches to his withers.

Success in elephant shooting depends materially upon the character of
the ground. In good forests, where a close approach is easy, the African
species can be killed like the Indian, by one shot either behind the ear
or in the temple; but in open ground, or in high grass, it is both
uncertain and extremely dangerous to attempt a close approach on foot.
Should the animal turn upon the hunter, it is next to impossible to take
the forehead-shot with effect. It is therefore customary in Africa, to
fire at the shoulder with a very heavy rifle at a distance of fifty or
sixty yards. In Ceylon it was generally believed that the shoulder-shot
was useless; thus we have distinct methods of shooting the two species
of elephants: this is caused, not only by the difference between the
animals, but chiefly by the contrast in the countries they inhabit.
Ceylon is a jungle; thus an elephant can be approached within a few
paces, which admit of accurate aim at the brain. In Africa the elephant
is frequently upon open ground; therefore he is shot in the larger mark
(the shoulder) at a greater distance. I have shot them successfully both
in the brain and in the shoulder, and where the character of the country
admits an approach to within ten paces, I prefer the Ceylon method of
aiming either at the temple or behind the ear.

Although the African elephant with his magnificent tusks is a higher
type than that of Ceylon, I look back to the hunting of my younger days
with unmixed pleasure. Friends with whom I enjoyed those sports are
still alive, and are true friends always, thus exemplifying that
peculiar freemasonry which unites the hearts of sportsmen.

After a life of rough experience in wild countries, I have found some
pleasure in referring to the events of my early years, and recalling the
recollection of many scenes that would have passed away had they not
been chronicled. I therefore trust that although the brightest days of
Ceylon sports may have somewhat faded by the diminution of the game,
there may be Nimrods (be they young or old) who will still discover some
interest in the `Rifle and Hound in Ceylon.'



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