Caspian tiger hunters: a lieutenant’s 1894 diary

Shared by: Saxon Bosworth / Date: 2021-10-18 11:07:56 / Resources / Pillars:
Original source: Дарибай Таджимуратов on Facebook.

A NOTE FROM THE TEAM: The Caspian tiger was assessed as extinct in 2003. The following text is an 1894 excerpt from LieutenantKolushev’s diary. The extract documents a tiger hunting mission in Karakalpakstan. This source was sent to us by a local Karakalpak resident. For more information on the Caspian tiger and this active research project studying the reintroduction of tigers to Central Asia, refer to this article, or get in touch with Saxon on Instagram.

Place: Republic of Karakalpakstan.

Kolushev, lieutenant. Hunting for tigers // Scout, 1894, No. 219, 220.

A team of hunters of the 5th Turkestan line battalion, consisting of fifteen lower ranks with ten camels and thirty-two dogs, set out on January 4, 1894 to hunt in the Chimbay section of the Amu Darya department in the Dau-Kara tract. According to previously collected information, it was known that many tigers appeared in the above-mentioned area, which caused great harm to herds of natives, and there were cases that even seized people.

The hunters were armed, as always, with shortened Berdanks with bayonets attached, with knives and daggers on their belts. Six hundred rounds were taken, of which half were with explosive bullets. Each hunter always had ten in a bandolier on his chest: five simple and five with explosive bullets. For the satisfaction of the team, provisions and other products were taken for a month and a half.

On January 5, a storm rose and lasted until noon on the 8th. Walking from Ulludah, after passing the turn of the road to Lake Istemes, the team from the 6th went without a road, straight through the steppe, following the compass to the northwest, and on the 10th went to Dau-Karu. When the weather cleared, I began to exercise alternately the hunters in shooting at the target on the move, pointing to various local objects within the hunting shot. People practiced this shooting with interest, and I made sure that they learned well the combat of their guns.

From the 10th to the 20th, the team circled from the north the Dau-Karin lakes: Kara-Kuduk, Kara-Kul, Kungrad and Kara-Teren, killing only one wild boar. The ice on the lakes was thin, it did not hold animals and people, therefore both tigers and wild boars, according to the natives, went to the shores of the Aral Sea. On January 20, the team passed along the Kara-Ungur lake and did not kill anything, although there were many old animal tracks.

On January 21st we went to the Dzhideli tract and on our way saw a fresh track of a large tiger, which crossed the road and was heading for the Kara-Ungur lake; I singled out four hunters with camels and ordered them to return to the old camp on Kara-Ungur, and with eleven others I followed the trail; they took the dogs with them. The trail, passing through several small lakes and coming out to another road from Dzhidel, along it led us to Lake Kara-Ungur and, crossing it across from north to south, headed for a small, eighty paces, island, extreme to the southern shore of the lake. [Lake Kara-Ungur is a flood in the sands of the Yany-su river, 10 versts long and 3 versts wide, with many small islands covered with a dense comb. The edges of the lake and islands are overgrown with reeds.]. From the south of the lake, herds of Kyrgyz cattle grazed in the sands.

Assuming that the tiger lay down on this island for a day, and in order not to miss the opportunity to capture it in a convenient place for us, since there was an open space around the island on the ice, I, approaching, divided the team into three parts. Four — the senior corporal Gusev in the team, to the rank and file: Raspopov, Lapenko and Ivanov, under the command of the first, followed the trail; four (with Corporal Chernov for the senior) went on the left side, and three hunters (with me – the fourth) – on the right, northern side of the island. I assumed that the beast frightened off from its lair would try to go to the right half of the lake to the side of thick reeds and thus come out to my party. The dogs scattered over the reeds.

My calculation turned out to be correct. After walking twenty paces, I noticed a slight swaying of the reeds, informed the hunters about this, and, throwing our guns to our shoulders, we began to wait for the appearance of the beast. We stood in this position for a minute, when we noticed that the dog Zhuchka jumped out of the reeds to our left and, seeing us, again threw itself into the reeds. Assuming that it was she running in the reeds, we put our guns aside and started forward, when suddenly in that place in the reeds, opposite which we were standing, there was a terrible roar of the beast. The tiger, probably worried about the dogs and not daring to come out to us, turned back and went to the party of Corporal Gusev. Noticing this from the movement of the reeds, I shouted: “Beware! at you, at you! “

Hearing my warning cry, Lance Corporal Gusev and Private Raspopov, walking a little ahead, got ready and, seeing a tiger jumping out of the reeds and leaping forward from them, they shot at him: one bullet interrupted his left hind leg, and the other, hitting the back of his head, exploded in the air. The tiger, roaring, rushed to the left from them, but, running into the party of Corporal Chernov and pursued by the dogs, turned back to the end of the island, where he was surrounded by us and the dogs. The party of Corporal Gusev stood on a hillock at the end of the island and awaited the appearance of the animal returning from the left. The tiger from Chernov’s party rushed towards me past Gusev’s party. The first of Gusev’s party saw the beast of Private Lapenko and knocked him down with a shot in the side. The dogs sat on him, but he, instantly scattering them, sat behind a bush in front of the front of Gusev’s party.

Private Ivanov, in order to see better, leaned forward a little and, slipping on the icy snow, fell back and, without letting go of his gun, rolled straight to the tiger, which roared and sat on him. The tiger, embracing Ivanov with its paws, tried to reach him by the head or by the neck, but his own head accidentally fell between the rifle and the running belt; Ivanov, according to his own explanation later, pushing the rifle away from himself with his left hand, pulled the tiger’s head with a belt. The beast, without reaching the head or neck of Ivanov, wounded his left arm, and then his left leg. Earlier, Gusev, Raspopov and Lapenko, seeing the rolling Ivanov, rushed at the tiger with bayonets, but did not have time to warn him and, sticking bayonets into the back half of his body, dumped him on his back. Ivanov crawled out from under the tiger, with the help of his right free hand, corporal Gusev. Throwing Ivanov, the tiger, bending on bayonets, he tried to reach private Raspopov with his front paws, but the dog Gypsy prevented him from doing so, grabbing his right ear and pulling his head back to the ground. After the first shots, I and my party went into the reeds to the barking of dogs, but when Private Lapenka’s shot, the roar of a tiger and Ivanov’s cry “Ay!” Rang out, I rushed forward and jumped out to the dump site. Seeing Ivanov crawling out from under the beast, and Raspopov in such a dangerous position, I inserted a rifle into the tiger’s left ear and fired, and immediately, Tulupko’s dog was attached to this ear, and the people of my party and the party of Corporal Chernov finally stretched the beast with bayonets. The whole fight, from my first cry “Beware! at you, at you! ” until the death of the beast, lasted no more than two minutes. The tiger is old, with its fangs cut off,

Turning to Ivanov, who was standing aside without a rifle [Ivanov’s rifle remained on the tiger’s neck], I asked: “What’s the matter with you?”

He replied: “Wounded, your honor!”

For the convenience of dressing, I ordered a fire and examined the wounds. There are six on the arm, and ten on the leg, all at least an inch long, deep to the bone, some with tears of tendons, arteries and veins, caused by both teeth and claws. Having taken away the towels from the hunters and tore apart my underwear and belt, I hastily bandaged the wounds and sent Ivanov on a camel to the camp (three versts), where I placed him in a Kyrgyz wagon with me and two hunters, who were on duty in turn with him. There, using medicines and dressings from the paramedic bag, which the battalion doctor supplied me with before leaving for the hunt, I finally stopped the blood from the wounds only by the evening of the 22nd, so that I could start on the road with Ivanov. January 23rd, having arranged a comfortable rocking chair from the ladders on a camel for Ivanov, the wounded man and I went to the nearest paramedic outpatient clinic in the mountains. Chimbay, where they arrived on the 25th.

On the morning of the 27th, based on the opinion of the paramedic that it would be impossible for Ivanov to set off on the road earlier than two or three weeks, and yielding to the intensified requests of the Kirghiz to go to them and beat the tigers that carry their cattle and even one of them ate a Kirghiz woman, Chimbay, leaving two hunters to take care of the wounded and having agreed with the paramedic to correspond through the Kirghiz who travel from the villages to the bazaar. In the evening I arrived at the nearest lake Buzgul.

A Kyrgyz woman was seized by a tiger under the following circumstances. Five days before our arrival in Chimbay, several Kyrgyz women from one aul on the shores of Lake Syzgul went to the lake to cut reeds for fuel. After working until the evening, the Kyrgyz women began to gather home. One of them, hard-working and diligent, said that before dark she would still cut a few sheaves, and stayed on the lake. The Kyrgyz women, two hundred paces away, suddenly heard at the place where their friend was left, the roar of a tiger and her desperate cries. The Kyrgyz women fled to the aul and reported the incident to their husbands and brothers. Those, as a cowardly people, instead of helping the unfortunate woman, locked themselves in their wagons and only the next morning, having gathered with all the aul and armed with whatever they could, decided to go to the place of the disaster. There they found the remains of the unfortunate woman. The tiger, gnawing at her neck, ate her breasts and arm muscles,

On the morning of January 28, walking along the shore of the lake, we stopped in one aul, and I began to ask the Kirghiz if any of them had seen tigers and wild boars, and if they could indicate where in the lake [Lake Buzgul is fifteen miles long and five wide, covered with chakyns (heap) interspersed with reeds]. One Kyrgyz volunteered to indicate where he had seen three wild boars the day before. I sent Gusev and the hunters with him, and myself, with camels and two hunters, walked along the hillocks along the coast. The hunters and Gusev, moving a hundred paces away from the aul, suddenly shouted something and, running forward with the dogs, disappeared into the chakyna closest to me, and their guide rushed back to the aul with all his blades. I was at a loss – what happened. Here one dog barked, and then another desperately screamed after it. Thinking that it was a wild boar, I shouted to the hunters to rush to the animal and not let him spoil the dogs.

Suddenly, from behind the chakyn, a white dog flew into the air with a howl and, flashing its fur, flopped onto the clearing on the ice. I shouted: “Tiger!” and, calling to him two camel hunters, he stood ready with them on a hillock representing an isthmus between lakes Buzgul and Syzgul. The tiger, heading for Syzgul, probably seeing me with the hunters on the hillock, did not dare to leave the chakyn and turned back to the team, and was surrounded by it and the dogs. Corporal Gusev was the first to climb up to him and knocked down the beast almost right up with a shot in the neck. The dogs sat on him, and Gusev and Private Saltanov, who was with him in a pair, pinned him with bayonets. Then the rest of the team arrived. Saltanov hit the beast with such force that the bayonet, passing the carcass, entered the ice of the lake and broke in half. After questioning, it turned out that Gusev with the hunters, moving away from the aul, near the ice holes in the ice, of which the Kirghiz watered the cattle, frightened off the beast. The killed animal turned out to be a tigress, eleven and a half-quarters long from muzzle to tail and seventeen and a half with a tail.

Immediately on the hillocks between the lakes Syzgul and Buzgul they camped.

On January 29, a wild boar was killed on Buzgul. This boar was so old that its lower fangs were worn out almost to the base, and the upper ones grew into the nose.

On the 30th we rested.

On the night of the 30th to 31st, a tiger walked around the camp, the dogs several times rushed into the darkness and quickly returned. The night was dark, you couldn’t see anything. In the morning, about fifty paces from the camp, they found the track of a tiger that had passed from Syzgul to Buzgul, and, following this trail, in the thick last year’s grass on the shore of the lake, they lost it. Returning back, they killed the boar.

On February 1, the team went hunting without me for the wild boars that had escaped the day before, but, having stumbled again on the trail of a tiger that had passed from Syzgul, the hunters decided to hunt it down and kill it. After walking about ten versts on the trail, the hunters stopped near a stack of reeds to smoke and rest. Suddenly to the left of them in the chakyn there was a cry of a kara-kulak. [Kara-kulak “black ears”) – the companion of the tiger is the reed lynx. The natives consider the tiger as an evil spirit, and the kara-kulak as good, warning them with his cry when the first approaches.]. The hunters rushed to the cry and frightened off the tiger, which was eating the wolf he had just lifted. The tiger, abandoning its prey, began to leave. The hunters split into three parties – one with the dogs followed the trail, and two, running around the chakyns from the sides along the glades, tried to overtake the beast and cut its path. The side parties in one place saw the beast and, opening a crossfire, broke his right front and left hind legs. The beast roared and limped into the next chakyn. The hunters, assuming that he was lightly wounded, also ran forward, and only two privates Postnikov and Degtyarev remained, in order to make sure by the blood on the trail how the animal was wounded. Approaching the place where the tiger had gone, Degtyarev suddenly noticed the head of the animal in the chakyna, which immediately disappeared. The tiger obviously wanted to jump on them, but his wounded legs would not allow him. Degtyarev shouted to Postnikov: “Beware!”, And both ran to the side. Degtyarev suddenly noticed the head of the beast in the chakyna, which immediately disappeared. The tiger obviously wanted to jump on them, but his wounded legs would not allow him. Degtyarev shouted to Postnikov: “Beware!”, And both ran to the side. Degtyarev suddenly noticed the head of the beast in the chakyna, which immediately disappeared. The tiger obviously wanted to jump on them, but his wounded legs would not allow him. Degtyarev shouted to Postnikov: “Beware!”, And both ran to the side.

At this time, the dogs ran up on the trail and entered into battle with the beast. Postnikov and Degtyarev crawled over to the tiger, and the first knocked the animal down with a shot in the neck, and both and the other hunters who had arrived in time pinned him down with bayonets. The tiger roared and fumbled on bayonets for another half an hour, until Private Lapenko, by order of Gusev, stopped all signs of life with a shot in his mouth. The tiger is twelve and a half-quarters in size from muzzle to tail and eighteen with a tail. The Kirghiz who came from Lake Syzgulya recognized him as the one who especially bothered them and even during the day walked around their village in plain sight, and who, in their opinion, ate a Kirghiz woman.

On February 2, I moved in a camp against the middle of Lake Syzgul [Syzgul is a bay from the large lakes stretching from the Aral Sea; the entire area of ​​these lakes and the coast of the sea are covered for tens of miles with almost impenetrable reeds]. When they were walking, dear Gusev and with him six hunters with eight not wounded dogs went on my order to reconnoiter by the edge of the lake, and not far from the camp they killed a piglet.

Gusev ordered private Degtyarev and Ponomarev to carry the pig to the camp, and he went further with the rest and the dogs. Degtyarev and Ponomarev, moving away from the place of two hundred and fifty paces and looking around, saw that a large tiger, emerging from the reeds and lying on the ice, where the piglet was singed, was watching them. The hunters decided to fight him. Having agreed that Ponomarev would be on his guard, Degtyarev shot the animal to the left and above the right shoulder blade [it was visible by the print on the snow when the tiger lay down during the pursuit]. The tiger fell onto its back, roared and, getting to its feet, jumped into the reeds and began to leave. Gusev came running to the shot with hunters and dogs and, having learned what was the matter, rushed to chase the beast.

Degtyarev and Ponomarev, who came to the camp, reported to me about everything, and I, taking five more hunters and catching up with Gusev, continued the pursuit with the team on the trail. The tiger, flowing with blood, lay down on the snow four times with a wound and, as soon as we reached it, scaring the dogs away, went further into the reeds. Where there was no snow or there was water over the ice, the blood on the reeds showed us the way. Having followed the trail of the tiger in this way for ten versts, we wandered into dense recumbent reeds with water above the ice above the knee, and since the time was already approaching twilight, then, noticing the last place, I, hoping that during the night the animal would die and in the morning we on the trail we will find, returned with the team to the camp.

There I received a note from a paramedic from Chimbay that Ivanov was in a dangerous position and could die. Considering it necessary in this case to be around the patient, and at the same time not daring to leave the team on the hunt without myself, I decided to stop it. After supper, ordered to pack, immediately set out and by one o’clock in the morning came to Chimbai.

Leaving Syzgul, we told the Kyrgyz in the auls that we were leaving a seriously wounded tiger in the reeds, and that they would look for it there. But, obviously, at that time they did not dare to look for him, and only a month later, when the ice had already melted, they found on the island the decomposing carcass of an animal with a wound on the right side to the left and above the shoulder blade. They took off the skin, but it had already deteriorated and was useless.

I found Ivanov alive, and he died on the morning of February 3, according to the paramedic, from inflammation of the peritoneum that had spread from his wounded leg.

On the evening of February 3, we set out with our bodies to the fortification of Nukus, where we arrived on the 4th, and on the 5th we buried Ivanov in an Orthodox cemetery. Eternal memory to you, Ivanov, who died in the performance of his duty and oath. [By the care of the battalion commander, Ivanov’s grave was surrounded by a grate and an iron cross was erected, with the inscription: “He died of wounds inflicted by a tiger.”

During the movement from Chimbay to Nukus, we had to meet a serious obstacle when crossing the Kuvansh-Jarma channel, which was covered with weak ice, and, moreover, not in its entire width. I turned to local aksakals for help, who put at my disposal about a hundred people with pincers and axes. With their help we cleared the ice, made descents and crossed on a skiff. This delayed us for almost a whole day.

From February 5 to February 9, they stood in Nukus, awaiting orders from Petro-Aleksandrovsk, during this time making a short search for fifteen versts to the north, where, according to rumors, there was a tiger, but only its old tracks were found there. On the 9th of February we set out to the battalion headquarters, where they arrived on the 15th, going by the way to the Nazar-Khan tugai [forest with dense thickets] and killing one wild boar there.

From January 4th to February 15th, for the entire time of movement, not counting the days of hunting, the team made approximately seven hundred and fifty versts, on average 30 versts a day, moreover, about one and a half versts without knowing the terrain, without roads, by compass, replacing the water with snow, and our camels were left without drinking for six days. Despite the fact that the team lived in the open air in varied weather and carried a lot of work, there were no patients in the team for the entire time. All the hunters behaved impeccably, and during dangerous hunts for tigers they acted boldly and confidently and, using weapons, calculated their shot in cold blood, thanks to which there were no misses at the animal from close range, and with great turmoil, during fights with animals , not a single dog was injured by a careless hunter shot. All the animals were finished off with bayonets.

The meat of the killed wild boars is used as food for hunters and dogs, and the skins of tigers are given for the dressing.

Of the thirty-two dogs, ten were given to the Kyrgyz for being unfit for hunting, and sixteen of the twenty-two others were wounded. All of them were brought back by me, and some, seriously wounded, were transported loaded on camels. I treat them myself.

As for the local population, everywhere we were greeted with a warm welcome, and the local native administration provided us in everything with full courtesy and assistance. [According to the natives, some part of a tiger’s skin: a tooth, a claw, hair from a mustache, etc., give the owner their quality of courage and are considered talismans, so we had a lot of work to protect the skins of the tigers we killed from disfigurement. In addition, according to the native women, if we step over the spread skin of a tiger with our head towards the sun three times and walk around it with prayer as many times, then they are cured of all female diseases, including infertility, and our skins of killed tigers from such treatments have become fairly contaminated].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *