It has been a much debated point with sportsmen and naturalists, whether the eye or the sense of smell guides the vulture to his feast of carrion. I have often watched them. They scan the vast surface spread below them with a piercing and never tiring gaze. They observe each other. When one is seen to cease his steady circling flight, far up in mid air, and to stretch his broad wings earthwards, the others know that he has espied a meal, and follow his lead; and these in turn are followed by others, till from all quarters flock crowds of these scavengers of the sky. They can detect a dog or jackal from a vast height, and they know by intuition that, where the carcase is there will the dogs and jackals be gathered. I think there can be no doubt that the vision is the sense they are most indebted to for directing them to their food.
On one occasion I remember seeing a tumultuous heap of them, battling fiercely, as I have just tried to describe, over the carcases of two tigers we had killed near Dumdaha. The dead bodies were hidden partially in a grove of trees, and for a long time there were only some ten or a dozen vultures near. These gorged themselves so fearfully, that they could not rise from the ground, but lay with wings expanded, looking very aldermanic and apoplectic. Bye-and-bye, however, the rush began, and by the time we had struck the tents, there could not have been fewer than 150 vultures, hissing and spitting at each other like angry cats; trampling each other to the dust to get at the carcases; and tearing wildly with talon and beak for a place. In a very short time nothing but mangled bones remained. A great number of the vultures got on to the rotten limb of a huge mango tree. One other proved the last straw, for down came the rotten branch and several of the vultures, tearing at each other, fell heavily to the ground, where they lay quite helpless. As an experiment we shot a miserable mangy Pariah dog, that was prowling about the ground seeking garbage and offal. He was shot stone-dead, and for a time no vulture ventured near. A crow was the first to begin the feast of death. One of the hungriest of the vultures next approached, and in a few minutes the yet warm body of the poor dog was torn into a thousand fragments, till nothing remained but scattered and disjointed bones.
We start for a tiger hunt on the Nepaul frontier.—Indian scenery near the border.—Lose our way.—Cold night.—The river by night.—Our boat and boatmen.—Tigers calling on the bank.—An anxious moment.—Fire at and wound the tigress.—Reach camp.—The Nepaulee’s adventure with a tiger.—The old Major.—His appearance and manners.—The pompous Jemadar.—Nepaulese proverb.—Firing the jungle.—Start a tiger and shoot him.—Another in front.—Appearance of the fires by night.—The tiger escapes.—Too dark to follow up.—Coolie shot by mistake during a former hunt.