Many of the readers on this blog will be familiar with this famous quote.
After a very busy time during the festive period my newly ordered books arrived from Amazon.
One book that I came across and thought I must was read was The Rifle and the Hound in Ceylon by Samuel Baker.
Samuel Baker was amongst many things a big game hunter and naturalist. Bakers Falls, which is found in Horton Plains, is named after the man who spent a considerable amount of time on the Island.
The book was written in 1853, and contains great descriptive details of the highland plains of Nuwareliya and Dimbula. The time period for the book is long before James Taylor introduced the tea seed to Ceylon in 1873; thus, the book makes no mention of Tea. It makes small references to Coffee but the time of writing was just before the coffee craze.
Visit Sri Lanka today and the areas that Baker describes are beautifully manicured Tea plantations.
I found this book fascinating to learn what the landscape looked like prior to the Coffee boom.
In Sri Lanka today, hunting is banned and almost no one keeps a pack of hounds. The only animals that are hunted are wild boar due to them being a pest. Amongst planting circles, hunting was a common sport in the early 20th century. Many country planter’s club walls are still decorated with the horns of Sambur deer and tusks of wild boar. These planters who hunted for sport followed in the steps of men like Baker who were pioneers in the sport.
The book heavily details the lay of the land and the habits of the many varieties of species that can be found, along with handy survival tips on how to save yourself from a rogue elephant that charges you.
The book does go into a lot of detail on the exponential numbers of elephant, buffalo and deer that had been killed by Baker during his time. However, a reader must note that this book was written in the 19th century during the Victorian era, where the “Great White Hunter” was a celebrated individual.
As a lover of all things Ceylon I found the book very interesting mainly due to its descriptions of the land, the fauna and the animals. However it is terribly sad to note that today the up country is virtually devoid of elephants and deer numbers are nowhere near the the numbers that Baker describes. In all of my time living and visiting Sri Lanka, I have been lucky enough to see two spotted deer on estates that made a fleeting escape as soon as they saw me. This is due mainly to the wholesale slaughter of these animals and the destruction of their habitat.
I would recommend The Rifle and The Hound in Ceylon for anyone who is interested in the early colonial history of the island and what life looked like on the estates when it was virgin jungle. The books also serves as a reminder of the destruction we humans can do to the land and its inhabitants.
To learn a history of Ceylon Tea read my previous blog.