Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Great Pig Hunt of 1864


THE GREAT PIG HUNT OF 1864

from the writings of William Bailey Maungaturoto

(Reproduced by the kind permission of Mr Alan Flower Maungaturoto)

Speaking of Captain Cook, reminds that there was one animal in the country we heard a great deal about. The bush, we were told, was over-run by wild pigs. Both speakers and writers had enlarged on the advantages the settlers would have in the ready supply of fresh and tasty meat almost at their very door; on ship-board any talk about the future settlement, otherwise The Bush, was invariably garnished with abundance of anticipated wild pork; it went so far, in fact, that any uneasiness in regard to future meat rations was thought quite unnecessary. On several occasions after our arrival circumstances pointed to the desirability of drawing on this reputed supply of pork. Indications of wild pigs being about had been seen, and a hunt had been more than once mildly suggested. That no-one was disposed to take what I may call a too prominent part in the matter will be better understood, when I explain that no-one in the settlement was too well acquainted with the manners and habits of wild pigs to inspire us with the confidence necessary to undertake a hunt of our own account, and judging from the manners of the domesticated pig we had very grave doubts about a wild pig being such a mild accommodating creature, as he appeared to be when the subject of conversation in an English sitting room or on board a ship. Then he was mere animated pork. But at close quarters, and in his native wilds, what might he not be endowed, as we had now good reason to know, with such formidable carver-like tusks.

Moreover we have been told by hunters of experience, that the proper way when hunting, was to at once fall on the quarry, turn it over, and the rest was simple. I must say, that we could hardly regard it that light, at any rate not until we felt fully assured about the somebody who was doing the 'falling on'. However, while each one interested was exercising a diplomatic reserve about the matter, there appeared on the scene, a renowned hunter of pigs in the person of Mr G. Williams, accompanied by his famous dog, Namou; here was our opportunity.

Mr Williams was bent on 'sport', we were bent on pork, and by joining forces, there appeared to be every possibility of bringing about satisfactory results to both parties. This Mr Williams, I should say, resided near the Great North Road which runs behind the Pukekaroro Mountain, a very out of the way situation in those days. He had come direct through the bush, killing as he said, two pigs in the course of his journey. This must have been the previous day, as he arrived in the district rather early in the forenoon, and was prepared to start on the hunting expedition at once. This was as near as I can remember in the early part of the year 1864. Who were of the party, other than myself and Mr Williams, I am unable to say of any certainty, not is it of any particular consequence. Suffice to say we started off on our quest a company of four, accompanied by three dogs - after tramping some distance, the redoubtable was sent out to find the quarry, and shortly afterwards made announcement to the effect, when the two other dogs were sent off to his assistance, we following as best as we could through the most broken tangled country imaginable.

Breaking through eventually onto the scene of conflict, we found the dogs facing certainly, the most ugly, savage looking animal it was ever out lot to see. Also I may add, the most odorous, for the vile animal smell of the creature was in evidence before we saw it. That this was not the kind of pig we had been led to expect was apparent at once, for why this savage, resentful attitude anything more unlike the plump, amiable, good natured Albertland pig - it would be impossible to conceive. for my part, I would have been quite willing to have apologised for our rude interruption of his usual daily occupation, and have retired with best grace possible. I wished afterward that I had, but no, the hunting instinct had been aroused, and he must be made to yield up his pork. This was a decision, of course; still, if he wasn't pork, he was undeniably pig, and therefore having come so far, there would be some satisfaction in finding out what he was composed of. There still, however, remained the question of how this was to be done.

This ancient animal was plainly a tactician of some quality, due no doubt to many an old time fight with other chieftains of the porcine race, for he backed his hindquarters into a cavity at the root of and enormous rata, consequently the only point of attack was the awe-inspiring head, and I don't think the whole British army could have been induced to make a frontal attack of that kind, at any rate unaided by artillery. Fortunately, one member of the party, seeing probably that there might be some difficulty in following out the proper course, by 'falling on the quarry', had brought a gun and some ball cartridge. that it was unsportsmanlike to use this means of slaughter thus afforded, was countered by the fact that he animal himself was responsible, inasmuch as he had maliciously and with evil intent, put his 'falling on' part out of our reach. Consequently the only course was to bring our artillery to bear on him. A kill having been effected, we were able to make a closer inspection of our quarry, and a sorry spectacle it was, as indeed were all its kind that I ever saw.

Our enthusiasm had cooled by this time, the noisome smell and terrifying ugliness of the beast had gone far toward extinguishing our desire to make any further acquaintance with wild pork. However, so tenacious are preconceived ideas, that notwithstanding our repugnance to the whole business we were shortly on our way homeward, loaded up, each one of us, with portions of the carcase. To skip all details of our journey, I may say that our reception at the end of it was not of a cordial character; in truth, the smell of the meat we carried talked louder than we did, and the tone of the remarks which were made, unmistakably intimidated that the more distant the point where we unburdened ourselves, the better several people would be pleased, and thus ended our first and last pig hunt in Maungaturoto.

- W. J Bailey 'Manuscripts of Maungaturoto Early History' C.1920


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