Bachelor of Powalgarh
The Bachelor of Powalgarh, also known as the Tiger of Powalgarh, was an unusually large Bengal tiger, and is said to be 3.23 meters long when measured between pegs. From 1920 to 1930, this male tiger was the most sought-after big-game trophy in the United Provinces. When the tiger was shot in the winter of 1930 by Jim Corbett
Size and previous hunter attempts
In 1923, Corbett first discovered the tiger in a steep ravine within a secure retreat. Government rules prohibited night-time shooting, which inadvertently helped the highly sought after tiger to survive.
Corbett took Commissioner Wyndham (who he said “knows more about tigers than any other man in India”) and two experienced shikaris, to view the pug marks of the tiger. After the four examined and measured the pugmarks, Wyndham believed the tiger to be ten feet long between pegs. One shikari said he was 10’5″ over curves, while the other said he was 10’6″ or more. All four said they had never seen larger pugmarks.
Before Corbett, many attempts had been made to bag the animal, with no one having ever shot him. Two famous hunters, Fred Anderson and Huish Edye, came close, though small mistakes were the cause of their failures. Anderson described the tiger as “big as a Shetland pony,” while Edye said it was as big as a donkey. A herder and former poacher, who was attacked by the tiger, said to Corbett that the Bachelor was a shaitan, the Hindi word for ‘devil’, of a tiger, the size of a camel.
Seven years after the commissioner measured the pugmarks, Corbett and his sister measured the tiger’s body twice, albeit without independent witnesses present to certify the measurements, which was 10’7″ over curves.
First encounter with the tiger
In the winter of 1930, Corbett made his first hunt for the tiger, bringing his dog Robin with him. He followed the words of an old dak runner who said he saw the largest pugmarks he’d ever seen lead east to a well-wooded valley. The next morning, Robin picked up the scent of a tiger while Jim noticed large, fresh pugmarks. Fifty yards later, Robin located the tiger within a patch of clerodendron forty yards wide. Picking up Robin and entering the plants slowly, Corbett noticed the patch directly ahead swaying. After waiting for the tiger to leave the bush, Corbett went forward with his rifle drawn, but the tiger was nowhere in sight. Robin then signalled that the tiger had gone to the left, into a deep and narrow ravine. Not armed for dealing with a tiger in close quarters, and it being breakfast time, Corbett and Robin returned home.
After breakfast, Corbett returned alone, this time armed with a .450 rifle. He heard shouting and found a man up a tree, swinging an axe and yelling. The man told Corbett that he arrived in time to save him and his buffaloes from a tiger, the size of a camel, who had threatened the herder for hours. After retreating safely to his village, the man pleaded with Corbett to put his photography hobby aside for once and kill the tiger, which he said was big enough to eat a buffalo a day, and would wipe out his livestock in twenty-five. Corbett promised to do his best.
Returning to the plains in which he led the herder’s buffaloes through, he heard the call of the bachelor searching for a mate. Corbett imitated a tiger call in reply, then laid down on his elbows in the open, waiting for the tiger to come. After Corbett gave another tiger call, the bachelor called back from a hundred yards away. Eighty seconds later, the tiger’s head appeared above bushes four feet high, within ten yards to Corbett’s right, and looking directly at him. Corbett slowly turned his rifle, and shot the tiger an inch under his right eye. Instead of dropping dead, as Jim expected, the big cat jumped straight into the air, well above the bushes, then out of panic attacked the tree beside him, tearing it to bits while roaring. Knowing that the tiger knew where he was, Corbett feared to reload his rifle, lest the sound attract the bachelor’s attention. He lay on the ground motionless for half an hour until the branches of the tree and nearby bushes stopped waving, and the roaring became less frequent. After all the sounds of thrashing had stopped, Corbett waited for thirty more minutes before slowly crawling thirty yards backwards and hiding in a nearby tree for shelter. After several more minutes, when he was sure that the tiger was gone, Corbett left for home.
Tracking the tiger
The next morning Corbett returned to the location, along with one of his men, an expert tree climber. After reaching the open grounds, the man climbed a tree, noticing many flattened bushes around, but no signs of the tiger itself. Corbett then instructed the man back in the tree to watch over him as he scoured the ground. Near the tree Corbett found blood profusely sprinkled everywhere, and two large pools of blood and a piece of bone two square inches, which was concluded to be the part of the tiger’s skull. As a wounded tiger would growl or charge after hearing a gunshot again, Corbett fired a hundred rounds at bushes near a blood-stained tree, but to no avail. Not finding the tiger within the area, Corbett went home.
Final encounter with the tiger
The following morning the herder approached Corbett. He learned that the tiger was shot through the head and, upon his buffaloes finding dried spots of blood, concluded that the tiger must be dead. He offered Jim to use his buffaloes to find the tiger’s body using their keen sense of smell, which Corbett agreed upon. Reaching the location where he shot the tiger, Corbett found a hollow filled with dead leaves, flattened with patches of blood around it. Corbett concluded the bachelor must have been lying in the same spot yesterday while he was expending a hundred cartridges. Being uncomfortable with the thought of possibly being between a wounded tiger and a herd of buffaloes, Corbett told the herder that the next day he will search for the tiger alone.
After four days of roaming the jungle, Corbett found pugmarks of a big male tiger. Following the pugmarks led Corbett to a semul tree, which was founded by tigers. After zig-zagging through nearby bushes for an hour or more, Corbett found a tiger, head and body hidden behind a tree with only a leg sticking out. Due to there being another tiger in the area, and not wanting to risk having to deal with two wounded tigers, Corbett choose not to shoot the tiger at that moment. The tiger then moved away. Upon inspecting the spot the tiger had been standing, Corbett found drops of blood, realizing that it was the bachelor all along.
While attempting to follow the tiger, Corbett heard a sambhar cry, then he heard a dry twig snap in the same spot as the cry, which was in a crowded bush area. Crawling on the ground, Corbett saw something red through the bushes. Crawling two yards to the right Corbett looked up to find the tiger in front of him, staring directly at him. Two bullet shots later the tiger fell to his side without a sound, ending the hunt for the province’s most sought after trophy of the decade. He did not need to examine this tiger’s pugmarks to know it was the Bachelor of Powalgarh, for his proportions were magnificent. The bullet wound from four days ago was hidden by a wrinkle of skin on the front of his head, while the back of the head had a large hole, surprisingly clean and healthy.
Knowing people heard his rifle, Corbett hurried home to relieve the anxiety of the villagers and to gather a carrying party. With his sister, Robin, and twenty men, Corbett returned to the spot where the tiger lay. Corbett measured the tiger twice, one on the spot and another at home, seven years after Wyndham and his men measured the tiger. Corbett and his sister found the tiger to be 10′ 7″ (322.58 cm), over curves.
The Thak man-eater was a female Bengal tiger who killed and ate four human victims (two women, two men) between September and November 1938. She was operating in Kumaon, at the Nepalese border, between the villages Thak, Chuka, Kot Kindri and Sem. The tigress was shot at about 6:00pm on 30 November 1938 by Jim Corbett. This was the last man-eater killed by Corbett. The story about Thak man-eater is known as one of the most dramatic stories about man-eating animals. It was the last story in the USA edition of the bestselling book Man-Eaters of Kumaon (published by Oxford University press in 1944). In the UK edition the last story of the book was “Just Tigers”.
The story “Thak man-eater” was written by Corbett as a fully documental account of his hunt after the tigress. For the moment of writing and publishing the book Man-Eaters of Kumaon (1944), this story was the most recent hunt for Corbett, and unlike many other stories, where even the date of killing of the man-eater is not specified, this story has unprecedented number of exact dates and details.
From the very first day of hunting Corbett realized that the tigress was in return hunting him and his men. Corbett was finding her pug-marks following him wherever he went, so he had to be extremely careful not to become a victim. Two wounds, received by the tigress earlier at the kill, made her very suspicious of everything and she was not coming back to her kills. This made hunting her particularly difficult, as the most popular way to kill a man-eater is to ambush a tiger at a kill. The village Thak was abandoned because of the fear of the man-eater, and the doors of many houses were left open. Tiger pug-marks were throughout the village streets and open doors, so Corbett had to be very careful not to give a chance to the tigress to attack him. Pug-marks were also often found near the tents where Corbett and his men were sleeping during his first hunting expedition, at the confluence of the Ladhya and Sarda rivers, near the village Sem.
Apart from villagers, the tigress terrorized a five-thousand-strong work-force who were working in a nearby Kumaya-Chak, where thousands of trees were being felled. On one occasion the tigress came close to a building where workers were stationed, and workers started shouting at her to drive her away. Instead, very unnaturally for tigers, who usually avoid groups of shouting humans, this shouting infuriated the tigress and she came closer and with her roaring cowed thousands of workers into silence.
According to Corbett, one of the cubs of the tigress, which Corbett saw together with his mother in April, was still around in October–November (the other one must have died). Corbett saw on many occasions the pug-marks of a young male tiger in October and November. November is a mating season for tigers, so the tigress’ calls were often heard. Corbett failed to kill the tigress during all three weeks of hunting. On the last evening of his hunt, 30 November, Corbett conceded defeat. After collecting his men and his two goats and walking to his camp with the decision to leave early morning next day, Corbett heard the tigress calling for a mate again. Corbett decided to try to deceive the tigress by calling himself as a male tiger, as a last chance to get a shot at her. The tigress responded to Corbett’s call and during the next 30 minutes she was gradually approaching Corbett and his men. Corbett was on a path between the villages Thak and Chuka when he heard the first call of the tigress, so finding a place to meet the unsuspecting man-eater became crucial for him. He decided to meet her at a four-foot-high rock on an eastern side of the rectangular piece of flat land about 800 meters from the village of Thak, at the path from Thak to Chuka. Sitting sideways on a narrow ledge on the rear side of the rock, Corbett was holding himself awkwardly with his left hand and outstretched right foot, placing his rifle on the top of the rock. The light was fading, and as Corbett did not have a lighting device, he was afraid that the tigress would appear too late and he would be unable to see and shoot her in the dark. This would have left Corbett and four of his men at a mercy of a man-eating tigress, enraged by her failed attempt to find a mate.
Fortunately for Corbett, the tigress appeared in front of the rock in the dying seconds of the fading light, and Corbett killed her with two bullets at close range. The recoil of the shots knocked Corbett from the ledge where he was sitting, and he fell on top of his four men and two goats, who were sitting silently under the rear side of the rock, terrorized by the roar of the approaching tigress.
This was the last man-eating tiger killed by Corbett, ending his 32 years career of hunting man-eating tigers and leopards. Corbett was 63 at the time. After just days of this hunt Corbett started a major project of filming the tigers in their natural environment with a newly available at that time “cinema-camera”. Also, two years before this hunt, in 1936, with a major contribution from Jim Corbett, the first National Park in India, designed to save a tiger population (today this park is known as Corbett National Park) was established.