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Howdah bout that then

We British are an eccentric bunch at times, never more so than when we had an Empire, we have an innate ability to administer our way into and out of anything. Even Tiger hunting in India which had been carried out for centuries prior to our arrival, couldn’t escape our byzantine grasp. The commercial occupation of India by the East Indian Company from 1608 saw variousĀ  high ranking officials rub shoulders with the Raj and accompany them on various hunts, we’d truly got the bug. So, when the British government took administrative control of India in 1858 the number of Tiger hunts gradually increased year on year. To increase the land that could be hunted on, the British government passed the Forest Act of 1878 which gave hunting rights over huge swathes of land officially owned by others. Can you imagine, sitting on your porch having a spot of tiffin and a herd of elephants come charging through your land with a bunch of stiff upper lipped Brits sitting in their Howdahs.


The word Howdah derives from an Arabic word Hawdaj which translates as a bed on a camel. The reputed number of Tigers killed in India is estimated to be way in excess of 80,000 during our rule. The guns used varied over the time, although something I find quite fascinating is the invention of the pistols to be used in the event of a Tiger attack, dubbed Howdah Pistols, they were very large calibre pistols meant to stop a Tiger in his tracks, often 20 bore, 12 bore slugs or 577. It was Charles Lancaster who really found a niche in these sort of large calibre pistols (technically not a Howdah) and filed a number of patents as he perfected them, including oval smooth bore rifling. The video below from Leeds Armoury talks you through one of these Howdah pistols.


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