| In an article entitled
Native Tiger" published in the Mercury newspaper of the 19th September
1882 (p. 3), the exploits of a hunter by the name of Oscar and his trusted
dog Wrangel in killing a tiger are detailed:
"While resting in
the soft ferns with my companions by my side, who are already in the land
of dreams, my dog sleeping in a bush of cut grass a short distance from
the tent, the fire had burnt down so as to make it only just visible in
the darkness. Some undefined noise keeps me wakeful, with my sense
of hearing strained to the utmost to make out the meaning of a peculiar
creaking sound. At last I felt certain that I heard the breaking
of a dried stick coming into contact with a moving body.
Gently lifting up the side of the tent, and thrusting out my head and arm,
in the low position as I am lying on the ferns, I soon make out in the
pitchy darkness the appearance of two phosphorus like orbs which slowly
approach. ln a few more seconds I can dimly discern by a light shooting
up from a few leaves on the almost expiring fire, the long round body of
the native wolf or tiger.
I get a tighter grip
on the handle of my tomahawk, ready to give a warm reception to my night
visitor. I remain motionless, watching the monster sneaking towards
me, expecting every moment that it will take a leap and commence battle;
but this seems not to be their general tactic in the night. Just
then it seemed to perceive me lying under the tent, and gave vent to a
low angry snarl. I raised my weapon, and with a swift blow down,
as I thought, on the brute's head. But the darkness misled me, and
the blow fell short of doing any execution, but near enough to draw a few
drops of blood, and thus to stop the brute's further progress.
My companions were
awakened by the disturbance, and gave vent to some rather unpolite expressions.
The dog got the scent of his great enemy and set up a
announcement from the Hobart Town Gazette of the 2nd December 1826 (p.
2). Note the statement,"...so nearly allied to the fox or wolf...",
even though the latter part of the sentence makes clear that the thylacine
is in fact a marsupial and not a canid. In the early 19th century,
mammals were usually grouped (even by scientists) simply by their general
form, rather than their actual taxonomic relationships.
Most terrestrial mammals were simply referred to as "quadrupeds".
|furious barking, and with this salute
from bipeds and canine, the feline gentleman made himself scarce, and,
unluckily, we had no firearms to persuade him to stop and make a nearer
acquaintance. However, the dog rushed after him into the scrub, but
soon came back; apparently he did not see the fun of a night attack.
| Up to the time that
this adventure occurred, I was under the common impression that the native
tiger would not kill its own food, but was a mere cowardly scavenger.
But I now think that this idea can hardly be true, as his aggressive movement
in this instance was too decided to be mistaken.
Afterwards, in the
course of many weeks, we had ample opportunities to Iearn the habits of
the native tiger in this respect, and we observed that it hunts animals
with the pertinacity of a pack of wolves on the steppes of frozen Russia.
This native tiger is not swift, and is very awkward in turning, but it
follows the trail by its never-erring scent, and in the long run is sure
of its prey.
early pencil drawing of a thylacine (dated 1834) from the journal of George
Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector of Aborigines in Tasmania's Port Phillip
District from 1839 to 1849. Courtesy: Mitchell Library, State Library
of New South Wales.
While travelling one day over some rocky,
points we quite easily caught a kangaroo, well-nigh run to the ground by
the tiger. After despatching the hunted victim we had a sharp look-out
for the enemy. ln a little while he came along with his nose following
the trail. When within some hundred yards he took the alarm, turned
tail, and escaped into the jungle. My dog, a courageous and very
strongly built animal, followed the tiger into the dense scrub. Slowly
I made my way through the obstructions, and at last heard the baying signal
of Wrangel a long distance off, too far for me to penetrate
|during the short time the battle lasted.
In half an hour's time he came to me bleeding and with his tail down, showing
in his dejected appearance, as plainly as words could tell, about the lost
engagement with the enemy. A few kind words had the effect of restoring
his wounded feelings, and a good feed from the meat of the killed kangaroo
made him all right again. But this constant disappointment in coming
to close quarters made me even more determined to be the owner of a striped
skin if a chance offered, before I left the coast.
I had noticed that
the tigers followed our trail, and often when travelling, I would leave
my knapsack, and turn back a mile or more, with the object of surprising
the animal on the open ground. But he was too wary, and always made
for the dense forest. My dog seemed cowed, and never made an attempt
to attack by himself.
On one beautiful
afternoon, I was travelling towards our camp from a trip made that morning,
for carrying stores to a newly formed depot. I was returning without
any weapon, except my large sheath knife. The road led along the
beach, the dog trotting peacefully by my side, or making a playful dart
at the pretty little sand larks. But why does he stop the play so
suddenly, and pick out one of the many tracks that are so plainly visible
on the soft surface of the sand?
| Impressions of footprints
are numerous of all the quadrupeds found on the West Coast. Those
of native tigers, Tasmanian devils, and kangaroos are seen everywhere,
and many native cats, etc. With a zeal I had not lately noticed,
Wrangel giving out a deep bloodhound note, was off and on the warpath.
I followed as fast as possible, leaving the sandy beach behind, and turning
round a rocky point, there was a glimpse of the dog in full pursuit of
some large animal, which took to the scrub. Directly the signal from
Wrangel sounded at bay. I rejoiced to know for certain that his enemy
had made a stand. The noise came from behind some closed horizontal
bushes. Taking in at a glance the position of the surroundings, one
could see that no other means existed to come on to the
except by crawling on hands and knees, under the interlaced bushes.
The angry growling of the tiger decided me to push to the assistance of
my gallant Wrangel at once, and thus dragging my body over the ground,
and under the bushes, I came pretty near running my head against the tiger,
who was now placed between the dog and me. No attack had as yet been
made from either side. I tried to rise to my feet, but could not,
on account of the close branches above; the tiger made an attempt to fasten
on to me, with his ugly row of teeth. The dog's courage did not fail
me at this critical moment. He made a snap, and fastened on to his
opponent's chest, for one instant only; but that served my purpose, to
get a chance to make a stab with the bowie knife, and thus I succeeded
in cutting the big brute's jugular vein, and his life blood streaming out
settled the matter in a few seconds. Nevertheless he had time to
make a desperate effort to yaw me as I was quite close up to him.
However, I took a short stick in my left hand, and thrust it into his mouth.
He chewed it up like pulp. In the meantime I came out from the bushes
and once more stood on my feet, thankful that the encounter had come off
so well, and making a promise to be prepared with a better weapon
in the next engagement with a native tiger.
article from the Hobart Town Courier of the 28th February 1829 (p. 2).
Note that it is erroneously states that the thylacine was "...striped
with black and white on the back...".
In a few minutes
the body was dragged out on to the beach, and I found it to be that of
an old male of very large size, measuring 8ft. in length, including the
tail, and weighing about 1cwt. I took off the skin, which shows 16
stripes. A young full grown, animal rarely
shows more, than seven or eight.
As I had brought
no firearms into the bush, I did not succeed in bagging any more tigers.
In fact, I did not care to venture again so close to them. But I
often saw them, though never had the temptation to risk another close encounter.
The dog, ever after the first night attack, had been very watchful, and
would with his furious barking often wake me up, and on one occasion I
saw, on a moonlight night, a big tiger making a hasty retreat from close
to the tent, and then take to the water in a broad and deep river and disappear
on the opposite shore. But we never had another actual battle with
one of these brutes".