Monday, November 28, 2011

Hunting Cheetahs

Watercolor by Sir Charles D'Oyly, of a cheetah chasing a deer with huntsmen on horseback and elephant, 1802. Inscribed on the reverse: 'A Cheeta Hunt in Lord Wellesley's Park at Barrackpore. Barakpur is located 14 miles from Calcutta and was originally a permanent barracks. When Marquess Wellesley took over the Commander-in-Chief's residence in 1801, he decided to make improvements to the area. He created a summer residence for future Governor-Generals' and he landscaped the gardens while adding an aviary, a menagerie and a theatre. As a result, Barrackpore Park became a popular place for leisure pursuits, including organised hunts.

Photograph of a group of three cheetahs(leopards) with handlers at Baroda, Gujarat from the Curzon Collection, taken by an unknown photographer during the 1890s. Hunting with cheetahs was one of several royal sports traditionally favoured by Indian princes and continued during the 19th century. These animals belonged to the Gaekwar Sayaji Rao III, 12th Maharaja of Baroda.

This is another copy of the well known, obviously mislabeled image of a "hunting cheetah." There isn't much to be found about hunting leopards, and I have often wondered if the leopard was "added" to the photograph, and if so why?

Hunting with cheetahs near Baroda, engraving from 1870

George Stubbs painting from 1764-65 Cheetah with Two Indian Attendants and a Stag

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm 99% positive that the leopard was not added in. I opened the photo in Photoshop and enlarged it considerably. The photo manipulation was quite primitive in those days and involved actually cutting out the picture to be super-imposed and pasting it in the new photo. It was just not posible to physically cut around individual hairs, so there was always a very artificial smoothness to the edges. Enlarging the picture, you can see the hairs around the head and neck. If you look closely you can see the shadow of the tether. Of course, that could have been added, but not some of the other details. Also, if you look where the rear feet are placed on the rail of the cart, a photograph would have had to be found with that exact placement of the feet to make the paste-up work as well as it does.
And, finally, even if there was someone skilled enough to do this re-touching as detailed as it is, why would they do it, when there were obviously plenty of genuine photos to use? So, I'm convinced this is the real thing. Very remarkable, but so is the training/domestication(?) of wild cheetahs.

I saw some pictures taken in Africa (I believe it was Sudan) where wild cheetahs lived, uncaged or leashed amongst tribesmen. They were lying around the village with kids crawling on top of them. I wish I had saved the article. The photographer said that the cheetahs lived in semi domestication, leaving to hunt and returning to behave like pets. The tribesmen never fed them to tame them, but shared their water with the animals in that area where water was very scarce, so this might have kept them around.