"NOSTALGIC memories flooded in on me when reading Vic Rosner's account of Four-horned Antelopes in The Sunday Statesman of 20 July; memories of eight years spent in a Deccan hill range where these antelope were almost common.
Those hills are flat-topped and covered with light deciduous jungles and lush grass- they are amongst the oldest hills in the world, scarped along their shoulders and with boulder-strewn crowns. The rainfall averages about 36 inches a year and the area holds sambar, pig, panther and occasional tiger, but no bear (though bears lived here once upon a time). I mention these details as Chousingha (Four-horned antelope) abound in these hills, and their distribution is somewhat capricious.
There are Chinkara in the rocky, open country immediately outside, but they never come up the hills; and the native Chousingha never strays into adjoining Chinkara territory. I was struck with this strict addiction to beats. Few people realise how vital suitable grounds for wild animals, how quickly they perish when driven out of their homes into strange countries.
The Chousingha is unique, Not only it is the only living thing, bar freaks and fakes, with four horns, but it has also adopted some of the habitats of deer, living in the woodland habitat favoured by deer. Those who want information about this remarkable antelope will find it in Dunbar Brander's 'Wild Animals in Central India'. I will not quote from the classic- and Vic Rosner's excellent article leave me with very little excuse for the writing of this note.
However, I may justify this in some measure by referring to the Chousingha's abilities as a jumper. Except for the largest ones, antelopes are nimble on their feet and in Africa (the true home of the tribe) there are little antelopes that leap high and effortlessly and live in steep places. Our Chousingha is our own, and distinguished from all others by the buck's four horns, but it is related to the African duikers.
The Chousingha has a high stepping action and carries itself with a crouch- it is higher behind than in front, and walks in cover habitually. Its hooves are long along their treads and slightly splayed, ensuring a firm grip on sheer surfaces. Altogether it seems equipped for climbing up and down and moving furtively and fast through the undergrowth. However, it can jump when it wants to.
I have seen a doe clear a seven-foot hedge with utmost ease, almost taking it in its stride. I was posted as stop in a frantic beat for a pair of Chousingha that had slunk into a patch of thick bush. The doe came galloping straight at me, saw me very late, spun around at right angles and with the same movement rose into the air and clear the hedge by my side. On other occasions I have seen Chusingha in flight go sailing over obstacles in their path, like bushes and small boulders. It is well known that this forest loving antelope bolt at considerable speed when alarmed, though they usually pull up and go into hiding pretty soon. But their leaping abilities seem to be less known.
Its love for undergrowth and steep rocky slopes offers the Chousingha a certain natural immunity from the shikari. There is not much risk of this most remarkable little beast being shot out, but man can threaten it in another way, incidentally. During my last visit to that Deccan hill range I noticed that it was getting rather thin on top, and I, who have personal knowledge of such things, know what that portends- I know it surely, in my scalp. The incipient atopecia that I noticed will thrive on neglect and spread apace. Then the deer and Chousingha go, from lack of suitable cover, and human indifference will kill them more ruthlessly than the gun can. But let us hope that I am mistaken, that man's ancient and primitive love for forests is really resurgent today, that it will move governments and survive their routine."-M.Krishnan
This was first published on 10 August 1952 in The Sunday Statesman
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