Fraser Collection: The Kadir Cup 1934

This film is held by the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum (ID: 2001/278/003).


1934 footage of an annual Raj sporting event, the Kadir Cup Meeting. Competitors and visitors travel on elephants to the location of the race for the Hog Hunters Cup, a pig sticking competition. Also: travel by elephant into a town (unidentified), and a small hunting party shooting a leopard.

Production / Donor Details: The film is thought to have been made by the Maharaja of Kashmir, Sir Hari Singh. The film comes from the collection of the Fraser family; the donors grandfather, Sir Stuart Fraser (1864-1963), had distinguished career in the Indian Civil Service, including service as Political Resident in Kashmir.



Despite the romantic reverence in which servants of the Raj held ‘pig-sticking’, or ‘hog-hunting’, it seems that the efflorescence of this most ancient kingly sport in British India began only in the early 1800s, and grew out of the decline in bear-sticking and bear hunting with dogs. The bears in question, principally the Sloth Bear (Melursus ursinus) were not difficult game and scarcer than boar. Elliot reports that under pressure of hunting they ‘retired to the heavy forest’ (Elliot 1973: 61), with boar quickly replacing them as the game of choice, being both abundant and good sport. Strong, fast and aggressive when threatened, the characteristics of wild boar rendered it ideal game, both from a sporting and moral point of view – the boar is ‘a combination of speed, cunning and ferocity who fights to the end with the utmost courage…a very brave opponent’ (Elliott, 67). Strong, noble and dangerous, the hunting of such a beast is ‘the finest sport of all’ (Elliott, 61).

The earliest of the pig-sticking ‘tent clubs’ seems to be the Poona club, founded sometime around 1817; at this time the hunters, on horseback, would pursue boar beaten out of cane-fields, throwing long javelin-like spears (10 feet or so in length) at the quarry. In 1830 the spearing method changed: a Mr Mills was the innovator, introducing a six- foot spear, and a new sticking technique, ‘jobbing’ – the spear ‘was grasped near the butt-end and used overhand, driven down at close quarters into the hog’ (Elliott, 62). With this development, writes Wardrop in his classic 1914 handbook Modern Pig-Sticking (Wardrop, 1930), ‘the pig-sticking we know became universal’ (Wardrop, 5). Hunts varied with the locale – everywhere in India ‘pig are at your door if you will but look for them’ (Wardrop, 6) – but a favoured terrain was the kadir, the exposed bed of a river which had changed its course, leaving a wide and largely flat plain where tall grass and low scrub quickly took hold. Perfect pig territory, easily beaten, and offering a certain amount of danger to horse and rider from concealed channels (nallahs), Wardrop records that the kadirs of the Ganges and its large tributary the Jumna were the most hunted grounds in ‘all Northern India and Bengal’ (Wardrop, 7). 

Many tent clubs held competitive hunts, and the most prestigious of these was the Kadir Cup (pronounced karde or kaada), hosted by the Meerut Tent Club from 1871 – the ‘blue ribbon of pig-sticking’ (Wardrop,187), it ‘was to pig-sticking what the Grand National is to horse racing’ (Elliot, 68). Initially a simple race over the hunting country of the Meerut Kadir (at which point it was titled the ‘Forbes Kadir Cup’, after the Club President), it was first run for pig in 1874. The cup was a ‘first spear’ competition, held over three days with up to fifty entrants. Each entrant could run two horses, the teams being drawn and raced in heats of three i.e. up to six horses and riders, running after a flushed hog. The first to show a bloodied spear to the umpire progressed to the next round, while the rest of the heat chased the pig down. Wardrop gives an account of the scene: ‘The line…is a fine sight, with 50 elephants crowded with competitors, spectators and a fair sprinkling of ladies. In front is the line of 150 coolies, with the flag elephant, signallers, and the shikaris on their camels. Ahead are the three heats with their umpires’ (Wardrop, 188). The winner’s identity was communicated to the crowd by the ‘flag elephant’ whose mount would ‘hoist the winners number according to the printed programme’ (Wardrop) The winner in 1934, when Kadir Cup was filmed, was a Mr. Gray of Skinner’s Horse (1st Duke of York’s Own Lancers). 



A practice associated with the higher echelons of the military and colonial administration, pig-sticking seems to have been seen as an ideal pastime to aid in the improvement of the colonial classes. Sir Robert Baden-Powell, winner of the Kadir Cup in 1883, authored a book on the sport Pig-Sticking or Hog-Hunting: A Complete Account for Sportsmen - And Others (Baden-Powell, 1924) which contains a long section devoted to the various benefits of pig-sticking. After noting that, being a social, skilful, and active pastime, pig-sticking is generally good for mind and body, he goes on to suggest that it is specifically valuable in India for getting people accustomed to the heat and discouraging young men from the morally deleterious escape to higher altitudes – the hot season,

‘at first…a long nightmare became, with pig-sticking, the healthiest and happiest part of the year. So long as there was pig-sticking to be got one never wanted to go away to the usual poodle-faking at hill stations. It would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that hundreds of lives and thousands of livers are saved every year by the exercise and outdoor life of pig-sticking’ (Baden-Powell, 34)

That the author concludes it has helped train soldiers in skills ‘that have stood them in good stead later on in other sterner fields’ (Baden-Powell, 34-5) is understandable, but perhaps most interestingly Baden-Powell also sees it as a model pastime for employees in the civil administration. After a digression about Indian nationalism, in which he bemoans the ‘few eager spirits who are racing, ahead of time and ahead of qualification’ (Baden-Powell, 37) toward independence, comes a passage headed ‘Pig-Sticking’s Value to the Indian Civil Service.’ Here, the author suggests that the sport offers a model of the panacea that the Raj might need, for on the pig-sticking field it can be shown that ‘the white man and the Indian can be mutually good friends and comrades where they have a sport in common’ (Baden-Powell, 38). Moreover, it takes the ‘young civilian out into his district’ allowing him to enter into ‘friendship with his headmen, which cannot be got through official correspondence and chuprassies’ (Baden-Powell, 39).

These were valuable lessons, to be sure, but from the pig-sticking literature the impression emerges not of duty but of sheer enthusiasm borne of the drama, danger and pleasure of the hunt and its attendant social events. Alongside numerous dramatic paintings of hunters spearing their pigs, Wardrop’s Modern Pigsticking contains several pages of poetry devoted to pig-sticking. The substance of the poems mostly consists of paeans to pig-sticking in which the sport appears as the grand metaphor for the romance of the Raj, and functions as the vehicle for nostalgic daydreams of the headier moments of the Imperial life. Titles such as ‘The Call of the Kadir’ and ‘The Old Hog Hunter’ introduce poems which revel in the recollection of younger days spent riding for hog. (‘Farewell to Simla’ by one I. M. Crump – ‘Farewell! Dear Simla ladies / You’ll have no charms for me’ – also bears out Baden-Powell’s remark about ‘poodle-faking’ in the hill stations.)  

It is this heady pleasure that is captured in Kadir Cup. The Cup was the supreme date in the calendar of a specifically Imperial sport held in the highest moral and social esteem by its participants. The colonial and military classes are here at play, and at a favourite game. The opening shots place us atop an elephant in the spectators’ convoy; the ‘flag elephant’ is visible ahead. The convoy advances over the kadir, wading through a watercourse, before we see a shot of the line of beaters and riders, and then some footage of a heat comprising five riders. Later we see what seems to be a tea break as the elephants kneel and their riders dismount (the young woman shown here is Violet Fraser, daughter of Sir Stuart Fraser, a one-time resident of Kashmir; a uncorroborated note in the archival file suggesting that the film may have been taken by Sir Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir, may be relevant in this connection).

These images are a candid record of a sport that had not been practised by the English aristocracy since the middle ages, when boar became extinct in the British Isles, but which enjoyed a new golden age during the heyday of the Indian Empire. While the more serious literature shows how quickly a novel pastime can be invested with the utmost symbolic gravity, the purely ‘hunterly’ writing about the sport is more straightforward about the other connected pleasures, and provides a less varnished picture of the sport in its Imperial context, providing evidence of the luxuries the pig-sticking set might expect to enjoy when at a hunt meet or just out for sport with a riding mate. The pseudonymous ‘Raoul’, in Reminiscences of Twenty Years’ Pigsticking in Bengal (1893), gives a good account of many a hunt (‘iced drinks were very acceptable after every gallop’; ibid.: 79), and never forgets to mention the ‘A-1 tiffin’ his coolies made available, often after a hot tub at the end of hard day’s riding: ‘cold mutton and redcurrant jelly washed down with iced shandy-gaff’ (ibid.: 54), ‘tinned lobsters seasoned with hot chilly-vinegar and bread and butter, washed down with sundry bottles of Bass’s Pale Ale’ (ibid.: 135), and ‘Palkabaree mutton, Ortolans washed down with claret cup’ (ibid.: 141) are among the gastronomic delights on offer after a hard ride after pig. 

Francis Gooding


Works Cited

Baden-Powell, Robert Pig-Sticking or Hog-Hunting: A Complete Account for Sportsmen and Others (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1924).

Wardrop, A. E. Modern Pig-sticking (London: Macmillan, 1930 [1914]).

Elliott, J. G. Field Sports in India, 1800-1947 (London: Gentry Books, 1973).

‘Raoul’ Reminiscences of Twenty Years’ Pigsticking in Bengal (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1893). 



  • Fraser Collection: The Kadir Cup 1934 (Archive)
Series Title:
Fraser Collection

Technical Data

Film Gauge (Format):

Production Credits

Production Details
See synopsis