This Day in History (1-May-1926) – Jim Corbett killed the notorious man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag at Gulabrai village

Jim Corbett began hunting at early age to help feed his family. His shooting skill and encyclopedic knowledge of the surrounding jungle soon became well known. As early as 1906, requests came to him, begging that he track down a tiger or leopard that had preyed on humans. Corbett believed that animals that had struck under special conditions, such as protecting cubs if disturbed at a kill, should be given the benefit of doubt. He was only interested in habitual man- killers and consented to come only after two conditions had been met: all offers of a reward were withdrawn, and that all other hunters had to leave the area.

The Leopard of Rudraprayag was a male man-eating leopard, reputed to have killed over 125 people. For eight years, no one dared move alone at night on the road between the Hindu shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath, for it passed through the leopard’s territory, and few villagers would leave their houses. The leopard discovered interest in human meat and would break down doors, leap through windows, claw through the mud or thatch walls of huts and drag people from them, devouring them. A unit of Gurkha soldiers, as well as soldiers who were expert marksmen and trackers were sent after it, but failed to kill it. Attempts to kill the leopard with high powered Gin Traps and deadly poison also failed. Several well-known hunters tried to bag this leopard, and the British government offered financial rewards to kill the beast.

In the autumn of 1925, Jim Corbett took it upon himself to try to kill the leopard and, after an overall ten-week hunt, successfully did so in the spring of 1926. In the town of Rudraprayag there is a sign-board which marks the spot where the leopard was shot. There is a fair held at Rudraprayag commemorating the killing of the leopard and people there often consider Jim Corbett a Sadhu. Jim Corbett risked his life many times to shoot the ten man eaters about whom he has written in ‘The Man Eaters of Kumaon’, Man Eating Leopards of ‘Rudraprayag’ and ‘The Temple Tiger’.



This Day in History (25-Apr-1928) – Buddy, a German Shepherd, becomes 1st guide dog for a US citizen Morris Frank

Morris Frank was a blind man from Nashville. His father read him an article by Dorothy Eustis, a woman living in Switzerland who had seen shepherds training dogs to lead blind people get around. Excited by the idea, Frank wrote a letter to Eustis and received a response letter 30 days later inviting him to come see for himself. Frank then took a ship to Europe and trained extensively with a dog that had been bred specifically to lead a blind person. The training was hard, but after weeks with the dog, Frank could get around the nearby Swiss village holding tightly to a harness to which Buddy was strapped.

Morris Frank returned to America. From the day he got off the ship, he was successful. At one point, in front of a group of dumbfounded reporters, Buddy led Frank safely across a busy New York street. “I shall never forget the next three minutes, Ten-ton trucks rocketing past, cabs blowing their horns in our ears, drivers shouting at us . . . When we finally got to the other side and I realized what a really magnificent job she had done” Frank later wrote.

When Frank returned to Nashville, people were amazed at the sight of the blind man and his dog successfully navigating busy sidewalks and couldn’t believe that it was the same blind boy they had so recently taken pity on. What amazed people the most was that Buddy had an ability best known as “intelligent disobedience,” which meant that he would obey Morris except when executing that command would result in harm to his master. If there was a low hanging branch ahead on the sidewalk, for instance, Buddy knew how to navigate around it to the point where Morris wouldn’t hurt his head on it.

About this time, Frank, Eustis and several others cofounded The Seeing Eye, an institution set up to train guide dogs and their blind masters. Today, the organization reports that it has, in its 80 year history, trained 14,000 dogs. Buddy is considered the first. In 1978, on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the school, the U.S. issued a commemorative stamp in honor of The Seeing Eye.