A PARROT THAT HAD BEEN TRAINED TO FIRE A CANNON
By Sir Samuel W. Baker
There are no people who surpass the natives of India in the
training of elephants or other wild animals. For many ages the
custom has prevailed among the native princes of that country of
educating not only the elephant and the dog, but the leopard and
the falcon to assist them in the chase.
The Gaekwar of Baroda, during my sojourn in his State, most kindly
furnished me with opportunities of witnessing the excellent
training of his falcons, hunting leopards, or cheetahs, and other
We were also allowed to inspect the immense collection of jewels
belonging to the Gaekwar. These were in such numbers and variety
that I quite lost my respect for diamonds and rubies, although one
of the former had actually been purchased for $450,000.
The gold and silver batteries of field-guns were also exhibited.
There are only four of these cannon, two of which are solid gold
four-pounders, fitted with an internal tube of steel. The carriages
are plated with gold, and the harness for the team of oxen is
heavily ornamented with the same precious metal. Gold horns are
fitted upon those of the oxen employed, and these animals are
selected for their immense size and general perfection of
The silver guns, carriages, limbers, harness, etc., were precisely
The most interesting artilleryman in his Highness's service was a
small green parrot. This bird was one of many which had been
trained to the various exercises of a field-gun, and it was
exhibited by its native tutor in our presence.
A large table was placed in the arena where rhinoceros, buff aloes,
and rams had been recently struggling for victory in their various
duels, and a far more entertaining exhibition was exchanged for the
savage conflicts…. Upon this table stood a model brass cannon
about eight inches in length of barrel, and a calibre equal to a
No. 12 smooth-bore gun. The rammer and sponger lay by the side of
the small field-piece.
About a dozen green parrots were spectators, who were allowed to
remain on perches, while the best-trained gunner was to perform in
public before at least three thousand spectators, the Gaekwar, and
his ministers, and friends, including ourselves, being seated in a
raised structure similar to the grand stand of an English
racecourse, which commanded the entire arena, the parrots being
The gunner was placed upon the table, and at once took its stand by
the gun, and, in an attitude of attention, waited for orders from
its native master.
The word of command was given, and the parrot instantly seized the
sponger in its beak, and inserting it within the muzzle without the
slightest difficulty, vigorously moved it backwards and forwards,
and then replaced it in its former position.
The order was now given "to load." A cartridge was lying on the
table, which the bird immediately took within its beak, and
dexterously inserted in the muzzle; it then seized the rammer, and,
with great determination of purpose and force, rammed the cartridge
completely home, giving it several sharp taps when at the breech.
The parrot replaced the rammer by the side of the sponger, and
waited for further orders, standing erect close to the rear of the
The trainer poured a pinch of priming powder upon the touch-hole,
and lighted a small port-fire; this he gave to the parrot, which
received it in its beak at a right angle, and then stood by its
gun, waiting for the word.
"Fire!" … At that instant the parrot applied the match, and the
report of the cannon was so loud that most people started at the
sound; but the pretty green gunner never flinched—the parrot stood
by its gun quite unmoved. The trainer took the port-fire, which it
had never dropped from its beak, and gave an order to sponge the
gun, which was immediately executed, the bird appearing to be quite
delighted at its success.