The Man-eating Dog of Ngamoko Mountain.
In a very different part of the island, the rugged wooded country about Lake Waikare-moana, there is a cave-riddled mountain with a curious legend of a great wild dog which lived on human flesh. The story of this ferocious wolf-like animal and its cave retreat came from an old man of Ngati-Ruapani at Hurae Puketapu’s village, Waimako, near Waikare-moana.
The scene of the story is the precipitous wooded mountain Ngamoko, two miles from the lake. Caves are numerous in this rocky mountain, the summit of which is three thousand five hundred feet above sea level. On the south-eastern side of the mountain, said the venerable narrator, there is a cave in which lived a much-dreaded fierce dog which attacked and devoured human beings. It was called “Te Kuri-nui-a-Meko” (“Moko’s Great Dog”)—or, as another version has it, “Te Kuri-nui-a-Meko.” Bird-hunters from Waikare-moana and the surrounding country frequently ascended Ngamoko for the purpose of snaring and spearing the kaka parrot, the tui or koko (parson-bird) and the kuku or pigeon, which abounded in those dense forests. Some of these men failed to return, and at last it was found that they had been attacked and eaten by the monstrous Dog of Moko.
The Waikare-moana people resolved that the man-eating kuri must die, and they discussed various methods by which to slay it. It was decided that the best way to bring about its destruction would be to snare it in a cage made of saplings and pirita, or supplejack vines. A large cage (taiki) was constructed of these supplejack vines laced together, with an open door by which the kuri could enter. The cage was baited with flesh—possibly a slave was killed for the purpose as a special inducement to the wild dog to enter. With all caution and secrecy it was set up on one of the spots near the cave frequented by the beast and the warriors in ambush awaited developments.
They had not long to wait. The wild dog, scenting fresh meat, came blundering into the trap. A man darted out from cover and shut the door to and the big kuri dashed about helplessly in the cage, in which spaces had been left between the pirita sticks and which was elevated a little above the ground. The captors with their long spears lunged at the man-eater through the lattice-work sides of the trap, and thrust the furious howling dog through and through until he lay dead. And that was the end of the terrible Kuri-nui-a-Moko. Like some solitary old man-eating tiger of India he roved alone, he had no mate, and never more did a savage beast of the bush trouble the bird-snarers of Waikare-moana.page 110
That cave high up on Ngamoko’s wooded shoulder has a chapter of later history. Some of the old people of Wairoa and Waikare-moana relate that it was a camping-place of the guerilla warrior Te Kooti when he was being hunted from place to place in this mountain land sixty years ago. For a month in the winter of 1871 he and some of his followers lived in the ana, and here Te Kooti had his wives tattooed. There was a tattooing expert in his party and this tohunga-ta-moko plied his engraving chisel on the young women’s chins and lips. Te Kooti and his men snared and speared birds for food, and cautiously scouted the country, and from the front of the cave they had a distant view one day of a war-party of Arawa Constabulary returning from Wairoa in search of them.