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    ABSTRACT We revisit Bondi accretion – steady-state, adiabatic, spherical gas flow on to a Schwarzschild black hole at rest in an asymptotically homogeneous medium – for stiff polytropic equations of state (EOSs) with adiabatic indices Γ > 5/3. A general relativistic treatment is required to determine their accretion rates, for which we provide exact expressions. We discuss several qualitative differences between results for soft and stiff EOSs – including the appearance of a minimum steady-state accretion rate for EOSs with Γ ≥ 5/3 – and explore limiting cases in order to examine these differences. As an example, we highlight results for Γ = 2, which is often used in numerical simulations to model the EOS of neutron stars. We also discuss a special case with this index, the ultrarelativistic ‘causal’ EOS, P = ρ. The latter serves as a useful limit for the still undetermined neutron star EOS above nuclear density. The results are useful, for example, to estimate the accretion rate on to a mini-black hole residing at the centre of a neutron star.