The Wild Boar is the most original form of pig that exists today. Long-snouted, hairy (in the winter) and pretty toothy, they are quite formidable- looking characters who don’t appear to have deviated much at all from the earliest records of their existence, captured by our prehistoric ancestors on the walls of caves all those years ago. Wild boar were prolific throughout the UK and on the continent during the Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and early Medieval eras. Perhaps they haven’t changed much because they are in fact the most hardy survivors, extinct no less than twice in the British Isles due to hunting and habitat destruction. The first known extinction was though to be in the thirteenth century and then once again in the seventeenth century when several attempts at reintroduction by royals such as James 1st and Charles 1st failed and the reintroduced animals were all killed. Understandably the wild boar were none-too-popular with both the arable and livestock farmers and as the meat became a tasty hunting prize as well as a much-needed source of food, they didn’t have much of a chance of withstanding the opposition.
However, wild boar are back again and they have made it perfectly clear they are here to stay. Following the escape from a farm and the release of some privately owned boar, Sus Scrofa has made it back into the wild in the UK for the twentieth century! A population estimated loosely at of a couple of thousand is known to be present in small pockets of the British Isles in places such as Gloucestershire, Devon, East Sussex and even Scotland. Their secretive behaviours make it very difficult to come up with an exact figure and they are unlikely to willingly sign a census so the numbers are always an estimate. They are also very difficult to control and public access to their home territory adds further complications still.
Wild boar prefer woodland habitats because they are an ideal source of food and shelter for the boar, which are mostly shy creatures who dislike human interaction. They thrive in large forests such as those on the continent, although often moving towards the margins to feed on plants, roots, insects and anything else they can forage. This doesn’t mean, however that they will not adopt other areas such as marshes and scrubland as their home, as well as higher altitudes such as the Carpathian Mountains.
Wild boar have strong, pronounced fore-ends with high, sloping shoulders and a relatively small and angular back-end. They have long, powerful snouts, long, straight tails with a tassel on the end and large protruding tusks, especially in the case of older males (kylas). They have long manes which extend down the middle of their backs to their tails which may be used to enhance one’s prowess or size. Although almost always pictured with long, thick coats (generally black or brown with silver tinge), the boar lose their coats entirely in the summer months, taking on a grey/brown, bald appearance.
Wild boar live in family groups called ‘sounders’ which consists of anywhere between five and thirty adults. Sows give birth to small litters in younger years (two or three squeakers) and their productivity increases with their age, maybe producing between six and eight offspring in later years. They are sexually mature between ten months and a year old and have done most of their growing by the time they are two years old.
WILD BOAR SURVIVAL GUIDE – because there is a reason they do what they do..
Wild boar are not generally aggressive towards humans, preferring to run away from threats such as walkers, cyclists, dogs and the like. But if they feel they have to, like any other animal trying to survive, they will defend themselves, their young, other members of their sounder and their food with force. Negative interactions are nearly always because the boar have been surprised or people (and/or their dogs) have threatened them in some way, even if intentions are good. It is never in a prey-animal’s interest to engage physically with a threat in case they themselves get injured or killed so given time and the opportunity, the wild boar will nearly always move away rather than confront humans. What we have to remember is that wild boar, like our domestic pigs, are intelligent and curious. They learn quickly about easy food sources and may become more confident around people when they are adjusted to their presence and/or associate them with food, therefore it is always best to avoid feeding them or leaving litter in their wild habitats. Their eyesight is very poor but their sense of smell is exceptional and they usually identify new things by smell, therefore it is essential to give them time to identify you and move away before you proceed. They will often stop and look back to see if you’re following and of course to fulfil their curiosity.
So why would you want to farm them? More like… Why wouldn’t you? Find out about farming in the next instalment..