The Wild Boar is defined as ‘A tusked Eurasian wild pig’ from which our domestic pigs are descended. Boar were once common in the Forest of Dean and were hunted for food. In medieval times, boar from the Royal Forest were supplied for the King's table - there is a record of an order for 100 boars and sows killed for a Christmas feast in 1254. Boar are then thought to have become extinct in Britain not long after this time which is hardly surprising when they were hunted in such large numbers. Farming of wild boar in Britain became fashionable again in the 1970's when Boar were imported from mainland Europe.
Today’s populations are centered in 3 distinct areas, simply because this is where they were initially farmed before some escaped into the wild and bred.
The wild boar as we know is also known in some countries as ‘Wild Swine’ or simply ‘Wild Pig’. The Boar probably originated in South East Asia and since then has shown remarkable tenacity to become established in most of Europe and North Africa. It is undoubtedly human intervention that has helped it spread this far and wide. This is because it tastes delicious.
The boar is an omnivorous animal, mainly nocturnal and is of course closely related to the domestic pig. As previously stated the Wild Boar populations in the Great Britain are centred in 3 different areas namely:
- Kent/East Sussex
- Gloucestershire & Herefordshire (Forest of Dean)
- West Dorset
It is impossible to know exact numbers of animals in the wild in Britain, what is certain is that they breed all year round and are starting to expand their territories which is bringing them into conflict with people living in these areas. While they are survivors who adapt to different environments and conditions quickly this cannot be good for either the boar or the people. I have sympathy for the boar, as it’s population grows it needs more room. This is no different to many species across the globe, including ourselves. The difference here being that we might plan to exterminate them all again as we did centuries ago because of the perceived danger to us and our pets. This could lead on to the wider subject of our over population clashing with wildlife all over the world, let’s leave it there and focus on the boar. For now.
A census carried out in 2005 suggested that approximately 500 wild boars are distributed across the 3 main populations centres. This estimate is believed by those closest to the areas to be well below the real number of animals in the UK. An experienced ranger who has lives in the Forest of Dean puts the number at closer to 1,500. Talking to other people who hunt boar, they concur that the number of animals seems to stay around that number despite hunters accounting for at least 3-400 a year. (this is an assumption, not fact)
Boar’s are typically dark in colour with a coarse bristly coat, a large head, long straight snout, a relatively flattened body, and a straight tail. Wild boar have mated with domestic pigs these hybrids are generally located near outdoor pig rearing farms. Hunters have been known to sit all night close to pig rearing farms in an attempt to intercept these late-night Romeos!
Adult males weigh in the region of 120 to 150 kg and will stand 70 to 90cm at the shoulder with an overall body length of approximately 150cm. These animals will have sharp tusks which grow and develop quickly. Females are about 30% lighter in weight than males, both sexes have longer hair running down their backs. Piglets are red-brown coloured with yellowish longitudinal stripes which they retain for the first 4 to 5 months, this then changes to the uniform red-brown coat which in turn becomes more the more coarse adult coat, this happens after about 1 year.
Boar are not fussy eaters, they are generally opportunistic omnivores, eating mostly plants. This includes crops, seeds, fruits, leaves and berries, they will also eat small mammals, eggs, ground nesting birds, reptiles and even insects and worms that they unearth with their snouts.
I felt it was worth adding a couple of lines on how to avoid meeting boars unexpectantly and if confronted by one some suggested course of actions. While these seem like common sense, add a little adrenaline and common sense is often replaced by irrational behaviour and actions.
- Do not leave food around, including rubbish or bird/pet food which might tempt a hungry boar to your garden overnight.
- Ensure your garden fences are as strong as you can make them. Boar are powerful animals they can destroy a garden very quickly, unearthing flower beds and vegetable plots as well as trotter indentions everywhere.
- Although rare, dogs have been badly injured by boar. Ensure your pet is secure in the house or outdoor dog run\kennel overnight.
If you encounter a wild boar either in your garden in woodland or open countryside:
- Never approach them, leave the area by the same route you approached keeping as much distance as possible between you and the boar.
- Get your dog on a lead immediately. If your dog chases the boar before you can this, do not try and intervene. Many a good man/woman has drowned trying to save their dogs, that often survive. Leave your dog and put distance between you and the boar.
- Most boars will try and avoid confrontation. However, if they have young piglets which is generally in the Spring but not always. They, like you, will do whatever they can to protect their young.
- Wild boar can be shot all year round, provided that it is listed on your fire-arms certificate.