Wild boar

Wild boars are back in Britain. It sounds like historial reenactment, doesn’t it? But it’s true as we discussed here recently.

The wild boar (Sus scrofa) is native to Britain but it was hunted to extinction by the end of the 17th century. Now it’s back in Southern England. Martin Goulding at British Wild Boar (BWB) tells the story. Sarah Campbell at the BBC told us four years ago that wild boar populations were increasing (scroll down for a map).

Here’s a film about our returned wild boar. The piglets are adorable with their stripy coats but the adults are big enough to cause damage. They root up the land with their strong snouts and they eat crops. If provoked they can attack.

S. scrofa is an ancestor of our more familiar farmed pig (Sus domesticus). There’s been outcrossing to improve the farmed pig but we still have the Tamworth breed, believed to resemble the Old English Forest Pig.

You might want to follow my tag ‘pig’ for posts about farmed pigs. It’s worth noticing that S. domesticus is also called Sus scrofa domesticus, in other words, it’s a subspecies of the wild boar. Wild boar and domestic pigs can interbreed as they do in parts of North America.

People’s response to pigs roaming free can be ‘Not In My Back Yard.’ NIMBY. Bella Barhurst at the Observer says that people don’t always agree about wild boar. She asks, ‘Should they be hunted, should they be farmed, and can they ever just be left to get on with being themselves?’ To her last question I say no. We can’t simply ignore the wild boar on this densely populated set of islands.

Dr Goulding at BWB discusses options for wild boar control. He has a point: S. scrofa is here again now and it’s spreading. This wasn’t a deliberate reintroduction but as BWB’s photographs and films show, S. scrofa can live quite happily in places where people live.

Natural England (NE) is a statutory body responsible to Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Here is NE’s advice about the management and control of wild boar. There’s more advice from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). Since BASC is the UK’s largest shooting organisation it’s no surprise that it offers advice on shooting wild boar. But it also provides information about the law and the conservation status of this species.

Here’s another film about wild boar in England, this time featuring an interview with Dr Goulding. And some fabulous footage of wild boars tucking into a meal. Tempted to feed the boars in your back garden? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t. They’re big and my vegetables wouldn’t stand much chance. If I had a market garden I wouldn’t be very impressed either. But conserving the boars in woodland? Yes we should do that. They belong here and they won’t attack you unless you provoke them.

As you know I don’t shoot but I’ve no problem with people shooting. Whether hunted in the countryside or raised on farms, wild boar meat can taste great. Treat it like venison. Here are some recipes.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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12 Responses to Wild boar

  1. Missus Tribble says:

    I absolutely love game, and Wild Boar is just below Venison at the top of my list! I’m glad to know that they’re on the increase, as now I’m not going to be worrying about their population the next time I eat one.

  2. Finn Holding says:

    Wild wild boar in this country is an interesting notion. I love the idea of them roaming wild but I wonder if they spread rapidly what problems may arise in the absence of their natural predators, which we wiped out too. Maybe we should also reintroduce wolves to the south of England to control the boar population 🙂

    I heard recently that their is a serious plan to reintroduce lynx to the Highlands of Scotalnd, I hope an accomodation can be reached with the sheep farmers so this magnificent animal can again become a resident of our island.

  3. EqFe says:

    I could swear that I read somewhere that feral pigs, after they have reverted to the wild for a few generations are much different from domestic pigs, since they stay smaller and more musular, and are more likely to attack if provoked. They are also rumoured to be far smarter that the so called “wild bore” As I understand it, all wild pigs in North America are feral in that they are the decendents of domesticated Spanish pigs.

    • argylesock says:

      If you find where you read that about feral pigs, I’ll be interested to see it. The phenotypic changes could happen quickly when they’re due to environmental factors such as diet.

      How interesting about the Spanish descent for your N American wild pigs. I did wonder what Ursula le Guin is talking about when she mentions ‘wild pigs’ in her novel Always Coming Home, which is set in a future N America. Back in the present, I’ve seen pigs being kept on free range in Papua New Guinea, wandering around in villages. I think that kind of husbandry was done here in what is now Britain, in medieval times. But even on free range, domestic pigs are still domesticated – fed, protected, slaughtered.

  4. EqFe says:

    Before Columbus, there were no pigs in the Americas. Except for a few wild boars, brought over for hunting in the 19th all “wild boars” in the US are feral, it’s just a naming convention.
    DeSoto brought a “herd”:for want of a better word of domestic pigs with him on his trek accross the US and many escaped.

  5. Here in FL, wild pigs are becoming a really big problem. Every day (literally) I see dead feral pigs on the side of the roads I travel here…our area is crisscrossed with canals that feed the lagoon and in an effort to reach drinking water they need to cross busy streets, and bam!
    I thought you might like to read one of the latest studies pertaining to managing their increasing numbers. It was published in August from our land grant college, the Univ of FL.
    here’s the link: http://news.ufl.edu/2012/08/01/hogs-wallow/

    • argylesock says:

      That link’s v interesting. To me as a non-hunter, it seemed obvious that shooting (with appropriate Codes of Practice) would be the right way to control these animals. But from that article, it seems not. If large traps are difficult to set up and use in Florida, I dread to think what it’d be like to use them in Southern England, where human population is v dense.

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