The Wild Boar in Britain - Sarah Woodbury

The Wild Boar in Britain

Four hundred years ago, wild boar officially became extinct in Britain.  A wild boar is a creature that weighed upwards of two hundred pounds.

Range: green; introduced range: blue

“The wild boar is a member of the pig family, Suidae, and is an even-toed ungulate or artiodactyl. It is a large mammal, with an adult male weighing up to 200 kg., or occasionally more, and with a head and body length of up to 2 metres. The tail, which is usually straight, is about 25 cm. long. Female boars are about two thirds of the size of the males, although both stand about one metre in height.

A prominent feature of the wild boar is its coat of short, thick bristly hair, which can vary in colour from brown and black to grey. In western Europe, boar generally have brown coats, while in eastern Europe black coats are more common. A line of longer, upright hair grows along the spine of the boar, and this has led to their common name of razorback in the southeast of the USA, where feral pigs have given rise to a wild boar population.”

Wild boar has the widest natural range of any ungulate, or hoofed mammal, in the world. It originally occurred from Britain and Ireland throughout all of Europe (except Scandinavia), in the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, in the Middle East and the Caucasus Mountains and through most of Central Asia to China, Taiwan and Japan. It is also found in South and Southeast Asia, from India across to Vietnam and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java.”

“The wild boar, Sus scrofa, is a native British species. It probably became extinct as a wild species at the end of the 13th century (Yalden 1999). After this date wild boar were maintained for game and as a status symbol by introduction of new stock from France and Germany and through hybridisation with domestic and feral pigs. By the 17th century no wild boar were found in Britain, suggesting that the medieval reintroductions were not successful, possibly because of hunting pressure.”

“A variety of habitats, from tidal marshes to mountain ranges, are suitable for wild pigs. They prefer cover of dense brush or marsh vegetation. They are generally restricted to areas below snowline and above freezing temperatures during the winter. Wild pigs frequent livestock-producing areas. They prefer mast-producing hardwood forests but will frequent conifer forests as well. In remote areas or where human activities are minimal, they may use open range or pastures, particularly at night. During periods of hot weather, wild pigs spend a good deal of time wallowing in ponds, springs, or streams, usually in or adjacent to cover.”

Boar hunts were the realm of kings in the middle ages, but not quarries to be taken lightly.  “A charging boar is considered exceptionally dangerous quarry, due to its thick hide and dense bones, making anything less than a kill shot a potentially deadly mistake. Hunters have reported being butted up into trees by boars that have already taken a glancing shot.”

“Unlike the Romans for whom hunting boar was considered a simple pastime, the hunting of boars in Medieval Europe was mostly done by nobles for the purpose of honing martial skill. It was traditional for the noble to dismount his horse once the boar was cornered and to finish it with a dagger. To increase the challenge, some hunters would commence their sport at the boars mating season, when the animals were more aggressive. Records show that wild boar were abundant in medieval Europe. This is correlated by documents from noble families and the clergy demanding tribute from commoners in the form of boar carcasses or body parts. In 1015 for example, the doge Ottone Orseolo demanded for himself and his successors the head and feet of every boar killed in his area of influence.[5]

In this period, because of the lack of efficient weapons such as guns, the hunting of boars required a high amount of courage, and even the French king Philip IV died from falling off his horse when charged by a boar.”


4 Replies to “The Wild Boar in Britain”

  1. Hi Sarah
    For a year i lived a a remote part of Catalunya, Northern Spain. I ran or cycled every day, I lost count of the number of wild boars(Porc sanglas) I saw. Well over a hundred. As for deing dangerous, they never bothered me. When they saw me they ran. If they had young with them, they ran, but I was a bit more weary. If you let them go they are no danger, they are quiet, oeacefull creatures.

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