If you go down to the woods today, according to the old song, you’re sure of a big surprise. Oh, good! Well, maybe not. It won’t be cuddly, picnicking Teddy Bears, but it could just be wild boar.
Boar are strongly built animals related to the domestic pig but with extra attitude, and can weigh up to 300lbs and stand 80cm at the shoulder. Should you stumble on a family group the advice is to back slowly away. Definitely do NOT run up to a cute stripey piglet and scoop it into your arms. It may be the last thing you ever do.
Depending on where you live your boar may have come from a farm; so look –if possible – for any man made markings. The first British boar farm opened in Cambridgeshire in 1981 with surplus animals from London Zoo.
Fossil records show that boar could be found in Britain as far back as 700,000 years. They appear to have been relatively common up to about 1200 AD and, along with red deer, were a popular game species. The signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 abolished forest law punishments and put boar meat back on the menu. Within a century or two, overhunting and clearing land for agriculture all but wiped the animals out, though it is possible small pockets remained in Scotland.
They have since been reintroduced in England from France and Germany, with one group in the Forest of Dean, established about ten years ago, and another older one in East Sussex. There are also pockets in other areas, such as the New Forest, but these are usually escapees from zoos or farms where they are bred for their tasty, gamey meat.
Boars have a very strong sense of smell. If you would rather pass on running into a family of unsociable boars – no comments about recent dinner parties, please - collect all ripe fruit in your orchard or garden as soon as possible to avoid any boars in the vicinity being attracted by the scent.
In recent years the number of boar in some areas has mushroomed – another thing they like, incidentally! Being omnivorous there is not much they don’t like.
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