A female wild boar (Sus scrofa) photographed in the Forest of Dean, home to the largest wild boar population in England. Local landowners have raised concerns as the feral animals encroach onto their lands—a growing problem in many communities worldwide.
What is a wild boar?
Wild boars—also called feral pigs or hogs—have wreaked much havoc as invasive species in recent years. Native only to Asia, parts of North Africa and most of Europe, they now live on every continent except Antarctica. They’re not super picky about their environment either: Wild boar live in forests, steppes, grasslands, wetlands and venture onto farmlands to forage.
What sets these animals apart from domestic pigs? Their history, which begins about 9,000 years ago when Eurasian wild boar were first domesticated and kept for centuries as farm animals in Europe and Asia. In the 16th century, Europeans brought those pigs with them when they settled in North America, Australia, and beyond. But some of those pigs escaped or were freed, and went on to establish populations in the wild—some even breeding with wild boar that had never been domesticated.
Wild boar are built like domestic pigs, with bulky, thick-set bodies, long, mobile, cartilaginous snouts, black hooves, and medium-length tails. They’re usually dark brown or black but can be a variety of colors and have thick skin covered with a coat of coarse hair.
Boars have an extra thick layer of protective skin known as the shield or shoulder plate which helps protect them in their fights for mating rights. Their faces are also weaponized with tusks that they can use as daggers for fighting and self-defense.
Both sexes have tusks though they may be smaller for females, or sows. Sows are smaller in general, averaging about 150 to 170 pounds compared to the males, boars, which weigh between 200 and 220 pounds. It’s rare for them to reach more than 200 pounds but they have been documented at over a thousand pounds.
Diet and behavior
These omnivores eat plants,fruits, crops, roots, and nuts, but they are good at adjusting their eating habits to what is available and will also consume bird or turtle eggs, insects, or small animals.They’re nocturnal, beginning to forage at around dusk but may change their behavioral patterns depending on human activity or season.
Wild boar live in small family groups consisting of females and their young but those groulled sounders. Males are usually solitary but may form bachelor groupsand will join a sounder during mating season.
Courtship and reproduction
Males that come into the sounder battle with other males for the right to mate with females. The winner begins courtship by making a low vocalization and nuzzling the female. Both may chomp their teeth together, salivate, and urinate, and the male may mark the female with a scent gland.
Once a female is impregnated, gestation lasts almost four months. About a day before she gives birth, called farrowing, the sow leaves the group and prepares a nest of vegetation. The average litter will have four to 12piglets, and sows can have two litters per year. The piglets begin suckling right away and are weaned at about three to four months.
Piglets are caramel-colored with stripes on their coats to camouflage them in grasses and forests. At about six months they will start to turn color and will get their rich, dark brown-black coloring in about a year.
Wild boar populations are considered of a species of least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature because they are abundant in their ranges, which are increasing. They’re also highly adaptable, thriving wherever there is water and tree cover but avoiding extremes of heat or cold.
In fact, they’re considered a harmful invasive species, pushing native species oout of delicate environments, attacking people, destroying public and private property, and carrying the same diseases as domestic pigs, some of which can infect humans.
Cities all over the world, including Houston , Barcelona, Rome and Hong Kong are seeking a solution to this plethora of pigs, estimated to cause $2.5 billion worth of damage a year in the U.S. alone. In response, the U.S. government has allocated funding for trapping, research, and financial aid for farmers, which can be used to hunt wild boar.