|After whitetail deer, American wild boar are the most popular game animal
in the US. Here they are called razorbacks, pineywoods rooters, feral, Russian
and European boar.|
This is the classic wild boar. He is vigilant, athletic, fast and tough...and he is merciless. Most adult boars are 150 to 250 pounds. He has a longer head and snout and smaller ears than a domestic hog. He is longer legged with high, broad shoulders that taper to the narrow hind quarters.
This boar has the classic black color, but they can have any mix of colors and patterns. The coarse bristles along the back, from head to tail, are raised on end when the hog is disturbed, giving them the name razorback.
This boar is standing his ground which means he is ready for a confrontation.
BOARS & WATER
DIET AND PREDATORS
DISTRIBUTION IN THE US
FLORIDA HUNTING REGS
GLOSSARY OF HOG TERMS
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There are 23 subspecies of hogs worldwide (most of them warty), but there is only one species in the US: Sus scrofa. (The family is Suidae, thus the hog call, "sui".) Just as our countless breeds of dogs were all derived from the wolf, our varieties of domestic hogs and their feral relatives were all derived from the Eurasian Wild Boar. They are incidentally not at all related to the southwest's javalina (collared peccary).
The ancestors of the hog go back to the Ice Age, and their domestication was somewhere between 5000 to 9000 years ago. The American continents have no native hogs as the cold, snow and glaciers of the Ice Age blocked the hog's access to the North American Continent.
Columbus in 1493 brought 8 hogs to the West Indies. Importation to the American mainland was in the mid 1500's by Cortez and De Soto, and in the mid 1600's by La Salle. Pure Eurasian boar were not brought here until they were imported for sport hunting in the early 1900's.
In the US the pure Eurasian hog is classed as an exotic, and the rest of the wild boar--originally domestic animals gone wild--are technically feral, but in common use the term feral is reserved for only the domestic hogs that have more recently gone wild.
WILD BOAR APPEARANCE
American wild boar are lean and athletic. Compact, high and wide at the shoulder tapering to the hip, their narrow heads lead to an impossibly long snout. Ears are smaller, legs longer and coats usually longer, more coarse and dense than any domestic hog. The back bristles stand on end, peaking at the shoulder, earning them their name of razorback. The typical color is black, but they can have any color, in any pattern. The typical weight is around 150 lbs, but they can uncommonly become much heavier, to well over 300 lbs.
A boar's Russian ancestry is prized by many hunters, and inaccurately assessed by about as many. The single most reliable indicator of a European ancestry is the bristle...the bristle tips will be a lighter, usually cream, color. The Eurasian piglets are striped with lengthwise stripes, but so are some domestic piglets. The Eurasian hog is typically brown with a lighter underbelly and darker face, legs and ears.
Boars have prominent tusks (Sows have much smaller ones.) that never stop growing. The upper jaws have the stumpy "whetters"; the lower jaws the long, outwardly projecting "cutters". The whetters constantly shear the edge of the cutters (like a whetstone) making them razor sharp weapons that can fatally puncture an opponent or easily slice through a 3 inch tree root. The cutters are frequently worn or broken during fighting or rooting, but renew themselves with continuous growth and sharpening.& When you see an agitated boar popping his jaws and foaming at the mouth he is actively honing his most lethal weapon.
The shield of the wild boar is his protection from the tusks of his adversaries. It covers the shoulders and tapers back over his ribs. It is made of cartilage and scar tissue and thickens and hardens with every injury. Shields can stop bullets including .44 magnums and .45/70's. Faster modern bullets, however, like the 30-06, can penetrate a shield.
BOAR & WATER
Wild boar, just like their domestic counterparts, adore the water. Hogs don't sweat, so it's an important way for them to cool themselves, as well as to protect themselves from insects. All hogs are excellent swimmers, but you will hardly ever see them actually swimming--they prefer to wallow. Then after wallowing, a hog will follow it up with a vigorous scrub against a tree or anything else. They can get so engrossed in their scratching that you can walk up on them and startle them, and a startled hog is a loose cannon you don't want to be around. (Photos of hog swimming, 2 of hogs plunging head under water, wallowing in mud, suprised wallowing, and wallow on water's edge)
Much of the wild hog's body language has to do with competition, aggression and dominance, or non confrontation and submission. A dominant boar looks it. He moves with a swagger and authority that proclaims his strength and virility. He will make demonstrations of his status by his bearing, but if there is any doubt that the other hog got the message, he'll deliver bursts of aggression--by running directly at and nosing or even hooking the target boar--causing the other boar to squeal and move away. (photo) Here's a dominant boar in his prime. With every step he's telling that he's tough and not to be fooled with. A boar that doesn't accept his declaration of his status, is in for a fight. There is a tension in his posture, he trots along self-importantly, he's swinging his head and eyeing up the field as though saying, "Bring it on."
(photos)You don't have to be big to walk the walk. Here are a couple of pint sized kingpins (here and below), that you'll see fighting on the Aggression page. Each of these small boars was earmarked for castration and were to be turned out as meat hogs. But their looks and attitudes were so tough and self-confident, that we turned them out as boars.
(photo)In contrast, here's a non dominant barrow hog. He's good sized at over 200 pounds. His posture is slouchy and relaxed, and he has a "I'm not a trouble maker." look on his face. While he could take a piece out of you as well as any other wild boar, his status among boars is that he is not advertising to fight, he would be submissive to a big boar, and would fight only a smaller or weaker hog.
(photo)This boar looks cringing and wilted. Hogs, as well as most animals who are sick or injured like to go to water. Some say it is to cool a fever. The injured lay with their wound down. This keeps flies and other insects out of the wound, and maybe there are other benefits. This strong boar hog was injured. We found him dead the next morning. It's very possible that he was the winner of the fight.
(photos)This boar is showing he's not backing down and is ready to fight. This bowing stance precedes the stiff-legged posture which directly leads to combat. Now he shows the forward, stiff-legged posture that announces he's ready to fight. His display, though, lacks self confidence. His rageful bearing shows that he feels threatened, and communicates his fear. In the arena of mind games of the wild boar, he's already lost. Here is a close-up of the boar as he works himself up for a confrontation. You can clearly see his blunt whetters on top and his long, pointed cutters on the bottom. A slobbering hog is a dangerous hog, even more so when he's fearful. He can lunge to attack in a flash. Underestimating their speed and agility is a grave mistake. A side view of the boar. The upper lip makes a pronounced curl over the whetter. But the thinness of the skin on his snout tells that he's an older boar. Look at the wrinkly skin on his chest, and how the skin on his shoulder actually wraps around the edge of his shield, making it look like a plate. The view of him in stiff-legged stance above shows his skin at the top of his right foreleg folding over in a wrinkle. It's probably his age that makes him feel insecure about a confrontation. In his prime, he must have held his own for him to be able to make it to this age.
(photo)This monster boar's body posture is not proud or strutting, but he's enormous, in excellent shape and even though you can't see his teeth, you can see the thick roll of his lip that tells you that whatever he's got in his mouth teethwise--it's not small. Sometimes the huge hogs don't have to bother advertising because their size says it all. This is a mature but not old boar as you can see by the thickness of his skin; he's probably 7 or 8 years old.
(photo)A much smaller and younger boar--almost 300 pounds and 4 to 5 years old. He's bayed up by the dogs and is giving his options serious thought. His mind is working with cool calculation. His body's tense, and he looks rooted to the ground. It would be easy to underestimate how actively he is planning his escape (maybe that's his strategy), and how quickly he can explode into violent retribution. He's a boar to never take your eyes off of--for a second. He's desperate, determined and no dummy.
(photo)Another boar with some years. His head is down and he looks ready to stand his ground, but he's not acting cocky and is not spoiling for a fight. With tusks like he has, and you can expect that he's an experienced fighter, even a boar with a big shield has to be careful. He might not win a pushing match, but would probably score big in a cutting match.
(photos)Talk about cocky. This 300 lb. red boar hog is bullying a group of 200 lb. barrow hogs. He's swaggering around like he owns the place, and is taking personal liberties wherever he wants, without restraint. He's rudely sniffing, poking and jabbing everyone. He clearly outclasses every hog around him and has nothing to prove, so his intentions are not just declaring his status. With his obvious intrusions, the barrows seem to be trying to save face, saying, "I'm just minding my own business."
BOAR FIGHTS & BEHAVIOR
A boar fight starts with a challenge, mostly with grunts. If the boar accepts the challenge he will approach with a stiff legged gait, bristles up, and a soundless pushing match starts...shoulder to shoulder, a test of brute power.
If one boar can dominate the other by pushing, there is no violent fight. For equal combatants though, the fight is just beginning. The boars pop their jaws and slobber foam, working themselves into a rage; the enraged boars then slam their heads and tusks mightily into the body of the opponent. Now starts the pounding, the grunting and the wounded squeals. The frothy slobber flies into the air, to the ground and all over the combatants.
It can be a fight to the death, but the death is rarely immediate.; The loser leaves the battle ground first, to live or die on his own. The winner will then also leave to recover from his injuries or to die.
It's the personality of the wild boar that has beguiled so many hunters now, and over ages. Wild boar are secretive and wiley--and can be terrifying. When cornered they can become vicious...and they can hold a grudge.
At times the squalling of a caught hog will draw in other enraged hogs, but it's not because they want to rescue a buddy...they come purely from inflammation of their aggressive drive. Hogs that approach a downed comrade come not to mourn, but to dine. Hogs are not nice to each other, or to anyone else for that matter (apart form maternal groups, but after pigs are weaned, even they're not that nice). Boars have been known to circle around a human adversary to initiate their own attack from behind. A boar, pressed by a pursuing pack of dogs will still make the extra effort to hook the hunter as he's passing, and some boars get so ticked off and insulted that they'll continue to harrass and bite at a hunter that is already up a tree.
Someone who has injured a wild boar, might get a look--directed to only him--that could kill, and with the boar's first opportunity, be the target of its charge.
The hunter's wisdom when boar hunting is to, in a confrontation, "pick your tree" so you will not take that extra millisecond to decide which one to climb
Wild hogs will breed year round, but births peak in spring and fall. Gestation is 114 days, and a sow will give birth to anywhere from 1 to a dozen piglets. She can have 2 litters a year.
The sow is a superb protectoress of her young. Sows can form cooperative groups, and in danger will place their piglets in the center of their vicious circle of snapping, foaming jaws. It is not necessary to threaten a piglet to invoke the wrath of the sow...like a bear sow, just being near can be enough provocation.
Maternal family groups can travel together as well as back each other against danger. These groups are called "drifts" or "sounders". The boars though are solitary.
Boars will mate with any sow in season, often battling for the opportunity, and do not remain to perform any familial duties.
The terrain most favored by wild hogs is moist with dense cover, and preferably near water. They love to wallow both to cool off and to help control tics and lice. After a good wallow the mud caked hogs rub their bodies on nearby trees and the muddy tree bases are called "hog rubs". Their wallowing behavior includes urinating and defecating in the water.
Signs of a hog's presence are not subtle. Besides the wallows and rubs, you will see rooting signs. Feeding hogs can root up literally acres of land, and they have actually been used to plow fields before planting. They will flip up entire mats of forest floor to get at the meal underneath.
You can also, uncommonly, see gashes in the trunks of trees that were cut with the teeth of an aggressive large boar, and you often see large roots that they have chopped through with thier tusks, and even more often will see dead wood that has been chewed open so the hog can get the worms, insects, fungus and occasional small mammal or bird that are tucked into it.
Hogs will also make holes to rest in that keep them cool in summer and warm in winter--they are just large bowl shaped craters but usually under some type of cover. Whenever you see palmetto fronds flattened and disarranged in an area, that is usually from hogs bedding down on and under the leaves.
Sometimes a sow will make a nest in a depression, and often, just like a bird, you can see them plucking palmetto leaves and carrying them in their mouths to their nest (which can also be on flat ground or tucked into a sheltered spot in a woodpile or under palmettos) to line it with the vegetation in preparation for the piglets.
A hog track is (usually) easily distinguished from a deer track (see next page for pictures), and is probably one of the best signs as you can see the direction he came from and went to.
The trails used by hogs are another valuable sign. Like most animals they are creatures of habit and it is possible to see clearly worn trails on the ground and tunnels in the brush. Tunnels that you might miss seeing in the daytime, can stand out like distinct, shadowy doorways at night in your lights.
You don't need the sensitive nose of a canine to smell some hogs, especially a worked up boar. The boar hog smell can nearly knock you over, or you might just get whiffs of it, but it's unmistakable. It would be easy to think of the foul smell of a hog pen and imagine that that is what to expect, but you'd be very wrong. A pen where hogs are kept in dense populations with large accumulations of feces is nothing close to natural conditions, and you will not find it out in the woods.
The hog scat is variable in appearance depending upon the animal's diet, and sometimes hogs will eat the droppings of other hogs.
Back bristles, usually trapped on the bottom wire of fences, is one more helpful sign.
But often here in Florida, though, hogs will favor swamp with dense cover, tangled vines too thick to get through, every kind of reptile (Hogs eat snakes, including rattlers, and where the hog density is up, the snake density is down--on our ranch we've had two rattlesnakes since 5-99.) and insect that you can imagine, and even if there is hog sign there, the odds of your being able to get to it, much less see it are slim to the point of being impossible. And that's the unique advantage of the Southern tradition of hunting hogs with dogs, who can get though all the barriers, and use their accute sense of smell to track the hogs down.Signs of a hog's presence are not subtle. Besides the wallows and rubs, you will see rooting signs. Feeding hogs can root up literally acres of land, and they have actually been used to plow fields before planting.
A hog track is easily distinguished from a deer track in three ways: the hog's hoof has rounded tips unlike the sharply pointed deer hooves, the hog's foot shape is square while the deer's is a triangle that is pointed at the front, and the hog's toes usually spread when they walk while the deer's usually stay together. Both have dew claws which can show in the tracks of the running animal.
The trails used by hogs are another good sign. Like most animals they are creatures of habit and it is possible to see clearly worn trails on the ground and tunnels in the brush. Hog scat is variable in appearance depending upon the animal's diet. Hair, usually on the bottom wire of fences is another helpful sign.
(photo) This hog left a good track. The hoof tips are rounded, and we can tell he was not in a hurry because his toes did not spread. If the hoof tips don't clear the ground, they can drag forward to make lines in the dirt that make the toes look pointed. This will sometimes make the hog track look like a deer track.
(photo) Here we have a hog's front and back hooves. Again, the toes are rounded, and in this more typical example the front hooves are spread. Toes can be spread because the animal is heavy, or they can spread from the impact of running. Deer tracks can imitate hog tracks though if the toe tips push deeply into the ground so that all you see on the ground surface is the rounded middle part of the hoof (photo) Here is a deer's hoof print that clearly shows the differences between the deer and the hog print: the hooves are sharply pointed, the overall shape is triangular and the two toes of the hoof are most often tightly together. As with hogs though, more weight or more striking imact can spread their toes. Both deer and hogs have dew claws that can leave an imprint on either side of each track if the hooves sink deeply into the ground for what ever the reason.
DIET AND PREDATORS
It would be shorter to list what hogs do not eat than what they do eat. They are omnivores and will eat virtually every plant or animal available. They are not generally thought of as predators, but they are. They are drawn to birthing areas by their acute sense of smell, and will eat the newborn and placenta so there is no trace left. Ranchers cannot tell whether they lost newborn stock or never had it.
They prey on reptiles including the rattlesnakes, amphibians, birds, insects, worms, and any smaller mammal that makes itself available. Carrion is eaten with relish, and hogs are known to eat manure.
Favored vegetation is acorns, any fruits, seeds or nuts, mushrooms, roots, bark, and although they are not grazers, they will eat some grasses. They compete with whitetail deer (Who also are not grazers; they are browsers.) to the detriment of the whitetails.
Predators of the grown hogs are humans, bears and panthers. The shoats and pigs can be taken by dogs, coyote, bobcats and the larger raptors such as owls and eagles. True to the hog's nature, shoats and pigs are commonly cannibalized by larger hogs.
DISTRIBUTION IN THE US
The largest US populations of wild boar are in Florida, Texas, California and Hawaii. They can be found in half of the US states, and their range is spreading to include the more northern states of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio.
HUNTING REGULATIONS IN FLORIDA
Here in Florida hogs on private land can be hunted year round with no bag limit. They are considered as livestock of the owner. However a license is required whether you are hunting private land or public. Public or leased lands have very specific regulations on season, size and number, and the rules will vary with location and conditions, so it is necessary to check with the Florida Game and Fish Commission in advance.
GLOSSARY OF NAMES FOR HOGS
Finally, here is a glossary of hunters' and farmers' terms for hogs.
The term . hog covers any age, status or gender of animal.
A . boar is a mature male hog.
A . barrow (shortened to "bar") is a castrated boar.
A . sow is a female that has reproduced.
A . gilt is a female that has not reproduced.
A . shoat (shote) is any young hog that has been weaned.
A . pig is any unweaned baby hog.
And a . piglet is only the very young baby hog.
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