Wild Boar. History and Identification. Characteristics

History. The wild boar was first brought to the United States by Austin Corbin in the early 1890's and released on his game park in Sullivan County, New Hampshire. They came from the Black Forest of Germany, and the few that still roam New Hampshire's hills are of pure stock. There are no feral domestic hogs in the Granite State. The origin of the boars that n o w roam the dense thickets of the Great Smokies of North Carolina and eastern Tennessee has been a subject of considerable debate among zoologists.

The origin of the animal in this area is a matter of some speculation. Some contend that they were captured in Germany's Black Forest and imported to America by an adventurer named Barnes. Others claim that two North Carolina brothers imported several of both sexes from Russia after the First World War.

While the foreign country from which they were imported remains highly doubtful—and the truth may never come to light—the facts concerning the time and place of their introduction into this region have been quite well established. In the early part of this century, an Englishman named George Moore leased a large area of mountain wilderness adjacent to and surrounding Hooper's Bald, a wild and practically impenetrable area, just southwest of the Great Smokies. He had long dreamed of establishing a huge game preserve here and at once enclosed a large timbered tract with a great fence.

One day in the year 1910, a mob of curious mountaineers from the surrounding country gathered on the mountain top. The sight of heavily bolted crates being transferred to the Bald had stimulated an inquisitive and speculative interest among these natives. Included in the English-man's menagerie were several wild boars which attracted more attention than any of the other animals released. The spectators stood about awed by the monsters as they scrambled into the forest. Thus the opening of the big crates on the mountain top was the beginning of American history of the wild boar.

Identification. The physical make-up of this hardy animal is unlike that of the domestic hog. He does, however, bear some resemblance to the wild razorbacks of both the swamps and mountain country of the Southeast. The average boar (unless fat from mast) has a narrow body which slopes from mighty shoulders to almost nondescript hind quarters. Underneath their long dark brown or brownish-black bristles, which in adult hogs are usually split at the ends, there is a thick wool-like undercoat, that gives evidence that Nature had intended them to live in cold regions.

Prevalent with adult animals is the heavy tail, sometimes bushy, with thick, matted bristles hanging several inches long. Other distinctive features of their physical make-up are: the red glint in their eyes, which reminds the beholder of the expression "blood in his eye"; and their sharp, protruding, razorlike tusks, the chief weapon of attack, which in adults range anywhere from 3 to 6 1/2 inches. T h e size and ruggedness of the boar distinguishes him from the rest of the h o g family.

He is superior to the wild boars of India and Malaya. Most hunters on their maiden trip into the boar country are utterly surprised to learn of the immense size to which they grow. There are, of course, many small pigs in the 125- or 150-pound class to be found (yearling pigs that become wilder with age) , but 200 - to 350 - pound specimens are quite common. T h e largest one ever killed in this great wilderness was reported to weigh 600 pounds; almost every fall, boar ranging upwards of 350 pounds are killed.

A real tusker at bay , and ready to take on the hounds

Characteristics. Big-game hunters claim that in the heat of battle these boars are the most vicious of all animals that roam the American forest. They reign supreme in their territory and even the black bear is no match for this powerful, belligerent brute. Mother bears selecting one of these pigs to feast their cubs have been found with bellies ripped inside out and littered on the battle ground in the boar's own inimitable manner of destruction.

When he is first jumped by dogs it is uncertain just what he will do. He may stand his ground and fight it out on the spot where he is first routed from his bed; it may be a vicious running fight, or it may be a fleet chase of many miles before he comes to bay. Short-sighted and ill-tempered, the Russian fights at close range, and when he decides to fight where jumped ne usually springs boldly into action, charging head-on with a series of lightning-like thrusts of the head.

The tusk-blades fly into action, in rapier fashion, and the damage is done in the flash of a second. These wild boars take the greatest toll of dogs of any American big game, and the hounds surviving battle carry more scars than hunting dogs in any other part of the country.

When he elects to run for it, instead of fighting it out, he may run the open ridges as does the mountain deer, but frequently he crisscrosses the ledges and slopes indiscriminately. The y have terrific speed, and are as fast as a young deer—a statement that hunters not familiar with the animal have refused to believe. With incredible agility they can blaze a path through the roughest sort of country. In the rhododendron thickets that are impassable for man and even difficult for the best of dogs, they have an uncanny way of splitting through undergrowth to gain distance on the hounds, leaving them behind to chase by scent instead of sight.

While most big-game hunters agree that a shot through the heart or brain is instantly fatal to most animals, in the case of the boar there is much evidence to the contrary, particularly the shot through the heart. After absorbing quantities of lead in vital spots, his reported ability to move through the forest at a rapid pace or to stay on his feet and fight until the last breath is not without basis. His capacity to keep running for some distance after a direct shot through the heart or after his intestines have been riddled through and through—and until he finally drops dead from combined exhaustion and loss of blood—is common knowledge.

Quite significant is the unyielding courage that is an intrinsic characteristic of this animal. In battle with dogs there is never a complaining squeal, neither will he grunt or squeal when mortally wounded. Regardless of death wounds inflicted, he maintains his unique Spartan courage to the end. Amazing as it may seem, one huge boar, after three bullets had been pumped through his ribs near the heart at close range, and after he had been chewed by a pack of hounds for some minutes, at the sight of man, sprang to his feet, and shaking off dogs as if they were no more than dry leaves, continued what had seemed an impossible race.

Breeding and Feeding. From data available, it seems well established that the boar's breeding habits are not timed as seasonably as with the bear and most other wild animals. Reports show that the mating season is spread over a longer period of months. On most occasions when a sow and young pigs have been discovered, it has been more commonly during the spring and summer months. Frequently, however, sows, heavy with pigs, have been killed during the December hunting season. On such occasions, due to the weight of the unborn offspring, they are found to be lacking in the usual speed, thus coming to bay much quicker.

The litter may number anywhere from three to eight, but four or five are most common. Before the young litter comes the sow usually dens up in the recess of a ledge or cliff, or in some high thicket of rhododendron jungle, almost impenetrable and away from all potential danger. With primitive alertness she keeps a constant vigil while the young brood are confined to bed. Reports from those Santeetlah mountaineers most familiar with their breeding habits give evidence that the sow always bears her litter in a region where food will be readily available during the suckling period; thus she will not have to range far until the young brood are of a size to follow.

During the European boar's existence in the mountain jungles, there have been instances of interbreeding with native wild razorbacks. Evidence is present in varying degrees, ranging from barely noticeable changes to the more obvious characteristics of the razorback. Not all of these are bad; deliberate hybridization has been practiced at Florida's Eglin Air Force Base and in Texas and California. Boars leaning toward razorback blood are not quite so speedy afoot.

Distribution of Wild Boar

In the combined Santeetlah and Tellico Plains Forest areas there is a wide variety of food composed of various fruits and mast. Perhaps from necessity, the boar is largely a vegetarian; one of his most common characteristics, however, is a willingness to accept almost anything edible—which includes everything from a chick-grouse to fox grapes.

The various foods normally available are wild fruits, of which there is a wide variety, namely, mountain grapes, blackberries, huckleberries, dewberries, wild apples and cherries, and other kindred fruits. Included in his menu is green corn from the high-up mountain fields, which has caused many complaints from the ridge farmers. With no pretense to a fancy appetite, he will eat the eggs from wildfowl nests, grubs, frogs, crustaceans from the stream. Edible roots are acceptable, and last, acorns, which are perhaps the most substantial in the fattening part of his winter diet. When the food crop of some particular locality fails (as it does occasionally) this self-sufficient animal readily changes his habitat to a farther range—as food conditions may necessitate.

Although the boar is characteristically a nocturnal feeder, a sow and her litter—or some solitary boar -are occasionally seen feeding during daylight hours. Of the varied food, more or less of it is available throughout the year. This fact, combined with suitable climate, offers a logical reason why this remote range is so well suited to the wild hog.

The life span of the boar may range anywhere from 7 or 8 years to about 15. There is some difference of opinion, however, as to the maximum age. Several factors support the common belief that 10 to 12 years is the normal span of life. Individual animals, however, may exceed that by several years. Some who believe the maximum age to be 15 years base their theory on the fact that the hogs do not reach maturity for several years, after which they still continue to build frame and take on weight.

Native hunters have a way of spotting and recording individual animals and their version is usually not far amiss. There are instances where a most vicious or perhaps a particularly wily hog has been seen or chased by dogs for a long period of years. Some-times one becomes marked—he may lose one of his protruding tusks, or he may have lost most of his tail to the dogs. Such incidents are part of the normal history of the "wild Rooshian." Anyway , 8 to 12 years seems to be the average span of life.

A Sow with Three Young Pigs . They will lose their stripes when grown

Range and Distribution. Some 12 to 15 years after the Russian boar was introduced to the forest region surrounding Hooper's Bald, stories about this stalwart animal began to funnel out to the outside world. At first the boars were slow in getting started in their new habitat, but as time passed and they became acclimated to the dense region, the people surrounding the interstate wilderness of western North Carolina and East Tennessee discovered that something different in the way of a big-game animal was roaming over wide stretches of the countryside. In time it became evident that the Big and Little Santeetlah areas of the Nantahala National Forest on the western North Carolina side, and the Tellico Plains area of the Cherokee National Forest on the eastern Tennessee side, were those best suited to the propagation of the wild boar.

In the mid to late 1920's, the beast was so solidly established in this wildest range of eastern America that his presence began to attract hunters from many parts of the country. For 25 years now, the animal has been hunted by men and dogs. Despite indiscriminate hunting before proper regulations were applied, and predictions that in time the boars would vanish from the great forest, they have continued to spread out.

Today they not only inhabit the regions here specified, but in certain localities they have widened their range to include strips of the ridge country bordering the national forest areas. Because of the boar's habits, an accurate census is most difficult. Tennessee estimates the numbers there to be 600; North Carolina has about half as many. Fewer than a dozen boar remain in New Hampshire. Game officials at the Eglin Air Force Base in Florida are stocking hybrids, and there are boars ranging from pure stock to heavily hybridized animals in California and Texas.

 






Date added: 2022-12-11; views: 312;


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