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Wild boar and domestication (part one)
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The ancestor of the British domestic pig is the native Eurasian Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), which used to range all over Europe and Asia, in climates varying from typically British to Siberian and tropical. The domestic pig, under the skin, is not so different from the Wild Boar.

The Wild Boar's natural environment is woodland, scrubland or steppe, with the luxury of a muddy place to wallow on occasion. The animals live in a matriarchal society based on one or more females and their daughters; the males tend to live separately. Sows might have up to fifteen striped piglets in a litter, but they have only a dozen teats and in most cases each piglet demands its own teat. Wild Boar, like other wild pig species, are vocal and communicate constantly within the family group with grunts and squeaks. They feed mainly on plants (foliage, roots, fruit, bulbs) and fungi but will also eat earthworms. Their ability to rootle into plant debris and moist soil is legendary.

The grizzly coat of the Wild Boar comprises coarse dark brownish-grey bristles, paler on the face and undersides but darker on the ears, snout, lower legs and tail. Wild Boar are monomorphic in their coat colour: they show none of the patterns and colour variations seen in domesticated pigs, except that the piglets are born striped. The tail is bristly and straight, perhaps 12—16 inches (30—40 cm) in length. The snout is long, straight and tapering; the ears are erect and the eyes are small (the senses of smell and hearing are better than eyesight). They have cloven hoofs and tusks, which are actually protruding lower canine teeth, larger in the male and useful slashing weapons when fighting.

Wild boar and domestication (part one)

Wild boar and domestication (part one)

Free-range imported continental Wild Boar being reared for meat in the Cotswolds. Wild Boar piglets are born with stripes (excellent camouflage in their natural environment).

The Wild Boar varies in size over its enormous natural range. The largest are in the north and west, the smallest in the south and east, and so Britain's native Wild Boar was among the largest. European Wild Boar males can measure as much as 6 feet (182 cm) long, twice the length of some of those in south-east Asia. In the wild these ancestral swine can live for twenty years or so, if they can escape the hunter. There are still free-ranging Wild Boar in many European countries, though the species has been hunted (for meat and for sport) for about forty thousand years. The last native Wild Boar in Britain was killed during the early seventeenth century.

Wild boar and domestication (part one)

Wild Boar still roamed freely in central and northern Europe in the nineteenth century. The sows bred only once a year and seldom had more than half-a-dozen young.

Hunting, ironically, was a first step towards the domestication of the Wild Boar. The piglets of a slaughtered female could easily be reared in captivity. Being scavengers by nature, Wild Boar were often in the vicinity of humans anyway, looking for their leavings. The earliest domestication was probably in south-west Asia some nine or ten thousand years ago. Immigrant domesticated pigs reached Britain about five thousand years ago.

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