The wild pigs (also referred to as wild boar and wild hogs) living in North America today are not indigenous to the continent. They were historically known as the Eurasian wild pig and were only found in Eurasia, North Africa and the Greater Sunda Islands. European explorers and settlers in the sixteenth century first brought wild pigs to the southeastern part of the United States. In fact, one particular explorer, Hernando DeSoto, is often credited with introducing wild boars into the U.S.
The Eurasian wild pig species has become known as extremely adaptable to a wide variety of living environments as they have been spread around the world by human hands. Physically, the wild boar is a massive creature, with a short and bulky trunk and a comparatively smaller set of hindquarters. Its neck is so thick and short as to render it nearly immobile. With a head that makes up at least a third of its entire length, the neck must be extremely strong and supportive. Acting as a plow, the wild boar’s head is very effective at digging for food and fighting off its predators.
From its earliest existence, wild pigs have been hunted by humans. Ancient Greeks saw the wild pig as a wonderful food source, as did the Romans. In the third century B.C., wild boar hunting was extremely popular as a test of manhood and in preparation for battle. They were often captured using large nets. Once the wild pig was entangled in the net, it would be speared with a venabulum spear. Medieval hunters were known to aggressively hunt wild boar during their mating season because the animals would be more aggressive and more challenging to capture.
In captivity, wild boars can live and thrive, but not as well as in the wild. Wild piglets need their mothers to grow to their full potential, and if they are removed from their mother too early, they have been proven to grow slowly. Wild boar meat has been found to be healthier and leaner than pork that has been derived from domestic pigs; however, a wild boar reaches maturity much slower than the breed of domestic pig seen in the U.S. today.
Wild boars have been known to cause quite significant damage to agriculture – digging up potatoes, melons and corn. However, this behavior is usually only seen when their natural food sources are low. In Japanese culture, the wild boar is seen as vermin and a pest. In fact, in 1714, 3,000 people died of what was called the ‘wild boar famine’. The wild boar population living near Hachinohe, Japan were said to have ruined so many crops that thousands of people starved to death. That account has been challenged as an exaggeration, but the story still stands. Tales of wild boars attacking humans are quite rare, but such attacks have occurred, typically between November – January, which is the wild boar’s rutting season.