Description of Wild Hogs
There are actually five different types of wild hogs; the original Piney Woods Rooter, the Russian, the hybrids between these two, the Chinese feral hogs, and hybrids between all four. All the varieties of hogs mentioned interbreed quite easily with the Russian traits appearing dominant and appear to be the most numerous in the feral hog population. The hogs carrying a lot of piney woods rooter characteristics would stand, fight and end up in the smokehouse. The hogs with a lot of Russian characteristics would run. Thus the ones doing most of the procreating carry Russian characteristics. Also when people introduce hogs into an area they usually choose the Russian type boars.
One way to group the different varieties would be by the number of chromosomes. The pure Piney Woods Rooter, Russian, and their hybrids have thirty-six chromosomes, the Chinese type feral hogs have thirty-eight chromosomes and the Russian/Piney Woods Rooter/Chinese hybrids have the possibility of thirty-six, thirty-seven, or thirty-eight chromosomes.
In general, a feral hogís head is massive with smaller, pointed and heavily furred ears. Wild hogs have a mane that grows along the spine composed of split guard hairs called bristles that can be five inches in length and run from the head along the center line of the back, and can be raised two to four inches up from the body when the hog is excited or agitated. What really keeps the wild hogs warm in winter though is the thick woolen under coat.
The coat coloration is a wide selection of colors and types depending on the genetic background. It can vary from solid black, brown, dark gray, tan, red, white, or a combination of any two or more colors in patterns of belted, mottled, pointed or spotted. A belted hog is usually a solid dark color and has a white band around the hogís torso near the shoulder area.
Normally the Russian type are heavier in the shoulders and slope down to the small hips, giving the wild hog an outline similar to an American bison.
A feral hog will usually take up to five years to gain his full adult size in the wild. Most hogs taken are in the 150 to 250 pound size. Most wild hogs are long legged (3 Ĺ to 5 feet long & 2 to 3 feet tall) and run like deer.
Wild boars have very long and thin snouts. Iíve heard one old hunter describe a wild hogís snout as "being suitable for extracting bugs from the bottom of a discarded beer bottle". The snout is used for digging up soil so it can eat bugs, roots, and plant bulbs growing in the under story growth of the beech and swamp trees. The rooting action of the hog causes the most direct damage to the forest or a farmerís field. Hogs destroy many bulbs, rare flowers, and threatened animals like the Indigo snake or birds like the red-cocked woodpecker. A hog can root down below three feet in softer soils. The round nose at the end of a healthy hogís snout is cold, wet, and covered in pig snot. In fall, hogs donít root as much probably because of the abundance of mast from oaks, beech and hickory trees. But during the winter and very early spring, a hog is very busy filling his stomach by rooting. A hog only has one stomach and cannot chew his cud. Thus, like a human it cannot digest cellulose material like brown, dry leaves but must have tender sprouts, roots, bulbs, worms, grubs, and anything with a dense nutrition value.
Feral hogs have forty-four teeth, which includes a group of four continuously growing canine teeth called tusks. The upper tusks or whitters curls up and out and constantly rubs against the lower tusks putting a knifelike edge to the lower tusks. An adult male can have tusks up to five inches in length with an impressive curl before they are broken or worn from use. The largest on record is eight inches. Females have slightly smaller tusks but are just as deadly. Both sexes use their tusks for defense and in addition the males use theirs to establish dominance during breeding. The adult males normally use their large tusks to stab in an upward or sideways movement but the females and young males are more likely to slice or bite. Sometimes when youíve got a big old boar bayed up you can hear him popping his tusks for miles away. This intimidates some dogs but by the time you take your dogs into the woods you should already have culled a dog that would be scared by that noise. Whatever sex, when a wild hog, over two hundred pounds of intense rage comes charging at you, mouth wide open, itís extremely "stimulating". It is also the best time to get an accurate estimate of the hogís age. Just take a really good look at his molars. LOL.
An old time saying is a rooter is finished growing when you can pick them up by the ears, the head and the body are equal in size. If the head tips down you have to let Ďem grow a little more. Present day myths estimate a hogís age according to how big they are, or by how big the tusks are, neither is correct. The hogs genetics and nutrition plays the most significant role is the rate of their growth. Like horses and cows the age of a wild hog are best guestimated by the number and wear of the molars.
Under the skin on the front part of the body is a layer of cartilage and scar tissue, called a shield. It continually develops like a callus as the hog ages and from fighting. It can be one to two inches thick and protects his ribs and shoulder from the tusks of other boars during fights for territory or the favors of the female hogs. It has even been known to stop small caliber bullets.
The last physical part thatís different from a tame pig is the tail. A wild hogís tail is usually straight and tufted at the tip. A domestic pig or a wild hog with Chinese genes has a curly tail. A pure wild boar runs with their tail in an upright manner similar to the way African wart hogís tail is carried when they trot while a feral and hybrid hogs will vary in how they carry their tail.
Remember though this is a general description and when blended with domestic feral stock, any combination of color, size, or shape is possible.
Wild boars do not like the company of other boars at all. In fact they're so solitary by nature that a group of two or more adult males is called a singularity of boars. In the early days, settlers used to neuter some of the males at a young age so the sounders would have the protection of a male hog from predators like bears, panthers, and wolves. It also removed the rank taste of an intact male from the meat
A group of hogs traveling together, called a sounder, is usually the sows and their offspring. A feral sow will normally have two to six piglets in a litter twice a year at any time. Of course this depends on the amount of available food and the genetic background of the sow. A well-fed sow that has recently escaped or has retained most of the domestic genes will have large litters. Gestation is normally one hundred and fifteen days. Wild piglets, called watermelons, weigh almost two pounds at birth, are light brown in color, and have six brown stripes and five black stripes the length of their body (marked like a chipmunk) until the age of four months. Sows raise their piglets communally allowing any piglet to nurse if she has milk available. This practice of one sow watching and feeding three or four sowsí litters while the others are out feeding has probably caused many inexperienced hunters and "bunny huggers" to think hogs have bigger litters than they really do. At three to four months, the piglets are no longer dependent on their mother for nourishment but stay in the sounder until they reach puberty, which for the females can be six to seven months and for the males, nine months. Adolescent males form into small groups of their own but when mature will lead a solitary life except when joining the sounder during rut.
Piglets usually have a high mortality rate due more to food resources and weather than predation. Sows are very aggressive in defense of their young and if one pig squeals, they'll all come running to help. Hogs have several adaptations that help them to survive in the wild. One is that during times when the mast is really scarce, reproduction, which depends on the amount of food consumed, ceases. But if there is an abundance of food, wild hogs have larger litters.
The area a hog covers on a daily basis is greatly influenced by the amount of food available at that time and season. With abundant food, water and no disturbances, feral hogs appear to follow a daily routine. The first action a hog will normally take after waking up is head for water to fill up. A wild hog will repeat this action at midday and before retiring for the night.
Hogs can easily adapt to almost any environment because they are omnivorous, meaning they can and will eat anything that is or was alive. A hog can eat grass and other plant food but they are also opportunistic hunters. If a hog comes across a baby animal like a fawn, rabbits, etc. they will take advantage of the opportunity to increase their protein intake. In a normal day a hog can cover from five to fifty miles in the search for adequate food.
If a wild hog has a weakness it is their inability to regulate their temperature by sweating. But as long as they have a reliable source of water they can wallow in the mud to cool off. After coating themselves liberally with mud they start rubbing it off on trees, posts, rocks, whatever is handy. This is supposed to help them rid their hide of surplus fleas, lice, and ticks. This is one of the signs a hog hunter looks for when scouting for hog in an area. From looking at the mud rubs on different objects an experienced hog hunter can give you quite an educated and accurate guess of the hogís size and how long ago the hog rubbed mud on the object.
During late spring and summer, hogs will graze on farmerís fields. The types of field crops damaged by hogs include, corn, grass, hay, milo, peanuts, rice, rye, soybeans, turf, vegetables, wheat and other grains.
The damage by hogs is not limited to just what they eat, it also includes the collateral damage from pulling plants out of the ground exposing the roots, rooting around looking for any bugs below the ground level, devastating a field and causing mud holes to be developed in the fields which allows misquotes to breed and multiply. Normally the heaviest damage occurs towards the end of the growing season just before the field is ready for harvesting. Like rats and other vermin, a hog will waste nine times as much as they actually eat. Eating high quality food like this does wonders for the quality of hog meat but really ruins a farmerís benevolent disposition towards wild critters in general.
A hogís sense of smell is phenomenal, rivaling any other wild animal living in the woods. They were used in France instead of dogs to smell out truffles, a special type of mushroom that grows underground sometimes three feet down. A long time ago in England, sportsmen had bred a special type of hog for bird retrieving called a slut. They were known to be so friendly towards their owner, that anyone being overly affectionate was also called a slut.
Hogs are the hardest game to catch. An adult wild hog is the smartest animal in the woods, even smarter than some people. Theyíre wary of any strange noise and their hearing is extremely good. Their field of vision is poor since their head is located so close to the ground and they canít raise it as high as some other animals. This decreases their ability to see over brush or briars but since a hog will usually head for thick underbrush or dense forest when frightened, this is hardly a hindrance. Their shield is really useful when going through some of the jungles we have around here composed of sawtooth palmetto, green briar, etc. We have two kinds of vines we call "wait-a-minute vine". When youíre moving in the brush and they catch you at neck level, you call out to the guy following you to "wait a minute". The small thorned variety will get in you skin and is almost impossible to dig out until it festers while the big thorned variety have thorns that are about a half inch to one inch long and will rip your skin like a wood saw. It is highly recommended that you wear a heavy denim jacket and canvas material pants to keep your skin from being torn up.
The vegetation grows so close and tight a dog going in doesn't have much room to maneuver, especially in the Titi thickets. For that reason we like the two-dog team. More than two and they get in each other's way and will get cut up. It takes a good dog with a lot of grit to go into one of those tangles. It takes a great dog to go in, stop the hog and come out with only a few scratches. This is one of the places that training pays off. We prefer a dog to tease a hog into chasing them out into the open where thereís more space to work on him. Some of those old rooters become extremely canny after being hunted a while and refuse to come out. Then we have to go in after him. Your adrenaline gets very high crawling into those tunnels that make up a hog bed. The brush is so thick two feet above the ground you canít stand up. Sometimes thereís water instead of ground and in addition to hogs you have to watch out for Ďgators. In a situation like this you have to have dogs you can trust to do their job because if a hog breaks loose from the dog thereís no jumping out of their way.
No matter whether a hog comes from a long line of Rooters, Russians, Chinese, or is an admixture of any or all of them, when they are served on a table to family and friends, they all taste good.
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