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Wild boar (Sus scrofa)

Extinct for centuries, wild boar are roaming UK woodlands once more.

Scientific name: Sus scrofa

Family: Suidae

Appearance

Wild boar have stocky, powerful bodies with grey-brown fur. Mature males have tusks that protrude from the mouth. Piglets are a lighter ginger-brown in colour, with stripes on their coat for camouflage. Large animals, wild boar can stand up to 80 cm at the shoulder and typically weigh between 60-100 kg, although males in excess of 200 kg have been reported in some parts of the world.

Where and when to spot

The history of wild boar in the UK is complicated. A native species, they were hunted to extinction at some point in the Middle Ages. In the 1980s, boar farming became prevalent and many animals are believed to have escaped - or been illegally released – into the wild. There are established breeding populations of boar in south-east and south-west England, with the highest numbers in the Weald and Forest of Dean. Smaller populations have been also reported across the UK, including south Wales and the Scottish Highlands (boar have been sighted at Loch Arkaig).

A woodland species, wild boar are shy and primarily nocturnal, meaning your chances of coming across one are slim. In the majority of cases, boar will flee upon detecting people, but can become aggressive if they feel threatened, especially females with young. Dogs should be kept on leads in woods where boar are known to be present and, if you encounter one, the best advice is to move away slowly in the opposite direction.

Feeding

Boar are not fussy eaters and will consume a wide variety of food. Much of their diet is made up of plants, roots, seeds and fruit, but they will eat carrion and even small mammals, birds eggs and chicks if the opportunity arises.

Behaviour and breeding

Most boar live in groups, known as sounders, that are comprised of females and their young. Adult males tend to live alone, only coming together with females to mate. Typically, four to six piglets will be born in spring. A boar’s maximum lifespan in the wild is thought to be around 14 years, although the majority of animals will not survive this long.

Threats

The presence of wild boar in our woods is controversial. It has been suggested the species can have both a positive and negative impact on woodland biodiversity, but the exact impact is currently unclear. While some welcome the return of a once-extinct native species, others are concerned about agricultural damage and collisions with traffic. Boar have no natural predators in the UK, meaning culls are being carried out in some areas in a bid to control population growth.

Did you know?

  • The wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig and is thought to have been first domesticated around 15,000 years ago.
  • Wild boar naturally occur across Eurasia from the UK in the west to Japan in the east, they have also been introduced to North and South America and Australia.
  • Boar have poor eyesight but an extremely strong sense of smell, relying on their nose to find food and detect danger.