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Pig, hog, boar ... what’s in a name?

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    This is a North Carolina hog, and guide Charlie Sager. These North Carolina hogs have been living in the area for decades. Locals, especially farmers, consider them a nuisance animal. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Published January 19. 2019 12:15AM

The heavy, sloshing steps going through the North Carolina swamp to my left made me sure that opting out of using the tree stand had been a terrible idea. But the wind hadn’t been right for hunting from the stand, and guide Charlie Sager had set me up on a sandy road behind a bush that was looking flimsier by the second.

I was in North Carolina to hunt ducks but Charlie wanted me to shoot a large black hog that was interfering with his bear baits. The big hog was driving bear from the baits. I remember thinking, wow, what kind of hog does that? And then he stepped out of the swamp and I had my answer. A real, real big nasty one. One that looks even bigger when it gets a whiff of your scent, sticks up all the hair along its neck and back, swings its head angrily, then lowers its head and stomps stiff-legged towards you.

At first, I was thinking, straight on, not a good shot angle, wait for it to get broadside or quartering. And then as the distance between us closed from 100 yards to 40, I thought, shoot it, shoot it as many times as you can. Just as I had that thought the hog turned sideways and I took the shot.

I love to hunt hogs, and have hunted them in Florida, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina. In those states, the hogs have lived in the wild for many generations. In all those states, they are considered nuisance animals. They are vastly different from domestic pigs.

The recent media coverage of the escape of wild pigs in West Penn Township begs the question – when does a pig become a wild pig? Or is it a wild boar? A wild hog? A feral hog? What’s the correct term? Truth is, there’s no definitive answer. For most folks, it depends on where the animal was born, and where it lives.

Here’s a start – the word pig describes a farm animal, raised for its meat. Let’s say a farmer’s domesticated pigs escape. Are they wild pigs? No, they are domestic pigs which are loose. Now, let’s say a couple of them aren’t caught, and survive to breed in the wild. Those pigs and their ensuing piglets would be called Feral Pigs.

When does a feral pig become a wild hog? How do domestic pigs and wild hogs differ genetically and physically? Well, all pigs have a common ancestor — the Eurasian wild boar or Sus scrofa. Humans began domesticating pigs as early as 8,000 B.C.; domestic pigs are a subspecies of the Eurasian wild boar, Sus scrofa domesticus. It doesn’t take long – only a couple generations in the wild – before feral domestic pigs start to revert back to take on the physical characteristics of wild hogs or wild boars.

Wild boars have thicker, bristly coats, and some have a ridge of hair along their backs. Another big difference is the development of tusks. All piglets are born with upper and lower tusks; on the domestic side these are removed in the piglets, for safety reasons.

Many states, especially Florida and Texas, have a real problem with wild hogs, which cause millions of dollars in damages to farm fields, using those tusks like rototillers. And the hogs are prolific reproducers, having large litters, with few or no predators able to challenge a herd.

The wild hogs or wild boars are the pigs that are part of the hunting industry. Some, like the West Penn Township escapees, are purchased/captured as wild hog piglets and raised until they’re large enough to go to a hunting preserve. The preserves are fenced and vary in size, and people pay to hunt the animals there. In states with free-ranging populations of wild hogs, typically the animals are such a problem that no license is required to hunt them.

So, what’s in a name? Keep it simple – those raised for meat on a farm are domestic pigs. Those in the wild are wild pigs or wild hogs. What do they have in common? All are delicious. What’s the big difference? Those wild hogs loose in West Penn Township have the potential to wreak havoc in our area.

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