Here's everything you need to know about the various types of hog hunting.
Wild hogs are some of the most populous animals on the planet. There are few corners of the earth that some species or subspecies of wild pig cannot be found. As a result, hog hunting is a popular pursuit for sportsmen and meat hunters around the world.
Pigs breed easily, quickly and abundantly. Large litters for most species are common. And once they reach a certain age and size there are fewer predators, outside of wolves or the big cats, that will tangle with a full grown wild hog. Thus, wild pigs have virtually "taken over" in some areas and are major disrupters of human agricultural lands and even wild places.
The first wild pigs in America were originally brought here as domestic stock by early settlers. Some of course escaped into the wild and took on the character of the wild or feral hog. Eurasian wild boar were also brought here much later for hunters to pursue. When feral hogs interbred with the Eurasian wild hogs hybrid populations resulted.
Today wild hogs have been reported in most of the continental United States and even as far north as the Canadian border. Usually they are considered an invasive species, so there are no seasons and no harvest limits (check your state hunting regulations).
When discussing wild hogs we should be aware that there is a good deal of interbreeding and hybridization going on. Domestic hogs that escape go feral, and their physical characteristics actually change in just a few generations. These animals interbreed with other wild hogs, possibly purebred Eurasian boars, and the genetic line gets rather mixed.
But they're all good hunting and good eating. There are a few primary species that we should be aware of:
Eurasian Wild Boar
This suid (pig) is native to Europe and parts of Asia, North Africa and some islands in southeast Asia. But its territory has expanded quite impressively, and now it or some variation or subspecies of the Eurasian Wild Pig is found throughout Asia, India and many other parts of the world, including the United States. Wild boar are sometimes referred to as Russian boar or razorbacks.
There are currently at least 16 subspecies of wild boar in the world. They differ from one another somewhat, but share some commonalities. They are a solidly built, massive-bodied beast with relatively shorts legs. Their size depends a lot on their environment, but most true Eurasian wild boar generally weigh between 175 and 250 pounds at maturity. Although they can attain prodigious size, with some reaching well over 400 pounds in weight and, in rare cases, upwards of 700 pounds.
Wild boar are recognizable for their long, triangular-shaped heads. They have a long snout with a disc-shaped nose, and the shape of their head combined with strong neck muscles make them ideally suited for digging, or rooting, much to the chagrin of farmers of agricultural crops.
The coats of wild boar are covered with coarse, gray to dark brown bristles. They can run upwards of 40+ mph, and their canines are self sharpening and quite formidable, with the lowers reaching up to 12 inches in length. These daggers curve up and backwards from the snout and can pose a significant threat to the careless hunter.
Wild boar are highly omnivorous, enjoying a wide and varied diet. They are also quite vocal, utilizing a variety of grunting, whining, purring, alarm and battle vocalizations. They are a pack animal, running together in matriarchal groups, usually in close contact with one another.
They make great sport and are hunted by several methods: driving, spot and stalk, blind hunting, and with dogs. Their meat is sought after and a large boar with tusks makes an impressive head mount.
Feral hogs are domestic pigs gone wild. These animals are highly adaptable to a variety of environments and climates. Females generally have litters of four to eight piglets, twice a year, and the little buggers can be sexually mature as early as six months of age. So you can see how their growth can appear to be exponential.
Feral hogs can be just about any color or combination of colors, but most are gray to dark brown. They tend to assume the characteristics of Eurasian hogs, especially as they interbreed, with thick, bristly hair, long snouts and the growth of their tusks.
Wild pigs are found in almost every state of the union now, although their numbers tend to be congregated in the southern and southwestern states. They do a tremendous amount of damage to agricultural crops and property with their rooting, causing billions of dollars in property damage annually.
Feral hogs can weigh from 100 to 400 pounds or more, which translates to from between 30 to 120 pounds of fine eating pork per hog (approximately 30% of their bodyweight). Trapping and hunting them has become a big business, particularly in the southern United States.
The animals have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, but their eyesight is only moderate. They are hunted with all manner of methods, but the use of dogs to track them into the swamps where they can be dispatched by gun, bow, spear or knife is a favored pursuit. Most states classify them as vermin, and there are no closed seasons and no harvest limit. Aggressive removal is preferred by many states.
The warthog is a unique animal, a distinct branch in the suid family tree. Its home range is largely limited to the grasslands and savannahs of sub-saharan Africa. It is a game animal in its own right, being a highly sought prize for hunters pursuing the creature with gun or bow.
Warthogs are of moderate stature, with full grown males weighing 120 upwards to 300 or so pounds. Its face is distinctive, flattened and elongated, and appearing too large for its body. It is noteworthy for both its warty protrusions that cover either side of its face, and for its long, up-curving tusks.
The upper tusks are quite majestic, sweeping upwards and serving much like an elephant's tusks. They can reach 10 to 12 inches in length. The lower tusks, not quite as long, are worn to a razor sharp cutting edge.
Sparse bristles cover the warthog's body, although something of mane of hair runs from the head on down the center of its back. They are quick runners, but often move with a springy gate while holding their heads high to better see their surroundings.
Most warthogs are killed by hunters waiting in ground blinds at watering holes.
Javelina or peccary are not actually pigs, but since many people confuse them with pigs we thought we'd add them to this list. Peccary are hooved mammals that originated in South America, although they are currently also found in Central America and the southwest portion of the United States.
They do resemble a smaller version of a tailless feral hog, weighing from 40 to 60 pounds. They also have tusks, though they are short (approximately an inch to three in length) and straight. These they use for defense and they will often make a clacking or chattering noise by snapping their jaws and rubbing the canines together when agitated.
Javelina can become a serious threat to safety if they feel cornered. They use their small though lethal tusks to great effect. They travel in packs and have been known to charge and injure or even kill humans who have alarmed them.
Once viewed as a marginal or lowbrow sport, hog hunting, whatever the species, has become a mainstream pursuit for sportsmen. Hogs provide plenty of action and excitement for hunters, as well as excellent table fare.
If you're interested in finding out how you can experience a hog hunt yourself, check out the Ox Hunting Ranch in Texas, which offers a variety.