In February I spent a few days in prime wild boar country, in Champagne-Ardenne. I usually see boar here, but this time I saw only evidence of their presence. Foraging boar are remarkably destructive, and a sounder (a group) can turn a pasture into a ploughed field in just a couple of nights. This hardly endears them to the farmers, but the French tolerate them because of their popularity of beasts of la chasse.
Wild boar survived in England until the 14th century. There are a number of records from the 16th century in such laces as Savernake Forest, Wiltshire, and Chartley Park, Stafford, but these are thought to refer to animals that had been reintroduced. King James I even released boar into Windsor Great Park in 1608, where they survived for some years.
Despite these attempts to bring them back, none were successful, and it was not until the 1980s that they stage an unplanned return. During that decade, a number of farms imported wild boar from the Continent, keeping them in semi free-range conditions. Some boar decided to range rather farther afield, and escaped into the countryside.
Today, there are flourishing populations in east Kent, East Sussex and Dorset. I live at the wrong end of Kent to have encountered any, but I have several shooting friends who have considerable first-hand experience of them. Just like their Continental cousins, these pigs are shy, nocturnal and difficult to see, but their rootings leave compelling evidence of their presence.
If you want to learn more about boar, I recommend Martin Goulding’s recent book about them. Mr Goulding has been studying boar exclusively for the past six years, and his book provides a fascinating insight into their impromptu but successful return.
Wild Boar in Britain, by Martin Goulding, is published by Whittet Books at £14.99.