This is a photo of two boars who are baby sitting piglets. The mother is in the far distance getting something to eat. The father of the piglets is the obscured Big ‘Un, the white boar laying down with piglets on his head. You can see him better in this photo with Lili. The spotted boar, Spot, standing up is a half brother of the Big ‘Un. A few minutes before they were laying down with piglets all over both of them and just after this photo Spot carefully laid down again next to the piglets and Big ‘Un.
People often ask me:
- “Won’t the boars kill the piglets?” – The answer is apparently no. Our boars are very gentle with the piglets. Perhaps this is a factor of being in a pastured situation. I have never seen them show any aggression towards the piglets and if anything it is just the opposite. They let the piglets climb all over them, will defend them against outsiders and will come and check on them. I suspect that in a closed in situation, like factory farm or urban area, tempers might flare and there would be more violence. Having plenty of room, whether to get away and graze or sleep separately, makes for better relations within the herd for all members.
- “Aren’t boars dangerous?” – Potentially yes but we have not had any problems with them. I am very respectful of them. They are big at hundreds to a thousand pounds each. They have sharp hooves. They have teeth, big tusks in fact, and are very strong. Do not get between them and a post, rock or tree they want to rub against. Be alert around them. Be aware of when they’re interested in a sow who’s in heat and don’t get between the two. Don’t get between boars if they’re tussling. I would not suggest feeding them, or any pig, from your hands. They probably won’t mean to nip your fingers but their mouths are big, their teeth are sharp and your hands are so small. Instead drop food on the ground. I do give them attention such as neck rubs, touching them as I move around them and treats so they have a positive association with me. This is the same as with a ram, a cow or a large guardian dog. Like with any large animal or vehicle they have the potential to be dangerous.
- “Won’t the boars fight each other?” – Yes, occasionally they do tussle. This happens primarily between Spot and Little ‘Un who are the lowest ranking boars in that order. But the fighting never gets serious and I’ve never seen any injuries other than some tusk scratches primarily on their shoulders. Archimedes, the biggest boar, never fights but then when you’re 800 lbs you don’t have to fight. He has disciplined other pigs on occasion but it is fast and not viscous – just a reminder of their place in the herd. I’ve never seen Big ‘Un fight with anyone either. I would be very hesitant to introduce a new mature boar into the group because I’m pretty sure that would cause serious fighting. Same if you dropped a new sow in, a new ram, a new rooster or a new dog into our pack. Having plenty of space, an established pecking order and growing up together makes for pretty peaceful relations.
So far we have not had a boar that got big that was aggressive. But then I have never let one that showed aggression get larger than finisher size and the outside boars we’ve gotten have all been real gentlemen. I cull for temperament real hard. Same goes for sows, rams, roosters, etc. An overly aggressive animal is not worth having around. Over the generations this should help.
Some boars might be dangerous or kill piglets some time or some where else but this has not happened here on our farm. I am very alert around them, just as I would be with any large animal. I do not set my young daughter down on the ground out in the field, but that is not just the boars, there are other big pigs as well as sheep out there.
If you’ve been counting you might wonder why we have four boars… Well, that is all about the question To Cut or Not and the Boar Meat experiment. I’m testing to find out if boar taint, the bad taste some people associate with boar meat, is an issue with our boars. If boar taint is not an issue then castration is not necessary. Realize that pigs are normally slaughtered at six months or so of age. So far we have slaughtered and eaten boars up to an age of 14 months who were sexually active and kept with the herd. They were delicious and there was no sign of boar taint found by any of the many people who have tasted the meat. The project continues… Dining in the name of science, of course!
Today we did nothing on the tiny cottage. The cold I’ve had building since Tuesday evening turned ugly so I took a day of rest given the nasty weather outside. Working on the roof in freezing weather wouldn’t have been much fun anyways. :)
Update 2014-08-28: Almost eight years later we had still never had a problem with boars harming or killing piglets. Boars make excellent babysitters. If they don’t, eat them. The ones you’ll be left with do fine babysitting. Evolution works. We also no longer castrate as is discussed on this page and the pages it links too about taint.
Outdoors: 45°F/38°F 1″(?) Freezing Rain all day
Farm House: 58°F/55°F 1 log
Tiny Cottage: 54°F/50°F no work