Boars with Piglets

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

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Boars with Piglets

  1. Kristianna says:

    Excellent and informative post, Walter. Thank you!

    I hope you are feeling right as rain in a very short while.


  2. karl says:

    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas

  3. grannygardner says:

    Another interesting glimpse into life in your part of the country. Hope you feel better soon.

  4. PV says:

    Oooooooo sooo cuteeee!!!!!!!! They look like happy pigs. Happy holydays!

  5. Rosa says:

    The last time I was here, there were baby piglets! How adorable. It’s just a wonderful Otis & Milo kinda place (my fav movie!). Hope you are having a wonderful Holiday Season. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. jojo says:

    hiya walter,
    You forgot fast as the dickens… I don’t have feeder pigs, but i do have a 200lb pot belly that when he wants to move HE MOVES FAST…usually that is only when he sees me walking to the feed shed. He can run 100yard dash as fast as my mini can. :)

    and that little side swipe they do is the most dangerous. Kind of like an alligator. Where they hit you from the side.

  7. Megan says:

    Hi Walter,
    I really appreciate the info you provide on this blog! We are raising pigs for the first time this year, so I have lots of questions and always Google the relevant topic followed by sugar mountain farm. It is hard to find info that isn’t fear based. So thank you!
    We have 6 kune kune pigs on 2 acres. Two of the gilts became pregnant. One just farrowed yesterday. Just like you said she went to the perimeter of their pasture found some cover and built a nest. The other shouldnt be far behind. At the end of the first labor, I set up some hog panels to enclose the mama and piglets. My plan is to keep checking in on the other girl (who is on pasture with the other pigs) and set up an enclosure around her after she farrows. Does this sound reasonable? I guess I worry that the mama might trample the babies if the other pigs are stressing her out. Or that the boys may eat the babies or trample them accidentally. I was feeling good about my plan until speaking with my mother in law (who grew up on a cattle ranch) and swears that the boars will eat the piglets. I really belive that outcomes are better when people and animals are allowed to birth naturally. So I want to honor that, but being inexperienced with pigs, I don’t want to be naive either. Thanks for your time!

    • Yes, you’re doing the right thing. If you have a managed rotational grazing setup with multiple paddocks on the two acres then simply rotate the rest of the pigs ahead and drop the farrowing sows behind. In an ideal world each sow has her own paddock for the first week to ten days but on a half acre or quarter acre with brush they may be okay – time will tell. Keep an eye on it.

      • Megan Oien says:

        I thought I would follow up…We’ve had multiple litters with pigs on pasture in with the full herd. Everytime I try to separate females, the pigs bust under their electric hog netting and rejoin each other. Separation is the only thing that inspires them to challenge their fences, so i gave up and keep them together. Our boars have never shown any sort of anything but fondness for the piglets. I just try to make sure there are multiple huts. The mamas-to-be claim one and keep other pigs out until piglets are big enough to move out of the way. Wanted to add my experience in case it could benefit someone. Thanks again for your reply Walter.

        • You may find it easier to move the herd on leaving the near farrowing females in the familiar paddock. Good fences and pigs that are well trained to electric are also important. If it is working to have them all together then I wouldn’t worry about it.

  8. Megan says:

    I forgot to include that the first sow farrowed in the wee hours of the morning before the other pigs had woken up. So I was able to set up panels around her before the others interfered. I am not sure I’ll catch the other one farrowing before the rest of the pigs do.

  9. Megan says:

    Wondering if it would be okay to combine mature boar with two sows plus 15 pigs (8 weeks old)? We separated the boar from sows before farrowing and are ready to recombine. Considering keeping pigs with sows for now in order to maintain only two groups: this one and additional groups of shoats plus young boar. Thoughts?

    • It depends on the boar and his experience level. Older boars tend to be better. But then I eat the younger boars who are problems so that sort of culls the problem. I like to wean piglets away from the herd for about a month to socialize them before they rejoin the herd.

  10. This is great. You found your blog and looking forward to reading more.
    We are looking to put a few 3 month old male pigs with our boar on pasture for company. You just convinced me that I should. Our boar is a big teddy bear, flipping over for belly rubs, acting like a dog.

  11. rebecca mckinney says:

    I have a question. Should i remove the the boar from the pen while the sow is giving birth?? I only have the two

  12. rebecca mckinney says:

    I have a boar and a sow in one pen and my sow is about to give birth. I was wondering if i should remove the boar while she is giving birth?

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