Wild boar
Photo: Richard Bartz

Wild Boar

Wild Boar are native to Europe and north west Africa and can also be found throughout Asia. Determined purely by their location there are four accepted subspecies which are all similar in build and appearance but vary slightly in colour. In Italy they are brown to dark brown and inhabit the deciduous forests across the whole of the country. The Italian word for Wild Boar is 'Cinghiale' and they are hunted and subsequently eaten in a variety of dishes from pasta to sausages.

A wild boar is a type of wild pig which is closely related to the domestic pig. It is a solid, medium sized mammal with a large head and front end which tapers down to a narrower rear end. The skin is covered in fur which is in two layers, a softer layer underneath but a coarse and bristly one on top with the hairs on the central ridge being longer.

The wild boar has extremely small eyes which result in poor eyesight but a long, straight, hard snout giving it an acute sense of smell. This snout has a disk of cartilidge at the end which is supported by a small bone enabling the wild boar to forage deep into the earth for food. In fact, the wild boar uses its snout in much the same way as we would use a bulldozer.

All wild boar have tusks on their bottom lips but whilst they are barely visible on the female they are very prominent on the male curving upwards from the mouth. Males also have tusks on their top lips but these are hollow and are used for constantly sharpening the tusks on the bottom. Male wild boar use their tusks to defend themselves and attack their prey with upward, slashing movements whereas the females use their teeth as defence. During the mating season the males also fight with each other in fierce competition for eligible females.

The females are fairly sociable and live with their young (piglets) in small groups known as sounders. The males tend to be solitary and unsociable other than during the breeding season when they move towards the sounders in search of a mate.

Wild Boar
Photo: Dave Pape

The mating season takes place during the winter months from November to January. The females have a gestation period of three to four months and typically give birth to between four to six piglets.

The mother stays in the nest with the piglets for a few weeks to protect them against predators. These piglets are light brown with creamy coloured stripes on their backs and this distinctive colouration and pattern acts as camouflage. The stripes begin to fade once they reach three months old and they are beginning to venture further from the nest on brief foraging trips.

The piglets become completely independent by the time they are around seven months old and by this time the stripes are gone and they are a rusty brown colour. The fur does not achieve its final adult colour until the piglet is a year old. Wild boar typically live for between fifteen and twenty years.

Wild boar are extremely hardy and can survive in most situations but prefer the deciduous, dense, broad-leafed forests that cover a large part of Italy. They make nests of leaves, grass and moss where they sleep for around twelve hours out of every twenty four. Although they are nocturnal by nature in much of Italy they now tend to forage for food at all hours of the day and night. In fact, in many places such as Tuscany they are causing a great deal of damage by foraging in vineyards and completely destroying all the vines. They are mainly omnivorous eating plants, roots, leaves, berries, nuts and fruit. They are far from fussy and will eat almost anything so supplement their diet with worms, lizards, snakes, mice and anything else they can find including dead animals which have been killed and abandoned by others.

Wild boar, particularly the males, can be quite large reaching a height of 100cm and a frightening weight of up to 175kg. In spite of this bulk and short, rather thin legs they are extremely fast and have a top speed of 48kph. Not only are they good runners but they are also extremely efficient swimmers. They can often be found wallowing in muddy water during the hot summer months as a way of keeping cool.

Wild Boar
Photo: Richard Bartz

In Italy their only predators are wolves and humans.

Common Name - Cinghiale (Wild Boar)
Scientific Name - Sus scrofa

Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Artiodactyla
Family - Suidae
Genus - Sus
Group - Mammal

Location - Throughout all of Italy
Habitat - Deciduous broad-leaf forests
Height - 55cm to 100cm
Weight - 80kg to 175kg
Top Speed - 48kph
Diet - Omnivorous plus worms, lizards and snakes
Predators - Wolves, Humans

Life Span - 15 to 20 years
Age Of Sexual Maturity - 7 to 10 months
Gestation Period - 3 to 4 months
Average Litter Size - 5
Male - Boar
Female - Sow
Name Of Young - Piglet
Age Of Weaning - 2 to 3 months

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