Wild boar

Sus scrofa

Wild boar | APAM Archive, R. Malacrida

Species: Sus scrofa
Order: Artiodactyls
Super order: Ungulates
Family: Suidae
Common name: wild boar


Distribution

Boar are widespread today. But not everyone knows that they almost disappeared from northern Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. The only surviving populations were found in the densest and most inaccessible scrubland areas of the Central and Southern Apennines. After numerous hunting-related reintroductions, they are now found all over the Western Alps. The population is made up of a mixture of wild, domestic and crossbred animals.


Habitat

Although the wild boar prefers forest environments dominated by broad-leaved trees, it is able to colonize a wide range of environments: from densely populated plains to high mountains where they are frequently observed in summer up to over 2000 m.


Appearance

Similar to a domestic pig, but covered with thick bristles and with evident tusks. In particular, the male is more stocky and has more developed canine teeth ("defences") and a showy tuft of hair with which ends the sheath of the penis ("brush"). Both sexes have a prominent hump on the back and a crest of hair that can be raised in the males.


Feeding

Although wild boar feed mainly on plant material such as acorns, fruits, berries, tubers, roots and mushrooms, it is happy to supplement its diet from time to time with food of animal origin such as insects and other invertebrates, eggs and sometimes even meat and fish, mainly from carcasses, which it identifies with its very fine sense of smell. Wild boars are also able to hunt actively, taking small animals such as frogs and snakes, but also prey of a certain size, such as fawns and lambs. Locally they can do great damage to crops.


Reproduction

The mating time falls between November and February and gestation lasts about 4 months. In Piedmont, births take place all year round, with a peak in the four-month period between April and July.


Did you know that ...?

The domestic pig has a total of 38 chromosomes (19 pairs), while the wild boar has 36 (18 pairs). The first generation crosses can be identified with certainty because they have 37!
In environments where the species is indigenous, the wild boar has a beneficial action, as its continuous excavation work in the surface layer of the soil contributes to its aeration, to the decrease in the presence of pest larvae and to the burial of seeds, thus promoting the development of the forest cover.
Elsewhere, the concentration of a large number of animals can cause serious damage to crops, tree cover (which is consumed and not renewed because the seeds and young plants are also consumed), paths, and other animals. In particular, a link has been demonstrated between the large presence of wild boar and the decrease in the number of deer present in the area, as well as various species of Galliformes, such as the black grouse. For this reason, the Protected Areas of the Maritime Alps have approved a management plan for wild boar to control the population.


Stories, myths and legends

The wild boar, in various forms, is omnipresent in Celtic literature as a creature of great power and totemic strength. The sow, then, was considered a symbol of wisdom because it fed on beechnuts, a tree sacred to the Celts.