WILD boar have returned to the New Forest – nearly 300 years after the ancient species was hunted almost to extinction.

Enterprising farmer Jamie Burgess spent a year adapting his land at Bramshaw to rear the wild boar for their tasty and increasingly popular meat.

The nocturnal and nomadic creatures are being kept in a natural en-vironment to closely replicate the conditions they would experience in the wild.

Since a full-grown sow can weigh more than 20 stone, they can be an intimidating presence and a dangerous wild animal licence and a site inspection are required for anyone keeping wild boar because, despite their size, they are fast, topping speeds of 30mph and can leap a 6ft gap.

Mr Burgess of PR Burgess and Sons, based at Swallowfields Farm, said: “Wild boar isn’t the easiest option for farming as they have much slower growth rates than domestic pigs, but that makes the meat lower in fat and higher in protein, so it’s a healthier option than many red meats.

“Our method of farming doesn’t domesticate the boar as we want them to live as naturally as possible. This allows for unforced growth and a diet similar to that experienced by boar in the wild, giving the best end result and a rich, nutty flavour.”

The company is a member of the New Forest Marque, a quality assurance scheme supported by the New Forest National Park Authority that promotes authentic New Forest fare of the highest quality, while encouraging people to shop locally.

Mr Burgess added: “I chose to raise wild boar because, as a smaller-scale farm, we can’t compete with the mass suppliers so I wanted to find a niche product.

“Wild boar seemed a perfect match as I’ve always been interested in them, the meat is really tasty and it’s becoming increasingly popular among consumers.

“The New Forest Marque has been a great help to our business in terms of providing advice, promotion, contacts and marketing support.”

Whole or half-carcass New Forest wild boar meat is available now at Swallowfields Farm.

For prices and availability contact Jamie Burgess on 07795 082358.

For more information on the New Forest Marque visit www.newforestmarque.co.uk.