NEARLY 300 years after they were hunted to extinction, wild boar are back in the New Forest – this time within an enclosed natural environment.
Farmer Jamie Burgess of PR Burgess and Sons, based at Swallowfields Farm in Bramshaw, spent a year adapting his land to rear wild boar for their tasty and increasingly popular meat.
The boar are now kept in a natural environment to closely replicate their experience in the wild. An adult wild boar can weigh more than 20 stone and stand at more than one metre tall.
Despite their size they can run at 30 miles an hour and jump a gap of up to six feet.
A dangerous wild animal licence and a site inspection are required for anyone keeping wild boar, as they are classed as “Dangerous Wild Animals”.
Mr Burgess’s licence involved the installation of a list of safety features, such as a six-foot fence, which had to be dug at least a foot into the ground, a barbed snout wire and an electric fence.
Mr Burgess said: “They can easily jump five feet. They are so strong and clever that, if they can get their front legs over part of the gate, they can climb up and over, like a ladder.
“But we shouldn’t fear them. True, wild boar can grow to the size of a medium-sized bear and it’s also true that, on the continent they occasionally charge the odd hunter – and who could blame them?
“But they are not malicious, even mine are not above giving me a powerful shove with their snouts. But they’re just trying to get me to give them more food.
“They’re a bit like the New Forest ponies. They associate people with food and so, if a person comes near them, they hope he or she is going to give them something nice to eat.”
The only time they might get agitated is during mating and when they have young: Mr Burgess 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 similar diet to boar in the wild, giving the best end result and a rich, nutty flavour.
“I chose to raise wild boar because, as a smaller scale farm, we can't compete with mass suppliers so I wanted to find a niche product.
“Wild boar seemed the perfect solution, as I've always been interested in them, the meat is really tasty and it's becoming increasingly popular.”
Wild boar take between one year and 18 months before they end up on the plate.
Mr Burgess said: “I think that’s what adds to the flavour – it takes time to grow them and they live good lives.”
Whole or half-carcass New Forest wild boar meat is available now at Swallowfields Farm.
For prices and availability contact Mr Burgess on 07795 082358.