It’s perfectly possible for domestic pigs to interbreed with wild boars to create a hybrid hog. They may be tough, intelligent, and purportedly delicious, but these so-called “super pigs” have the potential to cause a real headache for native animals and the natural ecosystem.
There have been many active attempts to breed boar–pig hybrids by farmers. They are typically the results of breeding between male wild boar with female pigs, often varieties like the Tamworth or Gloucester Old Spot. Dubbed “Iron-age pigs,” the idea is that they resemble the early pigs that were first domesticated by humans in ancient times.
At a farm near the Scottish village of Tomintoul, these animals were initially bred to help root up the land, but their meat proved to be surprisingly flavoursome, with a similar taste to wild boar. Unlike their undomesticated counterparts though, the hybrid animals are less aggressive and easier to care for.
“Iron-age pigs can vary in shades of brown but can often look very similar to wild boar, although they tend to have bigger ears, slightly shorter snouts, rounder backends and longer bodies. The piglets are nearly always stripey and the meat is dark and flavoursome. They are a good alternative to wild boar,” Wild Farming explains on their website.
“Because of the domestic traits in this hybrid the sows tend to be productive, the piglets grow quicker and there is no need for a dangerous wild animals licence,” it adds.
Boar-pig hybrids are not always the product of conscious breeding efforts, however. In 2021, Swedish farmers complained that wild boars were repeatedly breaking into their pens and mating with pig sows, despite the presence of electric fences. At one farm, over 100 hybrid piglets were reportedly born due to these late-night rendezvous.
In parts of North America, boar–pig hybrids have become a bit of a problem. Farmers in Canada intentionally bred hog hybrids for their meat and ability to survive the harsh winters. Unfortunately, the market for wild boar meat slumped, so many of the hybrids were let loose into the wild.
They proved to be a formidable invasive species, wreaking havoc among native animals such as turkeys and game birds. Simultaneously, they strip the land of berries and vegetation like a plague of locusts, leaving less for grazing animals and black bears.
“Wild pigs are easily the worst invasive large mammal on the planet,” Dr Ryan Brook, who leads the University of Saskatchewan’s Canadian Wild Pig Research Project, told The Guardian.
“They’re incredibly intelligent. They’re highly elusive, and also when there’s any pressure on them, especially if people start hunting them, they become almost completely nocturnal, and they become very elusive – hiding in heavy forest cover, and they disappear into wetlands and they can be very hard to locate,” explained Dr Brook.