Monday, August 25, 2008

Vanishing Species - The Wild Boar

An Article by Mohan Pai

Indian Wild Boar
Sus scrofa cristatus

Pic by Ajay Gaikwad

The ‘Varaha’ of the Hindu mythology (the 3rd Avatar of Lord Vishnu) is the Wild Boar of the Indian Jungles.

You would do better to be on your guard against this animal when in the jungle. This is the species that has the guts to challenge even the tiger. With typical pig-like features, an average wild boar rises to a height of 90cm, and weighs more than 100 kg, although some can weigh as much as 225 kg. The most distinctive feature of the wild boar is a pair of elongated canines that grow upward and outward. It wears a greyish-black coat that is scantily covered with thick bristle-like hairs arising from its nape and winding their way to its posterior. The wild boar has an incredible sense of smell, although it has fairly average eyesight and hearing. Its body is well built, but what really makes it stand out is its courage and determination to live and to win the wild bouts. Its thick coat with its layer of fat helps it recover even from the gravest of injuries. It is not an unusual sight to see a herd of 5-6 animals grazing silently in the middle of the forest, but come nightfall, and the herd becomes really confident. Wild boars are known to raid and damage crops of the farmers living on the peripheries of National Parks and Sanctuaries. Amazingly, wild boars do not have any fixed cycle for breeding. But whenever it is the mating season, a fair and formal contest decides the dominant male who gets to mate with the female boar. After a gestation period of four months, the mother gives birth to 4-6 cubs. Thanks to poaching and the loss of habitat, the number of the wild boars is fast decreasing. Once there were 6-7 species found in the sub-continent, but today only two species survive. The widespread Indian Wild Boar(Sus scrofa cristatus and the very rare and recently rediscovered Pigmy Hog (Sus salvanius) which occurs in northern Assam.

Wild boar is considered to be the wild antecedent of the domestic pig of the Indian subcontinent. It belongs to the Suidae biological family, which also includes the Warthog and Bushpig of Africa, the Pygmy Hog of northern India and the Babirusa of Indonesia. Indian wild boars are also quite closely related to peccary or javelina of North, Central and South America.
“These creatures, found all over India, have become very wary and are difficult to photograph because of widespread persecution. They are generally classed by States as vermin because of their habit of raiding food crops, and can be shot by anyone at any time. In addition they are much relished as a meal by tigers and leopards and by lions of Gir forests, though a large boar can be more than a match for a tiger or a lion.These are the same animals that are the quarry in the well-known sport of pig-sticking, which still takes place in north India where there is flat, grassy terrain suitable for horses to gallop over.” -- E. P. Gee.

Physical Traits

The thick coat of the wild boar of India is grayish-black in color and is covered with bristle-like hair. It can grow up to a length of 6 feet and may weigh as much as 440 lb (200 kg). The features of a wild boar are quite similar to that of a pig. It has a prominent ridge of hair, which match the spine. The tail is short and straight and the snout is quite narrow.
The most noticeable as well as most distinguishing feature of the wild boars comprise of a pair of extended canines. These canines grow both upward as well as outward. Indian wild boars possess an acute sense of smell. Even their eyesight and hearing power is fairly strong.

Wild boars can be found roaming around in groups, known as sounders. The number of sows, in a characteristic sounder, is two or three and rest of the members are the young ones. A typical sounder comprises of 20 animals on an average. In exceptional cases, the membership of a sounder may go up to 50 also. Adult males join a sounder only during the mating period and for the rest of the year they prefer to stay alone. Indian wild boars are basically nocturnal creatures, which forage from dusk to dawn. When surprised or attacked, they may get aggressive.

Wild boars eat anything and everything, including nuts, berries, carrion, roots, tubers, refuse, insects, small reptiles, etc. Young deer and lambs may also form a part of their diet.

Wild boar is found inhabiting the woodlands of Central Europe, Mediterranean Region (including North Africa's Atlas Mountains) and most of Asia (including India).
Mating Behavior

There is no fixed mating period of the wild boars of India. However, whenever it takes place, it results in a formal contest between the males to decide the dominant male. The winner gets to mate with the female boar. The maturity period is one year and gestation period lasts for four months. A female wild boar usually gives birth in the spring season and the litter normally consists of 4 to 6 cubs.


The population of Indian wild boars is declining at a fast pace. The reasons for this are large scale poaching as well as habitat destruction. At some point of time, Indian sub-continent consisted of 6-7 species of wild boar. However, today only two of them are left.
Subspecies Sus scrofa scrofa (North Africa, Europe, and Asia) Sus scrofa ussuricus (North Asia and Japan) Sus scrofa cristatus (Asia Minor to India)Sus salvanius (Pigmy Hog) - (India) Sus scrofa vittatus (Southeast Asia to Indonesia)

The Pigmy Hog
The Pigmy Hog is so secretive and limited in distribution that it was thought to be extinct until 1971 when an animal was authentically sighted and then specimens were captured. They are diminutive in size, adult male weighing about 9 kg and standing 23 to 30 cm at the shoulder, while adult female weighs about 6 kg. They are shy and secretive, with family groups spending the day burrowed under a nest which they construct of piled-up chopped sedge and grasses hidden in some thicket. They move with lightning rapidity through the thick vegetation and when confronted are bold, aggressive and can inflict severe lacerations with their razor-sharp incisors. The entire world population is presently believed to survive along a narrow foothill belt in the extreme northeastern border of Assam. Recent studies have shown that females produce only one litter a year and that is born in April or May during the dry season.

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fantastic observations, Sir

monalee said...

sir its a boon to ve u really i m a teacher n my kids really enjoy readin ur work n r now showin keen interest in the subject.
thank u sir though i cant thank u enough.

Tony an Indian said...

There is some mistake about the wild boar as vanishing. In kerala part of western ghats it is increasing, that too at a high rate causing much damage to the farmers near to forests.

leonel said...

Dear Sir,
The population of wild boar in the entire western ghat region has increased multifold due to strict anti poaching and a fall in predator population.