Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Pigs at Pannage Passing By

A few days ago, in the middle of an ordinary morning, the ponies suddenly became very agitated. The old mare lifted her tail high, tensed her neck and looked towards the high hedge between her paddock and the open Forest. She stood for a few seconds, snorting with terror, and then shot off around the field at a gallop that belied her age. Soon the others followed and were high-tailing around their fields as though a tiger were behind the hedge.

Here is the Grey One when he stopped for a second or two to size up the situation.

I went to investigate and found the culprits. A family of commoner`s pigs were down in the ditch below the far hedge, rustling and snuffling  among fallen leaves and feasting on the masses of acorns that have fallen from the oak trees this autumn.

We rarely have pigs around here, but I recognized these ones, who had wandered across open Forest and through the woods, from their home field in a village not far from us. In the Pannage season, New Forest Commoners can put out their pigs to eat as many acorns as possible. This helps to clear acorns that can poison the New Forest ponies, while providing a natural, healthy diet for the pigs ( who seem to be unaffected by eating a diet of acorns).

Here is the Gloucester Old Spot sow who was leading her weanling piglets along the leafy ditch, grunting softly to them as she walked.

Following Mother......

...and finding a treat of small, green crab apples from a tree behind the hedge.

Eventually the sow wandered through gorse bushes into the lane and lead her piglets up the hill.
She was anxious to stop and talk to us and enjoyed having her back scratched, as did her friendly piglets. They were all remarkably clean and a delightful family, enjoying a life of freedom in the woods until the the time Pannage season ends and they are found and returned home by their owner.

In the meantime, the ponies were convinced that Wild Boar with fearsome tusks were about to attack them. They stayed excited and unsettled for hours, not quite trusting the shadows in the hedgerows.
Horses seem to have an innate fear of pigs, perhaps from prehistoric times, and can sense their presence long before we can. These Old Spots were not a bit smelly and hardly made a squeak, but they were still The Enemy and not to be trusted!

On a technical note, I did try posting these photos on the X Large sizing, but they came out cropped on the blog and pigs lost noses and tails. Large seems to work...... Is there anything I can do to post X Large without an automatic cropping taking place? Thanks for any suggestions!


Morning's Minion said...

Horses are good 'watchers.' Jim has said that during the years when he took Pebbles on mountain trail rides in company with his brother and family, the horses were always to be trusted about the presence of a deer, elk or bear nearby.
I often look out the window to see Pebbles intent on some animal presence that I have to search to locate.
Strange to think of pigs just ambling by!

angryparsnip said...

I didn't know about letting the pigs run free, acorn eating , pigs walking in a row (squeel) and Farmers rounding them up later. Do They have a marking, brand or a name tag ?
I am so envious of the pig coming over for a chat and a scratch. Her babies sound wonderful too.
Best blog post ever !

cheers, parsnip

ann @ studiohyde said...

It's lovely to see these photos, the Grey One and also the piggies on the forest. What a good job they do eating those acorns. Don't know if I have said before, sorry if I'm repeating this, but as a kid I remember pigs over at Bramshaw snuffling round for acorns, you've given me a reminder of those days.

Kath said...

how adorable! I love pigs and what a pleasure to see them foraging naturally like that.

Bovey Belle said...

ann@studiohyde - me too - pigs at Bramshaw that is. We used to ride from a small riding school there, run by a Canadian lady, and in the pannage system, rides could be Quite Exciting!

Lovely photos - and nice that mama pig is friendly enough to come over for a scratch, though I bet you had to wash your hands before you handled the ponies afterwards or they would have thought you WERE the enemy!!!

I know that ditch so well, as Keith and I always have a wander along it as the old trees are so lovely.

Louise said...

Lovely, and some great photos too.

In order to have extra large photos on your blog I think you will need to go in to the template settings and widen the page. your blog text column is quite narrow so I expect that's why XL photos don't fit in.

Em Parkinson said...

Fascinating post and lovely piggy photos. I would love to have the room to keep some!

Crafty Green Poet said...

What lovely pigs! I had no idea that horses were so scared of pigs though

Down by the sea said...

It's lovely to see the old traditions still being followed in the New Forest.
Sarah x

Ragged Robin said...

Great post and some lovely photos. The pigs are lovely especially the piglets :)

Hope the ponies settle down though.

Sorry can't help with the photos as I use the medium size. I don't think with the set up I have that I am given the choice of extra large. I will check though when I next do a post.

Virginia said...

How lovely that the pigs, left in their natural environment, were clean. I remember the foul stench of the pig run at boarding school. Although the horses didn't enjoy being near them, neither did we. I follow Sarah Weston's wonderful blog about training horses without 'force or fear' http://sarahwestonrecommendedassociate.blogspot.co.nz/, where she frequently helps people and their horses become confident around pigs, so I know it is a problem.
Great to have you blogging again. I hope your winter storm isn't affecting you too badly. Our news today has it as pretty serious.

Toffeeapple said...

How wonderful, pigs in their natural habitat.

Doc said...

Just stumbled onto your blog whilst reading another from my blog roll. I have completely enjoyed your recent post and with your permission would like to join in the fun. I do sometimes miss life in the UK but love my life and family here in Oregon.

BilboWaggins said...

Such a shame that more pigs cannot enjoy the natural freedom of a Forest. They are naturally clean animals and this is how they were meant to live.

Many years ago I remember coming across some pigs like this when walking Ollie near Cadnam. Fortunately he ignored the pigs, and they ignored him but I remember the sow being absolutely massive.

Lucille said...

I have the same problem with X large photos but daren't tinker with the settings! How lovely to see free pigs enjoying a natural diet.