Man and hogs and dogs have been linked together for thousands of years. It’s believed that the first dogs were domesticated as long ago as 30,000 years. There is evidence of a breed of canine that was not grey wolf and not exactly canis lupus familiars (your dog) either but was living with humans. What is most interesting to me about this is that the first evidence of rope being made or used is not for another 2,000 years so to say we “tamed” dogs doesn’t seem right, it’s not like we caught them and tied them up or had them on leashes. Personally I think it was more of a mutual agreement where a canine of some type learned that human establishment was a good way to get easy food and they tolerated each other. The humans benefiting from the presence of canines to warn them of other maybe more dangerous predators coming. As time went on they started to follow the humans and eventually learned to help them hunt as the humans would share some of the kill. There are several ideas on when the taming came about but I see it like the relationship between a Cape buffalo and an oxpecker or the little fish that clean the whales and are in turn protected from large predators. Any way about it shortly after this relationship was formed, how ever it was formed the two started hunting pigs together.
There are cave paintings on walls that show hogs being hunted with dogs and spears before there was even written word. The first mention of it in print was by none other than Homer, yeah the Greek mythology guy, in his version of the Calydonian boar hunt. The one where Artimus (Goddess of the hunt) got mad, like the Gods always did, at the humans and sent a boar down from Olympus to destroy their fields, so a group of heros including Atalanta, a female Amazonian archer who first drew blood on the boar after it killed several men. Men were pissed she was there, there was fighting, whatever. The point is men and dogs were hunting boars. Even though this was mythology the fact that it was written is evidence that ancient Greeks were using dogs to hunt hogs.
In Egypt there are 3000 year old scrolls depicting packs of hounds chasing hogs with hunters carrying spears. In the 1300s an entire book was written on how to hunt wild boars with dogs. All around the world since man and dog have come together from Japan to America and all across Europe there are records of this type of hunting and honestly if you go back not much has changed in the way it’s done. Sure there are some variances but for the most part the dogs catch the pigs and men kill them.
Egyptians are credited for inventing the dog collar, and leashes were being used shortly before that but the method hasn’t changed much. Send some hounds with good noses out to find pigs and when they bay them you either send in some catch dogs to hold them so they can be tied or killed by knife, spear, sword, or in some cases the catch dogs are not used and men just go in with the hound dogs and fight it out.
Pigs have been used for training by militaries for years and in some places still today. Some cultures still use boar hunting as a way for young men to cross over into manhood by killing a boar. The point is this, over thousands of years man and dog have formed a bond and have used each other very successfully to hunt pigs whether for food or sport. In those years man has created the perfect dog for their situation.
All of today’s dog breeds are man made that’s not really up for debate. We know this because when was the last time you seen a pack of wild Pomeranians running around? You haven’t because like every other breed, man bred them. Dogs have been bred for hunting, protection, herding, and even things as crazy as keeping Chinese women’s feet warm and through the years man has bred what I think are the best dogs for hunting pigs today.
So let’s talk about today’s pig hunting. The majority of today’s pig hunters use bay dogs which will be running dogs with good noses, usually a type of hound. Once the bay dogs find a pig and surround it catch dogs are sent in to hold the pig. Catch dogs are usually a bull dog of some type, dogos, American bull dogs, pit bulls, and even the combinations of these and other types of bull dogs. The dog will be stout, have strong teeth, and be fearless. Their job is to basically stop the fight.
When the bull dogs arrive and catch the pig by the ears some bay dogs may help out by getting ahold somewhere or they may back off. Some will even “roll over” meaning take off hunting again once they know the bull dogs have the pig secured. Rolling over is a double edged sword if you ask me. You want a dog to hunt and have drive but at the same time you have a pig to deal with and if you aren’t to the next bay in a timely manner it could put the dogs in danger. There are some running dogs bred to be running catch dogs. I’m not a fan of them because I feel like they are in more danger of being cut by a pig because without other catch dogs there he’s basically on his own. I’ve seen really good running catch dogs that never have a problem and also seen running catch dogs killed because it’s a very hard fight for a 100 pound dog to win against a 250+ pound pig fighting for his life.
Speaking of dogs being cut or worse, it’s gonna happen eventually. It’s a pretty hot topic for some, questioning if the dogs are being put into unnecessary danger. It’s really not a question in my mind that dogs love what they do. If you’ve ever seen the body language of a dog change when he knows he’s going hunting you’d understand. When the hunting truck pulls up dogs will fight for a spot in the back. They hunt hard, they get cut and keep going, it’s no different to me than a boxer who loves his sport. Dogs love to hunt it’s in their DNA they are predators it’s what they do. You will know real fast if a dog will hunt and how. No hunter who owns dogs is going to put a dog into a fight he don’t want to be in. I’ve seen dogs get smacked in the mouth by a big boar and not go back, those dogs won’t get hunted again. I’ve seen dogs fight to the death. Nothing hurts worse than losing one but I truly believe a dog that lived a life of hunting and being a dog has a better life than one in a back yard. That’s not to say all dogs should be hunting. We’ve already talked about man making breeds for their use and chihuahuas should probably be lap dogs but a hunting dog needs to hunt.
So now that the pig is bayed and the hounds are barking, they won’t bark until there is a bay, the catch dogs are released and are led to the bay by the barking hounds thats when the real fun starts. The bull dogs hit hard, they will grab the pig by the ears and hold on, it’s now the hunters job to get the pig to the ground. The pig will be “legged” which is grabbing his hind legs and getting them off the ground. This takes nearly all the leverage away from the pig. Smaller pigs can just be knocked over by turning them toward the ground. Others like in the case of this big one here will need some stronger encouragement.
It may take 2-3 guys to get a really big pig on his side. At this point he’s pretty much caught, between the bull dogs on his ears and the men on his side and his legs folded up he’s caught. He’s still extremely dangerous but he is at least not mobile in the since that he could run and charge you. All hogs are different just like people some are better fighters than others. Some smaller hogs will fight harder than hogs twice their size.
The pig has been secured he can now be dispatched right there with a knife or tied alive for sell. Pigs being sold today for their meat must be killed in a USDA inspected facility so the pig can not be sold unless he is alive. Honestly the distance from the truck is a big factor for me determining his fate. A few guys can cut up a pig and carry the meat out a lot easier than they can carry or drag out a live pig. Four wheelers, sleds, wagons, all manner of things are used to get the pigs out of the woods alive. I don’t like not utilizing the meat of the pigs but there are some cases where pigs just have to be left. In the case the dogs roll over and bay again and again before they can be gathered up some of the meat can’t be taken out of the woods before it starts to go bad. Pig meat starts to turn pretty fast and especially ones who’s body tempature is already up from running and fighting. It happens and in TEXAS where I hunt there is no shortage of pigs but any meat that can be saved should be. Just because your state doesn’t classify hogs as a game animal doesn’t make them any less valuable as table fair. Personally I prefer wild hog over whitetail on my plate. In my opinion too many people leave meat in the field just because they aren’t required to take it out but that’s another story for another time.
Hunting hogs with dogs is a very unique experience in that it’s one of, if not the only form of hunting where you actually lay hands on your quarry BEFORE you kill it. Shooting a trapped animal is close but to actually hold down a perfectly healthy wild animal and put a blade into it and hold it until it dies will change a lot of people’s view on hunting, some for the good some for not. Think about this, as a deer hunter say, you shoot a deer at 100 yards or maybe with a bow at 20 yards but do you actually see the eyes of that animal, do you see and feel his reaction when he’s mortally wounded? No. Of course not, but you should. A lot of guys are too detached from what they are actually doing when they take a life. They shoot a deer, get out of a stand, walk to a dead deer and load it up. Never really seeing or feeling the true consequence of their action. It’s easy for us to shoot a deer at a distance, but to actually have the connection of death literally in your hands is different, the blade you are holding is in the heart of a living breathing animal while you watch him fade away, that’s not as easy and to truly know hunting at its core it should be experienced by everyone who hunts.