Tuesday 26 November 2013

Good News for Pigs

Pannage is one of those lovely, half-gone words - like curtilage and messuage - that link us to our medieval past. Pannage is the ancient practice of releasing domestic pigs into woodland to feed on acorns, beech mast, nuts and whatever else they might fancy. It has largely passed out of use in Britain (despite the fact that the acorns give the pigs' meat a highly prized distinctive flavour), but it is still practised in the New Forest, where the pannage right of Forest commoners comes under the title Common of Mast.
  As I've mentioned before, 2013 has been a prodigious Mast Year - and this is great news for the acorn-loving pigs of the New Forest, if bad news for the ponies and cattle, to whom acorns are poisonous. Sadly, unusually large numbers of these have succumbed to acorn poisoning this year, so the New Forest Verderers (another fine word) have decided to extend the pannage season beyond the usual 60 days, allowing the pigs to hoover up more of the toxic nuts.With large numbers of pigs - intelligent, inquisitive, usually placid but ever unpredictable - at large in the Forest, there have been a few Incidents. In one, a group of a dozen pigs gave chase to a policeman and his dog ('They just rounded on me,' he explained). Now there's a scene that would have delighted Wodehouse...


  1. Two paragraphs of verbal delight. Thank you.

  2. We farmed in the northern New Forest and I still have the fearful memories of riding my bicycle out of our drive and up the hill to the village shop. The reason? The large number of Hampshire Saddlebacks that, I was convinced were hanging around just to teriffy me. As one struggled to mount the hill was the moment they would select to charge; I'm surprised I still have legs.

    The situation was not eased for me by the relish my father took in describing the strength and efficiency of the pigs bite and its capacity for intelligent malevolence.

  3. Pannage sounds like one of those words in a Tudor history book, mainly describing the various ways that the peasantry had to cough up the dosh for my lord (both sorts).
    Pity the poor residents of the outer Berlin suburbs, so profuse have the wild boar become they are foraging in gardens, in mini herds, snuffled lawns are quite common. A rare breed of sheep, introduced by Kaiser Bill on his Brandenburg estates have likewise multiplied and are now joining the boar in an orgy of chomping.