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2017-10-19

Hunting - not just for deer

By Carol Weir

Hunting season is almost upon us for another year. Most people hunt the white tailed deer or the non-native axis, but the real “die-hards” go for the wild boar. Wild pigs have been around since the 1800s, when domesticated pigs got loose and were crossed with European hogs (commonly called Russian hogs). In the 1800s settlers ran their livestock on open land and only herded them when the settlers deemed it time for gathering and processing.
Wild pigs were no exception. They were used to make smoked hams, bacon, and even hog head cheese. On the “Divide,” north and west of Vanderpool, early ranchers would gather their hogs within rock wall pens as shown in these early photos courtesy of WilkinsonRanch.com. These areas were under oak trees where the acorns were used to fatten them up. Come time, these hogs were “driven,” much like the cattle drives, to railheads in towns such as Kerrville and Sabinal — miles away!
The drivers had hog dogs to keep the porkers in line and headed in the right direction, that is, toward the market. A corn wagon would ride up-front, releasing kernels that kept the animals “motivated.” Hogs that were too aggressive were caught and castrated, or had their eyes sewn shut to where they followed the herd by scent.
Hog drives were an important mainstay in the country, one that was not romanticized nearly as much as the cattle drives, but profitable nonetheless during hard times.