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The Golden-Bristled Boar

The Golden-Bristled Boar: Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Golden-Bristled Boar
    Book Description:

    The wild boar appears to us as something straight out of a myth. But as Jeffrey Greene learned, these creatures are very real, living by night and, despite shrinking habitats and hordes of hunters, thriving on six continents.

    Greene purchased an eighteenth-century presbytery in a region of ponds and forests in northern Burgundy between the Loire and Seine Rivers of France. He soon discovered he'd moved to one of the most densely populated boar areas in Europe. Following the gift of a side of boar from a neighbor, and a dramatic early-morning encounter with a boar-hunting party and its prey, Greene became fascinated with the animal and immersed himself in the legend and the reality of the wild boar.

    Although it has no natural enemies, the boar is in constant conflict with humans. Most societies consider it a pest, not only wreaking havoc on crops and livestock, but destroying golf-course greens in search of worms, even creating a hazard for drivers (hogs on the roads cause over 14,000 car accidents a year in France). It has also been the object of highly ritualized hunts, dating back to classical times.

    The animal's remarkable appearance--it can grow larger than a person, and the males sport prominent tusks, called "whetters" and "cutters"--has inspired artists for centuries; its depictions range from primitive masks to works of high art such as Pietro Tacca'sPorcellinoand paintings by Velázquez and Frans Snyders. The boar also plays a unique role in myth, appearing in the stories of Hercules and Adonis as well as in the folktaleBeauty and the Beast.

    The author's search for the elusive animal takes him to Sardinia, Corsica, and Tuscany; he even casts an eye to the American South, where he explores the boar's feral-pig counterparts and descendents. He introduces us to a fascinating cast of experts, from museum curators and scientists to hunters and chefs (who share their recipes) to the inhabitants of chateaux who have lived in the same ancient countryside with generations of boars. They are all part of a journey filled with wonders and discoveries about these majestic animals the poet Robinson Jeffers called "beautiful monsters."

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3128-9
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[xii])
  3. Chapter One La Compagnie
    (pp. 1-3)

    If you are lucky enough, maybe even once or twice in a dozen years, your route, a solitary communal road in Burgundy, for example, will suddenly transect the path of a different tribe, a strict society in motion, one that shares the same terrain as you but one that awakens at dusk and flourishes in implausible obscurity, given its size, numbers, and vast distribution. It’s hard to prepare for the moment when a train of up to twenty vigorous wild boars of varying ages and bulk moves rapidly as a unit out of the variegated light in chestnut, oak, and...

  4. Chapter Two The Gift
    (pp. 4-17)

    On a typical fogbound evening, a Sunday just days before Christmas, our neighbor Monsieur Delanoe, a lean, elegant-looking Frenchman with striking white hair and neatly trimmed beard, presented me — I should say dropped in my lap — an unexpected gift: a black plastic garbage sack wrapped around an enormous piece of meat. It turned out to be the weighty shoulder, ribs, and loin of asanglier,as wild boars are called here. My wife, Mary, and I didn’t know it yet, but the near-black bristled fur was still attached, contrasting with the deep red flesh. We would discover a dreadful wound...

  5. Chapter Three Field Dressing
    (pp. 18-28)

    First you have to make sure that the boar is dead,” Jean-Pierre Bajon, our butcher, helpfully explained to us. I’d heard this warning before, and Monsieur Delanoe had an impressive moonlike scar on his hip to remind him of the danger. “Sometimes you have to shoot them again. Then, before anything else, if it’s a male, particularly an older male, you cut off its testicles. You have to cut them off very, very quickly. If you don’t, the flesh will taste of urine.”

    Having been initiated inadvertently into the world of butchering, Mary and I asked a genuine French expert...

  6. Chapter Four The Beast of Our Emotions
    (pp. 29-37)

    Throughout the ages, wild boars have elicited depictions of ferocity and cruelty that are epitomized by thirteenth-century Franciscan monk Bartholomaeus Anglicus in his bestiaryDe proprietatibus rerum(On the Order of Things):

    The boar is so fierce a beast, and also so cruel, that for his fierceness and his cruelness, he despiseth and setteth nought by death, and he reseth full piteously against the point of a spear of the hunter. And though it be so that he be smitten or sticked with a spear through the body, yet for the greater ire and cruelness in heart that he hath,...

  7. Chapter Five Boars in the Evolutionary Parade
    (pp. 38-46)

    So whatarewild boars anyway? This question led me into the fantastical world of taxonomy and an evolutionary parade of peculiar animals, one of which was an entelodont. This distant relative of the wild boar inhabited Europe, Asia, and western North America during the Oligocene and early Miocene periods. Certainly, the term “monster” would fit the rhino-sized omnivore, which stood up to seven feet at the shoulder and sported a three-foot-long head covered with bony protective lumps. An impressive display of enormous teeth completed the terrifying picture. Adrienne Mayor, folklorist and historian of science, dubbed them “Terminator Pigs.”


  8. Chapter Six Woodsmen and Boars
    (pp. 47-57)

    I admit that few things could be more absurd than a middle-aged man being jealous of his own mother who was moving into her late seventies. Surely some would be dismayed that the source of my jealousy was my mother’s uncanny luck in seeing boars all the time. Against all reason and financial sense, my mother bought a powder blue sports car. She’d speed on the country roads listening to progressive jazz with the top down and free-spirited wind whipping her long gray hair. She would practically run into boars wherever she went: boars on the way back from the...

  9. Chapter Seven The Noble Domain
    (pp. 58-70)

    I first visited the Château de Chambord some twenty years ago during the most frigid winter we’d ever lived through in France. Built on flat land and surrounded by an enormous forested park within the larger Forêt Domaniale de Boulogne, the chateau emerges suddenly in an open field, one astonishing building producing a dreamlike cityscape in winter silence. Integrating medieval and Renaissance architecture, the chateau was meant to evoke a utopian ideal, a model of a “celestial Jerusalem” or Constantinople. A medley of monumental turrets, elaborate chimneys resembling towers, conical and pitched roofs, large windows, ramparts, terraces, and staircases conspire...

  10. Chapter Eight Nights in the Forest
    (pp. 71-82)

    Two rousses, females, spotted me from a managed copse on the far side of a broad fallow field. To my surprise, instead of fleeing or receding into the trees, they came trotting straight over to greet me at a fence. They paused and lifted their snouts in an inquisitive fashion, taking a few exploratory sniffs. Their eyes were smallish but gentle, framed by long, soft lashes. One boar looked as if she’d visited the coiffure for a frost job; light, almost silvery bristles were streaked over dark brown fur.

    What did I have in the car to give them? Tic...

  11. Chapter Nine Myths and Monsters
    (pp. 83-93)

    Unlike other students who also elected to take Latin, I didn’t mind translatingDe Bello Gallico,Julius Caesar’s commentaries on the Gallic Wars. It wasn’t the warfare that attracted me so much as the lucidity of the writing; the people and places in history rose out of the original language of the ancients. The experience was entirely new. My Latin teachers, gentlemanly and somewhat otherworldly in a large urban school, must have explained that history, particularly where war was concerned, was often a self-serving invention of the victor. Still, everything I knew as a child about the Gauls came from...

  12. Chapter Ten Travels: Tuscany, Tyrrhenian Islands, and Boars
    (pp. 94-109)

    Mary had assumed that my enthusiasm for boars would be short-lived like my ephemeral interest in fly fishing after a couple of fruitless hours on a fished-out French river or mushrooming after learning of the accidental poisoning of a neighbor’s family. To her mind, I had observed enough boars to suit even the most avid boar buff. In addition, I had littered my desk with boar icons, some admittedly trashy, and tested the polite attention of our friends with boar prattle. Now, after scheming in front of my replica ofPorcellino,Pietro Tacca’s boar masterpiece that resides in Florence, I...

  13. Chapter Eleven The Divine Beast
    (pp. 110-120)

    Boars, mammoths, modern humans, and Neanderthals co-existed in the region where we have our country home. I hadn’t thought about this until I walked into a nearby church obscured in scaffolding and masonry dust and saw an elaborate display of man-made stone artifacts spanning from the early Pleistocene era to the beginning of the Holocene. The village of Saint-Privé is only eight miles from us and three miles from the storied chateau of Saint-Fargeau, where some halls are so cluttered with boar-and deer-trophy legs that the walls resemble cuneiform tablets.

    The Saint-Privé exhibition was meticulously arranged to show the technical...

  14. Chapter Twelve Beautiful Monsters Back Home
    (pp. 121-135)

    Zooming in on a satellite image of Matagorda, Texas, you see a complex convergence of water systems. The Colorado River, not to be confused with the western river with the same name, winds roughly south, skirting the Southwest Texas Nuclear Generating Station and its reservoir for the pressurized water reactors. The river then bends around the small gridlike town of Matagorda itself before finally culminating in an alluvial fan in Matagorda Bay. From space, the fan looks more like a green upside-down tree with swirls of yellow silt for branches.

    Before arriving in the bay, the river transects the busy...

  15. Chapter Thirteen Fête du Sanglier
    (pp. 136-148)

    Jean-marie boisgibault arrived at our door with his wife, Evelyne, on a cool but bright Sunday in November, when the air is rich with the odor of damp chestnut leaves on the place de l’Église. Jean-Marie, a sturdy, clean-shaven man, came to deliver a fully prepared, neatly wrapped wild boar rib roast as a gift. We couldn’t have been the only recipients of such gifts. Ribs, shoulders, loins, and thighs were probably distributed throughout the villages given the army of hunters in our area.

    The boar meat hardly differed from a pork rib roast straight from the butcher except that...

  16. Chapter Fourteen Julie
    (pp. 149-158)

    I have something that I know you will like,” Evelyne said. “I’ll bring it to you next weekend.”

    “What is it?” I asked, assuming it might be a book or photograph. “You’ll see.”

    Jean-Marie offered no clues, only one of his cagey half-smiles. We were seated on a freshly built porch, part of a large addition Jean-Marie’s team had constructed. Our friends, celebrating Jean-Marie’s good works, prepared a generous buffet of cheeses and charcuterie and plied us withcrémant.

    I had forgotten about Evelyne’s mysterious offer until, on the following Saturday morning, she startled me at our garden gate. Seeming...

  17. Recipes
    (pp. 159-170)

    Although none of us had cooked boar before our first Christmas feast, afterward my mother wanted to try her hand at a sanglier dish. Counter to the ardent and repeated advice to marinate or stew the meat, however, she was determined to target its essential flavor. She had an idea that you could take a classic standing rib-roast recipe and make it even more sumptuous with young boar meat. She was right.

    In the 1980s, the “low-fat diet” was triggered by fears that well-marbled, super-tender meat was responsible for obesity and heart disease. Public demand grew for white, lower-cholesterol, lower-calorie...

    (pp. 171-172)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 173-183)