Snout and about in the New Forest

Visitors to the New Forest in Hampshire might expect to see roaming cattle and iconic ponies, but each autumn there’s another centuries-old wildlife treat in store… pig spotting.

From September to November, domestic pigs are free to roam the New Forest to forage for seasonal acorns and nuts with hundreds of the animals rooting around, hoovering-up fallen fruit.

Known as Pannage, this ancient practice of releasing pigs into a forest dates back to the time of William the Conqueror. Once common across the country, the New Forest National Park is one of the few places that still carries out the tradition.

At its height, during the 19th century, around 6,000 pigs were let loose, but today up to 600 are set free each autumn.

Pigs and piglets work their way through the forest eating acorns and nuts, many of which are poisonous to horses and cows. It is the only time of year that the pigs are allowed to ‘roam’ the open forest, the rest of the time they are kept in their smallholdings.

Until 17 November, when Pannage season ends, visitors can often spot the animals around Bramshaw village, on the northern edge of the National Park or roaming around near the deer park at Bolderwood.

Like all animals in the New Forest, pigs have right of way on the roads and visitors are always advised to view the pigs from a safe distance as they can bite.

And this year, for the first time, ham made from pigs released into the Forest has been granted full protected geographical indication (PGI) status, putting it on a par with Melton Mowbray pork pies and Welsh leeks. New Forest pannage ham now holds full protected geographical indication (PGI) status.

For those with a sweet tooth, during the Pannage season local artisan bakeries and farm shops also sell piggy-shaped biscuits.

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Photos: Visit Hampshire