Barr the Boars by Cody Weiser
Trophy boar hunting has exploded in popularity over the last few years. The wild boar is by far North America's premiere dangerous game animal. Every week I hear of new scent, sound, or food attractants that are hitting the market to aid in bagging trophy boars. At the same time, I am constantly speaking to boar hunters about long term boar management practices. There is one concern that arises on a regular basis when it comes to trophy boar management.
I am told time and time again that the number one disappointment when large boars are harvested is that one or both of the boar's tusks are broken off. This seems to be the case more often than not. Hunters are concerned because this dramatically decreases the trophy quality and value of the animal. I'm frequently asked, "What, if anything, can be done to reduce the number of boars in an area with broken tusks?" My answer is always the same, "Barr the boars."
Barr" is a some-what slang term that refers to a castrated boar. This article will not be a "how to" article, but instead will focus on the theory and supporting reasons why "castration and release" is a superb tool to use in any trophy wild boar management program.
First, we need to develop an understanding of why a boar's tusks are so frequently broken.
Tusks are the main weapons of defense against anything and everything that stands in his way. They are razor sharp devices that are capable of inflicting fatal wounds to any foe. The tusks keep their edge by grinding on the whetters (top tusks). When you hear a hog popping its jaws and grinding its teeth, it is doing one thing... sharpening its swords for battle! This sharpening action grinds the tusks down, making them weak and thin and eventually causing them to break. Boars can break their tusks during normal activities such as rooting, but the major reason for tusk breakage is the fighting between two boars over territory and breeding rights.
These fights can span the spectrum from minor pushing matches that are over in seconds, to extreme bouts that can last for over an hour. In some cases these fights result in the death of one or even both boars. Boars use their phenomenal neck and shoulder strength to push and hook opponents. The tusks act as daggers, stabbing and slashing their rivals with every blow. These actions are intense and exert enormous amounts of pressure and torque that can cause tusks to snap like twigs.
With that said, it makes sense to conclude that if we can get boars to stop fighting, the amount of broken-tusked boars would dramatically decrease. How do we do that? "Barr the boars." There is one key ingredient that is the spark that ignites the fighting flame in every wild boar. It is the male hormone testosterone. Without testosterone a boar loses all interest in females, territory, and most importantly, fighting. Also, once a boar is castrated, he no longer has the ability to cover his stomach and legs with semen and urine. This is what a boar does when he is breeding and what creates the unique (hard to forget) boar smell. This scent is what tells other hogs that he is ready and willing to breed. It acts as a "slap in the face" to a dominant boar when another boar enters his territory with the intentions of breeding. Once a boar is castrated and does not have this scent, then he is just another pig in the group and poses no threat to the dominant boars of the area. This allows for multiple trophy class animals to exist in the same general area at the same time.
Castration performed at an early age carries other benefits as well. When a young boar is castrated, all sexual development ceases immediately. This allows all growth and energy to be focused on physical attributes. A barr will grow much faster and larger than a boar. Barrs also seem to produce larger, thicker tusks. Some people also remove the whetters when they castrate young boars, but I personally do not believe that to be necessary. The tusks on the barrs that I have seen are very thick and seem to hold up fine with the whetters intact.
Barr meat is also excellent table fare. The meat from a barr that was castrated at a young age is free of the strong gamey odor that most older boar possess. Many large boars are considered inedible, but meat from a barr is the most desirable pork in the woods.
Castration should only be performed on young boars, preferably when the hog is just a few months old. I would never recommend performing the procedure on a boar over a year of age. Outdoorsmen should remember never to castrate boars when the temperature is too hot. The stress of the procedure, along with the heat can sometimes be too harsh and result in the death of the animal. Castration should only be performed by someone who knows what he or she is doing. Sterile equipment should be used at all times, and applying a wound dressing powder or spray is recommended.
It is totally a personal preference when deciding how many boars to barr. In cases where people are trapping, I recommend this:
When a trap is filled with a set of obvious litter mates (example: 5 young boars and 2 gilts), I would choose the healthiest, best looking boar and release him for a breeder along with both gilts. I would then castrate the remaining four boars and release them to grow. This allows for only the best genes to be passed on to the next generation while at the same time cutting down on problems caused by extensive inbreeding.
If trophy boar management is your goal, and you are interested in dramatically increasing the number of big tuskers in your management areas, then incorporating a castration program is definitely the way to go. Adding barrs to your area will allow you to increase the number of trophy quality animals available while at the same time giving them a double value of trophy and meat. It will also decrease the number of opponents that the dominant boars in your area will have to "square off" with. This will kill two boars with one stone. It will cut down on the number of boars with broken tusks and at the same time increase the number of trophy boars present in your area. Remember, what we do in the present lays the foundation for the hunts of the future.