The Golden-Bristled Boar
Last Ferocious Beast of the Forest
Publication Year: 2011
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’s Porcellino and 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 folktale Beauty 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."
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Frontispiece
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ONE: La Compagnie
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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...
TWO: The Gift
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On a typical fogbound evening, a Sunday just days before Christmas, our neighbor Monsieur Delanoe, a lean, elegantlooking Frenchman with striking white hair and neatly trimmed beard, presented me—I should say dropped in my lap—an...
THREE: Field Dressing
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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...
FOUR: The Beast of Our Emotions
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Throughout the ages, wild boars have elicited depictions of ferocity and cruelty that are epitomized by thirteenth-century Franciscan monk Bartholomaeus Anglicus in his bestiary De proprietatibus rerum (On the Order of Things):...
FIVE: Boars in the Evolutionary Parade
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So what are wild 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...
SIX: Woodsmen and Boars
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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...
SEVEN: The Noble Domain
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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...
EIGHT: Nights in the Forest
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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...
NINE: Myths and Monsters
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Unlike other students who also elected to take Latin, I didn’t mind translating De 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...
TEN: Travels: Tuscany, Tyrrhenian Islands, and Boars
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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...
ELEVEN: The Divine Beast
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Boars, mammoths, modern humans, and Neanderthals coexisted 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...
TWELVE: Beautiful Monsters Back Home
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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...
THIRTEEN: Fête du Sanglier
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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...
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Jean-Marie off ered 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 buff et of cheeses and charcuterie and...
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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...
Sources and Acknowledgments
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011