Pannage in the New Forest
Watch out for piggies on the road this autumn!
The pigs of the New Forest play a vital part in the eco-system. Every autumn, when the acorns, chestnuts and various other nuts have fallen from their trees, up to 600 domestic pigs (usually owned by commoners) are let out onto the New Forest National Park for up to 60 days, to clear away and eat the nuts. This is called ‘pannage' or ‘common of mast’, and it is important because many of the nuts are poisonous to other animals in the New Forest, such as cattle and ponies.
The New Forest National Park is one of the few places that still carries out the tradition, which dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, when they would use up to 6,000 pigs! Nowadays between 200 and 600 pigs are turned out as the number owned by commoners has fallen. The event is a great sight and makes for excellent photos - a walk in the forest to remember.
Commoners pay a token fee for each pig they turn out. Each pig is marked with an identity tag in its ear and has a ring put through its nose to reduce the damage to the Forest caused by rooting.
The 2019 Pannage season starts on Monday 9 September and ends on 10 November.
The pannage season in the New Forest is usually 60 days and the start of the season varies according to the weather and when the acorns fall. The Court of Verderers decides when pannage will start each year.
Pigs have right of way on the roads!
Free-ranging pigs have right of way on the roads, just like the ponies, donkeys and cattle on the Forest. The pigs, though domesticated, are not tame and the same respect (probably more so) that you would show to any of the other free-roaming animals should be extended to them. Please do NOT touch or feed the animals.
If you are really lucky during pannage season you may see some of the old English breeds of pig, such as Large White, Tamworth, Berkshire or British Saddleback. During this time of year you may also find local shops selling pig-shaped chocolates, cakes and biscuits in celebration of this country tradition – for those who like their pigs more sweet than salt.
Find out more about Pannage: https://youtu.be/Cn8ri56LFro or click on the image below which will take you to this short film by the New Forest National Park Authority.
Images: Steve Elson
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