Wild Boar and Italian Food: It’s a Delicacy but it’s also Destructive

Wild boar meat, found in stews and pasta dishes in Tuscany, has been used as a component of the region’s hearty cooking for centuries. But this meat source is destroying land and disrupting the ecosystem. Intermixing of boars and local pigs add to the problem and now the scrappy creatures have taken over the area around the sustainable farm, bed and breakfast and villa know as Tenuta di Spannocchia in Chiusdino, Italy.

Spannocchia is a jumble of time eras. The main complex is maze like and the oldest portion is the squat medieval tower. The rooms built off the tower are from increasingly newer areas with the newest section built some time in the 1800s. Today, the villa has modern plumbing but beyond that, it retains the feel of an old Italian villa. The lands surrounding the villa are beautiful and the farm produces the majority of the food it eats– although that has become increasingly difficult.

Randall Stratton, a trustee of the Spannocchia Foundation and co-owner/general manager of the Spannocchia farm has watched as the boar population has grown over the past 20 years. Today, boar aren’t afraid to come right onto the property of Spannocchia.

“At 2:30 in the morning, I looked out my window and 15 feet from me was a boar rooting up my lawn,” Stratton said.

But boars destroy the agriculture of the area as well. Boars are strong and will push under or through fences. The farm has been unable to grow cereal crops for two years now because of the invasive boar species, Stratton said.

In the 1920s and 30s different strains of boar were introduced into Italy, Stratton said, because they were bigger and repopulated more quickly than the indigenous species. These new boar interbred with domestic pigs, the offspring of which were able to produce twice the amount of piglets twice as often. This explosive growth hasn’t been restrained by natural predators.

“Wolves and men were the natural predators,” Stratton said. But, wolves prefer to hunt docile sheep, a common animal raised in the area, rather than wild boar. That leaves men, but because of local politics, and because the farm is on a nature preserve, no one is allowed to hunt in the area.

“To not have any hunting at all is unnatural,” Stratton said.
Besides eating the cereal crops, the boar have worked into the fruit orchard, eaten the fruit, broken the branches off of the trees and have rooted around the swimming pool looking for worms and bugs.

For now there is no solution to the boar problem and Spannocchia continues to protect its gardens with strong fences. If you visit the Tuscan region of Italy, be sure to try a pasta dish with boar meat. It is a specialty of the region and one less boar is a good thing for the land.