Feral hogs, also called feral swine, may vary in shape and color. The majority of feral hogs in Missouri are mutts with genetic combinations that include Russian or Eurasian wild boar (razorbacks), an assortment of domestic varieties such as Yorkshire, Hampshire, or Duroc, and even pot-bellied pigs. The resulting offspring exhibit a variety of shapes and colors including gray, red, black, blond, spotted, and belted.
All have small eyes, large triangular ears, and a long snout ending in a large, round nose. They have a thick coat of coarse, bristly hair, which they can erect along their spine, lending them the common name “razorback.” Most feral hogs have longer bristles than their domestic ancestors, but shorter hair than those of purebred Russian boars.
Boars (males) develop a thick, tough layer of cartilage (sometimes called a “shield”) over the shoulders, and they have four sharp tusks that grow continuously, often reaching 5 inches before they break or become worn from use. The bottom tusks are formidable weapons used for defense and to establish dominance during breeding.
What’s the difference between feral hogs and domestic pigs? In Missouri, a feral hog is defined as any swine that is born, is living, or has lived in the wild and the offspring of such swine. “In the wild” means not confined by humans to pens, houses, or other facilities designed to hold swine and prevent their escape.
Height: to 3 feet at the shoulder; length: to 5 feet; weight: to 400 pounds, but most sows average 110 pounds and boars 130 pounds.
Populations are established in several Missouri counties. Sightings occur across the state.
Habitat and Conservation
Populations are small, isolated, and typically in remote, rugged terrain. Feral hogs require abundant water and spend much time near seeps, ponds, and streams. Problems caused by feral hogs increased in the 1990s when hogs escaped confinement or were released intentionally on public land. By 2000 private landowners were reporting significant damage.
Feral hogs have a keen sense of smell and are opportunistic feeders. They forage heavily on acorns and compete directly with native species such as deer and turkey for this important fall food. They also commonly eat the eggs of ground-nesting birds and anything else they encounter, including reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals. They have also been known to kill and eat a variety of wildlife, including deer fawns.
Feral hogs can breed any time of year. Females can be mature at 6 months and produce two litters of one to seven piglets every 12–15 months. As a result, feral hog populations can double in four months. Although some piglets die within their first three months, feral hogs generally live to age four or five and sometimes to age eight. Feral hogs are mostly nocturnal. Sows and pigs often travel in groups called "sounders."
Feral hogs damage property and can spread disease to humans, pets, and livestock.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that feral swine cause approximately $1.5 billion in damages and control costs nationwide annually.
If you see a feral hog, please report it to 573-522-4115, extension 3296, or online at mdc.mo.gov/feralhog. Anyone who witnesses someone releasing feral hogs should report it to the local conservation agent or call Operation Game thief toll-free at 1-800-392-1111.
Feral hogs pose a serious concern to land owners and managers. Their rooting, wallowing, and feeding behaviors erode soil, reduce water quality, and damage agricultural crops and hay fields, as well as destroy sensitive natural areas such as glades, fens, and springs.
Signs and Tracks
- 2½ inches long
- 2 hooves
- Dewclaws sometimes showing as small crescents beside and behind hoof prints.
- 2½ inches long
- 2 hooves
- Dewclaws sometimes show as dots beside and behind hoof prints.
- Feral populations occur statewide but are usually small, isolated, and generally live in remote, rugged terrain.
- Distinguished from other two-hoofed tracks by the blunt toe tips that also tend to spread.
- Distinguished from deer by shorter length and more parallel hooves.
- The hind tracks often appear just ahead of the front tracks.
- Distance of stride is 18 inches, varying with gait.