A day in the life: Wild boar breeder Simon Gaskell of The Real Boar Company
PUBLISHED: 10:18 28 August 2015 | UPDATED: 10:21 28 August 2015
The popularity of local English charcuterie is on the rise, not least in the woodlands of the Cotswolds - we spoke to wild boar breeder Simon Gaskell to find out more about farming this native species
Why did you decide to keep wild boar?
We were living in Australia, 400 metres from the beach, and missing good old England and our families. I needed to do something utilising my farming and marketing experience and we had some woodland. Woodland pork was two a penny, but the land would not carry anything heavier in the wet, so Boar it was to be.
Have wild boar been a native species to the Cotswolds in the past?
Yes they were hunted out of England a couple of times over the last millennia and they would have graced these parts very happily before.
Can you describe your average day?
Nothing average about a day except, alas, the time I spend in the office! The animals themselves are an unruly mob. The boar need feeding and checking every day – that’s the fun part. The electric fence needs checking to keep them in – there is a double electric followed by a six foot fence as they are agile. Boar can weigh up to 20 stone, run 30 odd miles an hour and under pressure will scramble over a five foot metal gate. Once the animals are fed, there is usually something else on the farm to replace or do, before heading to the office to send out orders or drum up business.
What is the best part of your job?
Spending time with the boar is incredibly rewarding, to be so close to a wild animal that shows no similarity to its domestic cousins is a great experience – they are unpredictable and strong. I also enjoy the fairs I do in the Christmas period, selling our charcuterie and meeting the discerning foodies, it is always amazing how many people have a wild boar story.
Do you have a favourite boar story you could tell us about?
Julian, the implacable beast whose likeness adorns every tube of his home-grown wild boar salami, was a marvellous-looking fellow. But, I compared him to a great white shark. I knew he was out there in the woods somewhere and that all of a sudden he could charge me. Once he ripped through a bucket that I was holding, then went through my overalls, wellies and jeans, leaving me with a three-inch scar. I’ve had a broken hand and a finger that has never recovered from being bitten to the bone. He was a big aggressive bruiser.
Such violent incidents have become thankfully rare since Julian moved on. His replacement, Bert, is a lover not a fighter whose easy temperament has rubbed off on the breeding sows and associated offspring. I used to be astonished when I heard stories from boar farmers who could pat their animals – now I’ve got a boar I can pat.
Why do you think there has been a rise in popularity for local, British charcuterie?
In the old days, the English had stews and pots on the fires but did not have the weather for curing. It is only really in the last 15 years we have tried curing meat as the continentals do. There are some very accomplished curers out there, making delicious fare with innovative products. We all like finding something different and when it is good and from nearby it is a pleasure to enjoy and share it.
We’ve heard that wild boar is a relatively lean, healthy meat – could you tell us more about that?
The wild boar has a much bigger taste than pork as it takes up to four times longer to grow – meaning that their meat is leaner, with less saturated fat. It is more like game and high in protein. The boar live in the woodland foraging for fungi, grubs, seeds, apples and acorns, earthworms and beetles throughout the day. I feed them daily with some locally produced pignuts of wheat, barley and oats – the mixed diet helps to make their unique flavour.
What is your favourite product in The Real Boar Co range?
We have a core range of huge-tasting salamis and chorizo that I have never grown tired of in ten years of eating them. One of our seasonal flavours is archetypally English, wild boar with sloe gin – a fantastic mix with some sublime flavourings. Our Cigar Range of charcuterie comes quirkily boxed, a great present and delicious.
What are 5 need-to-know facts about wild boar?
1. The wild boar tail is pendulous, hanging down from its body, and can measure up to 40 cm in length. It is entirely covered in bristle forming a small quiff at its tip.
2. The male boar have four tusks: honours and rippers. They sharpen on each other every time they are opened.
3. When the animal is irritated or frightened the mane along its back becomes straightened, rendering the appearance of the boar larger and more solid than reality.
4. They are incredibly hardy and can cope with winters of minus 20°C to summers of above 40°C.
5. They are omnivores that live in sounders (herds) and build nests to have young in.
To taste The Real Boar Co range for yourself, head over to their Great British Life Shop.
Like this? Check out the recipe for wild boar salad with cherry beer dressing.