In a cleaning event at the Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus, a feral hog skull was rediscovered. I’m not sure how old the skull is, but it was in need of repair to stabilize it for future conservation education programs with the 3 Rivers Foundation.
To start the cleaning process I placed the skull in a bucket of bleach to whiten, clean off dirt, and remove the lasting bits muscle. This process took several days. After it was fully cleaned it was allowed to dry thoroughly.
I then glued the fragile bones back in place, as well as the teeth. I even went back and reglued several areas to ensure everything was set. The final touch was applying several coats of clear sealant to help preserve the skull even more. Its still a fragile skull, but the teaching opportunities will be immeasurable, especially given one of the major the secret’s the skull holds.
As I was working during the regluing stage, I wondered how could I tell if it was a boar or sow skull. It took a bit of research but I soon discovered that it was a young boar skull. The mystery was solved by the holes on the sides of the lower mandible. The tips of the terminal end of the tooth root are known as the root apex. The root apex of this skull goes to the second molar. Viola – boar! A female’s root apex only goes to under the first to third premolar.
In researching a bit further I discovered that when they are born both sexes of feral hogs already have deciduous or milk teeth. We all know that male and female wild hogs have tusks and use them for defense. Boars have a tendency to slash and stab with their tusks, while sows would rather bite.
Feral pigs have a total of 44 permanent teeth. The top teeth are hollow and serve as a grinding machine for the longer lower teeth, which continue to grow throughout the animal’s life. For teaching, purposes to show this other secret of their skull I left out one of the upper teeth to illustrate the hollowness of their teeth. These teeth remain hollow except in very old pigs.
Another secret the skull shows is how small their eyes are. Eye sockets of feral hogs are very small which gives them poor vision.
Some other interesting scientific facts about feral hogs you might now know:
- Early Spanish explorers were the best bets for introducing hogs in Texas over 300 years ago.
- Feral hogs are unprotected, exotic, non-game animals. They can be hunted all year long, with no bag limits and taken by any method, as long as it’s not your car. A hunting license and landowner permission are needed.
- Feral hogs travel in family groups called sounders, comprised normally of two sows and their young.
- Feral hogs are omnivorous. Meaning they do eat both meat and plants.
- Feral hogs can carry a lot of potential diseases and include pseudorabies, swine brucellosis, tuberculosis, bubonic plague, tularemia, hog cholera, foot and mouth disease, and anthrax. Scary, huh?
- Capable of producing at least two litters per year.
- Current estimated population in Texas is about 1.5 million feral hogs.
- Pigs don’t sweat.