16 November 2014

A "sounder" of wild boars

But first, if you comment here regularly, maybe you've had trouble getting Blogger to let you post your comments lately. Several people have written to me over the past few weeks to tell me they are frustrated with Blogger's comment feature.

So I've made a change. Now I've made it possible for any and all to leave comments, even if they are anonymous and don't have a Google or other account. And instead of turning on the word verification feature, which requires the commenter to decipher some basically illegible set of numbers or letters, I've just turned on comment moderation.

That means that every time anyone leaves a comment, I get it by e-mail first, and then I can choose whether to publish it on the blog or not. So don't be surprised if your comment doesn't appear immediately after you leave it. I keep up with my e-mails hour by hour most days, and I'll publish your comment ASAP (unless it's very rude, of course LOL).

Sangliers in French are what we call wild boars in English. They are native to Europe and Asia, and they have been introduced to North America over the centuries. There are quite a few of them around here, especially up to the north and east of us in the forested area called La Sologne.

We have seen boars around here before. Nine or ten years ago, when we were young and foolish, Walt and I drove up to Paris to spend an afternoon at the movies and an evening with a friend (Mimi) who was visiting Paris from Boston. We took her to dinner at Le Petit Prince de Paris, a nice restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and we had a great time. The weather was rainy and blustery, but who cared? We ended up leaving Paris at about 11 p.m. to make the drive back to Saint-Aignan, where we had left the dog closed up in the house (poor thing).

We drove down toward Orléans in heavy rain and a real windstorm. We saw one scary car accident on the way, with half a dozen police cars and ambulances along the road, all their lights flashing. At least one car had run off the road and was just visible down in a low wooded area. There might have been another, or other, cars involved. After Orléans, there were a lot of tree branches down on the roadway that parallels the Loire down to Blois, so we had to drive slowly and try to avoid running into or over the biggest of them.

Before Blois, we turned south, crossing the Loire on a narrow bridge that took us toward and around the Château de Chambord. Along that road, we saw a lot of big animals. There were deer, large and small, standing along the edge of the pavement. We saw at least one fox, and we saw a boar or two. Big white owls would suddenly take flight at the approach of our headlights, rising up out of ditches or brush along the shoulder and looking, in the beam from our headlights, like something out of a wild dream.

As we got close to Saint-Aignan, we drove through a wooded area (La Forêt de Gros-Bois) between Saint-Romain and Noyers-sur-Cher, not more than 6 or 8 kilometers from our house. It was between 2 and 3 in the morning by this time. Suddenly, we saw in the headlights a big boar emerge from the woods and start to run across the road in front of us. It was close enough that I had to slow down but not so close that I was worried about running into it.

And then we saw that behind the adult boar were several young ones (they're called marcassins) running across the road in single file. There were four or five of them, and they ran behind the adult that I assume was their mother, jumping, one by one, over the ditch that parallels the road there. All except for the last one, that is. That one suddenly froze in panic and turned and ran back to the opposite side of the road from the rest of its family.

We drove slowly on and got home safe and sound at about 3 a.m. The dog was glad to see us, and we swore we would never be so silly as to drive to Paris again. Or at least not to drive back to Saint-Aignan in the wee hours of the morning in a storm.

Anyway, just a couple of years ago we were driving through that same stretch of woods at about 7:30 one evening and we saw a group of at least half a dozen wild boars standing on the side of the road, probably waiting to cross over. It was already pretty dark, but I was still surprised to see boars at that early hour of the night.

Well, this past Wednesday I drove over to Romorantin, the closest big town, where there is a major shopping area. I needed some new hiking boots, and I wanted to get a new set of hubcaps for the car. I also wanted to do some grocery shopping in the new Centre Leclerc superstore over there.

Most of the drive to Romo, as we call it, is on a straight stretch of highway that runs east, parallel to the Cher River and along the southern edge of the forested Sologne region. It's an easy 25-mile drive. There was some road work around Selles-sur-Cher, but it didn't slow me down much. Six or eight miles farther along, I was driving with no cars ahead of me and no oncoming traffic when I saw a mass of black animals on the edge of the road.

The herd of animals (a herd of boars is evidently called a "sounder" in English and « une compagnie » in French) was about a hundred yards (meters) up the road from me when I noticed it. Suddenly it started moving as a single entity. From my viewpoint, it looked like a black mass that slowly lengthened as the individual animals ran across the road, almost in single file. I wondered if the animals were sheep — but they were too dark in color.

I was close enough to see the movement of legs under the animals' massive bodies, but not so close that I really had to slow down much. My first thought was that it was a flock of sheep. But it was a group of boars, at least a dozen and many as many as twenty of them. The ran across the road and jumped up an embankment of the opposite side, disappearing one by one through a hedge. It was over in a few seconds. Since I was driving, I couldn't take any photos.

As the animals disappeared into the hedge, one stayed behind, standing up on the top of the embankment looking back across the road, probably making sure that all the others had successfully crossed. That boar pushed through the hedge and disappeared just as I approached. So I got a good look at it.

It was about 10 a.m. and therefore broad daylight. I was really surprised to see a compagnie de sangliers out at that hour. I wonder if they're numbers are on the rise around our region.


  1. While we don't have boar, we do have wild pigs and they can be massive and very dangerous. The average person will never see one though. I used to hate word verification but it isn't at all illegible now, often just three or four clear numbers.

  2. Yeah for being able to tell you how much I love your blog!

  3. What a storyteller you are Ken! Love the tale of the drive from Paris, the way you tell it.
    We've seen huge family parties of boar in the Brenne. We have a favourite spot overlooking a lake with a background of reeds and once we saw three large families there, in broad daylight. The hunting associations organise a "drive" every so often to try to keep the numbers down. They do a lot of damage to crops, and in car vs boar it's often the boar that walks away, leaving the car a write-off in a ditch and the driver and passengers with serious injuries or worse. Most in this region are pure native wild boar, but some are the result of escapees from farms, both boar and domestic pig. The pig genome makes for even bigger boars. "Boarzilla" was a pig, though. Pauline

    1. Pauline, the story just spewed forth... now that I can type again. That account is my memory of that special night. And of that morning last week. Why did the boars cross the road? To get to the other side. Tee-hee.

  4. I like the collective noun... "sounder"... it makes the hunting horns ring in my imagination. [Tim, this time]

    1. I didn't hear any hunting horns near Romo the other day, but I had the impression I could hear the clatter of thr boars' hooves on the road surface.

  5. To: BettyAnn: I received your comment on e-mail. When I tapped on the Publish button, nothing happened. I tried again. No luck. But I still had the e-mail. so I copied and pasted the text. Here it is:

    It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a boar, or twenty, ran out! You and Walt have some great experiences and I'm so glad you share them with us.

    Here's my reply: I remember the day few years ago when you and your friend Danièle came over to spend the evening. What wild weather we had that day! Hurricane force winds, blinding bolts of lightning, deafening thunder, the roof falling in! I'm telling the truth, no? It was a dark and stormy night, wasn't it?



  6. Ahh.... okay, I think I sent my comment twice yesterday, thinking that it didn't appear because I was still having difficulties getting used to the system using the new iPad mini. Sorry about that :) I'm now using my great, big-screen i-Mac.... so much easier to use a real keyboard.

    I, too, just really enjoyed your story. How amazing to me to think of traveling through the woods, first of all, then having wild boar families, and white owls, along with lots of deer, joining you here and there on your journey. What a difference from suburban American life, eh? :)

  7. Glad to get your comment and see it come thru the comment-moderation process intact, Judy. Yes, life out here is different. I love it. Deer, foxes, badgers, boars, pheasants, great white owls, and all.

  8. We had that experience around 10 in the morning as we drove through the Forest of Brotonne. The biggest boar came across the road first, and I've read since then that it's the oldest female who leads. We had to stop and wait since there were so many, mostly little ones.

    We were told that few people are killed in a boar-car collision, but the cars can be totaled. Fatalities occur when a driver swerves and hits a tree.

  9. Hi Ken, what a wonderful story! Glad to hear that you finger has recovered, and you can type more easily.

  10. Hi Christine, I don't know if you realized that the evening when we saw the group of boars on the roadside at about 7:30 p.m. was when you, A., W., and I were driving from our house up to Victor's Manoir de Contres for dinner.

    1. I did not make that connection, but now that you mention it, I do recall you telling us.

  11. I remember studying the "boar warning" sign when I was getting my French driver's license and wondering what I was getting into!

  12. On one if our many journeys home to the UK we saw a wild boar running as fast as it could away from a wood which was not far from the motorway. Hunters in dayglow jackets were dotted around the edge of the wood but this one had had a lucky escape into the field.
    It was a comical sight and we found ourselves cheering him on!
    I understand the need to keep numbers under control but can't really reconcile that with the suffering of animals, even great ugly things like wild boar, if it's not a clean kill.

  13. Yes, Ken, that was a wild nice when Danielle and I were there but you, Walt and Cheryl made it very warm and homey with good wine, food and conversation.
    (testing to see if my comment posts properly)

  14. Amazing Ken! My drought has broken in a much less alarming way. A deer on Friday, then two deer and two hare tonight. What's next!?

  15. Boars, Sue. Lots of 'em. Be careful.


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