If you are one of those Texans who get annoyed at that herd of does in your flower bed or the rutting buck that kamikazes into your Tahoe, consider yourself on notice: Things are about to get worse. Much worse. With a population now exceeding 2.6 million, feral hogs in Texas have hit critical mass. Females can have up to two litters a year, with an average of five to six piglets each, and they are outbreeding deer, humans, and every other large mammal in the state. Like many creatures of the night, they roam in packs, long-toothed and short-tempered, willing to eat nearly anything, including their young. Picture a smellier version of the zombie hordes from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, running 30 miles an hour and not particularly caring whether they eat your brains or your leg.
If you were to invent the perfect invasive animal, you could not do much better than a hog. Smarter than dogs and as fast as deer, they are also extremely tough. While many of the stories about bulletproof hogs are apocryphal, some of the larger boars do have a gristle plate that will stop a bullet fired from a handgun—my father once shot one with a .357 Magnum, only to watch the animal shake it off and walk away. J. Frank Dobie wrote about frontiersmen flattening rifle balls against those same gristle plates.
Pigs, along with horses and cattle, were introduced to North America by the Spanish, who probably did not realize that this hardy food animal would eventually cause $400 million a year in damage, overrunning our state’s city parks, backyards, and cemeteries. Columbus dropped a few off in the West Indies in 1493; de Soto introduced them to Texas about fifty years later. Though some claim that the introduction of Russian boars in the early twentieth century made the pigs more aggressive, the truth is that they have always had an attitude problem. The Greek mythological figure Adonis was killed by a wild boar; at least three Roman legions used the boar as their symbol. Having been charged several times in the Piney Woods, I can attest that things have not changed much,