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Remembering piney woods rooters
1126 echoes
Above is a feral hog, and their kind has roamed Effingham County and been a nuisance for generations. - photo by Photo provided

Do you remember piney woods rooters? If so, you are probably elderly. This was the name given to feral hogs many years ago. They were called this because they rooted around the base of trees in search of nourishment.

Most of the original piney woods feral breed was long and lean with a pointed snout and tusks (pointed teeth projecting from the sides of the mouth, up to five inches in length, with knifelike sharpness). The pointed snout was used to dig up soil to find bugs, roots and plant bulbs at the base of trees.

Boars were often called razorbacks because the hair on their backs bristled upward when the hog was threatened. They had a coarse mane of thick bristly hair running from the neck along the entire back that stood five or so inches high when threatened. The ears were more heavily haired than our domestic hogs are today.

Most wild hogs back in the day had a straight tail instead of curled one with a clump of hair on the end. When charging, the rooter usually raised the tail up in the air.

The piney woods rooters would often fight or charge if confronted. Each hog has 44 teeth with four continuously growing canine teeth called tusks. Each hog has a cartilage and scar tissue plate that grows on the front part of the body under the skin below the neck like a callous, which protects them from tusk wounds when the hogs fight. Ranging from one to two inches thick, it gets stronger with age.

These hogs roamed the woods and as a threat to man, they often wound up on the table. There were several varieties of wild or feral hogs: piney woods rooters, Russians, Chinese and hybrids. Russian hogs would run rather than fight most of the time. All interbred.

The piney woods hogs could be any color. Some were black, brown, red, white or a combination. Many were belted, mottled or spotted. Belted were usually dark with a white strip around the hog.

Feral hogs weighed much less than they do today. They do not have to forage for food as much today. Nowadays hunters boast stories of “hogzilla”-sized beasts weighing massive amounts. Many of the big ones were probably domesticated hogs that have become wild.

The piney woods hog’s origin may have begun when domesticated hogs got away from the Spanish in Florida and migrated north, or when the farmers failed to retrieve them from foraging.

Until about 1954, there were no fence laws in Effingham County. Farmers marked the ears of their hogs and let them roam in the day. Hogs usually came home to be fed and penned up at night. Domesticated livestock roamed in Springfield. Yards were fenced to keep the animals out. Even the courthouse was fenced to keep cows and hogs out.

Sometimes the hogs strayed never to return and those also became feral, breeding with piney woods rooters.

Today in Effingham County, farmers are suffering crop damage by large groups of feral hogs which multiply very rapidly. They forage mostly at night and are now fattened from our farmers’ crops they often destroy. Fields can be uprooted overnight so the farmer must be vigilant. Hog hunting is a popular sport and a necessity for the farmer to protect his crops. The meat is much better for consumption than the sinewy, strong, stringy meat of the old piney wood rooter.

Television shows now feature hog hunters for hire in places such as Texas that have become overrun. If those of you in rural areas wake one morning and see rooting all over your yard, you better go hunting and be cautious of the cantankerous feral hogs that can attack.

They have become a nuisance and the meat is popular, winding up on the tables in fancy restaurants in dishes with exotic names like tenderloin of wild boar in blueberry sauce, herbed cured pork belly or in specially-prepared sausages.

Whether you eat turkey or wild boar for Thanksgiving, enjoy fellowship with your loved ones.

Keep our soldiers who are unable to be at home in your prayers as well as their loved ones as they bravely fight for our freedom. Happy Thanksgiving to each of you from Historic Effingham Society!

Thanks to William Wingard Rahn for this topic for the article. This was compiled by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact her at 754-6681 or