How were wild pigs treated by medieval and early modern Islamic states?

In Medieval states wild pigs were hunted. Sometimes they were hunted somewhat casually, for food or to control their numbers (they can be quite disruptive of crops). They were also hunted formally and ritualistically. The wild boar was a dangerous quarry.

A Royal hunt for wild boar was an occasion for men to display their valor and an invitation was an honor.

Here is how a Royal boar hunt would have proceeded:

Before the day of the Royal Hunt, the huntsmen would have taken their lymers (a type of dog valued for scenting skills) and scouted the terrain, hoping to find where game might be located. The lymers were on long leashes, and trained to be silent. Their purpose was to detect the whereabouts of quarry so the hunt could be planned. This preparation for the hunt was called “the Quest”.

On the day of the hunt, the hunting party and any spectators planning to ride along would gather at breakfast. The huntsman would explain the terrain and what game had been detected in the area. The hunt would be planned. This was called “The Assembly”.

Relays of dogs would be positioned in places where the quarry might run, so that fresh dogs could take up the chase if necessary. These dogs might be a mix of scent hounds (known as “running hounds” –somewhat resembling modern foxhounds) and sight hounds (usually “alaunts”, if the quarry was boar – this was a breed of dog resembling a greyhound (greyhounds were used for smaller and less dangerous quarry) but larger and more robust).

The hunting party would station itself in a central location (or several) to wait for the chase to begin.

The quarry would be found (usually by lymers catching the scent) and then chased, by releasing the nearest dogs to track and harry it. Once the dogs were on the scent, the mounted hunting party would follow the chase. The hunters would generally be mounted on “coursers”, a breed of horse smaller, and more agile than “destriers”, or war horses.

The chase could last a while, or could split the hunting party in different directions if a “sounder” (herd) of boar had been found and then split up. Additional groups of the dogs, which had been previously positioned, could be released if the original dogs tired, or parts of the sounder fled in different directions.

When the quarry was surrounded or tired it would turn “at bay”. The hounds would bay frantically and attempt to attack or contain the boar. Members of the hunting party who had managed to stay close to the chase would ride as fast as they could to attempt to reach the scene before too many dogs were killed or injured or the quarry broke out to run again.

There were many ways to try to kill the boar, including bows and crossbows, spears from horseback, but in the most formal and ritualistic hunts (which a royal hunt was likely to be – known as hunting “par force”) it was customary for the most prominent man in the immediate hunting party which had come upon the quarry at bay to dismount and attempt to kill the boar with a spear or sword.

The “boar spear” might have been the most common weapon used when hunting boar. This was a spear with a cross-guard on the shaft (to prevent a speared boar from charging up the spear shaft and mauling the hunter even as it died). Using a sword was much more dangerous to the hunter, but it was sometimes done.

Here is a description in verse (from “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”) of the finish of a boar hunt (the boar is at bay in a stream) by Lord Bercilak with a sword:

       The swine springs out swiftly, straight at the lord,
 So that the brave one and the boar were both locked together
       In the wildest current of the water; the worst had that other,
       For the man marks him well when they met at first,
       Set surely the sharp sword straight in the slot, 
       Shoved it up to the hilts, so that the heart split,
       And he, with frantic yowling, yielded and floated downstream, 
       in fright. 
       A hundred hounds amassed;    
       That beast they then did bite.   
       On the field the creature was cast,  
       And dogs slew him on that site.           (Sir Gawain 1589-1600)

Boar hunting was dangerous. King Philip IV of France, for example, died from falling off his horse when he was charged by a boar. Hunting “par force” was more dangerous than other forms of hunting boar, and hunting “par force” with a sword instead of a boar spear was even more dangerous. Still, boar hunting was undoubtedly far more dangerous for the boar than it was for the hunters.


/r/AskHistorians Thread