Releasing pigs to hoover up acorns is an old New Forest tradition that dates back to the time of William The Conqueror who founded the forest in 1079. This traditional New Forest practice is called Pannage, also known as ‘Common of Mast’. The New Forest is now one of the only locations that still practices pannage, where you can see pigs roaming around in the open forest.
Pannage season this year started on the 13th of September and usually runs for around 60 days. The start of the season varies according to the weather and when the acorns fall.
Pannage is the practice of turning out domestic pigs in a wood or forest in order that they may feed on fallen acorns, beech mast, chestnuts or other nuts. Historically, it was a right or privilege granted to local people on common land, and it is still an important part of the forest ecology. It not only fattens the porkers but helps the husbandry of the other New Forest livestock – pigs can safely eat acorns as a large part of their diet, whereas excessive amounts are poisonous to ponies and cattle due to the tannic acid.
There isn’t a specific breed of New Forest pig however The Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Wessex Saddleback, and the British Saddleback are all breeds of pig that you may find in the forest each year. The commoners must pay a fee for each pig which is marked with an ear tag. Every pig released must be fitted with a ring through its nose, which enables it to forage through leaves and surface vegetation and not root into the grounds with their snouts, causing damage to the forest floors.
It has been long established that the finest pork around the world comes from free-range pigs fed on a diet of acorns (Iberico Jamon from Spain and Portugal). But you don’t need to travel that far from home to get delicious locally sourced pork and you can buy pannage pork at farm shops and butchers across the New Forest.
Remember when travelling around the New Forest to follow the New Forest Code and to #Add3Minutes to journeys to prevent accidents involving free-roaming animals. For further information regarding the pannage season, please contact the Verderers’ office on 023 8028 2052.
If you would like to know more about what life is like in The New Forest come and chat with our friendly team of estate agents in the New Forest.