If you see a pig running round the woods and commons on your visit to the New Forest today – or for the next few months – don’t assume there’s been a farm breakout.
It’ll just be one – or maybe even five or six – of our unique Pannage pigs, set free to snaffle up all the acorns, beech mast and chestnuts that have started falling to the forest floor as we head into autumn.
Pannage, or Common of Mast as it’s sometimes known, is understood to be unique to the New Forest and serves two purposes. Firstly, it helps rid the woodlands of acorns which can be toxic to ponies if eaten in quantity – every year some unfortunate ponies die from ingesting acorns. And secondly it allows the pigs which do eat the acorns (they spit out the toxic skins), to develop a fine, nutty taste and a more marbled meat than farm-bred animals, which comes about because of the additional exercise the pigs get running on the forest.
Pannage pork is much-prized by chefs, both in the New Forest and around the UK, not just for its taste but it’s free-roaming provenance.
The pigs can be spotted anywhere in the New Forest – even strolling through the villages – but your best chance of seeing one is in one of our oak woodlands where the best acorns fall.
They should not be touched, crowded or fed – a sow can be aggressive in defence of her young – but they are used to human presence and make wonderful photographs, so keep your camera handy!
Celebrate the Pannage season as part of the New Forest Food and Drink Festival with a six-course tasting menu at Cambium, Carey’s Manor Hotel, Brockenhurst on November 3.
For more information and to book, visit our Pannage Pig theme page.
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