Although hog numbers weren’t consequential on the Spanish mission livestock inventories in Texas (in fact, swine were rarely mentioned) hogs were nevertheless introduced to the region courtesy of colonization. Hogs, being an Old World species, couldn’t have arrived to the New World any other way. But once the state’s hog population finally got started it had nowhere to go but up. Reports as early as 1819 observe hogs among the settlements near Nacogdoches and, within a few years, swine were the most common livestock across the region. As a general rule, livestock was allowed to range free throughout the countryside, a factor that played a primary role in the “hogs gone wild” calamity the early Texas settlers began to experience.
By 1834, sixty thousand hogs were listed on the Nacogdoches livestock census and pork, salted and fried, was a daily feature on settlers’ menus. But apparently the early Texans couldn’t eat enough. Traveling through Texas on horseback, Fredrick Olmstead (known as father of American landscape architecture and park creator) recorded that “…we were annoyed by hogs beyond all description. At almost every camp we were surrounded by them.” Throughout east Texas hogs remained a primary food source, trade item, a free ranging animal, populating the uplands as well as the bottoms, sharing forage (and wilderness) with the native deer. They also fed a lot of hungry Texans during the Depression. The 1930’s would also harbor the first documented reports of the release of European wild boars into the Texas countryside and the boar were more than happy to breed with the descendants of the settlers’ roaming hogs. The addition of the European boar’s genetic traits – coarse hair, sharp tusks, nasty disposition – ultimately resulted in today’s Texas-sized “hogzillas.” Although feral hogs now serve as a prime game animal (right alongside white-tail deer), populations have reached phenomenal numbers, having exceeded over a million animals well before the turn of the 20th century. Wild bacon burger anyone? Eat two please!