On average, male black bears (the larger of the two sexes) weigh about 375 pounds. Double that and we’re at 750 pounds. But how could a feral hog get to be this big? That was the mystery surrounding the feral hog aptly dubbed ‘Hogzilla.’ With only a single photograph telling its tale, many considered its existence a rumor not to be believed. However, when experts arrived to examine the feral hog’s body, they were dumbfounded. It turned out that despite the odds, Hogzilla was real. Below, we uncover the speculations around why it grew so big and reveal what the experts discovered upon further investigation.
How Big Do Feral Hogs Get?
On average, feral hogs weigh between 75 and 250 pounds (though some have reached double this size). However, they can certainly get much bigger as you’ll learn with Hogzilla’s story. The males are larger than the females and can usually reach five feet in length and three feet in height. These hogs are impressively strong and muscular. Their running speeds max out at 30 miles per hour!
They don’t reserve breeding for a specific time during the year — instead, they breed throughout the year, sometimes having two whole litters within that year (with four to 12 piglets per litter). These mammals are invasive species in the United States, brought in the 16th century with the intention of keeping them as food. However, escape artists and those that ran free ended up establishing the feral population known today.
Feral hogs typically travel in groups made up of family members, including at least two adult hogs along with their young. These groups are called sounders and they may be comprised of up to 30 hogs at a time. The males, however, may go off on their own or create their own group with other males not mating. Since sounders are most active at night, it’s not often you’ll spot one when there’s daylight.
Solved: The Hogzilla Mystery
The tale of Hogzilla was born in 2004 after a hunting guide, Chris Griffin, spotted what looked like a 12-foot beast of a feral hog, so big he estimated it weighed at least 1,000 pounds. He was stunned at the sight when he first came upon it but quickly moved forward with the decision to shoot it. Once he took it down, he managed to hoist it up on a backhoe for the trophy shot that would be seen around the world (thanks to the internet).
Even with photographic proof, there was plenty of doubt about Griffin’s claims. Eventually, National Geographic reached out to get to the bottom of the buzz and all the surrounding rumors. It was six months post-kill when they finally exhumed the body of Hogzilla, ready to make a documentary about it. When they examined the carcass, it was definitely confirmed to be a “freak of nature,” but it wasn’t quite as big as Griffin had purported.
Hogzilla ended up weighing about 800 pounds and was a total of eight feet long. Its 16” and 18” tusks caused another stir, setting an international record. There were plenty of questions around the size of this huge feral hog and answers were unclear until experts performed DNA tests. Through the testing, they discovered that there were traces of wild boar in Hogzilla’s ancestry. A fact they could not have uncovered were it not for the exhumation and subsequent DNA tests.
Still, there was speculation that Hogzilla was once a domesticated animal — it seemed a feasible story that could explain its monstrous size. Griffin killed Hogzilla on Ken Holyoak’s farm and Holyoak had his own theory that Hogzilla reached that size because of the unique fish food he used throughout his farm. Had Hogzilla been a domesticated hog, its size wouldn’t have been so staggering. However, as a feral hog that’s supposed to top out at 500 pounds, Hogzilla was definitely one for the books.
A ‘Feral’ Hog Bigger Than Hogzilla
It’s true that domesticated hogs can get much bigger than feral hogs. These hogs are domesticated for a purpose and the plumper they get, the more mouths they feed. They are cared for as the product they become and so owners ensure they’re well fed throughout their lives. Some are even kept as pets. But this story about a ‘feral’ hog bigger than Hogzilla took a dark turn. An 11-year-old boy was the one who shot the hog, and the two adults he was with claimed it was feral. However, this hog had a name: Fred. Fred was a domesticated pig that fell victim to a cruel hoax orchestrated by conmen. National Geographic was again on scene to tell the story that many came to believe but that was ultimately untrue.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Martin Mecnarowski/Shutterstock.com
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