Historically, the boar was very closely connected with the Scandinavians, who wore boars' heads of iron and gold on crests to their helmets, and also as helmets. Helmets of this kind have been found in Scotland and in England.
Since the time of the later geological periods and the earlier historic ones, the fauna of Scotland has undergone considerable changes. A good many of those animals whose remains are found in the caves of the country lived into the historic period, and among them was the Wild Boar, which was preserved for the chase; and was otherwise regarded as an animal of great importance.
His existence in Scotland is frequently referred to in song and in legend, and still lives on in the names of places throughout the country. Rude stone monuments and ancient documents show by illustration that this animal was hunted in a wild state throughout the British Islands; and from laws passed for his preservation and for regulating the hunting season, it would appear that this species of sport was carried on down to the 11th century, and some documents would bring the date down to the 16th century.
The earliest record is the geological one, which carries us back to the Pliocene or Pleistocene Period. Remains have been found in:
The teeth and bones found in this way seem to prove that the prehistoric Boar differed in some respects from the historic ones; but as the evidence is rather fragmentary it would not be wise to found too much upon it. The tusks found in peat-mosses and caves, and among later alluvial deposits, are usually large, attesting to the enormous size of the Caledonian Boar.
While constructing the road on the south side of Edinburgh Castle rock, deers' horns and boars' tusks of large dimensions were found; "and in an ancient service book fof the Monastery of Holyrood, the ground which some of the oldest buildings of the Scottish Capital have occupied for many centuries is described as : 'Ane gret forest, full of hartis, toddis, and sic like manner of beasts'".
Boars' tusks' were found in the caves at Oban.
There is ample, evidence of the existence of the Wild Boar in Britain in historic times. There is also evidence that the Wild Boar existed in Britain long after the Roman occupation. In the 9th century representations of hunting scenes exist. At the time of the Norman Conquest very severe laws were passed against any one who would kill a deer or a wild boar, except in legitimate chase. Lydekker, in his " British Mammals " in Allan's Naturalists' Library, says:-" Between the years 1153 and 1165 we find Robert de Avenel, when granting to the monks of Melrose Abbey the right of pasturage over the lands of Eskdale, especially reserving to himself the right of hunting Wild Boar and deer; and there is actual evidence of a Boar hunt taking place at this very time in the same district." The same author says that there is documentary evidence that Wild Boars existed in England in 1573 in Chartley Park, Staffordshire.
In Scotland Boethius speaks of a huge Wild Boar killed on land belonging to the See of St Andrews. In a Latin MS. giving the history of the Gordon family, dated 1545, it is stated that in 1057 a Wild Boar had been slaughtered by a member of that family in Huntly Forest.
It is stated among tire records of the old Cathedral of St Andrews (originally called Muckross, the point of the pig) that in 1520 a gigantic Boar was killed, which had slain both men and cattle. The tusks, which were 16 inches long, were attached to the High Altar. It has been alleged that the people of Scotland worshipped as well as hunted the Boar; and placing the tusks on the High Altar is cited in support of this statement.
Miss Gordon Cumming, in her delightful book, "In the Hebrides," says-" A curious hint of some strange reverence for this ungainly creature has been brought to light by the discovery of a tumulus at Beregonium, near Oban, of an urn, in which were stored precious bones and teeth, which Professor Owen has pronounced to be unmistakably those of the pig." A tusk was also found in a cist in the district of Poolewe, Ross-shire, along with the flint implements common to such graves. Bones and tusks of the Wild Boar are frequently found on lake, dwellings. Dr Munro, in his book " Scottish Crannogs," mentions several instances.
The crest of the Campbells (a Scottish clan) is a, Boar's head with a stone in its mouth, which, according to tradition, originated in this way. In the time of James II., Duncan, son of Campbell of Lochow, was living in a, cave near Loch Lomond along with a lady with whom he had eloped. Not far from his hiding place the people were much troubled with a ferocious Wild Boar. The King offered a, pardon to the man who would kill the Boar. Campbell threw a stone into the Boar's mouth and then despatched him with his dirk.
A few place-names may be quoted to show how common the animal was throughout the country. To begin with, the Island of Muck seems to have, been the haunt of the pig; and the same thing is implied in Scuir-na-Muick, Slochd Muick, Muckross, Muckerach, Strone-a-Muick, Ben-Muick-Dhu, Glen-Muick, and others. The Boar has also left his name in:
The famous story of Diarmid and the Wild Boar is met with in many parts of Scotland. The facts, shortly told, are these. Fionn married Grainne, daughter of a King of Eirinn. Grainne fell in love with Diarmid and forced him to elope with her. Their wanderings are traced in story from Ireland to Cantyre, through Lorne to Glen Elg, where many place-names exist confirming the story. The hunt had carried Fionn to Glen Elg, where Diarmid was in hiding; and being hard pressed by the Boar, Fionn uttered some well known cry, which Diarmid was in honour bound to answer, and thus revealed Minself. Fionn called upon him to pursue the Boar which had given him so much trouble. Diarmid killed the Boar, and was ordered to measure it from tail to snout. Now, Diarmid was only vulnerable in the heel, which on this occasion was pierced by a poisonous bristle, and he bled to death.
In Kintail, close to Glen Eig, there is a mound known by the name of Dunan Diarmid, and beside it a prehistoric grave kown as " the grave of Diarmid."
In this connection mention may be made of Clach Diarmid a rude stone pillar-at Lochnell; but many places lay claim to the custody of Diarrnid's remains.
The Boar was hunted not only for sport but for food, the a famous Christmas dish. " It was first at the feast and foremost at the board." The Boar's head was placed on the table in the old banqueting hall with great ceremony and much rejoicing. Trumpets were sounded to announce the procession, which was headed by the sewer carrying the head on a golden dish, while nobles, knights, and ladies sang:-
The Boar's head I understand,
Is the chief service in the land,
Look wherever it be found,
Servite cum Cantico.
Be glad both more and less,
For this has ordained our steward,
To cheer you all this Christmas,
The Boar's head and mustard!
Caput apri defero,
Reddens laudes Domino.
In the Ossianic poems there are numerous poetical allusions to the Boar as an animal of the chase. The following quotation will suffice to show the estimation in which the hunter of the Boar was held:
"In his arms came tall Dath Maruno; he from Croma of rocks, stern hunter of the Boar,
"Give the head of a Boar to Con-Duna (of Boars); tell him of his father's joy when the bristly strength of I-Thorno rolled on his lifted spear."
"When Fingal came to Cluba in the days of other years, loud roared the, Boar of Culdarm, in the midst of his rocks and woodsÉ..Careless went Fingal to Culdarm, on his spear rolled the strength of woods."
Taking Macpherson's Ossianic poems as mere imitations, these and many other quotations show how closely the, Boar was associated with heroic deeds in Celtic mythology.
The Boar was also held in equally high esteem both in Gaul and in Scandinavia. The helmets of the Scandinavians were surmounted by a Boar's head, and often the helmets themselves were of the shape of a Boar's head. It is to this custom that reference is made in Beowulf, when the poet speaks of the " Boar of gold," and " the Boar hard as iron."
"They seemed a Boar's form to bear over their cheeks, twisted with gold, variegated and hardened in the fire. This kept the guard of life."
Surrounded with lordly chains even as in days of yore, the weapon-smith had wrought it, had set it round with shapes of swine, that never afterwards brand or war-knife might have power to bite."
"At the pile was easy to be seen the mail-shirt covered with gore, the hog of gold, the Boar's head of iron."
"Then commanded he to bring in the Boar, an ornament to the head, the helmet lofty in war, the grey mail-coat, the ready battle sword." Helmets of the kind here described have been found in British graves. One of the Anglo-Saxon period was found in a barrow at Benty Grange, in Derbyshire, in 1848.
In Banff Museum there is a bronze object in the form of a Boar's head or " Swine's head." It was found in 1816 under 6 feet of peat, and lying on clay, on the farm of Liechestown, in the parish of Deskford, Banffshire. It is of beaten bronze, 8.5 inches long by 5.5 inches broad at its widest part. The eyes are circular and 1.5 inches in diameter. It is evident from the size of this article that it could never have admitted a head, and it is probable that it may have formed the crest of a helmet.
Like most of the wild animals once plentiful in Britain and carefully preserved for the chase, the Bear has disappeared from our coasts - and those wishing to indulge in pig killing must betake themselves to other climes.
Transactions of the Inverness Scientific Society and Field Club, Vol. V, 1899. p.299-305
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