Look out for pigs! Pannage in the New Forest.

Look out for piggies in the New Forest this autumn!

Pannage season 2022: 19 September - 18 November

New Forest pannage every autumn pigs eating acorns - image by Steve Elson

It's once again the season of pannage in the New Forest, when pigs are released on the forest to stop the ponies from eating more acorns than are good for them. Living here we become accustomed to these annual forest traditions but you may be interested to know that this year pannage is being being reported and explained in the National Press too!

About the pigs of the New Forest 

The pigs of the New Forest play a vital part in the eco-system. Their services are required to eat the acorns which they love and which are safe for them, and to prevent the ponies for whom they are potentially lethal, from doing so.

Read on below to learn all about pannage.

And do also read Mark and Hugh's entertaining article about drifts and pannage. It was written a couple of years ago but the traditions of the forest are annual and timeless!

And if you happen to come across some photogenic piggies in your travels do send us your pictures - we'll publish here and credit the photographer!

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Pigs by the roadside


All about pannage in the New Forest

Every autumn, when the acorns, chestnuts and various other nuts have fallen from their trees, up to 600 domestic pigs (usually owned by commoners) are let out onto the New Forest National Park for up to 60 days, to clear away and eat the nuts. This is called ‘pannage' or ‘common of mast’, and it is important because many of the nuts are poisonous to other animals in the New Forest, such as cattle and ponies.  

The New Forest National Park is one of the few places that still carry out the tradition, which dates back to the time of William the Conqueror when they would use up to 6,000 pigs! Nowadays between 200 and 600 pigs are turned out as the number owned by commoners has fallen. The event is a great sight and makes for excellent photos - a walk in the forest to remember.

Commoners pay a token fee for each pig they turn out. Each pig is marked with an identity tag in its ear and has a ring put through its nose which enables it to forage through leafl litter and surface vegetation but stops it from rooting into the ground with its snout which causes damage to the Forest.

The 2022 Pannage season began on Monday 19 September

The 2022 Pannage season began on Monday 19 September, it usually lasts around 60 days (i.e. to mid-November), currently the end date is scheduled for Friday 18 November but it could be extended depending on how the pigs get on with gobbling up the acorns. The Court of Verderers decides these things!

Pigs have right of way on the roads!

Free-ranging pigs have right of way on the roads, just like the ponies, donkeys and cattle on the Forest. The pigs, though domesticated, are not tame and the same respect (probably more so) that you would show to any of the other free-roaming animals should be extended to them. Please do NOT touch or feed the animals.

If you are really lucky during pannage season you may see some of the old English breeds of pig, such as Large White, Tamworth, Berkshire or British Saddleback. During this time of year, you may also find local shops selling pig-shaped chocolates, cakes and biscuits in celebration of this country tradition – for those who like their pigs more sweet than salt.

Find out more about Pannage: https://youtu.be/Cn8ri56LFro or click on the image below which will take you to this short film by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Pannage explained by New Forest National Park Authority 

New Forest pannage every autumn

Photos by Steve Elson








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