I have often wondered idly what would happen if Pip came snoot to snoot with a pig...
LET us have Piggy Wiggs this week. I have always liked pigs and I did not like working in an intensive pig unit where the sows were in farrowing crates.
The farmer did his best to assure me that they were perfectly happy and content. He never convinced me. It may have been a sound system from the accountant's point of view, but I thought it poor stockmanship.
I like pigs au naturel. We certainly get plenty of those. There is a road that runs through the park. It is fenced on either side and it is seldom that Pip, the Lucas Terrier and I go through there but we see pigs.
They have a well-worn track down the other side of the fence and Pip has great hunts down the outside of the fence. He comes back to tell me that: "Man, sic a hoont we had. If ye only took yon bluidy fence oot the way, Man, sic a towsing ah'd gie them grumfies."
Well, I take that with a pinch of salt. Small men and small dogs always seems to get inflated ideas of their importance.
I have often wondered idly what would happen if Pip came snoot to snoot with a pig without a fence in between. Now I can tell you.
Pip and I have been given the run of the park. It is around 30,000 acres and laid out on the classic French pattern for hunting with a web of broad intersecting rides. The trees are pretty much left to their own devices.
The proprietor gets his income from letting out the park for hunting by the day. It is wick with pigs and deer.
It was a lovely sunny morning this morning as I cycled down to the park and through to the middle where the five main rides come together. There is an open space with a rustic bench there. I sat glassing the rides with my binoculars; what I thought just might have been a distant stag turned out to be a pile of stones. Pip had been lying in the bracken beside me, panting. There was a flicker of movement down a ride and out of the brackens came two Marcassins; I suppose that in the domestic pig world they would be weaners. I realised that I had not been alone in seeing them, as a white hairy missile was hurtling down the ride towards them.
It is amazing how fast Pip with his little Sealyham legs can travel. Anyway, the pigs waited not upon the order of their going and sharp disappeared back into the brackens, Pip hard at them. I got my whistle out. I thought, well, that's him gone for an hour.
But, no, he suddenly shot back on to the ride, his ridiculous tail between his legs which were fair buzzing. I could see why. Hard behind him, snout to bum came Mum, and Mum was fair stottin'. Wild pig may look ungainly, but they are quick as ought.
The sow had Pip rolled over twice and I really think that if I had not been standing, blasting on my whistle in the middle of the ride, things might have gone badly for the little dog. It was a very shaken and contrite little dog who shot into the box on the back of the velo.
THEY tell me that "they" have sneaked some pigs into Kielder Forest. Who done it? Ask the people who slipped the goshawks in when they thought no one was looking.
In fact, I think that pigs are a good idea; they will help clean up the mess that modern forestry operations leave behind. They are mustard on bracken, by the way, eating right through to the quarme.
But I do think that the public should be told: Here be pigs. Pigs can hurt. There you are hiking along with nothing on your mind but a bobble hat. Then quite unwittingly, you pass between a sow and her litter. You probably never even saw them rootling about in the undergrowth, but that will not stop the sow going for you.
I am minded of the jogger in the New Forest who ran between a sow and her litter. He spent the next week flat on his face in Southampton General. I suppose you could say that his "tail" did not have a happy ending.