What Are Wild Boar Tusks Used For?

What are wild boar tusks used for? How long do they grow?

What Are Wild Boar Tusks Used For?

Deer have antlers. Feral hogs have tusks. Both are the jewels for many hunters who want something distinctive and cool.

The first wild hog I hunted and killed was in Tennessee in the early 1990s. We were hunting in late summer with hounds and curs on 640 acres fenced with hog wire. This wasn't some kind of "captured, shoot 'em!" penned joint. Every 100 yards or so, giant holes had been cut out. Deer and hogs moved in and out. The property was rocky, hilly, studded with hardwoods and thigh-deep kudzu. It was hotter than the back porch of hell, too. One of our crew said, "Nah, y'all go ahead" due to the heat. I loved it.

Three of us were shooting, taking turns with the opportunities. The dogs hit a track and our chain-smoking guide took off. How he sprinted uphill through the kudzu while never losing a cigarette from the corner of his mouth mystified me, but he did it. After I finally caught up and caught my breath, we moved across the top of the ridge overlooking a creek bottom. He caught sight of the hog first, well in front of the dogs, and then I saw it. A well-placed shot dropped it.

Until then I'd only seen photos of feral hogs. The tusks on mine were a few inches long, good ones according to the guide. They've yellowed a bit over the years but the shoulder mount still reminds me of that fun, hot hunt.

Feral pigs — boars and sows — have pronounced, permanent canine teeth that extend outside of their snouty mouths. Some call them tushes, although the more common term is tusks. The upper canines are the whetters, like a whetstone knife-sharpening stone, and the lowers are cutters. These typically grow longer in sows and boars.

Sows' upper canines point out and down, and are smaller. While still dangerous as slashing weapons, sows usually bite more than slash. These downward canines, which are quite sharp thanks to repeated honing against the lower tusk, are a superb defense mechanism. Their lower tusks do not extend as far into the jaw as with boars.

Boars have more visible tusks, both providing clear proof they're designed for maximum discomfort. The smaller upper canines curve up and out from the lip, making contact with the lower and larger tusks. The lower tusks have almost a triangular shape, honed to points with seemingly dull edges upon a glance. The boar's lower tusk extends to the molars in the jaw, continuing to grow through its life unless interrupted by infection or injury.

At further inspection these tusks show just how dangerous they are: with a slash and upward movement, a boar penetrates his foe with the tusk's point before ripping away to slash again and again. Hunters with hog dogs typically know how to sew or staple cuts and perform other emergency in-field medical attention. Protective vests sometimes are used to protect the dogs. But in the heat of a chase if a hog is bayed, vests may not help. Boars don't have much quit in them. Sows don't either, especially if they have shoats nearby and are in protective mode. 

Sows and boars also use their tough noses to root around while seeking food. Grubs, vegetation, whatever they're looking for to eat, their roto-tiller snouts get the job done. But the canines can help tear soil and vegetation or flip logs to get to tasty morsels.

Fighting and eating may be the main things feral pigs use their tusks for, but both are pretty important.


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