A wild boar is a pig, and pigs are rotund creatures with long snouts that extend outward, a bit too far if a balanced countenance is the end goal. These are not the characteristics of a deadly, wild animal.

Except, here we are.

Because there is the case of the dead ISIS fighters from earlier this year who met their fate at the hands (err, pigs’ feet) of wild boars. The story made headline news in most national publications, and many who read it surely thought, “Good for the boars. Thank you.”

Here’s an excerpt from USA Today’s coverage on April 25:

Three Islamic State militants setting up an ambush in a bitterly contested area of northern Iraq were killed by a herd of stampeding boars, local leaders say. Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti-ISIS forces, told The Times of London the militants were hiding on the edge of a field about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk when the boars overwhelmed them Sunday. Five other militants were injured, al-Assi said.

These same ISIS militants, the newspaper reported, had executed 25 people attempting to flee the militant’s would-be caliphate in the three days before meeting their own deaths.

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How Many Wild-Boar Related Deaths Have Ever Been Reported?

A presentation given by John J. Mayer of the Savannah River National Laboratory offers context to the unlikely cause of death for the three ISIS militants. The study was presented at the 15th Wildlife Damage Management Conference in 2013. It found:

Only four fatal wild pig attacks have ever been reported in the United States, three of these resulting from attacks by wounded animals during hunting circumstances. The most recent occurred in Texas in 1996.”

But if you go back through history, as the study highlights, wild-pig attacks were common enough to leave an imprint on human artifacts. Images of attacks can be found on prehistoric cave paintings dating back to 50,000 years BP. Other attacks were described in writings originating from ancient Greek and Roman empires.

And though it’s only pop culture and mere fiction at that, let’s not forget dear, young Stu who was killed by a wild boar in the epic, 1980s mini-series, “The Thorn Birds.”

In the popular 1980s mini-series, The Thorn Birds, young Stu was killed by a wild boar while hunting. (Credit: Creative Commons)

In the 2013 study, all available documentation and reports on wild boar attacks were compiled and studied to understand the nature of these encounters throughout history.

Here are excerpts from the study:

70 percent of reported attacks were recent. A total of 412 attacks were compiled that collectively involved a minimum of 427 wild pigs and 665 human victims. These attacks occurred between 1825 and 2012, with 70 percent having taken place between 2000 and 2012.

21 U.S. States reported attacks. The attacks took place in all seven nonpolar zoogeographic realms (i.e., Australian – 33, Ethiopian – 1, Nearctic – 101, Neotropical – 1, Oceanic – 15, Oriental – 126, and Palearctic – 135), 47 countries and 21 U.S. states.

Most (attacks) were located in the Northern Hemisphere (88%). The United States had the largest percentage of these incidents (24%), followed by India (19%), Papua New Guinea (6%), and England and Germany (each at 5%).

Boars Do “Mess with Texas.” Of the 21 (U.S.) states, Texas (24%), Florida (12%) and South Carolina (10%) each had the largest percentage of attacks in the United States sample.

April Is a Dicey Month. January, October, April and November were the peak months (for wild boar attacks).

Note: The wild-boar attack on ISIS fighters occurred in April.

Cave art at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, India, depict a wild boar charging a stick figure. (Credit: Archeological Survey of India)

When Being “Treed” Is a Desired Outcome. Of the 665 human victims, the most common outcome was being physically contacted/mauled (69%), followed by those victims that were charged/aggressively threatened (17%), treed (9%) and chased (5%).

15% Fatality Rate. Fatalities were reported in 15% of the attacks where physical contact/mauling occurred, and were twice as high for victims who were traveling alone.

Hunters as Victims. The percentage of fatalities was more than double in hunting (28%) vs. non-hunting (12%) circumstances.

While much of the report is spent providing analysis of attack types and situations, it doesn’t stop short of examining the probability of a boar attack. Ultimately, it confirms — even in hunting situations — wild boar attacks are rare. And the widely-reported deaths of the ISIS fighters, killed after being charged by what was described as a “herd” of wild boars, was an anomaly and highly unlikely.

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In fact, the likelihood of being attacked by a wild pig was determined by the study under both hunting and non-hunting circumstances as follows:

Hunting Situations: One hunter injured in over 1.5 million hunter man-hours

Non-Hunting Situations: Three remote workers attacked (i.e., 2 charged/aggressively threatened and 1 treed) in over 3.9 million remote worker man-hours.

Less than a 1-in-a-Million Chance: Under both sets of circumstances, the probability or potential frequency of such an attack would be less than a one-in-a-million chance of occurrence.

The report concludes, “This is by definition a rare event.”

The 2013 study also offers detail about the boars documented in the reported attacks, the type of attacks and the resulting range of injuries from these encounters. You can find this and other analysis by downloading the full report courtesy of the University of Nebraska.

Featured image: iStock