HUNDREDS of pigs will be turned out in the New Forest to feed on bumper crops of acorns as part of a historic tradition.
The pannage season – the practice of turning out domestic pigs in a wood or forest in order that they may feed on fallen acorns, beech mast, chestnuts or other nuts – will start on September 10.
This year there has been a particularly heavy acorn crop and the season expected to last for a minimum of 60 days.
Ponies, cattle and donkeys will be joined by up to 600 pigs as commoners let the animals loose on the Forest to vacuum up fallen acorns, which are poisonous to ponies and cattle and can cause internal bleeding and death.
Traditionally pannage enabled commoners to fatten their pigs for slaughter and salting in the winter.
These days between 200 and 600 pigs are turned out as the number owned by commoners has fallen.
In the 19th century the number was as high as 6,000.
The Forestry Commission and Verderers have reminded people with property abutting the Forest that it is their responsibility to fence out Forest animals from the land.
And commoners who plan for their animals to take part in pannage are reminded to arrange for an Agister to inspect, mark and ring their pigs at least 14 days before they turn them out.
New Forest ponies will also be rounded up during the “drift”, which takes place at the end of the summer and early autumn.
The drift herds around 3,000 ponies for health checks and to wean foals from their mothers, often to be sold at regular pony sales.