The legend of Hogzilla


I just couldn't resist covering this, sorry (though, technically speaking, it's old hat). On June 17th 2004, the reign of Hogzilla - an immense pig estimated to be nearly half a ton in weight and 3.7 m in length - was brought to an end. The animal 'rampaged' across southern Georgia until it was shot in a hunting preserve and, amusingly (for fans of Family Guy, the best thing on TV), the hunter's name is Chris Griffin. Now comes news that the story of Hogzilla will hit the big screen sometime in the near future...

After exhuming the carcass in October 2004, a team of researchers working for National Geographic revealed that Hogzilla wasn't as big as had been claimed: its actual size was more like 363 kg and 2.4 m; still big enough to be scary however. You can read about the dig here (image below shows forensic scientists exhuming Hogzilla's carcass). In life, Hogzilla was only seen by two people - Griffin and Ken Holyoak, the landowner where it was shot - so there was initially a lot of scepticism about the validity of their claims about the animal's size, in fact many people thought that the story was an internet hoax. DNA tests apparently show that Hogzilla was a hybrid between a wild boar and a domestic pig. I haven't yet read which breed was involved in his ancestry, though some sources say 'Hampshire breed'. Do they mean Hampshire hog*? That's a real breed: it's a black pig with a white belt and, despite its name (implying a connection with Hampshire in southern England), originated in northern England or southern Scotland. They were exported to the USA in the 1820s and are one of the most-kept breeds there today.


* I should point out that people from Hampshire are sometimes referred to by this name. Few of them know that they have the same name as a genuine breed of pig.

Anyway, apparently the independent film company Lithium Productions is currently working on making a movie dubbed The Legend of Hogzilla. I can't wait.

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Yeah, somehow a giant rampaging pig doesn't seem out of the ordinary in Georgia. mentioned that they were holding auditions and I'm trying to encourage a friend to do it. The movie promises to be wonderfully crap-tacular.

I never understood how people could really believe in the alleged size. If you look at the photo it is clear that the guy is not only behind the hog and looks anyway smaller as a result of the forced perspective. Furtermore the guy had to have a height of more than 3m if the 3,7m claim for the hog´s length would be true...In estimating the weight I would say it´s about 3-4 times the weight of a man, quite similar to the estimated real weight. Here´s another picture of a giant boar, which shows very well the huge size. It was said to have had a weight of 1100 pounds, but perhaps also overestimated.

I love the Hogzilla story; have tried to follow it since I first heard. The pic pretty clearly shows that the pig wasn't near 3.7m in length (any way you measure it), unless the human is very short. :)

Gees, was it really necessary to shoot Hogzilla? I mean, it's not like there's much happening down there in rural Georgia, and this genetic wonder would have been a boon to tourism. Hogzilla could have given the (yawn) bass fishing derbies a run for their money had National G. caught this super-pig and harnessed him with a crittercam and a satellite telemeter. Alas, poor Hogzilla . . . we could have known him well.

On using forced perspective, this is a well-known trick that hunters use to make their kills look bigger (cough Kurt Engel mega-cat cough). In the case of the Hogzilla photo however, if you look carefully you can see that, while Griffin is not standing directly next to the pig, his hand is resting on its forelegs, so there is still some genuine sense of scale (I resized the pic to make it small: bigger versions are available on the www, such as here). As I mentioned, the animal really turned out to be 2.4 m long. This was contested by Holyoak, but perhaps because he measured to the ends of the outstretched legs.

Are wild boars conspecific with domestic swine? As in, fertile offspring? I'm thinking about big cats: either Ligers or Tigons, maybe both, can be bigger than either parent: could there be some similar genetic thing that would allow a hybrid of wild boar and domestic swine to be bigger than either?

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 10 May 2007 #permalink

Domestic pigs and wild boars belong to the same species, similar to dogs and wolves, so there is no interspecific hybrid vigour when they have offspring (BTW, only ligers grow huge, tigons stay tiny), which is always fertile. But sometimes a distinct hybrid vigour can also occur between different subspecies.
There is one main reason why boars like hogzilla seems so huge. Most pigs we see are subadult, and get slaugthered when they are only some months old and about 100kg in weight or so. Because most sows are artificially fertilized only very few adult boars are needed, and those will you rarely see and nearly never eat (because they meat tastes, well, very male). Boars of modern breeds can also attain similar sizes of Hogzilla, or even more. Because I love extraordinairy big animals I have also dealt with this topic some time ago, and there are really some true monsters among the stallion boars. The wild boars in the US are also no real wild boars, but also already cross-breeds of wild boars and domestic swine, and have therefore also often unusual colours. A cross-breed between such a wild-boar-like breed and a large super-breed can lead to really large boars which look like wild boars, only much larger. Such an animal can have very good genetic abilities to grow very large. In the huge corn-and potatoe fields in the US they have also plenty of food, what is a very important factor. Furthermore boars need several years to attain their full size, and as a result of hunting, many never reach it. Hogzilla was surely unusual, but it would be in fact no problem to breed even larger wild-looking pigs.

Im just waiting for one of our wild boar to grow that big.

Several of my outdoors friends have had close encounters with them, very hairy!