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Pigging Out: The New Forest Pannage Tradition

12th Sep 2023

Pannage season began this week, but what do you know about this New Forest tradition?

Every autumn, the heroic pigs of the forest take to the land in search of acorns, beechmasts, chestnuts and other nuts to 'pig out' and keep the ponies safe.

The Tradition of Pannage | Montagu Arms Hotel Blog


Where does the tradition come from?

The annual pannage tradition dates all the way back to William the Conqueror's time, when he proclaimed the New Forest a Royal Forest in 1079. Essentially, the tradition began as the legal right granted to the commoners - one of six such ancient rights -  to pasture swine in woodland.

This ancient practice has, as such, been upheld for almost a thousand years.


Pannage Pigs - Blog


What happens during pannage season?

Pannage season typically starts in September, but heavily depends on the weather and when the acorns fall. The official start time is set by Forestry England and the verderers (forestry officials), whom also agree the end date which is currently set to be the 17th November.

When the season begins, 600 domestic pigs are released into the forest to forage the lands for nuts which have fallen from the trees. These nuts are poisonous to the New Forest ponies, horses and cattle, but the pigs are unharmed by them thanks to their saliva being able to neutralise the toxins. These helpful little hoovers will roam the forest for at least 60 days clearing the danger for their fellow New Forest grazing animals. To prevent them from getting too carried away and damaging the forest floor, each pig must have several rings attached to their nose, which stops them rooting too much into the grassland.


Autumn - New Forest


Where can you see pannage pigs and piglets?

The pigs are given free reign in the forest, so be sure to keep an eye out when passing through! They are commonly seein in Bramshaw, Burley and Bolderwood, but, as mentioned, they can roam much further.

Whilst they certainly make for a great photo opportunity and are a great piece of history to see, visitors are reminded to uphold the New Forest rules: keep a distance from animals, do not feed them, and keep any dogs on a short lead when near other animals.


Pannage Pigs - Beaulieu


A short break in the historical New Forest

Be sure you don't miss the great opportunity to witness the pannage tradition and the conservation of our iconic ponies in action - book a stay at the Montagu Arms and you have the perfect base for New Forest adventures. There's nowhere better to see in the colder season and embrace all that the British autumn has to offer. From cosy, luxurious rooms to hearty, seasonal dinners, our country house hotel is calling!




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