Arkansas takes college sports very seriously, y’all. The University of Arkansas mascot is a Razorback hog and you will see these ferocious animals emblazoned on red shirts T-shirts, hoodies, and sweatshirts all over the state.
But have you ever wondered what exactly is a razorback hog? Besides a mascot, I mean.
Here is the story of the real life razorback hog in Arkansas!
Are Razorback Hogs a Real Animal
Wild hogs are definitely real, but the term “razorback” is more like a nickname that Americans use for these feral pigs.
The name comes from the coarse hair that stands up along the spine of some of these ferocious animals.
History of Hogs in America
Arkansas was known for its wild razorbacks long before the University of Arkansas mascot ever came into being.
But, did you know that hogs are NOT native to this country?
So how did they get here?
Well…it seems that we aren’t completely sure.
It is believed that early explorers were the ones who introduced wild boars, including a breed called a Russian boar, into the wilderness of the Americas. The Hernando De Soto expedition seem to have brought these hogs along to feed their troops. Ponce de Leon may have introduced them to Florida.
As I was doing research for this post I found different stories regarding the hogs.
One is that some of the animals inevitably escaped from the early explorers into the wild. The other is that the De Soto expedition still had pigs when the group disbanded and he gave them to various Indian chieftains as gifts.
We do know that by the early 1800’s when settlers began arriving in Arkansas wild hogs were plentiful.
In addition, early settlers typically allowed their domestic pigs to run free and forage. This meant that the domestic pigs bred with the wild hogs.
Our current wild boars are most likely a mix of the ones brought by the explorers and the once domesticated pigs brought by the settlers.
Today they are still called razorback hogs, but more typically are referred to as feral pigs, feral hogs, or wild boars.
What are These Wild Boars like?
So what are the modern day razorback hogs like? Well, they are nothing like the fat and pink and vaguely cute barnyard animals that you might imagine.
A wild boar is usually black in color. They have coarse bristly hair especially along their spine, a huge head, long skinny legs, beady eyes, a big snout, and tusks that grow bigger as the animal ages.
Also, they are not nice!
These animals are aggressive, swift, and easily agitated. In fact, these wild boars have really become a problem in recent years.
The Problem With the Razorback Hogs
Despite being a beloved mascot for the University of Arkansas sports teams these razorback hogs or wild boars are becoming an invasive pest in Arkansas. They actually live in every county in the state although numbers vary from area to area.
Wild boar breed so quickly and prolifically that they can barely be managed. They are extremely intelligent and destructive. Their constant rooting and wallowing damages forests and crops as well as pollutes creeks and ponds
They tend to travel in large groups of sows and their offspring, tearing up the ground wherever they go and destroying natural habitats.
Not only that, these animals can be dangerous to other small animals and even humans!
To learn more about what the state is doing to try to mitigate the wild hog problem you can check out this post from the University of Arkansas research and extension program or this one from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
How did the Razorback Hog Become the Mascot of the University of Arkansas?
In 1908 a man named Hugo Bezdek became both the football and baseball coach for the University of Arkansas. He was a successful and popular coach who demanded that his players work hard and fight hard in their sport.
He also gets credit for creating the Razorback nickname.
At a football pep rally in 1909 he proudly claimed that his team had “played like a band of razorback hogs.”
Fans loved the nickname and it stuck!
The Mascot of the Arkansas Razorbacks
The razorback mascot is so beloved in the state of Arkansas that the Razorbacks are one of a few sports teams in the nation who maintain a live animal mascot.
The recent mascots have all gone by the name of Tusk.
Tusk V died of natural causes in 2022. He had inherited the job from his father who was Tusk IV and has now been succeeded by his brother Tusk VI.
The Tusk dynasty reside on a farm near the University and attend all of the home games and special events.
These live mascots are Russian Boars who look exactly like you would think that a wild Razorback Hogs should look.
Hope that you enjoyed learning more about the razorbacks of Arkansas! Both the hog and the mascot.
Other Animals in Arkansas
If you want to read about some of the other animals that we have living here in Arkansas you might want to check out the following posts: