The Boar Spear

Boar spears and their larger variant bear spears were polearms used both for hunting and for war, derived of course, from boar hunting in the Middle Ages.

When you take all the ham on a pig and move it forward to the shoulders where it can do some damage, add daggers jutting out of the mouth and (in the case of males) add subcutaneous shields on their chests and shoulders to protect them from mating fights and — you end up with a boar.

Different from woke people who show up at parties unbidden.  They are bores.

Boars eat roots, mushrooms, and other underground aliments that they dig up, their massive head acting as a plow.

A plow mounted on a shaft is a voulge and that’s also a military polearm, which is completely irrelevant and, so, we’re moving on…

In spite -and in fact because– of the danger, boars have been prized as game animals for sport, sustenance, and to display martial prowess since Roman times. Both methods of boar hunting involved very close contact with the animal before guns, and later, rifles were introduced. Putting down one was considered the manliest of feats in Western Europe, dethroned only by bear hunting in Eastern Europe and ‘ritual’ stag hunting starting in the Late Middle Ages.

Pigsticking as a hunting method simply consisted in gathering the lads, grabbing a bunch of boar spears, and going out to catch yourself a hog, sometimes from horseback. Because we are not a species meant to last, it was usually done in Spring when boars are most aggressive and thus least likely to simply run away, but also when they are equipped with that natural bulletproof vest discussed above.

This is what boar spears were built for. A boar spear’s shaft is thick, up to man-height in length, and very commonly textured in some way to improve the grip. Its spearhead was relatively small, leaf-shaped, focused towards thrusting rather than slashing and fitted with the weapon’s most distinguishing feature, a protective crossbar.

Military spears were generally fitted with lugs or wings while hunting spears had a wider variety of prongs, rotating crossbars, and dangly bits all functioning in the same manner. They were designed to prevent overpenetration, as a charging boar has enough momentum and spite to drive itself all the way up a spear’s shaft to get to a hunter.

Especially in the case of bear spears, they also tended to have ferrules so that the weapon could be braced into the ground.

The same design was used when hunting with the help of hounds, although a dagger was sometimes used when the dogs were used to catch the boar rather than simply corner it. In the early modern period, a more specialized weapon was designed specifically for that method of hunting, when stags had become the favorite prey of the aristocracy and less emphasis was put on risking your life in melee combat with a werepig for some slightly gamey ham.

Consider soaking the boar meat in wine for a week or longer before sending it to the pit for BBQ treatment.

Enters the boar sword, the last evolution in boar hunting technology before the advent of gunpowder and plug bayonets. Much like its predecessor, it is strongly built with a solid, stiff, and blunt blade that only turned into a spear-point double-edged tip in the last third or quarter of its length. This made the sword both stiff enough to provide the same thrusting potential as the spear, but also prevented its blade from cutting the dogs biting the large angry animal you would be currently stabbing.

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And of course, it came with a protective crossbar.

Related Vocabulary:

Rogatina: a Slavic bear-hunting spear, similar in design.

(Bohemian) Earspoon: a Central European design, generally a purely military weapon with a longer blade, but generally not deserving of a specific name in the English language especially if it’s going to be “earspoon”.

 

The Holster Pistol

  Wheellock holster pistol carried by the Trabantenleibgarde of Christian II, Prince Elector of Saxony, by Hans Stockmann, Dresden – Sauce: PeterFiner.com

Holster pistols are a category of various handguns manufactured throughout history from around the 16th century up to at least the 1840′s, referring to large caliber weapons meant for cavalry use.

The name ‘holster pistol’ might be a confusing distinction to make today, when pistols are sidearms and almost exclusively carried in holsters on one’s person.

To understand the meaning behind it, we have to go back to the early days of small arms design, back when handguns had just started being a thing, never mind holsters. The invention in Germany of the wheellock mechanism around 1500 allowed the development of ready-to-use, more practical, and smaller firearms than were available before, with matchlock designs requiring a lit slow match to fire. These early pistols and their later flintlock counterparts were often carried just slid inside the belt or sash, sometimes strapped on with a hook attached to its firing mechanism, but rarely using personal holsters as we conceive of them today. Any of these methods posed a bit of a weight problem in a time when belt loops had yet to be invented, so infantry and civilian pistols were kept relatively small. This of course was not a problem when riding a horse.

  A German Reiterspistole (left) next to a belt pistol of similar design (right). Reiters were a type of cavalrymen in the Early Modern Era using both sword and handguns.

The introduction of the wheellock mechanism, as mentioned before, had made it a practical thing to hold on to several loaded firearms and fire them in quick succession. By strapping braces of pistols to their horse’s saddle, cavalrymen were suddenly able to carry a lot more firepower than with a single matchlock arquebus or petronel, without the weight issue associated with our weak human constitutions or the risk of being pantsed while fighting in the Italian Wars. Several types of cavalry were developed making use of this advantage, like the heavily armored Reiter or the iconic British harquebusier who carried pistols to supplement its namesake. This is around that time that pommel holsters were developed, carrying a pair of pistols and giving them their name.

  French Ancien Régime saddle holster for a pair of flintlock pistols.

The Early Modern Era still saw plenty of plate armor being used on the battlefield, which was all the incentive these mounted soldiers needed to get bigger and bigger guns to get through it. It made little to no difference for their horses after all. It is not uncommon to find holster pistols with long barrels, large calibers, and weighing up to three kilograms, which is about the weight of a gallon of milk and the same weight range as contemporaneous greatswords. With little in the way of accuracy, only one shot and a lot of armor to work through, the military firearms of the Renaissance had to pack as much of a punch as possible.

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  “What are you gonna do with that gun? Gonna shoot me? Better make it count. Better make it hurt. Better kill me in one shot.” – that Cavalier, probably.

Armor becoming a rare sight in the following centuries did tend to make the name ‘holster gun’ carry less meaning, with infantry and cavalry flintlock pistols, even ones carried in pommel holsters, being roughly the same size and weight.

One late and notable holster pistol however was the famed Colt Walker, designed in 1847. This 2kg revolver, introduced at the outbreak of the Mexican-American war, had been designed at the instruction of its namesake Cpt. Samuel Walker of the United States Mounted Rifles to replace their single-shot percussion pistols and, reportedly, to indiscriminately down either men or horses from beyond 100m. It by most accounts succeeded in doing that, at the cost of being prone to explosions due to cylinder flash-over.

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  Saddle holster for a pair of Colt revolvers, front view.

39 COMMENTS

  1. I would suggest that boars eat anything that’s too slow.

    There are people who hunt them with knives in the Appalachians. These people are more manly than I.

    Very pretty wheellocks. I know that flintlocks are better, but the wheellock mechanism has always called out to me.
    -Kle.

  2. I have seen several videos recently of 20 plus wild porcines coming out of the end of the field on the last pass on a corn silage field. I would suggest positioning as many sharp shooters there as possible, only because helicopters with door gunners are so hard to procure. Wild hogs are prolific breeders, and will do untold damage to crops, however if one is wanting to dispose of a body…

  3. Curious why the Colt Walker holsters are facing forward. It looks like they would be more prone to gather debris and harder to draw.

    I would not mind boar hunting, from about 100 yards or greater range. Offing one with a spear or knife has no appeal whatsoever.

    • I don’t know why either. I think that they might have come unholstered more easily if they were facing the proper way and keeping them holstered (until you needed them) was the name of the game.

  4. They do the dog and knife variety in Hawaii. Never appealed to me, but some of the best sausage I’ve ever had came from a friend who hunted pigs that way. We had a dog that thought pigs were fine sport and would come home with serious lacerations, we got good at sewing him back up.

    • I had a trip planned to Hawaii to hunt pigs with a friend, using shotguns with rifled slugs. I can’t recall why it was canceled. He was in the Navy and I think that there was some sort of snap deployment. Anyway, it never happened but it would have been fun.

      Hunting them with a knife? No. Not unless I was starving and it was 150 years in the past or 10 years. in the future…

  5. So there I was, walking guard around our bivouacked vehicles circa 1965 in some German woods when I heard a noise.

    “Ah ha!”, I thought, “Some of the troop snuck out to a gasthaus and are now sneaking back in”.

    “Halt, who goes there?”, I shout out as I snap on my flashlight illuminating a boar with some wicked looking tusks. Abandoning my post, I soon was sitting on top of a 5 ton bridge truck. Herr Boar went back in the woods and, after composing myself, I went back to walking guard.

    It took some courage to hunt one of those with just a spear.

    • It was the manliest thing to do. – Hunting the elusive boar with a spear. Though to be fair, usually people teamed up but in the end, it would still be you and the boar.

      I’m sure that the Army would take a dim view of you potting the boar while you’re on guard duty. Some people have no sense of humor.

      • No ammo. Guess I could have mounted my bayonet. Would that have counted as a spear?

        The only time we we given ammo was when we were payroll guards. In my day we were paid in cash.

      • Boar hunting with boar-spear and short sword was part of many a knightly order’s initiation rights.

        Which makes sense. Want to prove you’re tough? Go stop a European boar with a spear and a sword or large dagger. Alone. Backup only to jump in when you’ve done the deed.

        Survive and you’re on the way to becoming a knight. Don’t survive and, well, no more worries about training and equipping you.

        Survive damaged, well, knighthood and the military aren’t for you.

        A very harsh yes/no selection process. Since the boars and sows we’re talking about aren’t the feral hogs here in America (for the most part) that run up to 150-200lbs. We’re talking about those big assed European/Russian boars that mass 300-600lbs and sows that run 200-500lbs. And a sow with a sounder of piglets is as or more vicious than the male.

        • The test of courage stood the test of time for hundreds of years. Can you imagine Let’s go Brandon or the Ho there with a boar spear, earning their chops (literally)?

          I’d pay good money to see that. Pay-per-view would bring $1 billion worldwide as the hogs first dismembered and then ate them. You think that Rollerball would be big.

          • Love to see Porky and/or Porkette snacking on the flattened bodies of the wunder-twins.

            Pay-per-view for eliminating politicians and bureaucrats would probably pay off a good part of the National Debt.

  6. The Walker was a large revolver and up 60 grains of black powder could be crammed into each chamber. This gave it pretty impressive performance even by today’s standards. Of course carrying one in a belt holster was impractical due to the weight of it which exceeded four pounds, so packing one like Robert Duvall did in Lonesome Dove is not a good option. The later Colt Dragoons were a bit smaller though not much.

  7. Years ago, while bow hunting in the Big Thicket, my brother had a large boar wander into a clearing he was watching for deer. Eyeing his prize, and starting to pull back his bow, the hunter he was hunting with let loose and arrow, which struck the boar in the ham. That’s when it became interesting.

    The boar turned, saw my brother, and charged. Without much recourse, he finished is pull, and let an arrow loose, which struck the boar in the chest. The wound was fatal, but the boar wasn’t finished. He hooked my brother under his jaw, and ripped the skin along his chin. The boar died before he could do any more damage, but the damage was a lot of blood lost on the trip out of the woods, and a few dozen stitches.

    Later, I asked my brother where his 357 pistol was. He’d left it at home, which made me wonder about my brother. Regardless of what’s being hunted, it’s always good to have something for backup that can complete the job.

    • I used to hunt with recurves. I have an 85 lbs Kodiak and a 42 lbs Pearson. In all cases, I carried a Colt Python for the reasons you suggest. Then came compound bows and unless I’m being nostalgic, they’re the only way to go. When it comes to boar, though, it’s folly to mess around with them. They’re just too dangerous.

  8. I chuckled at your reply 150 years ago, or 10 years from now.

    I’ve seen wild boar, and they’re not something I’d like to mess with unless I had my 1100 with the Hornady SST rounds in it.

    The city folk who think they can go hunting for things like wild boar after The Crash will be in for a rude awakeing when the boars get riled at their attempts, and go after them….

  9. I can’t find it now, but I recently saw video of 3, maybe 4, dogs running flat out and I thought they were chasing something, but then 50′ or so behind them came a charging boar. He was not giving up the chase, either. He wanted those dogs.

    More humorous: Well, that was festive

    • Dogs only work against boars if they fight as a unit and are trained and bred to the work. Running out there with DRJIM’s Pebbles-the-Wonder-Dog or even LSP’s Blue Killer just wouldn’t work. You would need those Siberian bear dogs or something – maybe a dozen Rhodesian Ridgebacks?

    • Mostly workable as long as the pike and musket troops are kept from closing and aren’t wearing effective body armor.

      Until the musket troops start aiming at the horses instead of the riders. Oops.

      • I was going to comment the same way. The early handguns that protected pike formations were not very effective. When the matchlocks came along, there would be enough of them to bring down the lancers. As Larry says – mixed results.

        • There are some very lively English Civil War reenactments that give a taste of the flavor of musket and pike, and horse-pistol cavalry. Amazon Prime has a series about the war with beautifully shot scenes using these units.

  10. Couple a things.

    Hogs and Boars were a major cause of childhood death up to 3-4 years of age back in the medieval times (and earlier times also.) Porky had no problem snacking on children, it’s just food. Anything that will fit in a pig’s mouth and is digestible will be eaten. Corn and grains, acorns and tree-nuts, roots, mushrooms, small animals, road kill, people… It’s all food to the common pig. Which freaks me out when I see people with pet pigs. Since pet pigs tend to go feral as they get older. You can trust a pig about as much as you can trust a chimp, and the muscle power is about the same.

    As to body armor vs firearms, it was more the loss of people in the 30 Years War and the English Civil War than the lack of protective capability that ended metal armor’s reign of protection. Curiously, the buff-coat and overly braided and sewn cloth coats came into fashion. What? Yeah, you heard me, cloth armor. A 4-6 layers thick wool and linen coat with all that fancy rope braiding on it will slow or stop a smoothbore pistol round of small to medium caliber, and the braiding will catch and stop the slash of a cavalry saber (which were sharpened, but not sharp, except at the tip, usually.)

    And a known place for cavalry to store extra pistols was in the top of their thigh-height boots, when rolled down to knee-length. 2-4 pistols holstered on the saddle, another 2 (one in each boot) in boots, and a few shoved under the big sash worn by many (and that sash was more armor, no, really.)

    Weird, isn’t it? Cloth armor, leather armor, often supplemented by a metal ‘Spanish Collar’ (like in the illustration showing the Roundhead and the Royalist (the royalist is wearing buffcoat and spanish collar while the roundhead is wearing a back and breast of metal and a buffcoat.) Able to stop or slow a potentially deadly shot to just a vicious but survivable wounding.

    And then decent rifled pistols and muskets took over and cloth and metal body armor started falling by the wayside. It was the invention of smokeless powder that really spelled the end to widespread armor of any variety just due to the sheer weight and volume needed. Until modern alloys and tempers for metal, and various composites, and modern ballistic cloth (kevlar and such.)

    There is always a race between weapons and defenses against said weapons. Improve one, the other must respond. Improve the other requires the one to improve.

    Then there’s the weird thing about modern armor, which in the police or civilian world is mostly designed to stop expanding ammo, not FMJ or Ball. Of course, poor man’s ballistic armor of layers of regular cloth and a buff-coat or leather jacket will slow or stop modern pistol ammo. Still hurts, but… And all those layers are also effective against tasers and less-than-lethal ammo and cuts and bludgeoning weapons and we’re back to the post mid 1600’s body armor.

    But, yeah, pigs. Pigs will kill you. So kill them first.

    • If you’ll recall the Old West, Porter (The Avenging Angel) Rockwell would wear a long buffalo hide coat, like a duster, but two or three layers thick. He was particularly effective because he fought with a shotgun at close range and wore body armor. It would stop just about anything usually carried by his opponents. Fighting with a shotgun from ambush at point-blank range was also very effective. I don’t know but I speculate that it was a 10 gauge firing 2 ounces of shot or buck/ball. If you are able to pick time and place and wear armor, the odds are good.

      • The only thing armor’s not good for is running in. But then again, if you’re running away, you’re a free target to both sides. Nobody likes a runaway coward or deserter.

        Which is the reason body armor, made in the North, was popular and then wildly unpopular in the early years of the American Civil War. Could stop a rifled musket at a reasonable distance, and buck-and-ball at relatively close range, but try to run away in it, it’d drag you down. Though the armor, sold privately, was still used by some troops and units all through the war.

        There’s all sorts of ways to downgrade incoming fire, to a point. Heavy hides, multiple layers of cloth, it all works to an extent. The secret to defeating armor is often not hitting where the armor is. So, well, with modern body armor, shoot the limbs or head or the groin, or shoot them not quite center mass. Wee, blow a hole through the throat or the weiner and you’ll put the guy down, tee-hee.

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