Part of living in the jungle, way out in the middle of ‘where is that?’ there are hunting dogs – hound dogs – that are part of this culture, forevermore. Whatever animals formerly existed here to be hunted have been seriously diminished, the list used to include the local deer species, paca, agouti, pigs, and a few others. Now there are predominantly wild pigs, or what are called ‘chanchos de montana’. These pigs are quite a bit different than the domestic turned wild pigs that are out of control and destroying a lot of land elsewhere. And it is a pretty well-known fact that those wild pigs reproduce prolifically and are virtually impossible to eliminate, have a look at the Hawaiian Islands where the locals have been hunting them for years and years and they continue to multiply and create havoc. Here it is not so bad, these wild pigs are not running in huge numbers and destroying everything in their paths, which in and of themselves are destructive, but the pigs here are pretty reclusive, however there are lots of them. This is a big deep and impenetrable jungle, except by pigs and dogs and similarly by the owners of the dogs (and the owners grow up with machetes and know how to use them with amazing skill).
The general routine is that the hunters turn their dogs loose and the dogs put their noses to the ground and their voices on the wind and find the pigs, trail them – sometimes for miles – and then the hunters find the dogs that have the pig caught and kill the pig. I have not been witness to this procedure and have only heard some tales of it, but apparently the dogs grab the pig by the ears, snout, legs, tail, whatever they can grab hold of without being impaled by the angry tusks, while the hunter kills the pig with a machete, or knife. The dogs might run for hours looking for the pigs (yelping all along the way), or chasing a pig, and when they do catch up the pigs are pretty well exhausted and out of breath. Usually the hunter is on a horse, but even so how the horse can keep up with the dogs and pigs is beyond me, especially through the jungle, and often (as is the case tonight) in the night. It is wicked thick out there, and stuff is always coming down in the storms, blocking ‘trails’, the snakes are out at night in full glory (nasty venomous snakes that bite with little provocation), not to mention that it is slicker than snot out there because of the rains for the past couple of months, vegetation is lush and tall, and this country is really steep and the pigs like to run along the water courses, which are next to impossible to get into in many places. These people are tough! I do not know how they do it, but the next thing you know is there is a pig or two (or more) being packed out of the jungle on the back of the horse, dinner for a few people and the dogs.
Hunting is restricted to locals only, food only – not sport. Anyone caught hunting for sport is prosecuted. Living off of the land is part of life here, and if they happen to score some wild food (fruit and wild potatoes or pejibaye- palm fruits) from the jungle along the way, well then the meal is more complete, lucky them.
For us, the baying of the hounds is less than enjoyable, they can be heard for long distances and it is possible to follow the yowling through the jungle, along the water courses, up the mountain as they disappear (finally) into the jungle. Our dogs get pretty stirred up with all of the commotion, as well, especially if the dogs come running through our garden looking for that wascally pig, and yes – we have had several move through our space during the night. But such is life here, like it or not. Hunting for pigs (or whatever) is a way of life here, and will be for a very long time.
I can hear them now, baying in the water course…sounds like they are on a scent…