Story of the Bad Homburg wild boar – tales of tails
The 'Bad Homburg Boar' is a splendid piece of taxidermy. He was a gift from the City of Bad Homburg vor der Höhe in Germany to the City of Exeter in 1980. In 1965 the two cites twinned and the boar marks the 25th anniversary of the partnership.
I was curious. What did Exeter give in return? Why choose a boar? Was he a special wild boar? How did he arrive in Exeter? Yet RAMM’s collections database offered little more information than was on the brass plaque on the boar’s wooden plinth. RAMM’s paper archive held nothing of relevance either.
I wanted to reunite this specimen with his story so my next port of call was the internet. I was hoping someone might have shared an account of the exchange of gifts, or better still some photographs. Again, nothing.
To my great delight, an email from the Exeter Twinning Circle answered my questions on the Bad Homburg Boar.
What did Exeter give in return for the wild boar?
In May 1980 Bad Homburg held an ‘Exeter Week’. The festivities included Ted Warren planting a Lucombe Oak tree in the grounds of a civic building called Gotisches Haus. Lucombe Oaks are a cross between Spanish and Cork Oaks and were first grown by William Lucombe at his Exeter nursery in 1762.
How did the boar arrive in Exeter?
Later on in 1980 Exeter returned the favour and held a Germany week in the city. The anniversary gift of the boar arrived at the museum with great ceremony. Dignitaries accompanied the boar as he was brought into the museum. All of a sudden the hunter who shot the boar exclaimed that the boar’s tail was on backwards! There was an almighty kerfuffle while this was sorted out and the procession continued.
It turns out that the boar’s entry into the UK caused suspicion. Customs decided to completely search the mount for hidden packages and pulled off the tail in the process!
I had noticed damage to the base of the tail but did not expect there to be such an amusing tale behind it.
Why a wild boar? Was he special?
The wild boar is a special gift because they became extinct in Britain around 700 years ago but still roam freely in Germany. People tried to reintroduce wild boar from Europe to private estates for hunting. Yet even James I’s introduction to Windsor Park in the early 1600s was unsuccessful.
Wild boar have been kept in captivity in the UK for many years. In 1998 three established breeding groups living free were recorded in Kent, East Sussex and Dorset. They almost certainly escaped from commercial wild boar farms.
Exeter is also twinned with three other cities: Rennes in France, Terracina in Italy and Yaroslavl in Russia.