“Pigsticking,” or hunting pigs with long spears and lances on horseback, has been part of European hunting tradition for thousands of years. However, with the advent of firearms, the sport steadily declined until it underwent a recent revival in Spain. The provincial government of the Castilla-La Mancha caused a stir when it added the ancient sport to its hunting regulations, allowing four-person parties of armed hunters to pursue boars on horse.
Now, according to the LA Times, the same animal rights movement that brought an end to bullfighting now have their eyes set on a new task.
“It’s something I think most Spanish citizens are not aware of. If they were, I’m sure a great percentage of them would be against this kind of cruel sport,” said Animal Equality spokeswoman Sharon Nuñez.
Hunters, however, say the sport is a source of cultural identity and advocate spear hunting as a challenging and traditional method of harvesting pigs. For these sportsmen, spear hunting is not only ethical–it is a true test between man and beast.
Boars are dangerous quarry and more than capable of injuring or killing a hunter. Supporters of pigsticking eschew firearms in preference of long, bladed spears, which bring both hunter and mount within range of a potentially dangerous charge. For this reason, cross guards are often seen on hunting lances to prevent dying pigs from maiming hunters.
Here in the States, hunters also maintain a tradition of using throwing spears against destructive feral pigs.
It is not just tradition that needs preserving however. Spain’s rural area has been in the process of depopulation due to a lack of local jobs in an increasingly urban Europe. Of the nation’s 46 million citizens, only a small proportion live in the interior countryside. Most reside near the central capital of Madrid or near the large coastal cities. Many hope to revive rural regions with the possibility of hunting reserves, which also serve to lower the risk of wildfire.
“We are the lovers of the hunt and the sport, and we are the people who really protect nature,” said hunter Jaime Patino. “You cannot understand how nature works if you don’t see what’s going on.”
A demonstration of horseback pigsticking can be seen below: