The Powers Go Pigsticking: Tangier Tent Club


TALIM Sangliers Vernet

"La Chasse aux Sangliers dans la Plaine de Sahara," Horace Vernet, hand-colored lithograph by Gautier, France circa 1860, Donald Angus Collection, Tangier American Legation

Yesterday's jaunt in the Perdicaris Forest west of Tangier brought us more than one reminder of Tangier's heyday as an international city.  There was the ruin of Perdicaris' home itself, testimony to Tangier's brush with gunboat diplomacy when Teddy Roosevelt sent in the battleships and the US Marines in response to Mr. Perdicaris being kidnapped for ransom.

But the three adolescent wild boar who crossed our path – and who created a stir with the picnicking families – were also a reminder of Tangier's days as a hunter's paradise.  The days of the Tangier Tent Club.

Among the many unique items in our research library, the annals of the Tangier Tent Club are probably among the more obscure.  Here researchers can page through the minutes of a club of expatriates – diplomats from the "powers" running Tangier, superannuated officers of the British Empire, wealthy playboys – dedicated to pigsticking.

TALIM Tangier Tent Club
The sport consisted of men (and women) on horseback chasing down wild boar with spears.  The tradition lives on in Spain, whose Pigsticking Club has a website replete with historical photographs and information on the Tangier days.

Australia's digital archive "Trove" has a great piece from the 4 September 1886 Northern Territory Times & Gazette, "A Boar Hunt in Morocco," dateline Tangier, which shows the dangers of the sport – for hunter, horse, and of course, the boar:

Ten minutes' hard galloping, and the foremost spears are up with the boar. Already a slight wound has made all his bristles stand straight up, and he looks double his size, and now, finding he cannot escape, he turns to fight for it. With a sudden twist, he charges full down on the nearest horse; but the rider has lowered his spear, and receives him on it. Round he goes again, and at another; but here the spearman is not so lucky, and a deep gash in his horse's leg shows that our boar is not an enemy to be despised.

The late Dr. George Collins of Wichita State University researched pigsticking and the Tangier Tent Club, and concluded that, "despite the sport’s dangers, it was fatal mainly to the pig."

Wild boar hunting – no spears – still happens in Morocco: there's even a safari.  We've tasted boar curry, and it's pretty good, though you won't find it in restaurants.

Gerald Loftus

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