Pannage is the practice of releasing domestic pigs into a forest (also known as ‘Common of mast’), and goes all the way back to the time of William the Conqueror, who founded the New Forest. Pannage is no longer carried out in many areas but can still be observed every year here in the New Forest National Park. In the Autumn after the acorns, beechmast, chestnuts and other nuts have fallen, up to 600 pigs will work their way through the forest eating them from the forest floor.
You can usually find the pigs roaming the forest floors from around the third week in September or whenever the acorns begin to drop from the beautiful trees. The exact Pannage dates are decided by the New Forest Verderers and the Forestry Commission and is based on seasonal variations. The 2016 Pannage season starts on 12th September.
Pannage lasts for a minimum of 60 days in the New Forest, it is vital because acorns are poisonous in large quantities to cattle and ponies. Where as, pigs are believed to spit out the toxic skins and enjoy eating the acorns.