WILD boar have returned to the Hampshire countryside – nearly three centuries after the ancient species was hunted almost to extinction.

Farmer Jamie Burgess spent a year adapting his land to rear wild boar for their tasty and increasingly popular meat.

The creatures are being kept in a natural environment to closely replicate the conditions they would experience in the wild.

A dangerous wild animal licence and a site inspection are required for anyone keeping wild boar, which weigh more than 20st but can run at 30mph and leap a 6ft gap.

Jamie, of Swallowfields Farm, near Bramshaw, said: “Wild boar isn’t the easiest option for farming as they have much slower growth rates than domestic pigs, but that makes the meat lower in fat and higher in protein, so it’s a healthier option than many red meats.

“Our method of farming doesn’t domesticate the boar as we want them to live as naturally as possible. This allows for unforced growth and a diet similar to that experienced by boar in the wild, giving the best end result and a rich, nutty flavour.”

The Burgess family are members of the New Forest Marque, a quality assurance scheme, supported by the National Park Authority, that aims to promote authentic New Forest produce.

Jamie added: “I chose to raise wild boar because, as a smaller-scale farm, we can’t compete with the mass suppliers so I wanted to find a niche product.

“Wild boar seemed a perfect match as I’ve always been interested in them, the meat is really tasty and it’s becoming increasingly popular among consumers.