DNA tests to reveal if possible record-size boar is a pig in a poke


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Chris Griffin poses beside what he says is a half-ton wild hog, dubbed Hogzilla, that he shot near Alapaha, Ga., in June 2004. River Oak Plantation photo via Associated Press


(03-19) 04:00 PDT Alapaha, Ga. -- Few episodes in this modern age have displayed the Southern talent for tall tales like the legend of Hogzilla, the allegedly 12-foot, 1,000-pound wild hog shot and killed on a south Georgia farm last June.

Documented by only a single photograph before the carcass was buried, Hogzilla drew television crews from as far away as Japan and appeared on the cover of Weekly World News. The pig became the theme of the town's annual festival.

So tall did the tale become that in November, a team of scientists exhumed Hogzilla and went at him with calipers and DNA tests. Now all of Berrien County awaits their findings, which are to be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel on Sunday night.

Few hunting yarns could stand up to a posse of Ph.D.s in yellow hazard suits. But new technology has generally made it easier -- not harder -- to practice the art of embellishment, said Wiley Prewitt, a collector of hunting and fishing lore in Kilmichael, Miss. There is a cottage industry in making realistic sets of antlers out of resin to mount as trophies, he said, and photographs no longer back up a story.

But two people were eager for the credibility they hoped a scientific investigation would bring: Ken Holyoak, who owns Ken's Hatchery and Fish Farms Inc., and his former employee Chris Griffin, who killed Hogzilla with a single shot last June. The men have had a falling-out over the hog, and Griffin now fixes flats at the Wal-Mart in nearby Fitzgerald.

Holyoak, who operates hog hunts on his land, allowed National Geographic to dig up Hogzilla because, he said, he wanted the free advertising, and he thought the hog might be a world record.

A thousand pounds is not extraordinary for a pen-raised hog. But a feral pig or a true wild boar -- characterized by tusks, black hair and long legs -- would top out closer to 500 pounds, and a typical one of either weighs in at about 150 pounds.

Griffin says he is tired of doubters. "They're going to eat a whole lot of humble pie come Sunday evening," he said. "I'm going to be giggling and laughing."

Drinking a mixture of Fanta Cherry and Pibb Extreme sodas on his lunch break, Griffin, 32, told the story he has told a thousand times: He was picking up after hunters when he saw the hog. He grabbed a rifle from his truck and fired. "I shot him, and he turned around and walked off, and I thought, how'd I miss something that big?" Griffin said. He followed the hog into the swamps, where it collapsed and died. Griffin managed to drag it out with a backhoe.

The meat was too gamy to eat, Holyoak said, and stuffing the pig would have been too expensive, so he told Griffin to bury it. But before they laid Hogzilla to rest, Holyoak took a picture of the pig trussed up by the hind legs, dangling from the backhoe.

In Alapaha, several townspeople said it did not matter if Hogzilla turned out to be a hoax. "The Legend of Hogzilla" had proved more popular, they said, than previous parade themes, like "Saluting Our Firemen" and "Good Old Days on the Farm."

This article appeared on page A - 2 of the San Francisco Chronicle


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