Chris Griffin stands near Hogzilla, a half-ton wild hog he shot in southern Georgia.

Hogzilla, the legend grows

07/29/04 - CNN

ALAPAHA, Georgia (AP) -- Around these parts, they are calling it Hogzilla: a 12-foot-long wild hog recently killed on a plantation and now quickly becoming a part of local legend.

The plantation's owner claims the hog weighed 1,000 pounds and had 9-inch tusks. But few people have actually seen the hog -- the only proof being a photo that shows the dead beast hanging from a rope.

Whether the hog ever actually existed or is some sort of Faulknerian myth, it has definitely been the topic of conversation in small towns across southern Georgia.

"People just back up and ask 'Is it real?' They can't believe that there's a hog that big in the woods," said Drew White, who has a copy of the photo on display at an auto parts store in Tifton, about 17 miles away.

Chris Griffin said he killed the beast last month at the River Oak Plantation, where he is a hunting guide, and has been showing off the picture around this small farming community ever since. The hog is nearly twice as long as the 6-foot-tall Griffin, who is seen standing next to it in the photo.

"They say 'Man, you look like a dwarf compared to that thing,"' he said Wednesday.

The picture is all Griffin has to back up his claims. He and Ken Holyoak, owner of the plantation, buried the beast on the property and did not want to hassle with slaughtering it since the meat of large feral hogs is typically not very good.

Holyoak said he decided that the hog's head also wasn't worth keeping because it was too large to mount on a wall. He said the head has the diameter of a tire on a compact car.

"We had to lift him with a backhoe," he said.

No one maintains official records on hog kills in Georgia. But Department of Natural Resources biologist Kent Kammermeyer, who helped write a booklet on feral-hog problems in the state, said he has never heard of one as large as Hogzilla.

Holyoak said the plantation's previous record was a 695-pound hog shot several years ago. Enough wild hogs roam Holyoak's plantation that he has made it a side business to allow people to hunt them, but he said "Hogzilla" was too big to let someone else shoot.

"We killed it because we didn't want to take a chance of him getting away. Somebody else would have shot it," he said.

Feral hogs, popularly known as wild hogs, are domestic hogs that escaped from farms and began living off the land. They lay waste to corn and peanut fields and deprive more than 100 species -- including squirrels and deer -- of food.

"It's a big problem and it's getting worse," Kammermeyer said. "If you have a lot of hogs, you're going to have problems. Hogs are very aggressive. They run deer off and they can be dangerous if wounded or cornered."

Holyoak said he had to climb into a deer stand a few years back to escape a raging hog that circled around for six hours, foaming at the mouth and snapping at branches.

"They say bears get mad when you mess with their babies," Holyoak said. "Hogs don't need a reason to get mad and come after you."

Town eats up tale of 'Hogzilla'

Photograph only proof of man's beastly claim

07/30/04 - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ALAPAHA A generation ago, a shadowy creature supposedly was sighted limping across a highway here, causing newspapers to ruminate about a homegrown Bigfoot. Local residents embraced the mythical beast, and before you knew it, high school kids made T-shirts adorned with a peg-legged Bigfoot.

It's happening again. Ken Holyoak, owner of a fish hatchery and a hunting plantation, claims a 1,000-pound wild hog with 9-inch tusks was killed on his land. The 12-foot-long beast has been nicknamed "Hogzilla" and is now part of a growing local lore.

"It's caused a stir," said Darlene Turner, manager of Jernigan's, a hardware-gas station-general store about three miles from Holyoak's place. "People are calling from all over. They saw it on the Internet or heard about it on the radio. They say, 'Tell me about Hogzilla.' "

Holyoak, a man unafraid of publicity, is glad to talk about the huge hog. The 67-year-old proprietor of Ken's Hatchery and Fish Farms advertises with a huge sign on a flatbed truck a 5-pound "Georgia Giant Bream" he says was bred in his ponds.

Big fish, now big hogs.

"We're pretty sure [the hog] is a record," said Holyoak, sitting in a cluttered office. "His head is big as a compact car's tire, probably weighed 100 pounds," he said.

Holyoak said he might want to contact the Guinness Book of World Records for further recognition.

But folks in Alapaha, like Turner, or former Mayor Joe Dixon, who runs a seed business in this town about 20 miles from Tifton, smile when asked if they believe the tales. Both mention something about "fish stories."

For actual verification, you'll have to take Holyoak at his word. Or take the word of Chris Griffin, a plantation hunting guide who says he shot the boar June 12. All that's left is a memory of the beast and a photo with Griffin posing next to what appears to be a monstrous hog.

Holyoak said they buried the animal with a backhoe because the meat of an animal that large is not tasty. They didn't mount it because it was too big for normal mounting equipment. "You'd need someone who mounts elephants," he insisted.

Holyoak says he doesn't care who believes his claim. "There's always doubting Thomases," he said.

In a year or so, he said, he'd dig up the hog and bleach the skull and tusks. Then people will see, he said.

A matter of business

Holyoak expanded his business to wild hog hunts, and a glossy brochure shows a photo of his son, Jason, posing with a dead 695-pound boar. The brochure notes the hunters can surprise their prey from 20-foot-tall, fiberglass hunting stands with recliners. He thinks the hogs have gotten so big on his plantation because they steal his high-octane fish feed.

Darrell Anderson, CEO of the Lafayette, Ind.-based National Swine Registry, said farm-raised hogs grow as large as 1,300 pounds and measure as long as 7 feet along the backbone from head to tail. "If you hang them by their hind legs and you have the front legs stretching out, you'll get another four or five feet," he said.

A hog that size would probably be 5 years old, he said. The animals will grow tusks in the wild. Domesticated, their tusks are trimmed because they are dangerous.

Holyoak said several people had spotted a huge hog on the plantation, and he told hunting guide Griffin months ago to look out for the animal. "I said, 'If you see him, get him,' " he said.

Why? "Because he might leave [the plantation]," Holyoak said. "Why would you want a record to leave and let someone else get the praise?"

He says the big hog was felled by a single rifle shot to the heart. He said there's no way to tell how old it was, "They don't check in and fill out papers for you," he said.

Wreaking havoc

Farmers in the area have complained about feral hogs, which root around looking for food and knocking down crops and vegetation. Holyoak said a neighbor introduced them to the area. Others say it was Holyoak himself.

Feral hogs usually are domesticated hogs gone wild, said Kent Kammermeyer, a Georgia Department of Natural Resources biologist who was co-author of a booklet on feral hogs. Some have mated with descendants of Russian boar, which were brought to the South decades ago for hunting and escaped, Kammermeyer said.

"There is no pure strain of Russian boar in Georgia," said Kammermeyer.

The animals prefer to live near swamps and river bottoms and root around in the ground, digging holes that resemble bomb craters. They are prolific breeders.

"The blood is mixed, and you get these throwouts or throwbacks or whatever you call it," said Buddy Pafford, who owns a pawnshop/hunting goods store in Nashville. He believes Holyoak's claim and is sure that he'll maximize the story's publicity quotient.

Danny Jones of Albany, who is licensed to hunt alligators and says he trapped 200 feral hogs in one year, laughed when told Holyoak claimed Hogzilla had 9-inch-long tusks. "Sounds like a hoax to me," he said, laughing. "I don't know, a 1,000-pound hog? I'd like to see it."

Staff writer Jeffry Scott contributed to this report.

Georgia town adopts Hogzilla legend as its annual festival theme

 08/23/04 - The Macon Telegraph

Associated Press

With the local legend of Hogzilla - the half-ton wild hog with nine-inch tusks - spreading worldwide through the Internet, residents of this tiny south Georgia town have decided to feature the prodigious porker in their annual festival.

Ken Holyoak, who runs a fish farm and hunting plantation about 3 miles northwest of town, said one of his hunting guides shot the 12-foot-long hog in June, but few actually saw it before it was buried on the property. Besides the few witnesses, his only proof is a photo showing the guide with the beast dangling from a strap.

Holyoak said he's received thousands of telephone calls as the story spread to newspapers around the world and became a hot topic on Internet forums. A Tallahassee, Fla., poet even posted a Hogzilla ode:

"I am analyzing that photo.

And Carefully standing my guard.

Cause if they really grow that big

I don't want them in my back yard!"

"We have a few skeptics, but we've got six witnesses" Holyoak said, adding that they've all signed affidavits to support his claim.

Hogzilla's grave, marked by a large white cross, sits beneath a shady oak on Holyoak's plantation.

Organizers of Alapaha's annual festival have even gotten caught up in the Hogzilla craze. They have decided the theme of this year's festival will center around the legendary creature.

The festival's previous themes have included God Bless America, Saluting Our Firemen, and Our Indian Heritage.

Besides the usual parade, arts and crafts displays and other entertainment, the November celebration in the town of 680 people this year will feature a Hogzilla float, a Hogzilla informational booth, and Hogzilla T-shirts.

"We're going hog wild," said Darrell Jernigan of Jernigan's Farm Supply, a gathering place for local farmers that also sells boots, hunting gear and building supplies.

With travelers stopping by often to inquire about the hog, Jernigan's sister, Darlene Turner, keeps the famous photo handy.

"Most everybody is having fun with it," she said. "There's jokes. Some people believe it. Some don't."

During a visit to the store, Elizabeth Moore, a member of the Glory United Methodist Church, said her church traditionally provides food for the festival and is making special plans this year.

"We're going to be serving Hogzilla barbecue and Brunswick stew," she said. "We'll have a hog-calling contest and probably hog sausage."

Members of the organizing committee gathered at Becky's Beauty Shop to discuss their plans, while customers sat in the chairs for haircuts and perms and a few peered out from driers.

"If it's true, we're glad," beautician Becky Davis said. "Someone called from Atlanta and said, 'It doesn't look like you're taking it very seriously.' I said, 'I'll take it seriously when it gets to the city limits.'"

Residents say feral hogs - domestic hogs that escape and learn to live off the land - have been a nuisance to farmers for years in the Alapaha area. They live in the swamps along the Alapaha River, which runs through Holyoak's plantation.

Holyoak said the hogs on his land may grow larger than normal because they sneak out at night and feast on some of his high-powered fish food. His son shot a 695-pound hog last fall.

John Mayberry, director of the Iowa Park Industry Center, said domestic hogs can weigh 1,000 or more pounds and the porkers that win the Big Boar Contest at the Iowa State Fair generally weigh in at 1,300 pounds or more.

Mayberry, who spent 22 years as a University of Georgia pork specialist, liked the idea of a Hogzilla festival.

"It'll go right along with the Big Pig Jig," he said, referring to the annual barbecue cook off in Vienna, Ga.

If Hogzilla was truly a feral hog, it would be the largest he's ever heard of, Mayberry said.

Around Alapaha, residents smile when strangers ask them about massive hog.

"Some say it's like fishing," Moore said. "The more you tell the story, the bigger the fish gets and the more you tell the story about Hogzilla, the bigger the hog gets."

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