It took heavy equipment to move Larry Earley's super-heavy hog, which was estimated to weigh 1,140 pounds.
Special to the Times-Union


02/06/05 -
The Florida Times-Union

First there was Hogzilla, the legendary South Georgia wild boar of beastly proportions and questionable origins. Now, from the rural Florida community of Okahumpka comes another monster hog without a catchy name but with a credible story.

Actually, depending on the source of the e-mails, there are several not-so-credible stories attached to the estimated 1,140-pound wild hog killed this past August by Larry Earley at his 22-acre farm near Leesburg. Earley's hog, which went relatively unpublicized for months, has recently taken on a wildly embellished life of its own on the Internet.

One version -- all the e-mailed stories include photos -- has Earley shooting the hog in Texas. Another has Earley firing two shots from a handgun at the charging animal, and, later, donating the meat to feed the homeless in Orlando.

"I was laughing when I saw that," said the 39-year-old Earley, who works as a fireman in Orlando. "There are two or three versions from Texas. One of them renames me. Another keeps my name but changes the location to outside of Houston.

"I have no idea where the stories came from."

According to Earley, here's what really happened.

At around 4 p.m. on Aug. 27, Earley went to check on one of his Labrador retrievers that had gone for a swim in the pond on his property. Earley was concerned because a 9-foot alligator frequents the pond.

"I was standing on the dock and saw the butt of the hog," he said. "At first I thought it was a steer that had gotten through the fence. Then I saw it from the side and saw an 8-inch tusk."

A longtime hog hunter, Earley dashed back to the house and holstered his .44 magnum Smith & Wesson handgun. It's the gun he prefers for hog-hunting because it's easily carried when pursuing a hog through thick cover.

When Earley returned, the huge hog had moved and was rooting along the edge of the pond.

Making a half-circle to gain a sidelong shot, Earley crept to within 10 yards of the animal and fired one round.

"He grunted real hard and turned and started coming at me," Earley recalled. "I backed up and tried to keep the crosshairs on him, but he made about three jumps and fell over sideways about 10 feet from me.

"I didn't realize he was that big or I would have gotten a different gun."

Earley, whose previous biggest hog had weighed 230 pounds, had no clue what this one weighed. He figured maybe 400, 500 pounds. A 300-pound wild hog is considered a giant. A 400-pounder's a nightmare.

Having no suitable scale available, Earley got help loading the hog onto a flatbed trailer used for hauling cars. He then drove up Interstate 75 -- his cargo drawing stares from other motorists -- to Suwannee River Ranch near Branford in Suwannee County. The ranch is a hunting preserve owned by John Kruzeski, a boyhood friend of Earley's, and it has a 500-pound game scale.

Kruzeski did a double-take when he saw Earley's hog, which easily outmatched the measly 500-pound scale.

"He said, 'Man, that thing weighs 1,000 pounds,'" Earley said.

Robert Bradow, who owns Smokin' Oak Sausage Co. in Branford and processes meat for Suwannee River Ranch and other area hunting preserves, witnessed Earley's hog before he processed it. He was stunned by its size.

"That thing was unbelievably huge, the biggest hog I've ever seen," Bradow said. "We've processed a bunch of hogs, and probably 450 pounds is the biggest we've ever seen."

Using a meat-processing formula, Bradow estimated the hog to weigh between 1,100 and 1,200 pounds.

"There was over 300 pounds of boneless meat," he said. "We have a rule of thumb, the thirds rule -- one-third for the head and hide, one-third for the internal viscera, one-third for the carcass.

"My math tells me you're looking at 1,140 pounds, almost 1,200 pounds. He was a beast."

The hog's head and hide alone weighed 284 pounds. Measured from the gum line, one tusk was 8 1/4 inches long; the other was broken off. The hog's neck was 42 inches around. Earley is having the head mounted.

So how does a wild hog grow that large? It's likely Earley's hog had some domestic blood in him. Also, Earley believes the hog he shot had fattened up on salt licks at a neighboring ranch.

"My neighbor had complained about his mineral blocks disappearing," Earley said. "He had asked me four years ago if I'd seen a great big gray boar."

"He definitely had some domestic in him, but he was a genuine wild hog," Bradow said. "That hog had almost no fat on him, which tells me he had a lot of wild in him."

Comparisons of Earley's hog to the much-publicized Hogzilla are unavoidable. Hogzilla was killed last June at River Oak Plantation in Alapaha, Ga., by an employee of the hunting preserve. The hog reportedly weighed 1,000 pounds, measured 12 feet long and sported 9-inch tusks.

Other than a widely circulated picture, there is no documentation of Hogzilla. According to the property owners, the animal was buried on the plantation because it wouldn't fit in one piece in a freezer, and the meat was unsuitable for consumption.

Forensic scientists from the National Geographic Channel have unearthed Hogzilla and will report their findings in a show to be aired later this year, according to The Associated Press.

Earley, whose own hog is the subject of debate in e-mail exchanges, is skeptical.

"That seems odd to me, to shoot something like that and bury it real fast," he said.

Earley's freezer is still full of sausage, and he has given much of it away to friends. None to the homeless, although that detail made for a good Internet story.

Although he doesn't seem the type to relish attention, Earley has become something of a celebrity. He has been interviewed by newspapers, radio stations and The Farmer's Almanac.

Earley and his 10-year-old daughter took the photos that have shown up in e-mails, but they have no idea where the accompanying stories originated.

"There were only a couple of people I sent pictures to," Earley said. "I have some people I know who might have written [the stories], but nobody's fessed up yet.

"It's pretty amazing how far around this has gotten. I don't mind. I love talking about hunting."

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