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Meet the pigs roaming free so they can feast on freshly fallen acorns

Letting pigs munch on green acorns helps to keep ponies and cattle in the New Forest safe too.

These brilliant pictures show pigs wandering freely in the New Forest on the first day of pannage.

The domestic pigs are allowed to roam in the forest for a set period in the autumn and expected to feast on freshly fallen acorns.

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(Andrew Matthews/PA)

It’s a practice that dates back to the time of William the Conqueror, who founded the New Forest in 1079.

It’s win-win for forest animals because green acorns are potentially dangerous to the ponies and cattle, which roam the forest for the majority of the year, if eaten in large quantities.

It’s not just acorns that the pigs will munch on from the forest floor but also beech mast, chestnuts and other nuts.

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(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Pannage lasts a minimum of 60 days and this year is expected to end on November 11.

The gloriously playful pictures were taken near Burley in Hampshire as pannage – also known as Common of Mast – got under way.

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(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Some 600 pigs and piglets will work their way through the forest.

The rest of the time, the pigs are kept in smallholdings by Commoners within the forest grounds.

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(Andrew Matthews/PA)

New Forest pigs have to have a ring through their nose which stops them rooting in the ground with their snouts.

This prevents them from messing up the floor while roaming.

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(Andrew Matthews/PA)

At the end of pannage, rounding up the pigs can be a tricky affair for the New Forest Commoners.

But after seeing pictures like this, it’s got to be worth it.

Visitors are warned to look out for the pigs but not to approach them.

During pannage, bakeries and farm shops in the area are likely to sell piggy-shaped biscuits to celebrate the historic season.

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