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'The Wild Boar' by Friedrich Specht, circa 1887

'The Wild Boar' by Friedrich Specht, circa 1887

Christmas Traditions at Queen's College

Every Christmas day a roast boar's head is served as part of dinner at Queen's College, Oxford.

This unusual culinary tradition apparently dates back to the fourteenth century and was inspired by a legend concerning a student who had an unexpected encounter with a wild boar in Shotover Wood.

A boar attack at Shotover

The student had taken a book of Aristotle's Logic to Shotover Wood to find some peace and quiet while studying his Greek.

So engrossed was the student in his book that he failed to notice a wild boar charging towards him until it was too late to run. Instead, the student thrust his book into the boar's open mouth, causing the beast to choke to death.

The story is recounted in various sources, and the dialogue between student and boar is recorded slightly differently in some.

Variations on the story

According to the Oxford University and City Guide (1820), the student's words on thrusting the book were 'Gracca cum est!' ('With the compliments of the Greeks!').

According to John Pointer in his Oxoniensis, or the Antiquities and Curiosities of the University of Oxford (1749), the student thrust the book shouting 'Swallow that, if you can!' and the boar responded with 'Eheu, Graecum est!' ('It's all Greek to me!') before expiring.

Where the Boar learned Greek, or how it managed to speak with its mouth full is a mystery, but the legend is one that is remembered by staff and students each Christmas day as they tuck into their dinner.

Find out more

  1. www.beazley.ox.ac.uk
  2. 'The Lore of the Land' by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson (ISBN: 0141021039)

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