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The Legend of the tongue-less Bradford Boar

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

In my past life as a marketing man, I once had to come up with a logo and brand for a syndicate of Bradford based surgeons called Bradford Surgical Associates. Part of the brief was they wanted to incorporate a boar’s head. At the time I did not understand the link but on further investigation – it turns out to be quite a fascinating story, more akin to a Brothers Grimm Fairytale!

The City of Bradford’s coat of arms features a boar’s head. The boars head can also be seen all around Bradford city centre on buildings and on crests. (It used for feature on Bradford City’s badge too until they adopted a bantam.

But it’s not just a Boar’s Head – it is a tongue-less boar’s head!

But why has this become such a key component in Bradford’s coat of arms?

Apparently the story dates back to the 1300’s when the lands around Bradford were owned by John of Gaunt. He was one of Edward III’s sons and also held the title Duke of Lancaster. During this period much of Bradford was covered in woodland and much of it was officially listed as medieval hunting forest.

Historians claim the area around Cliffe wood where the cathedral is now just off Canal Road was particularly heavily forested. This area was home to a huge, ferocious wild boar who had started to attack local people and terrorised the locals. The locals relied on a well in Cliffe Woods and fear had made this valuable water source out of bounds

Apparently, John of Gaunt as Lord of the Manor put up a reward for anyone who could kill the wild boar and bring him the head.

Many tried and were badly injured until a brave chap by the name of Northrop eventually succeeded in killing the boar. But the boar was such a size that once the head had been removed it was too heavy for him to carry on foot. Instead he cut the boars tongue out to use as evidence he had killed the beast and went to find the Lord of the Manor to claim the reward.

But in the meantime, a traveller wandering through the forest who had heard about reward stumbled on the dead beast. He loaded the gigantic boars head onto his horse and also went to claim the reward arriving before Northrop.

The traveller was just about to be handed the reward when Northrop arrived and presented the boars tongue as evidence that he had killed the beast. John of Gaunt investigated the head and saw the boars head was tongue-less. As the traveller could give no satisfactory account of how this could have occurred and after weighing up the evidence, Gaunt concluded that Northrop had actually been the one who had killed the beast.

Apparently, the reward was a large piece of land in Great Horton – now known as Hunter’s Yard...


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