TOWNSEND — It’s mating season at Shay’s Flock of Fun Farm in Townsend, and Tuesday evening, Boss, a potbellied boar, had his eyes on some girl pigs in an outdoor paddock, his owner said.
Around 5:52 p.m., Boss, who weighs about 225 pounds, broke out of his pen in hot pursuit, but Shannon Hernandez said she was standing by with a shovel to corral her pet.
But the 5-year-old pig instead stormed at Hernandez, cutting her wrist, arm, leg, and side. Less than two hours later, Boss attacked again, this time wounding Hernandez’s husband, Jose. He sustained puncture wounds to two major arteries in his right wrist and was hospitalized, she said.
“My pig just literally attacked me,” Hernandez yelled to an emergency dispatcher during a 911 call released Wednesday.
Jose Hernandez, 50, was in fair condition Wednesday at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, a hospital spokesman said.
As a result of the attack, the Hernandezes requested that Boss be euthanized, which will happen Thursday, officials said. He will also be tested for rabies.
Townsend Animal Control officer Mary Letourneau said the assault was “vicious” and the couple now fears Boss.
“They’re afraid of him,” Letourneau said. “I don’t like to see anything euthanized. I fight my hardest not to. But in this case we don’t have a choice.”
The attack stunned the couple’s friends and neighbors, struggling to explain what might have provoked Boss.
Townsend police, along with several veterinarians, are conducting an investigation into the attack.
Even pig owners were surprised.
“I’ve never really heard of someone being seriously attacked or hurt by a potbellied pig,” said Dottie Eggeman, a potbellied pig owner in Eustis, Fla., who runs the website pigs4ever.com, which offers advice and resources for pig owners.
Eggeman said many people cannot handle a boar and she recommends pigs be spayed and neutered.
“They’re not interested in food. They’re more interested in finding a girl,” she said. “They’ve got one thing on their mind.”
Boss has never attacked before, Shannon Hernandez said.
But Tuesday night, Boss “broke out of his pen to get to the girls in heat,” Shannon Hernandez said.
“I got him into his barn to get him locked into his stall. He turned around and started coming at me. I had a shovel, ready, waiting,” she said, speaking to reporters outside her home Wednesday morning. “I fell backwards, and he came at me.”
Hernandez told the emergency dispatcher that her husband was not home when she was attacked.
She was taken to a hospital in Leominster, and while she was there being treated, officials said Boss attacked again, biting Jose Hernandez around 7:29 p.m. Tuesday.
“He was giving him water,” Shannon Hernandez said. “[Boss] came at him and got him worse than he got me.”
Jose Hernandez managed to escape Boss and get to the edge of his property on Fitchburg Road, where a passing motorist saw him bleeding and called 911, Townsend Police Chief Robert M. Eaton Jr. said.
“The pig could have done a lot more damage,” Letourneau said.
Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, said while there have been instances of pig bites in the past, the agency said it had not received any reports of a “vicious attack” in recent memory.
Neighbors said Shannon and Jose Hernandez have lived at the Fitchburg Road farm for about five years and raise chickens, goats, rabbits, and other animals. They previously lived at a nearby property, where they also had a farm, said Susan and David Gray, who live in their former home.
“It was a shock,” said Susan Gray, 63. “I hope he makes it.”
Shannon, who also goes by Shay, is known for her expertise raising chickens and other birds, said Helen Pacyna, who lives in Townsend. She spoke at Farmers Exchange on Elm Street, where many people know the couple.
Pacyna said when her chicken fell ill about a year ago, she consulted with Shannon, who gave advice that nursed the animal back to health.
One of Shannon’s chickens, an Old English Game Bantam named Chica Love Bug, is known around town for getting excited at the sight of food from Dunkin’ Donuts, she said.
“She’s a professional farmer. She does it full time,” Pacyna said of Shannon Hernandez. “I have so much respect for that.”
She said before the attack Tuesday, she stopped by the couple’s farm to deliver homemade strawberry jam.
Jose Hernandez was delighted by the gift, Pacyna said.
“He’s a super sweet guy. He’s everybody’s friend,” she said. “He’s full of life.”
Pacyna said Townsend will rally around the couple.
“People around here do that,” she said. “That’s the kind of town we have.”
Listen to 911 calls related to the attack below: