Alain Frantz is a population geneticist—not a detective or policeman or forensics expert. But he often works on game animals, like deer and badgers, which naturally leads to working with collaborators who work with hunters. And that is how the mystery of the dead hunting dog fell into his lap.
The terrier was bleeding on the forest floor, shot through the chest, after a group boar hunt in Germany. No one would admit to shooting the dog—even on accident. “In the cold light of day,” said Frantz, “it’s an insurance question.” Hunting dogs, purposely bred and highly trained, are worth thousands of dollars, and the owner had a legal claim to compensation. People wanted to know.
The poor dog, meanwhile, was rushed into emergency surgery, which did not save its life but revealed a significant clue: several wild boar hairs embedded in its gunshot wound. Catch dogs are trained to pin boars down for the hunter to kill. The hairs likely came from a boar it had grabbed onto—and the bullet that killed the boar probably also killed the dog. Finding out who shot which boar was trivial: Each boar is harvested and taken by its hunter.
The missing link was whose boar those hairs belonged to. Frantz had previously studied the genetic diversity of wild boars that go around terrorizing the city of Berlin. Could Frantz, who now worked for Luxembourg’s National Museum of Natural History, help identify this boar down to the individual? He agreed to try, and his German collaborators gave him the collection of physical evidence: six boar hairs from the dog’s wound and muscle samples from all 19 boars harvested that day, preserved in alcohol.