“Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.”
– Winston Churchill
This article aims to present you some interesting facts about pigs, that might change and improve your perception about the most common domesticated farm animals.
As I know you would agree, in spite of our difference, we are also very much alike. We share similar habits, preferences, cultures and traditions, things that we love and hate, people that we prefer and others that we avoid and the list can continue further on.
Believe it or not, it is happening the exact same in the animal kingdom; they have their own preferences regarding food and companions, are smart, intelligent, able to learn and discover new things. They are capable of loving and have deep feelings and emotions regarding their families and herds, and sometimes they show affection and empathy even for other species around them.
Following the desire to understand and educate myself more about the world around me, I decided to create a series of articles regarding interesting facts about animals. Enjoy 🙂
A pig family
The Suidae family appeared in the mid-Oligocene (Paleogene Period), and have survived to the present day with only minor changes to the original body plan.
The pig as we know it, was domesticated 9000 years ago and comes from Asia and Europe. Later on was introduced also to America and Australia.
Due to their common use as livestock, adult swine have gender specific names: the males are boars and the females are sows. In Britain, the word hog can refer to a castrated adult male pig.
The boars and sows can grow from 300 to 700 pounds, that is 140-300 kg and sometimes even more. Baby pigs are called piglets and at birth they have 2.5 pounds (1.1 kg).
The gestation period of a domestic pig is 114 days, and the easiest way to remember is to break this into “The rule of threes”: three months, three weeks and three days.
A domestic farm pig averages 8-12 piglets per litter (a group of piglets is called a drift, drove or litter, just like with puppies and kittens) and can have two to three litters per year.
The swines are highly social and when given the opportunity, live in large groups (these groups are called sounders) while males tend to be more solitary and occupy lead positions in a groups of females.
When dividing them into populations, there can be found 4 tribes of pigs. The main distinctive factor being their dentition;
- Babyrousini – babirusas (Babyrousa)
- Phacochoerini – warthogs (Phacocherus)
- Potamocherini -African forest pig (Hylochoerus and Patamochoerus)
- Suini – Eurasian swine (Sus)
“Wow, you are so dirty! Go get clean, what are you, a pig?”
Rings a bell? Well.. it is totally wrong.
Despite their reputation, pigs are not dirty animals. They’re actually quite clean.
The pig’s reputation as a filthy animal comes from its habit of rolling in mud. Pigs that live in cool, covered environments stay very clean. Pigs are rolling in mud to cool of because they have only few sweat glands, their body is high in fat and their barrel-shaped torso stores heat. So, we can’t really blame them…
A mud bath is more cooling than a dip in cold water because the water from the mud evaporates off more slowly from the pig’s body than clean water will do. Therefore it allows their pink skin and body to refresh better. Another reason found why pigs love bathing in mud is the opportunity to scrape off parasites such as ticks and lice.
They also are keeping their toilet area far away from where they lie down and eat. Even newborn piglets will leave the nest to go to the toilet within hours of birth. Now this is good common sense, something we don’t see in human babies at such early age.
Related to who? (destroying the Elephant myth)
Many believe that because pigs love rolling into mud they might be in a way related to other animals with the same behavior, such as elephants.
From a taxonomic standpoint, the most specific grouping that includes both pigs and elephants is the Class Mammalia.
This means that pigs and elephants are related only by class, matter of which we can’t debate when talking about a chicken and a crocodile for example (Class Aves vs. Class Reptilia), so yes, they have this in common.
Everything on Earth is related in one way or another, and embryology tells us that our embryos look alike when ‘we begin our journey’,(pretty amazing if we think about it). This shows that animals develop similarly, implying that they are related – have common ancestors and started out the same, gradually evolving different traits, but that the basic plan for a creature’s beginning remains the same.
As mammals go, the relationship between pigs and elephants is very distant, and they certainly don’t go to each other’s family dinner parties.
Pigs are omnivores but they eat predominantly fruits and vegetables. In the wild they eat everything from leaves, roots, to rodents and small reptiles.
- Farm pigs also eat compost and root vegetables, pumpkin, squash, kale and beets.
- Domestic pigs, have large appetites and eat whatever comes their way eating everything the owner give them.
- Pet pigs also eat vegetables in the form of celery, potatoes, peppers and greens.
- Farm hogs are also given goat’s milk and eggs for food.
A great deal of their diet depends on the season, and feral pigs gravitate to agricultural crops that include corn, rice and wheat. In the United States, farm-raised pigs eat commercially made diets of mostly corn. In Europe, pigs eat barley-based diets.
Wild pigs play an important role in managing ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity. By rooting, and thus disturbing the soil, they create areas for new plant colonization. They also spread fruit plants by dispersing their seeds. Because of their foraging abilities and excellent sense of smell, pigs are used to find truffles in many European countries.
Pigs are intelligent
“What is known suggests that pigs are cognitively complex and share many traits with animals whom we consider intelligent”
– Christina M. Colvin, Lori Marino
“[Eating bacon is] like eating my niece!”
– Cameron Diaz
Pigs are curious and insightful animals who are widely accepted as being smarter than young children of at least 3 years of age.
According to research, pigs are much smarter than dogs, and they even do better at video games than some primates.
Find it hard to believe? Well here is an interesting scientific study that explains more;
Made by Lori Marino – a neuroscientist and founder of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, and Christina M. Colvin, a professor at Emory University, the study, titled “Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review of Cognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticus.” was conducted to discover more about these underestimated beings.
In the document there are presented findings regarding pigs mental capacity, and point out some very compelling reasons to regard pigs as intelligent, aware, emotionally and socially sophisticated beings.
This group of researchers is trying to increase the amount of noninvasive research on farm animals. The paper ends with a call for more studies.
“Ultimately, in an ideal world people would use this information to stop eating meat,” Marino told The Huffington Post. “But I think that we would be happy to just give people the information and let them make their own decisions.”
Research suggests pigs have excellent long-term memories, and are skilled at mazes and other tests requiring location of objects.
They can also comprehend a simple symbolic language and learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects. They are showing happiness by wagging their tail, they love to play and they get involved in mock fighting with each other just like dogs do.
‘We have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans…There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them.’
– said neuroscientist Lori Marino of Emory University.
Pigs are social animals
Pigs form close bonds with other individuals and love close contact and lying down together.
Pigs are peaceful animals, rarely showing aggression. The exception, as with many animals, is when a mother (sow) with her young offspring is provoked or threatened.
Pigs are known to occupy number 12 among other animals in the Chinese zodiac and it is seen to represent, fortune, honesty, happiness and virility.
There are also stories telling that pigs are aggressive and vicious animals, eating everything in their way, and even known to attack humans.
Here are 2 stories that i found regarding this matter:
“It’s ironic justice that you’d be eaten by the animal you’re breeding for food”
– Chris Maidens
The 1st instance where the pig attacked and ate a human was registered in 2004 in Brasov, Romania, where a woman died after her fingers, ears and half a face were consumed by a pig.
There are no other details regarding this case, we don’t know the real context so we cannot say if the pigs were truly aggressive by nature, or if they were provoked to attack.
The 2nd instance was found in 2012 in Oregon, where a 70 year old farmer was found eaten by his hogs. In this case there are several scenarios: one is assuming that pigs knocked him down when he was feeding them and then consumed him. And the 2nd one tells us that the farmer might had a heart attack which put him in a position where pigs could consumed him.
On a big contrast, here are 2 stories on a different note, with happy endings – where our main character for today’s subject were declared heroes.
LuLu the Potbellied Pig
“She is a princess”– Jo Ann
Jo Ann had suffered a heart attack and laid down in desperate need of medical attention. The only one around her was LuLu, her Pot Bellied Pig. LuLu managed to open the door and ran outside in the middle of the street where she laid down and waited for someone to stop their car. Some cars avoided her and drove further on, but one stopped and the driver came to check LuLu out for any injuries.
Little did he know he was about to have a big surprise: LuLu got up by herself and guide him to the house where her owner was in danger.
The nice man followed LuLu to the door and yelled: “Lady, your pig’s in distress.”
Jo Ann replied: “I’m in distress, too,” “Please call an ambulance.”
Jo Ann was flown to The Medical Center, Beaver, for open-heart surgery. Had 15 more minutes passed, doctors told her, she would have died.
Proclaimed a hero, LuLu will live happily ever after with her caring owner.
‘The noise he makes is like a low rumble that sounds like the biggest Rottweiler you can imagine, so I think they just ran”
– Mr. Maughan
Ludwick, pot-bellied pig scared off a gang of burglars who attempted to raid a family’s home on New Year’s Eve.
Ludwig was the 1st pig to be brought from Canada to Britain. His owners would not settle to leave him behind for nothing in the world, therefore they struggled with paperwork and government discussions, and finally ended up victorious.
They talk about Ludwig like a family member and they obviously love him very much.
On New Year’s Eve a gang broke into their house but weren’t lucky and fled empty handed.
Mike Maughan and Liane Scholz praised their pet for saving their goods.
‘It was New Year’s Eve and when we came down in the morning, the door was wide open. The room was still warm so they can’t have been there for that long. They must have woken Ludwig up and when he realised that we weren’t up and would have been disturbed he sprang into action. There were things in there they could have taken, like a bike, but they just left.’
Mr Maughan, believes that the raiders were probably scared off by Ludwig’s incredibly low growl. Whatever it was, it worked, and Ludwig proved his protector ability, saving his family from missing their goods and from extra expenses.
Some Medical Stuff
1. It is no secret today, studies, doctors, and most importantly: live human examples shown that ham, sausage, and bacon strips will go right to your hips, belly, boobies, arms, legs, face, organs, you name it. Pork products are loaded with artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat. Consuming them it is a good way to increase your waistline and increase your chances of developing deadly diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and impotence. Research has shown that plant based foodies are 50% less likely to develop heart disease, and they have 40% of the cancer rate of meat-eaters. Plus, meat-eaters are 9 times more likely to be obese than plant based eaters are.
2. Extremely crowded conditions, poor ventilation, and filth in factory farms cause diseases in pigs that 70% of them have pneumonia by the time they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. In order to keep pigs alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them and to promote unnaturally fast growth, the industry keeps pigs on a steady diet of the antibiotics that we depend on to treat human illnesses. This overuse of antibiotics has led to the development of “superbacteria,”or antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains. The ham, bacon, and sausage that we are eating may make the drugs that our doctors prescribe the next time we get sick completely ineffective.
3. Swine and pigs have over a dozen parasites within them, such as tapeworms, flukes, worms, and trichinae. There is no safe temperature at which pork can be cooked to ensure that all these parasites, their cysts, and eggs will be killed. These animals carry about 30 diseases which can easily can be passed to humans. When eating pork it takes 4 hours to digest the meat which is full of toxins that are slowly put into your system and get filtered by your liver.
The meat of pigs is widely eaten by people across the world. This and the fact that they reproduce so fast makes them one of the most numerous large mammals on the planet.
Domesticated pigs, are raised commercially for meat (generally called pork, hams, gammon or bacon depending from each part of pig’s body it is cut). Pigs are also raised also for their skin: leather and for their bristly hair: used for brushes. Pigs have sharp tusks that help them dig and fight. Farmers often take off the tusks to avoid injury to people and other pigs.
Pork is one of the most popular forms of meat for human consumption, accounting for 38% of worldwide meat production.
Pigs are tremendously hurt by humans everyday. From long hours of transportation, in crowded trucks, with no water or food, to the sharp knife that is spreading their torso and throat.
Pigs are held in small cages, cramped and squeezed without the possibility to move or even turn around. They are being fed in order to get fat and then send to slaughter without having the chance to get to even ¼ of their life expectancy.
Piglets are being castrated conscious without any anesthetic, and they get poor attention, many of them dying from infections.
They are beaten when being too fat they can’t move as fast as the slaughterhouse employers would want. They are also beaten just because they can’t protect themselves from us, and humans use them as a form of sick work entertainment, tossing them to the ground, throwing hard objects in their head, punching them, cut them, poking their eyes and many other terrifying acts of cruelty.
This is what is happening in slaughterhouses. No, not only in USA, but everywhere in the world.
It is easy for Europeans and others to say “oh this is happening only in big companies, and mostly in USA, here they are killing animals more humanely”. But sadly, this is not true. If we make some research, we will easily see what is happening right under our noses.
This is what is happening with the nicely packed flesh (so called ‘meat’) that we so carefully picking for barbecues and grills from our local supermarket.
And we might not torture these poor animals, but we are paying someone else to do it for us, because we support the industry by buying their “products”.
There are many undercover activists out there who provide us with facts of what is happening, and also former slaughterhouse employees that are sharing their experiences to learn from. This is not a happy ending fairy tale. It is happening right now.
Overall, in slaughterhouses where they actually hire humans with their mental health on spot, they might not torture these animals as we’ve just witnessed, but they are breeding them just the same: kept in small cages, cramped in gestation crates, mutilated while they are conscious and in the end killed before their time.
No matter what anyone says: there is no humane slaughter! Killing is never gentle, it is never kind!
These being told…
Only by the mentioned facts, i don’t think we can conclude that pigs are aggressive by nature or not. There are also many other incidents with different domestic pets who attacked or killed humans. I guess it is fair to say that any animal can get aggressive at a point. The human is responsible to understand and accept this matter.
Regarding eating them, as studies show: we don’t need this in order to survive, and meat kills us slowly.
Then why do it?
Taste? We are kidding ourselves.
We don’t love the taste of meat, we love the condiments and textures that we are taught to love. We don’t hunt a squirrel in the park and it it raw. Because we are not carnivores.
Nowadays, there isn’t any animal product that cannot be substitute and imitate by plant based foods (even eggs). We just created some pretty nice vegan cheese sauces, and we are working constantly on new appealing, healthy recipes. If we can do it, anyone can.
We just need to be open and make the transition. We will improve our health, our planet, and save animals lives in the process.
I find myself more interested in this animal; was lovely to make this research and learn so many new things about pigs. I would love to have the opportunity to spend more time around farm animals overall and to observe them and learn to respect them just as i respect and love my own pet friends. Do you have a pig at home? Give me a call.
I think we need to take some time and evaluate the horrible truth in our actions, and put an end to it.
I also think we need to open ourselves more to all earthlings and nature around us and make time to be amazed by the creatures we don’t credit by default.
Hopefully you enjoyed this and aquire some pretty interesting facts about pigs.
If you found here new things (happy or sad) that made you lift your eyebrows even just for a little bit and you feel that you gained also some new moral knowledge to process, then my aim was hit. 🙂
Please feel free to interact, share your opinions and experiences: if you have a pig as pet friend, if you spent your childhood at the country side and your grandma had pigs in the courtyard and have some memories, or other interesting thoughts and stories. Would love to hear them all.
Until next time, peace and plants to you!