all about pigs

THE PIG: A BRIEF HISTORY

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The domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus or Sus domesticus), often known as ‘swine’ or ‘hog’, is a large, even-toed ungulate (hooved) omnivore. Archaeological evidence suggests that pigs were domesticated from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BC in the Near East.  However, remains of pigs have dated to earlier than 11,400 BC in Cyprus. There are about a billion pigs in the world at any one time; more than half live in China, one of the first places the wild boar (Sus scrofa) was domesticated more than 9,000 years ago.

Historically, pigs and wild boar have been used as badges, heraldic devices or as symbols. Pigs, but mainly sows, were a symbol of fertility.  The last of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, it is seen to represent fortune, honesty, happiness and virility.

Pigs even have their own Patron Saint, St Anthony the Great, also referred to as ‘the Abbott’ who is also the Patron Saint of swineherds and pig keepers.

Peaceful, intelligent, social and clean are not the first thoughts that would spring to mind and very much contradict the well know sayings which are made all the more ironic when you think pigs cannot actually sweat and would much rather savor rather than scoff their food!

Pigs constantly communicate with each other with a range of different grunts, oinks and squeals which apparently have a distinct meaning!  They dream, snuggle close, nose to nose and mothers sing to their young whilst nursing.  Pigs would happily spend their days playing, exploring and sunbathing!  So to quote Winston Churchill ‘Dogs look up to man.  Cats look down to man.  Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal’.  Perhaps with so many similarities, that’s exactly what they do see?

PIG TERMINOLOGY

• Pig/Swine: common name for the domesticated species, Sus scrofa domesticus. Sometimes used to refer to a young, immature individual.
• Piglet: a young pig
• Litter: all the piglets born at one birthing
• Runt: the smallest piglet in a litter
• Sucker: a piglet (either male or female) that is still suckling/nursing from its dam
• Shoat: older term used to describe a growing pig. “Hog” is sometimes used.
• Hog: can be used for a growing pig or a mature pig (depends on where you are from!) • Farrowing: period of time from birth to weaning
• Boar: uncastrated male pig that is older than 6 months, suitable for breeding
• Sire: the boar or father of a piglet
• Barrow: castrated male pig (the term “hog” is sometimes used as well)
• Rig: male pig with undescended testicle (may or may not be fertile)
• Gilt/Maiden Sow: female pig which has not had a litter of piglets, usually up to 6 months
• Sow: female pig that has already has had its first litter of piglets
• Dam: the sow or mother of a piglet
• Weaner: a piglet that has been separated from its mother (5-10 weeks of age), up to about 40 lbs/18 kg
• Porker: a pig grown to “pork” weight (roughly 130 lbs/60 kg live weight depending on the breed) at 4-6 months of age
• Baconer: a pig grown to “bacon” weight (roughly 175-220 lbs/80-100 kg live weight depending on the breed) at 8-10 months of age
• Chopper: an older, mature pig that is used for sausages or other by-products

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