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Pig Facts and Pig Trivia
“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals” - Sir Winston Churchill
Let me illustrate what Winston meant. Suppose you own three pets: a cat, a dog and a pig. You are away from home for ten days on a business trip. Upon your return, you walk in the door. The cat is indifferent – it couldn’t care less that you were away. The dog is delirious with joy that you are home again. But the pig gives you a look as if to say, “So, where were you all this time? And why didn’t you write?”
Did you know that pigs are ranked #4 in animal intelligence? Chimpanzees are ranked at the top together with the gorilla, orangutan, baboon, gibbon and monkey. Dolphins and killer whales are ranked #2. Elephants are #3. Pigs are #4 because they are very intelligent and can learn to do tricks faster than dogs. They have learned to push a lever in the barnyard to get a drink of water or a dish of food, and have been taught to tumble, race, pull carts. and dance.
We generally call a pig either “pig, hog, porker or swine” without regard to its size, gender or breed. But to be more precise, a male pig is a boar. A castrated male is a barrow. A female pig who has not been bred yet is a gilt. And a female pig who has had piglets (baby pigs) is a sow. You may hear the word, “porcine,” which means relating to swine.
I wrote a Hub recently on cows who are very interesting creatures (see “Cow Facts and Cow Trivia”) but my heart belongs to pigs. I collect pigs every time I travel - not real live pigs, just pig souvenirs. But that’s another story.
Pig facts you may already know:
• Pigs were one of the first animals to be domesticated and raised for food by the Chinese around 6,000 years ago. They originated from Eurasian wild boars.
• Hernando de Soto, the famous Spanish explorer, brought the first pig to North America in 1539. (Cows didn’t get here until 1611 with the Pilgrims).
• There are 15 different species of pigs (Sus domestica). The Duroc is reddish brown in color and the most popular breed in the U.S.. White colored farm breeds include the Yorkshire and Chester White, both with erect ears, and the Landrace, with ears that fall over its eyes. The Spotted Poland China is a white pig with black spots. Many commercial pig farmers cross several breeds together so there is great variation in color.
• There are around 2 billion domestic pigs on the planet.
• Pigs are omnivores and despite a reputation for gluttony, they do not overeat. They eat only until they are full.
• Domestic pigs are rarely aggressive. The only exceptions are sows with a young litter and boars if provoked.
• A full grown pig can drink up to 14 gallons of water a day.
• A pig has a snout for a nose, small eyes, and a small tail, which may be curly, kinked or straight. It has a thick, stout body, short legs, and coarse, bristly hair.
• A mature pig has 44 teeth. The canine teeth, called tusks, grow continuously and are sharpened by the lowers and uppers rubbing against each other.
• Pigs have four toes on each foot and each toe ends in a hoof. They only walk on the two middle toes on each foot so they look as if they are on their tiptoes.
• Pigs use grunts to communicate with each other and will often bark and squeal when agitated.
• Pigs are gregarious and very social animals. They form close bonds with each other and other species. They enjoy close contact and will lie close together when resting.
• A sow can give birth to a litter containing 7 to 12 piglets about twice a year. Giving birth to baby pigs is called farrowing. The gestation period of a sow is 114 days – a little less than 4 months.
• A baby pig, or piglet, weighs about 2 ½ pounds at birth and will double its weight in just seven days.
• Weaning occurs at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers. Two or more sows usually join together in an extended family.
Pig facts you may not know:
• Swine have been maligned. We think of them as dirty, but pigs are very clean animals. They keep their “toilets” far from their living or eating area. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to go to the bathroom.
• Pigs probably got the reputation as dirty animals because they like to wallow in mud. There’s a reason. Pigs do not have functional sweat glands, so they can't perspire to cool themselves. They roll around in the mud to cool their skin.
• They also use a layer of mud as sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburn. Mud also provides protection against flies, parasites and insect bites.
• Pigs are very good swimmers and prefer water, if it’s available, to mud.
• People around the world eat more pork than any other meat, but n the U.S. pork ranks behind beef and poultry.
• Did you know a pig can run a 7-minute mile?
• Pigs have a powerful sense of smell. Their snout is a highly developed sense organ and very sensitive to touch. Some farmers put rings in pigs' noses to keep them from rooting, or digging up the earth with their snouts. In the wild, pigs feed themselves by digging for roots to eat. This causes a lot of damage on a farm.
• When fully grown, boars may weigh more than 500 pounds, and sows may weigh from 300 to 500 pounds.
• Most pigs are sold when they are 6 or 7 months old and weigh about 210 to 250 pounds. If pigs are kept longer they are usually used for breeding.
• A pig's squeal can range from 110 to 115 decibels. Compare that to the take-off sound of a jet engine - about 112 decibels.
• Baby pigs appear very greedy when they are competing for food from their mothers. For this reason the words “pig” and “hog” have become associated with greedy behavior.
• Pig farmers are very careful about what they feed their animals - corn, wheat and soybean meal. Vitamins and minerals are added to increase growth and improve health.
• Pork provides protein, B-vitamins and thiamin to our diets. Pork has three times as much thiamin as any other food. Thiamin changes carbohydrates into energy.
• Pigs have such a well developed sense of smell that they can easily find things underground.
• Soldier pigs have gone to war. On battlefields, they have used their sensitive snouts as mine sniffers.
• Pigs are curious and like to keep busy. Some farmers entertain their pigs with beach balls and old tires.
• Pigs also enjoy listening to music.
"No man should be allowed to be President who does not understand hogs." - President Harry Truman
• The ancient Chinese were so reluctant to be separated from fresh pork that the departed were often buried with their entire herd of hogs.
• Wild hogs are strong and fierce and live in forests and jungles in many parts of the world. Razorbacks (wild hogs with sharp, narrow backs) live in the Southeastern U.S. and the West Indies.
• During the War of 1812, a New York pork packer named Uncle Sam Wilson shipped a boatload of several hundred barrels of pork to U.S. troops. Each barrel was stamped "U.S." on the docks. The "U.S." stood for "Uncle Sam" whose shipment seemed large enough to feed the entire army. This is how "Uncle Sam" came to represent the U.S. Government.
• In some areas hogs would roam freely, eating what they could find – acorns from the ground or roots which they dug from the ground with their snouts. In Manhattan, New York City, hogs ravaged grain fields until farmers were forced to build a wall to keep them out. The street running along this wall became Wall Street.
• Some pigs are trained to root for truffles, a delicacy that grows underground in temperate forests in Europe and North America. Caution: Don't let Porky off the leash - pigs love eating truffles.
• The saying "living high on the hog" started among enlisted men in the U.S. Army who received shoulder and leg cuts of pork while officers received the top loin cuts. “Living high on the hog" came to mean living well.
• Have you ever heard the saying, "Don’t buy a pig in a poke?" In 17th century England, it was a common trick to try to give away a cat to an unsuspecting shopper buying a suckling (young) pig. When he opened the poke (sack), he "let the cat out of the bag," and found he had been cheated.
• The phrase "pork barrel" politics" is derived from the pre-Civil War practice of distributing salt pork to the slaves from huge barrels. By the 1870s, congressmen were referring to regularly dipping into the "pork barrel" for obtaining funds for popular projects in their home districts. None of this goes on today, of course. That’s a joke, son.
• The highest known price ever paid for a hog was $56,000 paid for a cross-bred hog named Bud on March 5, 1985.
• Pigs are brave. A pig named Priscilla saved a boy from drowning. She is in the Pet Hall of Fame.
• Raising pigs became an important commercial enterprise during the 1800s when Midwest farm regions were settled. The new Erie Canal gave farmers a way to get their pigs to the cities back east. Farmers started calling their pigs, “Mortgage Lifters,” because the profits from their sales paid for the new homesteads.
• The largest pig to date was a Poland-China hog, named "Big Bill". It weighed 2,552 pounds. It was 5 feet tall and 9 feet long.
• The largest litter of piglets ever born included 37 piglets, out of which 36 were born alive and 33 survived.
• Pigs can live from 9 to 15 years. If we let them.
Pig heart valves have been used to replace damaged human heart valves.
Insulin and more than 40 other pharmaceuticals and medicines are derived from pig products.
Pig fat and other pig products are used in cosmetics, floor wax, crayons, chalk, weed killers, anti-freeze, glass, china, adhesives, plastics, paint, chewing gum, shoes, and hundreds of other items.
And one of your favorite protein-filled foods - the other white meat - may be pork chops, pork roast, spare ribs, bacon, ham, sausage or hot dogs.
© Copyright BJ Rakow 2011. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So" - a serious book about proven job search strategies written in a light-hearted fashion.