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About A Pig

Just a few things you ought to know about pigs.

By John Oliver SmithPublished 2 years ago 7 min read
Happy as a pig in . . .

While many farms worldwide have one to thousands of pigs, not many people know a lot about these animals. I grew up on a pig farm and during the first 18 years of my life, I interacted with them on a daily basis. I learned what they liked and what they didn’t like. I learned their habits and how they communicated. On graduating from high-school, I left the farm briefly to attend the University of Saskatchewan. After becoming disenchanted with university life, I returned to the farm and became involved with the business of raising pigs. Our hog operation was a ‘Farrow to Finish’ business. We kept approximately 40 to 50 breeding sows throughout the year with about one third of them nursing at any one time. We sold anywhere from 300 to 600 market hogs per year and the returns on those sales provided a cash flow that allowed me to do most of the things I ever wanted to do in my life. On our farm, the care of the pigs was largely manual and very labor intensive for most of the years I partnered in the business. A summer tornado in 1976, destroyed parts of the various barns. We were forced to rebuild, so segments of the operation did become automated at that point, but we were still able to maintain a fairly close relationship with our animals even though some of the manual aspects were reduced. During all of my many years working with pigs I collected many interesting and perhaps trivial facts about pigs that I learned through experience or that I read about or that other hog farmers shared with me at countless auction sales and agricultural symposiums. Below, I have compiled 30 of those points about pigs that will get you up to date on everything that you should know about them.

• Pigs are in constant communication with one another through their senses of touch, taste and smell. They also communicate with each other by squealing and grunting and they can actually respond to their names (if given) at an age of about three weeks. Newborn piglets recognize their own names and even learn to run to their mothers’ voices. This is because the mothers’ sing (in a humming sort of grunt) to their young while they’re still nursing.

• Pigs snuggle very closely to each other and prefer to sleep nose to nose. This proximity while sleeping helps to keep their basically naked bodies warm. Pigs breathing on each other helps to relax them so that they can sleep comfortably. Like humans, they also dream.

• In their natural habitat, pigs can spend hours playing, exploring, and even sunbathing. Pigs both young and old are extremely curious and like to play. They are like dogs in that they will follow humans around if given the chance and attempt to tug at a person’s clothing in efforts to get attention.

• Pigs have a very good sense of direction and are easily able to find their own way home from very far distances – thus the last “little piggie” who was eventually able to “wee, wee, wee” all the way home!!

"Howdy neighbour!"

• If given the proper surroundings and conditions, pigs don’t eat quickly; they prefer to eat slowly and savor their food; however this is overridden when they are put into confinement with other pigs who subsequently offer some pretty stiff competition for a meal.

• Contrary to popular belief, pigs are actually clean animals. If they’re given sufficient space, they will be careful not to soil the area where they sleep or eat.

• Pigs have no sweat glands and therefore do not “sweat like a pig” at all. Instead, they prefer to roll around in the mud to lower their body temperature.

• Pigs are very smart animals. They are extremely curious about their environment and are known to being smarter than young human children. Pigs are quite intelligent and learn tricks faster than dogs. In the animal kingdom, pigs’ intelligence is inferior only to some apes, dolphins and elephants. Pigs are easily trained to walk on a leash, use a litter box and even do tricks.

• Wild pigs play an important role in managing ecosystems and maintaining biodiversity. Their rooting and disturbing of the soil, creates areas for new plant colonization.

Wild pigs

• Pigs are very peaceful animals and they rarely show aggression. The only time they do show aggression is when a mother with her young is provoked or threatened.

• Pigs have a vast field of vision, but can’t look up. Winston Churchill once famously said about pigs, “Dogs look up to man. Cats look down to man. Pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal.”

• Pigs have a remarkable sense of smell and are used to locate truffles. The large round disk of cartilage at the tip of their snout is connected to the muscle that gives it extra flexibility and strength for rooting in the ground.

• An adult pig can run at speed 11.5 mph (almost 20 km/h). A cheetah can run at a speed of 70 mph. Usain Bolt can run at about 28 mph. The average non-athletic 40-year-old male human can run almost 5 mph.

• Pigs have 15,000 taste buds, while humans have 9,000. To a pig, even the most boring porridge tastes great.


• The pig is the last of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. It’s seen to represent fortune, honesty, happiness and virility.

• Pigs live on every single continent in the world, except Antarctica. There are currently about 2 billion pigs on the planet. Out of 2 billion pigs in the world, only one is in Afghanistan. China has the most domesticated pigs in the world. The United States comes in second. In Denmark, there are twice as many pigs as there are people.

• A single young adult pig can drink up to 14 gallons of water every single day.

• Pigs have 4 toes on each foot but they only walk on 2.

Pigs at 5 weeks old

• People with allergies sometimes have pigs as pets because they don’t have any hair or fur, and they do not shed. George Clooney, Paris Hilton, Miley Cyrus and Mario Andretti all had pet pigs at one time.

• A pig’s squeal can be as loud as 115 decibels, which is 3 decibels higher than the sound of a supersonic airliner. A fellow farmer once told me that pigs were successfully used against Hannibal’s war elephants. Apparently a pig shrieking can freak out any elephant.

• Adult pigs are equipped with 44 teeth and will eat pretty much anything, including human bones. In 2012, a farmer in Oregon, America, was eaten by pigs after having a heart attack and falling into their enclosure. By the time he was found, only his dentures were left.

• The words pig, hog and swine are used regardless of gender. Words sucker, weaner, baconer, porker, chopper, sow, boar, piglet and stag all refer to pigs.

Meal time

• A sow’s pregnancy lasts 114 days and it can give birth to between 7 and 16 piglets, two times per year. When domestic pigs are born on a farm, the sow will get up on her feet from time to time during the birthing process. When she lies down again, there is always a danger that she will accidently lie on one or more of her already-born piglets and smother them. For that reason, there needs to be a ‘midwife’ present to ensure the safety of the newborns. My Uncle Harry, used to say that the gestation period of a pig was 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days and the litter was always born at 3:00 in the morning!!!

• There is a word to designate a litter of piglets – a farrow.

• A piglet weighs about 3 pounds (1.5 kg) at birth and two times more a week later and, depending on the breed and gender, can grow to be as heavy as 800 pounds (360 kg) at an age of 5 years.

• Pigs swim just fine and would eagerly prefer water to mud.

• Pig skin is great for practicing tattoos, being similar to human skin. Pigs are not too much different from us genetically, thus transplantation of pig heart valves into humans is possible. Pigs are actually very similar to humans and their genetic makeup is very close to ours. Because of this, stem cells from pigs are used by scientists and researchers to find cures for human diseases. To track the cells of pigs once they’ve been injected into human bodies, Chinese geneticists have modified pig embryos with jellyfish DNA, producing piglets whose tongues and trotters glow fluorescent green in UV light.

Genetically modified organisms

• On the Bahaman Island of Big Major Cay, a population of wild aquatic pigs rules the island, and many have taken to swimming out to boats that can be found offshore, in the hopes of being fed by the tourists.

• Until the end of the 20th century, in Bhutan, owners would feed cannabis to pigs. Because the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) was fat soluble and because a pig’s body was high in fat, the active chemical in cannabis collected in the tissues of the pig. When butchered, and eaten, the pork was then capable of producing a state of euphoria in those eating the meat. And you were probably wondering how bacon could ever be any better than it already is!!

There! So now you know.

fact or fiction

About the Creator

John Oliver Smith

Baby, son, brother, child, student, collector, farmer, photographer, player, uncle, coach, husband, student, writer, teacher, father, science guy, fan, coach, grandfather, comedian, traveler, chef, story-teller, driver, regular guy!!

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