swine n : stout-bodied short-legged omnivorous animals
- Rhymes with: -aɪn
- Dutch: zwijn
- Finnish: sika
- French: pourceau, cochon, porc
- German: Schwein
- Italian: suini
- Russian: свинья (svin’já)
- Spanish: cerdo, puerco, chancho
Pigs, also called hogs or swine, are ungulates which have been domesticated as sources of food, leather, and similar products since ancient times. More recently, they have been involved in biomedical research and treatments, especially for their eyes and hearts, which closely resemble those of humans. Their long association with humans has led to their considerable representation in cultural milieux from paintings to proverbs.
Native to Eurasia, they are collectively grouped under the genus Sus within the Suidae family. Despite pigs' reputation for gluttony, and another reputation for dirtiness, a lesser known quality is their intelligence. The nearest living relatives of the swine family are the peccaries.
Description and behavior
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 body, short legs, and coarse hair. There are four toes on each foot, with the two large middle toes used for walking.
Pigs are omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and animals. Pigs will scavenge and have been known to eat any kind of food, including dead insects, worms, tree bark, rotting carcasses, garbage, and even other pigs. In the wild, they are foraging animals, primarily eating leaves and grasses, roots, fruits and flowers. Occasionally, in captivity, pigs may eat their own young, often if they become severely stressed. A typical pig has a large head with a long snout which is strengthened by a special bone called the prenasal bone and by a disk of cartilage in the tip. The snout is used to dig into the soil to find food and is a very sensitive sense organ. Pigs have a full set of 44 teeth. The canine teeth, called tusks, grow continually and are sharpened by the lowers and uppers rubbing against each other.
Pigs that are allowed to forage may be watched by swineherds. Because of their foraging abilities and excellent sense of smell, they are used to find truffles in many European countries. Domesticated pigs are commonly raised as livestock by farmers for meat (called pork), as well as for leather. Their bristly hairs are also used for brushes. Some breeds of pigs, such as the Asian pot-bellied pig, are kept as pets.
Breeding occurs throughout the year in the tropics, but births peak around rainy seasons. A female pig can become pregnant at around 8-18 months of age. She will then go into estrus every 21 days if not bred. Male pigs become sexually active at 8-10 months of age. A litter of piglets typically contains between 6 and 12 piglets. After the young are weaned, two or more families may come together until the next mating season.
Pigs do not have functional sweat glands, so pigs cool themselves using water or mud during hot weather. They also use mud as a form of sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburn. Mud also provides protection against flies and parasites.
- Bearded Pig (Sus barbatus)
- Indo-chinese (or Vietnam) Warty Pig (Sus bucculentus).
- Visayan Warty Pig (Sus cebifrons)
- Celebes (or Sulawesi) Warty Pig (Sus celebensis)
- Sus falconeri † (extinct).
- Flores Warty Pig (Sus heureni)
- Sus hysudricus † (extinct).
- Oliver's (or Mindoro) Warty Pig (Sus oliveri)
- Philippine Warty Pig (Sus philippensis)
- Pygmy Hog (Sus salvanius) - recently found to be worthy of placement in monotypic genus Porcula
Boar (Sus scrofa)
- Domestic Pig (Sus scrofa domestica)
- Sus strozzi † (extinct).
- Timor Warty Pig (Sus timoriensis)
- Javan Warty Pig (Sus verrucosus)
Domestic PigsPigs have been domesticated since ancient times in the Old World and are known for their exceptional intelligence. Domestic Pigs are found across Europe, the Middle East and extend into Asia as far as Indonesia and Japan. They were brought to southeastern North America from Europe by De Soto and other early Spanish explorers. Pigs are particularly valued in China and on certain oceanic islands, where their self-sufficiency allows them to be turned loose, although the practice is not without its drawbacks (see below).
The Domestic Pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) is usually given the scientific name Sus scrofa, although some authors call it S. domesticus, reserving S. scrofa for the Wild boar. It was domesticated approximately 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. Their coats are coarse and bristly. They are born brownish colored and tend to turn more grayish colored with age. The upper canines form sharp distinctive tusks that curve outward and upward. Compared to other artiodactyles, their head is relatively long, pointed, and free of warts. Their head and body length ranges from 900-1,800 mm and can weigh 50-350 kg.
Pigs can be trained to perform numerous simple tasks and tricks. Recently, they have enjoyed a measure of popularity as house pets, particularly the dwarf breeds.
Cultural references to pigs
Pigs are frequently referenced in culture and are a popular topic for idioms and famous quotes.
Pigs in religion
- In ancient Egypt pigs were associated with Set, the rival to the sun god Horus. When Set fell into disfavor with the Egyptians, swineherds were forbidden to enter temples.
- In Hinduism the god Vishnu took the form of a boar in order to save the earth from a demon who had dragged it to the bottom of the sea.
- In ancient Greece, a sow was an appropriate sacrifice to Demeter and had been her favorite animal since she had been the Great Goddess of archaic times. Initiates at the Eleusinian Mysteries began by sacrificing a pig.
- The pig is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Believers in Chinese astrology associate each animal with certain personality traits. See: Pig (Zodiac).
- The dietary laws of Judaism (Kashrut, adj. Kosher) forbid the eating of flesh of swine or pork in any form, considering the pig to be an unclean animal (see taboo food and drink). Seventh-day Adventists and some other fundamental Christian denominations also consider pork unclean as food.
- Islam also forbids the eating of flesh of swine or pork in any form, because of its uncleanliness and its immodest nature (see Halal).
- In Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and other older Christian groups, pigs are associated with Saint Anthony, the patron saint of swineherds.
- [KJV - Lev. 11:7], states "And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be cloven footed, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you."
Environmental impactsDomestic pigs that have escaped from farms or were allowed to forage in the wild, and in some cases wild boars which were introduced as prey for hunting, have given rise to large populations of feral pigs in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and other areas where pigs are not native. Accidental or deliberate releases of pigs into countries or environments where they are an alien species have caused extensive environmental change. Their omnivorous diet, aggressive behaviour and their feeding method of rooting in the ground all combine to severely alter ecosystems unused to pigs. Pigs will even eat small animals and destroy nests of ground nesting birds. The Invasive Species Specialist Group lists feral pigs on the list of the world's 100 worst invasive species and says about them:
Health issuesPigs harbour a range of parasites and diseases that can be transmitted to humans. These include trichinosis, Taenia solium, cysticercosis, and brucellosis. Pigs are also known to host large concentrations of parasitic ascarid worms in their digestive tract.The presence of these diseases and parasites is one of the reasons why pork meat should always be well cooked or cured before eating. Some religious groups that consider pork unclean refer to these issues as support for their views.
Pigs are susceptible to bronchitis and pneumonia. They have small lungs in relation to body size; for this reason, bronchitis or pneumonia can kill a pig quickly.
Pigs can be aggressive and pig-induced injuries are relatively common in areas where pigs are reared or where they form part of the wild or feral fauna.
swine in Afrikaans: Vark
swine in Arabic: خنزير
swine in Aragonese: Sus
swine in Min Nan: Ti-sio̍k
swine in Czech: Prase
swine in German: Sus (Schweine)
swine in Spanish: Sus
swine in French: Sus (genre)
swine in Korean: 멧돼지속
swine in Indonesian: Babi
swine in Zulu: Ingulube
swine in Italian: Sus (zoologia)
swine in Hebrew: חזיר
swine in Latin: Sus
swine in Malay (macrolanguage): Babi
swine in Dutch: Echte zwijnen
swine in Norwegian: Svin og griser
swine in Polish: Sus (zwierzęta)
swine in Portuguese: Sus
swine in Russian: Кабаны
swine in Sicilian: Sus
swine in Slovak: Sus (rod)
swine in Serbian: Свиња
swine in Swedish: Svin (släkte)
swine in Tagalog: Baboy
swine in Tamil: பன்றி
swine in Vietnamese: Chi Lợn
swine in Turkish: Yaban domuzu
swine in Contenese: 豬
swine in Chinese: 豬
Berkshire, Cyrenaic, Duroc, Duroc-Jersey, Heliogabalus, Hereford, Sardanapalus, Wessex saddleback, Yorkshire, animal, barrow, beast, boar, bon vivant, carpet knight, cur, dog, drab, epicure, epicurean, frump, gilt, gourmand, gourmet, hedonist, hog, hound, hyena, insect, large white, litterbug, mongrel, pig, piggy, piglet, pigling, pleasure-seeker, polecat, porker, razorback, reptile, schlep, schlump, sensualist, sensuist, serpent, shoat, skunk, slattern, slob, sloppy Joe, sloven, slut, snake, sow, suckling pig, sybarite, trollop, tusker, varmint, vermin, viper, voluptuary, whelp, wild boar, worm