The pig was domesticated approximately 5,000 to 7,000 years ago and are found across most of the world including Europe, the Middle East and into Asia as far as Indonesia and Japan. They are one of the oldest forms of livestock, and were domesticated earlier than cows. Nowadays, pigs are farmed for their meat widely around the globe, although some keep them as pets.
Pigs belong to the genus ‘Sus‘, within which there are 11 extant and many extinct species. The domestic pig ‘Sus domesticus‘ is by some accounts considered to be a subspecies of the wild boar ‘Sus scrofa’ but by other accounts is a species of its own. The latter is the general consensus, but to be fair the differences can be slight.
The genus Sus, along with one other ‘Porcula’ are the only extant genera within the tribe ‘Suini‘, which is part of the family ‘Suidae‘. There is only one species of domestic pig, but there are many wild pigs and many breeds within the species.
The distinction between wild and domestic animals is slight and domestic pigs have become feral (A feral animal or plant is one that has escaped from domestication and returned, partly or wholly, to its wild state) in many parts of the world (for example, New Zealand) and caused substantial environmental damage.
Many people who know pigs compare them to dogs because they are friendly, loyal and intelligent. Pigs are naturally very clean and avoid, if at all possible, soiling their living areas. When given the chance to live away from factory farms, pigs will spend hours playing, lying in the sun and exploring their surroundings with their powerful sense of smell. Pigs are very clever animals.
Pigs are known to be intelligent animals and have been found to be more trainable than dogs or cats. Asian pot-bellied pigs, a smaller subspecies of the domestic pig, have made popular house pets in many countries.
Regular domestic farmyard pigs have also been known to be kept indoors, however, due to their large size and destructive tendencies, they typically need to be moved into an outdoor pen as they grow older. Most pigs also have an extreme fear of being picked up, however, they will usually calm down once placed back on the floor.
Pigs are naturally omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. However, many domestic pigs are fed mostly plant and vegetables but this does vary by country. Here’s a peek into what pigs munch on:
In the Wild, Pigs have a varied diet consisting of leaves, roots, fruits, rodents, and small reptiles.
On the Farm – In the United States, farm-raised pigs usually eat commercially made diets primarily composed of corn, while in Europe, they often consume barley-based diets.
There are 14 different breeds of pig within the United Kingdom and many more other different pig breeds throughout the world. UK breeds are divided into two groups, ‘Traditional pigs’ and ‘Modern pigs’.
Traditional pig breeds include: Berkshire, Hampshire, Large Black, Large White, Middle White, Tamworth Pigs, Wessex Saddleback, Chester White, Gloucester Old Spots, Oxford Sandy and Black, British Lop and the Welsh pig.
The Modern pigs include: The Duroc Pig and the Landrace Pig.
Interesting Facts About Pigs
- A group of pigs is called a herd.
- The scientific name for the pig is sus scrofa domesticus
- Pigs walk on only two of their toes on each feet. Pigs look like they are walking on tip toe..
- Pigs do not have sweat glands and white pigs burn easily in the sun, hence having to roll in mud to keep cool..
- Pigs are not dirty animals – they tend to soil a particular part of their pen, away from eating and sleeping areas..
- Scientists believe that pigs are one of the most intelligent animals, ranking close behind apes and dolphins.
- Pigs are distantly related to the hippopotamus family.
- The word ‘barbecue’ comes from the French who called their Caribbean pork feasts ‘de barbe et queue’, which means ‘from beard to tail’.
- Wild or domestic pigs can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
- There are approximately 840 million hogs on farms throughout the world.
- China has long had the world’s largest population of domestic pigs.
- The average sow gives birth to 8 to 12 pigs at a time.
- Duroc pigs are a popular breed because they produce large litters and gain weight rapidly.
- Cincinnati, Ohio was such a major pork processing centre by 1863 that is was widely known as ‘porkapolis’.
- Pigs do not need to be rounded up. A good yell will bring them running.
- A pig’s squeal can reach up to 115 decibels, 3 decibels higher than the sound of a supersonic Concorde.
- Improved genetics and better feeding practices have resulted in a market hog 50% leaner than it was in the 1960’s.
- An average pig eats five pounds of feed each day, or a ton of food every year.
- The largest pig on record was a Poland-China hog named ‘Big Bill’. He weighed a portly 2,552 lbs and was so large that he dragged his belly on the ground. He had a shoulder height of 5 feet and a length of 9 feet.
- The smallest breed of pig is the Mini Maialino. Pigs of this breed average only 20 pounds at maturity.
- The largest litter of piglets ever farrowed was 37 by a sow on a farm in Australia. 36 piglets were born alive and 33 total survived.
- The largest piglet ever farrowed was a stillborn 5lb 4oz male. Average weight for a piglet is 3 lbs.
What is the Scientific Name for a pig?
The scientific name for the pig is sus scrofa domesticus.