Swine were among the first of all animals to be domesticated
—around 6,000 years ago. The Chinese were the first to raise
wild pigs for food.
- Bacon is one of the oldest processed meats in history. The Chinese began salting pork bellies as early as 1500 BC.
The Spanish explorer
Hernando DeSoto brought the first swine
to the New World in 1539.
A pig's squeal can range
from 110-115 decibels. Compare that to the Concorde jet, which
is usually under 112 decibels.
In 2003, Oklahoma's
swine industry was the state's fourth largest agricultural
Female swine are called
sows. Sows give birth to litters of pigs twice a year.
Each litter usually has eight to 12 baby pigs. Giving birth
to baby pigs is called farrowing.
Baby pigs appear very
greedy when they are competing for food from their mothers.
For this reason the words “pig” and “hog” have
come to be associated with greedy behavior.
Pigs are weaned when
they are two to four weeks old. They are called “nursery
pigs” until they reach 50
pounds and “growing/finishing pigs” from
then until they reach about 240 pounds. After that
they are called hogs. Hogs are usually taken to market
when they weigh 240-280 pounds.
In the past hogs were
fed table scraps and had a reputation for eating just about
anything. The meat from hogs fed that way was very high
in fat. The hogs would eat corn, grass, clover or even
table scraps that would have otherwise have become garbage.
The word “hogwash,” meaning something that
is worthless, came from this practice.
In some areas hogs
would be turned out to find their own food. Hogs would
roam freely, eating what they could find— acorns
from the ground or roots, which they dug from the ground
with their snouts. On Manhattan Island, New York, the
hogs rampaged through grain fields until farmers were
forced to build a wall to keep them out. The street
running along this wall became Wall
producers are more careful about what they feed their animals.
eat corn, wheat and soybean meal. Vitamins and minerals
are added to increase growth and improve health.
hogs weigh more, but because producers
plan their diets carefully,
they grow more efficiently and yield more lean meat
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 and promotes a healthy appetite.
Insulin and about
40 other medicines are made from pigs.
Pigs are not dirty.
They can't sweat, so they roll in the mud to keep cool.
Pig heart valves have
been used to replace damaged human heart valves.
Pig fat can be used
in weed killers, chalk, cosmetics, floor wax, crayons and
A pig can run a seven-minute
Hogs do not overeat.
They eat until they are full.
Hogs are smart animals.
They learn to push a lever in the barnyard to get a drink
of water or a dish of food. They have been taught to tumble,
race, pull carts, dance and hunt.
Pigs are brave. One
pig named Priscilla saved a boy from drowning. She is in the
Pet Hall of Fame.
The family name for
hogs is Swine. The mother is a sow, and the father is a boar.
Babies are called pigs.
Sows are great mothers.
There are usually eight or nine baby pigs to a litter. Sometimes
a mother sow may accidentally lie down on one of her pigs.
To help prevent this the farmer uses a special stall that
provides a place beside the sow for the baby pigs to go when
the mother is getting up and lying down.
Hogs come in different
colors. Small Yorkshire hogs are snowy white. Duroc-Jersey
hogs are brick red. Poland China hogs are black
Colonists in Pennsylvania
developed the practice of "finishing" hogs on
corn (feeding them nothing but corn in the few weeks before
butchering them). This practice improved the quality of
the pork and laid the foundation for the modern pork industry.
the colonial US, hogs were driven to market in large
droves over trails that later became routes used by the
Hog raising became
an important commercial enterprise during the 1800s when
the Midwest farm regions were settled. The new Erie Canal
system gave farmers a way to get their hogs to the cities
back east. Farmers started calling their hogs “Mortgage
the profits from their sales helped pay for the new homesteads.
Soldier pigs have gone
to war. They have served as mine sniffers in battlefields.
The heaviest hog in
history, Big Bill, weighed 2,552 pounds.
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.
Early American pigs
traveled west in crates hung from covered wagon axles.
People around the world
eat more pork than any other meat. In the US it ranks behind
beef and poultry.
Pigs weigh about 2 1/2
pounds at birth.
When fully grown, boars
(male hogs) may weigh more than 500 pounds, and sows (female
hogs) may weigh from 300-500 pounds.
Most hogs are sold when
they are 6-7 months old and weigh about 210-250 pounds. If
hogs are kept longer they are usually used for breeding.
Hogs have small eyes
and poor eyesight.
Hogs have a total of
The hog's snout is very
sensitive to touch. Some producers put rings in hogs' noses
to keep them from rooting, or digging up the earth, with their
snouts. In the wild hogs feed themselves by digging for roots
to eat. This can cause a lot of damage on a farm.
Hogs have four toes
on each foot. Each toe ends in a hoof.
Hogs' bodies are stout,
strong and covered with coarse, bristly hair.
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 US and the West Indies.
The ancient Chinese
were so reluctant to be separated from fresh pork that the
departed were sometimes accompanied to the grave with their
herd of hogs
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, and it was quickly
said that the "U.S." stood for "Uncle Sam," whose large shipment
seemed to be enough to feed the entire army. This is how "Uncle
Sam" came to represent the U.S. Government.
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. So "living high on the hog" came
to mean living well.
What's the origin
of the saying "a pig in the poke?" It was a common trick in
17th century England of trying to give away a cat to an unsuspecting
"shopper" for a suckling pig (a young pig). When he opened
the poke (sack), he "let the cat out of the bag," and the
trick was revealed.
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 1870's, congressmen were referring to regularly dipping
into the "pork barrel" to obtaining funds for popular projects
in their home districts.
The highest known
price ever paid for a hog was $56,000 - paid for a crossbred
hog named "Bud," on March 5, 1985.
Hogs are a source of
nearly 40 drugs and pharmaceuticals on the market.
- Pigs are found on every
continent but Antartica.