Sunday, May 5, 2013

Pig Facts & Trivia - Part One

Since I have 4H and FFA youngsters reading my blog, some have asked if I could do more posts on  livestock.  Well, this is for you.

Police called Pigs?

If you've ever heard an old hippie or some other jerk call a Police Officer a "pig," there is a reason for that.

In the United States, calling a police officer the term "pig" came out of the 1960s when the hippies and the drug culture really started making a blemish on American History.

But, believe it or not, the term "pig" in reference to a law enforcement officer started long ago.

The Oxford English Dictionary cites an 1811 reference to a "pig" as a Bow Street Runner - the early police force, named after the location of their headquarters, before Sir Robert Peel and the Metropolitan Police Force in London were start.

Before that, the term "pig" had been used as early as the mid-1500s to refer to a person who is heartily disliked.

The usage was probably confined to the criminal classes until the 1960s when it was taken up by protesters, hippies, druggies, jerks and the like.

Some try to say that  the term involve the gas masks worn by the riot police in that era, or the pigs in charge of writer George Orwell's Animal Farm.

In the book Animal Farm, the pigs enforced unfair rules.

While police officers usually don't mind being called "Cops," they aren't usually fond of the term "pig."

But than again, there are those officers who turned it around. You see, while it may have come from  gas masks worn by the riot police in that era, or the pigs in charge of writer George Orwell's Animal Farm. references, law enforcement organizations around the country responded by referring to "PIG" as an acronym for "Pride, Integrity, Guts."

"Pride, Integrity, Guts,"- all traits every police officer personifies!

Great Pig Quotes

“I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals” - Sir Winston Churchill

President Harry Truman once said, "No man should be allowed to be President who does not understand hogs."

“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.” ― George Bernard Shaw


Politicians understand pigs, or at least the importance of "pork."  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.

What is it with pigs always being the go-to animal to use as figures of speech in politics? Maybe there is some primal connection between pigs and politicians

• 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.

Pig facts you may already know:

• Domesticated pigs, called swine, are raised commercially for meat - generally called pork, hams, or bacon, as well as for leather.

• Due to their common use as livestock, adult swine have gender specific names: the males are hogs (or sometimes boars) and the females are sows. Young swine are called piglets or pigs.

• A typical pig has a large head with a long snout which is strengthened by a special prenasal bone and by a disk of cartilage at the tip called the snout.

• The snout is used to dig into the soil to find food and is a very acute sense organ.

• There are four hoofed toes on each trotter (foot), with the two larger central toes bearing most of the weight, but the outer two also being used in soft ground.

• Adult pigs have a total of 44 teeth. The rear teeth are adapted for crushing. In the male the canine teeth form tusks, which grow continuously and are sharpened by constantly being ground against each other.

• In the United States, the term "pig" refers to a younger domesticated swine weighing less than 120 pounds (50 kilograms), and the term "hog" refers to older swine weighing more than 120 lbs.

• Pork is one of the most popular forms of meat for human consumption, accounting for 38% of worldwide meat production.

• 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 1 billion domestic pigs on the planet. With around 1 billion alive at any time, the domesticated pig is one of the most numerous large mammals on the planet.

• 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.

• Why call a glutton, a pig? Fact is that pigs only eat until they are full. That's right. Despite a reputation for gluttony, they do not overeat. They eat only until they are full.

• Pigs are omnivores which means that they consume both plants and animals. In the wild, they are foraging animals, primarily eating leaves, grasses, roots, fruits and flowers.

• On farms, pigs are fed mostly corn and soybean meal with a mixture of vitamins and minerals added to the diet.

• The ancestor of the domesticated pig is the wild boar, which is one of the most numerous and widespread large mammals.

• 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.

Their bristly hairs are also used for brushes.

• 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.

• 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 highest known price ever paid for a hog was $56,000 paid for a cross-bred hog named Bud on March 5, 1985.

• 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.

• 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 for a  pig's affection for mud. 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.

• Pigs can run a 7-minute mile. Yes they can!

• 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.

• The ancient Chinese were so reluctant to be separated from fresh pork that the departed were often buried with their entire herd of hogs.

• Because of their keen sense of smell, some pigs are trained to root for truffles, a delicacy that grows underground in temperate forests in Europe and North America.

• 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.

• 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.

There are varying accounts about how the Dutch-named "de Waal Straat" got its name. But the generally accepted version is that the name of the street was derived from an earthen wall on the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, perhaps to protect against English colonial encroachment or incursions by native Americans, or simply to keep hogs from ravaging grain fields..

The street running along this wall became Wall Street. Yes, that Wall Street!

Pig Superstition

Germans see pigs as good luck symbols and it's not uncommon to receive a marzipan pig as a gift, especially during the New Year's Eve holidays.

Interestingly, after Christmas dinner, some families living in New York during the 1880s would share a hard candy peppermint flavored pig with one another with the hope that good health and wealth would follow them into the next year.

But, not everyone saw the pig as good luck.

Fisherman from North East England saw swine as bad luck and under no circumstances would they allow a pig onto their boat.

This belief was so strong that if a fisherman spotted a pig on his way to work, he would turn back and go back home. People weren't even allowed to utter the word 'pig' while on a vessel. If someone had to mention the animals, they were called 'gissies.'

That superstition carried on into the New World as Pirates in the West Indies had a bizarre superstition related to swine. Pigs themselves were held at great respect because they possessed cloven hooves just like the devil and the pig was the signature animal for the Great Earth Goddess who controlled the winds.
As a result, these fishermen never spoke the word "pig" out loud, instead referring to the animal by such safe nicknames as Curly-Tail and Turf-Rooter. It was believed that mentioning the word "pig" would result in strong winds.

Actually killing a pig on board the ship would result in a full scale storm.

Pig Sayings?

• The saying "You can put lipstick on a pig" has been used for decades in rural America.

The saying is a rhetorical expression used to convey the message that making superficial or cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of a product is just bullshit.

• The saying "When pigs fly" is used to describe any situation where something looks unlikely to happen.

• 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 who was supposedly buying a suckling (young) pig. The story goes that when shopper opened the poke (sack), he "let the cat out of the bag," and found he had been cheated.

• What is the meaning of "make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"?

A "sow", as you probably know, is a female pig. The word rhymes with "how", "now" and "cow".

The old adage "you can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear" had been used for years to discourage inventiveness and enterprise. Today, that hasn't changed.

The expression "make a silk purse out of sow's ear" is normally used to mean that it is impossible to make something fine out of inferior or substandard material. The idiom is normally used in the negative.

So what is the origin of the old adage "you can't make a silk purse of a sow's ear"?

In the 16th century, Alexander Barclay in "Certayne Eglogues" wrote: "None can make goodly silke of a gotes fleece." Then in 1579, Stephen Gosson wrote in his Ephemerides of  "seekinge too make a silke purse of a Sowes eare."

So what have we gained from this?  It means that people have known for a long long time that 1) we should have the right starting material to make something or generate a useful idea; 2) that you can't make something good from inferior or inappropriate raw material; or 3) that it would be tough to do the impossible and make something look good when you first start out with things all screwed up.

And yet, though we know this, we keep trying?


While people may be aware of "the other white meat" being pork chops, pork roast, spare ribs, bacon, ham, sausage or hot dogs, they may not know of some other earth shaking pig products.

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, fine china, adhesives, plastics, paint, chewing gum, shoes, and hundreds of other items.

Pig heart valves have been used to replace damaged human heart valves for years.

And yes, I've been told that our troops overseas are using pig blood and pig fat to coat the bullets they are using against Muslims. Imagine that!


  1. Good job Tom! Best blog ever on Pig Facts! Love it!

    1. Thanks Michelle! I'm working on Part Two which I hope to have on here next month. It's always great to get feedback - especially when it's positive! So again, much thanks,


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