Nature Bulletin No. 703-A February 3, 1979
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation
The Pig is the most misunderstood and most slandered of all our
domestic animals. One of our worst insults is to call a person a pig or a
hog or a swine. If the pig is greedy, dirty or fat, it is because man
made him that way during the seven thousand years they have lived
together. Fat hogs are the result of selective breeding to produce more
lard. Given an opportunity the pig, like its wild ancestor, does not
overeat and prefers clean water and a clean bed to the filth of a pig sty.
Among all our farm animals they are ranked most intelligent.
Many millions of years ago there were various types of pigs and pig-
like animals whose bones are found fossilized in rocks today. They
ranged in size from species like our little American peccary up to
beasts as large as a bison. Among them are fossil swine very similar to
our barnyard pig. It has undergone less change over the ages than any
other domestic animal.
All pigs have much in common. The snout with its tough flexible disk-
like tip is the most prominent feature of all species. It is a combination
steam shovel and bulldozer for digging, pushing and lifting. A pig's
bristles give little protection against cold and, with no sweat glands in
the skin, they suffer from heat. Most wild swine, therefore, are
inhabitants of swamps and forests in warm and temperate regions.
Commonly they run in herds called sounders.
The European Wild Boar, ancestor of the domestic hog, is the largest
of the present-day wild swine -- the males or boars sometimes reaching
a height of 40 inches at the shoulder and a weight of 350 pounds. He is
armed with a pair of large sharp strong tusks, the upper canine teeth,
which curve outward and upward, reaching a length of ten inches in
old age. The female or sow bears litters of 3 to 12 striped young in a
nest hidden in thick brush. Formerly the wild boar ranged through the
forested parts of Europe, Asia, and north Africa. About fifty years ago
fifteen of them were released in America where their descendants still
survive in three of our national forests.
The wild boar has been hunted for food, for sport or to protect crops
against their ravages since the days of the cave men. In the Middle
Ages boar hunting with spears and dogs was a royal sport and the
serving of a boar's head at the Christmas feast in Merry England was a
holdover of a much older pagan rite at the time of the winter solstice.
The boar is courageous and ferocious. At bay he can hold off a whole
pack of hounds with his slashing tusks or rip a horse and rider.
Our slab-sided Razorback or Woods Hog is a half-wild domesticated
pig or a descendent of a once-domesticated pig which has run free,
making its home in forests and swamps.
Wild pigs of several species are found on all continents, and on
many of the islands of the East Indies and the South
Pacific. The smallest of the lot is the ten-pound Pigmy Hog of the
Himalayan jungles. In Borneo and Sumatra are Bearded Pigs with
curly white whiskers. The Celebes Pig has tusks that grow upward
through the skin and curve backward to the forehead. Africa has a
Bush Pig, a Giant Forest Hog, and that ugliest of all creatures, the
The only native member of the pig tribe in the New World is the
Peccary, Javelina, or Musk Hog which ranges from our southwestern
states southward through South America. Unlike other pigs its hind
feet have only three toes instead of four; also there is a gland on its
back that gives off a foul-smelling secretion. It is noted for devouring
rattlesnakes which it kills by jumping on them with its sharp hoofs
after they have struck and missed.
Madame Porker turns up her aristocratic snoot at that upstart, man.
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Update: June 2012