A little over three weeks ago we had piglets born on the farm. Squeakers, the proud mama, timed it just right and gave birth on March 1st, which is National Pig Day! We even made the front page of the local paper, the Pocono Record. (Finally some good news on the front page.)
Coming into work at Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm, I knew very little about livestock, thus the baby pigs have been an exciting challenge. My dad, in his twenties, had worked on a pig farm. He told me that if you fell into a pig pen, the hogs would eat you. (That’s why the farm hands freak out when Dorothy falls in during the Wizard of Oz.) And no degree of Charlette’s Web or Babe could dissuade the thought in the back of my mind that was reinforced by Criminal Minds; pigs are an excellent way to dispose of a body. So I have to admit I’m a little surprised by how gentle and loving Squeakers is to her babies. I’ve learned a lot about pigs and wanted to share some of the fun facts about them.
Pigs belong to the genus Sus and fit into the Suidae family, which includes other even-toed ungulates. This means that their weight is carried evenly across their toes. To us non-scientific people that translates to animals with cloven toes like deer and pigs are related. (Which, apparently, also includes whales and hippos in the Suidae family.)
Pigs were likely first domesticated in China around 13,000 years ago. Most pigs are omnivores that means they tend to eat the same food as humans. In one of my anthropology classes, we learned that people who live in desert regions tend not to keep pigs, since they compete for the same food source. It is much better to keep goats and sheep that eat things humans can’t, like grasses and shrubs.
Pigs are very intelligent animals. They are able to be house trained. During the 1700s and 1800s many country fairs where home to a Learned Pig. These animals were often trained to pick up cards to spell words and perform math problems. They often became a good source of inspiration for cartoonists and satirists. The most popular pig in the United States appeared in 1798 and was billed as “Toby the Sapient Pig”. Toby and other learned pigs have made a recent comeback in pop culture .
To end this post I wanted to share one of my favorite pop culture fun facts with you. This is from the “Famous Pig Song” recorded by Clarke van Ness.
‘Twas an evening in October, I’ll confess I wasn’t sober,
I was carting home a load with manly pride,
When my feet began to stutter and I fell into the gutter,
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
Then I lay there in the gutter and my heart was all a-flutter,
Till a lady, passing by, did chance to say:
“You can tell a man that boozes by the company he chooses,”
Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.