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Sow with piglet.jpg
Scientific Classification

Pigs are ungulates collectively grouped under the genus Sus within the Suidae family. They have been domesticated and raised as livestock by some peoples for meat (called pork) as well as for leather. Their bristly hairs are also traditionally used for brushes. Wild pigs continue to fill these functions in certain parts of the world.

Pigs are omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and animals. On a small farm, or in a large household, they can be fed kitchen scraps as part or all of their diet. In the wild, they are foraging animals. Pigs that are allowed to forage may be watched by swineherds. Because of their foraging abilities and excellent sense of smell, they are used to find truffles in many European countries. They are also fattened to be eaten as ham and other types of meat, such as bacon.

Pigs are unusually trainable animals, and some, such as the Asian pot-bellied pig, are kept as pets.

A litter of piglets typically contains between 6 and 12 animals. Occasionally, in captivity, pigs may eat their own young.

Pigs lack sweat glands, thus they must have access to water or mud to cool themselves during hot weather. They also use mud as a form of sunscreen to protect their skin from sunburn.

Pig species

Pig vocabulary

Several different words in English identify different types of pigs:

  • Boar - An adult male pig
  • Sow - An adult female pig
  • Piglet/farrow - A juvenile pig
  • Shoat - A young pig between 100 to 180 lb (50 to 90 kg)
  • Gilt - An immature female pig
  • Barrow - A castrated male pig
  • Hog - a domestic or wild adult swine, especially one raised for slaughter because they fatten quickly; in its original sense it means a castrated boar.
  • Swine - Synonym for "pigs" (plural) A terrible person, a cruel person (slang)

As food

Meat from pigs is called pork (coming from the Latin words "porcinus" and "porcus"). Their trotters are often sold as the jelly-like dish of pig's feet. Hog jowls are a popular soul food. The American pig-raising industry calls pork a "white meat" (like poultry) implying it is healthier than "red meat" like beef. Both Islam and Judaism forbid the eating of pork in any form, considering the pig to be an unclean animal: no form of pig meat can be kosher or halal.

Religious references

  • In ancient Greece, a sow was an appropriate sacrifice to Demeter and had been her favorite animal since she had been the Great Goddess of archaic times. Initiates at the Eleusinian Mysteries began by sacrificing a pig.
  • The pig is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Believers in Chinese astrology associate each animal with certain personality traits.
  • Jews are also forbidden to consume pork by the laws of Kashrut.
  • In the Gospels, Jesus tells a parable of a prodigal son who gets a job feeding pigs and wished that he could eat the swill himself.
  • In the Gospels, Jesus performs a miracle by causing demons who possess a man to enter a herd of swine who then run off a cliff and drown.