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The domestic pig (commonly referred to as the hog in some areas) is normally given the scientific name Sus scrofa scrofa , though some taxonomists use the term S. domestica, reserving S. scrofa for the wild boar. Wild boar were in human association as early as 13,000–12,700 BP.

Most domestic pigs have rather sparse hair covering on their skin, although woolly coated breeds are known (Mangalitsa pig), and some were popular in the past. Escaped domestic pigs have become feral in many parts of the world (for example, New Zealandmarker) and have caused substantial environmental damage.


Archeological evidence suggests that pigs were domesticated from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BP in the Near East in the Tigris Basin being managed in the wild in a way similar to the way they are managed by some modern New Guineans. Remains of pigs have been dated to earlier than 11,400 BP in Cyprusmarker that must have been introduced from the mainland which suggests domestication in the adjacent mainland by then. There was also a separate domestication in China..

DNA evidence from sub-fossil remains of teeth and jawbones of Neolithic pigs in Europe shows that the first domestic pigs there had been brought from the Near East. This stimulated the domestication of local European wild boar resulting in a third domestication event with the Near Eastern genes ceasing in European pig stock. Modern domesticated pigs have involved complex exchanges with European domesticated lines being exported in turn to the ancient Near East. Historical records indicate that Asian pigs were introduced into Europe during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The adaptable nature and omnivorous diet of the wild boar allowed early humans to domesticate it readily. Pigs were mostly used for food, but early civilizations also used the pigs' hides for shields, bones for tools and weapons, and bristles for brushes. Pigs were brought to southeastern North America from Europe by de Soto and other early Spanishmarker explorer. Escaped pigs became feral and caused a great deal of disruption to Native Americans cultures who had no domesticated livestock.


Pigs on a farm
A sow suckling her piglets.
Two pot-bellied pigs, a breed of domestic pigs originated in Vietnam
The domestic pig is used for its meat, called pork. Other products made from pigs include sausage, bacon, gammon, ham and pork scratchings. The head of a pig can be used to make a preserved jelly called head cheese. Liver, chitterlings, and other offal from pigs are also widely used for food. In some religions, such as Judaism and Islam, there are religious restrictions on the consumption of pork.


In developing nations, and often in developed nations, the domestic pig is raised outdoors in yards or fields. In some cases pigs are allowed to forage in woods, where they are watched by swineherds, the equivalent of shepherds for pigs. In industrialized nations, domestic pig farming has shifted away from the traditional pig farm to large-scale intensive pig farms where meat can be mass-produced. This has resulted in lower production costs, but more significant animal welfare concerns.

Individual farm management practices focus on, among other things, housing facilities, feeding and ventilation systems, and temperature and environmental controls. Just as producers have to determine the type of facilities and equipment for their farm, they must find the practices that best fit their farm’s specific situation. Some procedures and treatments can be short-term stressors, so producers must weigh the long-term welfare, health and management benefits to the animals.

Using the knowledge obtained from scientific study, some producers have adopted and adapted techniques and husbandry skills to protect the welfare of their animals. They feel a personal and moral responsibility to take care of their animals and ensure that the animals are safe, but they also must earn a profit from their business. They consider anything short of providing the best, humane care possible as being self-defeating.

Uses in truffle hunting

The domestic pig is also widely used in Francemarker and other countries to search for truffles. This is because the truffle smells similar to the pheromones of the animal.

As pets

Pigs are known to be intelligent animals and can be trained similarly to dogs, though they may excel in different tasks. Asian pot-bellied pigs, a small type of domestic pig, have made popular house pets in the United Statesmarker beginning in the latter half of the 20th century. Regular domestic farmyard pigs have also been known to be kept indoors, but due to their large size and destructive tendencies, they typically need to be moved into an outdoor pen as they grow older. Most pigs have a fear of being picked up, but will usually calm down once placed back on the floor. Pigs are rarely used as working animals. An exception is the use of truffle pigs – ordinary pigs trained to find truffles.

Breeds of pigs

Pig headcount in 2004

Pigs are exhibited at agricultural shows, judged either as stud stock compared to the standard features of each breed, or in commercial classes where the animals are judged primarily on their suitability for slaughter to provide premium meat.

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy , seven breeds of swine in the U.S. are critically rare (having a global population of fewer than 2000). Outside the U.S., the Auckland Island Pig (New Zealand) and woolly-coated grazing pig (Danube area) are known to be critically rare.

Pig farming terminology

Types of animal

  • Pig, either the species as a whole, or where the species is called "hog", only young piglets.
  • Swine, either the species as a whole, or any member of it. The singular is the same as the plural.
  • Shoat, piglet or (where the species is called "hog") pig, unweaned young pig, or any immature pig.
  • Sucker, a pig between birth and weaning.
  • Runt, an unusually small and weak piglet, often one in a litter.
  • Boar or hog, male pig of breeding age.
  • Barrow, male pig castrated before puberty.
  • Stag, male pig castrated later in life, (that is, an old boar after castration).
  • Gilt, young female not yet mated, or not yet farrowed, or after only one litter (depending on local usage).
  • Sow, breeding female, or female after first or second litter.

Pigs for slaughter

  • Suckling pig, a piglet slaughtered for meat.
  • Feeder pig, a weaned gilt or barrow weighing between and at 6 to 8 weeks of age that is sold to be finished for slaughter.
  • Porker, market pig between and about dressed weight.
  • Baconer, a market pig between and dressed weight. The maximum weight can vary between processors.
  • Grower, a pig between weaning and sale or transfer to the breeding herd, sold for slaughter or killed for rations .
  • Finisher, a grower pig over liveweight.
  • Butcher hog, a pig of approximately , ready for the market.
  • Backfatter, cull breeding pig sold for meat; usually refers specifically to a cull sow, but is sometimes used in reference to boars.


  • Herd, a group of pigs, or all the pigs on a farm or in a region.
  • Sounder, a small group of pigs (or wild boar) foraging in woodland.

Pig parts

Pork packing in 1873
  • Trotters, the feet of pigs (they have four hoofed toes, walking mainly on the larger central two).


  • In pig, pregnant.
  • Farrowing, giving birth.
  • Hogging, a sow when on heat (during oestrus).


  • Sty, a small pig-house, usually with an outdoor run.
  • Pig-shed, a larger pig-house.
  • Ark, a low field-shelter for pigs (or other animals such as rabbits or chickens).
  • Curtain-barn, a long, open building with curtains on the long sides of the barn. This increases ventalation on hot, humid summmer days.

See also


  1. Royal visit delights at the Three Counties Show.
  2. Alien Species Threaten Hawaii's Environment.
  3. Introduced Birds and Mammals in New Zealand and Their Effect on the Environment.
  4. *Sarah M. Nelson Ancestors for the Pigs. Pigs in prehistory. (1998)
  5. Rosenberg M, Nesbitt R, Redding RW, Peasnall BL (1998). Hallan Cemi, pig husbandry, and post-Pleistocene adaptations along the Taurus-Zagros Arc (Turkey). Paleorient, 24(1):25–41.
  6. Vigne JD, Zazzo A, Saliège JF, Poplin F, Guilaine J, Simmons A. (2009). Pre-Neolithic wild boar management and introduction to Cyprus more than 11,400 years ago. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106:16135–16138. PMID 19706455
  7. Giuffra E, Kijas JM, Amarger V, Carlborg O, Jeon JT, Andersson L. (200). The origin of the domestic pig: independent domestication and subsequent introgression. Genetics. 154(4):1785-91. PMID 10747069
  8. BBC News, "Pig DNA reveals farming history" 4 September 2007. The report concerns an article in the journal PNAS
  9. Larson G, Albarella U, Dobney K, Rowley-Conwy P, Schibler J, Tresset A, Vigne JD, Edwards CJ, Schlumbaum A, Dinu A, Balaçsescu A, Dolman G, Tagliacozzo A, Manaseryan N, Miracle P, Van Wijngaarden-Bakker L, Masseti M, Bradley DG, Cooper A. (2007). Ancient DNA, pig domestication, and the spread of the Neolithic into Europe. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 104(39):15276-81. PMID 17855556
  10. Oral Care.
  11. II.G.13. - Hogs.
  12. Are pigs smarter than dogs?
  13. American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  14. Swine Study Guide from UC Davis


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