I have heard it all my life and have to admit that until I was grown, or at least grown enough to start thinking for myself I too thought hogs or pigs were just big fat dumb and smelly animals that was perfectly happy to just lay around in their own waste and eat all day. I think even as a teenager still at home I began to question this. At least to myself. If they are so happy in that pen where all they have to do is eat sleep and drink all day why does it seem they are constantly looking for a way out and don’t particularly want to go back in when they do get out?
I WONDER WHY THEY ARE DIRTY AND SMELLY?
So let’s look at the most common of what I think of as misconceptions about them one at a time. Over the years through reading other people’s observations and studies as well as making my own I have noticed a few things. Dirty and smelly first. Yes I know that is two but they go hand in hand I think. I have noticed that we as humans tend to get smelly when we are dirty as well. The hogs though usually have no option as to their accommodations and hygiene facilities. The traditional pen has always been small. Either individual pens or hog lots with larger numbers kept together. Usually they are crowded in these situations. There were and are some practical reasons for this as well. Lard was one of the primary products derived from hogs and if they can’t move around much they put on more fat and it takes less food to get them that way. Also if kept confined only the amount of land allocated to them is affected by their foraging habits. Hogs will literally either eat or root up and cause to die every growing thing in a hog lot over a period of time depending on size and population numbers of course. It is my opinion they are looking for variety in diet and nutrients that may not be provided in the food provided. Proteins being a good example. Corn is one of the staples in raising pigs on a small scale or individual basis. It is readily available and usually cheaper than other feeds BUT low on protein. They will grow quite well on it though. And get fat too! There is still that concept as well. A fat hog is a healthy hog. I find myself having to either dispose of or save the excess fat in the freezer till hunting season comes around and someone needs some mixed into the ground venison. I too have enough on me already don’t need any more. I still enjoy the occasional bite of fat either fried up nice and crispy on a pork chop or if on the grill broiled the same way.
They look for protein. Worms bugs in the ground plant or grass roots. Even tree roots in some cases. And yes if constantly confined in the same small area the rooting and foraging on the roots will kill even the trees. But what they are actually doing is looking for what they need or want or maybe just out of boredom if closely confined domestic animals. And OH YEAH wild ones do too. They can do a lot of damage to pasture and crop lands in a very short time in numbers. That is why some states now do not limit the killing of wild hogs. Shoot on sight is the rule. But getting back to the dirty and smelly if kept in small crowded situations they have no choice but to lay in their own waste. Dirty? The two pigs we currently have are on about a 1.5 to 2 acre lot with room to roam. trees to0 lay under and plenty of food, corn of course, and they are as clean as say the cows. Or the dog for that matter if I don’t bathe him fairly often.
Yesterday while working in the hog lot I had a 5 gallon bucket that had had motor oil in it before. While I was not looking one eased it off to play with. Went inside it to see if there was anything interesting inside I suppose and did come out with oil residue all over itself. So yes they are just like kids, both the human and goat varieties. At 0ne time we had a boar that had to weigh six to 700 lbs.. Huge. If I was in the lot doing whatever he would follow me around again like the dog. Until I stopped and scratched him some then as often as not he would just lay down and go to sleep.
You may say, Yeah but they get into or even make big mud holes and just lay around in it all day and I bet they don’t even come out to0 go poo. And my response would be, I bet you are right! I never said their sanitation requirements were the same as ours but under the same conditions I am not sure a lot of us would do any better. And did you know there is a reason for the wallow? Hogs don’t sweat. They don’t even have sweat glands so that wallow, as it is called. is their only way of cooling off other than laying in the shade. If there is any. I doubt commercial growers provide much shade. I do believe I have heard that some do now provide areas where they can go and cool off under a mist. Not sure 0n that. It would have to be a concrete area though or they would root it out and make a wallow. That is their cooling method in the summer. On the other end I had a man tell me one time the cold does not bother them at all! He had seen them in the wallow sunk down till only the eyes and snouts were above water and ice formed around them. I have never visited his place but my guess on this situation is that there was not a protected area provided for them to go in the winter months which are often wet as well as cold here in the mountains of NE TN.. I on the other hand have seen them in a dry protected area when it was so cold out that you could pick it up by handfuls, as my Dad used say, literally piled up like firewood for warmth I assume and occasionally changing positions so that one on the outside or top would get a turn in the middle.
Will they eat anything? Yes and no on that one. If hungry just about anything edible is at risk. But if well fed and given choices such as in pastures they will pick out what they want in one clump of grass and move on to the next one. Unless of course they smell something below ground they want. Then they will root it up. That is where the damage comes in. Don’t know if this is true or not now but I have heard that in England at one time they were used to hunt truffles in the wild, whatever truffles are. “I checked on this, they are a variety of fungus that grows underground”. Apparently as per Wi Ki something about truffles may make the male more attractive to the female so they seek them out. Sound familiar? I will give you a link to check it out later. My point here though being yes they do have a wide and varied diet, when options are available. Unlike cows or goats they will also eat meat as well. Just about anything we eat they will eat. Again much like our family pets. If you don’t believe me put you dinner scraps down so your dog or cat can get to them and watch them disappear.
Now the dumb part. They are stupid anyone with a brain can tell that, right? I am not so sure. Now granted pigs are not likely to make any major discoveries in say medicine or aeronautics or even horticulture but in all likelihood neither am I. But they can figure out how to use a water nipple that they have to bite down on to release the water and give them a drink. Or lift and hold up a lid on an automatic feeder that allows them to get to the food inside. They will even find a way out of an enclosed area devised to keep them in by someone like myself. And oh yes if available to them they will eat more than is good for them and get all fat and out of shape. HMMM I think I have heard about that in another species as well. No I don’t think they are dumb. They seem to take the environment in which they live and survive and adapt to the conditions quite well.
Appearances says this is a well kept and clean commercial operation. I don’t think either myself or my neighbors want to live this close togrther!
I guess the last will be that they don’t need much room and are perfectly content in small spaces. Here I am going to stick strictly with my own observations. Yes if closely confined they seem to adapt with no obviously noticeable side effects except perhaps occasional irritability with other pigs in the same area and occasional what appears to be very mild aggression toward the ones that keep them in there. But if given a little room to move, choose some of their own food, lay up in the shade if they want to or just get away from their pen mates for a while they do seem a lot more content. These are just my personal observations and opinions based on absolutely no scientific facts or studies.
I guess that is about it for my personal observations on the common rumors about the downfalls of hogs. Given the opportunity and means to do so they will be no less offensive to our sensibilities than any other farm animal. And they do have some distinct advantages. They will dispose of all or at least most of the food waste we tend to generate as well as provide a pleasant few moments of enjoyment just watching them at play or just reacting with one another. And last but not least is the delicious and low cost food source they are.
Here is that link I mentioned earlier. Take a few minutes to read it, it is not long, it is informative and interesting on several levels. But do come back we enjoy your visits http://www.nytimes.com/1982/03/24/garden/truffles-why-pigs-can-sniff-them-out.html
If you found this interesting you may also enjoy http://hobbyfarmlife.com/grazing-hogs-on-the-farm-feast-or-famine/ and http://hobbyfarmlife.com/raising-a-beef-for-home-or-sale-what-does-it-take/