Saturday, July 14, 2012

Are Pigs Naturally Fat?

I was watching a rerun of Northern Exposure this morning, an episode about a mosquito festival and a truffle sniffing pig, when I suddenly wondered if pigs were naturally fat. I remembered some photos I had seen a long time ago of laboratory rats that had been fed so much food they looked liked grotesque hairy sausages. Seemed that they, like other animals, will eat and eat and eat if given an unlimited supply of food. For whatever reason, that truffle sniffing pig looked like a laboratory experiment to me. Grotesquely obese. What does a normal pig look like, one that is fit and trim?

According to Wikipedia, pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig (Sus scrofa domestica), its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives. Pigs are omnivores and are highly social and intelligent animals. We are averse to eating other highly social and intelligent animals, so why do we put aside this aversion to gnaw on a pork chop? Pigs rank fourth in the list of most intelligent animals in the world, behind chimps, dolphins, and elephants. Who knew? They learn tricks faster than dogs and their grunts are a complex form of communication. The are very close to their mates. Pigs like to snuggle up with each other at night when they sleep, are very family oriented, and live in Tribes. Sounds like my kind of people.

Pigs don't have any sweat glands, so they don't like heat. That is why they have to roll around in the mud, to cool off. They are also fantastic swimmers. Whodda thunk?

To imagine what a healthy, fit pig would look like, I turn to the wild boar. Wild boars live a natural lifestyle, eat whatever they can find, and burn lots of calories doing so. They are lean and mean. Maybe that is it, domestic pigs don't get much exercise so they gain weight. I can relate to that. I learned a baby pig eats so much its first week it actually doubles in weight! But I wasn't satisfied with this crumb of information, I needed more.

So I searched Google and asked the question "why are pigs fat?". Turns out they aren't. Pigs are giant muscle bound animals with small legs, making them appear to be portly. Just shows you can't judge a book by its cover.

I learned many things today while researching Pig. Pigs and I, we're a lot like each other. And I am sure I will think twice before biting into the next piece of bacon.


  1. Great article, does much-needed justice to pigs who are so very misunderstood and under-appreciated. I sincerely hope people stop eating them some day, and soon.

  2. Thanks for this Barb! I always think of random things and go searching online for info. I'm so glad I came across this, it answered a lot of questions!

  3. Most pet pigs are really fat, though. Unhealthily fat. If you search for images of people's pet pigs (especially 'Vietnamese pot-belly pigs', a pet breed), you see them grotesquely bloated with rolls of fat around their neck. Some even have thick folds of fat obscuring their eyes so they can barely see. Compare that to images of feral pigs, which thrive in places like Australia and get good exercise in the wild. Clean face, no puffy rolls around their neck. A toned, fit, functional pig that lives and breeds in the wild looks nothing like the lardy monstrosities that people keep as pets. Yeah, pigs are solid animals with relatively short legs, but you can still tell the difference between an obese pig and a healthy one.

    I think the reason most pigs are fat is because of human ignorance (or because people take the name "pot-bellied" too literally). Owners don't try to exercise their pigs regularly like they would a dog, and when they see their pigs getting fat, they just accept as if it's what the animal should normally look like, because everyone's point of reference is just other overly fat domestic pigs. It's a disgrace.

  4. I have gained a new respect for pigs. Wonder how their intelligence compares to crows and ravens.
    At least we don't eat them.