Winston Churchill said "I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals". I think he was probably right, but most people think of pigs as dirty, fat, smelly creatures, so why do pigs get such a bad press?
Unlike most large mammals pigs are found in almost all parts of the world in one form or other. Thousands of years ago in Europe pigs became one of the first domesticated animals and when people moved away to colonise other parts of the world they took pigs with them. Humans have a long and varied association with pigs so it is surprising that they are so misunderstood.
It is fairly common to hear the phrase ’sweating like a pig’ to describe a person who is perspiring profusely. However pigs do not sweat in the way that we do because they do not have sweat glands, so they need to roll in mud to cool themselves down and protect themselves from the sun. The mud also helps them to get rid of any fleas or parasites on the pigs skin because the mud cracks off as it dries, taking the parasites with it. Perhaps the need to roll in mud is why they are thought of as dirty, but pigs are actually very clean animals, they will not soil their living or eating areas unless they are forced to by the circumstances in which they are kept.
The term ‘pig’ is often used to describe a person’s thoughtless or slobbish behaviour, but pigs are not stupid. Professor Stanley Curtis of Penn State University in USA taught pigs to perform a number of tasks including jumping over dumbbells and sitting next to and fetching different objects. The pigs still remembered what they had been taught three years later. Professor Curtis also showed that pigs could learn to play video games with a joystick, he said “Pigs are able to focus with an intensity I have never seen in a chimp.”
So before you insult someone by calling them a pig keep these points in mind. Pigs are naturally lean unless they are over fed and kept in an unstimulating environment without exercise. They enjoy playing football and they like to listen to music. Pigs have complex social lives, they dream, sows sing to their young when they are nursing, they learn by watching each other and they are able to outsmart each other by changing their behaviour if one course of action is not achieving the desired result. They have a good sense of direction and they can find their way home over long distances.