Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom

Pigs, Pork, Swine Facts

"No man should be allowed to be President who does not understand hogs."

- President Harry Truman

Swine Products

  • Swine were among the first of all animals to be domesticated
    —around 6,000 years ago. The Chinese were the first to raise wild pigs for food.

  • Bacon is one of the oldest processed meats in history. The Chinese began salting pork bellies as early as 1500 BC.
  • The Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto brought the first swine
    to the New World in 1539.

  • A pig's squeal can range from 110-115 decibels. Compare that to the Concorde jet, which is usually under 112 decibels.

  • In 2003, Oklahoma's swine industry was the state's fourth largest agricultural enterprise.

  • Female swine are called sows. Sows give birth to litters of pigs twice a year. Each litter usually has eight to 12 baby pigs. Giving birth to baby pigs is called farrowing.

  • Baby pigs appear very greedy when they are competing for food from their mothers. For this reason the words “pig” and “hog” have come to be associated with greedy behavior.

  • Pigs are weaned when they are two to four weeks old. They are called “nursery pigs” until they reach 50 pounds and “growing/finishing pigs” from then until they reach about 240 pounds. After that they are called hogs. Hogs are usually taken to market when they weigh 240-280 pounds.

  • In the past hogs were fed table scraps and had a reputation for eating just about anything. The meat from hogs fed that way was very high in fat. The hogs would eat corn, grass, clover or even table scraps that would have otherwise have become garbage. The word “hogwash,” meaning something that is worthless, came from this practice.

  • In some areas hogs would be turned out to find their own food. Hogs would roam freely, eating what they could find— acorns from the ground or roots, which they dug from the ground with their snouts. On Manhattan Island, New York, the hogs rampaged through grain fields until farmers were forced to build a wall to keep them out. The street running along this wall became Wall Street.

  • Today’s swine producers are more careful about what they feed their animals. Modern hogs eat corn, wheat and soybean meal. Vitamins and minerals are added to increase growth and improve health.

  • Today’s hogs weigh more, but because producers plan their diets carefully,
    they grow more efficiently and yield more lean meat than ever.

  • Pork provides protein, B-vitamins and thiamin to our diets. Pork has three times as much thiamin as any other food. Thiamin changes carbohydrates into energy and promotes a healthy appetite.

  • Insulin and about 40 other medicines are made from pigs.

  • Pigs are not dirty. They can't sweat, so they roll in the mud to keep cool.

  • Pig heart valves have been used to replace damaged human heart valves.

  • Pig fat can be used in weed killers, chalk, cosmetics, floor wax, crayons and antifreeze.

  • A pig can run a seven-minute mile.

  • Hogs do not overeat. They eat until they are full.

  • Hogs are smart animals. They learn to push a lever in the barnyard to get a drink of water or a dish of food. They have been taught to tumble, race, pull carts, dance and hunt.

  • Pigs are brave. One pig named Priscilla saved a boy from drowning. She is in the Pet Hall of Fame.

  • The family name for hogs is Swine. The mother is a sow, and the father is a boar. Babies are called pigs.

  • Sows are great mothers. There are usually eight or nine baby pigs to a litter. Sometimes a mother sow may accidentally lie down on one of her pigs. To help prevent this the farmer uses a special stall that provides a place beside the sow for the baby pigs to go when the mother is getting up and lying down.

  • Hogs come in different colors. Small Yorkshire hogs are snowy white. Duroc-Jersey hogs are brick red. Poland China hogs are black and white.

  • Colonists in Pennsylvania developed the practice of "finishing" hogs on corn (feeding them nothing but corn in the few weeks before butchering them). This practice improved the quality of the pork and laid the foundation for the modern pork industry.

  • In the colonial US, hogs were driven to market in large droves over trails that later became routes used by the railroads.

  • Hog raising became an important commercial enterprise during the 1800s when the Midwest farm regions were settled. The new Erie Canal system gave farmers a way to get their hogs to the cities back east. Farmers started calling their hogs “Mortgage Lifters” because the profits from their sales helped pay for the new homesteads.

  • Soldier pigs have gone to war. They have served as mine sniffers in battlefields.

  • The heaviest hog in history, Big Bill, weighed 2,552 pounds.

  • Pigs are curious and like to keep busy. Some farmers entertain their pigs with beach balls and old tires. Pigs also enjoy listening to music.

  • Early American pigs traveled west in crates hung from covered wagon axles.

  • People around the world eat more pork than any other meat. In the US it ranks behind beef and poultry.

  • Pigs weigh about 2 1/2 pounds at birth.

  • When fully grown, boars (male hogs) may weigh more than 500 pounds, and sows (female hogs) may weigh from 300-500 pounds.

  • Most hogs are sold when they are 6-7 months old and weigh about 210-250 pounds. If hogs are kept longer they are usually used for breeding.

  • Hogs have small eyes and poor eyesight.

  • Hogs have a total of 34-44 teeth.

  • The hog's snout is very sensitive to touch. Some producers put rings in hogs' noses to keep them from rooting, or digging up the earth, with their snouts. In the wild hogs feed themselves by digging for roots to eat. This can cause a lot of damage on a farm.

  • Hogs have four toes on each foot. Each toe ends in a hoof.

  • Hogs' bodies are stout, strong and covered with coarse, bristly hair.

  • Wild hogs are strong and fierce and live in forests and jungles in many parts of the world. Razorbacks (wild hogs with sharp, narrow backs) live in the Southeastern US and the West Indies.

  • The ancient Chinese were so reluctant to be separated from fresh pork that the departed were sometimes accompanied to the grave with their herd of hogs

  • During the War of 1812, a New York pork packer named Uncle Sam Wilson shipped a boatload of several hundred barrels of pork to U.S. troops. Each barrel was stamped "U.S." on the docks, and it was quickly said that the "U.S." stood for "Uncle Sam," whose large shipment seemed to be enough to feed the entire army. This is how "Uncle Sam" came to represent the U.S. Government.

  • The saying "living high on the hog" started among enlisted men in the U.S. Army, who received shoulder and leg cuts of pork while officers received the top loin cuts. So "living high on the hog" came to mean living well.

  • What's the origin of the saying "a pig in the poke?" It was a common trick in 17th century England of trying to give away a cat to an unsuspecting "shopper" for a suckling pig (a young pig). When he opened the poke (sack), he "let the cat out of the bag," and the trick was revealed.

  • The phrase "pork barrel" politics?" is derived from the pre-Civil War practice of distributing salt pork to the slaves from huge barrels. By the 1870's, congressmen were referring to regularly dipping into the "pork barrel" to obtaining funds for popular projects in their home districts.

  • The highest known price ever paid for a hog was $56,000 - paid for a crossbred hog named "Bud," on March 5, 1985.

  • Hogs are a source of nearly 40 drugs and pharmaceuticals on the market.

  • Pigs are found on every continent but Antartica.

Swine Products

pork chops
pork roast
bacon
ham
sausages
hot dogs
medicines
heart valves
insulin
chalk
weed killers
fertilizer
cosmetics
floor wax
crayons
antifreeze
glass
china
adhesives
plastics
shoes,
paint
chewing gum.

Swine Lessons

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Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department of Education.