You may think you know this farmyard animal, but the pig is full of surprises
1. Pigs are highly sociable – when they’re living in a group they’ll all sleep close together. After they’ve drifted off, pigs dream much like we do.
2. It’s estimated that pigs were first domesticated from boars in Western Asia as far back as 13,000 BCE. As versatile omnivores, they were easy to care for, and their meat, bones, hair and hides were all considered useful.
3. Worldwide, there are an estimated 2 billion domestic pigs. Around half of these animals live in China, with the European Union and the US following as the next biggest porcine producers.
4. Pigs were used in ancient warfare; Alexander the Great used their squeals to scare away advancing enemy war elephants. More recently, they’ve been employed in warzones to sniff out land mines.
5. Not only do pigs eat a much more varied diet than us, they’re also more sensitive to taste. While we have around 9,000 taste buds, pigs have 15,000. This helps them to find foods that cover all their nutritional needs and avoid those that might be harmful to them.
6. Sows often sing to their piglets as they feed them. The litter can recognise their mother’s voice and at two or three weeks old can respond to names.
7. If something goes bump in the night at the farm, it was probably a pig. While their sense of smell is powerful, their eyesight is actually very poor.
8. Despite their reputation, pigs aren’t dirty animals. Given enough space, they’re careful to keep the area they eat in clean.
9. An overheating person is often described as ‘sweating like a pig’, but pigs have very few sweat glands. In hot weather, they stay cool by wallowing in mud or water.
10. Pigs have a rather unfair reputation as lazy animals, but they can sprint at almost 18 kilometres (11 miles) per hour – that’s the same speed as a runner doing a seven-minute mile.