2. ABOUT PIGS | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

2. ABOUT PIGS

Pigs are fun loving, sociable animals full of joie de vivre.

They belong to the non-ruminant section of the Artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates) along with about 200 other species, including hippopotamuses. Pigs (also called hogs or boars) are suids (or swine) - a family of artiodactyl mammals. All suids are native to the Old World, ranging from Asia and its islands, to Europe and Africa.

There are up to 16 extant (living) species of suids, including wild boar.

The wild boar has 16 sub-species (all prefixed with Sus). The domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) is descended from, and a sub-species of, the wild boar (S. scrofa), which, of all members of the pig family, occupies the largest range. They originally occurred in Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Malay Archipelago. Included in this native range were a number of island populations, including Britain, Corsica, Sardinia, Japan, Sri Lanka, the Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, Hainan, Sumatra, Java and smaller islands of the East Indies. S. scrofa was later introduced throughout the world as domesticated animals by humans. Other species of wild pigs include, for example, the warthog (Phacochoerus ethiopicus), babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa) and the African bushpig (Potamochoerus larvatus).

Wild boar lived wild in Britain’s woodlands until hunted to extinction in the seventeenth century. Remarkably, and against all odds, the wild boar has very small populations once again in Britain (see pages 15 - 16).

Wild boar (S. scrofa) is a gregarious species that started being domesticated in the Near East about 9,000 years ago (31). Over time there was much crossbreeding between Asian and European boars. Importantly, although there was some artificial selection for an easy temperament, most of the selective breeding of pigs has been for production traits, especially growth and reproduction (32). This means that modern domesticated pigs are similar, cognitively and behaviourally, to wild boars (33).