13 Surprising Facts About Pigs

Pigs get a bad rap. Sure, they’re one of the most common and most important farm animals around when it comes to meat production, but they have an image problem as disgusting, brutish creatures.

woman petting a pig
woman petting a pig

Large pigs can be dangerous and messy, no doubt, but believe me when I tell you that pigs have a lot more going on behind those beady eyes than you might think.

To help rehabilitate the image of the common domestic pig and give you a little more insight into what amazing animals they are I’m bringing you 13 surprising pig facts in this short article.

1. Pigs Can Live Up to 20 Years

Although most people don’t think of pigs as long-lived animals, that’s only because most are destined for slaughter at no more than a year of age, and usually much younger than that.

Wild pigs also tend to have shorter lifespans because they are subject to so much stress, injury, and illness.

But as it turns out, domestic pigs can live a very long time if they are cared for, up to 20 years! That’s better than most dogs and a whole lot of other domestic animals.

If you want a pig as a pet, you can rest assured that you’ll both have a long and happy life together, so long as you take care of him.

2. Pigs Have Incredibly Sensitive Noses

Lots of animals are said to have a great sense of smell, but very few can hold a candle to a pig. Pigs have amazingly sensitive noses, even more sensitive than those of dogs if you can believe it.

This is because pigs are designed to sniff out buried food in the form of roots, shoots and other subterranean items.

This requires a proportionately more powerful nose to detect the food through inches of solid soil!

It is also what has led to pigs being specially trained to detect truffles, those amazing fungal delicacies that fetch high prices in restaurants.

3. Your Average Pig is as Smart as a Dog

The gold standard for animal intelligence is the dog, mankind’s oldest and best-domesticated pal.

But I’m here to tell you that Poochie has got some pretty stiff competition from Porky over here.

Pigs have a surprisingly high animal IQ, owing to excellent cognitive abilities, social acumen in the herd, memory and ability to learn tasks and solve problems.

At the very worst, an average pig is as smart as a smart dog, and lots of researchers think that exceptional pigs are smarter than any dog!

4. The Bite Strength of Pigs is Very Impressive

If you haven’t been around them, it’s easy to think that pigs just don’t pack that much force. They are so plump and squishy, and eat such soft foods, it’s hard to imagine them bringing much strength to bear. But you’d be wrong.

Pigs are shockingly strong, especially concerning their jaw muscles. Pigs can bite straight through thick, solid bone when they have to- something that comes in handy during feeding time and also during instances of self-defense or fighting over mates.

That’s why seasoned farmers always warn visitors about the dangers of large pigs! It is nothing for a mature pig to literally take a bit out of you.

5. Pigs Have Incredible Memories for Animals

Intelligence is one thing, but memory is another, and it is thought that pigs have among the very best memories of any animal on Earth.

It is no exaggeration to say that pigs can remember things, incredibly detailed things, for years on end with no ongoing stimuli or training.

Your pigs can certainly remember your face, remember their friends and family, remember how to solve complex problems, and more.

If you’ve ever been away from your faithful dog for a long time, only to see them explode with joy when they are reunited with you, I can tell you right now that pigs will do the same thing when your absence is ended.

6. Piglets are Born with Sharp Teeth

Pretty much everyone knows that pigs have teeth, but did you know that precious, cute little piglets are born with frightening, needle-sharp dagger teeth? It’s true, I’m not joking!

These little vampire teeth are actually called needle teeth, and you think that’s unsettling you’re really going to be unsettled when you learn why piglets would need them.

Piglets are born with these teeth so they can fight with their siblings for access to the best teat on their mother.

Better teats produce more milk, and that means more calories that piglets desperately need. These teeth are invariably clipped by farmers, because they can inflict serious and even fatal injuries on other piglets!

7. Pigs Can Run Faster than Most People (11+ mph!)

If you ever seen a pig trotting around the barnyard, you’ve probably come away unimpressed by its overall athleticism. But I’m telling you, don’t be fooled!

Pigs are surprisingly speedy, and your average pig is more than capable of out-running your average human being, topping out at more than 11 mph in a dash. Wild pigs can run even faster.

More than this, pigs are quite nimble and capable of turning on a dime. Or even pig agility courses at certain shows and competitions!

You better keep this in mind if you ever have to run away from a large hog!

8. Pigs are Surprisingly Good Swimmers

Pigs are so dense and heavy that many people think they would just sink like a stone, but that’s not the case: Pigs are shockingly good swimmers considering their short limbs and tiny feet, and they make good headway through the water.

In fact, it is hardly uncommon for people to report pigs swimming to cross rivers, swimming out into ponds and even swimming into the ocean to reach nearby islands down in the Caribbean.

a pig inside a muddy pigsty
a pig inside a muddy pigsty

9. Pigs Have a Homing Instinct

Pigs have a homing instinct that is rivaled only by some dogs, and most of the time completely exceeds it.

There have been recorded instances of pigs taken hundreds of miles away from their home, either by their wanderings or other events, and somehow finding their way back. It sounds incredible, but it’s true.

Scientists still aren’t entirely sure how pigs are able to do this. It’s possible they use their great memories to record their path when they wander, but that can’t explain some of the more incredible cases.

10. Pigs are Remarkably Social

After you read the horror story concerning the piglets up above, I don’t blame you if you think pigs are absolutely savage to each other.

That is one instance, for sure, but the rest of the time, pigs are amazingly social creatures.

Pigs form friendships with each other, have distinct family units, a herd hierarchy and other relationship metrics that they monitor with surprisingly complex vocal sounds and body language.

It might just sound like noise to you, but there’s a lot more being communicated than you might think when pigs are squealing.

11. Pigs Only Walk on 2 of their 4 Toes

Have you ever paid attention to those weird little hooves that pigs have? Did you know that they actually have four toes on those little feet?

It’s true, but they only walk on two of them, giving them a peculiar sort of tiptoed posture.

In fact, it is the two middle toes of a pig’s foot that are specially designed to bear all of their weight. These longer toes make contact with the ground while the two shorter ones on either side of these longer toes do not.

12. Pigs Designate Areas in their Space for Different Tasks

As filthy as a pigsty. We’ve all heard the expression, and it seems to be one stereotype that definitely suits pigs. But what you might not know is that pigs are actually highly tidy and clean animals.

Yes, they will wallow in mud in an effort to get cool and protect themselves from the sun, but assuming they have enough room and shelter, this isn’t the case at all.

Pigs will actually designate specific herd areas for sleeping, pooping and peeing, and eating, and they do not mix these areas if they have any other choice!

That is some seriously sophisticated behavior out of animals that most people consider to be filthy brutes.

13. Pigs are Omnivorous

Pigs are omnivores, not herbivores as most people think. This means that they eat a highly varied diet consisting of plant matter like vegetables, grasses, roots, fruit and fungus, and also animal proteins of all kinds, including insects.

This makes pigs highly adaptable in the wild, and also lets keepers tailor their nutritional plan depending on objectives and what is available.

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