Domestic pigs are omnivorous and energetic eaters. Everyone knows that, and the expression “eating like a pig” has been with us for so long for a good reason! Pigs eat produce, grains, meat, and all sorts of things.
Some people also assert that pigs eat bones, easily and happily. Could this be true? It’s hard to imagine a plucky domestic pig chowing down on bones. So, will a pig eat bones?
Yes, all pigs will generally eat the bones of any animal when given a chance. Pigs have teeth and powerful jaw musculature that can handle breaking down bones for consumption.
This is bound to be a shock for some people, and for others, the question is now whether or not they should be feeding their pigs bones since they can eat them.
This topic is hotly debated when it comes to domestic pigs, as you might imagine, and if you keep reading I will tell you all about how pigs are able to eat bones, when they engage in this behavior in the wild, and whether or not you should be feeding bones to your pigs.
Are Pigs Really Capable of Eating Bones?
Yes, they sure are, and I’m not talking about just itty bitty little bones from small mammals or the individual smaller bones from larger animals.
Pigs are carnivorous, and though they greatly prefer meat they will happily dig in on bones when given a chance. It happens all the time.
How Can a Pig’s Teeth Break Bones?
For those who have never seen it actually happen, it’s hard to imagine how a pig can actually eat bones aside from swallowing them whole.
But hear me out: pigs are well equipped for eating bones, and you do well to remember that when dealing with an aggressive pig.
Pigs have phenomenally strong jaws capable of exerting immense force, more than capable of crushing most bones and cracking open larger ones.
But jaw strength will only get you so far if your teeth aren’t up to the job, and it turns out the teeth of pigs most definitely are.
The teeth of your average pig are very strong, extremely hard, and in the case of the back teeth in particular, are rooted extremely deep into the jaw itself and well designed for crushing and grinding.
In fact, the teeth of a pig are so tough and so strong they will only rarely ever wear them out during their lifetime, even if they aren’t being raised for slaughter.
Pigs that subsist mostly on a diet of softer food will almost never wear out their teeth through eating.
Do they Eat Raw Bones?
Yes. Pigs, wild or domestic, can and will eat raw bones.
Will Farm-raised Pigs Eat Bones?
Yes, they will. The consumption of bones is often associated with a wild, savage nature and this might come as a shock to consider that you’re happy, pink domestic pigs living on your farm will readily chow down on bones when given half a chance, but they will.
If they aren’t used to them, it might take them a little while to come around on them, but if they are hungry or if they instinctively know they need some nutrients that are present in the bones or bone marrow they contain, they will dig in.
Wild Pigs Regularly Eat Bones
It should also be pointed out that the eating of bones is nothing new for pigs. Wild pigs, like their domestic counterparts, are enthusiastic and highly capable omnivores.
This means they will eat pretty much anything that is edible, and that definitely includes the bones of animals.
Hunters and people living in areas where wild pigs are present routinely report seeing carcasses or prey animals completely “reduced” by wild pigs- reduced meaning they leave absolutely nothing behind, and that includes the bones.
Why Do Pigs Eat Bones in the First Place?
Considering all the other things that pigs eat, and even require in their diets, it can be puzzling when you consider why they would eat bones in the first place. The answer depends on a couple of factors.
Generally, wild pigs will eat bones because they are there. If it is edible, pigs will eat it as mentioned above.
They might also engage in gnawing or chewing on bones to clean their teeth or for entertainment.
Domestic pigs generally don’t have to have bones, or at least whole bones, in their diet but they may be fed bones by keepers in order to minimize waste, as a dietary supplement, or again for entertainment.
Domestic pigs will also regularly engage in the eating of bones when any animal dies that they can reach.
They also have the somewhat distressing habit of digging up buried or covered carcasses that they can access and chewing on the bones that they find.
Should Domestic Pigs Eat Bones as Part of their Diet?
Now we come to the question that is on the minds of everyone: should domestic pigs be given bones as part of their diet considering that they are capable of eating?
The answer, as you might expect, is complicated. It might just depend on who you ask.
Some folks that raise pigs believe that they are an important if limited part of a healthy and well-rounded natural diet for pigs.
Other folks will say the opposite, believing that domestic pigs should never be given bones for a host of reasons, some that we will get to in a minute, but not least of all that they are not required for complete nutrition in light of feed and other items in a whole foods diet.
So, once again, should you feed domestic pigs bones? I don’t think you should, but you can, and below I will talk about the various factors that will help you make a decision that is right for you and your pigs.
Can Pigs Eat Chicken Bones?
Yes, pigs can eat chicken bones. The smaller bones of an average chicken are pretty easy for pigs to chew and eat.
Can Pigs Eat Human Bones!?
Yes, yes they can. In the context of food, human bones are just like other mammal bones for pigs.
Should You Cook Bones before Serving them to Your Pigs?
The largest and strongest bones in the human body might be too hard to handle for an average pig, but several large hogs can eat the entirely of a human body, bones, teeth, and all.
Another obvious question that people have concerning the feeding of bones to domestic pigs is whether or not they should be cooked.
This is a fair idea, but misguided, because it can make bones more dangerous for pigs, not less.
Bones that have been cooked tend to snap or splinter when broken, often into sharp shards that could cause injury to a pig’s mouth, get stuck in their throat or even lacerate or lodge in their innards if swallowed. That is bad news, and potentially fatal!
Contrast this with raw bones, which typically crumble and break down rather than snap off into shards.
Considering the strength and durability of a pig’s teeth and jaws, it makes a lot more sense to serve them raw bones, although this is not entirely without risk as with any raw food.
In short, if you are going to give your pigs bones don’t give them cooked bones for safety’s sake.
Can Pigs be Fed Bones Regularly?
I say only sparingly. Bones are not nutritionally complete, even though they do contain plenty of things that pigs need.
Bones have abundant calcium and phosphorous, along with various vitamins, collagen, amino acids, and gelatin.
All good stuff for pigs, but not everything they need! If you do decide to feed them to your pigs, they are best used as a supplement or occasional treat to a well-rounded diet.
Consider feeding your pigs bones only once a week, or even less.
Also note that calcium, something that pigs need plenty of, can be harmful in excess amounts. Too much calcium can have the opposite effect and make your pigs sick.
Bone marrow, present in the center of bones, is extremely nutritious and contains lots of vitamins, minerals, protein, and good fats that pigs need.
Pigs that are allowed to eat bones regularly will usually get stomach problems, including bloating, ulcers, diarrhea, and kidney or urinary tract stones due to the extreme calcium and other mineral content.
Some of these problems are annoyances, and some of them can be deadly. Most of the serious issues require surgery or euthanasia, so keep that in mind before you make it a point to load up your pig’s menu with bones.
Feeding Pigs Bones Might Have Grim Consequences…
Now, we get to the ugly part. The consequences of feeding bones to domestic pigs are not just dietary.
Plenty of anecdotal evidence suggests that pigs that are fed bones will routinely develop a taste, even a preference for them.
This is thought to be linked to the bone marrow inside them since it is such a potent source of nutrition.
Plenty of folks involved in raising pigs over the years haven’t suggested that feeding bones, and meat for that matter, to pigs leads to aggressive animals, and might even incentivize them to attack, and eat, humans.
There’s also no ignoring some well-documented and horrifying accidents or rather incidents that have taken place involving domestic pigs.
People that have become injured, incapacitated, or even died in a place where their pigs could reach them have been eaten by their own animals.
And everybody who has raised pig long enough knows someone who has lost the tip of a finger or had a hunk taken out of them by a large and powerful animal.
For some keepers, the notion that feeding bones can promote bloodthirstiness or aggression in their pigs, even if only slightly, is too great a risk.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.