Many places in Asia, a pig sty is a very simple affair – or simply lacking. These pigs in central Myanmar have been tied to a tree at the road side. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The domestic pig is descended from the wild boar (Sus scrofa). This wild boar sow and her piglets are enjoying a mud bath at a waterhole in Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, India. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The domestic pig, swine, or hog (Sus scrofa ssp. domestica) – by some authorities considered a full species, Sus domestica – is descended from the wild boar (Sus scrofa). Archaeological evidence suggests that domestication took place as early as around 13,000 B.C. in Mesopotamia, with a separate domestication taking place in China about 6000 B.C. As the wild boar has an omnivorous diet, this domestication process was rather easy.
DNA studies indicate that the first domestic pigs were brought to Europe from the Middle East. People soon began domesticating the local European wild boar, causing the genes from the Middle East animals to die out in the European pigs. Later, European animals were brought back to the Middle East, and during the 18th and 19th Centuries, Asian pigs were introduced to Europe. Thus, modern pigs have very complex genes.
When Europeans migrated to the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, they naturally brought pigs along. Descendants of these pigs have become feral in many parts of the world, including North and South America, New Zealand, northern Australia, and parts of Europe, often causing considerable damage to the environment.
Pigs are mostly used for food, but in earlier days, pig skin was utilized to produce various items, including shields. Tools and weapons were made from the bones, and the stiff hairs were used to make brushes. In many places in Asia, so-called pig-toilets are still in use in rural areas. It simply consists of an outhouse, built over a pig sty. The faeces fall down into the sty, where the pigs consume them – an eco-friendly and economical way of getting rid of human waste.
The world population of domestic pigs is around 1 billion, making it as numerous as sheep and goats.
In the Indian Subcontinent, most domestic pigs still resemble the wild boar quite a lot, but may have a piebald fur, like this one in the town of Bundi, Rajasthan, which is sharing the gutter with a resting zebu calf (top). Elsewhere, domestic pigs are usually more or less pink, with a rather scanty fur, like this one in Pokhara, Nepal (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
In Europe, free-running pigs are a rather recent trend, but a growing number of consumers demand products from these animals, as most of the pigs indoors are kept under cruel conditions. – This picture is from the island of Fur, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Sows are loving mothers, nursing their piglets about every hour. The gestation period is 112-120 days. – Melstedgård Agricultural Museum, Bornholm, Denmark (top); Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (bottom). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pigs love wallowing in mud, covering their skin with a coating of mud, which protects it from stinging insects. These pictures are from Sonpur, Bihar, India (top), and from Jutland, Denmark. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
As with other domestic animals, a huge number of pig breeds have evolved over time. This picture shows a Swedish breed, called the Linröd pig, which is very rare today, numbering only about 150. – Västergötland, Sweden. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Pot-bellied pigs are a breed, which originated in Vietnam, and today it is found in many countries in Southeast Asia. This picture is from the Batak village of Lingga, Sumatra, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Prior to the invasion of Taiwan by Chinese peoples, the indigenous Malayan tribes of this island roamed the forests, hunting wild boar and other animals. Today, they still love whole roasted pig, but now raise domestic pigs for the purpose. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
A favourite dish in Bali is babi guling (grilled piglet), enjoyed with rice, soup, and tea. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
Deep-fried pig feet for sale, Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
The Andaman pig is only found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a long string of small islands, which stretch from Myanmar to the Indonesian island Sumatra. Some scientists regard these pigs as a subspecies, andamanensis, of the wild boar. To me however, it is much more likely that it was introduced by the original Negrito inhabitants of these islands, as it resembles the domestic pigs of Southeast Asia much more than wild boar. Some of these introduced pigs probably escaped to form wild populations.
Andaman pigs, photographed in Port Blair Zoo, Andaman Islands. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)
(Uploaded September 2017)
(Revised December 2018)