Domestic pig

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Domestic pig
Domestic pig (Sus scrofa domesticus): sow with piglets

Domestic pig ( Sus scrofa domesticus ): sow with piglets

Order : Artiodactyla ( Artiodactyla )
Subordination : Pig-like ( Suina )
Family : Real pigs ( Suidae )
Genre : Sus
Type : wild boar
Subspecies : Domestic pig
Scientific name of the  species
Sus scrofa
Linnaeus , 1758
Scientific name of the  subspecies
Sus scrofa domesticus
Erxleben , 1777

The domestic pig (Latin: Sus scrofa domesticus ) is the domesticated form of the wild boar and forms a single species with it . It belongs to the family of real pigs from the order of the artifacts . In some parts of the world there are wild populations of pigs that emerged from feral domestic pigs. Pigs are omnivores ; they eat both animal and vegetable food.

The domestic pig is one of the earliest domesticated pets in the history of human civilization and has been kept for meat production for probably 9,000 years. In Europe and East Asia , pork is the most commonly eaten type of meat. Domestication took place in different regions of the world independently of one another.

Utterance of a domestic pig


"Pig" as the German name of the bristle cattle comes from the Middle High German swîn and originally only referred to young animals (piglets or piglets). The female pig is called Sau (plural in general conversation swine , fachsprachlich sows ; Low German name: Mutte ). The New High German word comes from Old High German and is related to the Latin word sus . The male pig is called a boar , young animals are called piglets . Suckling pigs are piglets which still chip, the teat suck (chips) . Up to a weight of 25 kg they are piglets, between 25 and 50 kg runners . Castrated males are called Borg or Altschneider . Endstufeneber denotes male pigs used for breeding when several breeding levels are used in a breeding program. The final boar is the father of the desired end product. An empty sow is a mother sow in breeding that does not suckle any more piglets, but is not yet pregnant again, that is, has been newly inseminated or covered.

Growing up

Woolly piglet

In pigs, the gestation period is around 112 to 114 days (three months, three weeks, three days), the subsequent labor process is called piglet or farrowing .

In the case of newborn piglets, one can still see the drawing of the original breeds, which is so typical of newborns. When they are around six months old or have a live weight of around 100 kg, the animals are ready for slaughter . Pigs can live to be around ten years old.


Pigs can't sweat. Many breeds of pigs are prone to stress and can also develop heart and circulatory diseases similar to humans. They are therefore also kept as laboratory and test animals. Physiologically, pigs and humans are very similar. This not only applies to the similar manifestations of the disease, but also z. B. also the structure and consistency of meat and fatty tissue. In forensic medicine, for example, stab and gunshot wounds are simulated on freshly slaughtered pigs.


Semi-wild domestic pigs in Corsica
Boar pig of the
Red Holstein pig from Husum

Today there are a variety of breeds of pigs. They all emerged in the last two centuries. Until then, the practice of acorn fattening ensured that domestic pigs kept interbreeding with wild boars.

Recently, very small breeds of pigs, so-called mini pigs, have also become popular as pets without commercial end use. Due to the intensification of agriculture, fewer and fewer breeds are used there. Most of the pigs in the fattening houses are crossbreeds that are marketed by large breeding companies as so-called hybrid pigs .

Some of the more popular breeds are:

Attitude history

Molecular biological studies on domestic pigs and wild pigs have shown that domestication took place independently of one another in many areas of the world during the Neolithic Age . The data make it clear that, over time, early farmers spread further north and west to Europe, bringing their already domesticated pigs with them from the Middle East. The comparison of genome sequences from archaeological pig finds with the genetic material of today's domestic and wild pigs showed that the characteristic genetic fingerprint of pigs from the Middle East gradually disappeared and that the domestic pigs imported into Europe were increasingly mixed with European wild boar populations, so that genetic lines from the Middle East later only have a gene content of around four percent or less. In today's domestic pigs, hardly anything of the genome of the first domesticated pigs from the Middle East can be found.


Coordinates: 38 ° 13 ′ 27 ″  N , 41 ° 14 ′ 30 ″  E

Relief Map: Turkey
Hallan Çemi

The first archaeological evidence of domestication ( domestication ) is from 9000 years ago in what is now eastern Turkey. The Neolithic settlements of Jericho ( Palestine ), Jarmo ( Iraq ), Çatalhöyük and Hallan Çemi ( Turkey ) and Argissa-Margula ( Greece ) are among the oldest sites where the bones of semi-domesticated pigs were found . Hallan Çemi is one of the oldest sites that indicate domestication of pigs. The inhabitants of this Neolithic village ate mostly young male pigs; In the archaeological evidence, finds of pig bones even increase at a time when the forest cover in this region was declining. This is interpreted to mean that pigs had largely joined humans and were looking for food in the vicinity of the settlement. The pigs eaten in Hallan Çemi, however, did not show any domestication marks. This may be due to the short time that Hallan Çemi was inhabited. The settlement was abandoned after around 400 years.

Sculpture of a pig's head from the Neolithic Age in the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Thuringia , Weimar

Çayönü has a longer settlement history than Hallan Çemi . The development from the first round buildings of an early farming community from the 10th millennium to a large settlement with differentiated buildings in the 9th and 8th to the beginning of the 7th millennium can be traced at this settlement site. Similar to Hallan Çemi, the residents of Çayönü mostly ate younger pigs, and over the centuries there has been evidence of a change in the bone structure of these pigs: the animals eaten have shorter snouts, the teeth are closer to one another in the dentition. The archaeological finds here indicate that pigs gradually developed into domestic pigs over a period of 2000 years.

Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt

Relief representation of a pig in the temple of Philae
Hieroglyph for pig

Even in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia , there was a social differentiation in the consumption of pork. Finds in the ancient Egyptian village of Kom el-Hisn indicate this, for example , which was built around 2550 BC during the construction of the Khafre pyramid . Was obliged to deliver food to this construction site about 100 kilometers further south. The residents of Kom el-Hisn raised cattle for this, but ate little beef themselves. Only the bones of old suckler cows and sick calves were found in the archaeological sites of this village. Most of the meat consumed by the villagers came from pigs. The ratio of cattle bones found to pig bones found is 1:25, i.e. H. for every bovine bone found, 25 pig bones are found. It is now believed that pigs were herded in Kom El-Hisn and found forage in the marshes of the Nile Delta and the waste of the village.

The fact that the village had to deliver cattle but was allowed to keep its pigs is due to the specific nature of this domestic animal. Cattle, as well as goats and sheep , were able to find sufficient food in the arid region on the way south. Pigs, on the other hand, would have found neither food nor the shade on which they were dependent on this route. Similarly, the traditional documents of the 3rd dynasty of Ur (2114 to 2004 BC) show that the central administration of this Mesopotamian empire demanded tens of thousands of sheep and cows from their subjects and distributed them to temples and the army. Pigs, on the other hand, are not mentioned. However, it is certain that pigs were kept: in both Egypt and Mesopotamia, up to 2000 BC, pigs were kept. Numerous evidence of pig breeding, provided the villages are located in a region in which sufficient rainfall fell to enable land cultivation without artificial irrigation. Finds at Tell Halif , an archaeological site now in southern Israel, also suggest that the number of pigs kept increased in times of weak state control.

Overall, the number of pigs kept decreased from 2000 BC. BC, however, back sharply: Increasing desertification made it increasingly difficult to keep pigs in herds. Pigs can still be found in poorer areas of the now larger cities, where they fed on human waste; Over time, a nutritional pattern developed in which the consumption of pork was limited to the lowest strata of the population. In the Middle East, pigs were increasingly considered unclean, which is manifested, among other things, in the fact that in the religions of the Middle East pigs, unlike sheep, goats and cattle, were not eligible for temple sacrifices. The dietary laws, as they were probably in the 8th century BC. BC in the 3rd and 5th book of Moses and thus laid the basis of the Jewish dietary laws , have their origin in this. These dietary laws in turn determined those of Islam (see food taboo ).

Greeks and Romans

Depiction of a pig sacrifice (Epidromus painter, around 500 BC)

Both ancient Greek and Roman cultures had attitudes toward domestic pigs that were entirely different from that of the Middle East. Pigs were the most common sacrificial animal in both cultures. In Athens priests sacrificed newborns before every public meeting, and in Rome pig sacrifice was common in contracts, births and weddings. The attributes of the Greek goddess of fertility, Demeter, include wheat ears, poppy seeds and dolphins as well as pigs. The Greek hero Odysseus is the proud owner of pig herds and on his return after years of wandering he is received by the swineherd Eumaios , who has remained loyal to him .

The importance of pig farming can also be seen in the traditional works from Roman times. The Roman agrarian writers who dealt with questions of pig husbandry include in particular the late Republican author Varro and Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella and Pliny the Elder , who wrote in the early imperial period . De re coquinaria , the oldest surviving cookbook from ancient Roman times, confirms this preference: dishes that use pork are the most common.

Emperor Augustus , the first Roman emperor, was also the first to have free food in the form of grain distributed among the Roman population. Emperor Aurelian expanded this around 270 AD by distributing free pork. Around 450 AD, around 140,000 citizens of Rome were given five pounds of pork a month over the five winter months. The Roman eating habits influenced those of the neighboring regions: While in Campania in the Republican times beef was mainly consumed, pork consumption approached that in Rome during the imperial period . In Hispania , the percentage of pigs eaten doubled after the Roman conquest. In Britain , Greece , Upper and Lower Germany , on the other hand, pig breeding did not experience a comparable upturn. She could never (again) gain a foothold in Syria and Egypt . Those of the soldiers stationed there who came from regions that consume pork usually adapted to local preferences.

middle Ages

Swineherd and herd of pigs during the acorn fattening , calendar picture November, book of hours of the Duke of Berry , 15th century

In the Middle Ages, which lasted over a millennium from around the 5th century to the end of the 15th century, the pig played a very different role in nutrition. It was at times a meat that was only consumed by a small upper class, while the meat consumption of the lower classes was limited to animals such as cows, which had reached the end of their productive lives, and then increasingly developed into a food of the lower class.

Domestic pigs often roamed free in the towns and villages and gathered their food from the rubbish on the streets. Pigs were usually slaughtered in November and December, and the meat was preserved by curing, drying and smoking. This meat had to last until at least Easter; the bacon was still being used the following summer. As grist pig were referred to the pig with a low fat content.

Pig drive

Cows, sheep and goats have been herded over long distances for thousands of years because they have a naturally developed herd instinct that makes this possible. They also only need pasture and water to find food during this cattle drive. Driving pigs over long distances is more demanding because the animals need shade and are less easy to keep together in herds. The pork drive is accordingly historically rarer.

In Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, the difficulty of herding a herd of pigs across arid land was one of the reasons pigs played no part in the centrally controlled food distribution. Nevertheless, there is evidence of pig farms over hundreds of kilometers over the millennia. In the Roman Empire, on the other hand, they relied on herds of pigs being driven over long distances to supply Rome with pork. The pigs came from the wooded regions of Campania , Samniums and Lucianas. The pigs lost significant weight during the drive, so additional funds had to be made available to compensate for this weight loss.

In modern times, the pig drive was particularly important in the young United States. The historian Essig considers it to be no less important than the cattle drive from Texas to Kansas. In this cattle drive, up to 600,000 cattle were slowly driven northwards each year, but this was only significant over a period of 15 years. The introduction of barbed wire meant that it was no longer economically feasible within a very short time. In contrast, the hog drive in the United States moved several hundred thousand pigs southeast at weddings, and some of the routes lasted for nearly a century.

Cleanliness and intelligence

Domestic pig in a wallow. In this way, pigs lower their body temperature at high temperatures

Pigs are more likely to be considered dirty. However, studies show that pigs that are kept in sufficiently spacious stalls generally use a corner as a poop corner. Their wallowing in damp mud is an innate behavior that is used for cleansing, lowers their body temperature at high temperatures and protects them from sunburn. Pigs do not have sweat glands.

Research on the cognitive abilities of pigs at the Pennsylvania State University has shown that pigs with a joystick in their mouth on a monitor are very good at performing recognition tasks. It is believed that their cognitive abilities are quite comparable to those of some primates .

There are repeated reports of pigs showing comparatively high intelligence.

The pig in religion and mythology

Negative cast

In both Jewish and Islamic dietary law , pork is considered unclean and must not be eaten. The origin of these dietary laws is the classification of pigs as unclean animals in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, which was codified in the 3rd and 5th Book of Moses around the 8th century and which also shaped the dietary laws of Islam. The theory that trichinella was the main reason for the ban on pork consumption is now unanimously outdated. It came up after 1859 when scientists proved the connection between Trichinella spiralis and raw or undercooked pork. It is not certain that this parasite even existed in ancient Palestine, and because of the long delay between eating infected pork and becoming ill, it is largely ruled out that this conclusion was drawn and led to the ban. On the other hand, it is conceivable that the pig, because of its peculiarity as an omnivore, which does not stop at carcasses, combined with the customary burial customs (only in shrouds and without coffins) as corpse-eater, so that people who ate pork, indirectly Could be guilty of cannibalism. It is also assumed that the increasing deforestation in the Middle East made the pig more and more of a food competitor to humans, as it cannot live on grass like ruminants and also needs much more water and shade than these.

As a result of the dietary laws, around a quarter of the world's population is at least religiously prohibited from eating pork. In many Islamic countries, import or consumption is also legally prohibited or severely restricted. For Judaism, the dietary laws developed into an identity-creating feature. Judaism had no religious center or state of its own since AD ​​70. The rabbis created solely by the Halacha , the law on religion, the prerequisite is that Jews, no matter what country they lived in, no matter what language was their mother tongue, could be understood as a matching "people".

The Jewish ban on pork is also contained in the Old Testament of the Bible. Most Christian churches, however, do not consider it to be binding because of Rom. 14.3ff  EU . Paul writes there: “He who eats meat does it for the glory of the Lord; because he thanks God in doing so. Those who do not eat meat fail to do so to the glory of the Lord, and they too give thanks to God. [...] My firm conviction is based on Jesus, our Lord, that nothing in itself is unclean; It is only unclean for those who consider it unclean. ”Among the exceptions is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church . For Hindus it applies with the exception of the lower castes.

Positive cast

Even for the Germanic peoples , the boar in particular was a sacred animal. The chariot of the god Freyr is pulled by the boar Gullinborsti . The pig is a symbol of prosperity and wealth as it is considered a symbol of fertility and strength. It has remained a good luck charm in Germany to this day. “ To have a pig ” is a saying and means “to be lucky”.

In Chinese astrology , the pig is a symbol of the earth branch . The Saha Chat memorial in Bangkok, Thailand, was erected in his honor .

Number of pigs kept

Sow in crate with piglets in
intensive animal husbandry
Crate stands with sows in intensive animal husbandry
Number of pigs kept in the European Union in 2011
country Number of pigs (in millions)
GermanyGermany Germany 27.403
SpainSpain Spain 25.635
FranceFrance France 13.967
PolandPoland Poland 13.506
DenmarkDenmark Denmark 12,348
NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands 12.103
ItalyItaly Italy 09,351
BelgiumBelgium Belgium 06.328
RomaniaRomania Romania 05.364
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 04,326
HungaryHungary Hungary 03.025
AustriaAustria Austria 03.005
European UnionEuropean Union European Union (27) 148.545
Number of pigs kept in 2011
Territory / country Number of pigs (in millions)
China 465
Vietnam 027
Philippines 012.3
Asia 578
Russia 017th
Europe 188
United States 066
Brazil 039
Mexico 015.5
Canada 012.8
America 167
Africa 031
world 969

See also


  • Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig. Basic Books, 2015, ISBN 978-0-465-05274-5 .
  • Ingo König, Ingeborg Tschinkel, Heinz Scheller: Pig insemination. Biology, technology, organization. Deutscher Landwirtschaftsverlag, Berlin 1971.
  • Lyall Watson: "The whole hog". Exploring the extraordinary potential of pigs. Profile Books, London 2004, ISBN 1-86197-736-0 .
  • Gustav Adolf Henning, photos: Georg Fischer: Pigs: The big litter. In: Geo-Magazin. Hamburg 1979.5, pp. 112-132. Informative experience report with many details about the breeding and utilization of domestic pigs. ISSN  0342-8311

Web links

Commons : Domestic Pig  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
 Wikinews: Domestic Pig  - In The News
Wiktionary: domestic pig  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Pig  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Jürgen Weiss u. a .: Animal care in research and clinic. 3rd, revised and expanded edition. Enke, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-8304-1077-5 .
  2. Laurent AF Frantz et al .: Ancient pigs reveal a near-complete genomic turnover following their introduction to Europe. PNAS August, 2019, doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1901169116
  3. Article Hogs in The Cambridge World History of Food , ed. By Kenneth F. Kiple ( Memento of the original from December 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 2: Out of the Wild, Ebook position 561
  5. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 2: Out of the Wild, Ebook heading 577.
  6. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is Impure, Ebook heading 596.
  7. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook heading 602.
  8. a b Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook heading 609.
  9. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook heading 628.
  10. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook position 644.
  11. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook heading 705.
  12. a b Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 3: The Pig is impure, Ebook heading 740.
  13. a b Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 5: Monstrosities of Luxury, Ebook heading 886.
  14. Homer, Odyssey 13, 187-16, 321; Library of Apollodorus , Epitome 7, 26-32.
  15. a b Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 5: Monstrosities of Luxury, Ebook heading 921.
  16. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 5: Monstrosities of Luxury, Ebook heading 948.
  17. ^ David S. Potter: The Roman Empire at Bay . Routledge, London - New York 2004, ISBN 0-415-10057-7 , pp. 13-15 .
  18. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 12: Twenty Bushels of Corn on Four Legs , Ebook heading 2056.
  19. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 12: Twenty Bushels of Corn on Four Legs , Ebook heading 2064.
  20. ^ Reviel Netz : Barbed Wire: An Ecology of Modernity . Wesleyan University Press, Middletown 2004, ISBN 978-0-8195-6959-2 , p. 22
  21. a b Elise Titia Gieling, Rebecca Elizabeth Nordquist, Franz Josef van der Staay: Assessing learning and memory in pigs. In: Animal Cognition. Vol. 14, No. 2, 2011, pp. 151-173, doi: 10.1007 / s10071-010-0364-3 , PMID 21203792 , PMC 3040303 (free full text), ( Open Access ).
  22. Birgitte Kornum, Gitte M. Knudsen: Cognitive testing of pigs (Sus scrofa) in translational biobehavioral research. In: Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. Vol. 35, No. 3, January 2011, ISSN  1873-7528 , pp. 437-451, doi: 10.1016 / j.neubiorev.2010.05.004 , PMID 20553757 , (Review).
  23. Keller Breland, Marian Breland: A field of applied animal psychology. In: The American psychologist. Vol. 6, No. 6, June 1951, ISSN  0003-066X , pp. 202-204, doi: 10.1037 / h0063451 , PMID 14847139 .
  24. Mark Essig: Lesser Beasts . Chapter 4: Of Their Flesh Shall Ye not Eat, Ebook position 763.
  25. EUROSTAT 2011
  26. FAOSTAT 2011, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)