Get ready to squeal: March 1 marks National Pig Day! It all started in 1972, when two sisters — Ellen Stanley of Lubbock, Texas, and Lynne Rave of Beaufort, North Carolina — decided that the United States needed a day to celebrate swine of all kinds for their intelligence. According to Rave, who was quoted in the Virgin Islands Daily News, National Pig Day is “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.”
Rave was onto something. Pigs are a highly intelligent species, ranking up there in the company of dogs, chimpanzees, dolphins, and even humans. Not only that, they’re pretty cute — especially if you focus your attention on the adorable piglets in the gallery below. From spotted pigs to messy piglets rolling in the mud and chubby pigs with pink, wet noses, we can’t get enough! In honor of National Pig Day, take a look at some of the most delightfully charming pigs around — plus learn 10 facts about these fascinating animals that you never knew you needed to know.
Some pigs have polka dots.
Spotted pigs are characterized by large, black-and-white spots. There are two popular breeds of spotted pig: The Poland China and the Spot swine breed. Both have forward-drooping ears and large black-and-white markings. The difference? Poland China swine usually have a black body with white spots on their feet, tail, and face, while Spot swine often have white bodies and large black spots on their backs.
Poland China is one of the oldest American swine breeds, according to Certified Pedigreed Swine. The origin of the Poland China breed began in the Miami Valley, Butler, and Warren counties of Ohio. Today, the Poland Chia hog (once known as the Warren County Hog of Ohio) is recognized as a long-bodied, big-framed, and muscular hog.
Fun fact: If a Spot swine has an entirely black head, red hair, or erect ears, it will not be pedigree-certified by the National Spotted Swine Record.
Cute Piglet Grunts
Pigs are chatty.
Did you know that pigs are one of the most social animals? They form close bonds with their co-piglets and with other species, including humans. They're also extremely loyal. An adult pig will go to great lengths to protect a piglet, even if it means leaving her own litter for a little while. Aside from being lovable and loyal, piglets love to play. If one pig decides to dig out tree roots, others will join in on the fun.
Pigs are very vocal creatures who are always communicating with one another. In fact, more than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified, according to the World Animal Foundation. Pigs may be known for saying “gronk” (commonly known as “oink”), but there are plenty of other sounds in their vocabulary. If a pig makes the sound “baawrp,” for example, it means he or she is happy. Piggy lovers also have an elaborate courtship ritual that includes a song between the male and female pig.
How fast can pigs run?
Pigs are speedy.
Pigs, despite their lazy reputation, are extremely nimble. Domestic pigs can run up to 11 miles per hour, according to speedofanimals.com. What's even more impressive is that there's an all-pig racing team known as the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs. The famous race team has been catching the media's attention since its start in 1987. Each team consists of eight pigs who race four at a time. During the show, the pigs speed down flat tracks and jump over high hurdles, ending with a championship round.
The All-Alaskan Racing Pigs aren't the only ones racing to the finish line. The Robinsons' Racing Pigs have been showing off even longer! In 1984, Paul and Carlota Robinson started racing pigs. One year later, they took their show to the Florida State Fair and haven't stopped racing since. Randy and Sharon Ross took over the business when the Robinsons passed in the late '90s.
Pig Sleeping Habits
Pigs love to cuddle.
If there's one thing pigs like to do, it's sleep — and they don't mind if it's in a group. In fact, piglets prefer to sleep with other animals, whether it's another pig or a dog, according to the Mini Pig Association. Young pigs, especially those who are still growing, sleep for the majority of the day.
Like us, pigs like to keep their sleeping area clean, and will assign a spot that's far, far away from this sacred sleeping area as a place for waste. Even little piglets will leave the nest to relieve themselves in an effort to keep their bed as clean as possible, according to the World Animal Foundation. "Sure, but what about the mud?" you may be thinking. While it's true that pigs wallow in mud, they only do so because of their inability to sweat. Unlink humans, pigs cannot sweat, so they use the mud to keep themselves cool.
People use the phrase "squeal like a pig" for a reason.
Pigs might not be able to fly, but boy oh boy can they squeal! In 2009, The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warned that the noise made by pigs during dinnertime could reach more than 100 decibels — that's louder than a power-drill or a chainsaw. The government-run organization even made a pamphlet entitled “An Essential Guide to Health and Safety in Farming” that advised farmers to either wear ear protection or avoid going anywhere near the pigs while they were eating.
Pigs can be so loud that employers were urged to use “mechanical or automated feeding systems to reduce the need to enter the building when it is noisiest.” According to the HSE, more than one in five farm workers were exposed to deafening levels of pig squeals.
"If you can imagine a shed with 300 to 400 hungry sows waiting for you to come and feed them and they are all squealing at the same time, the noise they make can be quite dramatic,” HSE inspector Tony Mitchell told the Telegraph. "But it's not an issue if you have an automated feeding system you can switch on from the outside. Once the pigs are feeding, they are quiet.”
Pigs are Smart
Pigs are intelligent.
Believe it or not, pigs are super intelligent. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by the time they're two to three weeks old and respond when called, according to the World Animal Foundation. They're also great with problem-solving.
“We have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans,” neuroscientist Lori Marino, Ph.D., and co-author of “Thinking Pigs: Cognition, Emotion, and Personality – An Exploration of the Cognitive Complexity of Sus Domesticus, The Domestic Pig,” said in a statement. “There is good scientific evidence to suggest we need to rethink our overall relationship to them.”
Dr. Marino's research suggests pigs have excellent long-term memories and are skilled at mazes and other tests that require locating objects. But despite their overwhelming intelligence and empathy, pigs are still considered a low-life animal, when compared to dogs, cats, and even hamsters.
Do pigs dream?
Pigs just may have sweet dreams.
With all that sleeping going on, it's fair to wonder if pigs can have dreams. According to recent research, they do. Like humans, pigs also go through the sleeping phase known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) — which is when we are in our deepest sleep. Scientists think that pigs dream during this phase, as well (along with a variety of other animals). Of course, it'd be nearly impossible to know what they dream about.
If humans dream about pigs, however, it's seen as a negative thing. According to the dream interpretation site Sleep Culture, dreaming of a pig means you've been thinking negatively about your surroundings. The most common association is gluttony, but the appearance of a pig in your dreams could mean dirtiness, greediness, stubbornness, or selfishness. We think those interpretations are a little unfair, don't you?
There are beloved pigs throughout both literature and history.
Even though pigs are usually seen as dirty animals, there are a few famous pigs out there. Take Piglet from A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh — he's one of Pooh Bear's closest friends!
Another well-known television pig is Babe. Babe: The Gallant Pig is an Australian-American film that was based on the novel The Sheep-Pig and released in 1995. The movie tells the story of a cute and gutsy little pig who wanted to be a sheepdog. In the beginning of the film, Babe is chosen for a “guess the weight” contest at a county fair. The winner, Arthur Hoggett, brought Babe home to stay with him and his Border Collie, Fly, and her partner Rex.
And, of course, we can't forget Wilbur from the family classic Charlotte's Web. Wilbur was so loved that they made a sequel titled Charlotte's Web 2: Wilbur's Great Adventure in 2003.
The Year of the Pig
Next year, 2019, is the year of the pig.
The pig is the 12th animal in the Chinese zodiac. The years of the pig include 1923 (Water), 1935 (Wood), 1947 (Fire), 1959 (Earth), 1971 (Metal), 1983 (Water), 1995, 2007(Fire), 2019 (Earth), 2031, and 2043. An only myth says that the order of the Chinese zodiac was decided by the Jade Emperor, who claimed that each animal would be decided based on the order in which they arrived to his party. Since the pig was late — because he overslept — he was numbered last. How silly is that?
“These Pigs are social butterflies with friends from all walks of life,” reads Chinese New Year 2018. “They have a lot of support in both work and life. They have fortunate lives and can find happiness. They are successful later in life. However, they aren’t the most romantic people and might need to work on that.”
Teacup pigs are actually a myth.
The micro piglet known as the teacup pig has made its way through the internet. There are trendsetters (Victoria Beckham, for example, has a pet pig), and there are youtube swine celebrities, like Hamlet the Mini Pig, but the truth is, teacup pigs are really just baby potbellied pigs.
"There really is no such thing as a teacup pig, micro-mini, Juliana, etc.," Melissa Susko of PIGS Animal Sanctuary told The Dodo. "Miniature pigs are mini compared to a domestic farm pig that can reach 600-plus pounds. So-called teacups are actually potbellied pigs who are either underfed to stunt their growth or who are sold under false pretenses."
Nevertheless, they're still in high demand.
"We get an average of 30 requests a week to take in pigs that people have purchased under the assumption that they will be micro or teacup pigs,” she added. “When the pigs start growing, they call us. We have 120 potbelly pigs here at PIGS and 85 percent of them have been pigs that people bought without doing their research and fell for the teacup pig myth."