A little while ago Chris mentioned that he might consider getting some weaners if Marlene is not pregnant. Weaners are 6-10 week old pigs no longer feeding from their mother. He suggested that someone might like to find out about different breeds of pig in order to see if there was a particular type suited to life on the farm.
It so happened that while visiting my local library, which had just reopened after lockdown, I found a book about pigs! Usually I choose a detective story but instead I chose this. It is called 'The Illustrated Guide to Pigs. How to choose them and How to keep them' by Celia Lewis. I have been able to use this as a starting point to learn a little more about pigs.
It is believed pigs were one of the first animals to be tamed by humans, possibly more than 9000 years ago, and it is estimated that there are over one billion across the world. This makes them one of the most numerous mammals on the planet. Pigs are decendants of Wild Boar which are native to Eurasia and North Africa.
Pigs are omnivores, meaning they can eat plant or animal matter and if left to forage would eat things like leaves, roots, fruits, flowers and insects. They have a very good sense of smell, about 2000 times more sensitive than a human, and use their snout to grub up the ground in search of food. Their rear teeth are good at crushing and in the male their canine teeth form continuously growing tusks. There are commercial pig feeds available but ideally they should be eating raw vegetables and fruit (- not chicken pellets Trigger and Marlene!). They also drink a lot of water and apparently older pigs can drink 3-5 gallons of water a day.
In summer they need shelter. They do not sweat so need to be able to wallow to keep cool and prevent sunburn. Mud also keeps biting insects away. In winter they need somewhere warm and dry.
Pigs are very intelligent, very strong and can be stubborn. One of the most effective methods of moving a pig is the game of follow the bucket. In fact this seems to be the best method for many of the Caenhill CC animals. It seems to be particularly effective for goats and sheep although as we know Bumblebee (also known as Bucketbee) is the champion of buckets.
The gestation period for a pig is 116 days (3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days) and the mothers udder will start to develop about a month before she is due to give birth. If Marlene is pregnant Chris has calculated that she would be giving birth on Christmas Eve. Marlene has apparently had piglets in the past, and managed quite independently, so if she is pregnant there hopefully won't be the drama that occured with Dorset and Devon. The first piglet born is apparently clever enough to find one of the front teats which has the most milk and last born ends up with the ones at the back.
One fact Caroline might find interesting is that in the past pig hairs, called bristles, were regularly used in paintbrushes. It is reported that following the post World War ll construction boom in Australia there weren't enough paintbrushes to paint the new houses. Tons of bristles had to be flown in from China. Maybe Caroline should be set a challenge to do a painting with a Trigger bristle paintbrush? (Although I am not sure how she would go about collecting the bristles in the first place.)
There are many different breeds of pig with different histories, personalities and appearance but I have focused briefly on just three.
Kune Kune are found in several countries and although not native to New Zealand they all come from there. Apparently the name comes from the Maori language and means fat and round. No doubting then that Trigger is a Kune Kune pig. They may have prick or flop ears, and come in various colours with short, long or curly hair.
They have a shorter snout than many pigs so tend to cause less damage when rooting about, and as they tend to be quite a laid back pig have become popular as a pet.
Marlene is a half Saddleback pig. This breed of pig can trace its ancestry back to 1918 when there were two similar types. One was from the county of Essex and known as the 'Gentlemans Pig' and the other from the county of Wessex and known as the 'Farmers pig'. They were amalgamated in 1967 to become the British Saddleback. In appearance they have a black head and neck, a white belt across their shoulders and forelegs, and apart from their white feet and tail tip are black everywhere else. They have lop ears and are known to be very good mothers.
These are one of the oldest breed of pig. They are an intelligent pig, are ginger in colour and have quite a long snout. They are quite a different shape from the Kune Kune having quite a long body and head. They are a hardy breed, also make good mothers and usually get on well with people.
One of the reasons for mentioning the Tamworth was due to an escape story from 1998. Two Tamworth pigs, a brother and sister, escaped while on their way to an abattoir. They squeezed through a fence and swam across the River Avon. They managed to evade capture for several days and became known in the press as Butch and Sundance. Although the owner still planned to send them for slaughter once caught The Daily Mail newspaper bought the pigs and they lived out their life at a rare breeds centre in Kent.
They definitely sound like the sort of characters that would have fitted in well at Caenhill CC if it had been functioning then!
The Illustrated Guide to Pigs. How to choose them and How to keep them. Celia Lewis. ISBN 978-1-4081-4040-6