Archaeological evidence indicates that swine were first domesticated about 9000 BCE in the East Indies and southeastern Asia. Swine have been especially amenable to human selection. Many different breeds have been developed over the years. Interestingly, pigs can change back just as easily. When given the opportunity, pigs promptly revert within only a few generations to a wild or feral state in which they acquire the body form and characteristics of their wild progenitors many generations removed.
Swine were introduced to North America by Hernando De Soto in 1539. Their importance to the subsequent history of this continent (and the rest of the world) is hard to over-state. Beginning with their unforeseeable role as a vector for zoonotic diseases (diseases transmissible from animals to humans) that decimated the native American population, continuing through their subsequent role in sustaining the mostly-rural population of the developing nation, and ultimately forming the foundation of Midwestern US agriculture. And the pig’s importance is not limited to North America, which is home to less than 12% of the world’s hogs.
|“World distribution of swine, by major areas. (Based on estimates from the FAO Production Yearbook, FAO/UN, Rome, Italy, 1994, pp. 192-194, Table 90).” From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
|The European wild boar. From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
|“A Poland China gilt of the chuffy type. Small, refined animals of this type dominated the American show-ring from 1890-1919.” From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
|“A Poland China boar pig of the rangy type. Long legged, weak loined, “cat hammed” animals of this type dominated the American show-ring from 1915-1925.” From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
|“1994 World Expo top placing Poland China boar.” From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
|“Breeding made the difference! The hogs received the same ration and were slaughtered at the same weight. Not the difference in the amount of lean meat, with the hog on the left being superior.” From Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker.|
Finally, I’ve heard that these lean hogs have to be raised in confinement with some degree of climate control because their lack of fat makes them susceptible to heat and cold. If we're going to raise livestock, we need to be aware of the conditions the various breeds were selected for.We'll need to choose breeds that match our conditions and management goals.
Lard, Glorious Lard! (the uses and benefits of lard)
Try, Try Again (rendering lard at home)
Ensminger, M.E. and R.O. Parker. 1997. Swine Science. Interstate Publishers, Inc.