A Taihu pig, Sus scrofa domesticus, seen at the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa. The Chinese breed is known for its long, floppy ears.
Back in 1972, American sisters Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave didn’t think pigs were getting their due as the bright, social animals they are—so they founded National Pig Day on March 1.
But what is there to celebrate about pigs? Plenty. Check out these surprising facts and you’ll see that swine are nothing to snort at.
Warts and all
Warty pigs of the Philippines and Indonesia, for example, are darker in color and covered with bristles.
Male Visayan warty pigs have three sets of bumps on their faces, which aren’t warts at all.
They’re “cartilaginous protuberances,” like a pad under their skin, says Tony Vecchio, executive director of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Florida, which is home to some of these critically endangered animals.
Another African species, the 600-pound giant forest hog, sports prominent cheek pads, possibly used to rustle up food in the forest floor.
When it’s time to court females, male Visayans also grow an “enormous, floppy hairdo” all the way down to its shoulders, Vecchio notes.
“As soon as breeding season is over, he’s bald,” he says. “There’s not any point to carrying all that hair around the rest of the year.”
It’s worth noting that domestic pigs can also come in several breeds, including the fascinating Taihu, a Chinese breed with long, floppy ears and wrinkled skin.
If you’re “sweating like a pig,” you’re not sweating at all. Pigs don’t sweat.
To cool off, they’ll wallow in the mud, which is how swine got the reputation as being dirty.
They also love water, and pigs are quite excellent swimmers—there are wild pigs in the Bahamas famous for playing in the waves.
In fact, swimming is how the Southeast Asian wild boar dispersed: They swam between the islands, notes Jack Mayer, research scientist and manager at the Savannah River National Laboratory in Aiken, South Carolina, who has been researching feral pigs in the United States for 40 years.
Pigs are extremely smart, and even creative: Just look at Pigcasso, South Africa’s famous painting pig.
“I would certainly put them at the level of a dog when it comes to intelligence and ability to learn new things,” Vecchio says. (Read how wild boars wash their food.)
However, he doesn’t recommend them as pets.
Often people buy small pigs as pets, “but when they get to be 150 pounds, people don’t want them anymore.” (Read more about the big problem with mini-pigs.)
He recommends instead visiting a pig rescue and enjoying their company.
“There’s no better way to spend National Pig Day.”