swine

Introduction

swine, name for any of the cloven-hoofed mammals of the family Suidae, native to the Old World. A swine has a rather long, mobile snout, a heavy, relatively short-legged body, a thick, bristly hide, and a small tail. The name swine is applied mainly to domestic animals, which are also known as hogs. Sometimes these are called pigs, a term which in the United States is more correctly reserved for the young animals. Boar is a term for a male domestic swine suitable for breeding, but the term wild boar is used for the common wild swine, Sus scrofa, of Eurasia and N Africa. There are no true swine native to the New World, although a similar, related animal, the peccary, is found in the deserts and rain forests of parts of N and S America. The so-called wild hogs found in parts of the United States are descendants of the European wild boar, introduced for sport hunting, or hybrid offspring of escaped domestic hogs; in many areas of their range they are a significant agricultural pest.

The wild boar may reach a height of 3 ft (90 cm) and a length of 5 ft (150 cm). It has 9-in. (30-cm) tusks and a fierce disposition. Now rare in Europe, it is still common in parts of Asia. The wild boar was domesticated in N Europe c.1500 B.C., and it is believed that modern domesticated hogs are descended chiefly from this European boar, with some admixture of Sus indica, a smaller Asian species domesticated in China c.3000 B.C. Hogs were introduced into the Americas by Columbus on his second voyage in 1493; in 1609 hogs were shipped to the Jamestown colony from England.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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