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 Eurasian wild boar is believed to have been domesticated in Anatolia c.7000 BC or earlier. Modern domesticated hogs appear to be descended chiefly from this wild boar, with European strains supplanting Near Eastern ones after domesticated swine were introduced into Europe, and with some much later admixture of the smaller Asian domesticated swine that originated from a different subspecies in China about 8,000–9,000 years ago. 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.

Sections in this article:

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

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Agriculture: Animals