This post was adapted from BBC Earth and written by Henry Nicholls
Myth: Pigs sleep and root in faeces. Pigs sweat like pigs. Pigs are filthy animals. Male pigs can orgasm for half an hour.
Reality: These stereotypes are best explained by poor husbandry. In the wild, boars don’t sleep and root in poo, they eat plants. They do wallow in mud but only because it’s a good way to keep cool. Domesticated pigs are often pink, but only because we made them that way. Male pigs can ejaculate for minutes at a time.
- That pigs sleep and root in faeces?
Its amazing that Rabbits happily eat their own faecal pellets, to give the relatively indigestible grasses a second passage through their digestive system, but nobody is rude about bunnies. Wild boars – the ancestral stock from which we have fashioned our domesticated pigs – are omnivores, and not too fussy about what they eat. Yet 90% of their diet is made up of plant matter, so they probably don’t have a particular taste for poo. So, if a domestic pig occasionally munches on it’s faeces, it’s most likely because its cramped and dirty home (common in most pig farms) makes it hard not to.
- That pigs are filthy animals? And that pigs sweat?
Boars will generally wallow in mud, but they probably do it to keep cool. This is because pigs do not have functional sweat glands, which is worth remembering next time someone claims they are “sweating like a pig”. This physiological reality means that pigs are at serious risk of overheating, and muddy water evaporates much more slowly than clean water. So, like any other animal (or human) that likes to get comfortable, wallowing in the mud is actually a way to cool off intense heat. “A pig, like any animal, is going to try to be comfortable,” says Greger Larson of the University of Oxford in the UK. “If that means getting dirty to stay cool then that’s what it’s going to do. It would probably find other solutions but those haven’t been provided because you’re keeping them in relatively dense pens.”
Also, rubbing off on a layer of caked mud may also be a nifty way to remove ticks and other parasites. Furthermore, the layer of mud on the skin may serve other purposes too, acting like sun cream to prevent the skin from burning, or as an insect repellent to deter mosquitoes and the like. Paradoxically then, wallowing in mud may make for clean rather than dirty skin.
- That male pigs can orgasm for 30 minutes?
This is a tricky one! According to observations of males with real sows, copulation duration is typically 4-5 minutes, but can last up to 20 minutes. The first thing to say is that we don’t know what sensations the males – or the females for that matter – experience when they mate, so any talk of orgasms is speculative. But based on the ubiquitous “gloved hand” method used to coax sperm from male pigs, ejaculation does appear to last a very long time. In a 2012 study of “high performance boars”, the average duration of ejaculation was around 6 minutes. But there was considerable variation, with one male apparently yielding semen continuously for 31 minutes.
It is difficult to know whether this kind of protracted ejaculation can occur in the absence of the “gloved hand”, but it is certainly a possibility. According to observations of males with real sows, copulation duration is typically 4-5 minutes, but can last up to 20 minutes.
Whatever the truth about orgasms, an online primer on how to artificially inseminate pigs warns practitioners not to interrupt the male before he’s done, unless they want a very angry pig on their hands. “If you let loose too soon, be prepared for a challenge.”