Spinning tales about wild hogs and domestic pigs


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Wild hogs are prevalent in Florida.

Throughout Florida, wild hogs (feral hogs or swine) abound. Florida has no free-ranging pure Eurasian wild boars. There are feral domestic pigs and hybrids (domestic pig and Eurasian wild boar). 

Domestication of pigs occurred thousands of years ago. Eventually, explorers relocated pigs. For example, Columbus released eight hogs in the West Indies on his second voyage in 1493. Supposedly, descendants (13 sows) from Cuba were introduced by de Soto to Tampa Bay in 1539. Within 11 months, the population increased to 300.

Owners, including Native Americans, practiced free ranging, and pigs were rounded when needed. Released or escaped, they became wild hogs which now number hundreds of thousands in Florida — a thriving habitat encounters one hog per 32 acres. Yielded yearly are possibly two litters, with up to 13 piglets each. Family groups (sounders) exist, but large boars (males) are generally solitary except when breeding. Boars become difficult to control or hunt, and may run as fast as 30 miles per hour. 

These opportunistic omnivores can weigh from 150 to more than 250 pounds. Grass, leaves, fruits, roots, bugs, poultry, baby turtles or fawns may be consumed. 

It is impossible to “sweat like a pig.” Wild and domesticated pigs (close relatives) do not have functional sweat glands, so they root (dig with snouts) to form wallows (depressions) in mud and water to cool off. Mud also provides sunscreen and deters parasites. 

Unfortunately, wild hogs are detrimental. Wallows hurt water quality. Rooting for food promotes erosion. Foraging in agricultural fields and forest plantations ruins harvests. Trees, frequently pine, lose bark from “tusking.” Likewise harmful is rubbing (scratching) against trees. Plus, wild hogs transmit disease. Fortunately, predators such as humans and Florida panthers curb the problematic population. 

Basically, the word hog applies to one raised to produce meat, like many of our domestic pigs. They are abundant — there are more pigs in Denmark than people. 

Daily, these omnivores eat steadily for several hours. Feed may include corn, soybeans and slop, which is a mixture of grain and produce leftovers. Garbage (swill, hogwash) should be boiled. Pigs root their pen to uncover more food. However, many experts claim they generally do not overeat. They savor food and pace themselves. Understandably, piglets do “pig-out.”

Weight ranges from 110 to 770 pounds. According to Guinness, the biggest pig weighed 2,552 pounds. Big Bill from Tennessee, the runt of the litter, died in 1933. 

Despite wallowing, pigs basically are clean. If space is provided, they keep their pen clean (not like a pigsty) and delegate a section for waste.

Sows build nests in wallows and may birth up to 12 piglets twice a year. The largest reported litter produced 37 piglets; 33 survived.

In some areas, domestic pigs contentedly forage in the woods and are watched by swineherd. They are social and huddle. Regrettably, some are raised in factory farms. Subsequently, there now is a demand for pasture-raised pork.

According to Winston Churchill, pigs see us as equals. Actually, they are intelligent. Communication includes 20 vocalizations. They can be trained to use a litter box or manipulate video-game joysticks. As pets, some are ridden bareback or walked on a leash. 

Pigs are beneficial. Wild hogs damage, yet spread fruit seeds and till the soil for new plants. Domestic pigs provide pigskin for seat covers or apparel; bristles become brushes. Their acute sense of smell detects drugs, land mines or truffles. And they are foremost candidates for organ donation to humans. Pharmaceuticals and medicines are derived from pig co-products. Obviously, we are indebted to these animals!