Recently my cousin told me about this book, which is about a pet pig that lived in our grandmother’s rural New Hampshire village. In fact, our grandmother is even mentioned as a memorable village resident. Reading The Good Good Pig brought back many happy memories of my grandmother and visiting her in Hancock, NH.
First, let me just say, Sy Montgomery is a wonderful writer! She paints a vivid picture of the life of her pig and what he taught her about life. Christopher Hogwood’s story is warm, funny, engaging, and amazingly interesting. She tells us about how she rescued this tiny, adorable, black and white spotted pig not knowing if he would even live through the night. Has was a minuscule little baby, a runt of runts, with large soulful eyes, and adorned with large floppy ears.
Before the advent of Christopher Hogwood, no one really knew how long pet pigs could live if not sent to the slaughterhouse. Wild pigs live about ten years. Most pigs are killed for people to eat them at about 6 months of age when they weigh about 250 pounds. Most pigs, in today’s world of factory farms and high intensity slaughterhouses, are not allowed to live naturally into old age. Of course, some pigs are used as breeder pigs but are retired at around six or seven years old.
In her research about pigs, Ms. Montgomery discusses all sorts of porcine (that means pig) attributes. I thought I would share these with you so the next time you or friends consider eating bacon, a pork chop, BBQ ribs, or a pulled pork burrito you might recall how smart and engaging pigs are! You can also learn more about animals people eat in session #10 of my educational video program. Please share this with your friends and do read the book!
Some evidence to consider:
- When living in the wild, pigs live in groups of 2-3 mothers + their children. These groups are called sounders and typically reach about 20 animals.
- Pigs are extroverted creatures yet they snuggle with each other when asleep.
- Pigs have an affinity to classical music; for years it is well documented that farmers have piped classical music into pig stys to keep them calm and relaxed.
- Charles Darwin noted “great sagacity in swine”, agreeing with people over centuries who observed how smart and intelligent they are.
- In the 12th-15th centuries, poorer people used pigs to help them hunt as only the aristocracy could own hunting dogs.
- Pigs have toured with circuses and have performed to music. For example pigs lifted barbells in their mouths to music, or struck wands on a xylophone to such tunes as Yankee Doodle Dandy or God Save the Queen!
- Pigs have been able to link cause and effect which scientists consider pretty sophisticated thinking. Noted animal researcher Temple Grandin observed the feeding patterns of pigs and noticed how they display behavior, like stamping their feet, and then receive their food. Clearly, she surmised, the pigs associate the stamping of feet and receipt of food as linked.
- In laboratory tests pigs have outperformed dogs in mazes.
- Pigs can recognize different people by sight, at a distance, even when they wear the exact same clothes.
- Pig have a very refined sense of smell; as babies they can smell their particular mothers’ teat which Sy Montgomery call their “personal feeding station”.
- Their sense of smell is so astute the can smell food underground. Since Babylonian times, they have been used to find truffles, specifically the $1,000 per pound “black diamonds” of Perigord in France.
- Pigs who nuzzle plastic credit cards can identify their card even after the card has been washed.
- Pig hearts are so similar to human hearts that physicians use their valves in heart surgery.
- Similarly, pig skin is so like human skin that it can be used as a temporary graft for human burn victims.
- Cannibals in Polynesia claim that pig tastes just like human … and even call us “long pig” because we are so similar! OUCH!
In conclusion, as the gifted naturalist writer Sy Montgomery describes in this delightful book, pigs are glorious, gorgeous, blissful eaters; most importantly they are smart, sentient beings who feel emotion and pain. We do not eat our dogs, despite it being legal to eat dog in 14 countries. Why do we eat pigs when they are smarter than dogs? Instead of eating them perhaps more people will consider eating the plethora of vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts and seeds available to us. We are so fortunate to have many vegan, plant-based options and choices. Why not think about it?