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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/698

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616
HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT

Few domestic animals are so profitable or so useful to man as the much-maligned pig, and no other yields him a more varied or more luxurious repast. The prolificacy of the pig is extraordinary; even this is increased when the pig is under domestication, but when left to run wild in favourable situations, as in the islands of the South Pacific, the result in a few years from two animals put on shore and left undisturbed, is truly surprising, since they breed so fast and have such large litters, that unless killed off in vast numbers both for the use of the inhabitants and as fresh provisions for ships' crews, they would degenerate into vermin. In this country the sow usually has two litters in each year; the breeding seasons are generally between January and October; the period of gestation is about 112 days or 16 weeks; the strong and vigorous sow will probably carry its young a few days longer, whilst the old and young sows, which are not so vigorous, will generally farrow their pigs a few days before this period has expired. The number of the litter cast will depend upon the breed; the larger and the cross-bred sows will average ten to twelve in a litter, and the small breeds eight to ten each trip. Instances have been recorded of a sow having as many as twenty-three pigs at one farrowing. Much greater care has of late years been taken in the selection of young sows from those litters which are the produce of sows which are not only prolific but which are good sucklers; by this means the average number of good pigs in each litter has been increased, and of course the breeding of pigs has thus been rendered more profitable.

Even within the last quarter of a century it was frequently declared that a pig was very subject to many diseases caused by its gluttony and its manner of hurriedly consuming very large quantities of food. This idea has become exploded, and it has been proved that it is not so much the large quantity of food which a pig will consume which occasionally causes bilious attacks and feverish symptoms which, if not relieved by medicine and exercise, frequently end in the death of the pig, but illness is more generally due to injudicious feeding on too rich foods, and the neglect of giving to the pig some corrective in the form of coal, cinders, chalk or mere earth whilst the pig is kept confined to his stye. Another exploded idea is that pigs availed themselves of every opportunity to rub themselves against any post or projection in order to open the pores of the skin, blocked up with mud and to excite perspiration. The fact is the pig does not perspire; this renders it so very subject to the risk of death from over driving in the hottest part of a hot summer's day. Even this risk is greatly mitigated, if not wholly avoided, by applying some cold water to the head of the pig between the ears, whereas if the water be thrown over the whole of the carcass of the pig, death will almost certainly follow.

It is a boast of the Chicago pork packers that every particle of the