The Hog (Youatt)/Chapter 1



Zoological definition of the Pig—The order Pachydermata—The Peccary—The Babiroussa—The Phaco-choeres—The Capibara—Various animals have been called by the name of Hog.

The Hog, (Suidae Sus of the ancients and Linnæus,) according to Cuvier, belongs to "the class Mammalia, order Pachydermata, genus Suidae or Sus, having on each foot two large principal toes shod with stout hoofs, and two lateral toes much shorter and scarcely touching the earth; the incisors variable in number, the lower incisors all levelled forwards; the canines projected from the mouth and recurved upwards; the muzzle terminated by a truncated snout fitted for turning up the ground; the stomach but little divided; the body square and thick, and more or less covered with bristles and hairs; the neck strong and muscular; the legs short and stout." (Cuvier's Animal Kingdom, vol. iii.)

The suidæ are robust and massive in their form, low in the limbs, flat-sided, with immense muscular development in the neck and fore-quarters. The head is wedge-shaped, with an elongated snout, terminating in a round or oval disc of cartilage, called in common language the button; this disc is pierced by the nostrils, and possesses great power of mobility, being supplied by several strong muscles; it is, moreover, strengthened and supported by a small extra bone, as in the instance of the mole also, and is used with great facility as an instrument for ploughing up the ground in quest of roots for food. The lower jaw is deep and strong, and the symphysis of the chin is completely ossified, and not, as in ruminants, united by suture. The mouth is wide, opening to a degree almost unparallelled among terrestrial mammalia. The jaws are armed with tusks, which grow to a large size, pass from between the lips, and are weapons of tremendous effect; the tusks of the lower jaw advance before those of the upper, which turn obliquely upwards and outwards. In the peccaries, the tusks are but little developed; in the male babiroussa those of the upper jaw pierce through the skin of the snout, and are greatly elongated. The eyes are small, but quick and shrewd in expression; the ears are moderate, erect, and pointed. The tongue is elongated and smooth. The tail is short, slender, and apparently of little utility. The senses of smell, sight, and taste are in high perfection, more especially that of smell, and the olfactory nerves are large. The sense of hearing is acute. In their diet the suidæ are omnivorous, vegetable and animal substances being equally acceptable; still it is on vegetable aliment that they chiefly feed. The skin is coarse, covered with bristles, and destitute, or nearly so, of the subcutaneous muscular expansion common to most other animals, termed the panniculus carnosus, and so highly developed in the hedgehog. On looking at the skull we find its base or occipital portion forming a right angle with the obliquely rising upper surface, and a bold transverse ridge is formed by the union of the occipital to the parietal bones, which latter advance above the frontal bones, and form the most elevated portion of the skull. The nasal bones are prolonged to the end of the snout, and the symphysis of the lower jaw is consolidated. In proportion to the elevation of the occipital bone are the length and strength of the spinous processes of the dorsal vetebræ. Those of the anterior dorsal vertebræ in particular are remarkable for their development, and indicate the volume of the muscles for supporting and moving the head. These are the agents by which the dreadful tusks are brought into play. Rushing on his antagonist, the boar strikes obliquely upwards, right and left, with irresistible violence, in a direction harmonizing with that of the tusks, and in the mode best suited for the exertion of the animal's strength. The neck is short, and with this shortness is necessarily connected that of the limbs, and especially of the interior pair, otherwise the animal would not without difficulty reach the ground with its snout. Their strength must be in proportion to the weight to be sustained, and the weight depends upon the size of the head and the muscular development of the neck and shoulders.

All this species feed on plants, and especially on roots, which their snout or trunk enables them to grub out of the earth; they will devour animal substances, but rarely hunt or destroy animals for the purpose of devouring them. They are thick skinned; said to be obtuse in most of their faculties, excepting in the olfactory and oral senses; voracious, bold in defending themselves; and delight in humid and shady places.

To this order belong the elephant, the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, &c., the general characteristics of all of which are very similar.

From among the cloven-footed or many-toed animals of the pachydermatous order of mammalia, man has subjugated and reclaimed only two—viz., the hog and the elephant.

The domestic hog is the descendant of a race long since subjugated; yet while a race of domesticated swine has been and is kept under surveillance, the wild type whence this race sprung has maintained itself in its native freedom, the fierce denizen of the forest, and one of the renowned beasts of "venerie." Its wild source still exists, and is universally recognized; it roams through the vast wooded tracts of Europe and Asia. The wild stock of the hog is most extensively spread throughout Europe and Asia, and has been known, described, and celebrated from the earliest ages, alike by sacred and classical writers; it is the sus scrofa of Linnæus, the sus aper of Brisson.

Under the generic term Suidae or Sus many zoologists have included, besides the true hog as it exists in a wild or tame state in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the peccary, the babiroussa, the phacochoere, and the capibara; we will, therefore, slightly glance at each of these varieties before proceeding to the actual subject of the present work.

The Peccary.—This appears to be the nearest approach to swine among the animals indigenous to the New World; and the Collared Peccary (Dicotyles torquatus) and the White-lipped Peccary (Dicotyles labiatus) actually do at first sight appear to bear a very close resemblance to the common hog, but a more careful examination soon enables us to detect material differences. The head is thicker and shorter, the body not so bulky, the legs shorter, the hoofs longer, the ears shorter, and the tail is supplied by a slight, and, at a cursorsy glance, almost imperceptible protuberance. But the great difference arises from a small gland on the back, which, although partially concealed by the hair, is nevertheless evident, and hence it is that the term Dicotyles, which signifies a double navel, has been given to this species. This gland secretes a fluid which is emitted in great abundance whenever the animal is irritated, and gives out a very strong odor, pronounced as fetid and disagreeable by some authors, and by others compared with musk.

Cuvier remarks that the external toe on the hind feet is wanting in the peccary. The body is of a grayish hue, and thickly covered with strong coarse bristles, stiff enough to penetrate a tolerably firm substance, and shaded black and white. These are longest on the back, where some will be found measuring four or five inches; they become gradually shorter and shorter on the sides, and disappear altogether on the belly, which is nearly bare. On the head is a large tuft of black bristles. The eyes and snout are small, the ears erect.

This animal is found in vast numbers in Paraguay and Guiana, and has been termed by some writers the Mexican hog. It has nearly the same habits and tastes as the common hog; feeds on seeds and roots; digs with its snout; expresses its emotions by grunts; is fierce in defence of its young; very prolific; and the flesh is similar to ordinary pork, but harder, less sweet and juicy and not so fat.

The peccary may be tamed if taken when young, and will attach itself to those who are kind to it, and to dogs and other animals; is fond of being caressed and scratched, and will answer to its keeper's voice.

The European hog, when transplanted to the wilds of America, will herd with the peccaries, but is never known to breed with them; the two races, although resembling each other in certain points, are, and remain distinct. The hog is the larger, stronger, and more useful animal, and will thrive in almost any part of the world: the peccary is smaller, weaker, and cannot be made to live in a foreign climate without very great care and attention.

The Babiroussa, (sus baby-roussa,) or Hog-deer, or, as it has been termed by some foreign authors, the Indian hog, is chiefly found in the Moluccas, Sumatra, Java, and other islands of the Indian Archipelago.

This animal stands higher than the common hog; its legs are long and slender; its skin thin and scantily furnished with short woolly hair of a reddish brown on the back, and lighter and more inclined to fawn-color on the belly. It is chiefly remarkable for the strange position of its upper tusks, which come through the skin of the muzzle and curve backwards almost like horns, until they nearly or quite touch the skin again; they are sometimes as much as nine inches in length and five in circumference. Pliny (b. 8, chap, lii.) evidently alludes to this animal when he says that wild boars are found in India which have two horns on the face, similar to those of a heifer, and tusks like the common wild boars.

There are all the family characteristics of the hog in this animal; the heavy awkward gait, thick neck, small eyes, head terminated by a snout, and grunting voice; it feeds, too, on roots, plants, and leaves, and some say shell-fish; but some authors assert that it does not grub roots out of the ground like most of the swinish varieties. Sparrman informs us that the natives would rather attack a lion than this animal, for it comes rushing on a man swift as an arrow, and, throwing him down, snaps his legs in two and rips his belly up in a moment. (Voyage, vol ii.)

The flesh of the babiroussa is very fine eating, and the Malays melt down the fat to use instead of butter and oil.

Cuvier has given an account of a pair that were at the Menagerie at Paris, the female of which was much younger and more active than the male; he was old and fat, and only ate, drank, and slept. When the male retired to rest, the female would cover him completely over with straw or litter, and creep in after him, so that both were concealed from sight. The specimen at the Zoological Gardens in the Regent's Park used to cover himself up with straw in the same way.

The Phaco-choeres.—There are two recognized species of this rariety of the hog family, the one found in Guinea and the interior of the Cape, and spoken of by various writers as the Wark-hog, and the other first seen in Kordofan and afterwards in several parts of Abyssinia, and referred to by Ælian as the hog with four horns. Of the habits of these creatures little is known, save that they are inhabitants of forests, and their food is vegetable.

They are remarkable for the two warts or fleshy excrescences which disfigure the face on either side; the eyes are small; a bristly mane of a pale brown color rises between the ears and extends itself along the back, many of the hairs of which are from eight to ten inches in length; the body is bare; the tail thin and terminated by a tuft of hair; and the tusks very large and powerful.

The Capibara—is an animal which is often classed by modern zoologists among the Cavies; it also resembles a two-year old hog in shape and color, but its head is longer, its eyes larger, and its nose cleft like the lip of a rabbit, instead of being round. It has thick, coarse whiskers, a narrow mouth, and no tusks. The front hoofs are divided into four parts, and the back ones into three, and these divisions or toes are connected together by skin, and thus in a manner webbed, and adapted for swimming; indeed so much does it delight in the water that by some it has been called the water-hog. It lives upon fruit, corn, and sugar-canes, and eats all the fish it can catch.

These animals associate in herds and seldom go out of their lair excepting in the night time, or quit the borders of some lake or river, for their short legs and strangely-formed feet prevent them from running with any degree of speed, so their only safety is in the water, wherein they plunge on the least alarm.

If taken young this animal may easily be tamed, and is capable of great attachment. We are informed that its flesh is tender, juicy, and fat, but has a fishy flavor; the head is, however, said to be excellent.

Cuvier refuses to admit this last-mentioned animal among the Pachydermata, but places it in the order Rodentia, genus Cavia.

The animal, too, so well known to us by the name of Guinea-pig, or among the French as the Cochon d'Inde, he also classes among the Rodentia. (Cuvier's Animal Kingdom.)

The name Hog has been given by different nations to various animals which have no affinity whatever with the actual family Sus: thus the Spaniards call the tatous, hogs in armor; the Hollanders term the porcupine, the iron-hog; the porpoise has frequently been designated the sea-hog; and Aristotle speaks of a hog-ape, which has been since supposed to refer to one of the baboon tribe; while among our common animals we have the hedge-hog. This has led to much confusion and misapprehension; but the genus Suidæ or Sus is now very generally allowed to apply only to the actual swine as they exist in a wild or domesticated state throughout the greater part of the known world.

Martin says:—That the wild hog is the source of our ordinary domestic race cannot be disputed; and as little can we doubt its extreme antiquity. The hog has survived changes which have swept multitudes of pachydermatous animals from the surface of our earth. It still maintains an independent existence in Europe, and presents the same characters, both physical and moral, which the earliest writers, whether sacred or profane, have faithfully delineated. The domestic stock has indeed been more or less modified by long culture, but the wild species remains unaltered, insomuch that the fossil relics of its primitive ancestors may be identified by comparison with the bones of their descendants.

The fossil relics of the genus sus have been found in the miocene and also in the pliocene deposits of the tertiary system of Lyell. Kaup, for example, has described fossil bones of the genus sus from the miocene Eppelsheim sand, in which they were associated with those of the mastodon and dinotherium; and MM. Croizet and Jobert, in their account of the fossils of Auvergne, describe and figure the fossil bones of a species of hog, which, as was satisfactorily proved, must have lived coëxistent with and on the same locality as extinct elephants and mastodons. According to these geologists, the facial part of the fossil hog discovered by them is relatively shorter than in the existing species; hence, under the supposition that their fossil animal might have been distinct, they conferred upon it the title of aper (sus) Avernensis. How far this distinctiveness is real, yet remains to be seen; at all events, Professor Owen, in his valuable work on British fossil mammalia, places the sus Avernensis, with a query, as one of the synonyms of the cochon fossile of Cuvier, sus scrofa fossilis of Von Meyer (Palæologica, p. 80,) sus priscus of Goldfuss (Nova Acta Acad. Nat. Car., t. xi., pt. 2, p. 482,) the fossil hog of Dr. Buckland, and the sus scrofa, Owen, in Report of British Association, 1843, p. 228.

With reference to the fossil remains of the hog, Professor Owen thus writes:—"When Cuvier communicated his memoir on the fossil bones of the hog to the French Academy, in 1809, he had met with no specimens from formations less recent than the mosses, or turbaries and peat-bogs, and knew not that they had been found in the drift associated with the bones of elephants. He repeats this observation in the edition of the Ossemens Fossiles, in 1822; but in the additions to the last volume, puolished in 1825, Cuvier cites the discovery by M. Bourdet de la Nièvre of a fossil jaw of a sus, on the east bank of the lake of Neufchatel, and a fragment of the uppei jaw from the cavern at Sundwick, in Westphalia, described by Professor Goldfuss.

"Dr. Buckland includes the molar teeth and a large tusk of boar found in the cave of Hutton, in the Mendip hills, with the true fossils of that receptacle, such as the remains of the mammoth, Spelæan bear, &c. With respect to cave-bones, however, it is sometimes difficult to produce conviction as to the contemporaneity of extinct and recent species."

This observation applies merely to cave-bones, and not to such as are imbedded in deposits with other remains.

The oldest fossil remains of the hog, from British strata, which Professor Owen has examined, were from fissures in the red crag (probably miocene) of Newbourne, near Woodbridge, Suffolk:—"They were associated with teeth of an extinct felis, about the size of a leopard, with those of a bear, and with remains of a large cervus.

These mammalian remains were found with the ordinary fossils of the red crag; they had undergone the same process of trituration, and were impregnated with the same coloring matter, as the associated bones and teeth of fishes, acknowledged to be derived from the regular strata of the red crag. These mammaliferous beds have been proved by Mr. Lyell to be older frhan the fluvio-marine, or Norwich crag, in which remains of the mastodon, rhinoceros, and horse have been discovered; and still older than the fresh-water pleistocene deposits, from which the remains of the mammoth, rhinoceros, &c., are obtained in such abundance." To this the Professor adds:"I have met with some satisfactory instances of the association of fossil remains of a species of hog with those of the mammoth, in the newer pliocene fresh-water formations of England."

The most usual situations however, in which the fossilized bones of the hog are met with, are in peat-bogs, often at the depth of many feet, and in association with the remains of the wolf, the beaver, the roebuck, and a gigantic red-deer; generally they underline the bed of peat, and rest on shell-marl or alluvium. Of the identity of these bones with those of the ordinary wild hog, all doubt has been removed by the most rigorous comparisons; nevertheless, we do not assert that no other species of sus may not have anciently existed, which, like the mammoth and the mastodon, has become extinct; we mean only to say that the bones of the sus scrofa are among the fossil remains of our island and the continent of Europe. Professor Owen gives an excellent figure of the fossil skull of a wild boar, from drift in a fissue of the free-stone quarries in the Isle of Portland. Leaving the wild hog, let us direct our attention more immediately to that breed which, time immemorial, has been reared in captivity, and valued for the sake of its flesh, prepared in different ways as food for man.

"One of the most singular circumstances," says Mr. Wilson (Quarterly Journal of Agriculture.) "in the domestic history of this animal is the immense extent of its distribution, more especially in far removed and insulated spots inhabited by semibarbarians, where the wild species is entirely unknown. For example, the South Sea Islands, on their discovery by Europeans, were found to be well stocked with a small black-legged hog; and the traditionary belief of the people, in regard to the original introduction of these animals, showed that they were supposed to be as anciently descended as the people themselves. Yet the latter had no knowledge of the wild boar or any other animal of the hog kind, from which the domestic breed might have been supposed to be derived. The hog is in these islands the principal quadruped, and is more carefully cultivated than any other. The bread-fruit tree, either in the natural state or formed into sour paste, is its favorite food, and it is also abundantly supplied with yams, eddoes, and other vegetables. This choice of a nutritive and abundant diet, according to Foster, renders the flesh juicy and delicious; and the fat, though rich, is not less delicate to the taste than the finest butter. The Otaheitans and other South Sea Islanders were in the habit of presenting pigs at the morais, as the most savory and acceptable offering to their deities which they had it in their power to bestow. They covered the sacred pig with a piece of fine cloth, and left it to decay near the hallowed spot."

The pigs of these islands are evidently of the Cochin-Chinese or Siamese variety, or at least are closely allied to it, and were no doubt introduced at some remote period by the colonists of Malayan origin. Cook found the fowl, as well as the hog, at Ulietea and others of the Society Islands.

It has been doubted, and not without some reason, whether the domestic breed, so widely spread, is in every country attributable to the same specific origin. Certain it is that the various domestic races offer marked distinctive peculiarities, and if Mr. Eyton be correct, differences not only in the length of the snout, size of the ears, and symmetry of the body, but also in the number of the vertebræ of the spinal column. In the Proceedings of the Zoological Society for February 28th, 1837, p. 23, will be found the following observations by T. C. Eyton, Esq., on the osteological peculiarities to which we have alluded:—"Having during the last year prepared the skeleton of a male pig of the pure Chinese breed, brought over by Lord Northampton, I was surprised to find that a very great difference existed in the number of the vertebræ from that given in the Leçons d'Anatomic Comparee, vol. i., ed. 1835, p. 182, under the head either of Sanglier, or Cochon Domestique. A short time afterwards, through the kindness of Sir Rowland Hill, Bart., M. P., I prepared the skeleton of a female pig from Africa; this also differed, as also does the English long-legged sort, as it is commonly called.

"The following table will show the differences in the number of the vertebræ in each skeleton with those given in the work above quoted:—

Vertebræ. English Male. African Female. Chinese Male. Legons d'Anat.
Comp. Sanglier.
Cervical, 7 7 7 7 7
Dorsal, 15 13 15 14 14
Lumbar, 6 6 4 5 5
Sacral, 5 5 4 4 4
Caudal 21 13 19 20 23
Total, 55 44 49 50 53

"It is possible that some of the caudal vertebræ may be missing.

"The Chinese was imported into this country for the purpose of improving our native sorts, with which it breeds freely, and the offspring are again fruitful. I, this winter, saw a fine litter of pigs by Sir Rowland Hill's African boar, imported with the female I described, the mother of which was a common pig; time will show whether they will be again fruitful.

"From what has been stated, the result appears to me to be, that either of the above three pigs must be considered as distinct species, (and which, should the offspring of the two latter again produce young, would do away with the theory of Hunter, that the young of two distinct species are not fruitful,) or we cannot consider osteological character a criterion of species.

"I have been induced to offer the above, not with any desire of species-making, but of adding something towards the number of recorded facts, by which the question what is a species, must be answered."

Closely-allied species may produce offspring fertile inter se, although we have no proof positive of the fact in the case in question; for when domestication produces decided differences of external form, why should it be difficult to admit of the extension of the differences to internal parts also, and especially to the osseous framework, on which the form and symmetry of the body so greatly depend, or why the law of variation should be confined in its influence to one part, and restricted from another. If it be admitted that the bones may be somewhat modified in length or stoutness, we see not why it is that a numerical variation in the bones of the vertebral column should be so great a stumbling-block, especially seeing that accidental (and perhaps hereditary) variations are far from being uncommon, both in men and others of the mammalia. We can easily conceive that a portion of the osseous system, offering in almost every species of quadruped some variation in the number of its constituent parts, should be also the most likely to exhibit such variation, where a species long subjected to the modifying influence of human control, has branched out into various breeds or races, distinguished by decided external characteristics. It would he intoresting and important to know, whether the numerical ratio of the vertebræ, as given in the foregoing table, is constant in each race; and also whether the same variation does not obtain among others of our domestic animals, divided into numerous breeds or races, as the dog, the sheep, and the goat. The subject has not been treated so fully and extensively as it deserves. With respect to the caudal vertebræ, indeed, we know that they are subject to great numerical variation in most of our domestic animals; witness the dog and even the common fowl, of which latter, a tailless breed, perpetuated from generation to generation, is far from being uncommon. What takes place in one part of the spinal column may, we conceive, occur also in another and more important portion, to some, if not to so great an extent; and the modification may moreover be transmitted from one generation to another.

Examples of extraordinary modification in other parts of the skeleton, transmissible from generation to generation, may be here adduced in confirmation of our views. Aristotle notices a race of hogs with undivided toes, or rather with hoofs consolidated together; and Linnæus informs us that a similar variety of the hog is not unfrequent in the neighborhood of Upsal, in Sweden. A still more extraordinary case of modification of the osseous framework, is recorded in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society for 1833, p. 16, where will be found the notice of a race of pigs with only two legs, the hinder extremities being entirely wanting. The communication, with drawings of two individuals, was made by Colonel Hallam, who states that these animals were observed "at a town on the coast in the Tanjore country, in the year 1795; they were from a father and mother of a similar make, and the pigs bred from them were the same." Thus, then, accidental malformations, either by excess or deficiency, may become transmissible, and so perpetuate themselves.

The views of a writer in the Penny Cyclopædia, on the subject of the osteological differences observable in domestic swine, are much in accordance with our own. Undoubtedly, he remarks, such records as those given by Mr. Eyton are valuable, but he thinks that the inference is precipitate; adding, that John Hunter's theories are not so easily done away with, and that osteological character will continue to be a criterion of species, notwithstanding the differences set forth. He says, "By the term pig, we understand the African and Chinese varieties of the hog. Phacochœrus cannot be meant, or it would be stated. The pure Chinese breed was imported long ago; and for years its stock, bred from its union with our English varieties, has been known in our farm-yards. The varieties bred by man from the wild hog, are spread all over the world in a domesticated state; and there is no more reason to doubt that the result, a union of an African pig with a Hampshire hog, would be fruitful, than that a breed composed of the Berkshire, Chinese, and Neapolitan, would produce a good litter. Now, if we take little or no note of the differences in the caudal vertebræ, for the reason assigned by Mr. Eyton among others, what remain? Differences not exceeding two in the dorsal vertebræ, two in the lumbar vertetebræ, and one in the sacral vertebræ, after a course of domestication no one knows how long. We know what breeding will do with dogs. Take a greyhound and a true shepherd's dog, for example, to say nothing of tailless cats. We know what it will do among poultry: it will take away the drooping feathers of the cock's tail in those bantams known to fanciers as hen-cocks, (Sir J. Sebright's breed,) and remove the tail-feathers altogether (rumpless fowls); whilst in the top-knotted varieties an osteological difference is produced in the cranium. Man has occasionally an additional lumbar vertebræ. This accidental excess was first detected in the negro, and was laid hold of by those who would have made him a different species; but by-and-by they found a white man with one more vertebra than he ought to have had, and wisely said no more about it.

We have, then, no solid or sufficient grounds for believing that, widely as the domestic hog is spread, and remote and insulated as are some of the localities in which it has been discovered by voyagers, it is derived from different sources; although, as we have shown, there are more wild species of the restricted genus sus than zoologists formerly suspected. In making these remarks, we may add, that as to every general rule there are exceptions, so some are to be found here. The Papuan hog, caught and reared in captivity, is distinct, and it is probable that the domestic hogs of Borneo, and of some of the islands adjacent, are derived from the wild races there indigenous. Be this as it may, we do not mean to insist upon the fact; our subject is the ordinary hog, as we see it in its state of contented domestication in Europe, and especially our own country.