Sus (genus)

Last updated

Temporal range: Early Pleistocene to recent
Sus Barbatus, the Bornean Bearded Pig (12616351323).jpg
Bornean bearded pig (Sus barbatus)
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Suidae
Subfamily: Suinae
Genus: Sus
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Sus scrofa [1]
Linnaeus, 1758

See text

Sus ( /sˈs/ ) is the genus of wild and domestic pigs, within the even-toed ungulate family Suidae. Sus include domestic pigs (Sus domesticus) and their ancestor, the common Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa), along with other species. Sus species, like all suids, are native to the Eurasian and African continents, ranging from Europe to the Pacific islands. Suids other than the pig are the babirusa of Indonesia, the pygmy hog of South Asia, the warthogs of Africa, and other pig genera from Africa. The suids are a sister clade to peccaries.


Juvenile pigs are known as piglets. [2] Pigs are highly social and intelligent animals. [3]

With around 1 billion of this species alive at any time, the domestic pig is among the most populous large mammals in the world. [4] [5] Pigs are omnivores and can consume a wide range of food. [6] Pigs are biologically similar to humans and are thus frequently used for human medical research. [7]


The Online Etymology Dictionary provides anecdotal evidence as well as linguistic, saying that the term derives

probably from Old English *picg, found in compounds, ultimate origin unknown. Originally "young pig" (the word for adults was swine). Apparently related to Low German bigge, Dutch big ("but the phonology is difficult" -- OED ). ... Another Old English word for "pig" was fearh, related to furh "furrow," from PIE *perk- "dig, furrow" (source also of Latin porc-us "pig," see pork). "This reflects a widespread IE tendency to name animals from typical attributes or activities" [Roger Lass]. Synonyms grunter, oinker are from sailors' and fishermen's euphemistic avoidance of uttering the word pig at sea, a superstition perhaps based on the fate of the Gadarene swine, who drowned. [8]

The Online Etymology Dictionary also traces the evolution of sow, the term for a female pig, through various historical languages:

Old English sugu, su "female of the swine," from Proto-Germanic *su- (cognates: Old Saxon, Old High German su, German Sau, Dutch zeug, Old Norse syr), from PIE root *su- (cognates: Sanskrit sukarah "wild boar, swine;" Avestan hu "wild boar;" Greek hys "swine;" Latin sus "swine", suinus "pertaining to swine"; Old Church Slavonic svinija "swine;" Lettish sivens "young pig;" Welsh hucc, Irish suig "swine; Old Irish socc "snout, plowshare"), possibly imitative of pig noise; note that Sanskrit sukharah means "maker of (the sound) su".

An adjectival form is porcine. Another adjectival form (technically for the subfamily rather than genus name) is suine (comparable to bovine , canine , etc.); for the family, it is suid (as with bovid, canid).

Description and behaviour

Skull of a domestic pig
(Sus domesticus) Domestic pig skull (Sus domesticus).jpg
Skull of a domestic pig
( Sus domesticus )

A typical pig has a large head with a long snout that is strengthened by a special prenasal bone and by a disk of cartilage at the tip. [9] The snout is used to dig into the soil to find food and is a very acute sense organ. Each foot has four hoofed toes, with the two larger central toes bearing most of the weight, and the outer two also being used in soft ground. [10]

The dental formula of adult pigs is, giving a total of 44 teeth. The rear teeth are adapted for crushing. In the male, the canine teeth form tusks, which grow continuously and are sharpened by constantly being ground against each other. [9]

Occasionally, captive mother pigs may savage their own piglets, often if they become severely stressed. [11] Some attacks on newborn piglets are non-fatal. Others may kill the piglets and sometimes, the mother may eat them. An estimated 50% of piglet fatalities are due to the mother attacking, or unintentionally crushing, the newborn pre-weaned animals. [12]

Distribution and evolution

With around 1 billion individuals alive at any time, the domestic pig is one of the most numerous large mammals on the planet. [4] [5]

The ancestor of the domestic pig is the wild boar, which is one of the most numerous and widespread large mammals. Its many subspecies are native to all but the harshest climates of continental Eurasia and its islands and Africa as well, from Ireland and India to Japan and north to Siberia.

Long isolated from other pigs on the many islands of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, pigs have evolved into many different species, including wild boar, bearded pigs, and warty pigs. Humans have introduced pigs into Australia, North and South America, and numerous islands, either accidentally as escaped domestic pigs which have gone feral, or as wild boar.

Habitat and reproduction

The wild boar (Sus scrofa) can take advantage of any forage resources. Therefore, they can live in virtually any productive habitat that can provide enough water to sustain large mammals such as pigs. If there is increased foraging of wild boars in certain areas, they can cause a nutritional shortage which can cause the pig population to decrease. If the nutritional state returns to normal, the pig population will most likely rise due to the pigs' naturally increased reproduction rate. [13]

Diet and foraging

Pigs are omnivores, which means that they consume both plants and animals. In the wild, they are foraging animals, primarily eating leaves, roots, fruits, and flowers, in addition to some insects and fish. As livestock, pigs are fed mostly corn and soybean meal [14] with a mixture of vitamins and minerals added. Traditionally, they were raised on dairy farms and called "mortgage lifters", due to their ability to use the excess milk and whey from cheese and butter making combined with pasture. [15] Older pigs will consume three to five gallons of water per day. [16] When kept as pets, the optimal healthy diet consists mainly of a balanced diet of raw vegetables, although some may give their pigs conventional mini pig pellet feed. [17]

Relationship with humans

Most pigs today are domesticated pigs raised for meat (known as pork). Miniature breeds are commonly kept as pets. [17] Because of their foraging abilities and excellent sense of smell, people in many European countries use them to find truffles. Both wild and feral pigs are commonly hunted.

Apart from meat, pig skin is turned into leather, and their hairs are used to make brushes. The relatively short, stiff, coarse pig hairs are called bristles, and were once so commonly used in paintbrushes that in 1946 the Australian Government launched Operation Pig Bristle. In May 1946, in response to a shortage of pig bristles for paintbrushes to paint houses in the post-World War II construction boom, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) flew in 28 short tons of pig bristles from China, their only commercially available source at the time. [18]

Use in human healthcare

Human skin is very similar to pig skin, therefore many preclinical studies employ pig skin. [19] [20] In addition to providing use in biomedical research [19] [20] and for drug testing, [21] genetic advances in human healthcare have provided a pathway for domestic pigs to become xenotransplantation candidates for humans. [22]


Skeleton of foot Pig hand skeleton.jpg
Skeleton of foot

The genus Sus is currently thought to contain nine living species. Several extinct species () are known from fossils.

Extant species

The pygmy hog, formerly Sus salvanius, is now placed in the monotypic genus Porcula . [23]

Fossil species


Pigs have been domesticated since ancient times in the Old World. Pigs were domesticated on each end of Eurasia, and possibly several times. [24] It is now thought that pigs were attracted to human settlements for the food scraps, and that the process of domestication began as a commensal relationship. [25] Archaeological evidence suggests that pigs were being managed in the wild in a way similar to the way they are managed by some modern New Guineans from wild boar as early as 13,000–12,700 BP in the Near East in the Tigris Basin, [26] Çayönü, Cafer Höyük, Nevalı Çori. [27] Remains of pigs have been dated to earlier than 11,400 BP in Cyprus that must have been introduced from the mainland which suggests domestication in the adjacent mainland by then. [28]

Pigs were also domesticated in China, potentially more than once. [29] In some parts of China pigs were kept in pens from early times, separating them from wild populations and allowing farmers to create breeds that were fatter and bred more quickly. [30] Early Modern Europeans brought these breeds back home and crossed them with their own pigs, which was the origins of most modern pig breeds. [31]

In India, pigs have been domesticated for a long time mostly in Goa and some rural areas for pig toilets. This practice also occurred in China. Though ecologically logical as well as economical, pig toilets are waning in popularity as use of septic tanks and/or sewerage systems is increasing in rural areas.

Hernando de Soto and other early Spanish explorers brought pigs to southeastern North America from Europe. As in Medieval Europe, pigs are valued on certain oceanic islands for their self-sufficiency, which allows them to be turned loose, although the practice does have drawbacks (see environmental impact).

The domestic pig (Sus domesticus) is usually given the scientific name Sus scrofa domesticus, although some taxonomists, including the American Society of Mammalogists, call it S. domesticus, reserving S. scrofa for the wild boar. It was domesticated approximately 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. The upper canines form sharp distinctive tusks that curve outward and upward. Compared to other artiodactyles, their head is relatively long, pointed, and free of warts. Their head and body length ranges from 0.9 to 1.8 m (35 to 71 in) and they can weigh between 50 and 350 kg (110 and 770 lb).

In November 2012, scientists managed to sequence the genome of the domestic pig. The similarities between the pig and human genomes mean that the new data may have wide applications in the study and treatment of human genetic diseases. [32] [33] [34]

In August 2015, a study looked at over 100 pig genome sequences to ascertain their process of domestication. The process of domestication was assumed to have been initiated by humans, involved few individuals and relied on reproductive isolation between wild and domestic forms. The study found that the assumption of reproductive isolation with population bottlenecks was not supported. The study indicated that pigs were domesticated separately in Western Asia and China, with Western Asian pigs introduced into Europe where they crossed with wild boar. A model that fitted the data included admixture with a now extinct ghost population of wild pigs during the Pleistocene. The study also found that despite back-crossing with wild pigs, the genomes of domestic pigs have strong signatures of selection at DNA loci that affect behavior and morphology. The study concluded that human selection for domestic traits likely counteracted the homogenizing effect of gene flow from wild boars and created domestication islands in the genome. The same process may also apply to other domesticated animals. [35] [36]

In culture

Pigs have been important in culture across the world since neolithic times. They appear in art, literature, and religion. In Asia the wild boar is one of 12 animal images comprising the Chinese zodiac, while in Europe the boar represents a standard charge in heraldry. In Islam and Judaism pigs and those who handle them are viewed negatively, and the consumption of pork is forbidden. [37] [38] Pigs are alluded to in animal epithets and proverbs. [39] [40] The pig has been celebrated throughout Europe since ancient times in its carnivals, the name coming from the Italian carne levare, the lifting of meat. [41]

Pigs have been brought into literature for varying reasons, ranging from the pleasures of eating, as in Charles Lamb's A Dissertation upon Roast Pig, to William Golding's Lord of the Flies (with the fat character "Piggy"), where the rotting boar's head on a stick represents Beelzebub, "lord of the flies" being the direct translation of the Hebrew בעל זבוב, and George Orwell's allegorical novel Animal Farm , where the central characters, representing Soviet leaders, are all pigs. [42] [43] [44] [41]

Environmental damage

Feral pigs (razorbacks) in Florida Wild Pig KSC02pd0873.jpg
Feral pigs (razorbacks) in Florida

Domestic pigs that have escaped from urban areas or were allowed to forage in the wild, and in some cases wild boars which were introduced as prey for hunting, have given rise to large populations of feral pigs in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and other areas where pigs are not native. Accidental or deliberate releases of pigs into countries or environments where they are an alien species have caused extensive environmental change. Their omnivorous diet, aggressive behaviour, and their feeding method of rooting in the ground all combine to severely alter ecosystems unused to pigs. Pigs will even eat small animals and destroy nests of ground nesting birds. [9] The Invasive Species Specialist Group lists feral pigs on the list of the world's 100 worst invasive species and says: [45]

Feral pigs like other introduced mammals are major drivers of extinction and ecosystem change. They have been introduced into many parts of the world, and will damage crops and home gardens as well as potentially spreading disease. They uproot large areas of land, eliminating native vegetation and spreading weeds. This results in habitat alteration, a change in plant succession and composition and a decrease in native fauna dependent on the original habitat.

Health problems

Because of their biological similarities, pigs can harbour a range of parasites and diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Examples of such zoonoses include trichinosis, Taenia solium , cysticercosis, and brucellosis. Pigs also host large concentrations of parasitic ascarid worms in their digestive tracts. [46]

Some strains of influenza are endemic in pigs, the most significant of which are H1N1, H1N2, and H3N2, the first of which has caused several outbreaks among humans, including the Spanish flu, 1977 Russian flu pandemic, and the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Pigs also can acquire human influenza. [47]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wild boar</span> Species of mammal

The wild boar, also known as the wild swine, common wild pig, Eurasian wild pig, or simply wild pig, is a suid native to much of Eurasia and North Africa, and has been introduced to the Americas and Oceania. The species is now one of the widest-ranging mammals in the world, as well as the most widespread suiform. It has been assessed as least concern on the IUCN Red List due to its wide range, high numbers, and adaptability to a diversity of habitats. It has become an invasive species in part of its introduced range. Wild boars probably originated in Southeast Asia during the Early Pleistocene and outcompeted other suid species as they spread throughout the Old World.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Suidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

Suidae is a family of artiodactyl mammals which are commonly called pigs, hogs or swine. In addition to numerous fossil species, 18 extant species are currently recognized, classified into between four and eight genera. Within this family, the genus Sus includes the domestic pig, Sus scrofa domesticus or Sus domesticus, and many species of wild pig from Europe to the Pacific. Other genera include babirusas and warthogs. All suids, or swine, are native to the Old World, ranging from Asia to Europe and Africa.

Classical swine fever (CSF) or hog cholera is a highly contagious disease of swine. It has been mentioned as a potential bioweapon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Feral pig</span> Any type of feral domesticated pig, wild boar, or hybrid found world wide

The feral pig is a domestic pig which has gone feral, meaning it lives in the wild. They are found mostly in the Americas and Australia. Razorback and wild hog are Americanisms applied to feral pigs or boar–pig hybrids.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Domestication of animals</span> Overview of animal domestication

The domestication of animals is the mutual relationship between non-human animals and the humans who have influence on their care and reproduction.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pig</span> Domesticated omnivorous even-toed ungulate

The pig, often called swine, hog, or domesticpig when distinguishing from other members of the genus Sus, is an omnivorous, domesticated, even-toed, hoofed mammal. It is variously considered a subspecies of Sus scrofa or a distinct species. The pig's head-plus-body length ranges from 0.9 to 1.8 m, and adult pigs typically weigh between 50 and 350 kg, with well-fed individuals even exceeding this range. The size and weight of hogs largely depends on their breed. Compared to other artiodactyls, a pig's head is relatively long and pointed. Most even-toed ungulates are herbivorous, but pigs are omnivores, like their wild relative. Pigs grunt and make snorting sounds.

Aujeszky's disease, usually called pseudorabies in the United States, is a viral disease in swine that has been endemic in most parts of the world. It is caused by Suid herpesvirus 1 (SuHV-1). Aujeszky's disease is considered to be the most economically important viral disease of swine in areas where classical swine fever has been eradicated. Other mammals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, cats, dogs, and raccoons, are also susceptible. The disease is usually fatal in these animal species.

<i>African swine fever virus</i> Species of virus

African swine fever virus (ASFV) is a large, double-stranded DNA virus in the Asfarviridae family. It is the causative agent of African swine fever (ASF). The virus causes a hemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in domestic pigs; some isolates can cause death of animals as quickly as a week after infection. It persistently infects its natural hosts, warthogs, bushpigs, and soft ticks of the genus Ornithodoros, which likely act as a vector, with no disease signs. It does not cause disease in humans. ASFV is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and exists in the wild through a cycle of infection between ticks and wild pigs, bushpigs, and warthogs. The disease was first described after European settlers brought pigs into areas endemic with ASFV, and as such, is an example of an emerging infectious disease.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Philippine warty pig</span> Species of mammal

The Philippine warty pig is one of four known species in the pig genus (Sus) endemic to the Philippines. The other three endemic species are the Visayan warty pig, Mindoro warty pig and the Palawan bearded pig, also being rare members of the family Suidae. Philippine warty pigs have two pairs of warts, with a tuft of hair extending outwards from the warts closest to the jaw. It has multiple native common names, but it is most widely known as baboy damo in Tagalog.

Swine most commonly refers to the domestic pig.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Celebes warty pig</span> Suid from Sulawesi (Sus celebensis)

The Celebes warty pig, also called Sulawesi warty pig or Sulawesi pig, is a species in the pig genus (Sus) that lives on Sulawesi in Indonesia. It survives in most habitats and can live in altitudes of up to 2,500 m (8,000 ft). It has been domesticated and introduced to a number of other islands in Indonesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Javan warty pig</span> Species of mammal

The Javan warty pig, also called Javan wild pig, is an even-toed ungulate in the family Suidae. It is endemic to the Indonesian islands Java and Bawean, and is considered extinct on Madura. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pig farming</span> Raising and breeding of domestic pigs

Pig farming or pork farming or hog farming is the raising and breeding of domestic pigs as livestock, and is a branch of animal husbandry. Pigs are farmed principally for food and skins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boar–pig hybrid</span> Hybridised offspring

Boar–pig hybrid is a hybridized offspring of a cross between the Eurasian wild boar and any domestic pig. Feral hybrids exist throughout Eurasia, the Americas, Australia, and in other places where European settlers imported wild boars to use as game animals. In many areas, a variable mixture of these hybrids and feral pigs of all-domesticated original stock have become invasive species. Their status as pest animals has reached crisis proportions in Australia, parts of Brazil, and parts of the United States, and the animals are often freely hunted in hopes of eradicating them or at least reducing them to a controllable population.

A pig is a mammal of the genus Sus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ossabaw Island Hog</span> Breed of swine

The Ossabaw Island Hog or Ossabaw Island is a breed of pig derived from a population of feral pigs on Ossabaw Island, Georgia, United States. The original Ossabaw hogs are descended from swine released on the island in the 16th century by Spanish explorers. A breeding population has been established on American farms off the island, but they remain a critically endangered variety of pig.

A wild pig may be:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Arapawa pig</span> Breed of pig

The Arapawa pig is a feral breed of domestic pig found on Arapaoa Island in the Marlborough Sounds, New Zealand. Although there are suggestions that the animals are descendants of pigs introduced to the area by James Cook in 1773 and 1777, they apparently derive from Oxford Sandy and Black stock brought to the island by whalers of the Te Awaiti whaling station established in 1827 by John Guard. They are known to have inhabited the island since 1839. In 1998 four piglets were removed from the island and have since bred successfully.

Feral boar may refer to:

Domesticated animals in the Philippines include pigs, chickens, water buffalo, goats, cats, and dogs. Domestication is when a species is selectively bred to produce certain traits that are seen as desirable. Some desirable traits include quicker growth and maturity, increased fertility, adaptability to various conditions, and living in herds. Domesticated animals play an important socioeconomic role in the Philippines, as seen through their widespread use in rituals.


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