Tuesday 19 April 2011

P is for Pig – that’s what P is for ...

Iron Age figurines of pigs/boars. British Museum;
at least the one on the left was probably the crest of a helmet
– c/o Johnbod – Wikipedia
Proverbially pigs are ‘either muck or money’ and have been wandering the earth for many millennia.  When Britain became an island the boar was already here and over time less aggressive animals evolved.

Can you imagine a hundred pigs running around in the woods, surrounded by vineyards, in the middle of London - yes - this was Bloomsbury as described in the Domesday Book (1086).

A Gloucestershire Old Spots boar
In the Middle Ages they were used to clean the streets by eating the refuse.  But the numbers of pigs became such a nuisance that in 1292 four men were appointed ‘killers of swine’, with a licence to slaughter any pig found wandering along the king’s highway.

The countrymen rejoiced! – as they found an increased market in the towns for pork meats.  Wild pigs were all but eradicated by the 17th century ... the pigs that survived in medieval times were half-wild and sometimes dangerous.

During the 19th century with the knowledge gained from journeys overseas, and the necessary transporting of livestock on the exploration ships for food or settlement in foreign lands, the more docile Asian varieties, which were brought to these shores, were crossed with our wild pigs, which gave us today’s breeds.

1885 – 1890  Schweine: (Berkshire; Japanese, Yorkshire, Hampshire breeds).
Meyer’s (1796-1856) Konversations-Lexikon was a major German encyclopedia,
merging with the Brockhaus encyclopedia in 1884
Farming practices in the late 19th and first part of the 20th century nearly eliminated most of the pure breeds, fortunately common sense returned and today our artisan farmers realise the value in variety and ensure we nurture our specialist varieties.

Tamworth Piglets
Pigs have always been popular because they are such a versatile provider of foods – pork, bacon and ham, while every part of a pig could be utilised ... as sausage, pigs’ trotters, brawn, fat crackling ... bristles for brushes, and the skin for hides.

Long Live the Pig -

This is Pig - that is what P is for ..    

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Betsy Wuebker said...

Hi Hilary - We are getting another pig in short order. Pete has been on the phone with the butcher, after the call from daughter's b/f that piggy will be sent there and ready just after Easter.

I love this whole trend toward artisan farming, and the shareholder concept. Have you seen photos of the huge wild boar that inhabit the southeast U.S.? Ginormous!

Pete and I always make sure we go to see Minnesota's biggest pig at the State Fair.

That's it for piggies. Great post! :)

MorningAJ said...

Mmmmmm. Gloucester Old Spot bacon. I think a farm shop visit is needed this weekend.

Mandy Allen said...

Hi Hilary, very lovely write up, I love pigs and am fascinated to read their history, which I was unaware of until now! And having read the comments above I would love a bacon sandwich right now...thick cut, of course.

Enjoy the journey.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betsy .. oh goodie - time for me to get a flight and join in the piggy roast?! Your daughter has teamed up with a sensible boyfriend there .. with his farm etc!!

I agree the trend towards small artisan farmers is so good for us. When I posted about boar, and bore .. I saw some photos of those boars - & they were huge ... frightening to meet up with I guess .. the boars here can be very difficult to handle - but we have much less space.

That Pig Fair must be brilliant to attend .. and sounds fun .. with lots to do I'm sure.

Great seeing you and hearing about your piggy tales ..

@ Morning AJ .. actually you could be right .. my local Gloucs Old Spot shop is about an hour away!! Glad I spurred you in their direction for the Easter weekend food purchase!

@ Mandy .. yes bacon sarnie would be quite delicious now - perhaps a cup of tea instead!

Glad you appreciated the historical pig rush! Always good to see you ..

Cheers everyone - here in UK may we bask in this sunshine for a few more days .. glorious at the moment!! .. Hilary

Bossy Betty said...

I love pigs. They are so intelligent and just cool animals. I had to stop eating them after I got to know some....

Laura said...

I love pigs too - had them as kids, and they are so intelligent! Gorgeous animals who love nothing better than a good scratch behind the ear... and of course being a farm girl, I have to say that bacon/sausages/ham are all firmly on my favourites list!
Great post - and thankyou for your lovely comments on Daily Dodo / ChickLitLove - glad you liked the interviews

Anonymous said...

Pigs have to be about the darndest cutest things. Until they get really big and chase you when you're a little kid. Terrifying monsters they are. And mean. Ah, memories.

Talli Roland said...

I didn't know pigs were used to clean the streets! Wow!

Hope you're off enjoying the wonderful day, Hilary! I'm going to the park in just a little bit. Can't wait.

J.D. Meiere said...

I think I got a special place in my heart for pigs from Charlotte's Web early on.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Bossy Betty .. yes apparently some people think pigs are very intelligent .. I eat a little of everything .. but mostly I'm vegetarian .. so I hear what you say ...

@ Laura - your videos on Talli are superb .. so well done to both of you ..

Well you know pigs rather well then .. and the offerings they give us - great food choices .. lucky you being a farm girl ...

@ Stephen .. that picture of the Tamworths I just had to include! They certainly look incredibly strong .. those bodies are very solid .. and I'd not like to be on the wrong side - or chased as a kid ... oooooooh little one!! Give you nightmares at night .. Red Riding Hook's wolf did that to me!!

@ Talli - I hadn't realised that fact either .. but makes perfect sense. Did you realise that where you are spending the rest of your afternoon .. was forest and foraging land in the 1700s too .. there'd have been wild pigs roaming around .. see any ghosts?

It is a glorious English day - you're right .. I'm not outside - but big window, lots of fresh air and the sun .. Enjoy it - especially if you can find your Pimms .....?!

@ JD - gosh a run of comments - thank you .. I'm working my way backwards P - L .. oh yes the film Charlotte's Web - that endeared a lot of people to piggy wigs .. too true. Thanks so much for coming by ..

Cheers everyone - really appreciate the comments - Hilary

Anonymous said...

So cute, oink oink. Love it! :O)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Funny you should say pig. I've babysat many in my day. They're surprisingly mean at times. Who knew. But the babies are true babies. They even butt heads to get in line for a hug. Mama pigs are a whole different thing.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I've never met a pig I didn't like. :) However, as a child I knew when NOT to go around the mums.

Oh, and, they're yummy.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Madeleine .. they look cute don't they .. but other commenters are telling us different! Oink oink back ..

@ Joylene .. ah .. little souls! Who knew .. true babies .. pushing for a hug .. but like a lot of Mamas .. tough cookies and don't get in the way!

@ Teresa - it's good to see you back. Sounds like your ruralhood taught you a few lessons .. but .. they are yummy - as you say .. good pork dishes.

Great to see you all .. cheers Hilary

Sara said...


I enjoyed this talk about pigs. I actually like pigs. When I visited Switzerland, we went to this farm where they the old type of pigs...the dark gray hairy ones that actually look rather scary. I took several pictures of the mom. I certainly wouldn't have even tried to step in pen.

I love learning these things about so many different subjects. I'm sorry I'm so behind. You'll be a "Z" soon.

Cheers and have a good day:~)

Southpaw said...

Oh, I do love the pig. They are so cute. I know this is going to sound bad, but they are tasty too.

klahanie said...

Hello Hilary,
Yes, it's me, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star :)
Now, I'm not going to boar you or hog up too much space with my musings.
Thus, like Gary has noted on his comments on your fascinating site, this was another very informative posting. I would like to go and play with some pigs.
And thus, right on 'Q', the next letter in the fascinating challenge will be..ummm 'Q'.
Pawsitive and pawesome wishes, Penny :)

MunirGhiasuddin said...

Last month on my birthday my son sent me a birthday card with a cute pig sitting by a birthday cake and it said "Hugs and kisses) then said "I mean Hogs and kisses). It is really cute!

LTM said...

I love those iron-age pigs. And I remember my former father-in-law used to talk about how smart pigs are. He was a sharecropper growing up... Anyway, fun post! Thanks, Hil~

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sara .. thanks - fascinating to see the Swiss/European breeds .. getting in the pen might have been a step too far!

Just delighted that you're enjoying the read and your visits ..

You too - hope things are settling down with the server your end .. another lovely day here .. lucky us!

@ Holly .. they are too cute when they're tiny, but taste delicious too .. a good roast with crackling crackling .. not much could beat it!

@ Gary .. great to see you - Penny - has she become an internet star -I must get over and see you after my trip along the coast today.

I love the way the English language can mix its uses .. different horses for different courses?!

Glad you enjoyed it and Penny could play with some piglets .. pigs - a little different.

Must get to my Q .. so pawesome Penny I shall leave you for now .. and see up in Leek sometime soon!

@ Munir .. isn't that fun - what a cheery idea to make you laugh on your birthday - I hope you had a happy day ... thoughtful cards just make the difference - and a caring son too!!

@ LTM - I had to put the Iron Age pigs in .. they are indicative of the change in pigs over the centuries or millennia.

I've just glanced at the concept of 'sharecropping' .. as I hadn't heard of it .. yet someone else brought it up recently .. so now I had to look!

Your FIL must have had pigs as well as crops then .. and it does appear pigs are considered one of the most intelligent animals.

Many thanks everyone for your comments .. good to see you - another beautiful sunny morning here in Sussex .. warm too .. cheers - Hilary

Theresa Milstein said...

The little ones look cute, but they smell awful! They make delicious food though.

My cousin is obsessed with pigs. I always buy her trinkets.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. good to see you - the little piglets do look too cute. I agree smells galore .. but excellent food once prepared!

An obsessed cousin .. so you've lots of piggy trinkets - warthogs (bush pigs) are my favourites!

Cheers - lovely having you here - have a really good week .. Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Interesting post, Hilary. I'm terrified of pigs. Little tiny ones are okay, but medium to big ones eally scare me. One time I had to stay with a friend of my mum's and they had a pig farm and I had to help get the sows in. They were so big, they could have easily taken me down.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. they are certainly big - we had them when I was tiny .. but they were in a sty - my parents had them to supplement our war-time rations ...

Warthogs are my favourite African creatures .. but they've got tusks like a wild pig .. and they are very tough ..

Tough cookies!! They'd have knocked you right over if you'd got in their way!! Well you're still here I'm pleased to say!!

Happy Easter - Hilary