Pigs were originally wild boars in Europe and Asia that were first tamed to be domestic animals about 10,000 years ago. 

Pigs have different colours and patterns ©Getty Images

Pigs have different colours and patterns ©Getty Images

There are about 73 different breeds (kinds) of pig. Some pigs have a pink skin but there are brown, white and black skinned pigs too. Some pigs have patterns or spots. Something in the skin called pigment makes the colour, and it is different for different breeds of pig.

Pigs are very smart animals. They are peaceful animals, but a mother will be very fierce when she needs to protect her piglets.

The three main breeds of pigs on farms are

  • Large White
  • Landrace
  • Duroc.

Some special farms raise older breeds that are no longer common, such as Berkshire.

Male pigs are boars, females are sows and young ones are piglets. When a sow gives birth, it is called farrowing.

Pig farms are called piggeries.

Most piggeries keep pigs in pens. ©Getty Images

Most piggeries keep pigs in pens. ©Getty Images

On many farms, pigs are kept indoors in sheds with cement floors, and some are caged.

This is called factory farming. The pigs don't get outside, too many are crammed into sheds, and they don't get to behave in a normal, natural fashion.  Many people think this a cruel way to keep pigs!

Some farms have young pigs outdoors until they no longer drink milk from the mothers,  and are then taken into spaces called deep litter sheds.  These sheds have open windows all along the sides, and the floor is covered in a deep layer of something like straw or sawdust. The groups of pigs are not crammed into these sheds, and plenty of fresh air flows through.

Pigs on a free range farm ©Getty Images

Pigs on a free range farm ©Getty Images

Some farms are free range farms, and the pigs are not in small yards and sheds, but wander about in large fields. There are huts in the paddocks that the pigs can go into for shelter when they feel like it. These farms are generally also called organic because the pigs are not fed anything that has had chemicals on it. 

They are fed pig feed but can also eat natural plants they find.  On free range farms,  sows farrow and feed their piglets in sheltered spots outdoors. Piglets can follow their mothers as they roam the fields.  Strong fences are needed because pigs are strong and can push a fence over or can dig under it.  Pigs on free range farms live a more natural life than pigs in other sorts of piggeries.  They can wallow in mud, eat fresh plants, and can behave in a natural way.  More pig farmers are starting to make their piggeries free range.

Not all pig tails are curly! ©Getty Images

Not all pig tails are curly! ©Getty Images


Pigs have snouts, which help them find food by smell. They have an excellent sense of smell because they do not have good eyesight. Pigs have short tails that are often, but not always, curly. Pigs have hair, called bristles (say briss-uls).  

Adult pigs have 44 teeth. Boars have a long front tooth on each side that is called a tusk. The tusks stick up outside their mouth. Farmers often cut off the tusks because they cause injury to people and other pigs.

In the mud!

Pigs do not sweat, so need to roll  in mud to cool their bodies. This is called wallowing. The mud also protects a pig from insect bites and from sunburn. Because they roll in mud, pigs often look mucky and people think that they are dirty animals. But pigs are clean animals! They naturally have a place which they use as a toilet which is well away from the places where they eat or drink. 


Farmers feed pigs on grains such as corn, wheat, oats or barley.  Farm pigs are also fed greens and dried food made from meat, and some vitamins and minerals.  On organic farms, pigs eat plants that have not been sprayed and which give the animals the vitamins and minerals naturally.

A home for a pig

A home for a pig must keep the pig dry and warm in winter, and cool in summer.  On open range farms, the pigs only go into their house at night and they stay in fields in the daytime.  A home for a pig must be strong and well built. A piglet will be able to squeeze through any small openings in walls or fences and escape. Big pigs are very strong and can dig under fences and can even break down a poorly built house. Bricks and concrete are often used to build shelter for a pig.  A house of bricks or concrete is strong and can be kept clean.  Straw on the floor of a pig's house makes it comfortable for the animals.

Free range piglets drinking milk from their mother. ©Getty Images.

Free range piglets drinking milk from their mother. ©Getty Images.

Life Cycle

Sows give birth to their young about 4 months after they have mated with a male pig. Usually there are about 8 to 12 piglets born at one time.  Sometimes there may be a lot more. The piglets drink milk from their mother for about 5 weeks.  After this, they begin to eat solid food.

Most pigs are fully grown by the time they are three and a half, but some pigs will keep growing until they are four or five years old. Generally speaking, pigs live for about 10-15 years.

What do pigs provide for humans?

Bacon is pig meat ©Getty Images

Bacon is pig meat ©Getty Images

  • The meat we get from pigs is pork, ham or bacon. Ham comes from the heavy muscled back part of the pig. Bacon is meat from the back and sides that has been smoked or salted or dried to preserve it.  Many sausages are made of pork. Pigs also provide us with paint brushes and other brushes made from their hair, and soap made using their fat.

  • Some kinds of medicines are made from pigs' glands.

  • Their bones are made into glue.

  • Their skin is made into a soft leather.

Go here to read some pig facts

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