Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chester Enjoys the Mud

Chester is Smiling
This is Chester, a pig who lives at the sanctuary. He turns four this year. He looks a little wild in this photo, having come from his Chester-made and Chester Approved pig spa. In an amazing move, he kept his pink nose clean, which *this* photographer approves.

Chester is a Yorkshire and would have been raised for his flesh. Production pigs are slaughtered when they are a mere 6-mos-old - 100-110 million annually. They have been bred to convert food quickly into muscle and fat. Chester currently weighs about 800 lbs. Like most adult production pigs, he has problems with arthritis. While a smaller, heritage breed of pig might live 12-15 years, Chester and his kind are lucky to live eight years. His mom lived in a cage where she could not turn around and he was taken from her when he was 3 weeks old. Normal weaning is 3-5 months of age.

Most people are impressed with the size of the pigs at the sanctuary. They are even more impressed when I tell them they all know their names. Sometimes, I prove this by individually calling a pig amongst a group and watch everyone's eyes light up when that particular pig comes forward. Of course, like with dogs, the pigs don't always want to come and just stare at me when called - "as if, lady."

There is one pig, Susie, who I tell people will roll on her side on command. This is untrue, although she could be taught. Pigs are very tactile and will almost always stop and roll over on their side if you start rubbing their belly. Susie is extra sensitive. You can touch her with one finger along her side and she will plop over. If I stand behind her, people cannot see me touch her, just hear me say "roll over" and bam! pig on the ground, belly up for a rubbing.

You have now learned my secret. Do not share with those who visit the sanctuary.

As a warning, a pig's penis will be mentioned below. Don't read if that might offend you.

Chester does not roll over on command and it takes a vigorous belly rubbing to get him to lie down. Also, he will sometimes become a little too enamored and his cork-screw shaped penis emerges. This will be disturbing for everyone involved, except Chester. He is not embarrassed by anything. I do not know why nature designed a cork-screw penis for male pigs or a matching shaped cervix for the females. Also, another fun pig sex fact: When trying out sex for the first time, males always try to mount the female's head. Farmers try to pair experienced sows with newbies, because experienced sows do not give head. This is perhaps more than you cared to know about porcine copulatory behavior. I suppose I can blame Retrieverman for posting a video of the Malaysian Tapir, a species whose males have an even more disturbing penis.

Chester looking wild!

Hey handsome!


Pibble said...

I knew about the corkscrew, but not about the um, anvil (for lack of a better description) tapir.

Always a learning experience when I visit you, Rinalia!

Luci's Mama said...

I had no clue about the I want to see a picture of it!!!

Retrieverman said...

Why do these big farm pigs have such short lifespans?

Is it because of inbreeding? In the large white or Yorkshire breed, there is a lot of it.

Rinalia said...

@Pibble: I know, the tapir's is quite disturbing!

@Luci's Mama: I once tried to take a picture. It didn't turn out. :)

@Retrieverman: I think it's similar to the selection of fast-growing broilers. Animals are bred for increased reproduction and super fast growth rates with good feed conversion ratios. That rarely works out well for adult animals.

Their skeletal structure is such that it can bear the brunt of that large weight but barely. We've never had a pig who didn't have some form of arthritis by the age of 3.

Thinking back on all the pigs I've known who have been euth'ed: two died of mammary cancer (before we spayed), one died from a painful bone infection as the result of hoof cracks, one became stuck in the mud on a hot July day (even if we hadn't euthed her the vet stated she would have died from her struggle, she tore a lot of ligaments), one from breaking her back in a fall (she just slipped in the mud, a pig's body is not made to slip and fall), and one from a combo of gut impaction and irreparable joint/meniscus/ligament damage in her rear legs. A lot of those deaths were the result of large size and poor structure.