Understanding Pigisms

Pigs are one of the most misunderstood animals in the world. Somehow, through no fault of their own, they have earned the reputation for being dirty, smelly and constant eaters of anything within reach of their snout. All of this is simply not true. Where did these misconceptions come from? It’s hard to know for sure, but a lot of how we view pigs today comes from common slang and folksy sayings that we all use without really giving them much thought.

Which parent hasn’t told their child that their room “looks like a pigsty”? Who hasn’t labeled overindulgence as “eating like a pig” and, who hasn’t taken a whiff of something offensive and proclaimed that it “smells like a pig”? But these are wildly inaccurate. Let’s take a closer look at these sayings in the context of…well, pigs!


We just made up that term, but we like it! We like to think of Pigisms as things that we say about pigs which are simply not true. In fact, most often, they are the exact opposite of the truth.

Your room looks like a pigsty!

OK…so what, exactly, does a pigsty look like? Most people have never seen one, but we have. We’ve seen quite a few and we are happy to report that, unlike your teenage child, pigs keep their living quarters very clean and orderly! Using just their snouts, pigs will pile up their blankets, level out the straw on their floor and never…NEVER…use their pigsty as their bathroom, if they can help it. Left to their own devices, and with access to the outside, pigs will always work to keep their pigsty clean and organized.

You’re eating like a pig!

If you are, then congratulations! This means that you are choosy about what you consume, you have your favourite foods and things that you would sooner see rot than put in your mouth. So, where did this saying come from? In all likelihood, this came from the fact that pigs on farms were traditionally fed scraps of food waste or rotting food. Faced with starvation or eating the slop they are given, the pigs will, of course, eat the slop. But, given a diet of proper, nutritious food including fresh fruit and vegetables, pigs will stop eating when full and they will show very distinct food preferences.

You smell like a pig!

Again…that’s actually a compliment! The natural smell of a pig has been described as sweet, like maple syrup, or fresh, like celery. So, where did their smelly reputation come from? That is actually rooted in a pig’s biology. Simply put, pigs have very few sweat glands and not nearly enough to have any effect on regulating their body temperature. When humans overheat, they sweat which cools their body down. When pigs overheat…it’s a bad thing since they have no biological way to cool their body down. What they can do is cool their body through external means like rolling in water or mud. Anything that will coat their skin can help reduce their body temperature and prevent overheating. And, they’re not the only animal to do this. Rhinos also use this method to regular their body temperature. Rolling mud has two additional benefits for pigs. A good coating of mud protects their delicate skin from sun burn and it helps to keep biting insects off them.