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National Pig Day

National Pig Day honors the domesticated pig. According to Mary Lynne Rave, who started National Pig Day with her sister Ellen Stanley in 1972, the purpose of the day is "to accord to the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man's most intellectual and domesticated animals." Events where pigs are the focus are held at zoos, schools, farms, sporting events, and nursing homes across the United States, particularly in the Midwest. Some activities include having pig-themed parties where pink colored punch and pork are served, and pink ribbon pigtails are tied around trees. Pig-themed parades also are common. Some have interpreted the day as being a time to give pigs a break by not eating pork products, but others say it is the perfect day for eating bacon, ham, or pork chops.

Pigs are from the Suidae family of mammals; species include wild boars, warthogs, the pygmy hog, and the domesticated pig—the species focused on today. Pigs were one of the first domesticated animals, leaving their wild roots about 6,000 years ago in China. They were first brought to the New World by Hernando de Soto, in 1539.

Pigs usually weigh 300 to 700 pounds; a hog is a domestic pig that weighs at least 120 pounds. Domestic pigs are often bred so that they are heavier. In 2012, a pig named Reggie weighed in at 1,335 pounds, setting a record for the heaviest pig, at the "Biggest Boar" contest as the Iowa State Fair.

Female pigs give birth twice a year and have a litter of about 12. Babies are called piglets and weigh around 2.5 pounds. Pigs rarely show aggression, but an exception is that mothers will fiercely protect their young.

Contrary to how they may appear, pigs are actually one of the cleanest animals. They are seen rolling around in mud to cool off because they don't sweat. Pigs, including piglets, leave their beds to relieve themselves in a different location. They can even be trained to use a litter box just like a cat.

They are one of the most intelligent animals and are comparable in intelligence to a three-year-old human. They are smarter than other domesticated animals and even smarter than many primates. Some can even play simple video games and can be taught to do tricks.

Pigs have an excellent sense of smell, and their large noses—made almost all of cartilage—allow them to better root around in the ground. They are omnivores and will eat almost anything, but are usually fed feed from corn, wheat, soy, or barley. On small farms they are often fed slop, consisting of things such as vegetable peels, fruit rinds, and other leftover food scraps.

Being social is important to pigs, and that is why they often lie next to each other. They also communicate often. They have over 20 vocalizations, letting other pigs know when they are hungry or when they are ready to mate. The squeal of a pig may reach 115 decibels, which is louder than a motorcycle.

Besides being consumed, pigs have many other uses. Pig hearts are used to replace humans hearts. About 40 medicines are also made from pigs, such as insulin.

How to Observe National Pig Day

Celebrate the day by pigging out on some pork. Enjoy some bacon—possibly by making yourself a BLT. You could also have some ham, pork chops, or pork ribs. If you don't eat meat there are plenty of other ways to celebrate the day. Have a pig-themed party with pink punch, pink ribbons, and a parade with pig related items. You could watch a film that features pigs, such as Babe or Charlotte's Web. You could also visit a zoo or farm and see some live pigs. Maybe there are even some events involving pigs at these locations today!

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