I just finished reading this most enjoyable book, The Whole Hog by Lyall Watson, all about superfamily Suoidea: pigs (family Suidae) and peccaries (family Dicotylidae), but not hippos.
The book describes the domestication, species, and subspecies of pigs, the story of pigs and explorers, and the sensorium and intelligence of pigs. Watson is right: pigs are inexplicably overlooked when we think about domesication, culture, and animal intelligence. Except as stand-ins for humans in medical research, they are little studied.
Watson makes a good case for them more-or-less domesticating themselves, as they are sociable omnivores. Signs of pig domestication have been found at least 8,000 years ago. But do we hear about that great advance, the domestication of the pig? We do not. We hear about dogs, cattle, horses, and cats. He describes his childhood pet, a fostered baby warthog, that accompanied him and his guardian on walks through the African bush.
There’s a tiny population of Himalayan pigs which average about ten pounds—perhaps a better pet than the 80-pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig. They are unique—and threatened—but is anyone their champion? He tells of the discovery of a remnant population of Giant Peccaries in Yucatan in the 1970s. Until those were discovered, we believed that they had gone extinct 10,000 years ago.
Find a copy if you can.
Superfamily Suoidea. comprises two familes.
- Subfamily: Suinae – “true” pigs
- Genus: Sus (pigs)
- Sus scrofa (domestic pig) – many subspecies
- Genus: Potamochoerus (river hogs)
- P. larvatus, bushpig
- P. porcus, Red River hog
- Genus: Hylochoerus (forest hogs)
- H. meinertzhageni – forest hog, four subspecies
- Subfamily: Phacochoerinae – warthogs
- Genus: Phacochoerus
- P. aethiopicus, desert warthog
- P. africanus, common warthog
- Subfamily: Babirousinae – babirusa
- Genus: Babyrousa
- Family: Dicotylidae
- Genus: Tayassu (peccaries)
- Genus: Catagonus (giant peccaries)