Pigs aren’t pink

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When it comes to farmyard animals most of us are very familiar. Even if you never grew up near a farm you likely sang songs about Old McDonald when you were a child, had some animal figurines or colored in some pictures of typical farm life. Of course, as you grew up you may have eaten many of the animals we know on the farmyard too. Either way, while most of us would not be able to go on the show Mastermind to answer questions on the topic of farm animals, we all have a fair amount of knowledge about them. It might surprise you then to know that the majority of people don’t know what color the common pig is.

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As I think back to my farmyard animal figurines as I grew up, I remember the golden chickens with bits of red, I remember the brown horse, I remember the spotted cow, I remember the white goat, and I remember the pink pigs! Yet it would appear that the pink plastic pigs that I marched up and down my bedroom floor were a little bit of a lie.

The reality is that pigs do have pink skin, but so do chicken, and so do goats. Yet we don’t call goats pink or chickens either, because they have hair. Pigs too have hair and while some of them do appear pink the most common pig is actually white. In the agricultural field (excuse the pun) they are referred to as white too.

The Yorkshire is the most common pig in Britain and in many other countries, it is often called the Large White. It is this pig that is usually farmed for pork and so, is very common. This pig does, unsurprisingly, have pink skin but is covered in white hair. There is a wide range of breeds that have white hair meaning that if farmyard figurines were being redesigned we would push for the pig being a dark shade of white. 

To say that all pigs have pink skin is also incorrect. In some parts of the world, the pig is black-skinned. Many of these pigs feature black hair though not all. These black pigs are able to withstand the heat better and do not need to find shade. White pigs, on the other hand, will burn if left out in the sun too long so have to retreat to the shade often.

While there are no pigs with pink hair there are some with rustic red hair that can be a surprise to see. These ginger pigs are common in America but still behind the Yorkshire in numbers. The official name for this wonderful breed is the Duroc. 

The Duroc does shed its hair in the summer for comfort as do many pigs. This does start to explain why so many people think pigs are pink. If you have seen some pigs in the summer you may have seen them with their hair missing. However if I shaved a goat and let it run around in a field, I still wouldn’t start calling it pink.

There are of course spotted pigs as well while a common appearance on some pigs is called belting. Belting is when a pig is one color but has a band of a second color around its belly. 

Whatever the color of a pig it is fair to say it is not pink. Or if it is pink then we should be calling a lot of other animals pink too. What led to the pink classification of pigs is hard to know. Whether it is because some shed their hair in summer or because butchers often leave full pigs hanging from their windows is difficult to say. Whatever it is, it is unlikely that the farmyard toy company will be doing a recall any time soon.