Stories tagged pigs


Before you turn me into bacon, I might give you the flu: Pigs will be under extra scrutiny at the Minnesota State Fair this year as a new strain of "swine flu" has been detected around the country.
Before you turn me into bacon, I might give you the flu: Pigs will be under extra scrutiny at the Minnesota State Fair this year as a new strain of "swine flu" has been detected around the country.Courtesy titanium22
The Minnesota State Fair starts next week and as you prepare to go, you just might want to assess your flu risk in the swine barn.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have just announced the results of a study they conducted at the 2009 fair, testing pigs for the H1N1 flu virus that was spreading widely across the nation at that time.

Their findings showed that 19 percent of the pigs they tested at the fair that year had the virus. Some appeared to be perfectly healthy, exhibiting no flu symptoms. Two pig exhibitors from that year's fair from the same family came down with the flu from pigs they were showing, researchers added.

Adding some urgency to the announcement of the study is a new nationwide outbreak of a different strain of swine flu this year: H3N2v. More than 150 people across the country have come down with symptoms of this new flu.

So does this mean you should stay away from the pig barn? Not entirely, fair officials say. Veterinarians will be conducting extensive testing of all pigs coming to the fair this year. And the fair has issued this guidelines to help people decide how much time, if any, they should spend with the pigs.

• Avoid eating in the barns
• Use hand-washing stations after visiting
• Skip the barn if you feel ill

People who are at high risk for flu should also consider avoiding the swine exhibit entirely – including children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 and older and those with chronic conditions.

You may now resume eating your pork chop on a stick, but first share with Science Buzz readers your thoughts about visiting the pig barn at this year's fair.


Pigs get flu from humans
Pigs get flu from humansCourtesy teresia

Canadian human infects pigs with "swine flu"

"A worker at (a Canadian) farm had traveled to Mexico, fallen ill there and unknowingly brought the disease back to Canada last month. The worker has recovered.

About 10 percent of the 2,200 pigs on the farm got sick. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, all recovered without treatment in five days.

The entire herd remains under quarantine as a precaution. New York Times"

Learn more
For additional information read this Wall Street Journal post titled,
Pigs in Canada Contract Flu Virus

Heard about the pigcam? While the Science Museum of Minnesota is hosting the CSI exhibit this winter we are digging deeper into forensic science. We have some expert scientists who study bugs at the scene of a crime and even real murder scenes here in Minneapolis. But most people's favorite feature is the pigcam, and we have a new video for you. Curious? Check it out, but I must warn you the videos do feature some graphic decay.

The Minnesota State Fair opens tomorrow and you'll have 12 days to eat pork chops on a stick. Minnesota DNR officials, however, were hoping some lucky hunter will track down and kill a wild boar that's running loose near Detroit Lakes. Read this to learn more, including the devastating consequences a wild pig can inflict on the environment. But there's more to the story, which was updated while I was making this post. It shots were fired, the pork-esque creature was killed and this is what it turned out to be.


Can you spot the nightmare?: There he is!
Can you spot the nightmare?: There he is!Courtesy FasterDix
Okay. Now I know what you’re thinking: “Every scene in Willow is frightening. Each scene is, in fact, somehow the most frightening scene. Will all of that become real too?”

Don’t worry, my doves, don’t worry.

You won’t be pursued through the forest by horrible pig dogs.

You won’t be puked on by a magic baby.

Your ethnicity won’t be slandered by drunks and soldiers.

You will not be captured and molested by hideous little rat men.

Monkeylike trolls will not chase you through derelict castles.

You won’t have to watch one of those awful trolls turn inside out and morph into a dragon. And you will not have to fight that dragon.

A shirtless Val Kilmer will not threaten you.

There will not be epic battles, nor attempted baby sacrifices.

You will not be stabbed by a man with a skull mask and an unspeakable caveman face.

A metal brazier will not chase you around a lightning-lit tower.

No wands will be brandished at you.

The town loudmouth will not belittle you in front of your family.

So, all in all, there’s relatively little to be concerned about. That said, there is one more most frightening scene to consider.

Do you remember when the army of Madmartigan and Airk Thaughbaer first laid siege to the fortress of Nockmark? Before Willow was able to fully control the powers of Cherlindrea’s wand and return Fin Raziel to her human, albeit greatly aged, form? You’ll recall that as soon as Airk, Madmartigan and Sorsha confront Bavmorda at the gates of Nockmark, the evil enchantress turns the whole of the attacking army into pigs. Once they were pigs things don’t seem so bad, but the process of turning into pigs was horrible to watch. There were hoof-hands everywhere, and emerging piggy snouts, and tusks, and oinking, and everybody looked really sweaty. It was very frightening to see, and it’s happening in our own plane of existence: human-pig hybrids have been given the go-ahead in England.

Careful examination of the story clearly indicates that half human, half pig creatures like those in Willow are neither the intent here, nor are they actually possible from these experiments. But I tend to believe what I imagine is the case more than what I’m old is the case.

If you do want to waste your time with what you’re told, however, listen up:
The aim of this research is in no way to create a weird pig man. Or a weird man pig. The goal is actually to put human DNA from skin cells into a pig egg that has had its chromosomes removed, and then let it develop into an embryo. In fact, the scientists involved are attempting to create an embryo with no animal DNA left in it at all (kind of ironic, I suppose).

There’s more to it, of course, but the idea is this: the human DNA put into the eggs will be DNA taken from people with a genetic heart disease. As the scientists observe the transformation from egg to embryo, they hope to better understand the molecular mechanics of the disease. That information could then be used to create better treatments for people living with related heart conditions. None of the “hybrids” will develop past the very first stages of being an embryo (basically a featureless sphere of cells).

Or, if you’re into letting your gut and imagination do your critical thinking for you…prepare yourself for Island of Doctor Moreau Earth.


Be sure to wash pigs carefully: before kissing or eating.
Be sure to wash pigs carefully: before kissing or eating.Courtesy Matt & Helen Hamm
A new study out of Ohio State University has shown that pigs raised outdoors, antibiotic-free, on “animal friendly” farms are more likely to be infected with parasites and bacteria than animals from conventional farms. That’s sort of a surprise—that pigs without antibiotics would have more…biotics

Two of the infections found in the pigs have been seen around Science Buzz recently: toxoplasma gondii, the cat poop parasite, and salmonella, that troublesome bacteria that’s been getting in our tomatoes.

Also found in the antibiotic-free pigs was the parasite Trichinella spiralis, a round worm that can cause very serious illness in humans. Only two of the six hundred or so pigs tested were found to be hosts to trichinella, but this is still a surprising figure for an organism that has been nearly eradicated on conventional farms (veterinarians usually expect perhaps one pig in fourteen thousand to contain trichinella).

So that’s kind of yucky.

But consider this: even pigs treated with antibiotics were not free of salmonella and toxoplasma. 54% of untreated pigs had salmonella in their bodies, but so did 39% of treated pigs, and while about 7% of untreated pigs carried toxoplasma bacteria, over 1% of the treated pigs did too. Also, if you’re into the cruelty-free part of natural farming (not me—I’m all about cruelty to animals) it should be noted that the piggies aren’t actually sick, they’re simply carriers of these organisms.

The scientists behind the study are careful to point out that they aren’t recommending one form of pork production over the other—each has its benefits as well as its downsides. While pigs raised antibiotic-free are more likely to have higher rates of common bacteria of food safety concern, treated pigs can “create a favorable environment for strains of the bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.” So that’s no good.

The thing is, you shouldn’t really be worried about any of these pathogens, assuming that you handle and cook your pork properly, and don’t go around licking pigs and things.

But far be it from me to judge that sort of thing.


Sort of the opposite here: And I think I might throw up.
Sort of the opposite here: And I think I might throw up.Courtesy Ke Wynn
It’s amazing that we ever get anything done in this world, considering how weird it is.

A zoo in Thailand recently began circulating emails containing photos of a female tiger with a littler of piglets. The tigress, according to the email, was heartbroken over the loss of her own cubs, and accepted the piglets, wrapped in tiger skins, as replacements. She has been watching over them ever since, and, apparently, even nursing them.

That alone would have done it for me. “Wrapped in tiger skins”? I wonder where the tiger skins came from? I mean, what, did they just have a whole bunch of dead baby tigers on hand… oh. And piglets nursing from a tiger? There’s something unsettling about that, especially considering that the tiger is probably going to eat those things eventually (that’s what I’d do, at least).

The story doesn’t end there, however. After a worldwide chorus of “aww”s and “OMG!!!!”s, an animal welfare group decided to investigate the source of the pictures. They originally came from The Sriracha Tiger Zoo, home to over 400 tigers (400 tigers!), as well as a handful of other exotic animals, located about an hour outside of Bangkok.

The tiger in the picture turns out to have been raised by pigs herself (something not entirely uncommon in Thailand, at least according to this article) and therefore saw the piglets as part of her family, even without their sharp little striped jackets. The photos (which can be found using the link above) were apparently part of a publicity stunt by the zoo.

Whether or not putting piglets in jackets and tossing them in a tiger cage constitutes animal cruelty is perhaps debatable, but this isn’t the first time the Sriracha Zoo has received scrutiny for dubious behavior. Along with the circus attached to the zoo (a source of debate in itself), Sriracha has been accused of causing 23 tigers to die of bird flu by feeding them infected chicken carcasses (who would have thought it was possible?), as well as breeding tigers, without a license (a tiger-breeding license?), for export to China, where tigers parts are very valuable as ingredients for traditional medicine (a list of various tiger parts and their uses in traditional medicine can be found here. Kind of interesting).

The zoo denies any wrongdoing, although it seems they may have been better off without the tiger/piglet attention. Delightful.


The recipe for my world-famous Hogzilla:
2 slices of ham (thick!)
½ lb bacon (cooked to taste)
2 hotdogs, cut lengthwise (for a true Hogzilla, try not to use all-beef dogs)

Place the bacon on one of the slices of ham. On top of the bacon, arrange your hotdog slices like a # sign (this will help hold everything together). Top everything off with the remaining slice of ham. Microwave, and enjoy your Hogzilla.

It turns out that I’m not the only person using the term “Hogzilla.” Far from it.
However, for those of you who are only familiar with the Hogzilla sandwich, the word is now also used to describe several wild hogs that have been killed in the southern United States.

In June of 2004, a man claimed to have killed a 12-foot, 1000 pound wild pig on his farm/hunting reserve in Alapaha, Georgia. Always the Doubting Thomas, National Geographic had the animal exhumed in March of 2005, and found it to be a measly 800 pound 8-footer (although I’m not sure if they accounted for the 8 months the animal had spent underground not being alive). Check out this link for a picture.

Another monster pig was supposedly killed in Georgia in January of this year, one in the neighborhood of 1000 pounds. Pictures of this beast, unfortunately, are not to be found, and I, for one, only believe what I can see in possibly photoshopped internet images. The hunter did display the animal’s head in Trifton, GA, during auditions for the upcoming Hogzilla movie. The head was reported to be “pretty neat.”

In just the last week, a third Hogzilla story has surfaced, which, if true, would have us with an even larger dead pig on our hands. An eleven-year-old boy and his pet gun claim to have killed a 9’ 4”, 1050 pound wild hog on a commercial hunting preserve in Alabama. Check out this picture, too. The head is being stuffed, and the rest of the animal is being turned into 500-700 pounds of sausage.
A New Giant Feral Pig: A boy and his handgun. Oh, also a huge, huge pig. (photo by Melynne Stone)
A New Giant Feral Pig: A boy and his handgun. Oh, also a huge, huge pig. (photo by Melynne Stone)

The original Hogzilla was said to be a mix of domesticated Hampshire pig and wild boar (descendants, in part, of pigs introduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the Fifteenth Century). The other record holders are probably something very similar. Wild boars are often characterized by slightly longer legs, and dark, bristly hair, in particular along the spine (which is why they are sometimes called “razorbacks”), although domestic pigs become feral readily, and mix with wild populations.

The Twin Cities are woefully short when it comes to giant wild boars. We do have a strong population of feral rock doves, or pigeons, but they aren’t as likely to revert to something giant and bristly in the wild, and so make for much less impressive trophies. Unless you had a pile of them, or something.

The Most Recent Hogzilla

Feral Animals


Where's my lunch?: Pigs on a huge farm in Minnesota get to eat the processed leftovers of school lunches of students from St. Paul.
Where's my lunch?: Pigs on a huge farm in Minnesota get to eat the processed leftovers of school lunches of students from St. Paul.
How do your school lunches rate? Are they fit for a pig?

In St. Paul, Minn., they are. Grade school students were recently recognized with an environmental award by Mayor Chris Coleman for their efforts to help helping develop or promote more “green” living.

The students have found a creative use for their leftover school lunches. The waste food – weighing in at more than 253 tons last school year – has been converted into daily feed for the 4,000 hogs being raised on a farm near St. Francis, Minn.

Here’s how it works: Students dump their uneaten food into a barrel in the lunchroom. Barthold Farm and Recyling picks up the leftovers, cooks it up into a new recipe just for pigs.

Can you think of any other great ways to recycle or reuse waste items at your school? Share them here with other Science Buzz readers today.