The Wonderful Pig of Knowledge !: December 2007

The Wonderful Pig of Knowledge !: December 2007

The Wonderful Pig of Knowledge !: December 2007

In his autobiography Chewing the Cud (2001), Dick King-Smith recalls his experiences as an "amateurish" pig farmer at his Woodlands Farm outside of Bristol, England from the late 1940s through the 1960s. As he writes, "The pigs suffered more than the other livestock from trying to do things on the cheap" (82), such as converting an old barn into a piggery and using old chicken houses as farrowing units for his sows. King-Smith kept his pigs out in a three-acre wooded area that he skillfully fenced with wire and coffin boards. After about five years of buying pigs from Mr. Hamper, a local breeder who was only "distinguished from his larger pigs by virtue of wearing clothes and standing on his hind legs" (87), King-Smith started breeding his own pigs. I've kept up to ten saddleback sows, all serviced by a large white boar named Monty who came to tragic end in 1959 after gorging on dirt and mud. He also talks about the challenges of keeping newborn piglets alive, many of whom accidentally squashed by their mothers. Interestingly, I have noted that "the times when we never lost babies were when sow farrowed completely naturally out in the wood" (95). Most of the pigs were sold at market, although "once a year the butcher came and killed bacon pig for our own needs" (98). King-Smith really enjoyed his pigs and complains about how the pig is "linked always with gluttony, obesity, and squalor" (82). He is a big believer in porcine intelligence, something one can see by looking into a pig's eye. As he concludes, "The expression in the eye of a dog is trusting, of a cat supercilious, of a cow ruminative, of a sheep, vacuous." But the look in the eye of a pig is, quite simply, knowing. (82).

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The picture on the book jacket is King-Smith with Monty, his "pig of pigs."