The Book of Household Management, by Isabella Beeton

Chapter XVI.

General Observations on the Common Hog.

765. THE HOG belongs to the order Mammalia, the genus Sus scrofa, and the species Pachydermata, or thick-skinned; and its generic characters are, a small head, with long flexible snout truncated; 42 teeth, divided into 4 upper incisors, converging, 6 lower incisors, projecting, 2 upper and 2 lower canine, or tusks — the former short, the latter projecting, formidable, and sharp, and 14 molars in each jaw; cloven feet furnished with 4 toes, and tail, small, short, and twisted; while, in some varieties, this appendage is altogether wanting.

766. FROM THE NUMBER AND POSITION OF THE TEETH, physiologists are enabled to define the nature and functions of the animal; and from those of the Sus, or hog, it is evident that he is as much a grinder as a biter, or can live as well on vegetable as on animal food; though a mixture of both is plainly indicated as the character of food most conducive to the integrity and health of its physical system.

767. THUS THE PIG TRIBE, though not a ruminating mammal, as might be inferred from the number of its molar teeth, is yet a link between the herbivorous and the carnivorous tribes, and is consequently what is known as an omnivorous quadruped; or, in other words, capable of converting any kind of aliment into nutriment.

768. THOUGH THE HOOF IN THE HOG is, as a general rule, cloven, there are several remarkable exceptions, as in the species native to Norway, Illyria, Sardinia, and formerly to the Berkshire variety of the British domesticated pig, in which the hoof is entire and uncleft.

769. WHATEVER DIFFERENCE IN ITS PHYSICAL NATURE, climate and soil may produce in this animal, his functional characteristics are the same in whatever part of the world he may be found; and whether in the trackless forests of South America, the coral isles of Polynesia, the jungles of India, or the spicy brakes of Sumatra, he is everywhere known for his gluttony, laziness, and indifference to the character and quality of his food. And though he occasionally shows an epicure’s relish for a succulent plant or a luscious carrot, which he will discuss with all his salivary organs keenly excited, he will, the next moment, turn with equal gusto to some carrion offal that might excite the forbearance of the unscrupulous cormorant. It is this coarse and repulsive mode of feeding that has, in every country and language, obtained for him the opprobrium of being “an unclean animal.”

770. IN THE MOSAICAL LAW, the pig is condemned as an unclean beast, and consequently interdicted to the Israelites, as unfit for human food. “And the swine, though he divideth the hoof and be cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud. He is unclean to you.”— Lev. xi. 7. Strict, however, as the law was respecting the cud-chewing and hoof-divided animals, the Jews, with their usual perversity and violation of the divine commands, seem afterwards to have ignored the prohibition; for, unless they ate pork, it is difficult to conceive for what purpose they kept troves of swine, as from the circumstance recorded in Matthew xviii. 32, when Jesus was in Galilee, and the devils, cast out of the two men, were permitted to enter the herd of swine that were feeding on the hills in the neighbourhood of the Sea of Tiberias, it is very evident they did. There is only one interpretation by which we can account for a prohibition that debarred the Jews from so many foods which we regard as nutritious luxuries, that, being fat and the texture more hard of digestion than other meats, they were likely, in a hot dry climate, where vigorous exercise could seldom be taken, to produce disease, and especially cutaneous affections; indeed, in this light, as a code of sanitary ethics, the book of Leviticus is the most admirable system of moral government ever conceived for man’s benefit.

771. SETTING HIS COARSE FEEDING AND SLOVENLY HABITS OUT OF THE QUESTION, there is no domestic animal so profitable or so useful to man as the much-maligned pig, or any that yields him a more varied or more luxurious repast. The prolific powers of the pig are extraordinary, even under the restraint of domestication; but when left to run wild in favourable situations, as in the islands of the South Pacific, the result, in a few years, from two animals put on shore and left undisturbed, is truly surprising; for they breed so fast, and have such numerous litters, that unless killed off in vast numbers both for the use of the inhabitants and as fresh provisions for ships’ crews, they would degenerate into vermin. In this country the pig has usually two litters, or farrows, in a year, the breeding seasons being April and October; and the period the female goes with her young is about four months — 16 weeks or 122 days. The number produced at each litter depends upon the character of the breed; 12 being the average number in the small variety, and 10 in the large; in the mixed breeds, however, the average is between 10 and 15, and in some instances has reached as many as 20. But however few, or however many, young pigs there may be to the farrow, there is always one who is the dwarf of the family circle, a poor, little, shrivelled, half-starved anatomy, with a small melancholy voice, a staggering gait, a woe-begone countenance, and a thread of a tail, whose existence the complacent mother ignores, his plethoric brothers and sisters repudiate, and for whose emaciated jaws there is never a spare or supplemental teat, till one of the favoured gormandizers, overtaken by momentary oblivion, drops the lacteal fountain, and gives the little squeaking straggler the chance of a momentary mouthful. This miserable little object, which may be seen bringing up the rear of every litter, is called the Tony pig, or the Anthony; so named, it is presumed, from being the one always assigned to the Church, when tithe was taken in kind; and as St. Anthony was the patron of husbandry, his name was given in a sort of bitter derision to the starveling that constituted his dues; for whether there are ten or fifteen farrows to the litter, the Anthony is always the last of the family to come into the world.

772. FROM THE GROSSNESS OF HIS FEEDING, the large amount of aliment he consumes, his gluttonous way of eating it, from his slothful habits, laziness, and indulgence in sleep, the pig is particularly liable to disease, and especially indigestion, heartburn, and affections of the skin.

773. TO COUNTERACT THE CONSEQUENCE OF A VIOLATION OF THE PHYSICAL LAWS, a powerful monitor in the brain of the pig teaches him to seek for relief and medicine. To open the pores of his skin, blocked up with mud, and excite perspiration, he resorts to a tree, a stump, or his trough — anything rough and angular, and using it as a curry-comb to his body, obtains the luxury of a scratch and the benefit of cuticular evaporation; he next proceeds with his long supple snout to grub up antiscorbutic roots, cooling salads of mallow and dandelion, and, greatest treat of all, he stumbles on a piece of chalk or a mouthful of delicious cinder, which, he knows by instinct, is the most sovereign remedy in the world for that hot, unpleasant sensation he has had all the morning at his stomach.

774. IT IS A REMARKABLE FACT that, though every one who keeps a pig knows how prone he is to disease, how that disease injures the quality of the meat, and how eagerly he pounces on a bit of coal or cinder, or any coarse dry substance that will adulterate the rich food on which he lives, and by affording soda to his system, correct the vitiated fluids of his body — yet very few have the judgment to act on what they see, and by supplying the pig with a few shovelfuls of cinders in his sty, save the necessity of his rooting for what is so needful to his health. Instead of this, however, and without supplying the animal with what its instinct craves for, his nostril is bored with a red-hot iron, and a ring clinched in his nose to prevent rooting for what he feels to be absolutely necessary for his health; and ignoring the fact that, in a domestic state at least, the pig lives on the richest of all food — scraps of cooked animal substances, boiled vegetables, bread, and other items, given in that concentrated essence of aliment for a quadruped called wash, and that he eats to repletion, takes no exercise, and finally sleeps all the twenty-four hours he is not eating, and then, when the animal at last seeks for those medicinal aids which would obviate the evil of such a forcing diet, his keeper, instead of meeting his animal instinct by human reason, and giving him what he seeks, has the inhumanity to torture him by a ring, that, keeping up a perpetual “raw” in the pig’s snout, prevents his digging for those corrective drugs which would remove the evils of his artificial existence.

775. THOUGH SUBJECT TO SO MANY DISEASES, no domestic animal is more easily kept in health, cleanliness, and comfort, and this without the necessity of “ringing,” or any excessive desire of the hog to roam, break through his sty, or plough up his pound. Whatever the kind of food may be on which the pig is being fed or fattened, a teaspoonful or more of salt should always be given in his mess of food, and a little heap of well-burnt cinders, with occasional bits of chalk, should always be kept by the side of his trough, as well as a vessel of clean water: his pound, or the front part of his sty, should be totally free from straw, the brick flooring being every day swept out and sprinkled with a layer of sand. His lair, or sleeping apartment, should be well sheltered by roof and sides from cold, wet, and all changes of weather, and the bed made up of a good supply of clean straw, sufficiently deep to enable the pig to burrow his unprotected body beneath it. All the refuse of the garden, in the shape of roots, leaves, and stalks, should be placed in a corner of his pound or feeding-chamber, for the delectation of his leisure moments; and once a week, on the family washing-day, a pail of warm soap-suds should be taken into his sty, and, by means of a scrubbing-brush and soap, his back, shoulders, and flanks should be well cleaned, a pail of clean warm water being thrown over his body at the conclusion, before he is allowed to retreat to his clean straw to dry himself. By this means, the excessive nutrition of his aliment will be corrected, a more perfect digestion insured, and, by opening the pores of the skin, a more vigorous state of health acquired than could have been obtained under any other system.

776. WE HAVE ALREADY SAID that no other animal yields man so many kinds and varieties of luxurious food as is supplied to him by the flesh of the hog differently prepared; for almost every part of the animal, either fresh, salted, or dried, is used for food; and even those viscera not so employed are of the utmost utility in a domestic point of view.

777. THOUGH DESTITUTE OF THE HIDE, HORNS, AND HOOFS, constituting the offal of most domestic animals, the pig is not behind the other mammalia in its usefulness to man. Its skin, especially that of the boar, from its extreme closeness of texture, when tanned, is employed for the seats of saddles, to cover powder, shot, and drinking-flasks; and the hair, according to its colour, flexibility, and stubbornness, is manufactured into tooth, nail, and hairbrushes — others into hat, clothes, and shoe-brushes; while the longer and finer qualities are made into long and short brooms and painters’ brushes; and a still more rigid description, under the name of “bristles,” are used by the shoemaker as needles for the passage of his wax-end. Besides so many benefits and useful services conferred on man by this valuable animal, his fat, in a commercial sense, is quite as important as his flesh, and brings a price equal to the best joints in the carcase. This fat is rendered, or melted out of the caul, or membrane in which it is contained, by boiling water, and, while liquid, run into prepared bladders, when, under the name of lard, it becomes an article of extensive trade and value.

778. OF THE NUMEROUS VARIETIES OF THE DOMESTICATED HOG, the following list of breeds may be accepted as the best, presenting severally all those qualities aimed at in the rearing of domestic stock, as affecting both the breeder and the consumer. Native — Berkshire, Essex, York, and Cumberland; Foreign — the Chinese. Before, however, proceeding with the consideration of the different orders, in the series we have placed them, it will be necessary to make a few remarks relative to the pig generally. In the first place, the Black Pig is regarded by breeders as the best and most eligible animal, not only from the fineness and delicacy of the skin, but because it is less affected by the heat in summer, and far less subject to cuticular disease than either the white or brindled hog, but more particularly from its kindlier nature and greater aptitude to fatten.

779. THE GREAT QUALITY FIRST SOUGHT FOR IN A HOG is a capacious stomach, and next, a healthy power of digestion; for the greater the quantity he can eat, and the more rapidly he can digest what he has eaten, the more quickly will he fatten; and the faster he can be made to increase in flesh, without a material increase of bone, the better is the breed considered, and the more valuable the animal. In the usual order of nature, the development of flesh and enlargement of bone proceed together; but here the object is to outstrip the growth of the bones by the quicker development of their fleshy covering.

780. THE CHIEF POINTS SOUGHT FOR IN THE CHOICE OF A HOG are breadth of chest, depth of carcase, width of loin, chine, and ribs, compactness of form, docility, cheerfulness, and general beauty of appearance. The head in a well-bred hog must not be too long, the forehead narrow and convex, cheeks full, snout fine, mouth small, eyes small and quick, ears short, thin, and sharp, pendulous, and pointing forwards; neck full and broad, particularly on the top, where it should join very broad shoulders; the ribs, loin, and haunch should be in a uniform line, and the tail well set, neither too high nor too low; at the same time the back is to be straight or slightly curved, the chest deep, broad, and prominent, the legs short and thick; the belly, when well fattened, should nearly touch the ground, the hair be long, thin, fine, and having few bristles, and whatever the colour, uniform, either white, black, or blue; but not spotted, speckled, brindled, or sandy. Such are the features and requisites that, among breeders and judges, constitute the beau idéal of a perfect pig.

781. THE BERKSHIRE PIG IS THE BEST KNOWN AND MOST ESTEEMED of all our English domestic breeds, and so highly is it regarded, that even the varieties of the stock are in as great estimation as the parent breed itself. The characteristics of the Berkshire hog are that it has a tawny colour, spotted with black, large ears hanging over the eyes, a thick, close, and well-made body, legs short and small in the bone; feeds up to a great weight, fattens quickly, and is good either for pork or bacon. The New or Improved Berkshire possesses all the above qualities, but is infinitely more prone to fatten, while the objectionable colour has been entirely done away with, being now either all white or completely black.

782. NEXT TO THE FORMER, THE ESSEX takes place in public estimation, always competing, and often successfully, with the Berkshire. The peculiar characters of the Essex breed are that it is tip-eared, has a long sharp head, is roach-backed, with a long flat body, standing high on the legs; is rather bare of hair, is a quick feeder, has an enormous capacity of stomach and belly, and an appetite to match its receiving capability. Its colour is white, or else black and white, and it has a restless habit and an unquiet disposition. The present valuable stock has sprung from a cross between the common native animal and either the White Chinese or Black Neapolitan breeds.

783. THE YORKSHIRE, CALLED ALSO THE OLD LINCOLNSHIRE, was at one time the largest stock of the pig family in England, and perhaps, at that time, the worst. It was long-legged, weak in the loins, with coarse white curly hair, and flabby flesh. Now, however, it has undergone as great a change as any breed in the kingdom, and by judicious crossing has become the most valuable we possess, being a very well-formed pig throughout, with a good head, a pleasant docile countenance, with moderate-sized drooping ears, a broad back, slightly curved, large chine and loins, with deep sides, full chest, and well covered with long thickly-set white hairs. Besides these qualities of form, he is a quick grower, feeds fast, and will easily make from 20 to 25 stone before completing his first year. The quality of the meat is also uncommonly good, the fat and lean being laid on in almost equal proportions. So capable is this species of development, both in flesh and stature, that examples of the Yorkshire breed have been exhibited weighing as much as a Scotch ox.

784. THOUGH ALMOST EVERY COUNTRY IN ENGLAND can boast some local variety or other of this useful animal, obtained from the native stock by crossing with some of the foreign kinds, Cumberland and the north-west parts of the kingdom have been celebrated for a small breed of white pigs, with a thick, compact, and well-made body, short in the legs, the head and back well formed, ears slouching and a little downwards, and on the whole, a hardy, profitable animal, and one well disposed to fatten.

785. THERE IS NO VARIETY OF THIS USEFUL ANIMAL that presents such peculiar features as the species known to us as the Chinese pig; and as it is the general belief that to this animal and the Neapolitan hog we are indebted for that remarkable improvement which has taken place in the breeds of the English pig, it is necessary to be minute in the description of this, in all respects, singular animal. The Chinese, in the first place, consists of many varieties, and presents as many forms of body as differences of colour; the best kind, however, has a beautiful white skin of singular thinness and delicacy; the hair too is perfectly white, and thinly set over the body, with here and there a few bristles. He has a broad snout, short head, eyes bright and fiery, very small fine pink ears, wide cheeks, high chine, with a neck of such immense thickness, that when the animal is fat it looks like an elongated carcase — a mass of fat, without shape or form, like a feather pillow. The belly is dependent, and almost trailing on the ground, the legs very short, and the tail so small as to be little more than a rudiment. It has a ravenous appetite, and will eat anything that the wonderful assimilating powers of its stomach can digest; and to that capability, there seems no limit in the whole range of animal or vegetable nature. The consequence of this perfect and singularly rapid digestion is an unprecedented proneness to obesity, a process of fattening that, once commenced, goes on with such rapid development, that, in a short time, it loses all form, depositing such an amount of fat, that it in fact ceases to have any refuse part or offal, and, beyond the hair on its back and the callous extremity of the snout, the whole carcase is eatable.

786. WHEN JUDICIOUSLY FED ON VEGETABLE DIET, and this obese tendency checked, the flesh of the Chinese pig is extremely delicate and delicious; but when left to gorge almost exclusively on animal food, it becomes oily, coarse, and unpleasant. Perhaps there is no other instance in nature where the effect of rapid and perfect digestion is so well shown as in this animal, which thrives on everything, and turns to the benefit of its physical economy, food of the most opposite nature, and of the most unwholesome and offensive character. When fully fattened, the thin cuticle, that is one of its characteristics, cracks, from the adipose distension beneath, exposing the fatty mass, which discharges a liquid oil from the adjacent tissues. The great fault in this breed is the remarkably small quantity of lean laid down, to the immense proportion of fat. Some idea of the growth of this species may be inferred from the fact of their attaining to 18 stone before two years, and when further advanced, as much as 40 stone. In its pure state, except for roasters, the Chinese pig is too disproportionate for the English market; but when crossed with some of our lean stock, the breed becomes almost invaluable.

787. THE WILD BOAR is a much more cleanly and sagacious animal than the domesticated hog; he is longer in the snout, has his ears shorter and his tusks considerably longer, very frequently measuring as much as 10 inches. They are extremely sharp, and are bent in an upward circle. Unlike his domestic brother, who roots up here and there, or wherever his fancy takes, the wild boar ploughs the ground in continuous lines or furrows. The boar, when selected as the parent of a stock, should have a small head, be deep and broad in the chest; the chine should be arched, the ribs and barrel well rounded, with the haunches falling full down nearly to the hock; and he should always be more compact and smaller than the female. The colour of the wild boar is always of a uniform hue, and generally of an iron grey; shading off into a black. The hair of the boar is of considerable length, especially about the head and mane; he stands, in general, from 20 to 30 inches in height at the shoulders, though instances have occurred where he has reached 42 inches. The young are of a pale yellowish tint, irregularly brindled with light brown. The boar of Germany is a large and formidable animal, and the hunting of him, with a small species of mastiff, is still a national sport. From living almost exclusively on acorns and nuts, his flesh is held in great esteem, and in Westphalia his legs are made into hams by a process which, it is said, enhances the flavour and quality of the meat in a remarkable degree.

788. THERE ARE TWO POINTS to be taken into consideration by all breeders of pigs — to what ultimate use is the flesh to be put; for, if meant to be eaten fresh, or simply salted, the small breed of pigs is host suited for the purpose; if for hams or bacon, the large variety of the animal is necessary. Pigs are usually weaned between six and eight weeks after birth, after which they are fed on soft food, such as mashed potatoes in skimmed or butter-milk. The general period at which the small hogs are killed for the market is from 12 to 16 weeks; from 4 to 5 mouths, they are called store pigs, and are turned out to graze till the animal has acquired its full stature. As soon as this point has been reached, the pig should be forced to maturity as quickly as possible; he should therefore be taken from the fields and farm-yard, and shut up on boiled potatoes, buttermilk, and peas-meal, after a time to be followed by grains, oil-cake, wash, barley, and Indian meal; supplying his sty at the same time with plenty of water, cinders, and a quantity of salt in every mess of food presented to him.

789. THE ESTIMATED NUMBER OF PIGS IN GREAT BRITAIN is supposed to exceed 20 millions; and, considering the third of the number as worth £2 apiece, and the remaining two-thirds as of the relative value of 10s. each, would give a marketable estimate of over £20,000,000 for this animal alone.

790. THE BEST AND MOST HUMANE MODE OF KILLING ALL LARGE HOGS is to strike them down like a bullock, with the pointed end of a poleaxe, on the forehead, which has the effect of killing the animal at once; all the butcher has then to do, is to open the aorta and great arteries, and laying the animal’s neck over a trough, let out the blood as quickly as possible. The carcase is then to be scalded, either on a board or by immersion in a tub of very hot water, and all the hair and dirt rapidly scraped off, till the skin is made perfectly white, when it is hung up, opened, and dressed, as it is called, in the usual way. It is then allowed to cool, a sheet being thrown around the carcase, to prevent the air from discolouring the newly-cleaned skin. When meant for bacon, the hair is singed instead of being scalded off.

791. IN THE COUNTRY, where for ordinary consumption the pork killed for sale is usually both larger and fatter than that supplied to the London consumer, it is customary to remove the skin and fat down to the lean, and, salting that, roast what remains of the joint. Pork goes further, and is consequently a more economical food than other meats, simply because the texture is closer, and there is less waste in the cooking, either in roasting or boiling.

792. IN FRESH PORK, the leg is the most economical family joint, and the loin the richest.

793. COMPARATIVELY SPEAKING, very little difference exists between the weight of the live and dead pig, and this, simply because there is neither the head nor the hide to be removed. It has been proved that pork loses in cooking 13–1/2, per cent. of its weight. A salted hand weighing 4 lbs. 5 oz. lost in the cooking 11 oz.; after cooking, the meat weighing only 3 lbs. 1 oz., and the bone 9 oz. The original cost was 7–1/2d. a pound; but by this deduction, the cost rose to 9d. per pound with the bone, and 10–1/4d. without it.

794. PORK, TO BE PRESERVED, is cured in several ways — either by covering it with salt, or immersing it in ready-made brine, where it is kept till required; or it is only partially salted, and then hung up to dry, when the meat is called white bacon; or, after salting, it is hung in wood smoke till the flesh is impregnated with the aroma from the wood. The Wiltshire bacon, which is regarded as the finest in the kingdom, is prepared by laying the sides of a hog in large wooden troughs, and then rubbing into the flesh quantities of powdered bay-salt, made hot in a frying-pan. This process is repeated for four days; they are then left for three weeks, merely turning the flitches every other day. After that time they are hung up to dry. The hogs usually killed for purposes of bacon in England average from 18 to 20 stone; on the other hand, the hogs killed in the country for farm-house purposes, seldom weigh less than 26 stone. The legs of boars, hogs, and, in Germany, those of bears, are prepared differently, and called hams.

795. THE PRACTICE IN VOGUE FORMERLY in this country was to cut out the hams and cure them separately; then to remove the ribs, which were roasted as “spare-ribs,” and, curing the remainder of the side, call it a “gammon of bacon.”

Small pork to cut for table in joints, is cut up, in most places throughout the kingdom, as represented in the engraving. The sale is divided with nine ribs to the fore quarter; and the following is an enumeration of the joints in the two respective quarters:—

Hind Quarter
  1. The leg.
  2. The loin.
  3. The spring, or belly.
  4. The hand.
Fore Quarter
  1. The fore-loin.
  2. The cheek.

The weight of the several joints of a good pork pig of four stone may be as follows; viz.:—

The leg 8 lbs.
The loin and spring 7 lbs.
The hand 6 lbs.
The chine 7 lbs.
The cheek from 2 to 3 lbs.

Of a bacon pig, the legs are reserved for curing, and when cured are called hams: when the meat is separated from the shoulder-blade and bones and cured, it is called bacon. The bones, with part of the meat left on them, are divided into spare-ribs, griskins, and chines.

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31