Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “Sweat like a pig”? Well, as with most phrases associated with pigs, this is completely misleading!
As mammals, just like us humans, pigs need to cool down when their body temperature becomes too high. One of the ways we and some other animals (particularly horses) cool our core temperature is to produce sweat. Pigs cannot do this and so must find other ways to cool themselves in the warmer weather! So, how do pigs cool down?
Have you ever seen a pig wallowing in mud? When pigs lie down and roll around in the soft mud, they benefit from the cooling temperature as the area under the earth’s top surface is much colder since it is protected from the sun.
When we sweat, the moisture released from our sweat glands evaporates on our skin, helping to cool us down. Pigs may also submerge themselves in water to mimic this effect. If the water is cold, it will help reduce their body temperature, and the water evaporating off their skin will help to cool them down in a similar manner to sweating – that said, all pigs are different and we have known pigs who have loved refreshing cold showers under the hosepipe and long baths, while others would run straight to bed with the slightest rainfall and avoid stepping in even the shallowest of puddles. They’re all individual, just like us!
Pigs are often thought to be dirty animals and you might think this after seeing them covered in mud, but this really couldn’t be further from the truth, they’re simply using nature’s cooling pack (oh and that mud has the added benefit of protecting their very delicate skin from the harmful sun rays, and even smothering any nasty parasites that might be trying to hitch a ride on them too!).
Be sure to watch out for Harry and Hermione cooling down next time you visit on a warm day – or see if you can spot the evidence of their last bath, there’s a reason they have so much mud in their paddocks! They are the lucky ones, as pigs without ready access to mud and water to wallow in may sadly be forced to use urine and faeces for the same purpose - something these naturally clean animals would want to avoid at all costs, which is why it is so important to understand the needs of the animals we care for and give them the sanctuary they deserve.