Domesticated pigs evolved from Eurasian wild boars, Sus scofra. About 9,000 years ago, humans selected particular traits from these boars to keep; however, domestication was a long and varied process across the world. Interestingly, pigs – perhaps like many domesticated animals, did not follow a straightforward path from wild animal to farmyard domesticate. Like goats and dogs, there are many breeds of pigs today including heirloom breeds that harken back to previous traits that were favorable for pigs, like my friend here today who I met years ago in Coffee County, Georgia at General Coffee State Park.
So, much like caprices, pigs are fascinating creatures. They often get a bad reputation for being dirty and gluttonous. On the contrary, pigs actually don’t wallow and eat their own filth, when given an opportunity to live freely as their wild boar cousins do, scientists have noted they practice food hygiene and clean things before they consume them. It is only when pigs are kept in small enclosures without much space to do their thing that pigs get mistaken for being willing to eat anything. In that way, pigs are just like any other creature, just trying to make the best with what they have.
I am pleased to introduce you to Annie, Ernest’s sister from The Haven Zoo. Annie and Ernest are known around the Haven as a warm and friendly pair who greet visitors. Research has shown that goats often try to form relationships with the humans in their lives, similar to dogs. Perhaps it is because after 10,000 years of living together, goats see us as kindred spirits? Or perhaps it’s because The Haven Zoo is a wonderful home and Annie and Ernest are keen to show visitors around? Find out more about how to support Ernest, Annie and the rest by clicking here and come back for more goats tomorrow!
Gossip is a pervasive means of communication in human societies. You might think that all gossip is bad and entails people speaking negatively about an individual or group; however, gossip can actually function in a way to the benefit of human groups. For example, gossip can help maintain equilibrium amongst egalitarian societies. Although gossip is seen as a negative and deadly action by the Talmud, gossip can provide a way for people to connect and feel closer to one another, and social scientists claim that only 3 to 4 percent of gossip is actually malicious. Gossip may have even provided an important social tool in human evolution, as a means to assess members of growing communities and maintain cohesion of social groups. Perhaps Oscar Wilde was right, when he said that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. At any rate, if you suspect you are being gossiped about you can probably conclude that at a minimum, people find you interesting.
Aren’t the horns on this goat beautiful? Contrary to popular belief, both male and female goats can have horns. Horns are bony protrusions stemming from the head of goats and other hoofed creatures that are covered in keratin, much like human hair and nails. Goats use their horns in a variety of creative ways, including to fend off potential predators, to communicate with one another and establish dominance in a group, to trim the bark off of trees for food, and even to attract sexual partners. There is a process called disbudding, in which the goats horns are removed shortly after birth, assumably to prevent potential problems like getting stuck in a fence or having a scuffle; however, there is a lot of debate over whether this practice is harmful or beneficial to goats. Sadly, I do not own any goats and by no means am a goat expert, so I really can’t weigh in; however, in general, I think goat horns are pretty amazing.
I am pleased to introduce you to Quincy, who is photographed here proudly showing off his fantastic beard. In general, a feature of being a mammal is having some kind of hair or fur; however, beards are a hirsute feature shared by goats and humans. Facial fair for humans is typically considered a male trait, as higher levels of testosterone in men encourage the growth of thicker and darker hair on the face compared to women. Charles Darwin speculated that beards are an evolutionary adaptation for prehistoric and pre-human males to attract mates. For goats, the beard is not strictly a male trait, but a sex-influenced trait resulting in some female goats having beards of their own. Speculation as to why beards on goats evolved remains an unexplored subject, but most goats tend to go with natural-style beards. Darwin, with his free-style long, white beard, may have been a trendsetter as some have noted that men’s facial hair in Victorian England was particularly fantastic.
I extend many thanks friend Kyla Daniéll who shared this stunning photograph of Quincy with me, taken by Barbara Vandenbussche in Stroe, Netherlands, posted with permission.