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.
One of the pig’s most distinctive features is its snout. It is unsurprising that pigs have an excellent sense of smell. In fact, pigs can detect scents an estimate 2,000 times more than humans. They use their keen noses not just to find food like many other animals, but also to sense danger and access their general surroundings. The end of the snout that forms the pigs distinctive “nose” is made of a thick, rough cartilage that allows them to really dig their nose in to sniff around. Pigs even have memories linked to different smells, so next time you see one rooting sniffing around perhaps it’s looking for something or trying to find its exact favourite spot from before! Amazing!
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.
Next time your plans don’t work out, don’t consider yourself a failure. Just consider yourself a scientist who is conducting experiments to see what works. Keep experimenting, and eventually you will get the right formula.
Earlier this year, the twelfth of February to be precise, I reported that a friend of mine in San Francisco worked in an office that employed a herd of goats to do some landscaping around that building. Indeed, goats can digest all sorts of plants that are poisonous and quite a nuisance to humans. In fact, the digestive and grazing abilities of goats are now being employed to fight wild fires in California. With increasing wild fires brought on by the climate crisis, herds of goats are increasingly being called upon to clear out brush and areas at high risk of fires. Using goats in this way is totally green, as herbicides can be detrimental to the environment, and mowing equipment uses fossil fuels and creates air and noise pollution. Additionally, goat herds are low risk and more economical – in Laguna City, California where goats have been clearing brush for nearly twenty years a safety report estimates that a man-powered clearing crew costs $28,000 per acre while a herd of goats costs only $500. Goats may not be able to solve all of our problems, or the climate crisis, but every effort definitely helps!
A new study from the Queen Mary University of London indicates that goats lead rich emotional lives. Their research has shown that goats can recognise the calls from their goat friends and distinguish those calls from the sounds of unfamiliar goats, an ability scientists call emotional contagion. The study even showed that goats respond to specific emotions of other goats, for example when their friends are happily enjoying a meal, illustrating that goats have empathy. Empathy is an amazing trait that goes hand-in-hand with compassion – aren’t goats amazing?
Think of all the things that we have discovered in the past decade. We (as in human society) sent a craft to photograph the planet Pluto. We discovered earth-like planets orbiting a nearby dwarf star. There are so many applications that make our lives easier and put the world at our fingertips. We essentially live with pocket computers. We have made incredible advancements in gene therapy and made strides to understand the effect that gut bacteria has on our overall health. Just imagine what more there is to discover and what amazing things the future will bring.
Today is the longest day of the entire year, if you live in the northern hemisphere. Because the planet Earth (the one we live on) rotates around the sun on a tilted axis, certain parts of the planet get more or less sun depending on the time of year. Basically, billions of years ago, when our solar system was being formed, tons of bits of mass collided together to form mini planets, which then collided together to form proto-planets, which eventually became most of what our planet is now. Then, another pro-planet collided with the prelude to Earth and put us on our lovely little tilt which is reasonable for the seasons. Amazing! And the seasons are a big part of why life was able to flourish on our planet. Incredible how things tend to all fall into place like that!
Today is World Meditation Day. You don’t have to be a Buddhist or a master yogi to reap the benefits from a few moments of silence. Meditation has been found to improve your health, reduces inflammation, increases your capacity for compassion and can even improve your brain! The positive effects of regular meditation have been well documented for nearly two thousand years and have been verified by recent science. So give it a go, perhaps start with just two minutes and see where it takes you! You never know, you just might become even better friends with yourself.