When you think of pigs your first image will probably be of Babe, Piglet or Peppa Pig. What do all these pigs have in common (apart from that they’re animated)? They’re pink! If you ask any child across the country to draw a pig they’ll more than likely make it pink, but why are pigs pink?
What colors do pigs come in?
If you’re looking at domesticated and farmed pigs, you’re probably only going to come across pink pigs. Some may be a bit lighter and others may have black spots on them, but they’ll almost always be pink.
However, when we look at wild hogs you’ll very rarely see a pink hog. Wild hogs are usually brown or a dark color with black fur.
Why do pigs come in different colors?
Pigs now come in different colors thanks to domestication of pigs by humans and natural selection in the wild. Around 10,000 years ago, humans started to domesticate pigs. When they did this they were wild and therefore brown or black in color.
Why are wild hogs such a dark color with black fur when most other pigs are pink? Well, wild hogs are excellent hunters and their dark color helps them hide and hunt their prey. Similarly, many wild animals like lions and tigers will happily have a wild hog for dinner, so their color helps them camouflage and hide from predators themselves.
Domesticated pigs are pink because we have bred them that way. There’s a couple of theories as to why farmers wanted their pigs to be pink but most think it’s purely because of the novelty factor. Farmers preferred the bright color and they could show off their pretty pink pig that differed so much from their black, wild counterparts.
Alternatively, some people reason that it was a practical reason. Farmers simply wanted to be able to differentiate which pigs were theirs and easily see which were wild and which were domestic.
How did they make pigs pink?
So, farmers wanted their pigs to be pink but how did they make it happen? It definitely did not happen overnight but over several generations. When a piglet was born without melanin (which gives them the dark colour), the farmers would choose them to breed for the next generation. They do this over and over, picking only the pink pigs to mate until all the pigs that are born do not have melanin and are therefore the default pink color.
Why aren’t there pink pigs in the wild?
If wild hogs can have piglets that are pink then why don’t we see pink hogs in the wild? That is a matter of natural selection. The pink hogs won’t be able to hide themselves well when trying to hunt and therefore they won’t feed as often. Similarly, if a predator is on the hunt, the little pink piglet is going to stick out a little more than their well-camouflaged family. I know which one I would go for!
So, why are pigs pink?
In answer to your question, pigs are pink because we made them that way! We wanted pink pigs for whatever reason, whether vanity or practicality, and so we bred them to be the distinct pink color they are today!