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Pig Transformation – Why Pigs Become Feral

Why Pigs Become Feral

Domestic Pigs Going Feral

Pig Transformation – Why Pigs Become Feral. Pigs are sensitive and pretty creatures. They have commonly reared animals for different useful benefits. Pigs have wild ancestors. Many pig owners show interest to know that can domesticated pigs become wild or feral. How this transformation occurs in pigs? What are the various factors associated with this?

Here we will have an extensive look over the transformation of domesticated pigs to feral hogs.

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Why Pigs Become Feral / How

According to some scientific researches, when pigs escape or leave captivity, after some time they start transforming back to their normal (back to wild). This just all happens due to the genes from wild ancestors present in them. These genes switch off and when their environment changes i-e they start living in a wild environment, these genes switch on and make them turn into feral creatures.

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Some zoologists code that when pigs get out of the normal domestic conditions, in a matter of months, they revert back to their wild reality such as they grow long hair, grow tusks and get aggressive.

Interestingly, some scientists don’t favor this logic. They explain that domesticated pigs remain as it is even though they escape from your captivity. Although, they get some morphological changes such as growing long hair due to the environmental variations and their genetic makeup.

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Due to all that, they become feral hogs. This is to be remembered that they don’t transform or revert back to the wild boars (which are not domesticated at all. They have naturally wild characteristics and nature.

NOTE: Even after getting wild morphological changes, feral hogs will not have the same nature as wild boars. There is still wide of difference between these two pigs.

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Genetics behind Domestic and Feral

Let’s throw some light on the genetic contribution that turns the pigs into feral ones when they are introduced to the wild environments. As you know, a creature’s phenotype (physical appearance) is totally controlled by the genotype (set of genes/genetic frame) and the environment.

There are specific genes that control each phenotypic trait. Gene expression depends upon the environment in which that specific creature finds itself, this particular phenomenon is called epigenetic. “

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There is another relevant genetic phenomenon that is called neoteny in which creatures retain juvenile characteristics depending on their environment, and will quickly mature given certain conditions.

Coming to the point, if a pig is domesticated, he is kept at the farm, the owner protects him from a predator, and feeds him a balanced and appropriate diet. These all secure and optimum conditions which are provided at the farm (domestication settings) keep his nature calm and such pigs have a low level of testosterone in their bodies.

But when such pigs are introduced in wild conditions or escape from the domestic settings, they have to face predators (less secured) and they have to do struggles for food and other things.

These stressful conditions increase the level of testosterone in their bodies along with other hormonal changes. This all causes long hair growth, change in behavior, and other morphological changes in them and they become feral hogs.

How Can You tell The Difference Between Wild / Feral Hog

The term Wild boar is typically used to describe Eurasian wild boar from Europe or Asia. Feral hogs are those that originated from domestic breeds but may be the result of a few or many, many generations in the wild. 

What are Feral Hogs – Pigs Going Feral

In the U.S. the best descriptor is probably to refer to them simply as wild pigs.

In addition to that, they also have a number of morphological and behavioral dissimilarities.

NOTE: Feral refers to a pig that has been escaped from domestic settings to wild environment. But wild means non-domesticated. Remember, sometimes feral or wild hogs/pigs can be used interchangeably but there is some actual differences at all.

Why Feral Hogs are Destructive?

Due to the change in their behavior, feral pigs become dangerous for humans. They destroy agricultural crops and pose a high risk to the environment. Simply, they eat anything that fits in their mouth. Additionally, they eat all crops and pastures and destroy the normal habitat of native plants and animals.

You can say they cause a number of problems in the ecosystem and are a growing concern in the US. Remember, feral pigs cause billions of dollars in property and agricultural damage every year in the United States both in wild and agricultural lands.

It has also been documented that feral pigs are associated with a number of infectious diseases in humans because they carry many pathogens that pose a high risk for livestock, humans, and other wild creatures.

Do Domestic Pigs Grow Large Tusks?

Yes, unaltered male pigs grow long tusks which are totally undesirable for the owners. Pig owners love to see trimmed tusks and keep them within a limit. But when domestic pigs get into the wild environment they start growing long tusks. This change in the dentition in domestic pigs in the wild happens due to the change in diet.

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How do you Manage Feral Hogs?

As feral pigs are a major cause of destruction, so there are many lethal and nonlethal protocols that are used to control their population and keep them away from your precious premises.  

The options include bad-tasting liquid sprays, water sprayers, and sound repellers. The water and sound are designed to “spook” them away by making them feel stressed and uncomfortable.

There are also a number of strategies to keep them away. Select any method according to your suitability.

Why Pigs Go Feral?

Pigs are known to be social animals that prefer living in groups. When they become domesticated, pigs can live with humans or other species of pigs without any problems. However, when their natural habitats are taken away from them and the conditions aren’t right for survival due to human activity, feral pig populations begin cropping up around farmlands, jungles, and forests.

Feral pigs are the same species as domesticated pigs but their behavior differs greatly from that of a pig that lives with humans or other animals it knows such as dogs. One reason is that they don’t have any predators around them except man so many feral pigs continue to breed rapidly unlike domestic ones which become very difficult to control their numbers. Another reason is that feral pigs are very adaptable creatures capable of living in different types of habitats and can survive without needing much care from humans which makes them quite a pest for farmers who need to protect their crops, jungles where they disrupt the natural balance leading some animals to endangerment or extinction, forests as well as humans who are stalked by these animals for food.

Feral pigs can weigh up to hundreds of pounds, have tusks that they use as weapons against predators or other species that threaten them, and are very destructive with their hooves that help dig into the ground when searching for roots, seeds, insects, grubs, etc. Nowadays, feral pigs can be found in at least 35 states of the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand.

Final Thoughts

In the US almost all males are kept castrated or killed young. Castration plays a very essential role and can prevent domestic pigs from getting feral. So, it is recommended to castrate them or kill them before they reach maturity. As intact pigs have higher chances of turning into feral creatures.

Castrating Pigs / feral pig populations / wild hog


Calero-Bernal, R.; Verma, S. K.; Oliveira, S.; Yang, Y.; Rosenthal, B. M.; Dubey, J. P. (April 1, 2015). “In the United States, negligible rates of zoonotic sarcocystosis occur in feral swine that, by contrast, frequently harbor infections with Sarcocystis miescheriana, a related parasite contracted from canids”. Parasitology. 142 (4): 549–56.

 Campbell, Tyler; Long, David; Leland, Bruce (2010). “Feral Swine Behavior Relative to Aerial Gunning in Southern Texas”. USDA National Wildlife Research Center – Staff Publications. University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

John J. Mayer; I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr. (March 1, 2008). Wild Pigs in the United States: Their History, Comparative Morphology, and Current Status. University of Georgia Press. pp. 1–3.

Hawkes, Logan (May 17, 2013). “Feral hog control the military way”. Southeast Farm Press. Retrieved February 10, 2014.

 Taylor, Richard B.; Hellgren, Eric C. (1997). “Diet of Feral Hogs in the Western South Texas Plains”. The Southwestern Naturalist. 42 (1): 33–39.