'Pigs are Pretty'
“Pigs are pretty” is an often-used tagline of the annual Preble County Pork Festival, held every year in September at the Preble County Fairgrounds in Eaton.
This year the festival will be held Sept. 15–16, and will be packed with vendors from all over the United States; yummy food with signature pork chops; hog butchering demonstration; pig races; a grand parade, and a National Trail High School FFA sow and litter exhibit.
But why pigs?
Those who know the history of the Pork Festival can tell you that “hog raisin’” has been a major part of Preble Countians’ lives for many years. After World War II, there was a rather large decline in demand for lard and fat products, and Preble County felt the impact. Preble County was at that time one of the top six pork producers in the state. Preble is still in the top 10 in the state: in 2010, the county sat in the number 10 spot.
After the decline of the pork industry, in 1946 Preble County became home of “Swine Improvement in America,” thanks to the accomplishments of Wilbur Bruner, who was at the time the Preble County Extension Agent.
The festival began with a board made up of 12 husband and wife teams, one from each of Preble’s 12 townships.
The festival now carries the same traditions, with efforts toward promotion of the Pork industry. Throughout the years, the Preble County Pork Festival Board has helped make improvements to the fairgrounds, such as the construction of Bruner Arena, where the swine are housed during the fair, and the Expo Building, where steer are housed during the fair.
For more information about the history of the Pork Festival, visit www.porkfestival.org.
Even though Preble County’s ties to pigs have been mostly about production of pork products such as pork chops, bacon, ham, and so on, what consumers may not know is the overall nature and other uses a pig serves.
If you were to ask an outsider to the pig industry, “what is the first thing you could say about a pig?” the typical answers would be they smell, they are dirty, or “bacon.” If you would ask me, I would say they are one of the most interesting animals in the livestock world.
If you were driving past a pig farm on a bright sunny day, you would most likely see a pig covered in mud. Ever wondered why? Well there is a perfectly good reason: pigs do not have sweat glands and cannot cool themselves like other animals would, so the mud acts like a sunscreen and helps keep them cooled down — and helps protect the skin, because they can also get sunburned.
When a pig gets sunburned, its skin becomes red, just as a human’s does, however sunburn affects young pigs more than older ones. Sunburn, in a severe case, can also cause an expecting sow to lose her litter.
Pigs are the fourth-smartest of all animals, with the chimpanzee taking the number one spot. On account of their intelligence, pigs are able to pick up a trick they are taught, and house-train more quickly than a dog. They can even learn their names in a week.
Like most dogs, pigs are also very sociable. If you see two pigs lying together, it shows a bond between the two. When you hear two pigs grunting at one another, it is their way of communicating. Pigs in general will form a tight bond with each other – and can even form that same type of bond with other species of animals.
When you hear that ever common phrase, ‘everything but the squeal’ used, the intended meaning is that every part of a pig can be used for something, whether it is for human consumption or medical advancement.
More and more hospital and medical facilities have turned to making use of the pig to help save lives.
Burn victims are now having pig skin used on them to cover their own skin — to help aid in the process of healing the damaged skin. Pig skin, however, has not been successfully grafted onto humans, because human bodies will reject it.
But the possibility of actually being able to do this successfully is in the near future, according to researchers. Japanese scientists have found a possible way by using pigs that have been genetically altered with human genes. Currently, researchers say there is less of a rejection with the altered pig skin, and with more research, it could be possible in the future.
In 1968, Dr. Ross of London, England made the first attempt of using a pig heart valve in a human heart. Unfortunately the heart only remained functional for a few minutes. Ever since then, surgeons from all over the world have been using pig valves for repairs, with the first successful case completed in 1975. A pig heart valve used inside a human has a life span of around 10 years, before it normally has to be replaced, according to medical officials.
So the next time you see a smelly pig, or think bacon, think about all the awesome things a pig has to offer you and know it could one day save your life. Someday a pig could make the difference between life and death for you or a family member.