HYBRID SWINE

Among pigs, domestic Tamworth pigs (a bristly, red coloured "unimproved" breed) have been crossed with wild boar to create "Iron Age Pigs" which resemble early domestic pigs. The piglets have stripes or blotches like young boar. "Iron Age Pigs" are a common attraction at farm parks although the hybrids, which are less tractable than domestic swine, generally end up in sausages. Other domestic pigs have been crossed with American wild hogs to produce compact, hairy hog-like hybrids. In "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" Charles Darwin wrote: "The European wild boar and the Chinese domesticated pig are almost certainly specifically distinct: Sir F. Darwin crossed a sow of the latter breed with a wild Alpine boar which had become extremely tame, but the young, though having half-domesticated blood in their veins, were "extremely wild in confinement, and would not eat swill like common English pigs.""


Hybrid of wild boar and domestic pig at the Rothschild Zoological Museum.


Hybrid of wild boar and domestic pig at the Rothschild Zoological Museum.

In 2006, hybrids between a domestic sow and a male babirusa were born at Copenhagen Zoo. The babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa) or pig-deer is a pig-like creature found on Celebes (Sulawesi) and some other Indonesian islands. When Copenhagen Zoo's lone male babirusa showed signs of depression, the zoo provided two domestic sows as company in its enclosure. To their amazement, one of the sows gave birth to 5 small hybrid offspring. Although the two species share a common ancestor, this is so far back that it is at family level (the same level at which humans and chimps share a common ancestor). The zoo's assistant director, Bengt Holst, likened it to a cow and a goat producing offspring. One of the hybrids died soon after, but the the remaining 2 males and 2 females were doing well. Because the parents are so dissimilar, the zoo remain cautious about the hybrids' longevity and health prospects. Physically, the hybrids resemble the babirusa, especially in their teeth and skin colour. Their DNA is being examined.

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