When a Pig is a Hog (and When It’s Not)

pig farming vocabulary

When we were in Ethiopia Gabby pulled me aside at one of the stops and asked the difference between a pig farmer and a hog farmer. It wasn’t until she pointed it out that I realized how often I use the terms interchangeably, especially in reference to myself. Probably because I am both a pig farmer and a hog farmer.

These days many pork producers are both — even if their pigs and hogs are raised in separate facilities (and most are) — but the two are not necessarily one and the same.

So, what’s the difference between a pig and a hog? Size, mostly. And by extension age. But that’s far from where the distinctions end. There are also weaners, feeders, shoats, gilts, sows, boars, barrows, and a small dictionary full of other bits of swine-specific vocabulary to go along with the industry.

Whether you’re raising a couple of pigs for yourself, looking to begin your own hog farm, or just want to sound like you know what you’re talking about I’ve included a short list of those used most commonly below. Enjoy!

Swine – A generic term for all pigs, hogs, etc.

Gilt – A young female swine, generally under 12 months of age, who has not yet farrowed.

Sow – A mature female swine, generally 10+ months of age, who has farrowed at least one litter.

Boar – An intact male swine.

Barrow – A castrated male swine.

Pig – A very young swine. In layman’s terms this would be a “piglet” but that term is rarely used by producers. Can also be a term of endearment for older swine. “She’s a good ‘ol pig.

Hog – An older swine, usually over about 120 pounds live weight.

Shoat – A young swine, usually between weaning and about 120 pounds live weight.

Weaner – A young swine at and during the point of weaning.

Feeder – A young swine usually between 40 and 70 pounds live weight that is being sold, bought, or held to be fed out to market weight.

Finisher – An older swine, usually over about 150 pounds live weight; one that is in the finishing stage of its growth, nearing market weight.

Market Hog – A hog that’s ready to be processed into pork or sent “to market”. The ideal market weight for hogs changes with pork demand and industry technology (among other things.) Usually market hogs weigh between 230 and 270 pounds live.

Bred – Pregnant. Usually used to preface the appropriate word for a particular female swine. “Bred Gilt” or “Bred Sow”, depending on her age and stage of life.

Open – Used to preface the appropriate term to refer to a female swine that is not currently bred. “Open Gilt” or “Open Sow”, for example.

Farrow – As a noun it refers to a litter of newborn pigs, as a verb it is used to describe the act of giving birth.

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Bekah Allen February 8, 2013, 12:08 pm

    Great blog! I really enjoyed reading your article on CNN, which led me to go to your blog and start following you. I was intrigued by the God made a Farmer ad…and certainly I have been intrigued with the response and lack there of from so many sources. Kudos to you and I hope that you keep running things and rise to the top while doing what you love.

    Blessing and Bacon!

  • Wayne Daggett September 3, 2013, 5:43 pm

    Loved your photography. I was going to tweet a few of your pages out as good background for non-meat science majors.

    I will try the crock pot pork tacos recipe.

    • Diana September 15, 2013, 2:06 pm

      Thanks, Wayne! Hope you like the tacos.


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