Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Happy New Year!

According to the Chinese calendar, the New Year begins on February 5, 2019 under the sign of the Earth Pig. Pigs symbolize happiness, wealth and contentment. The earth pig is considered reasonable and prudent. People committed to social institutions or the community will be happiest this year. When China celebrated the Year of the Pig in 2007, the birth rate rose noticeably.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Subversive cartoon character

For the New Year celebration, a "Peppa Pig" movie can now be shown in China. Children and business execs love the character. For a long time, Peppa was banned because she allegedly corrupted morale and contradicted state doctrine. Censors deleted 30,000 Peppa video clips. Even "Winnie the Pooh" is still banned because many say he resembles President Xi. Peppa's censors gave in this time.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

A down-to-earth view

For purely anatomical reasons, pigs are not interested in astrology or higher echelons. Their physique is so compact that they cannot look up. Besides hippopotamuses, pigs are the only cloven-hoofed animals that are not ruminants. The pig has a relatively weak and small heart, so stress often leads to heart failure.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Complex communication

Pigs communicate with more than 20 different grunts and squeaks for different situations. They constantly communicate with each other. Newborn piglets learn to listen to their mother's voice. Mothers sing for them during lactation. Pigs form complex social units and learn from each other in a way that has otherwise only been observed in primates.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Pigs are smart

Pigs are smarter than three-year-old kids or dogs. They can interpret abstract representations, use tools and learn as fast as primates. Years later, they still remember learned terms and objects. US researcher Dr. Stanley Curtis even developed a video game for pigs: They had to compare drawings with pictures on the screen to get a reward.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Pigs know where to go

Pigs have an excellent memory and a pronounced sense of orientation: they can easily find good feeding places or their way home over long distances. Their sense of smell is many times stronger than that of dogs. Pigs are also more courageous than you might think: in dangerous situations, they try to save other pigs' lives.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

No messing around!

Pigs are actually very clean animals: If they have enough space, they try not to contaminate the feeding and sleeping areas. Since they have no sweat glands, they roll in the mud to stay cool. The mud also serves as sun protection, because pig skin is extremely sensitive to temperature and injuries.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Piggy pleasures!

Pigs are omnivores, but they do not "pig out." They prefer to eat slowly and enjoy their meal. In a natural environment, pigs spend hours playing, sunbathing and exploring. Pigs also dream. They snuggle up to each other at night and love to snooze snout to snout.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

So close to us humans!

New surgical techniques are primarily developed and tested on pigs, because pig organs resemble human organs and are physiologically well suited to the requirements of the human body. Pig heart valves have been successfully transplanted into humans for years. They last long and are hardly ever rejected by the human body.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Help with diabetes

Pig insulin is almost identical to human insulin and can be processed by our body very well. Until the end of the 1980s pig insulin was used to treat diabetes. Thanks to biotechnology, it is now being replaced by insulin produced by living microorganisms that has been genetically modified to produce insulin.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Pigs as organ donors

"Xenotransplantation" between two species usually leads to "hyperacute rejection:" The antibodies immediately react with the sugar molecules of the donor cell and destroy the organ. With the help of genetically modified pigs, the rejection reaction has now been significantly delayed. However, in addition to medical challenges, ethical concerns also remain.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Basic understanding of the brain

The hypothalamus (here blue) is an important "control center" in the brain. It ensures that our body temperature remains constant, determines our emotional and sexual behavior and regulates hormone control. The later Nobel Prize laureates Roger Guillemin and Andrew von Schally researched how exactly the hypothalamus worked in pigs. The findings were directly applicable on humans.

Pigs, pigs, pigs: Fun facts and figures for Chinese New Year

Roughly one pig for every seven people on Earth

Humans have been keeping pigs for meat production for about 9,000 years. Today about 1 billion pigs live on Earth. Every year around 1.4 billion pigs are slaughtered worldwide. About a quarter of the world's population does not eat pork for religious reasons, including people of Muslim and Jewish faith. Allegedly, there's only one pig in mostly Muslim Afghanistan. It lives in the Kabul Zoo.

Are pigs really "pigging out"? And why are their organs so interesting for research? In honor of the Chinese Year of the Pig starting soon, we take a closer look at the pig-tailed animals.