Pigs, Hogs, and Boars: What’s the Difference?


Pigs, hogs, and boars are all animals from the same family. While these animals have some similarities, they also have a few major differences. These terms can be very confusing and are sometimes used interchangeably (and incorrectly). 

Pig refers to both domestic and wild animals, sixteen species are considered pig A hog is a domesticated pig that weighs over 120 pounds. A boar is a wild pig or a male pig that is not neutered (also called a boar-intact). 

In this post, you will learn more about each animal, the different meanings behind each term, and the differences between the animals.

Pigs, hogs, and boars are different can be easily confused. This post will diminish any confusion and provide some interesting facts about each animal, read on to find out!

What is the Difference Between Pigs, Hogs, and Boars?

Pigs, hogs, and boars are all types of swine; they fall into the pig family, scientifically referred to as the Suidae family. According to Live Science, the ancestors of today’s domesticated pigs are the wild boar and warty pig. 

The tricky part is that the term hog can refer to both domesticated and wild pigs, too. However, this terminology falls between pig and boar. In this article, we will focus on a boar that is wild and not domesticated for ease of understanding. 

Differences Between Pigs, hogs, And Boars

Major DifferencesPigsHogsBoars
Various Scientific NamesSus scrofa domesticusSus scrofa scrofaHylochoerus meinertzhageniSus salvaniusPotamochoerus porcusSus scrofaSus celebensisSus cebifrons
Size and Weight300 to 700 poundsA domesticated pig over 120 pounds A wild pig up to 700 pounds.Varies by region largest boar is over 6 feet long and more than 3 feet tallWeights range by size between 15 and 700 pounds
PopulationJust under 700 millionNo specific data as “hog” is a more general termEstimates vary, but most are in the millions Some species are threatened or endangered based on the Red List of Threatened Species
Location or Favored RegionsFarmland
MudSoft straw
Same as pigs, if domesticated,Same as boars, if wildGrasslandsWetlandsRain forestsSavannasScrublandTemperate forests
DietCorn, wheat, soy, or barley grains as feed Vegetable peels
Fruit
Various leftover foods
Varies between a pig’s diet and a boar’s dietRoots Fruit RodentsSmall reptiles
Average LifespanBetween 15 and 20 yearsBetween 4 and 20 years, depending on habitatAverage is between 4 and 5 years but can live up to 14 years

These major differences are seen mainly between pigs and boars, as the term hog is a bit less specific. However, it is important to note that in addition to their differences, pigs, hogs, and boars have many similarities. 

Similarities Between Pigs, Hogs, and Boars

All of these animals can be collectively referred to as swine. Many times, these terms are even used interchangeably. Scientifically speaking, the animals are not that different and fall into the same family. Biologically speaking, they are all very similar, even if their appearances vary drastically. 

Pig Behaviors Are Universal

The behaviors of swine are similar across all species. Some domesticated pigs may seem more friendly, but that is because of their repeated contact with humans. Pigs learn very quickly who is caring for them and can be very loving, especially as pets as this study found that pigs are as smart as a human toldder!

To see 7 reasons why your pigs are not growing see my post.

However, wild boars should be treated like any other wild animal. Give them space and do not try to provoke them. 

Attributes Of Pig, Hog And Boar Behaviour

  • Intelligent – These animals are known for their smarts.
  • Playful – Pigs exhibit a playful demeanor, especially when they live in good conditions and are treated well.
  • Social – Pigs, hogs, and boars, because they are species from the same family, all behave similarly. As a result, many female wild boars and feral pigs will form groups with other females and their young. 
  • Calm and docile – Generally speaking, these animals are calm. They may become agitated or fearful, depending on the environment. 

These are generalized characteristics of pigs, hogs, and boars. Each animal is going to be different. However, these attributes are commonly seen both in domesticated and wild animals. 

The following points are specific behaviors pigs, hogs, and boars exhibit both as domesticated and wild animals:

  • Running – A pig’s speed is one of the behaviors that can make them dangerous to humans, but it is one of their first survival instincts.
  • Charging – If a pig feels scared or agitated, it can charge at you. This is dangerous as most pigs have tusks that protect them and end up harming you.
  • Wallowing – This behavior is best described as rolling around in the mud or dirt. The goal is the regulate their body temperatures and clean their bodies.
  • Rooting – This means using the snout to dig or root into the ground. This is mainly done when searching for food.

Even though all swine are similar in their behaviors and demeanors, wild boars have a tarnished reputation. These wild species are commonly thought of as aggressive and easily agitated. Always be cautious around any animals, domesticated or wild. Behaviors can change quickly, which can end badly for both the humans and the pigs involved. 

Pigs Can Be Found Everywhere in the World

Pigs are present all around the world. They are on almost every continent and provide a vital source of food for many countries. There are currently an estimated 677.6 million domesticated pigs globally, and China has the highest number of pigs, coming in at about half of the total world population. I lived in China and they sure do love their pork!

In the United States, there are a reported 78.6 million domesticated pigs living in the country. Some estimates actually put the number of pigs much higher, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. However, there may be up to 2 billion pigs on the planet! That’s a lot of pigs considering there are 7 billion people on the planet. 

What Do Pigs, Hogs, And Boars Eat?

Pigs, hogs, and boars are omnivores. This means they eat a variety of plant material and feed on other animals, including insects. Domesticated pigs have a more regulated diet as they are usually being fed to be slaughtered eventually.

For this reason, domesticated pigs are fed some sort of cereal grain. On smaller farms, domesticated pigs’ diets can also include slop, which is basically like a compost pile without the dirt; it mainly consists of food scraps.

Can your pigs be healthy on a vegan diet? Does it even matter, check my post to find out.

More Information About Pigs 

Pig is the most frequently used term of the three, and it usually refers to the domesticated pigs used as livestock. Domesticated pigs are very different from wild hogs and boars. As you will discover below, there is a lot to know about pigs, especially since the rearing and slaughtering of pigs is such an enormous industry. 

Other Helpful Terms to Know That Relate to Pigs

Pig, hog, and boar are only some of the words you will hear regarding swine; more specific terminology pops up when you are on the farm. An important difference between wild boars and domesticated pigs is that many of these terms are specific to domesticated pigs and would not be used to talk about wild boars.

The following are some definitions of specific terms relating to pigs and pig rearing:

  • Sow – A female pig that has had piglets is a sow. 
  • Piglet – Baby pigs are called piglets. 
  • Barrow-Castrate – This term describes a male pig that has been castrated.
  • Gilt – This term refers to a female pig that has not given birth to piglets.
  • Farrow – This is another word to describe giving birth to piglets. 
  • Shoat – Similar to the weight stipulation about a hog in farming, a shoat is a pig that is between 40 and 120 pounds. 

(Source: Illinois Livestock Trail)

This is not a comprehensive list of terms associated with the livestock industry. However, it is a great start to becoming more familiar with the industry jargon. 

What Are Some Common Pig Breeds?

There are eight common breeds when raising pigs as livestock in the United States. Most of the time, these domesticated pigs are purebred. However, there are instances where a crossbred pig is preferred. This is especially true when a farmer is after specific traits of different breeds. 

Here are the eight common pig breeds found around the world:

  • Yorkshire – A white pig with erect ears; the number one breed in North America; lean muscle and durable; found in almost every state. 
  • Chester White – A white pig with floppy ears; known for reproductive ability and muscle quality; from Pennsylvania.
  • Landrace – Another white pig with floppy ears; makes it a great finisher pig; long body and high weight.
  • Berkshire – A mostly black pig with some pink spots and erect ears; known for its fast growth and meaty flavor.
  • Hampshire – A black and pink pig known for the belt coloration; most popular pig in the Midwest; produces lean, high-quality meat. 
  • Spotted – A pig with black and white spots; good at gaining weight; females are productive and docile. 
  • Duroc – A red pig with floppy ears; second most popular pig in the United States; high quality and yield. 
  • Poland China – From Ohio; pigs are pink with a dark furry coat; they are large, long, and lean.

Many of these pigs are crossbred to create hybrids. Hybrids allow farmers to get the most desired attributes out of different breeds. Ultimately, hybrids can be more cost-efficient and allow for increased productivity. 

What Farmers Look For In A Pig

  • Meat flavor
  • Growth rate
  • Mothering ability
  • Muscle quality
  • Carcass yield
  • Longevity in females
  • High weight
  • Leanness
  • Feed efficiency
  • Demeanor

This is not an exhaustive list of attributes that describe quality pigs, and some farmers may only be looking for a handful of these characteristics. This is in stark contrast with wild boars. These characteristics are not considered as heavily, because if you are hunting boar, the qualities of what makes a good boar are very different. 

Do Pigs Turn into Hogs?

On a farm, the term hog is used to describe a rather large pig. It specifically describes domesticated pigs that are over 120 pounds. A pig can turn into a hog if it gains enough weight. The livestock industry has more classifications on weight for pigs up until they are going to market. 

The following chart shows the terms associated with a weight that are used to describe domesticated pigs from the American Association of Swine Veterinarians:

TermDescription of Weight
Nursery Pig or WeanerA pig that is weaning up to 55 pounds
GrowerPigs that are between 55 pounds and 155 pounds
FinisherPigs that range between 155 pounds to around 250 pounds or until they are sold at the market
ShoatA pig that is 40 to 120 pounds
HogA pig over 120 pounds

Pigs are highly valued for their weight and muscle quality. This is a bit different from wild boars because there is no price associated with a boar’s weight. The larger the pig, the more money the farmer is likely to receive for it. Since boars are wild, their weights can vary dramatically, but they tend to yield quality meat. 

Are your pigs struggling to put on weight? To see 7 reasons why your pigs are struggling to put on weight, like lacking enough protein in their diet check out my post.

What Are the Environmental Impacts Pigs Have on The Planet?

Most pork is produced from concentrated animal feed operations, also known as CAFOs. These are large scale farms designed to raise thousands of pigs at a time. A smaller farm does not produce the same amount of waste as CAFOs, and so it is easier to manage.

To see a documentary on the environmental problems caused by pig farming, watch the video above.

CAFOs produce huge amounts of waste that cause many problems. The waste produced by CAFOs has to go somewhere. The pig manure will often fill lagoons and seep into waterways. The waste is sprayed on fields as a fertilizer and mists surrounding areas with manure containing antibiotic-resistant bacteria and other pathogens.

Some of the environmental problems CAFOs cause are severe threats, while other points are less impactful:

  • Odor – Ammonia and rotten egg smell due to pig manure wafts throughout the surrounding communities
  • Spread of disease – Sprayed manure aerosolizes bacteria and potential pathogens that can easily enter local water sources and sometimes even homes, depending on the density of exposure
  • Poor air quality – Dust from CAFOs is dangerous when inhaled, causing some people to wear face masks when they are in their yards
  • Chemical exposures – Air, water, and soil are all impacted by the waste produced by CAFOs
  • Increased health risks – With all these chemicals and bacteria in the air, water, and soil, CAFOs impact not only environmental health but also human health

One study focuses on the environmental injustices faced by people living in rural, more impoverished communities, where CAFOs tend to be located.

It highlights how these environmental problems also strongly influence community health outcomes. Because CAFOs evolved so fast, those who regulate animal husbandry have not been able to put laws in place protecting the environment and the communities surrounding a CAFO. 

The environmental impacts of pigs raised as livestock are different from those of wild boars. Some may even argue that CAFOs are worse than the impacts wild boars have on the environment. It is important to note that wild boars pose less of a human health risk. 

However raising pigs in a small farm can still be dangerous, to prevent your pigs from developing negative big behaviors check my post out.

More Information About Boars

Wild boars are very different from pigs. Even though a boar is genetically very closely related to domesticated pigs, wild boars are considered different by most people. The idea of a wild boar is one of a dangerous, mean animal. But this is not the case; generally, wild boars are docile unless they feel threatened. 

Is Wild Boar Better Than Pork?

Some may say that wild boar tastes gamier than traditional pork you can buy at your local grocer. However, determining if wild boar is better than pork is mainly based on personal taste preferences. They have different flavor profiles, with wild boar being nuttier-tasting, leaner meat. 

Differentiating between wild boar meat and pork from domesticated pigs is a challenge at the molecular level. One scientific study aimed to determine if scientists could quickly distinguish between the two subspecies to test for food adulteration. This industry wants to avoid the possibility of you buying wild boar that is mixed with pork from a domesticated pig. 

Do Hogs and Boars Eat Humans?

This is a simple misconception about wild hogs and boars. There are no documented occurrences of wild boars eating humans. However, according to the National Resources Institute at Texas A & M University, 412 wild boar attacks occurred between 1825 and 2012. 

Most attacks from wild boars on humans are because the boars feel threatened. About 76% of these attacks did not happen during a hunt, and only 4 of the 412 reported attacks ended in the death of the human. 

Is A Feral Pig the Same as A Boar?

A feral pig is a domesticated pig that has gotten out into the wild. Feral pigs are different from wild boars because they were first domesticated and then adapted to the wild. According to Hog Wild Hunting, it takes two generations of offspring from feral pigs before you can no longer distinguish them from wild boars. 

How To Tell the Difference Between A Feral Pig And Boar

  • Is the animal hairy?
  • Does the animal have a rough hide? – This may be difficult to assess at a distance; if so, move to the next question.
  • Is the animal’s tail long and straight?
  • Are the animal’s legs longer than a domesticated pig’s legs?
  • Is the head of the animal elongated?
  • Does the animal have visible tusks?

If you answered “yes” to the five questions above, you are looking at a boar. If you answered no to the above questions, you are most likely looking at a feral pig. Usually, states will try to control the feral pig population, so it is important to know the difference between boars and feral pigs. 

What Kind of Damage Can Wild Boars and Hogs Do to The Environment?

Wild boars are known for being destructive. They can destroy almost any environment. This damage leads to economic losses and high costs to repair the damages. So in many cases, wild boar are hunted to reduce their populations and the havoc they unleash on the environment.

The following points are specific ways in which wild boars destroy the environment:

  • Trampling grasses in rural areas, as well as golf courses, lawns, gardens, and recreational sport fields
  • Stripping fields and exposing soil
  • Eroding the soil at stream banks and in muddy areas
  • Disrupting streams and other water sources
  • Potentially damaging fish populations due to the above changes in the environment
  • Disturbing native plants and causing an influx of invasive species to take root
  • Eating things that they aren’t supposed to, like feed for livestock or endangered sea turtle eggs
  • Acting as disease vectors that can potentially infect domesticated pigs if they end up nearby

(Source: Smithsonian)

Wild boars are considered a problem in many states, so much so that there are designated times to hunt these boars throughout the year. But in some places, like Texas, you can hunt them year-round. Population control is difficult but important to preserving the natural environment. 

The following points are some other quick facts about wild boars in the United States:

  • Considered an invasive species because they were introduced from Europe and Asia
  • Estimated population 2 to 6 million wild boars
  • Living in 39 states
  • Most are found in Texas
  • In Texas alone, they cause $400 million in damages per year

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, wild boars can cost up to $1.5 billion in the United States to repair damages and control the populations. They are a major risk not only to human populations but also native vegetation and wildlife species. 

Do Only Boars Have Tusks?

All swine are born with tusks, but domesticated pigs have their tusks removed shortly after birth. However, the tusks on wild boars are a distinguishing feature because after they are removed from domesticated pigs, they will not grow back.

The tusks grow in two sets and are actually teeth. The top tusks are sometimes called whetters or grinders, while the bottom pair are referred to as cutters. These tusks are known to be sharp and can easily cause injury.

A History of Pigs, Hogs, and Boars

The domestication of pigs for farm and industry is a relatively new milestone when looking at the historical records of pigs. Here is a condensed timeline of when pigs were first seen in their earliest versions to how pigs, hogs, and boars are distinguished today:

Time PeriodImportant Events
About 50 million to 23 million years agoEven-toed ungulates first seen in the fossil record Pigs, hogs, and boars are descendants from this common ancestor
2 million to 20,000 years agoAt around 2 million years ago, other Suidae family species begin disappearing Sus species (including the pig as it is known today) are seen across the northern hemisphere 20,000 years ago, Sus scrofa is seen in Southeast Asian forests, on the hillsides of the Himalayas and in North African grasslands
About 10,000 years agoAround this time, the domestication of pigs begins in Asia, Theories on how pigs were domesticated vary, and there is no clear answer
About 2,000 years agoPigs are seen as dangerous They appear in religious texts as divine entities and figures
About 1,450 years agoInformation on pigs being truffle hunters appears in history Rooting behaviors used to the advantage of the Roman Empire and Italian Renaissance
1945Animal Farm by George Orwell is published, with a boar as the main character
1953Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is published, with Wilbur the pig as one of the main charactersThe first considerations of animals as more than food
1968Gestation crates become a hot topic, as the first photo of these conditions is published. These cages made living conditions for pregnant pigs very difficult.”Porcine Stress Syndrome” is coined by researchers
1976Miss Piggy is introduced on The Muppets
1983The Sheep-Pig featuring Babe by Dick King-Smith is published
2005Monsanto attempts to patent breeding methods and the resulting breeds from those methods and their DNA
2016Hurricane Matthew flooded factory farms spreading pig feces from at least 14 storage lagoons across the Southeast United States Brought factory farming into the headlines
2019130 million pigs slaughtered for the pig industry Millions of female pigs reported being confined during pregnancy

As you can see, even though pigs and boars are similar species, domesticated pigs tend to make more headlines than boars. One of the biggest concerns that arise when discussing domesticated pigs is the welfare of the pigs. (Source: Farm Sanctuary)

In Conclusion 

Pigs, hogs, and boars are very different in some respects. They have different scientific names, sizes, habitats, populations, diets, and lifespans. Depending on who you are talking to, pig, hog, and boar may be used interchangeably.

Keep this in mind next time you are talking about pigs.
A pig can describe any swine, wild or domesticated, and most people assume domesticated. Hog refers to a domesticated pig of a certain size and age but can still refer to a wild pig. Finally, boar is most commonly used when talking about wild pigs but can refer to a pig on a farm if uncastrated.

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