Can Pigs Swim?
By Richard Lutwyche
May 14, 2006 - 4:24:00 PM

This may sound a strange question but for centuries it was truly believed that pigs couldn’t swim without cutting their own throats with their trotters. Read the words of one of our famous writers and poets from times past:

“Down the river did glide, with wind and with tide,
 A pig with vast celerity;
 And the Devil looked wise as he saw how the while
 It cut its own throat. “There!” quoth he, with a smile,
 “Goes England’s commercial prosperity."”

                                Samuel Taylor Coleridge
                                [The Devil’s Thoughts]

Thus it was that when pigs were witnessed doing what comes quite naturally to them when immersed in water, it tended to be seen as newsworthy. Take this newspaper report from 1915 during the sea battle between the Royal and German navies:

'During the Falklands Isles battle, the Germans escaped to the shore after causing an explosion which sank the Dresden. Tirpitz was left to his fate, but on finding himself in the water he struck out boldly, and an hour later was seen swimming near the Glasgow. Two sailors dived into the sea and brought him aboard. The ship’s company of the Glasgow awarded Tirpitz the Iron Cross for sticking to his ship after his shipmates had left, and he became a great pet on board.’

There is a great deal more recorded about Tirpitz who was taken back to Portsmouth and placed in quarantine until he was allowed to be adopted by the Petty Officer who had first seen him. He was later auctioned at least twice in aid of the Red Cross but his genes were never passed on to British swine.

Marjorie With a Swimming Tamworth

As long ago as April 16, 1789, the following appeared in The Times:

“FOUND, the 8th instant, two pigs, swimming in The Thames, near Westminster Bridge. Now safely lodged, awaiting a suitable reward, at the Swan, by Lambeth Church.”

Another example appeared in more recent times in the letters page of The Field:

“In ‘Answers to Correspondents’ (6 February) a reader asks whether pigs can swim. I also was under the impression that pigs cut their throats when swimming.

In February 1947 I was in a ship which had called at Aden, we had on board some ‘in-pig’ pigs for what was then Northern Rhodesia. About two hours before the ship was due to sail, one managed to get overboard and swam completely round the ship for about an hour before a boat could be lowered to pick it up. There was no sign of any kind that its throat had been cut. In fact, it was quite lively when being returned to its pen.

                                       M.A.T. Devonshire.”

The following appeared in The Times in 1953:

“When Napoleon was about to cross a river on his fatal expedition to Russia, his horse is said to have stumbled and he to have exclaimed that it was a bad sign and that a Roman would have turned back. Animals, too often to their cost, have always been cast in leading roles in plays of superstition and, in the intervals, they are made the heroes of tall stories. One such, if an observant countryman is right, has as plot the alleged inability of a pig to swim. Its sharp trotter swings - so the story goes - in circular motion in the water and cuts its throat. This, the countryman cheerfully claims, did not happen to a sow who, awaiting her litter and finding her sty flooded, patiently swam round it unharmed until the rescue party arrived. All pig-lovers will hope that this was not an exception to the rule.”

In the same year, a reader sent the following letter to the editor which was published:

“Many years ago a young porker fell into a disused and bramble-covered well. The water level was some 10 ft. down; the water deep. It took us a good half-hour to borrow a ladder and come back with it. He was still swimming round and round.

Then we found that the well mouth was too narrow for a man to go down the ladder. The pig seemed doomed.  Suddenly, my mate said: “Look!” Pig had his forelegs over one rung: his snout under the rung above. We pulled that ladder up slowly and carefully. Pig held on until he reached the top and was lifted off. Then he shook himself, grunted, and trotted off to the waiting herd - unscratched as to the throat and magnificently unperturbed by his adventure.

                                 Mr WN Ewer, Great Missenden.”

Swimming Tamworth Pig

Scotland was subject to extensive flooding in 1829 and several long distance swimming pigs were recorded saving themselves. One, only six months old, was seen to swim for a distance of four miles before finding dry land. Another group comprising three similarly aged pigs and a younger litter swam at least five miles before landing at Backhill near Aberdeen.

Another example of a swimming pig was witnessed in 1946 during the testing of the Atom-bomb on the Bikini atoll. A total of 3,352 animals were placed around the test site to guage the effects on creatures at various proximities to the detonation. Pig 311 was seen swimming calmly in the sea after the explosion and was duly rounded up and sent to Washington's Zoological Park where she led a normal existence with no outward signs of radiation sickness except she proved to be infertile.

Craig's Comments:

The website of the Tamworth Breeders Club is now located at www.tamworthbreedersclub.co.uk

Our own website is at www.tamworthpig.com   We also own the www.aquarena-springs.com   website, and are tyring to thing of a suitable use for it.  Perhaps we should start a commercial swimming-with-pigs adventure here in the British Midlands?

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