Domestic Pigs are Wilder than We Thought, Study Says

Through genetic analysis, it has been discovered that in Europe, domestic pigs frequently interbred with wild boars.

by Dani Yokhna

Domestic Pigs are Wilder than We Thought, Study Says (


Researchers discovered that European wild boars mated several times with pigs shortly after humans initially domesticated them around 9,000 years ago. According to The Verge, the popular assumption was that “pigs were domesticated when humans isolated a certain population away from other wild animals and selectively bred them to promote certain behavioral and physical traits.”

The study, however, revealed that European domestic pigs are comprised of multiple types of wild hogs. The Verge reports that some of those types may now even be extinct.

For the study, which was published in Nature Genetics, researchers came up with 100 genome variations that they tested against traditional models. They discovered that the variations that fit the traditional models were those that included domesticated pigs breeding with wild boars, The Verge reports.

Martien Groenen, a geneticist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a co-author of the study, told The Verge, “[W]hat our results really show is that over the years, there has been a lot of exchange with wild populations present at many occasions… much more exchange with wild populations than we thought there would be.”

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These types of findings do, of course, lead to additional questions, such as why the pigs and boars mated, if the breeding was intentional by humans and more. The task at hand now is to try to answer some of those questions. Groenen told The Verge that he and his research team hope to collect fossils to find out more.


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