Pigs and Horses

Sharon Vaipae lmedu at JPS.NET
Wed Jan 26 06:12:19 UTC 2000

>OED says "foal" is "properly one of the male sex, a colt; but is also used
>where the sex is not specified, a colt or a filly". To me, any very young,
>newly born in fact, horse is a foal. I leave it to someone with more
>horse-sense to determine exactly when a foal becomes either a colt or a
>filly because they're mostly all horses to me.

Foal is also used as a verb meaning to give birth, as in "The black mare
foaled last night."
By the age of one, either gender is no longer a foal, and is referred to as
a "yearling."
At state and county fairs, show animal competition include classifications of
"Yearling Filly," and "Yearling Colt." Castrated males are "geldings," and
is used as a verb to refer to the process.

Back to the pigs/hogs...in middle Iowa, farmers most frequently referred to
collection of swine as "the pigs," as in "time to feed the pigs,"and "hog"
was heard
on the radio Farm-to-Market News at noon when the prices were given,
as the "Hog Futures,"  for example. Most would self-identify themselves as "hog
farmers, " however. Perhaps there is a touch of formality vs
informality involved. I lived on the farm for only 18 years, but never
heard any
of our neighbors refer to baby pigs as "piglets," although I am sure they
knew the term.
Again, the gender of  pigs was referred to in animal competitions as
"Gilts," "Barrows,"
and "Boars." The sows were generally present at competitions only if they were
being shown with litters. Another classification was called "Pen of Three,"
which could
include any combination of gilts or barrows, and judged based upon their
(long straight backs, lean sides, smooth gait),  general health appearance,
and apparent lean-to-fat ratio as potential for the best market price. All,
except the
boars and sows with litters, were shown at as close to market weight as

Farmers are in the business of selling their animals as soon as the reach a
a good market weight,  all male animals, except an exceptional one showing
promise for
breeding purposes, were usually castrated young enough that they could be
fed as
market pigs, as well as to eliminate the possibility of unwanted
sister/brother pregnancy
of gilts being fed for market.

There, that's about all you probably care to read about "pigs."  Every kid
should grow
up on a farm, and participate in 4-H or FFA.

Sharon Vaipae
.....not a linguist, just an English teacher fascinated with words and usage.

                The truth shall make you odd.
                                      -Flannery O'Conner

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