Monday, May 17, 2010

Sheep Pig? Woolly Pig?

A recent story in the NY Daily News used the term "sheep pig" and "ancient breed":
Mangalitsa pigs, or sheep pigs, are an ancient, curly-coated breed of hog whose meat is highly prized.
I've never heard anyone call Mangalitsa pigs "sheep pigs". I ought to have heard this by now.

And how ancient is 1830, the approximate year of the Mangalitsa's creation, anyway?

The sewing machine was
invented in 1830. I don't know anyone who calls that ancient. They typewriter was invented in 1829 - even earlier - and yet that's not an "ancient" invention.

Nevertheless, if you use Google to search for "known as" and "sheep pig", you'll find a bunch of fluffy articles that say that Mangalitsa pigs are known as "sheep pigs".

Just because an article says something is "commonly known", "also known" or "known" as something else doesn't make it so. A reasonable person would ask, how would a journalist find out what something is "commonly known as"? Would they do a poll, and call a few thousand households? How about a google search?

A number of those articles say the pigs "died out" because they don't do well in confined spaces.

The authors of that stuff aren't doing any fact-checking.

Look at this gallery of Mangalitsa pigs in Hungary and you'll see that Mangalitsa pigs, like most pigs, do very well in enclosed spaces. They also like to be cheek by jowl with other pigs. Those guys in the barn pictured could go out through the door if they wanted to; obviously they'd rather stay inside, crammed up against all the other filthy, smelly pigs.

For the record, pigs do best when given a minimum of 9 square feet of space. If you look at the photo of the pigs in the barn, that's about what they are taking up.

Are Mangalitsa pigs really known as "sheep pigs"? I don't think so.

Why does this bother me so much? While this week it is "sheep pig", a while ago, do to similarly sloppy people, the Mangalitsa breed was supposedly also commonly known as the "woolly pig" - which it wasn't, and which is obviously a legal issue that impacts me. If journalists start saying that Mangalitsa pigs are "also commonly known as Heath Putnam pigs," I'll be even more irritated.

Of course, there's an upside to this; Heath Putnam Farms, better known as Wooly Pigs, is going to sell a lot of pork.

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