Lesser Beasts | Mark Essig

Summary of: Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig
By: Mark Essig


Dive into the fascinating history of pigs and their relationship with humans in this summary of Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig by Mark Essig. From playing a crucial role in human settlements and civilizations, symbolizing wealth and prosperity in ancient Rome, to traveling with Christopher Columbus and helping build the New World, pigs have been both a remarkable ally and a reviled creature to humanity. This summary will provide you with an engaging look into the pig’s multifaceted history and its controversial modern-day practices.

Pigs and Humans: More Alike Than You Think

Pigs and humans share remarkable similarities in their digestive systems and have a long history of coexistence, as they have been together since 10,000 BC. Domesticated pigs were not only a source of food but also helped maintain the cleanliness of early human settlements by consuming leftover food and garbage. Moreover, pigs and humans share a common trait of valuing and avoiding each other for the same reason.

Pigs and Humans: A Surprising Connection

At first glance, pigs and humans may seem like very different creatures, but upon closer inspection, there are remarkable similarities between them. For example, both pigs and humans are omnivores. They share a similar digestive system, with a stomach that breaks down proteins, a small intestine that absorbs sugar, and a colon that absorbs water. However, this is not the only thing they have in common.

As it turns out, pigs have a long history of coexisting with humans. When humans started settling down around 10,000 BC, they brought domesticated pigs along with them. Researchers have found remains of both human and pig bones at several ancient villages worldwide. For example, at the Hallan Cemi site in Turkey, all of the bones came from pigs that were a year or less, suggesting that they were slaughtered for food.

Interestingly, though, early domesticated pigs were not just food sources. They also helped to keep the villages clean by eating garbage and leftovers. This prevented the garbage levels from reaching a critical mass, and settlements could become more permanent.

Despite their shared history, pigs and humans have a complicated relationship. They are both valued and avoided for the same reason: their ability to consume garbage. While pigs were useful for early humans, they were also seen as unclean creatures because of their diet. Even today, many people avoid eating pork for religious or cultural reasons.

In conclusion, pigs and humans have more in common than meets the eye. Their similar digestive systems and long history of coexistence show that these two creatures have been connected for a very long time.

The Complicated History of the Pig

Domesticated pigs were never celebrated and faced further rejection as Middle Eastern societies developed. Despite the rich people’s scorn, pigs didn’t disappear but scavenged, making their meat cheap for the poor. However, their reputation continued to suffer due to their all-inclusive diet while cows were respected for eating grass. The Jewish and Islamic religion incorporated a formal ban on pork in their holy books, leading to millions of people who don’t eat pork today. Despite this early bad reputation, the pig saw a revival among the Romans and Greeks.

Pork: A Meat that Conquered Empires

Discover how pork became a symbol of power for ancient empires like the Greeks and Romans, and how it played a crucial role in maintaining their economies and societies. From Antiochus IV’s demand for the Jews to eat pork to Emperor Aurelian’s decision to give out free pork along with bread, this summary illustrates the cultural significance of pork in shaping history. Additionally, find out how the Romans built an extensive agricultural trade system to sustain their growing appetite for pork and other imported foods. Without pigs, we may never have seen the rise of some of the greatest cultures in history.

Pigs: The Unsung Heroes of Colonial America

Christopher Columbus is famously known for discovering America, but his success would not have been possible without the pigs that he brought with him. While other animals struggled to adjust to the new environment, pigs thrived and multiplied quickly. Their abundance provided explorers and early colonists with a steady food supply. The Spanish would often leave a breeding pair behind on desolate offshore islands to ensure a continuous supply of pigs. The forest pigs brought over from the Caribbean proved to be a great fit in colonial America as well, as they could thrive on their own without needing much assistance from settlers. Even as colonies turned into cities, pigs remained helpful by providing food to large populations. In short, pigs played a crucial role in the early success of the Spanish and English in discovering and colonizing America.

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