Pigs are known for a wide-ranging diet and enthusiasm for food that borders on the gluttonous. Pigs will happily eat all sorts of things, from fruits and vegetables to meat and even other, live animals.
Hard to imagine our friendly, happy farm pigs being ferocious meat eaters, but they sure can be. I guess the next logical question is will pigs eat bones right along with the meat?
Yes, pigs can and will eat bones. Pigs have strong jaws and teeth that are designed for crushing and grinding up food, including tough items like bones.
Their digestive system is highly efficient and can break down and digest just about anything they eat.
Now, just because pigs can eat bones does not mean that yours should, or that they can eat bones without consequences. There is a lot to know about this topic, and it is sometimes unsettling.
If you have pigs and have always wondered about this subject keep reading to learn everything that you need to know.
Can Pigs Really Eat Bones?
Yes, pigs can and will eat bones. Pigs will usually eat the meat off of the bone first and then go back for the bone itself.
They will use their strong jaws to crush or crack the bone in an effort to access the marrow inside, but larger hogs can grind it up with their back teeth.
Do Wild Pigs Eat Bones?
Yes. Wild pigs are particularly opportunistic and adaptable but thorough feeders. They will eat just about anything, including bones.
It is common to see wild pigs completely reduce a found carcass to nothing; not even bones remain.
Will a Domesticated Pig Eat Bones?
Domesticated pigs are not usually fed bones as part of their normal menu, but they can (and will) eat them if given the chance.
Why Would a Farm Raised Pig Ever Eat Bones?
A farm-raised domestic pig might eat bones for a number of reasons. The most obvious and likely being that they are fed bones by their keepers.
This is done on some farms, particularly smaller ones in an effort to minimize waste or reduce costs.
On other farms, pigs might be given bones merely to keep them occupied or amused with something to gnaw on. This is not a good practice and can lead to problems, as you will see later in this article.
Another reason that farm-raised pigs might eat bones is if they find a carcass or some other remains and dig into them.
If you raise pigs on pasture, then it is also likely that they will dig up bones while rooting around looking for food.
Do Pigs Eat Bones Cooked?
Pigs will eat cooked bones, but you should not feed them to pigs; it is not good for them.
Cooking does not make bones safer for pigs to eat and can actually make them more dangerous.
Cooked bones are more likely to splinter when chewed on and these shards can cause serious problems if they are swallowed or impale a pig’s mouth or throat. If you must dispose of cooked bones, don’t just toss them to your pigs.
Do Pigs Eat Raw Bones?
Yes, and they will happily. If you decide to serve bones to your pigs be sure to give them raw bones, not cooked ones.
Raw bones will not splinter and instead generally crumble or crack open. This way they don’t usually cause the same problems that cooked bones can.
Aren’t Bones Hard on Pigs’ Teeth?
No, or at least not nearly as hard as you might think. Pigs have very strong jaws and teeth that are designed to deal with tough food items like bones.
Their back teeth are especially strong, deeply rooted, and well adapted to grinding up food, including bones.
Pigs that consume a diet of mostly soft food will not typically wear down their teeth as quickly as those that eat tougher fare, but even then most will not wear out their teeth in their lifetime.
Should Domestic Pigs Eat Bones as Part of their Diet?
It’s a common enough question and one that often leads to some very spirited debate. There are those who feel very strongly that pigs should not be given bones, while others believe that they are an essential part of a healthy diet for these animals.
Pigs can most definitely eat bones and even have them periodically as part of their diet.
They are, after all, omnivores which mean that they are designed to digest both plant and animal material.
In the wild, pigs will often eat the carcasses of other animals, including the bones. This is one of the reasons why they have been seen as scavengers by humans for centuries.
But should you feed your pigs bones? You can, but you probably shouldn’t. More on that in a moment.
How Often Can Pigs Eat Bones?
While pigs can eat bones occasionally without ill effects, it is not something that should be done on a regular basis. A diet of mostly or only bones can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other problems.
This is because bones are not a very good source of food for pigs. They are mostly composed of calcium, which is great for humans and other animals, including pigs, but too much calcium can actually lead to health problems quickly in these animals.
In addition, bones can be a choking or impaction hazard for pigs. As mentioned, cooked bones can also splinter and cause serious health problems.
For all of these reasons, it is best to feed your pigs a diet that consists mostly of other food items and only occasionally bones as a supplement, if you feed them at all.
Pigs that consume a diet high in bone content may suffer from, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gastric ulcers and stones in the urinary tract (all that calcium, as mentioned).
These health problems can become serious and even life-threatening if not treated promptly, so it is important to be aware of them.
Particularly in the case of urinary stones, they may require surgical intervention if a pig is unable to urinate and it will be in agony the whole time prior to that.
If you do decide to feed your pigs bones, do so only in strict moderation.
What are Some Other Risks Associated with Eating Bones?
Some of the most serious and certainly the most harrowing side effects of a pig eating bones are that they might develop a real taste for them, and for the marrow they contain.
The feeding of meat and bones to pigs has long been speculated to promote aggression and even make them more likely to attack humans.
While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, it remains a popular belief that is hard to shake.
Domestic pigs, particularly large hogs, are dangerous animals and some truly gruesome incidents have regularly occurred over the years.
Whether it is an errant bite at a calf or finger or the outright devouring of a whole human corpse from accident or malice, it’s hard to imagine a worse thing.
One line of reasoning suggests that anything, no matter how slight, that could promote this sort of behavior in domestic pigs should be avoided.
If your pigs were to develop a taste for human flesh it would be disastrous, or at best make them far harder to handle.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.