Thursday, January 9, 2014

Takong - the Nest-Building Sow

Dr. Abe V. Rotor

Crossbred offspring shows traces of its native parent - the domesticated wild pig

When I was a farmhand I watched Takong – mother pig, build a nest. She gathered dry banana stalks, rice straw, leaves, and if there were clothes or blanket on a sagging clothesline, they would likely end up as nesting materials.

Takong was a native pig and carried much of the features of baboy damo or wild pig. Her fangs were long, protruding and curved outward, resembling amulets. Her snout was long, her skin dark gray and loose, her hair wiry. She was seldom without caked mud over her body because she loved to wallow. She strayed on the farm, subsisting on rice bran, fruits and vegetables, or whatever leftovers there were after threshing or milling.

“Our sow is ready to give birth,” my dad announced. Takong had been in her nest and if it were not for her gray color, heaving and grunting, you would dismiss her nest as a mere pile of rubbish. That night I heard grunting and squeaking. Our sow was giving birth. The piglets came out at intervals.

As the first rays of the sun peep through the den, I cautiously searched how many piglets our sow had delivered. There were ten piglets in all! But none was wholly black like the mother. They had shades of white and gray, their snouts were shorter and upturned. Their father was of a foreign breed, stocky and bigger than Takong with snub nose and flappy ears. Takong laid on one side and obediently nursed her litter, each taking possession of a teat. "Just don't get too close." my father warned.

Father knows that even if animals have been domesticated, they still carry the evolutionary gene designed to protect their young against any enemy they perceive - which may include their own masters. Animals are most dangerous at nesting time and after giving birth until the young are ready to be weaned. Another warning my dad emphasized is that never touch the young, more so to take them away from the nest or litter.

We can't resist picking up newly born animals, like kittens and puppies, because they are lovable. Their mother can easily sense our intrusion. She may abandon the poor cute thing, or even kill or eat it. Or she takes the whole litter away to a safe place.

In the wild, animals can sense danger that may threaten the whole litter, if not the whole herd. According to sociobiology as proposed by Dr EO Wilson, altruism and sacrifice are actually part of behavioral instinct which is important to the survival of the species, to the extent of sacrificing its individual members. Murder and cannibalism among animals may be explained with this theory. So with sudden attacks on people by pets, by animals in zoo and circus.

Takong's offspring soon reached weaning time. Dad sold them as growers, leaving one to become our next sow. It bore less features of the mother than the father. " It got more blood from her father," said Anding, our caretaker. I named our future sow Turik, meaning multiple spots. We built a pen for Turik to protect her from the sun and rain, and from other animals. Feeding and watering troughs were made for easier work. Twice the local veterinarian came to give Turik immunization.

I missed Takong, I never saw a sow build a nest again.~

xxx

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