Skip to main content

A Pure Southern Tradition: Hog- Killing

Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.

Bearded hogs.

Bearded hogs.

When Did Hog Killing Start

well, the nearest I can tell is during the early days of the Plantations that reigned in the south, but hog-killing was not completely indigenous to the rich Plantation-owners. No. Not hardly. Most of the hog-killings were always located at the homes of neighborhood farmers and any friends who wanted to participate in this yearly-event.

If you have noticed this or not, I am doing my best to spare you the bloody, gory scene about killing a few hogs in order for the farmer, his family and friends to have a good supply of fresh meat that went great in the cold winter months. Note: at the age of seven, I had the scary moments of my very-first hog killing and to my knowledge, did not attend another one.

Hog-killing, honestly speaking, was bloody, scary, and a sense of sadness could be seen on the faces of the few sensitive faces that were in the crowd who showed-up to help kill and dress the hogs and then the farmer had the awesome task of sharing the bacon, pork chops, ribs, with those who helped with the annual happening. I can tell you from listening to my dad tell me about what it was like to help kill and dress hogs when he was a boy, that there was not one person who dared to complain about having to help kill hogs—due to the fact that the southern economy was not the best in the world, so there was no complaints about the work or being paid with fresh meat.

To Be Completely-Honest

with you, (no exaggeration), my dad as well as most farmers who threw hog-killings always “did the deed” in the coldest winter weather that God would send them. And when I say cold, let me tell you that the weather was so cold that “only the tough survived.” Not just the burly men and boys, but their wives and daughters. To make the cold weather even worse was the northern winds that blew against us and made us feel like freshly-sharpened butcher’s knives. I caught myself standing in awe of my dad and mom with their friends “dress” the hog, and yes, these people never complained whatsoever.

What do I mean by the term, “dressing the hog?” Okay. I will delicately-explain. After the hog(s) were killed, they were laid on the ground and an iron wash pot had already been filled to the brim with cold water, but the water was now hot enough for the hog-killers to do an operation called, “dip and scrape” the hogs before the sun, if any, would shine and the meat would be ruined.

To prove to you how our local economy was not the best, I have already told you about the people at hog-killing’s using sharply-honed butcher knives, well, my dad and mother, used not only butcher knives, but pieces of glass with sharp edges and I noticed how the people scraping the hair off of the hog were so dedicated that the sharp winter winds did not phase them whatsoever. Me? I wasn’t so brave. I spent a lot of time near the black, iron wash pot where the boiling water was held.

Now for the gory side of hog-killing. Note: if you have a weak stomach, you may turn away and read another hub about planting flowers. After the hog(s) are terminated, they are hung-up by their hind legs so their entrails are removed and the hog-killing pro’s do this to help cut the tasty cuts of meat that goes so well with people who love pork.

Then, in my dad’s case, he took his share of our two hogs and after he shared all of his hog meat with the rest of our neighbors (for helping) and he took the bacon and hung it up in our originally-built smoke house and he built these small fires and laid Oak chips on the fires to start that great-smelling smoke to fuse to the fresh meat.

In some cases, some of the meat was taken to my mother’s Salt Box where the extra meat that would not fit into the smoke house and sprinkled with pure brine or salt. Now do not faint. I can tell you that in my younger years of 1960 through 1963, where my dad made our living by share-cropping, salt was NOT the salt that hurt people (blood pressure) in the modern years.

My mom, always the caring homemaker, did take the hog’s inner parts and fried them into something called chitlins, or spelled correctly chitlings. People loved them. When family and neighbors would drop in to spend a cold winter evening by playing cards, chess, or just sit by the fireplace and eat parched peanuts and those delicious chitlins’.

Red pigs.

Red pigs.

Hogs Did Hogs Secure a Notable Place in History

because I happen to find a short list of well-known hog-related phrases. You might remember these.

  • as fat as a pig. - very fat. ...
  • buy a pig in a poke. - to buy something without seeing it or knowing anything about it. ...
  • cast pearls before swine. - to waste something on someone who will not be thankful or care about it. ...
  • eat high on/off the hog. ...
  • go hog-wild. ...
  • go whole hog. ...
  • in a pig`s eye. ...
  • live high on/off the hog.
  • happy as a pig/hog in a new mud hole . . .
  • happy as a hog laying in the sunshine . . .
  • “pigging-out,”-- to overeat your favorite food and love it . . .
  • being pig-headed…
  • Ground Hog Day. . .
  • Hog-tied ...
  • bleeding like a stuck pig . .
  • cut like a hog . . .
  • eat like a pig . . .
  • even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while . . .

Of course there are many, many more words and phrases about hogs and pigs. You see? I did show these fine animals my undying respect for just how much that they have given to us by way of our dining room table. Should I mention the tasty bacon, sausage, and ham? Naaaah. I think that this hub will suffice.

January 24, 2020_________________________________________________

Pigs bred to find truffles.

Pigs bred to find truffles.

© 2020 Kenneth Avery

Scroll to Continue


Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 05, 2020:

@Bushra . . .you are right, sir. And the culture about eating pork may be (in some circles) be frowned-upon, but what do people do IF there is NO food whatsoever? I mean. This may be extreme, but altogether, a realistic scenario and what would we do if we had ONE choice and that a pig or two? Would be starve to death or eat one of the pigs? Then I think that Our Creator, has said in His laws that "life is more precious than man-made laws."

I go by that and try not to worry about what mankind does.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 04, 2020:

@Kenneth: i understand: in any culture or society, any one thing is usually bound up with a lot of other things.

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 04, 2020:


Marie and Raymond:

I was just answering a comment from Bushra, and got worried that I had not answered your comments, so if I overlooked you, if was not intentional.

Love you all.

Kenneth Avery (author) from Hamilton, Alabama on February 04, 2020:

Bushra . . .I agree with you about the intelligence of pigs. And while I agree that (we) abstain eating them, I also have to see the industrial side of this rather-painful event.

Fact is: in our country, the USA, if the bacon and sausage corporations and all involved were to go out of business, the nation's economy and the unemployed rate would go through the roof to say nothing about the G&P percentage.

But know that I am a sympathizer, I do not eat pig as much as you think.

Thanks for coming by.

Anya Ali from Rabwah, Pakistan on February 01, 2020:

Pigs are as intelligent as dogs, so I wish people wouldn't eat either. Thank you for a well-written article - you certainly brought the whole scene to life.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on January 25, 2020:

I'm not sure howl "purely" Southern this is, Ken. I watched my dad butcher more than one pig in my time and helped make sausage by washing out the pig's intestine.

As the little neighbor boy observed with a pointing finger, "Piggy sweeping." My dad responded, "Piggy sleeping, all right."

Raymond Philippe from The Netherlands on January 25, 2020:

i enjoyed your recollection of this old southern transition. To be honest i never associated the south of the US with cold winters. I’m learning new stuff all the time!

Related Articles