HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Pigs

Pigs

          There’s a small pork industry here.  A handful of farmers raise pigs, and a few butchers sell or specialize in the whole animal, for which there is always local demand.  Kalua pig, baked by hot rocks in an underground oven (imu) is the centerpiece of every luau.  (“Ka lua,” by the way, simply means “the hole,” and so is also local slang for toilet.)

          Not much bacon is made here, but most supermarkets carry local brands of  “Portugese” sausage, for which, instead of mincing the meat fine, as in “Italian” sausage, the meat is very coarsely chopped.  And some people make sausages at home, which they sell from their trucks along the highway.

Pigs          But there are more feral pigs here than domestic stock.  If you drive uphill on the gravel roads, past where most people live, into the former sugarcane fields, mauka pasturelands and rainforests, you may well see them on the road.  They are the hairy (mostly black-haired) descendents of small Polynesian pigs that sailed here with the first Hawaiians, and which later mated with the European porkers that the haoles brought.

          Pigs are large, omnivorous mammals, with no natural predators in Hawaii.  Man is their only enemy, and in one-on-one combat they would have the advantage.  They can weigh at least as much – even twice as much – as a man weighs.  And they can charge at you with long, sharp tusks.

          It’s always “open season” on pigs here; and in the dense forests, local guys hunt them with dogs.  (Skip this if you’re squeamish: dogs corner a pig, and hold it by the ears until the hunter arrives with his gun.)  So, if you don’t have a dog with you when see pigs on the road, they usually won’t be spooked.  They know you’re there (hearing and smell are their strong senses, though their eyesight is poor), but they will wait a moment or two before they amble or skip – they don’t sprint – into the brush.

          Perhaps, in that moment of hesitation, they’re reasoning that you are not a threat.  Pigs, after all, are highly evolved creatures; maybe they’ve learned a few facts about us and our behavior, over the years, which they employ to ensure their survival.  It might go something like this: “If a human appears, but you don’t hear a big bang, or if no pig suddenly drops dead for no reason, just walk away.”

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