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Pigs and Exercise


In the modern era, we are all aware of the value of exercise in promoting health, and that a sedentary lifestyle is not good for the body. Over ninety years ago, J. H. Shepard of the Agricultural College in Fargo believed that exercise was the best medicine in dealing with youth. He stated that it’s important that “all of the little chaps have a great abundance of wholesome exercise.” However the youth that he referred to were not children, although he did believe that playing marbles and baseball were important to get children into the fresh air. The youth that Mr. Shepard was referring were pigs, and the exercise being touted was a way to reduce the toll created by thumps, a lung disorder similar to pneumonia or nutritional anemia. But, he cautioned, it is best that it be introduced to the piglets in a manner that that the little pigs think they are playing instead of being made to exercise.

Among the play things that were recommended were newspapers. It didn’t make any difference if they were weekly, daily or monthly. They could be in English or German or any other language as long as they were clean and dry. He believed that newspapers were clean things that could provide hours of entertainment for a pig. If the newspapers were not allowed to become dampened, the pigs would run and play with the papers, tearing them into tiny shreds until there is scarcely a scrap left. They should not be thrown on damp straw or dirty bedding causing the paper to become soggy. If newspapers could not be procured, he recommended torn strips of burlap gunny sacks, as those too, could keep the pigs busy and give them the exercise they need.

Of course once the “little piggies” are no longer little, they need to go to market. On this date in 1917, with the increasing popularity of the automobile, the Bismarck Tribune found it noteworthy that the old modes of travel no longer sufficed for King Pig. A. H. Kilpstein of Menoken, a successful farmer, brought his three lusty porkers to market in an automobile trailer with pneumatic tires.

So perhaps it would be desirable to modernize the old nursery rhyme to reflect the changing times, “This little piggy went to market … well-exercised, on pneumatic tires.” Although that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Dakota Datebook by Jim Davis


“Pigs Need Play Says Shepard,” The Drake Register, May 8, 1924

“King Pig Nows Goes to Market in an Auto,” Grand Forks Herald, May 19, 1917.