New pig breed in Copenhagen Zoo

24-08-2006 | |

Zoo scientists were surprised to find out that two pigs at Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark produced some “impossible” offspring: a new hybrid was created after the mating between a babirusa and a domestic pig.

After the zoo’s lone babirusa, originally an Indonesian animal (see photo), showed signs of loneliness, personnel decided to give it company, putting two domestic pigs into the babirusa’s area. The zoo employees were baffled when a chance mating bore fruit – five small hybrid offspring which zoo experts say never should have been possible.

“That the mating produced piglets is the equivalent of a cow and a goat producing offspring,” said zoologist Bengt Holst, assistant director of Copenhagen Zoo. “While the domestic pig and the babirusa come from the same ancestor, it’s so far back that the two species today are common only at the so-called under-family level, which is the same grouping as we have with the chimpanzee.”

The new breed has not yet been classified, and zoo staff is guarded in their long-term prognosis for the species.

“Hybrids usually don’t live long as pure species and I doubt that the piglets themselves can produce offspring,” Holst said.

Early signs for the piglets are good, however, and blood and tissue samples have been taken from the offspring to determine their health and, not least, their DNA make-up. The physical traits of the offspring most resemble the babirusa, both in their teeth and skin colour.

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