Recently, my neighbour upset me. I have discovered that he plans to somehow improve his trebuchets to throw nasty things across the river. I told him that my pig-mounted cavalry will attack him.

I need to confess you something...

I don't have any pig-mounted cavalry... yet!

Is it possible to have a pig-mounted cavalry? If adults are too heavy, I can send children and dwarves to battle. I want a minimum of things (otherwise I would have sofa mounted cavalry, much more comfortable): walking on wanted direction, don't flee when the enemy is there, and even charging them if possible. Is it possible?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – L.Dutch Aug 15 at 10:14
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    You may want to call it something other than a "cavalry". "Cavalry" originally meant "a bunch of (horse-mounted) knights", "cavallo" being Italian for "horse" and "cavaliere" being Italian for "knight". Since Italian for pig is "maiale", maybe you could call it a "maialry", and the riders "maialiers". That oughta strike fear into the enemy's hearts. But not "piggery". You call it a "piggery", and you will win by default, because your enemies will die laughing. Oh, the humanity. – Ray Depew Aug 15 at 19:01
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    Hint, hint: do not arm your cavalry with spoons ;-) – Mawg Aug 16 at 14:50
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    I know this doesn't have a reality tag, but this cavalry would definitely work a bit differently. Medieval cavalry, compared to infantry, was all about being faster, being bigger and the rider being able to hack down on the enemy. No hacking down for you. If the rider's weight doesn't prevent it, you might have the speed advantage. You do have additional weight to put into a charge, but after the charge, riders might put their feet on the ground, let the pig go wild and fight on foot - being pig mounted has a no height advantage, but will be less sturdy footing than your own two feet. – R. Schmitz Aug 16 at 16:04
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    Haven't you considered breeding big battle-pigs? – AJFaraday Aug 17 at 12:10

11 Answers 11

up vote 63 down vote accepted

HOGZILLA!

HOGZILLA

https://nypost.com/video/giant-hogzilla-invades-hong-kong/

Most megahog photos feature dead hogs and hunters. I like this image because the big pig is alive, using its height for some good dumpster rummaging. His ladies wait nearby to see what he will retrieve. I am interested to see that the dumpsters are lashed together; probably his first trick was to tip the whole thing over.

So too your pig cavalry: you will use seriously large hogs, 12 feet long and a half ton. Lesser hogs (sans rider) come along as well; your enemies better not be too distracted by the big boy because there are a lot more of these groin level ones in the pack.

It will be like the scene from Princess Mononoke. Don't forget the hog war paint.

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    You might also consider that this is a wild boar. Those naked, pink animals you usually consider "pigs" are domesticated pigs bred for meat. It would be interesting to see what you could do if you breed wild boars for combat over a few generations. – Philipp Aug 14 at 14:50
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    met a hunter who kills razorbacks, one took a 308 bullet to the head but still charged him and gorged his neck almost killed him luckily he had a knife on hand and stabbed the heart, lets just say he now carries bigger guns... and bigger knifes – Creed Arcon Aug 14 at 15:13
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    A boar spear has a cross piece on it. The reason for the crosspiece is to stop the boar running straight on up the spear and killing the holder. – Separatrix Aug 14 at 15:22
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    @CreedArcon A bigger gun doesn't give you any better opportunity. However, a bigger knife is probably a good advice. – Otto Abnormalverbraucher Aug 14 at 16:06
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    Backing @CreedArcon up here. Historical records show wild boar hunts were considered heroic acts, on a level with taking down lions or bears or monsters. They are dangerous all out of proportion to their size due to their aggression and their low tank-like build, and their mass is still way more than a human's. They've been known to take down tigers preying on them (who nevertheless persist at it as their favorite prey because ... mmmm...bacon). – T.E.D. Aug 15 at 10:49

Reference has already been made to the bear cavalry we encountered a couple of years ago. In this case, it's not so unreasonable to ride pigs, though the majority of people don't have a particularly good time of it with the pigs demonstrating their remarkable turn of speed.

Advantages:

  1. Easy to feed. Pigs are omnivores, they'd be quite happy to scavenge on the battlefield after the event.
  2. They'll feed the troops. Men are usually loathe to eat their horses in times of need, you may find them far more willing to eat their pigs.
  3. Pigs are really quite dangerous in their own right.

Disadvantages:

  1. No real mass advantage. One of the great strengths of horse cavalry is the added mass of the horse driving behind the lance on a charge.
  2. A tendency to eat the dead and wounded if not adequately controlled.
  3. Pigs are really quite dangerous in their own right and in times of stress it may be hard to control who they direct this against.
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    advantages: the ennemy's army is to busy laughing to fight properly – Kepotx Aug 14 at 13:27
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    Not to be picky, but horse meat is common food in some parts of the world. Not only in times of scarcity. – L.Dutch Aug 14 at 16:07
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    @L.Dutch. Coincidentally, often among groups that use horses as a primary mode of transportation. – Mad Physicist Aug 14 at 17:37
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    "you may find them far more willing to eat their pigs."—I think that's probably wrong. In a culture where people domesticated pigs as mounts but not horses, they might be willing to eat horse meat but not pork, and find it equally strange that people elsewhere would think otherwise. – Ian D. Scott Aug 14 at 17:55
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    Advantage: Horses usually just give birth to 1 where as pigs usually have larger litters. – nurdyguy Aug 14 at 18:37

Absolutely!

Pigs are dangerous animals. My dad had a friend who was a hog farmer, and he never let us kids get near the hogs when we visited. Just Google "pig attack statistics" to see a long list of incidents where pigs killed people. These lists usually include other livestock as well, but pigs are always specifically mentioned.

Pigs will knock you over, then trample you, then decide you are on today's menu:
Pig Bites Man - How often do livestock deliberately kill farmers?

You don't need a massive wild boar like Willk mentions, since a large "domestic" boar, or even sow, can be very large. Wikipedia states that even a domestic pig can get to be 770 lbs. Most pigs sold for slaughter are sold at around 200-220 lbs due to fat content, not because they reached a "final" or adult size. (Market sales are more about Return On Investment, and feeding pigs over a certain size doesn't necessarily increase their size at the same rate as feeding a smaller pig.)

BTW, when you are near a large pig that isn't happy about something, the last thing you think is how pink and cuddly this animal is, who is squealing, thrashing, and generally being violent. Just ask any farmer or veterinarian who has had to vaccinate hogs!

Personal Experience

Not only was my dad's friend a farmer, but my dad was a farmer, too. We raised sheep and we would sometimes put our rams on a leash to get to better grazing. (We didn't have a dog trained for sheep herding, so a leash was it.) (The rams were in individual small pens that were usually overgrazed.)

As a pre-teen, I would sometimes jump on the back of the ram I had and "go for a ride". The ram was smaller than some pigs I've seen at fairs and other farms, and this ram had no problems taking off at a run with me on his back.

Trained correctly, a pig could definitely be an alternate to a horse. And yes, pigs are pretty smart. Just don't fall asleep too near the pen, or you might wake up to being chewed on!

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    I agree that size is really much less of an issue than people realize. However, running speed may be a bit of an issue. Sure a pig can sprint fast but they are not built for running the way horses are. In order to make this viable they need to find a breed (or create their own breed) better suited to being saddled and ridden for a longer period of time. – nurdyguy Aug 14 at 18:44
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    @nurdyguy - Seen this firsthand (got charged by a feral pig while biking offroad). Perhaps he can deliver his pig cavalry to the battle by oxcart, and just mount up to perform charges. I can tell you, being on the receiving end of a single half-hearted charge was more than enough for me. About 1000 of them committed to it would ruin a lot of people's day. – T.E.D. Aug 15 at 11:04
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    @nurdyguy Perhaps we should not think of the pig army as cavalry but as an armor division or mounted infantry. – Timbo Aug 15 at 17:31
  • @Timbo I posted an answer below better outlining my viability concerns. – nurdyguy Aug 15 at 17:37
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    @nurdyguy because the collation of answers changes so much, it is better to link to your answer by copying the “share” link rather than saying “below” – can-ned_food Aug 16 at 2:22

I'm going to disagree with a lot of people here and say that, while not impossible, it would be very very difficult to use pigs.

This isn't about the size of the pig nor its strength. As many have stated, pigs are plenty big enough and strong enough to support a moderately sized human rider. The real issues here are:

  1. Pigs aren't runners the way horses and camels are. Yes, pigs can run and they can run fast, but only for short bursts. A true cavalry involves long rides, gallops, etc. Regular pigs aren't suited for this.
  2. Pigs of sufficient size will be very wide making them difficult to saddle. No, not impossible to saddle, but more difficult. A proper saddling allows the rider to be stable at many different run speeds.
  3. As many have pointed out, pigs can be quite fierce. In many ways, this is a negative. A cavalry horse is not used for fighting, it is used for transport. A horse certainly could buck and rear but that is generally not a good thing as it makes it much harder to ride. A properly trained cavalry horse is trained not to do these things. The rider needs to be able to control the mount not just hold on for dear life.

The ferocity of a pig (or herd of pigs) would lend itself well as an attack force, much like a pack of attack dogs. Your pigs could be used this way rather than as mounts. This would still take considerable training as they would need to be "unleashable" without turning on your own forces. Honestly, dogs would be easier for this but pigs are very smart and it should be possible.

All this said, a pig mounted cavalry might be possible if the correct bread is found (or created). You may be able to breed in the traits necessary to overcome the above issues. If successful then they could certainly become quite formidable.

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    I think this is the right idea. Send in the pigs as shocks (preferably pigs the size of the Hogzillas in the presently-accepted answer), and follow up with light cavalry. (Light cav ought to be more able to dodge the pigs.) – Codes with Hammer Aug 16 at 16:28
  • Well, pigs attack horde isn't really what the OP was asking so I didn't focus too much on it. I have been thinking about it more though and I think dogs would be much more effective at this. The large size of pigs makes them much harder to maintain and move. With dogs you could move fairly large packs in cages on carts and release them. Plus, dogs are pack hunters by nature which would make this a more natural attack style for them. – nurdyguy Aug 16 at 16:40

I think that the main issue here is how well a pig could be trained to do that job. As the other answers have established, they are big enough, mean enough, and intelligent enough to do the job, but I do not know if they can be trained to do so.

A pig may or may not be interested in responding to commands, at least not reliably. You may be able to train one to carry you into battle, just to have it throw you off and run away when things get unpleasant, making it ineffective.

Horses by nature are herd animals and are amenable to taking commands from a human, and can even be trained to obey when you're telling them to do something they would rather not do.

Zebras, on the other hand, do exist in herds, but are much more individualistic and are very opposed to taking commands from people. They'd much rather kick, bite, and trample humans that attempt to ride them. There have been many attempts to use zebras like horses over the centuries, and those attempts failed. Zebras simply won't cooperate.

So it's hard to know without further data whether a pig is more like a horse or more like a zebra. Chances are is that it's somewhere in between, but more data is necessary.

  • I agree. I've seen someone else's hogs who were quite timid: their children would run up and chase the sow with her young. Unsuitable for combat. Our sow, on the other hand … she was quite ornery, especially around men. Her and the boar really didn't give a #### about us puny bipeds. We could startle them and spook them, but herding them was quite a hassle. – can-ned_food Aug 16 at 2:28
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    As mentioned in many other answers, this may actually come down to a focused breeding effort. With horses we have a horrifically long history of taming and breeding, and eventually training for tasks such as riding, much more so than with Zebras or hogs/pigs. Given enough time, I would assume it would be possible to obtain a breed of cavalry pigs, but probably not within the time span that OP envisions. – Sty Aug 17 at 14:15

Your best option is chariots pulled by pigs.

enter image description here

Pros:

  • Pigs are fast and strong, a couple of them probably can pull a chariot with one soldier.
  • You can put armor over them. At least padding against arrows.
  • You can carry in the chariot a variety of weapons: javelins, a bow and arrows, incendiary objects against trebuchets...
  • Attacking a pair of screaming of wild pigs with tusks isn't easy. Special spears to keep the animal at a distance had to be designed but they didn't factor for human intelligence (with throwing weapons) behind the pigs.

Cons:

  • The wheels are fragile.
  • The field of battle needs to be relatively plain and without trees (however, heavy cavalry needs the same)
  • You need to spend at least a couple of pigs for chariot.
  • A strong shield wall can stop you. You need to be highly mobile.
  • Chariots are counted as mounted cavalry in warfare, but I don't know if you like calling them that.

Bonus point:

  • You can add scythes to the wheels. Carnage is always welcome.
  • How does a shield wall stop you? Do you mean shield wall held by people? If so, I imagine the boar runs through them. – Jordan.J.D Aug 16 at 17:55
  • @Jordan.J.D I don't think a short animal would run against what looks like a solid wall. By placing the shields against the earth the enemies could make the pigs turn. – Alberto Yagos Aug 16 at 19:21
  • I figure people could come up with a way to control where the pigs run, whether it is bait or blinders like horses have? – Jordan.J.D Aug 16 at 19:25
  • @Jordan.J.D In spite of what the movies and video games tell you, the objective of mounted troops is to hit and run. Even with a lance, you stick someone and then run. (See two historian cringe over this very fact: youtu.be/3a96OkyC39Y?t=3m2s) – PipperChip Aug 17 at 4:37
  • @PipperChip, what do games and movies tell you they do? I will have to watch the video later. – Jordan.J.D Aug 17 at 15:28

Probably not

History used horses for cavalry most of the time. Elephants have been used, but their success is much more mixed, and they were much more easily countered. So the real question is: why were horses so much more successful than any other animal?

Pigs have a lot going for them. They can be large. They can be dangerous. They are certainly intelligent and thus trainable; pigs are probably more intelligent than both horses and elephants.

But what made the horse successful was a combination of size, courage, and loyalty. You can think of them almost as large dogs. Very few animals would rush into a line of pikes just because their human asked them to, and a pig isn't on that list.

One of the reasons that elephants became unsuccessful cavalry is that opponents realized that, if you gave elephants the option of escaping or charging the line (for example, by intentionally putting a hole in your ranks), the elephant will choose to escape. Most animals will choose survival over following commands. The horse would do whatever its master asked. Pigs are more like elephants than horses.

  • So you could have pig cavalry, but it might be less effective in battle than horse cavalry. I'm not sure that I'd describe that as "Probably not". – Brythan Aug 15 at 18:07
  • @Brythan "less effective in battle" does not accurately summarize this answer. "Would be basically useless" comes a lot closer. – barbecue Aug 15 at 18:49
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    Horses also have an advantage in that they are one of the few creatures on earth with the stamina to be competitive with humans over long distances (measured in miles). Likely this is because they sweat much like humans do. Despite the cliché, pigs don't sweat as much, which causes them get overheated easily, which it why they are apt to stop what they are doing whenever they find a nice bit of water, or better yet a mudhole, to wallow in to cool off. – T.E.D. Aug 16 at 21:08
  • @T.E.D. I wrote this answer primarily with the "charge or flank enemies, then attack" mindset. The more we add to that definition of "cavalry," the more clear the inferiority of pigs becomes. Even with that very simple goal in mind, horses are vastly superior! – Michael W. Aug 16 at 21:14

While I think there may be much more to debate on how well they can be trained or how easy they are to ride, I wanted to help find a usable species.

According to livescience.com, you have a few choices. The Giant Forest Hog can grow up to 6' 11'' long, 3' 7'' tall, and weigh up to 606 lbs.

enter image description here

Your second choice is the Eurasian Wild Pig. These grow up to 6' 7'' length, 3' 7'' tall, and up to 711 lbs.

Some additional information that may help your argument is from wikipedia:

  • They can upturn rocks weighing 110lbs
  • Run 40 km/h (25 mp/h)
  • They can jump almost 5'
  • They are difficult to poison due to some mutations
  • They're used for drug detection in Germany
  • Useable species aren't a problem. Even European domestic pigs will grow to 700 pounds or more - it's just that modern meat-eaters (and supermarket-shoppers) prefer lean meat, so farmed pigs are killed small and young because that's what people want to buy. (But if you never ate some ham from a 700 pound pig, with a 3-inch-thick layer of solid white fat around the pink bits, you haven't lived!) – alephzero Aug 15 at 11:28
  • @alephzero, domestic pigs won't work - they are not as strong or fast. Without someone trying to ride them they only run 11 mph (less than half of the eurasian wild pig) – Jordan.J.D Aug 15 at 15:07

Pigs are very intelligent and have their own unique personalities, so, while I've seen some pigs trained to do tricks, I'm not sure they could be trained to be ridden like a horse unless they have a willing personality. They might be unreliable, like trying to ride a mule into battle.

But there are some accounts that in ancient Rome they used war pigs against armies that used elephants... by setting the pigs on fire and letting them loose to terrify them, and they would then trample the opposing army while trying to flee.

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    Awful. That's one more thing going against the Romans — and Republic, too. Also looks like they weren't the only ones to coat pigs with flammable material and set them afire. – can-ned_food Aug 16 at 2:48

Perhaps what you want are more 'pig dragoons', where the pigs are ridden to the battlefield, and then turned loose on the enemy, while the dismounted 'riders' fight as missile or melee infantry...

No

Seems like it might be hard to stay on a pig due to their gait. It would probably mess with their long term skeletal durability as well due to the greater spine undulation. https://youtu.be/jMZIpdIT2CQ

  • Actually gaits (not gate) of most quadrupeds are very similar. This galop is pretty much exactly the same as that of a horse. The flexing of the back is a bit stronger though as their spine is longer relative to their legs compared to a horse. – Jan Hudec Aug 17 at 13:48
  • @JanHudec edited. Thanks. – Jammin4CO Aug 17 at 16:48

protected by L.Dutch Aug 15 at 19:40

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