Domesticated in the Delta since pre-dynastic times - although some traces already appear in the Neolithic cultures - from the wild pig, a species which easily becomes tame (Brunner-Traut, 1975: 1123), the Egyptian pig has a back covered with hard, bristly silks, the slender legs and a very elongated snout. Its breed seems to be between that of the boar and that of the present pig. It lived either in wild herds in the human environment, or in tame herds, or in small standard groups "pig farm" owned by families.
It is represented to a small degree on the walls of chapels, some tombs in Beni Hassan, in Elkab (Renni and Setau) and in Thebes, but is completely absent of the vestiges of funerary meals which are found there. It is, nevertheless, considered as an animal for slaughter, and it is indeed found mentioned in numerous sources from the Middle Kingdom along with other livestock. It is even an important source of food protein since the Old kingdom, as shown by archaeology. The fact that the Egyptians had established in the current, magic, medical and literary language a sexual differentiation for the animal, by giving a name for the male and for the female, is proof of its proximity with humans. It is also known under several names adapted to several contexts, testifying that its life shared the human environment.
In medicine, it was very helpful : the teeth - crushed -, the eyes, blood, the fat, the tripe, was used by the physicians for various affections.
Small amulets of colourful stones in the shape of pigs, are lucky charms.
Two mythological interpretations are known, one negative because of its association with Seth, and a positive one through the sow.
The Egyptians had noticed that the sow could eat its young (a form of auto-regulation dependent on the quantity of milk available) and had associated it with Nut swallowing the sun.
Nevertheless, in spite of this, its legendary spitefulness and gluttony make it an animal also associated with Seth. Indeed, Seth, to steal and to devour the moon, the left eye of Horus (son of Osiris) would have changed into a black pig (Meeks et al., 1993 : 86). Here is the origin of the taboo which weighs on swineherds, who are the only ones not allowed to penetrate within a temple, according to Herodotus. It could also be the reason for which a pig, - as well as a goat (Helck, 1982 : 595), another Sethien animal -, is sacrificed at the time of the Memphite festivals of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, the 24th day of the 4th month of akhet.
The unpopularity of the pig followed that of the god. In the Late Period, the god Seth carrying negative values only, the image of the pig became very negative also, its behaviour has been turned into derision and in particular its fertility and its method of eating (which persist nowadays in everyday language !)