In older times, sea captains would sometimes keep pigs on board their ships. However, these animals were not meant for food.Namely, there was an old superstition that they would always swim towards the nearest shore in the event of a shipwreck. There are several explanations for this.
The first one is the (mostly false) belief that pigs simply don’t like water, and will instinctively know how to get out of it as soon as possible.
Another theory is perhaps more plausible, and claims that pigs and chickens used to be transported in wooden pens. These wooden pens could float and would thus increase the chances of the animal surviving.
A third theory relates to the fact that pigs were animals associated with certain pre-Christian deities that controlled the winds. These sailors believed that even saying the word “pig” on board a ship could bring bad weather.
Similar “powers” were also ascribed to chickens. It should therefore be no surprise that tattoos of pigs and chickens were common among sailors – they were supposed to protect one from drowning.
Of course, there were some variations on this theme. One saying went: “Pig on the knee, safety at sea. A cock on the right, never lose a fight.” In any case, we do know that pigs are proficient swimmers and, contrary to popular belief, seem to prefer water to mud.