“On a trip through the North Carolina mountains in 1878, Virginia newspaper editor James Cowardin found himself surrounded by thousands of pigs. ‘Hogs were before us and behind us, and both to the right and to the left of us,’ Cowardin wrote. ‘There was whipping and shouting and twisting and turning’ as the swineherds yelled, ”Suey!” “Suey!” “Get out!” “Suey hogs!” “D—d devil take the swine!” ‘
“Cowardin too cursed the pigs at first, but once he settled into the rhythm of the road, he began to daydream about following his ‘grunting friends’ to their destination and enjoying a pig slaughter feast: ‘What luxury in spare ribs, backbone, and sausage we would have,’ he fantasized, ‘not to mention pigs’ tails broiled on hot rocks!’
“The flesh of Cowardin’s traveling companions, though, was destined for other stomachs. He had stumbled upon a seasonal movement of livestock that had been happening each winter for more than half a century. He was in the middle of a pig drive….
“The best estimates suggest that in the antebellum South, five times as many hogs were driven as all other animals combined. In 1847 one tollgate in North Carolina recorded 692 sheep, 898 cattle, 1,317 horses, and 51,753 hogs….”
— From “The Great Appalachian Hog Drives” b May 4, 2015)
When they’re not being stolen, these pig statues in downtown Asheville commemorate the 19th-century hog drives.