Dogs and monkeys have been used in the United States space programme and now there is a possibility that pigs would be used in the U.
Dogs and monkeys have been used in the United States space programme and now there is a possibility that pigs would be used in the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) space shuttle flights.
The first pigs to orbit the earth will come from Japan, where the smallest pigs in the world have been bred. They weigh just 66 lbs.. a tenth of conventional pigs, and are a mere 20 ins long.
This long-haired black species of pig is bred by Hiroshi Ohmi at his farm in Tochigi Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo. He calls his pigs "miniature Japan", but the Japanese press has christened them "pignauts".
Ohmi began working on the mini-pig 17 years ago from a Chinese variety weighing about 160 lbs. He has since reduced to 66 lbs, certified as the smallest pig in the world at the 1971 Asia-Pacific conference on experimental animals.
Hiroshi Ohmi has been approached by NASA officials and he anticipates going to the United States this summer to discuss the possibility of lending his pigs for NASA's space shuttle programme.
He explains that biologically the body structure and organs of pigs resemble those o human beings more closely than dogs and monkeys, making them more suitable as research animals. But the normal-sized pig has proved too heavy and cumbersome for space research.
There are 200 miniature pigs on Ohmi's farm right now. Although he doesn't know how many NASA will require, he, himself, has ear-marked 20 of them as future "pignauts" for the space shuttle flights.