Biography of a Pig

URBANA — It's too late to interview T.J. Tabasco, but we know everything about her genome and something about her personality.

The pig's head hangs on a wall in Vice President for Research Lawrence Schook's office in Edward Madigan Laboratory. She looks happy to be there.

Samples of T.J. Tabasco also reside in a nearby Dewar flask chilled by liquid nitrogen.

T.J. Tabasco was a domestic Duroc pig (Sus scrofa domestica), meaning she was a large, not particularly aggressive pig, a breed often used for bacon and chops in the U.S.

Laurie Rund, a research assistant professor who notched T.J. Tabasco's ear, knows a lot about the sow.

"T.J. was born on Jan. 11, 2001. She was one of 15 in a litter," Rund said "She was a daughter of 51-2 (Marcella) and Big Nasty 5-5 from a purebred Duroc line."

T.J. had her first litter on her first birthday and raised almost 50 offspring.

"She was humanely euthanized on May 26, 2004," Rund added.

The scientific-breakthough swine didn't have a big head about it. Rund said the sow was not a picky eater.

Rund said she ate "just regular pig ration same as all the pigs in the unit."

The meals varied according to her needs, such as if she were pregnant or lactating.

Rund knows something about T.J. Tabasco from the sow, and something from her clones.

I took care of her clones. They were nice, smart and they were huge," she said. "They all wanted to be head of the herd. None of them were sheepish."

T.J. Tabasco didn't have any eccentricities that Rund could remember.

She was a totally normal pig," she said. "She was a good mother and raised a lot of litters."

Had she not been part of the genomics project, T.J. Tabasco might have experienced a little more fame in her lifetime rather than the afterlife, Rund said.

She could have been a show pig," the researcher said.