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Dogs stealing jobs from pigs

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  September 4, 2013 12:01 PM

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There are only so many things a pig can do in the world, and one of them, at least historically, has been to hunt for truffles: Their instinct to root for mushrooms at the base of trees is perfectly aligned with the taste preferences of human high-cuisine.

However, the labor market is shifting. A fun article in Modern Farmer reports that dogs- not content with crime fighting and their lofty status as man's best friend- are beginning to elbow in on truffle work, too. Writer Jake Swearingen explains that the pigs themselves are partly to blame for the shift: They're hard to train, lack stamina, and are a risk to eat the $2000 a pound mushrooms once they find them.

Which is where the ubiquitous dog raises an eager paw. Dogs are easy to train (coat objects in truffle oil and give them treats for finding them), love to run, and (ouch) prefer gnawing on ham bones to gorging on truffles. Their biggest advantage, though, is that they're innocuous. The best truffle hunting grounds are a closely held secret, and as one truffle expert states in the article, “If you have a pig on a leash, everyone knows what you’re doing.”

While this is good news for people who love truffles in their foie gras, it's a dire development for pigs, whose only remaining job may be to be eaten.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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