How Policemen Got the Nickname “Pigs”

pig-copIntelliHub – by Billy, Policing The Police

Sir Robert Peel, founder of the Metropolitan Police Force, was not only a Politician, he was also a Pig Farmer, and is credited with creating the popular “Tamworth” breed.

Ordinarily, It was prohibited to bring livestock into London, because of the filth and disease that butchering them caused. But politics being politics, Peel used his position so he could get away with driving his pigs from his farm in Tamworth, through the centre of London to Smithfield Market, without having to butcher them first, and thereby command a higher price for them live, at market.  

Not surprisingly, this would cause all kinds of havoc, as 300 pigs were driven through central London, knocking over market stalls, sticking their snouts into anything that interested them. But that was just one of the those things. After all, what could you do? Peel was a rich and powerful man.

Anyway, after Peel’s creation of a Metropolitan Police force in London, (The first Police Force in the World) the early Officers on patrol, and actively establishing a name for themselves were naturally enough, resented by the lawless, filthy, heaving masses whom they were nominally serving.

So to warn each other of their approach, the Dickensian gangs of footpads, dippers, clippers, cutpurses, tea leaves, knockers, etc that apparently plagued Victorian London, would cry out “Peeler’s Pigs” as they patrolled their beat.

So it was a direct reference to those other well known and resented creatures of Peel’s that ran amok, sticking there noses into everything, and generally harshing up the day of normal London folks, that the term “Pigs”originated from.

I have conversationally asked Policemen in the past, if they knew why people call them “Pigs”, and every time, after they initially think you are trying to insult them, they could offer no reason. But my guess is not one of them in a hundred (conservative estimate) knows the real reason.

3 thoughts on “How Policemen Got the Nickname “Pigs”

  1. I’d always assumed it came from Orwell’s Animal Farm where the pigs under Napoleon were the resented law enforcers so maybe that’s where Orwell got the idea from. He was a member of the upper class and lower establishment and that’s how he knew their world-view and prejudices. He was educated in it, surrounded by it and expected to continue it. But he resented it.

  2. Clippers would not be usually on the street but would operate from premises in the rookeries fairly safe from the plod.

    Clippers were those that would take a coin and clip or trim the edges for the metal but leaving the coin looking albeit smaller but to the naked eye no different to an unclipped coin, usually gold coins were the target but silver would be done as well. The rookeries were no mans land in London and other cities where the police would not dare to enter even in large numbers although the government would purge them from time to time sending in the army to support the police.

    My great grandfather was a police sergeant at Greenwich West after World War I where he was invalidated out of the navy, he knew every inch of his beat, knew every person in the area and had an arrest record of 0, yep he never once had to arrest anyone in his time with the Metropolitan Police, wife beaters were dealt with by the community, child abusers disappeared, no one thieved off each other as no one dirtied their own doorstep and apart from the odd drunken brawl stopped with a few well aimed whacks with a truncheon he and his men kept that part of London a peaceful, crime free place with a police force that gave a damn and could be trusted.

    1. That was back when cops were peace officers and not “law enforcement officers.” If cops acted like the way your great grandfather none of us would have a problem with them.

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