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The Pig Farmer's Wife

Yellow Pig Day

Jul 17

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

"I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

~ Winston Churchill

Well, Oink, Oink! Pigs in their sty (whatever colour), and their tenders need a day of appreciation too! Devised for a dancer, who with her husband, run a pig farm, the devisor has noted that “all the ‘twirls’ in the dance are piglet tails!" And there are plenty of twirly tails to be had in this 40 bar reel! For the mathematically inclined, Yellow Pig Day, July 17, is a fun day invented by mathematicians in recognition of many interesting properties of the Number 17. Created by Princeton students in the early 1960s, and using a 17-eyelashed yellow pig as a mascot, Yellow Pig Day events have been held by mathematicians ever since in the form of friendly debates pitting numbers against each other to see which has the more and interesting properties. Of its many fascinating attributes, the number 17 has been touted as 'the least random number' from a repeated study in respondents were asked to choose a random number from 1 to 20, 17 was the most common choice! 17 oinks for the piggies! 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 🐖 💛

The Pig Farmer's Wife

The Yellow Pig is believed to have originated with mathematicians Michael Spivak and David C. Kelly.  Now a math professor at Hampshire college, David Kelly gives a lecture on the number 17 every year. In addition he has somewhere between 289 and 4913 yellow pigs lying around his house and gives tours to his students!

People have tried coming up with rival numbers (e.g. 23), however, Kelly beats them in a competition by listing more interesting properties than those of the rival number. 

Here is a short list of interesting properties of the number 17 which has wide significance in pure mathematics, as well as in applied sciences, law, music, religion, sports, and other cultural phenomena:

Seventeen is the 7th prime number. The next prime is nineteen, with which it forms a twin prime. 17 is the sum of the first four primes. 

The number of syllables in a haiku (5+7+5).

Some species of cicadas have a life cycle of 17 years (i.e. they are buried in the ground for 17 years between every mating season).

The number 17 is significant enough for a named phobia. The fear of the number 17 is called 'heptadecaphobia' or 'heptakaidekaphobia'.


In Italy, 17 is considered an unlucky number. One anagram of the Roman numeral XVII is VIXI, which in Latin translates as "I have lived", with the implication "My life is over" or "I'm dead".  Some Alitalia planes have no row 17, and some Italian hotels have no room 17.  The 17th curve at the Cesana bobsled run at the Winter Olympics in Turin was called "Senza Nome", or "Without a name".

If performing this dance today, and needing to call the dancers to the set, consider paying tribute to today by using your best hog-calling voice and bringing the dancers to attention by calling "Soooooooie", the classic pig calling call for pigs of any colour.

 'Sooie' is a pig calling call common in the north east of England and the United States.  'Giss giss' also used in England.   To see and hear a vintage 1940 hog-calling contest by British Pathé films, complete with bathing beauties releasing the target porkers, click here.

The Pig Farmer's Wife

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The Pig Farmer's Wife

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