Rings have been put in the noses of unruly animals (and UNWILLING people) for hundreds or, perhaps, thousands of years. A rope or rod fastened to a ring in the nose provided a persuasive method of controlling an animal. The ones in humans were usually to mark the wearer as a slave or servant. The most common use for nose rings in America, however, used to be in keeping swine from rooting.
Despite appearing rather tender to the eye, a pig’s snout can be used by the pig to dig in the ground for grubs and roots with surprising power and dexterity. That’s not a problem if you keep your pigs confined to a small lot, or use your pigs to cultivate your garden. However, if you wish to put your pigs on grass pasture through the summer, they’ll soon turn your land into one big dirt lot if you don’t keep them from rooting. That’s where hog rings come in.
Hog rings are “C”-shaped staples with sharp ends. Using special pliers, a proper-sized ring is clipped either into the top part of the rim of the pig’s snout, or in the flesh between the nostrils. The ends don’t close in a perfect fit, so there is no clean hole through the flesh as when a human gets a piercing. This results in two holes that never completely heal and, in fact, are probably always the site of low-grade infections. When the pig tries to root, the rings cause pain for the pig, so it learns not to root. However, the pig will always root at least a little, and if the ring comes out, the pig quickly unlearns it’s manners.
I don’t think I would ever use rings with pigs, as I think they’re rather inhumane. However, those rings have OTHER uses! My mother did a little upholstery when I was a kid and she frequently used them to fasten cloth together, or to fasten clothe to springs underneath pieces of furniture. It’s a trick that goes way back. Also, the rings are sometimes used in making small animal cages and are nearly always used in putting up chain-link fence. While the rings used for pigs are copper-covered, the ones for cages and fences are galvanized.
Recently, I wanted to make some hardware-clothe cylinders to protect my new grape plants and went looking for hog rings. Times have changed! The hardware stores where I expected to find them knew what they were, but no longer stocked them. Farm supply stores are scarce around here, so I went online and found that I could order them from Home Depot. Hoping that the local store would stock, I found that they didn’t even know what they were. Remembering the Tractor Supply store on the far end of town, I checked there and got a small box of copper-coated ones. Deciding that they might react with the galvanized wire when wet and corrode, I decided to go ahead and order them from Home Depot. When they arrived, I thought they appeared to be more the right size anyway. Below are the two types of staples and the special pliers that are used to install them. Incidentally, the copper ones come in different sizes for different sized pigs, while the galvanized ones come in different sizes for different sized fences. © 2013
The thumb-screw on the pliers allows it to be adjusted for different-sized rings and various amounts of closure.