If you are here looking at this article, I reckon you have probably searched for one of four things:
- Why Are Sheffield Wednesday Fans Called Pigs?
- Why Are Sheffield United Fans Called Pigs?
- Which Sheffield Team Are the Original Pigs?
- Why Do the Sheffield Clubs Call Each Other Pigs?
I am going to attempt to answer all four of those questions in this article.
They are a bit contentious and I am sure I will upset supporters from either side of the divide in Sheffield in the process but feel free to leave me a comment if you feel you have something to add.
As an aside I lived in Sheffield for four years (wonderful city and I still love it), and I never knew the answer to any of these questions, so this has been a learning experience for me.
So without further ado, let’s get started with the title question.
Why Are Sheffield Wednesday Fans Called Pigs?
Sheffield United call Sheffield Wednesday fans pigs due to a (fictional) story that the club’s ground was built on the site of an old pigsty and because when Wednesday redesigned its badge, the owl was said to look more like a pig. In return Sheffield Wednesday call Sheffield United fans pigs after the useless by-product created when making steel, pig iron, and because the club’s red and white shirts resemble streaky bacon.
REASON 1: It is Because Their Stadium Was Apparently Built on the Site of an Old Pigsty
The story goes that in 1899 when Wednesday moved to what would eventually become Hillsborough Stadium, they were moving onto the site of what was formerly a large piggery.
I quote directly from a document that is apparently from the Sheffield Local History Society and can be seen at Sheffield’s Central Library:
“The first Ordnance Survey maps (1850’s) mark a building close to where the stadium now stands as ‘Swine Cottage’. They also show another farm on Penistone Road, south of where the North Stand is situated, which was also believed to be a large piggery. Pork farming is thought to have been practised in the area since the early 1800’s, and did not cease until around 1900 when the city’s rapid expansion put an end to livestock production in the area. At its height the “Owlerton Piggery,” as it was known, provided work for some 50 employees.”
The article goes on to suggest the club sought a nickname upon moving to its new home.
The Owls prevailed (Hillsborough is in the Owlerton suburb of Sheffield), but according to the document the Pigs was adopted as an unofficial nickname due to the area’s strong connection with pork farming.
However the article is, as a certain former American president might say, fake news.
It was made up by the Sheffield United fanzine ‘Flashing Blade’ but has gone on to gain credence in some quarters.
Official ordnance survey maps of the area at the time confirm that the site where the stadium stands was part of the Hillsborough House estate, which was a stately home.
It was owned by silversmith J.W Dixon. When he died the land was split into 14 plots and a 10-acre plot was sold to Sheffield Wednesday for £10,000.
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REASON 2: It is Because of a Badge
In 1970 Sheffield Wednesday decided to modernize its badge.
The previous badge, which had been used from 1956 to 1970, showed a traditionally drawn owl perched on a branch.
Beneath this was the White Rose of York and the club’s Latin motto ‘Consilio et Animis’, which means ‘By Wisdom and Courage’.
The new badge was considerably more minimalist, and literally featured a stylized outline of an owl looking directly at the viewer.
Some United fans noticed that if you rotated the image the owl’s eyes looked like a pig’s snout and the owl’s talons looked like pigs trotters.
As a result of the porcine similarities of the badge, Sheffield United fans started calling Sheffield Wednesday fans pigs.
REASON 3: It is Because of a Bus Company
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, Sheffield Wednesday’s supporters were taken to away games in buses operated by Hoggs Coaches.
The Sheffield company was based in Dovercourt Road in the city and its distinctive sign-written coaches were a common sight in and around Sheffield.
This is another theory as to why Sheffield Wednesday fans are called pigs.
Why Are Sheffield United Fans Called Pigs?
But the pig nickname isn’t limited to Sheffield Wednesday fans. They will tell you that they have been calling Sheffield United fans pigs for far longer…
REASON 1: It is Because Their Shirts Resemble Bacon
Perhaps the most accepted reason is that Sheffield Wednesday fans have long since said that the red and white striped shirts of Sheffield United resemble rashers of bacon.
The intercity rivalry has developed to the point that apparently in years gone by Sheffield Wednesday fans have even refused to eat bacon for this very reason.
This was corroborated in programme notes when Sheffield United hosted Sheffield Wednesday in a Division One fixture in 1967.
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REASON 2: It is Because of Pig Iron
In the late 19th and early 20th century, Sheffield was a world leader in the manufacture of steel.
When steel is being made, a by-product of the process is called pig iron.
Pig iron has a high carbon content, which makes it very brittle and of little use.
When Sheffield United was formed, some 20 years after Sheffield Wednesday, most of the supporters of both clubs were working in the many steel mills in the city.
The Wednesday day supporters were quick to label supporters of the new team as ‘Pigs’.
This was a way of showing their contempt. Wednesday saw themselves as the senior football club in the city and thus the pure steel, with Sheffield United the impure and secondary pig iron or pigs.
REASON 3: The Pigs and The Butchers
At the start of the 1960s Sheffield Wednesday made a slight change to their kit.
Their broad blue and white striped shirts were changed to a thinner, more pinstriped style stripe.
Following this change, Sheffield United supporters noted that the new shirts resembled a butcher’s apron and started calling them the Butchers.
Apparently, after one particularly roughy derby encounter where Wednesday were triumphant, Wednesday fans declared that ‘If we’re supposed to be the Butchers, you must be our Pigs”.
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So Which Sheffield Team Are the Original Pigs?
It can’t be debated that the Sheffield clubs do call each other pigs.
The question is which of the two teams are the original pigs?
I think the weight of the evidence points to the fact that Sheffield United are the original pigs, with Wednesday fans adopting that nickname for their rivals first.
The notes from the Sheffield United programme of 1967 and the long-standing banter between the city’s old steel workers bear this out.
It does seem Sheffield Wednesday fans have been calling Sheffield United fans pigs for far longer than vice-versa.
The fabricated story around Hillsborough being on the site of an old pigsty and the Sheffield Wednesday badge resembling a pig seems to have achieved notoriety more recently.
RELATED ===> Revealed: The Best Retro Sheffield United Shirts
I’ve actually quite enjoyed researching this article, largely because it relates to a city that is, and always will be, close to my heart.
So if you have been wondering ‘Why do the Sheffield clubs call each other pigs?’ Hopefully this has shed some light on the situation.
Sheffield United fans call Sheffield Wednesday fans pigs on the basis of a fictional story that Hillsborough was built on a pig sty and because when the club redesigned its badge it apparently looked like a pig.
Sheffield Wednesday fans call Sheffield United fans pigs after the useless by-product pig iron that is created in the steel-making process and because the club’s red and white shirts resemble streaky bacon.
The evidence is stacked in the favour of Sheffield United fans being the original pigs, but there is no doubt both sets of supporters aim the nickname at each other.
That is city rivalry for you!
If I have missed anything or got anything wrong here, please feel free to leave me a comment below.