Piglet Dissection

Yesterday, my homeschool group life science class wrapped up the year with piglet dissections.  Now I don’t like preserved specimens.  They are gray and the tissue isn’t normal.  Nothing looks “like it’s supposed to”.

My answer?  Stillborn piglets.  We raise 15 or so litters every year, and inevitably there are stillborn piglets.  I don’t waste them.  I pop those little piglets into a freezer bag and store them until it’s time for a dissection lab

The result?  REAL dissections – and yes, they smell bad.  But I’m allergic to formaldehyde in the preserved specimens – those fumes are noxious – so we just set up outdoors with our “real” specimens.


We begin talking through the external features, including the umbilical cord and needle teeth (small, needle-sharp teeth that we actually clip so they don’t cut the sow’s udder).

Then we make a ventral midline incision through the skin, then the muscle layer.  The diaphragm is the muscle that separates the thorax (heart & lungs) from the abdomen (digestive and urinary organs).  I will show you some organs with this picture (yes – it’s bloody).

gall bladder, SI, stomach

Now here is a video of lung inflation.  Each student performed a tracheotomy – cut a hole into the trachea – and inserted a straw.  They then used the straw to inflate the lungs – just as breathing in would do.  This view is with the piglet in dorsal recumbency (on it’s back) so you can identify the heart in the middle.  Note the various lung lobes.

I know some people shy away from live dissections, but the students learn so much when you actually show them what you’ve been telling them about.  Experience makes all the difference.  Some students think they can’t do it, then end up really interested.  You never know until you try!

If your student doesn’t have the opportunity to do a live dissection, the next best thing I’ve found is a paper pig dissection available from “Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy” on TeachersPayTeachers.com  My students all made a paper pig prior to doing the actual dissection.  They know what to expect, and they are much more careful and observant.

paper pig sample

Check out their many (paper) hands-on dissection downloads.  There are brains and eyeballs and grasshoppers and more!  It’s made teaching science a bit easier! (No, I get nothing from this blog nor from Teacher Pay Teachers – just passing along great resources!)

Happy Dissecting!


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