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Why is it a Piggy Bank? Why not a Dog, Chicken Or Dinosaur Bank?

As a parent when we think about teaching our kids to start collecting coins and eventually save money, we get them a piggy bank. With modern times, we can find piggy banks shaped in different cartoons and even characters from animated movies. But they are all still called piggy banks. Ever wondered why they are known only from the animal pig and not any other animal that a child may actually be fond of?

The answer can be found somewhere in the Middle Ages. In those times, the real banks were not into existence. People used to save their money at home. Not under the mattress, or a cupboard which also didn’t exist but in kitchenware. During those times, metal was not something that was used to make utensils and was a very expensive commodity. Pots and pans were made of earthenware. A special yet affordable orange-colored clay called “pygg” was used for it. People who were well off used to get huge custom made jars of pygg only to save money called pygg pots.

Earthenware pots and pans used in yesteryears
Image courtesy Google

Early English was very different than it is today. Pygg pots were earlier pronounced as pug pots. With the pronunciation of many alphabets evolving, for example the pronunciation of letter ‘y’ changed from sound ‘u’ to sound ‘i’. The pygg pots and the farm animal pig which actually lies around in pygg and mud sounded the same. Europeans completely forgot that the word “pygg” actually meant clay used to make earthenware in yesteryears. The word bank had also come into existence by then and when potters received requests to make pygg pots or pygg banks, they started shaping them into animal pigs. This accidental change was accepted widely by customers. It emerged so much in those years that little piggy banks were being fashioned for kids as well which delighted them.

Piggy bank made out of clay
Image courtesy Google

Pigs were also tied with good fortune. To possess a herd of pigs was considered a sign of wealth and prosperity in the Middle Ages. Successful breeding was possible with them with minimal investment and the owners would never go hungry. Many farmers survived the winter through just one pig that they owned. That is how pig also became a symbol of good luck in German tradition. Marzipan pigs are gifted during Christmas and New Year to bring good luck. In some Asian countries too, pig is considered to bring good luck and fortune.

Marzipan pigs gifted for good luck
Image courtesy Google

Such a sublime history of how piggy banks came into existence and from there it spread all over the world. It has continued till date and we and many more of our generations to come are going to teach our young kids to start saving in piggy banks. Now that you know about it, do not forget to share this piece of interesting history with your kids, maybe even as a bedtime story!