This print should be called The Sow, as its anatomy clearly shows. The pig, its legs bound to a post, could have been drawn on the plate from life, although the figures in the background were probably added later. The man in the background is clearly a butcher, with an axe and a curved knife known as a cambrel. Butchers frequently travelled from door to door to perform the service, and the children of the household gathered to watch the spectacle. Here a mother smiles with pleasure at the nervous wonderment of her child stretching forward to touch the beast.
There has been considerable speculation that the plate was originally much wider, with the pig occupying a more central position. This would certainly explain the rather unbalanced look of the composition, and in particular account for the stance of the figure in the hat gazing off beyond the left edge of the plate. Perhaps in an attempt to rebalance it he etched the boy with the pig's bladder gazing with equal intensity off to the right. A rather insurmountable problem is that the hog effectively rests against the trough along the back wall, leaving no room for the figure to stand. Rather than completely re-work the plate Rembrandt chose simply to omit his legs.