That’ll Do, Pig!


Last week I ventured out to a friend’s barn where she keeps her new horse. It’s a beautiful mare, a former schooling horse, and I was delighted to see that she’s happy with her ride and that she has a great barn. Finding a great horse is no easy matter, but putting that together with the right barn is a major task. This barn had just the right feel, too. It was a family’s barn that had been opened to a few additional boarders and to a lot of additional animals. In addition to horses, I saw goats, chickens, turkeys, a peacock, a deer, and, my favorite, a pot-bellied pig named “Chomp.” Growing up, I wanted to live on a farm, and this place was the closest approximation of the vision I’d had as a child I’d ever run into, and Chomp was the closest approximation of E. B. White’s pig Wilbur or, perhaps, Babe. Chomp made the best little snuffly noises, and I immediately wanted to take him home. Since then I’ve looked into pot-bellied pigs to find out a little more about them, and, not surprisingly, they’re wonderful. But they’re also surprising. Although they’re the same species as your run-of-the-mill farm pig, pot-bellied pigs are “considerably smaller than standard American or European farm pigs, [and]most adult pot-bellied pigs are about the size of a medium- or large-breed dog, though their bodies are denser at 8 to 136 kg (20 to 300 lb).” Because a lot of pig-owners expect their pig to remain small or at least to weigh no more than a similarly sized dog, potbellied pigs end up getting abandoned at a relatively high rate. “According to Adam Goldfarb, the director of the Pets At Risk program for the Humane Society of the United States, “Potbellied pigs are really emblematic of what happens to an animal when it becomes a popular or fad pet. We saw this in the ’90s when there was the initial potbellied pig craze. A lot of people went to buy them because they are so cute when they are little but then they get big.” They’re also more difficult to care for than most people would expect. As Lianne McLeod writes, “Many people find that pigs are demanding pets and are overwhelmed by their needs – as shown by the abundance of shelters overflowing with pigs (one such shelter, PIGS, a Sanctuary houses more than 200 abandoned pigs at times).” As intelligent, affectionate, trainable, curious, playful, quiet, and hypo-allergenic as pigs may be, they may also become bored, destructive, and aggressive according to McLeod. They live a long time, too – as much as 18 years – giving the owner with appropriate expectations a long time with their pet and creating a problem for the owner who buys the pig on a whim. As with all pets, whether exotic or not, take time to understand the needs of the animal and gauge your expectations accordingly. As for me, I think I’ll go visit Chomp, but I don’t think I’ll ask to take him home with me!

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