In my opinion, pigs have very advanced communication skills. Examples of
vocal communication include the "grunting" a mother pig emits while feeding her
young; "barking" that warns of impending danger; and "squealing" in
anticipation of eating or indicating displeasure or pain. Some individual sounds are:
"Aroo" that means "You arent getting me what I want fast
enough." "Ha ha ha," a quiet, hot panting that indicates acquaintanceship,
a sociable "hello." What I call a filth noise (similar to the sound your Uncle
Charlie makes when trying to cough something up) means piggy is really P.O.'ed.
A happy pig seldom displays body postures, as most are related to
maintaining ones station on the social ladder. However, a spoiled, challenged, or
unhappy pig may change her ear set, throw her head, face off, or click her jaws in
response to an unpleasant situation or another animal invading her territory.
Pigs are curious by nature. They spend hours rooting in the
ground (if given the opportunity) or snurddling about your home with their nose to the
carpet or floor seeking out any stray tidbits of food. Their inquisitive nature can be
advantageous when it comes time to train, as pigs will maintain a high level of attention
when stimulated with new ideas and, of course, the primary motivator...FOOD!
Man rates the pig as the fifth most intelligent animal with man
ranking first, followed by monkeys, dolphins, whales and pigs. They function by instinct,
intuition and memory. While they have no innate sense of right or wrong and have no
conscience, they learn quickly and dont forget what they master. You need to stay
one step ahead of your pig or she will train you to do exactly what suits her
fancy. Pigs are much like children. They find your weak spot and manipulate until they get
their way. If you give a pig an inch, she will most certainly take many miles. However, it
is this very intelligence that appeals to many who fancy pigs. You can indeed nurture a
very rewarding and interactive relationship with a pig, as a pig will treat you like an
equal if given the opportunity. Never underestimate the ability of a pig.
Pigs are affectionate animals. They love companionship and body
closeness. Many pig owners actually allow their pig to share the bed and maintain that a
porcine sleeping partner is not only warm and cuddly, but doesnt wiggle, squirm, or
hog the bed.
The potbellied pig is a very sturdy animal with short legs, a
slightly swayed back, a pendulous belly, a short tail ending with a flowing switch, short,
erect ears, and a snout that varies from short and stubby to long and elegant. A
potbellied pig continues to grow for at least two to three years. Current belief is that
the average purebred (not crossbred), healthy, mature, three year old potbellied pig can
weigh from 60 to 175 pounds and measure from 13 to 26 inches in height, with the length
being proportional to the height. Certainly, there are a few potbellies who will be
smaller or larger than this normal range.
The weight of a pig is deceiving because they are so hard-bodied.
A pig who measures 14" tall by 24" long and weighs 60 lbs. takes up very little
space (about half the dimensions of an ottoman) and is a manageable size for a house pet
and travel companion. Compare this size pig to a 100 lb. German Shepherd who is taller and
longer than a coffee table, with an extension (the tail) that is capable of knocking
everything off the coffee table. Granted, pigs are not as agile as the traditional dog or
cat pet. A pig may need a ramp to assist in stair climbing and getting in and out of a
car, but this is a simple task to accomplish.
The potbellied pig has a keen sense of smell. Reports are that a
pig can smell odors that are twenty-five feet under the ground. They are used to unearth
such culinary delicacies as truffles for our eating pleasure, as well as sniff out drugs
for law enforcement purposes. While a pig has excellent hearing capability, she does not
see very well.
Potbellied pigs have only been in the United States since 1986 so
it is difficult to determine an average life span. Estimates in this regard are between
fifteen and thirty years. I would tend to go with the fifteen year prediction. If a pet
pig is allowed to exercise regularly, is not overfed, and is examined and vaccinated
annually by a veterinarian, she should live to a ripe old age. Both adult size and
longevity are directly related to how the pig is cared for. Of course, genetics also plays
an important role, but management is of utmost importance.
Impulse buying a potbellied pig (or any pet, for that matter)
is a bad idea. You need to totally acquaint yourself with the nature of the pig and your
responsibilities as a pet pig owner. The fact that you are reading this website means
that you are serious about educating yourself about pet pigs. Take the time to
familiarize yourself with all aspects of the potbellied pig prior to adoption.
Finding a Reputable Breeder
"You get what you pay for" is definitely
true when it comes to buying a potbellied pig. Of course, price is an issue; but you must
pay close attention to the health, conformation, and lineage of your prospective pet. You
can buy an unregistered, mismanaged, unsocialized, crossbred, unhealthy pig from a bad
breeder for very little money; or adopt a happy, healthy, socialized, registered pig from
a reputable breeder. A reputable breeder is also a valuable resource if problems arise and
for developing contacts with other pig people. You will be way ahead of the game if you
choose the latter approach. What you save in vet bills and heartache will be well worth
the initial investment in a properly bred and handled piglet.
Beware! When shopping for a
potbellied pig, do not buy one at a swap meet or out of the back of a van at the corner
truck stop. You are just asking for trouble. I dont recommend getting a pig from a
pet store either, unless they can supply appropriate food and support information as well
as the pigs litter registration paper indicating the breeder.
Dont get caught up in the moment. Heres the picture.
Youre holding a cute and cuddly, three week old bottle baby who is being touted as
everything you could hope for. You are not given the opportunity to see the parents or
littermates. You are told the circumstances surrounding the young, preweaning age piglet
you are snuggling. "The mother got sick and couldnt nurse her babies."..WHY?
"The piglet wouldnt nurse, so was taken away from the litter and
bottle-fed."...WHY? Be wary of these kinds of stories. I can guarantee you that
heartache is just around the corner.
Best Bet! Adopt a pig from a reputable breeder. Ask your veterinarian to recommend one in your area or contact me for some guidance. Because for many years I was the Chairman of the Ethics Committee of the North American Potbellied Pig Assn., I can share practices that responsible breeders follow. You can ask a friend or acquaintance who owns a potbellied pig, is happy with her pet, and has a good relationship with her breeder for a referral.
Locate a breeder and visit their facility. Are the surroundings
clean and neat? Does the breeder have a good rapport with her pigs? Are the pigs you see
in large enough pens with shelter, shade, and water? Are you allowed to see the parents of
the piglet you are considering? You must insist upon seeing the sire and dam because the
size and temperament of your prospective piglets parents are true indicators of what
you can expect of your pig-a-rooter. Has the pig you are considering been weaned for at
least one week, socialized, neutered, litter-box trained, and learned how to live with
human house mates? These are all important issues.
What you should see at a good breeding facility, is happy,
healthy, tractable breeding stock, a few weaned pigs in the house for pre-adoption
training, a clean and healthy environment both inside and outside, and pigs who respond to
the breeder eagerly and with obvious affection.
Piggy Comes Home
So, you did all your homework, found a reputable breeder,
picked out a healthy, sound pig of your dreams, and everything is copasetic. For the ride
home, I definitely recommend that you kennel your piglet. Hopefully, the breeder has
desensitized Miss Piggy to the travel carrier or it may be a scary trip. If you take the
precaution of putting your pig in the kennel, you wont need to worry about potty
accidents or a flying pig who could cause a car crash. A kennel-savvy pig makes a lot of
sense for future fun outings or trips to the vet, so you might as well get started on the
right foot with crate-training.
You need to locate a veterinarian in your area who has experience
with potbellied pigs or is willing to learn. Your breeder should be able to put you in
touch with a good one. Dont put this off! Have your new pig examined by a vet within
the first week to make sure she is in good health. This will also serve as an introduction
of your new family member to your veterinarian. If an emergency should arise and you
havent established a relationship with a D.V.M., you are putting your pig in real
danger. Please call me if you are unable to locate a vet, and I will try to assist you.
Owning a Pet Pig
As you can see, I list far more advantages than
disadvantages; but, bear in mind that I am a pig person from way back. Owning a pig is
similar to being a parent. Patience and love are required and it is not a responsibility
to be taken lightly.