While I was growing up there were just two ways to get out of my neighborhood. In my little-kid system of landmarks, I kept track of the two directions like this: One way took us by my elementary school. The other way took us by the house with the potbellied pig. As a kid, if I saw either of these landmarks, that’s how I’d know that we were close to home.
For us kids it was always a special occasion when we actually got to see the pig. He’d sometimes be out rooting in the yard, and you couldn’t help but marvel at his large, dusty stomach. We’d all squeal with delight and point him out to each other. The only animal sighting that could rival it was the ostrich farm that was on the way to piano lessons.
In writing this post, I’m celebrating the simple joy of unusual pets, both for the pet owner and the neighbors and friends lucky enough to know them. I suppose I’m also satisfying my own curiosity, and hopefully yours, about those endearing potbellied pigs toddling around the dusty yards of the world and my memory.
First, some facts:
Pot bellied pigs have their origins in Southeast Asia.
The pigs’ famous potbellies are their trademark, but their inherent sway backs do a lot to enhance the appearance of potbellied-ness.
Most potbellied pigs are black with white spots, usually on their faces, but they can also be gray or even completely white. Their underbellies tend to be a little more pink because their hair is thinner and their skin shows through.
In order to be a good pet, a potbellied pig must by spayed or neutered.
A trim adult pig should weigh 50 to 95 pounds. Many, however, grow to be much heaveir and can weigh up to and over 150 pounds.
Healthy pigs have a life span of about 10 to 15 years. A fully-grown pig measures 14 to 18 inches in height up to the shoulder.
Pigs as pets:
Some exotic pets, it would seem, are kept simply as a novelty and perhaps not because they make the best pets. Pigs, however, can become great pets. Pigs rate very high on the intelligence scale, coming in very close behind monkeys, dolphins, and whales. For this reason they have a great capacity for learning, training retention, and shows of affection and bonding.
Pigs are also very clean animals, have little odor, and can even be considered as hypoallergenic animals, meaning they do not have traditional pet dander that will irritate those who are allergic to animals. Potbellies are able to be house trained. Contrary to the stereotype of a messy pigsty, pigs keep their environments fairly clean. In fact, they can be pretty selective about their waste areas. If the spot is not kept clean, they will not use it.
High intelligence makes pigs great pets for owners who are invested in their pig. A highly-invested owner would be ready and able to devote ample time to training and interacting with his or her pig. A good owner would also be consistent in reinforcing positive behaviors and correcting negative behaviors. Ironically, the very thing that makes pigs good pets, their intelligence, can turn into a stumbling block if their owners are not able to make the needed commitment to being an invested owner.
High curiosity, coupled with intelligence and the favorite past time of searching for food, will make potbellies an engaging, entertaining, and sometimes exasperating pet and companion. Some have described pet pig keeping as being similar to having a 2-year-old child. If given the chance, they will get into everything. Potbellies will often learn to open cupboard and refrigerator doors in their quest for more food.
Socially, pigs interact with a herd mentality similar to the pack mind of dogs. Dominance and territory are important to pigs, as is the concept of hierarchy. In the absence of a ruler-apparent, a pig will exhibit its own dominance, which could lead to aggressive and territorial behaviors, especially toward strangers.
Potbellied pigs require a good amount of attention. Once again, pigs are social creatures, so they need plenty of interaction with their owners. They also need time outdoors where they can explore or root with their noses. Owners should be prepared for the landscape to be a little disrupted by inquisitive pigs. Alternatively, an owner can provide their pig a fenced-off section of the yard in which to root and dig.
All in all, potbellied pigs, while not the most traditional pet, can be a great pet and companion to those who are interested in keeping one.