One of the most common questions that I get asked since we adopted our pet Juliana pig named Elly comes from people wondering… “Is it JUST LIKE owning a dog??” The answer is a hard and fast no. Not at all. Not even close! I must admit, there was a time when researching whether a pet pig was the right choice for our urban family that I too thought a porker would feel similar to any of the canine companions that I had owned over the years. My last being a very boisterous Jack Russell Terrier that took intense training and patience throughout my college years. A pig could not possibly be more work than the terrier, right? Wrong.
- Going for a walk.
The first time I took young Elly for a walk was notably one of the most embarrassing moments I can recall over.. oh maybe the last 5 years. Again, I assumed walking my new porcine housemate would be JUST LIKE walking a dog. WRONG. Someone once compared walking a pig to flying a confused kite. The difference is, you may actually fare better with the kite! Pigs don’t like to be walked, you are just along for their ride. Their very SLOW ride. In fact, sometimes the pig may just flop over and do this!
It may very well take you 2 hours to make it around one city block. Aside from the 50 new friends that the pig will make including random pedestrians, people on bikes, folks driving cars that pull over to see the pig, strangers taking videos of you walking the pig, and of course herds of children by parks yelling out PEPPA PIG you really wont make it far! Any experienced pig person will keep a bag of snacks handy for desperate times that involve MOVING the pig. Where there is food the pig will always follow. Of course my first walk with Elly did not include any experience, or for that matter a sack of food. So when I found myself planted in the dead center of a cross walk at a busy intersection with a pig uninterested in moving we were both in trouble! The cars were lining up and my face was quickly deepening into an embarrassing shade of red. I tugged HARD on the pig to get her to move. That was a big, this is not a dog mistake number 1! The animal bore down with all of her might and let out an ear-piercing barnyard SSQQQUUUEEAAALLLLLL! At this point concerned folks are running out of their homes and the people in their cars are simultaneously holding up their phones set to record. I don’t remember how long it took me to get that pig out of the crosswalk. But what I do remember was that it was embarrassing!!!
2. Pigs are crazy smart
Dogs are smart too. But pigs, are the fourth smartest mammals on the planet. You want to know who is first? Humans. I have to be honest, the pigs intelligence is one of the things I happen to LOVE most about my porcine friend. I love her ability to have complex thoughts and relationships. Pigs learn tricks crazy fast and thrive off of challenge. But they also get bored easily. Very easily. And will open kitchen cabinets, refrigerator doors, screen and storm doors, knock over trash cans, toss furniture across the room, or tear up any flooring that is not nailed or cemented down. And these are just a few examples! Pigs cannot be left alone for hours on end a day. A bored pig is a naughty pig
3. Pigs have the memory of an elephant!
Be mean to a pig and it will never forgive you. Pigs are known to sport an amazing, uncanny ability to remember everything and everybody! If your mean to a pig it may very well choose to hold a grudge against you.. well… forever. I bought a couple of books on the training and care of my mini porker before bringing our Elly home. They all cautioned speaking “nicely” to the pig and also not “upsetting” the pig. I now understand this phenomenon. Yell at the pig and she may squeeze a retaliation turd on my rug, throw a chair across the room, or repeatedly slam our bedroom door at 5am. Not fun. Who said happy wife happy life?? It should be happy pig happy wife!
4. Pigs eat everything.
We bought our daughter a container of pink MORPH. Some sort of hot pink, shape shifting fluff for making critters and creations. Elly of course, ate the container of MORPH and we spent 2 straight days trying to get the pig to poop it out! And once the pig was finally pooping, we were watching for it to turn hot pink. SO FUN. Luckily MORPH is all natural… so it did eventually… naturally come out! On a different occasion Elly scared the life out of us by swallowing a seeded grape whole! The supersized grape got lodged in the pigs trachea and the husband got to perform the Heimlich maneuver on her! The crazy animal was woozily passing out while I was frantically calling her emergency vet all while Googling “how to save my choking pig.” Luckily, there are actual directions online for saving the life of a pig with food lodged in its trachea. The pig survived and we stopped buying grapes.
5. You will never be alone. At least not in the kitchen.
Pigs are obsessed with all things food. And of course the sorcerer of food is the kitchen. The problem is, pigs can be pushy. Very pushy. In fact, their snout may permanently jam itself into your lower calf the entire time you make breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, do dishes, need a drink of water, or simply open your fridge with a thought of food. The pig also works to keep all intruders out of the kitchen by head butting and physically pushing the perpetrator out. The pig thinks she is protecting the hard-earned fruits of the herd.. unfortunately your grandma, the neighbor kid, the plumber, the babysitter, or anyone else for that matter may not be so understanding!
6. Pigs are VERY, VERY, VERY noisy!
Pigs squeal, honk like geese, bark like dogs, scream when they are upset, slam doors, knock over furniture, and of course grunt and oink. They also make these amazing, for loved ones only, hot pants that sound like a breathy HAH HAH HAH and they sigh and make soft content moans and groans when they are happy. Mama pigs have been recorded singing to their baby pigs while they nurse! The pig is a complex animal with an amazing, intelligent array of sounds. Hopefully, if you live in a city, you have very understanding neighbors. Your neighbors will regularly hear the antics of your pig!
7. There is no such thing as a tea-cup pig.
Tea-cup Chihuahua, yes.
Tea-cup Pig, no.
Elly is a Juliana. This particular breed of pig is often marketed as a tea-cup pig. As a baby Elly looked like this! Pretty cute right! She weighed maybe 5 pounds.
Elly is now almost 1 and a solid 75 pounds and still growing! According to the American Mini Pig Association a “mini pig” is any pig between 50-300 pounds full-grown. Many people buy mini pigs thinking they will stay the size of a tea-cup or a miniature dog. They just never do. A full size hog can weigh upwards of 1,000 pounds. Therefore a 100 pound pig is miniature in comparison. Pigs bond VERY strong with their families. Some get so depressed that they die when given up. Pig sanctuaries across the country are filled to the max with pigs that grew larger than expected. If you want a TINY pet buy a miniature Chihuahua, not a pig.
8. Pigs cannot walk down steep stairs.
We live in Chicago. 100 years ago when our neighborhood was built all of the homes were constructed with steep stairs leading up to both front and back entrances. When we first trained Elly to go potty outside we carried her. When she got around 50 pounds carrying her became too hard. So we had this not so inexpensive ramp built to give our independent little lady a way outside! Owning a pig = ramps. Lots of ramps.
9. Pigs are prey animals.
Dogs are predators, pigs are prey. Pigs are born cautious and leery of anyone approaching them! Young piglets have to be trained to enjoy being picked up. Some pigs may never like it. The first time we handled Elly she screamed and squealed and carried on with such intensity you would think we were pinching her. It takes patience, a gentle voice, lots of food, and slow movement to earn the trust of a pig! They will not love you just for being you. You will have to earn their respect and trust over time. Once a pig accepts you as a member of their herd, they are extremely faithful and loyal!
10. Pigs live 15-20 years.
That’s a LONG time! Fortunately, we really love our pig. She is sassy and always keeps us on our toes! Our daughter and the pig are inseparable. Its been a good match for us, but most that spend time with Elly would agree she is not the right fit for them! Understand what you’re jumping into when you purchase a pig, it’s definitely not a dog!
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