Are We Failing Pigs by Insisting Small Pigs Don’t Exist?
“There are no such thing as small pigs.”
“All companion pigs are actually pot-belly pigs.”
These are the often-repeated phrases coming out of the mini-pig world and from the mouths of pig rescuers. I’ve said these exact things and have written them in the hopes of protecting pigs from being abandoned by people buying piglets believing they are going to end up with a tiny pig that stays under 75 pounds.
So, what is the problem with saying these quoted phrases? That’s simple to answer: they aren’t true. But, before you run out and buy a ‘teacup piglet’ or ‘micro mini piglet’, please keep reading. The reality is, breeders are doing all kinds of bad and abusive things to try and create smaller and smaller pigs. Some breeders are simply selectively breeding mixes of pot-belly, kune-kune, wild pigs and other cross breeds. Just as overtime the wolf was modified into the tiny Yorkie, it is not impossible to believe that someday pigs will be smaller. And because of these cross-breeding practices, saying that all companion pigs are just pot-belly pigs is a claim that can’t be substantiated. At this point in time, it would be closer to the truth to say there are no purebred Vietnamese pot-belly pigs out there. Other breeders are doing things like over-inbreeding or trying to breed in gene mutations that result in defects that end in smaller pigs but often also shorter and more painful lives for these pigs.
At this point in time, there is no guarantee that a piglet you buy will stay small. And if they do, the odds that they will have health problems is much greater. And by buying a piglet from a breeder, you may be sentencing more pigs to lives of suffering and abandonment. Until people stop supporting the breeding of pigs, pigs will continue to be abused and neglected by breeders for profit.
But there is another problem with telling people that smaller pigs don’t exist. What happens when someone ends up with one of these smaller pigs unintentionally? And we are not talking about people who are tricked, willfully or not, into restricting food intake to keep a pig unnaturally small. That is animal abuse on the part of all knowing parties. And the signs of an underfed/underweight pig can be found here. But, there has been in recent years, an increase in the number of pigs that are staying smaller even when provided proper nutrition and care. How can I know this for sure? For one, I’ve spoken with people in the pig rescue world that say this is becoming more prevalent. They agree it is likely the result of abuses by the breeding industry. Pigs are being in-bred, parents bred too young, mothers starved during pregnancy and babies starved in utero and in general pigs treated neglectfully by other means to restrict the eventual size of the pigs they are producing. The result is that some pigs will end up staying smaller. And denying this will only result in stress on the part of people that end up with such pigs but still do their best to give their companion pig the best life possible.
I was on the receiving end of many attacks from over-zealous people in the pig rescue world that took the diminutive size of our rescued pig Millie to mean that she was being underfed. We know nothing about Millie’s parents or where she originally came from. We were told she was about 8 weeks when we first met her. And now at nearly 9 months old, Millie is only 20 pounds. She should be 40 pounds or more based on even the slower growth rate of a pig ending up in the 75 pound range. So, the conclusion of many of these rescue people is that she must be underfed and malnourished. The problem with that is that Millie has seen multiple vets, had bloodwork done, x-rays and had second opinions given. These were not vets inexperienced with pigs. In fact, a couple of them were vets highly recommended by people deep within the mini pig world touted as experts on pig healthy. And the unanimous consensus is that Millie is perfectly healthy and in no danger of malnourishment based on all signs observed.
And it is possible that Millie may hit a late growth-spurt and jump up to 150 pounds. With Mini-Pigs, the only thing you can be sure of is that you have a pig, everything else regarding size and shape will be revealed within the first 5 years, usually with most weight and size being put on within the first 2 years. But, even if Millie ends up something ridiculously small like 40 pounds, there is no guarantee her kids or even her siblings would have been such a small size. (And, that is why I stand by my stance that if you have a size restriction on how big your pig can be, you should either adopt an older pig or not plan on having a companion pig at all.)
And it is because of the fact that pig sizes are beginning to vary more and more that we cannot assume that everyone with a smaller pig is utilizing some form of abuse to achieve this (though that may be true of the breeders of these pigs at this point). To do so will only alienate people that are not doing anything wrong and create distrust towards the people trying to protect pigs from abuse and abandonment. We, as a pig community, are better served to provide accurate information and hope that people will make the right choice to adopt a pig from a rescue. Using claims that can’t be defended against the evidence before our eyes will only result in people seeking information from sources like breeders. I know our hearts are in the right place and we want to protect pigs, but we don’t need to mislead people to do this. There are some pigs out there staying small without being starved and we need to address this.
The facts are still on our side. Most pigs kept small will live shorter and more unhealthy lives. Breeders are achieving these sizes by abusing pigs and using unethical methods. And buying a piglet only guarantees you will end up with a pig. The final shape and size of your pig cannot be predicted with any accuracy and will only be known after several years of growth. This should be enough for good people to make the right choice to adopt a pig. Anyone who still buys a piglet would do so regardless of what you tell them.
Conclusion: Pigs come in all shapes and sizes with different body types and builds. But, there is no good way to predict how a piglet will look when full grown.