So, You Want a Pig?
Okay, first thing first. Pigs are not like dogs. They are not like cat. They are not like any other pet you've ever had so if you want it to be like another animal then just get that animal. If I had to describe a pig to someone the best I could do is that a pig is like a dog + cat + your grumpy grandpa = pig. Pigs are very social and pack animals just like dogs. Like a cat, pigs only want attention when they want it and if you try to force it on them they will get grumpy and complain, just like your grandpa.
Before you get a pig, you need to decide if one would be a good fit for your family. They are a long term commitment, pigs can live for up to 20 years, so if you don't want to plan that far ahead, don't get a pig. First thing first, all pigs start out super small and super cute, but they will grow into a full size lovely pet. Full size can really vary amongst different breeds of pigs. For example, when we were looking for a pig we saw Wilbur as a piglet and this breed of pig that as an adult is triple the size of what Wilbur is, but when they were both piglets they were the same size. If you are worrying about the size of what your pig will grow to, then make sure you meet the piglets parents before buying anything. Also remember that male pigs are smaller than females (this is actually part of the reason we got a boy).
Pigs are naturally incredibly social. In their natural habitat, they live in a group that has an established pecking order. Pigs maintain this order by body and verbal pig language. If a pig is irritated or upset, they may throw their head in a side swiping motion, or they just might yell. A happy content pig walks around making a noise that sounds like an umph, while an unhappy pig makes a noise that sounds like a true high-pitched scream.
One of the key things when getting a pig, just like getting a dog, is that you must be the pack leader, the alpha. If the pig believes they are the alpha or top pig, they will bully you around the house and decide all the rules. This will result in a pushy pig.
Since pigs are very social creatures, they also will become upset, bored, and restless when they spend lots of time alone, this can be without human or other animal interactions. Because of this, if you leave your pig alone you must be able to find creative ways to keep your pig distracted. Some ways to do this are intelligence toys, other pets, or even adopting a pair of pigs to ensure that they are never bored or lonely. Dogs and cats are also great companions for pigs, but it will depend on each animal and if they get along well or even just accept the pig into their home.
A pig has better verbal communication skills than most adults I know. They have an incredibly wide range of vocal sounds. Here is a list of sounds we’ve learned and their meanings:
Umph: content noise
Barking sound: warning others of impending danger
Squealing: is an indication that either they are about to be fed or want to be fed; or indication displeasure or pain or boredom
Aroo: you aren’t getting the pig what they want fast enough
Ha ha ha (a quiet, hot panting sound): indicates acquaintanceship, a sociable “hello”
A monkey sound noise: the pig is really pissed off and might attack
On top of communicating vocally, pigs also communicate with their body language. A happy pig does not have a large range of body posture but will have a wagging tail or a curled tail. Part of what makes a pig happy, is maintaining their rank in the pack. A spoiled, challenged, or unhappy pig may change their ear set, throw their head, face off, or chomp their jaws in response to an unpleasant situation or another animal invading their territory.
Pigs are incredibly curious by nature so be prepared to pig proof your house because they will figure out how to get anything. Our pig can open cabinets and use zippers. They will happily spend hours rooting outside or snuffling around your home with their nose looking for crumbs. Their curiosity is a plus when it comes to training pigs. They love new ideas but the key to maintain a high level of attention from your pigs is to remember that their true love in life is FOOD!
Pigs are considered one of the most intelligent animals on the planet, and from what I’ve witnessed, I truly believe it. Our pig has figured out how to unscrew the dog food containers, open all the cabinets in our kitchen, and can unzip my backpack to get snacks out of it. At some point you will be out-smarted by your pet pig at least once.
They might not have a natural sense of right and wrong, but they will learn what gets them punished very quickly. You will need to make sure you stay steps ahead of your pig or else they will train you to do what they want and not vice versa. Pigs are smarter and similar to children. They will find your weak spot and manipulate you until they get what they want. You can have a relationship with your pig that is rewarding and interactive and they will treat you as an equal, but never underestimate their abilities.
Pigs are very affectionate but can also be like cats aka they want attention when they want it not whenever you’re in the mood to give it. They love companionship and snuggles. Our pig snuggles on the couch with us every night under a blanket. It’s not uncommon amongst pig owners to allow their pig to sleep in bed with them. Not only because they are warm and cuddly but also don’t move much once they are asleep and love the closeness of the relationship. Our pig loves the whole family, but he does have a preference on who he cuddles with at night and if his first choice isn’t home, he does have a specific second and third choice.
Pigs are DENSE creatures. A potbellied pig is a sturdy animal with short legs, a slightly dipped back, and big round hanging belly, a very active tail, and very short but erect every listening ears. Pig snouts range from short and stubby to long and lean. Like a large breed of dog, potbellied pigs continue to grow for at least two to three years before reaching their mature size. A three-year-old potbellied pig can weigh from 60 to 175 pounds and measure from 13 to 26 inches in height. Their length is proportional to their height.
It is very hard to determine the weight of a pig just by looking at one due to their density. For house large a pig is in weight, they actually do not take up much space in a home. (Our pig Wilbur goes everywhere with us that he can and lives in the house. He evens sleeps on our couch) Pigs are not as agile as a dog or cat. A pig may need a ramp to assist in climbing and getting in and out of a car. We recommend a ramp that has some form of traction on it so that the pig does not slip. Pigs are also naturally scared of heights so many pigs do not like going down more than four or five stairs. We have a ramp for Wilbur to get in and out of car.
Potbellied pigs have an amazing sense of smell. There have been reports that say pigs can smell odors that are twenty-five feet under the ground. This is why pigs are used to find truffles. A pig also has excellent hearing, but bad eye sight. You must make sure you maintain your pig’s weight because if you don’t their fat can get in the way of their eyes.
One must remember when getting a pig, it is not a short-term commitment. The estimated lifespan of a pig is between fifteen and thirty years depending on breed, size, and treatment of the pig.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Pig
long life span
clean and odor-free
only sheds once a year
more or less non-destructive
affordable to feed
communicative, affectionate, and intelligent
you may not be zoned to own a pig
you may not have a vet close by who knows how to treat them
pigs can become spoiled and manipulative
pigs require a commitment of time, energy, and love from their owners
This information is from Nancy Shepherd’s POTBELLIED PIG PARENTING book and printed with her permission. We have added or changed some information in places, but all with the approval of Nancy.