I post a lot of pictures of pigs, but not a lot of information about them. I have been interested in pet pigs (as opposed to wild pigs, or farm pigs) since I was very little, but did not have any real interaction with them until I was in my twenties. Now, even though my interest is in pet pigs, all pigs are the same species and can mate together, have similar behaviors, and share similar brain functionality.
Typically, when people think of pigs, they think of farm hogs that we eat, wild boars that roam the world, and teacup pigs. I want to be clear when I say this: teacup, micro-mini, or ultra-mini pigs do not exist. Breeders who push this narrative are only in it for the money, and are irresponsible. If you look at how large wild boars and farm hogs get, the breeds of pigs we domesticated as companion animals are mini pigs. Farm hogs can get upwards of 1000 pounds, while on average a pet pig will be between 80-180 pounds, depending on the breed. Breeders, due to the little amount of food they recommend feeding the pig, will lie about their size saying they will be around 50 pounds. This is a starved pig, and will cause many more issues and shorten their life. Breeders usually say pigs will live 5-10 years, when a pig’s lifespan can reach upwards or twenty years.
Pet pigs came from the Vietnamese potbelly pig. Most of the pet pigs you see will be potbelly pigs, but there are many different breeds, like with dogs or cats. There are Juliana pigs, KuneKune pigs, feral/wild-potbelly mixes, farm-potbelly mixes… Each breed typically has distinguishing features, but with breeding these features can get muddied, and as breeders continue to inbreed and overbreed health concerns come up. For instance, most female pigs will get uterine tumors if they are not spayed.
I worked with one of the first people in the USA to get pot-bellied pigs and breed them. She eventually realized how little people knew, and how disposable these animals were to them and she changed from breeding to rescuing and adopting out pet pigs. She worked closely with veterinarians to care for these animals properly, and educate potential owners about the special needs of pigs, and bust the myth of teacup pigs. At any given time, the farm I worked at has around 200 mini pigs, most of which are adoptable. This is something you’ll commonly see at rescues: overcrowding. Unfortunately, most pet pigs are rehomed after their first year.
While pigs do make great companion and therapy animals, they are not the same as dogs or cats. They are prey animals, where as cats and dogs are predators. Their innate behaviors and instincts are different. Like rabbits, or other prey animals we’ve domesticated, they are often fearful at first and will run away. It takes time and relationship building for them to let you give them belly rubs, or flip them for hoof trims. Because they only have a few lines of defense, they may charge or try to bite you which is often scary for owners. This behavior can be quelled with training, trust building, and neutering or spaying your pet.
Neutering and spaying pigs is a great idea, as they can breed very quickly. Piglets can start breeding around 10 weeks, and their gestational period is rather short. Pigs, like humans, also go into heat around once a month. They are also very social, so having more than one pig is recommended for most pigs. Because of this, all pigs at the farm I work at (as long as they are the farm’s pigs) are neutered or spayed, and we often coordinate with owners to get their new or older pig fixed to help with behavior issues.
Finding a vet to treat your pet pig can also be a challenge. It is likely you’ll have to find a large animal vet, but even then, they may not have experience with pigs and may not be comfortable treating your pig. Some vets will put the animal under during routine care (hoof trimming and tusk trimming), which is not recommended. Pigs have a difficult time adjusting to and from anesthesia. Their weight means they’ll need more, and the balance is tricky. Although the pigs scream, flipping them over for routine care is easier on their bodies—but these are deceptively strong creatures so it can be difficult without a small team of 2-3 people.
If you’re interested in a pet pig, please do as much research as you can. Find a vet beforehand, learn about illnesses and vaccines, learn about behavior and training, find a rescue that adopts out pigs (I promise, they’ll have piglets at some point, just be patient if you really want the whole life cycle), and find people to watch your pigs when you go away or a boarding facility of some kind. Now this is not as detailed as I usually like my essays to be, but most of my research on pigs vanished from my bookmarks. However, I will link some very well-respected resources in the mini-pigs community.
https://www.minipiginfo.com/ Mini Pig Info is a wealth of knowledge. The website is crowded, but honestly it contains as much information as you could ever want. They have a vet list, and rescue list, quick information, articles on certain issues… I would recommend bookmarking this one for sure.
https://americanminipigassociation.com/ Now, this organization still encourages breeding and recommends breeders—I really do not recommend ever getting a breeder pig just because there are so many pigs who need homes otherwise that we do not need to continuously breed pigs. However, they have good information otherwise on health and history of minipigs.
https://rossmillfarm.com/ This is the farm I used to work at. They offer educational courses online every few weeks to discuss and learn more about pigs. Their adoption process through The Pig Placement Network is thorough and helps you to think more about the pigs needs (zoning, fencing, interaction with other animals or kids…) and how they’ll fit into your family. You an also browse through adoptable pigs in your area on the PPN website.
For those of you who use Facebook, there are also Facebook groups filled with pig parents who help educate and find resources (vets, transportation, rehoming, sitters…) and support each other. I am also available for questions, and can help you find information or direct you to someone who can help you more than I can